Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Home for Christmas

Home is a lovely 7 hour drive away in Orlando.  This year I made the drive with Mabel.  Just two girls on the open road (or busy I-75).

She was pretty good on the way down, but didn't understand why she couldn't lay on my lap during the drive.  That got frustrating.  But once she got it she took a nice little nap.  Our first stop was to visit our friends and their dog, Peej.  Peej is close to 90 lbs and when I was home last year for New Years Eve he was just a tiny little puppy.  My, things change in a year!

Here are the two new, best friends hanging out.  He is so much bigger than she is, but she was so much faster outside in the backyard.  Peej was a gentledog and let Mabel use his bed and his chew toys, what a good boy!  I wish they all lived closer so we could get together.  They are our parallel relationship couple.  Having dogs that get along makes it even more perfect.

Mabel stayed at my mom's while I stayed with my dad with the rest of the sisters and family.  That house already has a dog and we chose not to complicate things any more than they were already.  She LOVED my mom's house. There were tons of toys and unlimited walks.  I brought home a very sleepy puppy yesterday afternoon.

Time at my dad's house was perfect.  My sisters was home from NYC and Austin and the sister who lives in town was home with her husband.  It was so great to have the whole family together under one roof.  I told my dad and step-mom after we had opened our presents how lucky I am to have such a great family.  When I was little I used to wish in all fountains or wishing wells for a brother and more sisters.  Well, my wish finally came true, just 20+ years later.  It's going to be so much fun for our family to grow in the next couple of years!

The big surprise for the trip home was that we all (except one of the sisters because she got a new MacBook Air) got iPad 2s!!!!  WHAT?  ARE THE PARENTS FOR REAL??  I've spent just an hour or so playing with it and now we have to get wifi at the house.  To me it seems like it's just a big iPhone, which I already have.  BUT I can now watch TV shows and read magazines in beautiful color.  People at work are saying that it will replace my Kindle.  I could see that happening, but I love my Kindle.  There is a Kindle App for the iPad, so all of my Amazon purchases still work but now I don't need a light to read at night.  I'll keep you posted.

I did notice that with such a large family, there never seems to be a bit of down time.  When I talked about what I'd be doing while I was home, it sounded like I'd have plenty of time to meet up with friends and relax.  I didn't get any of that!  I'm totally exhausted from the trip!  I need a vacation from my vacation.  Good thing San Diego is only two days away.  Our plan for the next two nights is to do a little as possible, that includes cooking.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas

Getting ready for Christmas begins the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  I can't start thinking about Christmas until after Thanksgiving, if I do, I feel like I'm cheating that holiday before it's had a chance to happen.

Getting ready for Christmas isn't just about decorating, it's also time for all the Christmas parties with friends and offices.  Lot's of drinking, lots of dressing up and so much food.  I love all of it.

I was in charge of decorating the inside of the house, Stephen was in charge of the outside.  Sadly, I haven't taking any pictures of the outside of the house - but I can assure you, he did an amazing job.  Every window has a strand of multicolored lights and the stairs have garland and bows.  The front door is wrapped as a Christmas present.  He did an amazing job.  The best part of our decorating was that we never argued.  Another sign of how perfect we are together.

The tree was put up in the dining room, basically because it was the only place for it.  Doesn't it look so pretty with our set table???  I finally get to display all of my Spode items.

On the fireplace that faces the dining room I hung lights (seen in the first picture) and then I added Santa's sleigh and the reindeer with little jingle bells.  The cut outs are from a local store in the Highlands and I knew they'd be perfect on the white fireplace.  

I ordered stockings for all of us from Pottery Barn for our first Christmas together.  I love the classic look of them against the brick fireplace.  

We've been getting a TON of Christmas cards from family and friends and I needed a way to display them. I hung a piece of ribbon from the top of our hutch and clothes pinned each and every card to the ribbon for display.  I had to add the second ribbon the other day!

My office had a Christmas party this year at The Georgia Aquarium - what a beautiful place for everyone to get together with family.  

Aren't we just perfect together!  This is one of my favorite pictures of the two of us.  We're in the coral reef room where they have an entire wall of a coral reef complete with tides and sunlight.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bacon, Egg & Toast...muffins?

Have you ever gone to the grocery store and thought you bought something only to go to get it a few days later when you're home and it's not there?  Me too.  Last night.  I thought I had a easy frozen meal to make for us last night while we opened Christmas gifts, but I couldn't find it.  I even went back out to my trunk to see if it was still in the car.  Nope.  I'm losing my mind.

So I turned to Pinterest where I've saved a few recipes that I want to try.  I got this one from Martha Stewart - the woman never ceases to amaze me.  It worked out great because it was as if we were having breakfast while opening our gifts, just like we would on Christmas morning.

Martha calls these Bacon, Egg and Toast Cups - I like to call them muffins.  They were SO easy but I will note a few things I learned when using the recipe.

The finished product!

I used a slice of bread for each muffin.  I just tore the crust off instead of using a cookie cutter, my house doesn't come equipped with a wide variety of cookie cutters.

I flattened the bread with my hands, but they still needed to be squished a little bit more once in the muffin pan.  For two of us, 4 muffins was plenty.  

If you use large eggs, get ready for them to spill out a little bit.  They were a little messier than I thought they would be.  I used thick bacon, so that might have added to the problem too.  

I baked the muffins for 25 minutes, I probably could have stopped at 23, my yolks were solid.  It would have been nice to have a little bit of runny yolk.  We added cheese to the top of the muffins when they came out of the oven, too.  Great call, Stephen.  

These were so great, I can't wait to make them again.  Everything you need for breakfast in one bite! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tierra - Restaurant Review

One of my favorite parts of living in a big city is the food.  We have so many different food options in Atlanta that I could eat at a different restaurant every night of the week for months and never repeat a meal.  Some of the restaurants are horrible (Rise Sushi) and I'll never try them again while others quickly enter the standard rotation (Parish).  Eating out is one of my favorite past times, but behind cooking at home.  When we head out to dinner we really want it to be great.

For well over a year I've been hearing great things about Tierra, a tiny little restaurant by the Botanical Gardens and Piedmont Park.  I drove past it all the time when I lived in Midtown and never went in.  One of the girls at the office has many times raved about Tierra and has called it her favorite place in Atlanta. In a city of such great food, you take these statement seriously.  Not only have friends recommended Tierra but it's constantly been recommended by Zagat and other publications in the city.  It's been on my list of places to try for quite sometime.  While checking one of my favorite, local blogs I saw that Tierra is closing it's doors in February.  WHAT?  How could a restaurant with so many positive reviews have to close?  Especially one that's been open for over a decade?  Tierra had a deal on ScoutMob expiring over the weekend, so I made reservations for Friday night before our trip to Vegas.

What a tiny place!  There were close to 20 tables squished into what looked like a living room of a house. We were bumped several times by other diners or the wait staff as they moved past our table.  I can get over that, it's what makes some of the locally owned restaurants so charming.  We ordered our appetizer, mussels of course, and I had a beer.  The menu had some interesting things listed on it - a 2nd basket of bread would be $3 and to split an entree you'd be charged $4.  I understand the split entree charge, but $3 for a basket of ciabatta bread, that seems a little over the top.  We make that at home and it definitely doesn't cost that much.  It was a little bit of a turn-off to see that noted, but we had an appetizer coming, no need for a second basket.  I will say, it was delicious and cooked perfectly.

The mussels appetizer was sub-par.  They were definitely fully cooked, probably a few minutes too long.  There was corn in the broth that added an interesting, new texture to mussels.  Still, TopFlr has the best mussels in town.  They've beat out some pretty great restaurants!

For an entree I had the Sauteed Flounder and Stephen had the Grilled Pork Medallions.  By the end of our meal, both plates were 100% clean.  The food was exactly what we expected it to be.  Absolutely recommend both dishes.

Every entree on the menu was above $20, some closer to $30.  That seemed a little steep to me - not even Parish is that expensive.  The food was delish.

It's sad that Tierra won't be around for much longer, but to be honest, if I hadn't been buy in the year that I've lived nearby, I probably wouldn't go back again.  BUT, I do recommend that you try it before it's gone forever.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Las Vegas, Take Two!

This past weekend was my second trip to Las Vegas in 2011.  This time instead of it being a girl's trip I went with 11 other people to celebrate a friend's birthday, Stephen included.  It was a different side of Vegas than I got last time - both fun, completely different.

Instead of days spent at the pool deck, this time I spend my days at a Black Jack table.  What a great game.  My "practice" paid off and I didn't make a fool of myself at the tables and I actually won money!

We stayed at The Mirage this trip.  It's such a great hotel.  I actually went to the hotel last trip when I went to see Love.  I'm glad I got to spend more time there.  The hotel beds are SO COMFORTABLE and the rooms are the perfect size for two people, we had a king bed room.  The bathrooms are small (the door can knock your knees when you're sitting on the toilet) but everything has been upgraded and who really needs a large hotel bathroom in Vegas?

Our first meal was at BLT Burger in the hotel.  It's a fancy burger place, as it sounds.  The burgers were so delicious and so varied in what they had to offer.  I had a burger with blue cheese, caramelized onions and mushrooms and Stephen had a burger with chili, cheese and basically everything else in the kitchen piled on top.  Both plates were cleaned by the end of the meal.  My favorite part of the meal were the adult milkshakes.  OMG.  I wish I had the picture to share.  There is a menu of close to 10 different milk shakes, then a bunch of floats too - all worth trying.  Mine had caramel, vanilla ice cream and Makers Mark.  Best milkshake I've ever had.

The only picture of the two of us from the weekend.  I joked that I feel like the weekend didn't happen because we have no photographic proof - but that's Vegas!

We did a lot of gambling and eating and of course drinking on this trip.  I'm exhausted today, but it was 100% worth the trip.  I did learn how to play Craps this trip.  Well, I'm using "learned" loosely there.  I played $100 and walked away up $20 based on a crazy bet that Stephen suggested and it worked.  

The worst part of the trip was the buffet at the Cosmopolitan hotel, the Wicked Spoon.  It was supposed to be all nice and fancy with great food.  Well, 2 out of 3 is still bad when you're missing the good food part.  The place is beautiful, the entire hotel and casino, but the food was gross.  About half of us felt sick shortly after eating.  Not worth the $44 a person - EVER.  

Walking back we did get to see the fountains at the Bellagio, from start to finish.  So pretty.  

I'm going to try to convince people to go back with me for my 30th.  It's the Wednesday before March Madness begins AND the Wednesday before St Patrick's Day.  What a crazy weekend that would be.  

On the weekend, I'm only down $50.  Not too bad!  I expected to be down $200 a day, so I got home with $500 more than I thought I would!  This trip actually cost less than the last one because my entertainment included drinks at the tables and I won money!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quiche and Cookies

You may have read that I got a KitchenAid Stand Mixer for Christmas.  Yep, I did.  It's amazing.  If I have a new toy, especially something as fantastic as the KASM, I'm going to use it.

My first meal was a homemade quiche.  I've always heard how easy they are to make so I wanted to give it at shot.  At first I wasn't even thinking about using the Mixer, then I realized I could easily beat the eggs using it.  My first spin with the Mixer was eggs, you gotta start somewhere.  I'll agree, quiche is easy to make - and delicious!  I made a spinach, zucchini and mushroom quiche with some cheddar cheese.

7 eggs - beat in mixer with 3/4 cup of half n half
chop veggies, add to egg mixture
defrost frozen spinach package, drain well, add to egg mixture
add 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, mix together
pour the mixture into pie crust.  I used a frozen crust and it worked great.

Place on a baking sheet and put in an oven preheated to 375.  The baking sheet is important in case some of the egg mixture spills over the edge, it did with mine.  Bake for about 45 min.  Start checking it around 35 minutes.  A knife inserted into the middle should come out clean when it's finished.  Let it sit for a few minutes before cutting and serving.  ENJOY!

Now onto the good stuff: Cookies.  Who doesn't love cookies!?

I started with a basic, but delicious, sugar cookie.  I'm tired of the store bought cookies being too flat after they're cooked. The recipe was in the book of recipes that came with the mixer which was nice because it told you what speeds to use and when to scrape the bowl.  Things that are important to figure out when you're first learning how to use the Mixer.

The dough was so easy to make!  We had all of the ingredients at home.  I have a feeling we'll never be buying the tear and bake type cookie dough again.

The dough sits in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours after it's mixed.  Then it was time to roll it out and make our Christmas cookie shapes!  So much fun.  For years I decorated Christmas cookies at my friend's house, and we had SO many cookies.  I never knew Mrs. Myerson was in the kitchen making dough for so long.  I appreciate all of her hard work so much now.

While the sugar cookie dough was cooling I made some Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.  Just as easy and no need to take a 2-hour break while the dough cools.  I'll call them the instant-gratification-cookies.  While the raisins were mixing, Stephen added some mini-chocolate chips to the dough, perfect!

MMMM.  The recipe should have made 48 cookies, we got about 24.  We're tall, we can handle big cookies.  

Then it was time to decorate the cookies!  That meant making Buttercream Icing.  Not as easy as the cookie dough.  It didn't go on as smoothly as I wanted it to and the sprinkles didn't stick like I wanted them to, but we had fun.

I've been packing us salads and cookies for lunch everyday.  That's a great balance, I think.  Next time I make cookies, I'll try a different icing recipe, and add some color - fancy!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Came Early!

Do you have that one thing you've been looking at in store windows for years?  That one, single thing that you know would make your life better with just it's presence in your house?  Me too.  It's the KitchenAid Stand Mixer.  I've been lusting after the mixer since college.  Every apartment or house I've lived in I can picture exactly where I'd put it.

Here she is - my dream baby

I've never hidden this desire, this dream.  Every time I pass by one of the stand mixers in a store, I stop to pay my respects and say a little prayer.  I mean, how can you NOT want one?  There are so many colors, so many things to bake and so many parts to buy!  It's an appliance with so many purposes.  

Then I met Stephen.  The one man who listens when I talk and pays attention to things I want.  He doesn't spoil me, in any way, but pays attention to the key things that he knows will make me sublimely happy.  For example, since I moved to Atlanta I've wanted to be taken on a date to Wisteria.  It was nearly 8 years before that happened, and Stephen was the one to do it.  He paid attention.  

This is our first Christmas together.  Based on how well he knows me I knew he'd find away to blow me away with his present.  I wasn't disappointed.  Last night, under the Christmas tree I opened a box that read "KitchenAid Stand Mixer".  Cue jumping up and down and hugging.

I've read the entire manual, including the recipes that came with it.  It's so beautiful in the kitchen, next to the window where it gets good, natural light.  She's my baby.  She's the biggest and baddest machine KitchenAid makes.

I'm the luckiest girl in the world to have a boyfriend who makes me this happy.  Don't get me wrong, it's not the material things, it's that he listens to me and knows what will make me happy.  I can't wait for all of the dinners, desserts and good memories to be made from and around this mixer.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Alfredo's Italian Restaurant - A restaurant review

There are a bunch of restaurants in Atlanta that are in weird parts of town but have amazing food.  Most of these restaurants have been around for decades and have survived the changing neighborhoods.  Alfredo's Italian Restaurant definitely fits into this category.

We ventured to Alfredo's on Cheshire Bridge Road for a friend's birthday.  It's long been known in Atlanta as having great Italian food so I was excited to finally have a reason to venture that way.  If you're not from Atlanta, Cheshire Bridge isn't the nicest road.  You pass quite a few adult only businesses on your way to Alfredo's.

Walking in the door was what I imagine walking back into 1975 time would be like.  The restaurant opened in 1974 and I'm not sure the decor in the place has changed since then.  I'd be willing to bet some of the maps on the wall are even out of date.  There is wood paneling everywhere and the tables and booths are extremely close together.  The wait staff must be the original staff too, or at least most of them are originals.

I was with a large group of people, so what I'm about to say in my review could have been impacted by that, however, we had two different servers for our two tables so it shouldn't have been a problem.

The services was S-L-O-W.  When we complained that our entrees were taking over 45 minutes to come out, we were told it's because we ordered an appetizer for the table.  That just doesn't seem right.  The other table, of double the number of people had appetizers as well and their food came out in a timely manner.  I think our waiter knew quite a few regulars in that evening and spent time with them vs. with us.

The entrees, however, were delicious.  The servings were generous and were exactly what I expected from a restaurant that has been serving Italian food longer than I've been alive.  Notice I said entrees, the appetizers weren't good at all.  We got stuffed mushrooms and mussels, neither of them were finished by the table of 6.  The mussels didn't seem cooked properly and the mushrooms were too loaded down with spices and were very slimy.  We should have passed on the apps and had them bring around another basket of bread - divine.  Also, be ready to smell like garlic.  The word on the street is that the cooks walk around the dining room with sautéed garlic each night before the dinner rush to spread the garlic aroma.  It's not a bad smell, but you can smell the garlic before you walk in the front door.

The big surprise of the night was that they gave each table free desserts for everyone.  I'm not sure if that's what they typically do for birthdays or if they realized that we were unhappy with how long our dinner took.  They were yumm-o.

The overall experience was tainted for us because of the slow service.  Will I go back to Alfredo's, probably not.  It was too stuffy, not in a fancy way, in a 1970s way, for me and I can find good Italian food closer to home without the 60 year old Italian waiter who seems to think I'm not important.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love. Movie Review

I'll watch any movie with Ryan Gosling.  Period.  If someone rented that movie where he had a blow up doll girlfriend, I'd give him 2 hours of my time to watch.  I loved him in The Notebook, Blue Valentine, Murder By Numbers - any movie he's been a part of.  Please note I said I loved HIM in those movies, not necessarily the movie.

Crazy, Stupid, Love falls into that category.  The acting was great, by all actors, but the movie left me feeling depressed and uneasy.  I know not all movies are exactly like their previews, but I expected this movie to be a lot funnier than it was.  There were definitely some funny moments and lines, but I wouldn't classify it as a comedy in any way.

The movie focuses on Steve Carell's character, Cal Weaver, whose wife just told him she wants a divorce and she had an affair with a man at work.  He moves out of the beautiful family home he shares with his wife and two kids into a crappy apartment and starts frequenting a bar for something to do.  There he sees Ryan Gosling's character, Jacob Palmer, the lady's man.  Jacob decides to help Cal find his inner hot man and trains him in his womanizing ways.

There is also the side stories of Cal's kids and their babysitter and soon to be lawyer, Hannah, who is dating the absolute wrong guy for her.

All of the story lines show viewers how crazy love it and how it can really mess you up or on the flip side, fix you if you find the right person.

Being a child of divorced parents and having gone through a divorce myself at a very young age, I may be too sensitive to movies that are based on a divorce, but nothing about the movie, even the semi-happy ending made me feel like everything would be okay.  I looked to Stephen mid-way through the movie and told him that nothing happening in the movie would ever happen to us.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is a fantastic movie, but be warned, it's not a comedy.

On a side note - it was the first movie we watched on our brand new, super awesome 42" flat screen TV! It hadn't been mounted to the wall yet so we had it set up in the bedroom.  It was awesome to have such a great TV in the bedroom, but it won't last.  I'm a big believer in not having a TV in the bedroom.  That's your room for sleeping, spending time with your significant other and relaxing.  Maybe when I have kids I'll change my mind, but for now, now TV in the bedroom.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Horrible Bosses - Movie Review

Last night I watched Horrible Bosses, the 2011 movie with Charlie Day, Jason Bateman and Jason Sudeikis.  Not only those guys, but also Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell and Kevin Spacey - with a few other surprises that I won't ruin. It was such a great cast to start with, I knew it would be great.  I can't remember why I didn't go see this movie when it was released in theaters.  Charlie Day and Jason Bateman are two of my favorite actors right now.  I love their comedic styles.  I can't get enough of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and I just started watching Arrested Development.

The movie focuses on three best friends played by Day, Bateman and Sudeikis.  Each of the friends has, as you would imagine, a horrible boss.  And these bosses aren't just the type who ask you to work late on a Friday, but their absolutely horrible.  When the three are pushed to their individual limits they come up with a plan to off each other's boss.  That's when the hilarity begins.

Several times during the movie both Stephen and I were laughing uncontrollably and we even went to bed quoting some of the lines.  I'm sure a lot of it was the way the actors delivered the lines, but they were perfect.  Colin Farrell continues to surprise me with his American accent and his ability to play a different character in most of his movies.  Jennifer Aniston was shocking, in a good way.  Her character was such a departure from the Rom-Com character she normally plays and 180 degrees different than Rachel from Friends.

It was a great Thursday night, lazy in bed, after a big dinner, movie.  It would have been just as great with a bunch of friends or in the theater.  Go out and get it on Netflix.  Do it.