Monday, July 30, 2012

Wedding Planning - Post #16 - Our venue: DeKalb County Courthouse

Stephen and I are doing things a little out of the ordinary, if you haven't noticed from my 15 other posts about wedding planning.  We originally wanted to elope, but decided to keep the ceremony here in Atlanta and have a party that night with friends and family.  We were never big on a church ceremony so after a few short discussions we easily decided that the courthouse was for us.

We live in Fulton County, GA so we checked with their courthouse first.  For several reasons we decided against the Fulton County Courthouse.  First, and most importantly, they don't do private wedding ceremonies with judges.  I wanted nothing to do with a large group wedding ceremony with total strangers.  Negative.  Nine.  No thanks.  I've seen some of Fulton County's finest, Lord knows who would be in there with us.  Secondly, when we looked at parking around the courthouse, there wasn't much and the downtown streets can be complicated with parking rules.  Lastly, we wanted pictures on courthouse steps, the Fulton County Courthouse isn't very pretty.  So, next we went to DeKalb County, the closest county to us.  In DeKalb County private wedding ceremonies are held Wednesdays and Fridays from 1:30pm - 4:00pm.  It's a first come first served system, but we're okay with that.  The current DeKalb County Courthouse is pretty ugly, it looks like what I hate from 1970s architecture.  I have no idea if that's when it was built - but you get the idea, see below.

DeKalb County Courthouse, Decatur, GA
The good thing about the DeKalb County Courthouse, is that the old courthouse is just across the Square from the new courthouse.  Bonus, there is a gazebo in the middle of the two.  After we got our Marriage License at the courthouse we took a walk to take some pictures of the gazebo and the old courthouse to send to our photographer so she'd had an idea of the locations since she's based out of Jacksonville.  Sadly, this is what we found.

Construction around the gazebo

So sad, we can't get to the gazebo.  Doesn't look like work will be done in 3 weeks.  You can see the man in the white hat on the left side of the picture, he is shoulder deep in a trench.
Not only is the construction blocking us from getting to the gazebo, but the fence is really close to the old courthouse so we can't get any distance in our pictures if we're standing on the courthouse steps.  It's not the end of the world, but things aren't as perfect as I had imagined them to be.  Here is the Old DeKalb County Courthouse.

Those three pictures above are as far back as I can get in a photo from the stairs.  Pictures are definitely still do-able on the stairs and they will still be gorgeous, but we can't do the long distance picture that I wanted.  Maybe the construction will be done in time.... maybe.

Old DeKalb County Courthouse.  You can see the fence to the left of the sidewalk.
While we can't take picture at the gazebo right now, we found City Hall not too far from the two courthouses and it can be another location for our photos with our family.

I love the red brick of the building and the dark wood doors.  If I can't have a gazebo, I'll take some red brick.  We'll take our family pictures around the courthouse at these locations and then Stephen and I will take some time with our photographer to some of our favorite places around our area of Atlanta - Grant Park, Turner Field and the Highlands.

The Marriage License process in DaKalb County was really easy.  The forms you need to fill out are online so you can do them in advance.  The ladies behind the counter the we dealt with were friendly, happy and very helpful with all of our questions.

Margarita Cupcakes: Recipe

The 2012 Summer Olympics started Friday night and we were invited to an Opening Ceremony Party. Everyone at the party had to pick a country and represent that country with food, drinks and outfit.  The easy way would have been to pick the USA and gone with some Coors Light and a red, white and blue snack - but we don't go the easy way in our house.  I thought the red, white and blue could have worked for a few different countries, but Stephen convinced me to go another route: Mexico.  I love Cinco De Mayo (especially since that's the day added Goose to our family) so I didn't fight his suggestion too hard.

Stephen makes amazing guacamole so that was going to be his contribution to our offerings.   We had just been to the farmer's market so we had four fresh avocados to use.  Yum.  I did a quick search on Pinterest for "Mexican themed party" and found a recipe for Margarita Cupcakes and decided I'd give those a shot.  Here is the link to the original recipe on Hostess With The Mostess.

photo source: Hostess with the Mostess
These cupcakes are amazing.  Not just a little bit, but a lot of amazing.  I followed the recipe exactly, but substituted coconut oil for the vegetable oil.  For the icing, I had to use abut 5 1/2 cups of sugar for it to get to the consistency that I wanted, but I think that had to do with my heavy pour with the margarita mix.

I got 20 cupcakes out of my first batch and enough frosting for 44 cupcakes.  So what do you do when you have enough frosting for a second round of cupcakes - you make more!  We had an engagement party on Saturday night to attend, so I made another batch of cupcakes and used up the rest of the frosting.

Every person who had a cupcake loved them.  I have probably had 4 in the past 3 days and I know Stephen wouldn't like me to mention how many he's put down in the same time period.  These will definitely become a summer party regular and I'll bring these to every Cinco De Mayo party we're invited to.  YUM!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Front Porch Decorating

Living in the South, the outdoors is as much a part of your house as the rooms inside.  I don't know how many times I've sat on a friend's front porch with a glass of wine or a beer and watched the world go by.  Nothing may not even go by, but we're enjoying each other's company sitting on the porch.  There are so many gorgeous homes in Atlanta with giant front porches, I have front porch envy.  The size of a porch is what I notice first about any home.  Our front porch is small.  But just because it's small doesn't mean I don't intend on using it.  I just had to figure out what to do with our little space.  Oh, and don't even get me started on back patios.  I love them even more than front porches.  A good BBQ afternoon with friends around the grill on the back deck = the perfect Fall afternoon if you ask me.

So here is our front porch.  It's cute, but nothing too special.  One wall is our front door and the other is the front bedroom window.  Then you have the part that extends from the house and then you have the stairs down to the sidewalk and street.  

View of our porch from the top of the stairs

View of the porch from the front of the balcony
The part of the porch that juts out from the house is home planted flowers we're growing, nothing fancy there yet.  Basically we had a blank slate to work with.  I saw on a fellow blogger's blog that World Market was having a huge sale on all outdoor furniture - off we went!

What we really wanted to buy was already sold out.  The store clerks said they sold out pretty quick.  We actually ended up buying the floor model of the bench we found.  The final tally was $206 and we got a rug, two end tables, three outdoor pillows and the bench with a cushion.  Just $200!  I put everything together while Stephen was still at work so he could be surprised when he got home.

Look how lovely it looks! 
We didn't want to be totally matchy-matchy so we went with the orange tables and I'm so glad we did.  

I can't wait to sit outside tomorrow morning with a cup of coffee and my fiance on our new, lovely front porch.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Shrimp, Feta and Fresh Herb Mac n Cheese

I love Pinterest.  I go on every single day and look for new recipes to try.  I look for craft ideas, ideas to help make our house prettier/better/more useful.  Pinterest has everything.  I saw this recipe while pinning a few weeks ago and decided to give it a shot.  I mean come on, it's a twist on such a great Southern Comfort Food, with shrimp, how could it go wrong?!

Photo from Annie's Eats - author's photography
The original recipe is from Annie's Eats blog.  That's another great thing about Pinterest - I can find blogs I would have never found without the website.  The blog is wonderful and I plan to add it to my list of daily blogs to check out.  (The list keeps growing and growing and growing...)

I stayed with the recipe from start to finish.  The only thing I did add was some fresh, chopped up bacon that we had on hand. It was delicious.  The night I made the meal we had 4 other people at hour house for dinner, I needed something that could feed a crowd and wouldn't keep me in the kitchen all evening.  This was perfect.  The 6 of us, three men and three women, ate a little less than half of the dish.  Last night three of us had leftovers and we still have enough for two more servings.  This meal goes the distance!

The ingredient list isn't crazy either, which is nice.

1 lb. pasta shapes
1 lb. raw shrimp (31-40 ct.), peeled and deveined, cut in half (if desired)
10 oz. feta cheese, crumbled and divided
Zest of 1 lemon, divided
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped, divided
5 tbsp. butter, divided
4 tbsp. all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
2 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped  (I used dried dill from the pantry)
8 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper

For the pasta, I used elbow macaroni because that was all I had on hand in the quantity that we needed.  Apparently it's time to do some pasta shopping.

The feedback from everyone, all SEVEN of us who have had some, has been very positive.  It was such an easy recipe, I'm so glad it was so delicious so I can add it to my mental cookbook.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What happens when you put shrimp in the garbage disposal?

I can tell you.  Let me set the stage.  Late Sunday afternoon we had a few friends over for some drinks and Stephen and I offered to cook dinner.  Earlier in the day we had gone to two different farmers markets so we were stocked with some good food.  We had a cocktail or two each and then started cooking.  I was trying a new recipe, more on that later, and I'd had a drink, so I was running around the kitchen a little more frantic than when it's just the two of us at the house.  Stephen was helping me with some shrimp for the meal.  He removed the shells and tails and cut each of them in half so they were more bite sized pieces.  Stephen is a great cook and I never watch over his shoulder to see what he's doing to correct him.  Yes, sometimes I look over his shoulder to ask why he's not following the recipe, but he hasn't made a bad decision... until Sunday.

I was mixing something by the stove, with my back to the sink and turned around just as I saw the shrimp tails and peels go into the sink with the garbage disposal.  I shrieked that they shouldn't go down, but it was too late, he had made up his mind.  Shrimp was fine, he said.  He throws everything down the garbage disposal, even the things I know shouldn't go down; egg shells, lemon peels, ice, etc.  Fast forward to turning on the garbage disposal with the shrimp tales inside.  Begin the bubbles.  In the middle of our dinner party, with a ton of stuff going on in the kitchen, the sink was blocked up.  For the rest of the night we used the other side of the sink, no clog there, but we were unable to really rinse off any dishes when the meal was done.

We tried a drain cleaner, we tried the plunger, and we even tried the Pinterest suggestion of baking soda with white vinegar.  Nothing worked.  The disposal would run, the water wouldn't go down.  After some research online I found that there weren't any magic suggestions and out next step was to take apart the pipes.

I was ready to call the plumber.  Stephen gave it a shot while I kept myself busy.  If I couldn't see what was going on under the sink, I wouldn't stress out.  As soon as he had the pipe off the clog was right there in front of us and it was easy to clean out.  I took the pipe outside and hosed it out before we put it back into the sink.  Problem solved!

Moral of the story: As soon as you put shrimp peels and/or tails into the garbage disposal it will form a nice little ball and clog the drain.  Nothing will clean that clog.  You must take apart your sink.  Don't be like us, avoid shrimp in the sink.

Goose hanging out on the bed - 5 1/2 months old!

This post is pretty boring, so here is an adorable picture of Goose.  He's getting so big.  There are days I get home from work and I think he's grown while I was at the office.  Six cups of food a day will do that.  (Yes, that's a lot of food.  We know.  We'll cut him back once he starts to look chubby.  Right now he's still super lean.)  Goose totally demolished a rope chew toy so we had to replace it with another non-distructable one.  Enter Kong Ball.  I'm pretty sure Goose thinks he is the best dog in the entire world because we gave him such a special treat.  He tried to sleep with it last night, too.  Cute little buddy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Treehouse Restaurant and Pub: Restaurant Review

Source: Treehouse website

I bought a Living Social deal for Treehouse a couple months ago because I love the patio  It's such a great place to have a glass of wine or couple of cold ones with friends so when I saw the deal pop up one day I had to grab it.  Stephen had never been so I was excited to get to share it with him.  The picture above, from their website, is of the restaurant in the winter or fall.  In the warmer months the plastic isn't up on the sides and the roof isn't there.  It is a wide open patio with colorful umbrellas at each table.

We tried to eat at Treehouse twice before we actually got to dine, third time is a charm!  They do not take reservations and the seating is pretty limited for such a fun neighborhood place so it fills up fast.  If you're thinking about a Friday or Saturday night, plan ahead and get there early.  We went on a Monday evening after an afternoon rain shower rolled through and we had no problem getting a table.  We had to wipe off some water from the chairs, but we aren't picky people.

For starters we ordered the mussels, of course.  The server who dropped them off told us we would love them and he was right.  They are served in a Sambuca and cream sauce, new to us, and we soaked up every drop of it after eating all of the mussels.  For the first time, the right amount of bread was brought out to us - plenty!  From there I ordered the Blackened Grouper Reuben and Stephen ordered the English Club Burger.  My Reuben came with a TON of coleslaw on top.  So much so that after the first half I tried to wipe all of it away so I only had the blackened grouper on the bread.  I was disapointed that once I removed the coleslaw the grouper didn't have much flavor and I didn't finish the second half of my sandwich.  Stephen's burger was great and he ate every bite.

We love dining out and it's even better when the service where we are spending our money is great.  This was the case at Treehouse.  The atmosphere is super relaxed and casual and so are the servers.  However they aren't so relaxed that they aren't attentive or responsive.  Every server we saw and interacted with was friendly and had a smile on his or her face.

Another great thing about Treehouse is dogs are allowed on the patio.  While we were there three dogs came out to eat with their humans.  I'm not sure Mabel would enjoy the experience but I think Goose would be easy to eat with since he's so quiet and scared in public.  Silly boy.

Overall, Treehouse was a great experience.  While my meal wasn't my favorite, the atmosphere was great and Stephen's burger was good.  We'll definitely give it another shot and I'll pass on the grouper sandwich.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Grant Park Farmer's Market

Stephen and I love buying local and organic food.  I've posted about the DeKalb Farmers Market that we try to go to at least once a month and we're always looking for healthy substitutes to our diet.  The park in our neighborhood, Grant Park, has a farmer's market every Sunday from 9:30am - 1:00pm in the warm months (April 29 - December 16).  Click here for the market's website.


Surprisingly, this week was the first time we went over to check it out.  It was pretty nice!  There were a large variety of vendors and there were tons of families out and about.  They even have a cooking demos by a local chef each week.  We caught the very end of the cooking lesson this week by Nick Melvin.  The chef demo on August 12 is on Quinoa Cuisine.  We're huge quinoa fans so I'm going to try to make it to that one.

The area where they host the cooking demos was gorgeous.  We plan to take some wedding pictures in Grant Park and this area is going to be 100% perfect.  I emailed the picture above to our wedding photographer right away.  Don't you love how the light comes through the giant trees to the stone arch. I'm pretty sure it used to be a fountain, now it's perfect for some wedding pictures.

We ended up buying some produce and some jam Sunday morning.  All of the produce that we needed for the week wasn't available at the market, so Stephen and I dropped off what we bought and headed to the DeKalb Farmer's Market to finish off our shopping list.  Great Sunday morning.

Over the weekend we also discovered our new favorite park not too far from our house - the South Bend Dog Park.  Yep, we found a legit dog park by our house.  I noticed the sign for the park a few months ago when we drove past on our way to a Dave Matthews Band Concert at Lakewood Amphitheater.  Now that Goose is old enough and fully recovered from his neutering surgery with all his shots we decided to take the pups out to see how they like it.  Obviously we knew Mabel would be in Heaven as long as we brought a ball, which we did.  Goose was pretty excited about his freedom off the leash.  He didn't quite understand fetch (he can do it in the house, but in wide open spaces he had no clue what to do) but he'd run with Mabel as she went after the ball.  The park is huge and they had tons of space to run.  We were lucky to be the only ones there on Saturday morning.  There are a lot of hills in the park so after 4 or 5 throws of the ball both pups were tired and we headed home.  We met another family on Sunday who come to the park all the time and they said work day evenings are packed.  We'll try to avoid those times because Mabel doesnt' always get along with other lady dogs.  The best part of the park - how tired they are when we get home.

Friday, July 20, 2012

My Favorite Gift Boutique in Atlanta: Just The Thing

Do you have one of those stores you always go back to over and over again because you know that every time you go in you'll find something perfect for the reason your shopping?  I have that place, Just The Thing located on Pharr Road in Buckhead.  It's been in the small house for as long as I've been in Atlanta and it was shown to me by one of my co-workers at my very first job here in town.  I've been shopping at Just The Thing for close to 9 years now.

The store is set up in an old home which has been converted into a shop.  There is a room full of jewelry, one dedicated to gifts, two rooms to the back of more casual jewelry and bags and then a new room for clothing.  The main room up front with the cash registers has the higher end jewelry and hand bags along with some earrings on the counter.  The stuff is gorgeous.  All of it is SUPER trendy and I've never come across an item that is out of style or of questionable taste.  I think it's pretty safe to say that I could go in there blindfolded and pick something and I'd love it.  That'd actually be a fun way to shop...

The gift room is always my first stop when I have a gift for a close, female friend.  I've never once been let down.  And if you don't find a cute little gift, how about a clutch or hand bag?  Again, if that's my goal for my shopping trip, I've never walked out empty handed.  As a matter of fact, I'm not sure, in 8 years that I've ever walked out with out one of the black and white bags.

The best thing about Just The Thing is that while all of their items are trendy and classy, nothing is overpriced.  For what you're buying, prices are absolutely reasonable.  For example, for Christmas I got my future-mother-in-law a new clutch, $35.  I've bought a few other clutches for other friends, never more than $35.  My green purse that I'm carrying now - $25.  I get compliments on it constantly.  You can find earrings under $10 or as much as $100 depending on what you want.  Off the sale rack I actually got THREE pairs of earrings for under $10 total last time in.  There is no way by just looking at them someone would know that I paid $2.50.  Necklaces are super reasonable too.  If I find something I love in Anthropologie, I'm pretty sure they have something similar at Just The Thing at a lower cost.

The ladies in the shop are always helpful and there to assist in any way.  I've been in so many times, they don't recognize me yet, but I'll assume that's because there are plenty of other ladies who shop there as much as I do.  I can go in with a Christmas list and walk out with all the ladies in my family checked off.

If you're looking for a gift or some fun, new jewelry, Just The Thing is absolutely the place for you.  I've even sent male co-workers to the store for gifts for their wives and they've continued to go back.  If you like them on Facebook you get to see new items as soon as they get to the store (some stuff goes fast!) and that's where they announce their sales.

I was not compensated for this blog post in any way.  Just The Thing is one of my favorite stores in Atlanta and I want to share it with other people like me.  Go and check it out!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wedding Planning - Post #15 - Makeup Trial

I urge everyone to do a makeup trial, whether you are having your makeup done by a professional on the day of your wedding or if you’re going to be brave and do it yourself.  I’m part of that latter group, but I’m still building up the confidence so that come the big day in less than a month, I’m ready to go. 

I did a lot of research on make-up artists who could come to the house to do my make-up and I also found someone who would be able to do it at the salon where I’m getting my hair done.  I found that the make-up artists that came to me were well outside of my budget.  Hundreds of dollars outside of my budget, as a matter of fact.  The lady at my salon was totally reasonable, but because of timing the morning of the wedding there wasn’t enough time to get hair and make-up done if I started at 9:00am.  I’ll have to go to the salon with some of my makeup already on and finish the rest after my hair is done.  It will be just like a work morning. 
My Bridal Look
I decided that if I was going to do my own makeup I wanted to use products that I am comfortable using in my everyday makeup wear so that I wouldn’t be wasting money buying things I’ll need that special day.  I went with MAC Cosmetics since I already had a few lip colors and some eye shadows.  I made my appointment at MAC counter at the Nordstrom in Buckhead at Phipps Plaza versus going to the MAC store because I was recommended the artists at Nordstrom.  I believe if you go to the actual MAC store, they may charge you more – but don’t quote me on that, I never called that location.  The Nordstrom cosmetic department is really close to the parking lot so it was an easy choice. 

My makeup artist was running about 15 minutes late which put me in a bad mood, but I told myself that I wouldn’t let it get me upset because I would need to focus and trust the woman there to help me.  Once we got started I was totally comfortable and enjoyed the entire experience.  I was in the makeup chair for about an hour and then it took an hour to get everything organized and for me to check out.  The best part was that I got to go home with the sheet of paper, above.  The paper shows all of the different products and colors and what goes where.  I wanted something that would still look like me, but better.  

Close up of my eye makeup - look at all the colors!
Check it out, there is pink AND blue eye shadow going on!  I even bought fake eye lashes for the wedding day.  The bonus to the entire day was that that evening was my bridal shower, so I got to ask all of my friends what they thought of my makeup and it was unanimous, they loved it.  

I've been using some of the products I purchased the past few days so that I can get used to using all of it, and quickly.  I've been using the eye shadow (not the blue, and definitely not as smokey), foundation and powder.  I have new eye cream, foundation, cover up, powder, blush, 5 different eye shadow colors and I even learned how to gently and barely fill in my eyebrows, which makes a HUGE difference.  

I can't wait for the big day, especially knowing that my MAC cosmetics will last all day.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lunch with Katie Couric

I WISH I had a one-on-one lunch with Katie Couric.  It was a group lunch at the ABC affiliate here in Atlanta to introduce us to her new daytime show launching in a few weeks.  More on that later.

I'm such a huge fan and have been since I started watching The Today Show when in college.  When I was younger I thought I always thought the name Katie was for kids and that when I grew up and turned into a lady that I'd switch to Katherine.  Don't judge me, I was in middle school.  Then I learned of Katie Couric.  She was an adult Katie and successful, I could be, too!  Because of her, honestly, I didn't try to change what all of my friends called me once I went to high school.  Once in college, I actually started to watch the news and was drawn to Katie and Matt on the Today Show before I'd head out to class and I've been hooked ever since.  I was glued to the television screen on 9-11 and Katie took me through that horrific day.  I was away from home and I took comfort her in familiar face.  I love her shoes, her clothes and the way she interviewed guests on the show - the serious guests and the more lighthearted ones.

When Katie left The Today Show I was close to devastated.  I watched her last show and cried.  Yes, I cried.  To be honest, I did learn to love Meredith and it was because of her that I stayed with NBC in the morning.  Since Meredith left I haven't been as loyal a viewer, switching more between GMA and the local FOX news.  It could also be because my morning routine has changed with Goose - I'm eating breakfast 30 minutes earlier than I used to and I seem to hit the commercial break that lasts as long as my bowl of cereal.  Boo.

When I heard that Katie was coming to WSB for a short presentation and lunch it was all I could do not to jump out of my chair when I was asked if I wanted to go.  I was going to be in the same room as Katie Couric!!!

Lunch was great.  There was a lot of sales-y stuff before Katie came down from doing an interview, but it just built up the excitement.  When she came in the room you could see the room lighten up because everyone was smiling just because she was there.  She was awkwardly introduced to the room of people and took it like a champ.  (She was in the middle of the food buffet when she had to turn around to smile an take pictures with the WSB news staff - awkward!)

Like I mentioned, Katie is in town to promote her new syndicated program to the Atlanta advertising world.  The show, named "Katie", will debut on September 10, 2012.  Here in Atlanta it will air at 3:00pm.  I don't have a DVR, so I hope ABC will have it on their ipad app so I can watch it at home.  The talk show will be taped live everyday at 2:00 in NYC and will even air in some markets at that time.  Truly a live program in the afternoon.  I think it's going to be fantastic!  Click here for a promo video of the show.

Katie talked to us about why she wanted to do a talk show, what she wants to talk about on the show and even answered some questions from the audience.  She told us she's doing the show because she thinks that right now there aren't a lot of really in-depth interview with really interesting people.  On morning shows interviews are under five minutes long and on the entertainment programs the interviews are really pushing a new product by the famous person rather than really allowing the viewers to get to know them.  Katie wants to really get deep into so many different topics in each hour program with experts from all sides while not only addressing the main issue but also the ancillary topics as well.

On the nightly news on CBS I always felt Katie's personality was kept in the background because of the seriousness of the evening news.  This will allow her to show viewers who she really is, like she did in her 15 years on The Today Show.  Her personality is what people enjoy and what allows her into our homes.  I'm glad she's getting back to what she is most comfortable with.

After she talked about some of the topics she's going to be addressing and some interviews she's already planned (we can't share those yet) she took questions from the crowd.  Some of the questions were planted in the audience, some were silly and others were personal - she answered them all.  Some of her answers she asked us not to share with the public because they were about the current morning news shows, upcoming interviews and her family.

The entire lunch she was engaging and honest.  I was starstruck.  Katie Couric was across the room.  In the room with us she was just how she was on air - what you see on air is really Katie Couric, not some news personality.  I can't wait to see how the show does once it launches.  I'm sure ABC will support her in every way possible and she told us that she'll even get to do some specials for the network which will bring her into our homes more often.  Way to go, Katie!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Turner Field - Best Seats in the House

Unless you're able to buy the super expensive, lower level behind home plate tickets or suite tickets, there are some tricks to finding the best seats in Turner Field.  Stephen and I go to so many games and we've sat in so many different sections, I wanted to share some tips that he and I have discovered.

Below is the map of the sections at Turner Field.  You can also click here for an interactive seating map with pricing details and pictures of the view from each section.  Obviously, tickets in a suite or in the lower level in the infield are the best seats in the house, in my opinion, there are other great seats at lower prices.

Source: Atlanta Braves Interactive Map
Hank Aaron Drive is along the east side of the stadium and closest to our house.  That gate never has a line of more than 5 people and it's so much faster than walking all the way to the main gate.  Tip #1 - if you're going to park at the stadium, pass the Blue and Green Lots and go through the light in front of the stadium by the main gate.  There will be a few grass and sand lots to your left that have quick access to that east gate for less walking.  However, if you're going to a game and you know it's going to be packed, buy your Green or Blue lot parking tickets in advance online or at the ticket booth.  Believe me, it will save some time.  The grass lots will be open for the big games, but they'll get full quick and then you're stuck in horrible traffic.

Tip #2 - use the east gate.  It's also the best gate for those bobble head nights or other give away nights. They have the same items, but with a shorter line.

When picking your ticket section for the game, first take into consideration the time of the game.  If it's an afternoon game, you want to avoid any section down the first base line.  Those sections are in direct sunlight until about 7:30pm.  Even for evening games, we try to stay as close to the third base line as possible, but it's not totally necessary.  If you're going to an evening game, or don't mind being hot one of our favorite sections are 401 and 402.  Yes, you're at the top of the stadium, but if you're in one of the first few rows the view of the entire stadium is great.  You can also see the skyline from here and when they do Friday Night Fireworks in the summer you have one of the best seats in the house.  Flyovers are also a lot closer.  For the same view at a little bit higher of a price are the Terrace Infield sections in the 200 level.  The upper rows of all 200 level tickets have cover from the seats above.  Great for those hot games, or games when there may be some rain.  Any 200 level ticket starting with section 205 and going to the third base side are great seats.  Another tip, when you walk into the stadium and you have 200 level seats, you don't need to walk upstairs to the 200 level walk way, you can get to those seats from the main level.   Yesterday it was a 90 degree day and we had seats in section 220, row 13.  We could see how sweaty most of the crowd was for the 1:35pm game, but we didn't even need sunglasses.  There was a nice breeze and we were in the shade the entire game.

If you're going to the game with a large group of people, 20+, I recommend contacting the ticket office and they will give you a package.  Some of them are pretty neat and come with Braves shirts.  If drinking at the game is more important that catching every pitch, buy the cheap seats, get there a little early, and head to the Chop House, the large bar in the outfield.  From the railing at the bar you have a perfect view of the game, but you're going to have to watch the scoreboard for balls and strikes because you won't be able to see those from the outfield.  There is also a second bar, on the suite level on the first base side with more seating outdoors.  Those lines aren't as long as the main Chop House on busy games.

At a higher price tag are the 300 level Club seats.  These sections are accessed from a concourse that is indoors.  I recommend these sections for fans with small children who may not be able to sit outside in the heat for a full game.  In the 2012 season, these Club tickets will run you somewhere around $40 a ticket.  Not too bad at all for the AC on a hot day if you're going to need it.

There is also the 755 Club out in left field.  It's an indoor bar and restaurant area with tables and some outdoor stadium seating, along with indoor seats along the windows.   You'll need to purchase special tickets that have 755 Club Access to get in to that section, but for rainy days, it's such a nice treat.  The lowest level ticket price for 755 access is $28.

We love Turner Field and really, there isn't a horrible seat in the house.  There are tickets in all price ranges and you're never blocked from seeing the field like in some of those older stadiums.  Turner Field is such a special part of our lives, we met at a game last season, I wanted to share some of our special tricks from our 20+ games together.   Go Braves!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Wedding Planning - Post #14 - Bridal Shower/Bachelorette Party

All of the beautiful ladies
So far, this is the most exciting post that I get to write about wedding planning.  Last night two of my very best friends in the entire world hosted a bridal shower for me and took me out dancing.   I've been to countless showers before and nothing compares to show special it felt to look around and see so many faces that I love and care about so much.  And the best part, they were all there to share a special night with me.  Rarely do I do things for attention, especially when I'm surrounded by more deserving people, but I'll admit, it felt so nice to have the spotlight last night.

The shower was at Apres Diem in Midtown.  We drank wine and had some delicious apps while we chatted and everyone got to know each other.  I opened presents and I'm so grateful for each and every gift.  But the part of the night that I'll cherish the most was the time we had to sit and talk.  So many friends from so many different places.  Middle school, college, old co-workers, current co-workers and great friends.  I told Stephen the next day how amazing it is that I get to surround myself with those ladies.  Everyone stands out in her own way.

I can't thank Whitney and Nicole enough for the special night.  My hangover this morning was a reminder that life isn't always wine, cheese and your best friends.  But I was able to rally and make it to the Braves game at 1:30pm today - it could have been worse.

My old Atlanta roomie and one of the sweetest ladies on the planet

There is a reason we have stayed friends for so long - we like to say we share one brain

I couldn't get through my workday without these girls

My very special hostesses

Special guest Lindsay from San Diego! 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Birdcage BINGO!

Last night we welcomed home one of Stephen's friends who spent the past year in China teaching English.  (Let's discuss that really quick - could you go to another country where you didn't speak a lick of the language and dedicate a year of your life?  I know that it was something that never even entered my consideration set.  I admire people who can get up and do something so out of the norm.)   He got to the house around dinner time and I was craving some food so we decided on Mellow Mushroom Pizza for dinner.  Let's be honest, I'd probably eat Mellow Mushroom 2 or 3 times a week if I was allowed, by my waistline.  Pizza isn't on the wedding/running diet.

There are a bunch of Mellows in the area so we had to make a decision on which one for the evening.  We had the Downtown location, the Midtown location and the Buckhead location - we ultimately went with Midtown because it had a good parking lot and I wasn't in the mood to try to figure out the parking lot situation Downtown since I've only walked to that location from my office.  This is when our night got awesome.

Wednesday night at the Midtown location is Birdcage BINGO.  What is Birdcage BINGO you ask?  Well, it's BINGO but with drag queens!!!  Yes, you read that right.  I had no idea this happened.  The hostess warned us as we walked in that there would be profanity and drag queens and if we weren't comfortable with that we could sit outside or choose another restaurant.  We were absolutely interested in participating and we grabbed a table.

My BINGO card
The night was hosted by, Ruby Redd, of course a drag queen.  She was hilarious.  While calling out the names drawn she would tell stories or give her opinion about the subject.  There was not a lack of profanity or inappropriate comments, which was refreshing.   Every participant was given a BINGO sheet with three different game options - Gay Atlanta, Dead Divas and Super Heros/Villains.  The audience selected the Super Heros & Villains for the first game and off we went.  If you look at my picture above, that was the game on the far right.  Yep, I WON!  I won a pitcher of Bud Light for another day and I got to pick a prize out of the "grab bag".  I love winning, a lot.  I was so happy.

After the first game was complete and my prizes presented it was time for three other drag queens to perform for us for tips, all to be donated to charity.  It was such a fun evening.  The second game, Dead Divas, didn't go as well as the first and by the time someone yelled BINGO, I only had two boxes marked off.  Oh well.  However, the winner of game two was Stephen's friend!  Yep, the only table of straight diners won both games.  If I'm going to lose to anyone, it should be someone at my own table.

At the end of the night, all participants are asked to write the name of their favorite Atlanta charity on the back of the score card and turn it in (which is why I don't have a better picture of my score card in good light - I tried to make it brighter for you).  The charity with the most votes after a given time (I forget how long) will get a donation.  How great is that?  I really like when fun events help charity.  Our table all wrote down Habitat for Humanity since Stephen is so close to the group.

Events like Birdcage BINGO are great fun and companies like Mellow Mushroom who embrace the gay community are even better, in my opinion.  I'm sure 90% of the restaurants in Atlanta would shudder at the thought of hosting a drag queen BINGO night but from what I understand, Mellow Mushroom has been hosting for a long time.  Bravo, Mellow Mushroom.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Empire State South: Restaurant Review

I've heard a lot of good things about Empire State South and Executive Chef Ryan Smith.  So many good things that I tried to get it to be the restaurant for our wedding night with family before we headed over to the brewery for the reception.  (I was shot down faster than you can can say "no").  I'm glad we decided on Cypress, but I would have loved to share Empire State South with my family.

The restaurant is an urban take on souther dining.  The interior is comfortable and our large group of eight felt like we belonged right away.  The bar is enormous with plenty of seating for everyone.  We spent our first 30 minutes at the restaurant at the bar for cocktails before being seated for dinner.  Here is one of the three complaints that I'll have about the restaurant.  The beer menu, while interesting and unique, was too interesting and unique.  I'm a beer (wedding reception at brewery) fan, so are a few of the people in my dinner party.  Maybe one of the beers on the menu, it wasn't a short list, was something that I recognized as having tasted before.  It seemed pretty pretentious to me.  No beers on tap either.  I can get past that, I can get past not wanting to have Bud Light on your menu, but there are plenty of other microbrew beers that are more common than what was on their beer menu.  Also, our bartender was s.l.o.w.  We were the only ones at the bar and it was 6:00, so before the dinner rush, and it took quite a while for some of us to get our cocktails.  So much so that I ordered my second drink from the table, knowing it would take as long to get it, but I'd have water at my seat to hold me over until it was delivered.

The cocktails were also very unique and my Pimms Cup was perfect.  I really wish I could drink that cocktail like I drink water without getting drunk.  It's so good.

Once we were seated in the dining room that is deceivingly large, we ordered our round of drinks and then our appetizers.  We had two dozen of the oysters and an order of the In Jars.  Both were wonderful.  The oysters were a little fatty, so they weren't the hard, skinny ones you sometimes get and the homemade sauces were perfect.  The In Jars spreads couldn't have been more unique and wonderful at the same time.  I would recommend that Snackie to anyone in a large group.

The menu features local fare and really focuses on southern tastes.  I had the GA Trout and I'm so glad I did.  Our server even recommended it as one of her favorites, year round.  The Tomato Buttermilk Ravioli was also a huge hit at our table and I with I could have had a bite.  The other favorite at the table was the Smoked Duck Breast.  I don't think you could go wrong with any of those entree choices.  Click here to see their full dinner menu.    You will notice that there isn't a beef option on the menu, a disappointment to two of the gentlemen in our group.  If you have a steak eater in your group, you won't find that on the menu.  I was a little surprised, but I was fine with my trout.

Only one of our eight ordered dessert, the Chocolate and Cherries, but it was plenty to share among all of us.

There is outside seating for dining, some high top tables for mingling and even a bunch of adirondack chairs in the "grass" around the bocce court.  We tried to get a game in but as soon as we threw the jack the rain started.  Thanks Atlanta weather.

Overall the evening was fantastic.  The food was delicious and the atmosphere delightful.  Our server was attentive and quick with drinks and our water glasses were never empty.  The hostess team was beyond accommodating as well, a nice touch.  Now that I've dined at ESS do I still wish it was our restaurant for our wedding night dinner (or rehearsal dinner for a more traditional wedding), probably not.  The menu isn't cheap and the beer selection would have thrown off a few people looking for something a little familiar.  And I have steak fans in my family.  It was a wonderful dinner and I can't wait for a reason to head back.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Puppy Update

Goose continues to make us laugh as he tries to figure out how big he really is and how his body moves.  He's such a big boy for 5 months old, he has a lot of learning to do.  We have a chair in our living room that he used to not be able to jump on, when we first brought him home. We'd have to pick his little butt up and help him up to cuddle with us.  He now gets a running start and jumps over the arm of the chair.  Here is the chair and Goose when we first got him, about 4 months old.

Goose is very hard to photograph because he's so dark!
Last night he tried to jump over the back of the chair above and got stuck with his front legs on one side and his hind legs on the other.  Before I could get there to help him, he just rolled off the side and crashed to the floor.  I'm sure if we could see bruises on him, he'd be covered.

Goose is now noticeably larger than Mabel.  He's stronger than her now and their wrestling is much more evenly matched than when she first taught him some moves.

Sorry the picture is so blurry, you try getting both of them to look at the camera.
You can tell from picture #1 to the one above that he's definitely grown in the past month!  Sometimes I feel like he's grown while I was at work.

He is still working out that the outdoors are not a frightening place.  He hates going anywhere off the back deck unless it's into the backyard to go to the bathroom.  If we try to take him in the car or for a walk, it's a tug of war to get him down the steps.  We're not bribing him with food.  It seemed to work on the last car ride.

Mabel is still sweet as can be and is the perfect big sister.  She puts up with a lot of his puppy nonsense.

This is her "please throw the ball" face

Goose is learning to look at the camera, but I'm sure it will be some time before he poses like Mabel does.  

Sunday morning Goose vomited (yes, vomited) on the chair in the top picture.  My gorgeous, huge, expensive chair.  The chair that had I known I'd have two black dogs I would have chosen darker fabric.  I love that chair, so I freaked out.  We're already going to have to have a professional cleaner come into clean the chair and couch, but the stain was starting to smell.  Off the cushion cover went and into the washing machine.  As soon as the water started running in the wash, I noticed the warning on the chair that one mush NEVER remove the covers from the cushions and only have them cleaned professionally.  Perfect.  Well, it was washed and we hung it to dry.  Happily, it's back on the cushion and after a few more days of Goose jumping on it and me curled up with a book, it will be back to normal.  The corners look like they need a little more stuffing to move their way.  

As Goose continues to grow, I'll keep updating the pictures.  I found this canvas below on Pinterest and I can't wait to give it a shot.  

I'll make one for Mabel and one for Goose.  I'll wait until he's full grown and I have a better camera so I can try to get him quickly while he's sitting still.  Click here to see the full tutorial on how to make the painting from The Creativity Exchange blog.  

Monday, July 9, 2012


After our hang gliding adventure we stopped at a private farm on the way home and picked some blueberries.  It was $6 for a bucket of the little blue wonders and it took three of us about 30 min to pick that many berries.  Absolutely worth the time and sweat (it was noon on one of our 100 degree days here in Georgia).

With so many berries in the house I wanted to make sure they were used and didn't get thrown away - it would have been a shame to waste fresh as can be blueberries.  Of course we've been putting them on our Greek Yogurt every time we eat it, but it was obvious that we weren't going to be able to eat them all that way and I started looking for fun recipes for them.

Source: Want What You Have.
My cookies looked exactly like this when they came out of the oven.
The first one I found was for Blueberry Cookies.  OMG.  They are amazing.  Check out the recipe on the Want What You Have blog.  The cookies lasted about 3 days in our house and they were gone.  I got about 24 cookies out of the recipe, not 3 dozen like she did.  The next time I make these I may add some sliced almonds to see how they taste.

The next recipe was for Blueberry Muffins.  Growing up, blueberry muffins were our weekend treat, Betty Crocker style.  You know the ones, with the can of small blueberries included in the box.  Delicious, but not homemade.  I found a recipe on and found the To Die For Blueberry Muffins Recipe.  With over 5700 reviews/ratings and a 4.5 Star rating, I had to give them a shot.  Stephen and I may have devoured all 12 muffins in one day.  (The recipe says to make only 8 large muffins, but I went ahead and made 12 regular muffins.)  I'm glad I went for a run Saturday morning!  The only change I made use Coconut Oil instead of Vegetable Oil.  Scrolling through some of the 500+ photos that have been uploaded for the recipe, I noticed that not everyone added the the crumb topping.  PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU ADD THE CRUMB TOPPING.  It's the perfect touch to the perfect muffin.  I only used about half of what the recipe makes because all of my muffins had a nice cover of the mixture.

Do you have any blueberry recipes that you love to make?  We still have about 2 cups left!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Cone of Shame

Goose, our puppy, is 5 months old now.  That means it was time to get him neutered.  From what I read that typically happens between 4 and 6 months for a puppy, so we were right on schedule.  We took him back to the vet where he and his brothers lived before we adopted him.

I've never had a puppy which includes the need to care for a puppy after he is neutered.  He came home a little groggy and slept the rest of the night, but that's to be expected.  When we came home the next day and I took him out of his crate I noticed that his incision area was a little bloody - he was licking his wound.  The rescue group that had Goose paid for the surgery, but they didn't cover paying for the cone.  You know the cone... what I like to call the "cone of shame".

After calling the vet, Goose and I loaded up in to the car (might be his least favorite thing in the world) and we headed back to have him checked out and fitted for a cone.

This is before he realized that the cone comes home with us. He looks so happy.  I think it's because he saw me again after going into the back room and he was just happy I wasn't leaving him there forever.  He's a big boy - we weighed him at 40 lbs at 5 months!  Notice how nice the cone looks.  

Goose and his cone!  Look at all of those big boy teeth that just came in!

Just a few hours later, including one car ride, and the cone is no longer a circle.  He didn't quite understand how to walk around the house at this point.  So we did what any good pet parent would do, we videoed him learning to walk in the cone.  He ran into everything.  If he got lost or disoriented (like he does in the video when he get to the stairs) he would just hang his head and wait for us to save him. 

I will point out that he only had to wear the cone at night and when we were at work, so this was really the only time he was in the cone walking around - we love our little man, we don't torture him.  The other dog in the video is Mabel who was terrified of him in the cone at first.  

It's been a week and Goose doesn't have to wear the cone any more.  The first time we left him in it he was able to get out of it and chew it up a bit.  Then he got depressed when we put him in it.  He'd lay down on the ground when we'd put it on him and then walk right into the crate to lay down.  He was too sad to even fight it.  

2012 Peachtree Road Race - Results

We did it!  We got up at 5:30am on July 4th, rode MARTA into Buckhead and ran 6.2 miles back to Midtown on Peachtree Road with 60k other people.  We were home before noon.  What a great way to start the holiday.  It was my 2nd year running the race and I wish I had started running when I first got to Atlanta.

We finished the race!  
Stephen decided to run in his designated wave so that he could get a good judge of his time, he ran in wave D.  He started the race at 7:45 and ran it in 58:00 flat.  Nice work!!  I wanted him to know how fast he could go without worrying that I was holding him back.  I'm glad he ran his race.  He was almost done by the time I started in wave K at 8:14.  I finished the race in 1:09, 7 minutes faster than last year.  I wanted to finish by 1:06, but I was at the back of my wave at the starting line and I got off to a slower start than I wanted.  Lesson learned for next year.  If I keep cutting that much time off my run, I hope that by next year's race I can run it in under an hour.  I'd love to get there.  My time put me at 25,020th place overall, 1,447 in my age/sex division.  The fastest woman ran the race in 32:22 - basically my 5k pace.

You can click here to see your results if you ran the race or to check times of your friends.

The few days leading up to the race were above 100 degrees each day which had a lot of people worried about the conditions during the race.  They even instituted a "flag system" which let you know the conditions while running.  I think that is taking things too far.  Do you really need a flag to tell you if it's hot?  I thought the weather was fine.  Of course I was sweating my butt off by mile two, but it's a race, it's July in Atlanta and you're running along an asphalt road.  I was expecting to be sweaty.  You can see in the picture below that it was pretty overcast at the start, too.

Just before the start of the race you pass under a giant American Flag, Stephen got a great shot of it as he passed under.
Last year I had to start in wave W because I didn't have a qualifying time and I had to dodge a lot of slow runners and walkers.  This year, with my time from last year I was up in wave K with runners who were more my pace.  However, because I have been training so hard and working on so many hills I was one of the faster runners coming out of the gate.  With my finish time this year, I should move up a wave next year.  As long as I keep moving up, I'm happy!

To finish out our July 4th holiday we went to the Braves game and watched fireworks after the game.  The Braves didn't end the game with a W, but the stadium was packed and we got to honor quite a few military personnel, past and present.  We even had a T-6 Texan flyover before the game instead of the expected jets.  So awesome.  Those planes were training aircraft in WWII and were used in the Korean War and Vietnam War.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Quinoa Seafood Salad

Yes, another post about Quinoa, but I can't help it, it's so good!  I found a recipe on Pinterest that I had to try, the original recipe is called the Superfood Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette.  Superfood it is!  I made a quite a few adjustments to the recipe but click here to see the original- totally worth it.  I want to give credit where credit is due - I never would have made my version of this salad without Iowa Girl Eats.

Superfood Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette from Iowa Girl Eats 
We didn't have all the ingredients to make the dish, but we substituted and it was still amazing.  We cooked the quinoa as directed and I used chicken broth (I was out of chicken stock) for the liquid.  I made double the quinoa needed for this recipe so we have it already ready to go for tonight's meal.  Half a cup uncooked quinoa in this dish is about 4 servings because of all of the other stuff added in.  I had the can of black beans, so we were good to go there.  I also didn't have frozen corn or pomegranate arils or orange.  Yes, the recipe was basically just a guideline for me at this point.  I used canned corn, rinsed and it worked just fine.  In place of the pomegranate arils I used some fresh blueberries that we picked ourselves over the weekend at a blueberry farm.  Nothing beats fresh blueberries.  We didn't have anything to substitute for the orange, but the dish was fabulous without it.  Will try to remember an orange the next time we buy avocado.  Everything else we had on hand.

We did mix in some shrimp to the dish and loved it.  Stephen was in charge of the shrimp and he cooked it in a very little bit of bacon grease and lemon juice, pepper and garlic powder.  Once it was done he removed it from the heat and added a bit of milk to the pan to make a rue.  Then he put the shrimp back into the pan to coat.  We added the shrimp to the quinoa mixture and he squeezed a large lemon over the dish while I mixed everything together.  Because we had that to mix in, we didn't make the lemon vinaigrette in the recipe.  I liked the dish without olive oil.

Overall, the salad was amazing.  Where most of my meals with quinoa have had quinoa as the main ingredient, this dish was an mix of so many flavors.  The quinoa coated most of the other ingredients, but was definitely just a supporting cast member.  I absolutely can't wait to get home to have the leftovers.

Here are the ingredients that I had in my Quinoa Seafood Salad:
1/2 cup dry quinoa
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn, rinsed
couple handfulls of fresh blueberries
1 lemon squeezed, more to taste if necessary

For the shrimp:
1/2 lb shrimp
one lemon
small amount of bacon grease, enough to coat the bottom of the pan only
splash of milk
garlic powder

Cook the quinoa as you normally would, let it cool while you cook the shrimp.  Once the quinoa is cool, mix in all the ingredients then add the shrimp.  Mix in juice of half the lemon.  Stir to coat.  Mix in the juice of the second half of the lemon.  Serve room temp or cold.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hang Gliding!

There have been two thing on my list for a while that I've needed to check off - hang gliding and skydiving.  I was thisclose to skydiving about 18 months ago, but it was right before my dad's wedding and he asked me to wait until after - you know, in case I broke a leg or died.  Then it was too cold, then it was my sister's wedding and then time got away from me.

I won a hang gliding gift certificate at work one day for Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding located on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, just a short drive north of Atlanta.  Stephen and I tried to go last November but it was too windy, so we ended up going to Ruby Falls instead since we were already in Chattanooga when we got the call that the trip was a no-go.  Yes, it took us more than 6 months to get back to Lookout Mountain. For Stephen's birthday last year one of my gifts to him was a hang gliding trip, so he was as excited as I was about going.  We have a lot of wedding stuff to do and stuff around the house that needs to be done, but I relaxed and put all that aside and we were off to Tennessee.

If you're in Atlanta, the drive isn't bad at all.  There were people there from Nashville, Kentucky and central Georgia when we were there.  The day starts with your check in at the top of the mountain where if you're lucky enough you can see some seasoned hang gliders running off the ramp off the slide of the cliff.  Once you're checked in you head down to the landing area about 2000 feet below where you get suited up, watch an instructional video and meet the instructor that will be training you that day.  I should mention that there are two options when it comes to their tandem hang gliding, 2000 feet or 4000 feet.  The second is $100 more than the first, so we opted for 2000 since Stephen and I had gift cards and Miranda, Stephen's mom, also had a gift card - her Mother's Day gift from Stephen.  You can also purchase a video or photo package with your flight - I 100% recommend doing this!  We opted for the photos (what would a blog post be without photos!) for $25.  The camera is attached to the hang glider's far wing and takes pictures every 10 seconds.  We each have well over 100 pictures.  Totally worth the $25.  I'm pretty sure you can bring your own camera up, but why take away from your trip to hold and use a camera - pay them to do it and enjoy the ride.

Before you head up, you get suited up in the harness and strapped in to the hang glider.  While you wait to get towed up you just hang out on the ground.

Once you're hooked up to the ultralight plane and the sky is clear for take off - away you go!  In the picture below you can see the blue cone thing with a string attached to the hang glider, that's the end of the rope from the plane, we're still attached in the two pictures below while we climb to 2000 feet.

And we're on our own!  Once detached, we spend our time gliding around while I learned to steer.  My instructor did a few stalls and dives while he was in control, so much fun!  I even got to try them a few times.

It looks like I'm hold onto my instructor for dear life, but that's rule #1 on the hang glider, hold onto your instructor.  If we were to separate and not be connected, we'd go into a spin.  Not good.

We took some time to mug for the camera - what a beautiful view!

Then it was my turn to drive.  He let go of the bar and let me control where we went.

Making a left hand turn.  I love this picture
Hi again!  Can't forget to smile for the camera
The trip was about 10-15 minutes long, it seemed to go by so fast.  While we were up in the air we talked about hang gliding, where we can do it in other parts of the country, our hobbies, etc.

For the final approach to landing the instructor takes back over and we gently landed back on the ground.  The landing was super smooth, much more pleasant than I thought it would be.

I had to include the pictures above.  Once you're back on the ground and it's time to stand up it's all awkward.  Your legs are connected to the glider so it's weird to figure out how to stand up again.

The trip was amazing, I'd absolutely do it again.  Stephen did so well on his trip that his instructor gave him a $100 gift card towards lessons.  For $700 you can learn to fly solo and that includes all of the equipment during your training.  I absolutely recommend hang gliding to anyone who wants to get their feet off the ground.  It's not nearly as dramatic as sky diving (I can only imagine) because it's a nice, gentle glide back to the ground.  The only feeling of weightlessness is when you stall, which I will admit is awesome.

Check it out!  If you don't know the website after looking at all of my pictures, click on the link at the top of the post.