Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A good year.

2014 was a very good year for us!

It was a pretty "quiet" big or life changing events, but a lot of happiness. We got to see several family members get married, J and I traveled to California together, M grew and changed in more ways than we could count, we celebrated 6 years of marriage....I could go on and on about all the great pieces that made 2014 a memorable year to us.

Hoping 2015 brings just as many great memories to us. One of the very first blogs I began reading in 2005, was Ali Edwards blog. She does a One Little Word each year and I've never taken part in this project of hers, but I've been putting some thought into doing it for 2015. I *think* I have a word picked out, and I'll be back soon to share. I listened to Elise's podcast with Ali last night at the gym about OLW, and I'm feeling more inspired than ever for a new year and to have a word that will guide my year and give me something to focus on. Anybody else participating in this project for 2015? I'd love to know if you are!

Happy New (almost!) new year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Asheville Birthday Weekend

In an effort to not forget about all the fun we had at the beginning of this month, I'm going to do a recap of our trip to Asheville at the beginning of November. I know, I know...I'm supposed to be recapping Christmas, but I am so behind with blogging these days! I'll get to Christmas eventually!

Months and months ago I got the ball rolling on a surprise trip for J's 30th birthday. He's not big into parties and he's pretty tough to buy gifts for (if he wants something, he goes and gets it himself), so I thought maybe a trip would be a fun way to celebrate the big milestone birthday. Plus, a weekend away without the toddler (who we do love very much!), is always much needed! I think it was mid-July when I emailed my parents some dates to come stay with M, and we nailed down the first weekend of December. After I knew we had someone to take care of M for us, I emailed our good friends Matt and Hannah who live in VA to see if they were free that weekend. After that, I don't think I planned a thing till early November!

I picked Asheville for a few reasons....a great city that's not too crowded, it has amazing food, and even better beer. All things my husband loves and appreciates! We had visited Asheville back in 2011 not long after moving to Charlotte, but on that trip we did some hiking and spent a full day at the Biltmore, so not a lot of time exploring downtown and the breweries. My recap posts from those trips are here, here, and here.

Asheville is about a two hour trip for us but it was close to six hour trip for our friends. They are heroes for making the long trip for a weekend away with us!

J and I hit the road on Friday morning, and when we left, he had no idea where we were going or what we were doing (or that we had surprise friends meeting us!). Our first stop was Asheville Brewing Company. We each ordered a flight and dined on pizza. Great beer, very low key atmosphere...definitely glad we came here. 

From here, we left the downtown area and headed toward Biltmore Village and right outside of the village we found French Broad Brewery. Super super low key, not much to this place, but again, great beer. Not a ton on tap like ABC had, but still great. Really nice people here, too.

We left FBB and decided to find our home for the weekend. I found this place on Airbnb and we were all so pleased with it. It was small two bedroom home, not too far from downtown. Asheville also recently got uber, so it was very easy to get around safely and not worrying about drinking and driving. Two thumbs up for our house and uber!

If anyone wants more details about the place, email me! I'm happy to share.

Not long after we had gotten our things put away, we heard a knock at the door and we found Matt and Hannah there. J was surprised, to say the least! He had no idea! We had some snacks and drinks and then headed out to Burial Beer Co. for some more beer sampling (are you sensing a theme on our visit?). 

Burial had some crazy beers, including a coffee saison and a Thai Farmhouse Ale. Very crazy, but very tasty.

We headed from there to dinner at Rhubarb. This place is fairly new to Asheville (wasn't here when we visited in 2011), but man oh man it was good.

 We dined and dined (and dined some more) on a lot of small plates that we shared. Everything was fantastic. We finished our meal with a ginger milk and cookies platter.

A quick shot with the Christmas tree outside!

From here we visited another brewery that was right around the corner, One World Brewing. This place was underground and really dark and everyone there was early 20's and rather hipster...we didn't really fit the "look" but we didn't care. The beer was great and we had fun laughing about how old it made us feel.

On Saturday morning, we woke up late and leisurely had breakfast and got showered for the day. We headed out around 12:30 for our 1 o'clock food tour with Eating Asheville. I could go on and on about all the great places we visited, but I'll refrain from writing a novel. Below I'll share links and names of all the places we visited along with a few notes. As for Eating Ashville, I'd definitely recommend the tour. We loved our friendly guide (Stuart), and even though it was rainy, we had a ball getting to see the city through food and drink.

Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar - super cool place to step into to browse books or have a drink!
Cucina 24 - Amazing! Highly recommend! We actually had dinner here in 2011, and loved it.
Zambras - Once again, absolutely delicious! We had a great purple potato soup here but the mulled spice sangria was my favorite part. This place would be at the top of my list of places to eat a full meal next time we go back.
Strada - Really good poached egg with basil and tomato sauce here, but I don't know if I'd rush back here. The atmosphere was quite....blah? Not bad, just wouldn't rush back to this spot.
The Gourmet Chip Company - we stepped in here quickly for a quick snack of buffalo chips. They were great but I want to go back and try all of their awesome flavors!
Rhubarb - Yes...the same one as we had dinner at the night before...and we had the same serve from the night before. She got a good laugh out of that!
Chocolate Gems - We had gelato and truffles from here. Both were excellent! I know French Broad Chocolate Lounge is a favorite spot for many, but this little shop had the sweetest owners that we met and a great choice of chocolates!
Social Lounge - This was our last stop on the tour and my least favorite. Very mediocre pasta and and cocktails.


Battery Park Book Exchange and Champaign Bar

See? That wasn't a novel of notes, was it? 

After our tour, we were stuffed (small bites everywhere sure add up!), but we weren't done with our eating and drinking. Off to Wicked Weed we went!

J and I have had a lot of Wicked Weed's beers in Charlotte, but their taproom was most definitely worth the trip. If you're not getting lots of food, my biggest suggestion is go downstairs to the bar area. Way less crowded than the main room on the top floor!

And once we were done at WW, we headed out of downtown to the Wicked Weed Funkatorium! I don't actually love sour and funky beers, but all three of the other guests in our party are big fans, so they loved this place. I will say, even though I didn't love the beer, it was definitely a cool place and worth the visit!

After our busy day, we headed back to our house and rested up before dinner. We had dinner at The Admiral, which is in West Asheville. It was fabulous. It seems like such a hole in the wall kinda place, but the food was seriously amazing. I had a short ribs dish, and I can't remember for the life of me what everyone else got (other than a great french onion soup that Matt and Hannah shared). This was probably our favorite place to eat from the entire weekend. Go here!

And that's a wrap! On Sunday morning we had some breakfast and said our goodbyes after we cleaned up the house. Our home from Airbnb was so easy to check in and out of. It was a great experience. Hope this helps anyone out there planning a trip to Asheville soon!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas Eve!

What a fun December it has been! 

From friends, to Santa, to cookies and candy, to "sparkly lights everywhere" (her words!), this December has probably been my favorite yet! I knew Christmas with a toddler would be fun, but I really thought it would be another year before she got into all the fun, but boy I was wrong! She has had the best time getting into the Christmas spirit this year, and I cannot wait for tomorrow morning.

I hope you have a very merry Christmas and a beautiful Christmas Eve as you reflect on the true meaning of this beautiful holiday. The birth of our Savior is a day that fills me with such great joy. This past Sunday my pastor preached on the beauty of this day and how even in the darkest of situations or circumstances, this day brings light to so many. A little bit of light that we can all surely use!

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn'

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2014

5 on Friday!

Five on Friday!

In an effort to jot down a few things about our life right now, I'm going to record five things about our life over the past few weeks...

1. I love having a two year old. I am loving this stage of motherhood so much. Having a little person who I can actually talk and converse with is so much fun. We certainly have our hard days, but overall, 25 months is pretty darn awesome.

I think J would agree!

2. My sister broke her leg (pretty badly) last week and I made a very quick and last minute trip to see her in NYC and help take care of her until my mom could get up there to help her. I might post more, but seeing how my blogging has been going lately, that likely won't happen. #slackblogger

 3. We went to the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia last weekend. While M had a ball and really enjoyed the animals, we ended up having to come home a little earlier than we had planned after I got hit with an awful migraine part way through the morning. I have never experienced anything like that and I hope it doesn't happen again. I told J at one point that I felt like I had something trying to crush the bridge in my nose. It was just terrible. Hopefully next time we go to the zoo, it'll be a little less traumatic for me...but with all that said, I'm glad we went because M really did have a great time!

Pre Migraine...

4. M's new phrase is "Ummmmm" and it is my favorite. Every answer to yes or no questions is "Ummm yes" or "Ummm no" and it cracks us up!

5. Making salt dough ornaments with some sweet friends last week! Today we're off on another fun Christmas adventure with them!

Okay, that's enough playing catch up for one week! Hope you have a great weekend! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Review: Polka Dot Bake Shop Soft Brittle

One of my (many!) favorite local businesses in Charlotte is a local bakery called Polka Dot Bake Shop. They're a Charlotte based bakery that has been around since 2007. I have bought cupcakes from there for parties, for a quick "thank you" gift, and then just for us as a special treat! When they contacted me in November to see if I was interested in trying their new soft brittle, I immediately jumped on board!

Their soft brittle comes in three flavors, and they sent me the sampler pack so we could try all three. We got to enjoy them over Thanksgiving with my in-laws and then my own parents got to enjoy them the following week when they came to Charlotte. Everyone who sampled them, loved them, and I think we all had different favorites!

I loved the white chocolate macadamia nut the most. Very sweet, but the white chocolate made it almost melt in your mouth! Not at all hard like some other brittles. My mom's favorite was the cranberry spiced which was the perfect holiday sweet treat! It has a great spiced flavor to it. And the third flavor, the sweet and salty, is just that, a great blend of sweet and slaty flavors!

If you're local to Charlotte, stop by their shop off Park and Woodlawn and pick some up! It would make a great hostess gift or a fun treat to eat with your family on Christmas day. Heck, even Santa would like some on his plate of cookies! If you are NOT local, don't worry! They also ship and you can order here

*This post was sponsored by Polka Dot Bake Shop and they did provide me with the brittle to review, but all thoughts and opinions are my own! I truly loved it!*

Friday, December 12, 2014

Santa! I know him!

I know, I know. I've already shared the pictures on the left before, but I'm a sucker for seeing a kid change and grow over the course of the year. Can we just talk about how HUGE my child looks all of the sudden? 

I really thought she might lose it on Santa this year, but she was totally cool about it. Not overly happy, but more like, "Sure, whatever. I'll sit here if it makes everyone happy!" She did tell Santa she wants "purple presents" this year. Not really sure what exactly that means...regardless, I just love this little girl to pieces! 

And because this one just kills me....

Monday, December 8, 2014

30 and 31

On November 28 J celebrated his big 30th birthday and two days later on the 30th I celebrated my 31st. Catch all that? 30 on November 28 for J and 31 on November 30 for me! 

On J's birthdays I actually started to feel really icky from my sinus infection, but that didn't stop us from some fun. M insisted days before that we make cupcakes for Daddy's birthday. So even though we still had three leftover pies from Thanksgiving the day before, we made 24 cupcakes!

As always, she was a big help!

We went out to a local Mexican place for dinner with J's parents who were still in town and then we came back to open presents and eat our cupcakes!

These two don't mess around with their cake!

On my birthday, J and M took me to Toast for brunch. They never disappoint and I think M would go to brunch every day of her life if it meant a big stack of pancakes for her.

After Toast we went to Freedom Park and played for a bit. It was a beautiful day. A little chilly but not COLD! We remembered when we got to Freedom that we actually went there last year on my birthday and everyone was bundled up so tight from the cold. I was thankful to have some nicer weather for my birthday this year. I still wasn't feeling great, but I thankfully had started my antibiotics by this point so I was slowly starting to feel like myself again.

Later that evening, we headed to pick out our Christmas tree, which might be my new favorite birthday tradition. At least on the years when Thanksgiving falls late in November like it has for the past two years! 

J made us dinner and (again) M helped me blow out my candles on my requested cookie cake! My cookie cake read, "Mama Firty-One" because that's what M has been saying about me for the past month. When J ordered this at our Harris Teeter they called to confirm that it wasn't a typo. I can't think of a better thing to have on my cake this year!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Like the rest of you, we stuffed our faces with great food last Thursday for Thanksgiving and enjoyed a rather lazy day with our family. This year J's parents and his sister and our new brother in law came to town to spend Thanksgiving with us. While hosting is a little bit of work, we actually really enjoy it and it's easier on M (and us) to not travel and have to sleep in a pack and play. Everyone is happier when she's sleeping in her own bed. Especially when she's been sick!

His parents came late Wednesday evening, and I made Half Baked Harvest's Sunday Sauce and we ate it over Arugula pasta from Pasta and Provisions here in Charlotte. Here's a friendly little PSA for all of you....MAKE THIS SAUCE FRIENDS! It's so so good and relatively easy and it's great for company! Later that evening my sister and brother in law got in, but I was already fast asleep. J stayed up for them! Here's my picture from when I made it earlier this fall over pappardelle....

On Thursday morning we had bagels and eggs and watched the parade. The parade is probably my favorite part of Thanksgiving (well, after pecan pie), and I was so excited for M to watch it with me this year. She had fun watching all the balloons and floats with characters on them.

Midday we put out some snacks for everyone to munch on since our meal wasn't going to be till about 5 since I didn't want M to miss it during her nap.  We had a pumpkin dip, goat cheese and orange marmalade, these awesome ginger sausages my SIL brought, and some other cheeses and crackers. We also had some great brittle provided by a local bakery that I am going review next week. It was fabulous!

While I was prepping all of our sides for the day, J was busy outside smoking our turkey! This was our first year trying a turkey in the smoker, but oh my goodness, it was SO good. I don't ever want to go back to an over baked turkey. Turkey has always been one of my least favorite parts of the meal, but this year I went back for seconds. It was delicious!

Around 4 my good friend Sarah came over to spend some time with us. She stayed for the meal too and we were so happy she stayed in Charlotte this year and could join us!

When meal time rolled around, we all dug in, including this one who would only eat her turkey straight from the bone. My SIL got this picture of her. We were all dying.

Here's a look at our plates this year...

Smoked Turkey by J
Pecan Dressing from Texas Monthly (thanks to Kate for sharing this recipe!)
Sister Shubert Rolls
And Apple and Pumpkin Pie from my MIL

After dinner there was some dress up and time for playing...

And we also got to skype with my family in Virginia. After M went to bed we played a fun card game my BIL taught us called Hand and Foot. Confusing but fun!

Hope your family had a great turkey day! Until next year!