Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Atlanta Botanical Gardens: Garden Lights Holiday Nights

A few weeks ago we went to the Atlanta Botanical Garden for the wedding of two friends.  We didn't get to tour much of the gardens but we got a glimpse of the lights that were put up for the holidays and we decided to head back when my sister was in town for Thanksgiving.  

We found a deal for 50% off the admission price on SweetJack and I got tickets for the 3 of us, $10 each.  When we went we noticed that the Groupon discounted tickets weren't good on weekend nights.  That would be a bummer, especially for families with kids.  I'm glad we had the SweetJack deal and were able to go on a Sunday evening.  

The gardens were so pretty.  It definitely made me feel like it was the start of Christmas.  There were twinkle lights in one garden, bumble bees and dragon flies in another, giant Christmas trees of lights and stars hanging  from the giant trees in the garden. 

My favorite part of the park were the Orbs.  I'm not sure what else to call them, but they were awesome.  The colors changed to the Christmas music playing over the speakers.  We stood with them for a few songs. My sister even danced for a few minutes, all by herself.  

There were kids all over the place, it's definitely a kid-friendly holiday outing.  There was even a bar in the back of the garden for the adults.  Great for a date night.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

JCrew Pajamas

A full Thanksgiving weekend post to come soon, but I had to share this first.

There is nothing like shopping with your sister, especially when everything is on sale and she's in the fashion industry.  And not to mention, we're basically the same size.  Lots of fitting room fun and new clothes for both of us.

We went to the mall with a plan.  We may have diverted slightly from that plan when we each purchased this from JCrew:

Yes, it's silly.  Yes, we each bought one.  Yes, we love it.  I wore it to bed last night and it was close to Heaven.  I recommend everyone get an adult onesie.  Bonus - the back has an opening so you don't have to get fully undressed to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  Click here to the page to buy on JCrew, get it while you still can!

I have a few pictures of me in the little outfit, but it fits just like it does on the model, so I'm not putting dressing room pictures of me on the Internet.  The arm length is perfect (the model has them pushed up) and the legs are a little longer one me than in the picture, which I love.

JCrew did not pay me for this post/review.  I purchased the clothes with my own cash money.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Window Insulation Kit: Frost King Product Review

Our home was built in 1940.  It's adorable.  It has such unique charm.  It also comes with slanted floors, walls that aren't perfectly straight and pipes that make crazy noises when water is running.  The windows were all replaced at some point, but that doesn't mean they are insulated well.  We found that the people who did the most recent renovation didn't really take every step the could have to make the house perfect.  The house is great, but there are rooms for improvements.

Because our windows can be drafty in the winter we could continue to pay more in Natural Gas bills, buy weather stripping to secure all of the windows or find another way to seal the drafts.  Stephen found plastic kits online and when we were at Home Depot over the weekend we picked some up.

Source: The Home Depot

There are a few brands out there, but we went with Frost King.  The process is simple.  You apply double sided tape around your window.  When the tape is good and stuck to the wall or window frame, you apply the plastic film to the tape, making it fit as well as possible.  We found our windows were an odd shape, go figure, so we had to use the Extra Large kit and cut the plastic to size.  Once the plastic is secure on the tape you heat the plastic with a hair dryer and it shrinks up and makes a flat, clear barrier. We thought the plastic would shrink into the window, but it just makes a flat barrier.  When the blow drying is done the plastic should be perfectly clear, no wrinkles.  The only way you can tell we have plastic on the windows is if you touch it, of course, or if you look at the edges where you can see the tape.  With curtains, this isn't a big deal.  Stephen was able to do all of the instillation himself.  I would estimate that it takes about 15-25 minutes per window, depending on how long you leave the tape to adhere to the window frame before applying the plastic.

We've only had the kit installed on all of the windows in the front of the house and in the guest room for a day, but we felt a difference this morning when we went into the guest room.  The room is normally freezing if we turn off the heat and this morning while it was still cool, it wasn't cold.

We hope this will help us stay warm this winter and also lower our energy bills.  Bonus all around!

While the product works well so far, I'm interested to see if we can see a noticeable difference once temperatures really start to drop.  It will also be fun to see how the dogs react the first time they go to the window where there is plastic.  They like to know what's going on in the neighborhood and Goose likes to stand with his front paws on the window sills, which he can't get to any more.  I am going to estimate we'll have at least one mishap with him and we'll need to redo a window.

Also, if you have a window that you will ever want to open, you can't use the window kit.  The kit will completely block access to the window.  (We aren't worried about safety implications of that, we don't have kids and if there is an emergency, we can break through plastic pretty easily.)

My review of the product: So far so good!  The difference in the guest bedroom (where we don't run the heat unless we have guests) was so noticeable in just one night, I hope the rest of the house will benefit just as much.  If there are any major changes to this review, I'll follow up.  Also, any funny pictures with dogs and double sided tape will be posted for all to see.  I would recommend the kit for houses with drafty windows and windows or rooms that aren't used too often - like our guest room and the windows in our living room which we never open.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Skyfall: Movie Review

I'm not a professional movie blogger and I certainly don't go to a lot of movies these days.   This review is my own and I'm sure a bunch of people will disagree with it but here it goes.  I was entertained, but not impressed.

I've never been a huge fan of James Bond movies, they always seem a little corny for me.  I know they're supposed to have a little bit of a *wink* factor, but the writing sometimes makes me roll my eyes or laugh out loud, even in serious scenes.  I thought this movie, while not high on the corny scale, was a bit too slow and at the same time too unrealistic for me.  I miss the Casino Royale James Bond, my favorite Bond film, ever.

The movie opens with a chase, as always.  It was entertaining, but at points it was too obvious that there was a green screen and that ruined the rest of the chase for me.  The end of the chase ended with another agent trying to shoot the bad guy that Bond was wrestling with atop a moving train.  (By this point half the train was missing and it was still going - what are the conductors doing!?)  She took a hard shot, missed and hit Bond.  Instead of taking a 2nd shot, without anyone in her way, she just looked at Bond falling into the water.  That's when I had to tell myself to suspend reality for a bit because it was about to get silly.

There were quite a few other times in the movie when the most unrealistic choice was made and it really bothered me.  I totally understand that Bond films aren't real, no movie is, but come on.  It was also hard for me to look at Ralph Fiennes and not think of Harry Potter.  But I'm sure I'm the only one who had that problem.

While some of the plot didn't sit well with me, the cinematography was outstanding, locations were gorgeous and Daniel Craig never disappoints in a tux.  That's where the entertaining part of the movie comes in.  I was okay sitting there for more than 2 hours because it was a beautiful film, even if I was upset with the plot and storyline.  Did anyone else think the holding cell looked a lot like the one in Avengers?  One of the friends I was with brought that up and I totally agree.  Let's be a little original, Bond.

Javier Bardem was awesome as this movie's villain.  His blonde hair and eyebrows were uber-creepy and his accent was like nothing he's done before.  He's so talented it hurts.

I also noticed that there wasn't much romance in this film and where there was a woman, her romantic connection to Bond was short lived.  It didn't feel like a James Bond movie without a super hot female lead.  Yes, there are women, hot women, in the movie, but none as significant as Vesper Lynd played by Eva Green in Casino Royale.  Maybe James is still getting over the loss...

Ultimately, I give the movie 2.5 out of 5 stars.  Will I see it again?   Nope.  Will I recommend it to friends, only if they are big James Bond fans and they're probably already going to see it.  I have a feeling this is one of those movies who will have a big opening weekend (and it did) but will quickly fall down the charts.  I don't think it will hold the top of the Box Office for long, especially with the big Thanksgiving films coming out soon.  Daniel Craig and the visual aspects of the film from falling down to 2 stars.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

X3 Sports Fast Track Class

Living Social had a deal for unlimited classes for a month at the X3 Sports gym and we bit the bullet and each of us bought the deal.  We consider ourselves semi-in shape.  We run occasionally (more in the summer than fall) and we can get ready for a 10k in a few short weeks.  But we don't really work out, so we decided it was time to kick our butts and take a few classes.

Our deal gives us access to three of the classes offered at the gym - Kickboxing, Boxing or Fast Track, which is like a boot camp class.  Because we don't have gloves that we'd need to use for boxing or kickboxing so we signed up for a Fast Track class on Saturday.

The class had about 20 people once everyone was there.  We started with some warm ups running down the length of the Fast Track space of the gym and then it was time for some ab and leg work.  Squats are my enemy.  Oh my gosh.  I wrote out the words, oh my gosh.  I haven't worked my legs that hard since high school volleyball camp, and I was in shape back then.  I think we did a total of 200 squats with weights, countless lunges, about 40 flights of stairs and running.  Then we still had abs and arms to work on, too.

We were a little sore yesterday, but today is out of control.  If there was a fire and we had to run out the front of our house, down the stairs, we'd probably die.  We move slower than a 85-year-old lady with a cane when we go down stairs.

The class was hard, it worked every muscle in my body.  When we were doing our cool down jog I didn't think I would be able to move 10 more feet but after I had cooled down and had some water, I didn't feel too bad.  It was a good pain.  We won't be able to go back to the class tomorrow night, but we're going to shoot for Tuesday night.  We have 30 days at the gym and I want to try to go to at least 10 classes in that time.  Two dollars a class is a pretty sweet deal.

Waterproof Shoes: Chooka Duck Skimmers

I have the cutest rain boots and I love them.  They keep my feet dry in the pouring rain and puddles aren't an obstacle for me when I'm walking down the street to my office.  They have also kept my feet warm and dry on the rare days that we get snow here in Atlanta.  They look cute with jeans and dresses.  I'm obsessed.

Me and my baby blue Hunter boots playing in the snow
While I love my Wellies a lot, they aren't always the most practical.  Some days it's raining and I have a business meeting so I can't wear pants that will fit into my boots.  My work pants don't fit nicely into the boots, so I'm stuck wearing a nice pair of shoes while I run from my parking garage to the building.  Or there are days in the summer when boots just aren't practical.  I hate ruining nice shoes because they get soaked in the few minutes I may be outside in the rain.  Enter my new solution: the Chooka Solid Duck Skimmer.

Chooka Solid Duck Skimmers - black
Aren't they super cute?  Here is where I found them on but a quick google search shows that they are available at multiple online retailers, even DSW.  I like Zappos because they have free, quick shipping both ways. 

The shoes are super light weight and fit my feet perfectly.  I have pretty narrow feet and there aren't any gaps around my foot.  They fit true to size, so I ordered a 10 and they fit perfectly.  Because they are light weight it hardly feels like I'm wearing shoes at all.  

They are made of rubber, all the way around, so they are completely water proof.  Now I can wear shoes that I don't have to worry about in the water on rainy days.  I'm not putting up my boots, but these will be more practical in some cases.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pumpkin Dip: Recipe Recipe Review

If there is one phrase to describe the Pumpkin Dip that I served a a little gathering at our house it would be "crowd pleaser".  Every single person liked the dip.  I'm glad it made so much and we still have some leftovers for a late night snack tonight.  Yes, I am already thinking about it tonight for dessert.

Stephen and I hosted the Peoplestown Neighborhood Fall Gathering at our house last night.  Yes, we're crazy to host an event at our house on a week night, but we didn't think we'd have a huge turnout, we're not the only ones with a busy schedule during the week, so we weren't too stressed about it.  I'll admit, I've been running around the house since Tuesday cleaning the place, but it was the first time we were inviting neighbors into our home, I wanted it to look nice.

The snack spread (shrimp were still staying cool in the fridge), Pumpkin Dip in the green bowl

It was a BYOB event and we asked people to bring drinks and/or a snack to share with the group, but we provided some snacks, too.  What we had was enough for the group since most guest showed up after dinner.  The big hit was the pumpkin dip, the shrimp cocktail and the pimento cheese dip.

I found the recipe for the pumpkin dip at  Here is the recipe I used.  Super easy.  There are only 6 ingredients and they're all mixed together in a bowl with a hand mixer.  The recipe calls for Pumpkin Spice, but I didn't have any on hand so I added a few sprinkles of Nutmeg instead and it was delicious.  Don't be scared by the OJ Concentrate in the recipe, either - such a fun twist!  I tasted the dip before the OJ, so yummy, and then after, even better!  You can, of course, leave it out, but I think it adds a great, unexpected flavor to the dip.

I served the dip with apple slices and Graham Crackers - I don't know which one I liked more.  Great appetizer for a fall get together!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Honey Lime Shrimp

I love finding new recipes that I love.  If their easy, healthy and quick for a weeknight I'm even happier.   That's just what happened last night when I tried a recipe for Honey Lime Shrimp that I found on Pinterest.

Photo from The Dough Will Rise Again
Stephen and I love shrimp (all seafood really) so I'm always looking for new ways to serve it.  This recipe was so easy I had the marinade done before Stephen got home from work and 45 minutes later we had dinner.  The part that took the most amount of time was letting the shrimp sit in the marinade for 30 minutes.  The next time I make this meal, I'll make the marinade for the shrimp in the morning and let them sit in it all day long.  Then after work dinner can be ready in 15 minutes!

I followed the directions exactly as they are in the original post, but I did cook the shrimp in the marinade.  Based on how crisp the shrimp look in the photo above, she didn't.  My way turned out AMAZING, so I think you're safe either way.

I served the shrimp with some rice and sauteed broccoli.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

2012 Election: Why Does It Take So Long to Vote?

I'm not going to get into politics.  I'm not a very political person, but I believe it's extremely important to vote in Presidential and local elections.  This morning, election day, I woke up, got ready for work and headed to the voting area in my neighborhood.  I knew the lines may be long, but there wasn't anyone outside waiting, so I parked and ran through the rain into the school.

There were about 100 people in front of me in line and there were six voting stations.  Doing some quick math in my head I estimated about 30 minutes to be in an out.  Boy was I wrong, but it wasn't the fault of the voters in line.

Issue #1 - Why do we need to check in with two different people?
I have to fill out a piece of paper with my name an address.  This is given to me by a man and he also checks to make sure I filled out all of the information correctly.  After he confirms I'm who I say I am, off I go to the line snaking around the room.  This line is to go to two ladies who then check that original paper, again, and enter it into a computer.  Wouldn't it be faster to eliminate that first gentleman and give him a computer to speed up that part of the process?  With technology, why do we need a paper record?  Maybe for a signature, but I could do that on a screen similar to one at Target after I voted, right?

Issue #2 - Why are their two people handing out voting cards for six computers to vote?
There were multiple times while I waited that not a single person was voting.  These blocks could be as long as 5 minutes long.  MULTIPLE times!  And when people were voting, only 4 computers were used, at most.  There was not one time while I was there, when the line was the longest of the morning, that all 6 voting computers were being used.  That should never be the case.  Ever.  They had no urgency to get the line moving.  How is that allowed?!?  There wouldn't have been a line if all 6 computers were used - that's why they are there.  Someone at some point decided that for the population in that area we needed 6 computers.  We used half.

Issue #3 - Why are the two computers that ladies are using to check us in and to give us a yellow card touch screen!?!?
Really?  Have you ever watched someone type on a touch screen?  One. Letter. At. A. Time.  I'm a fast  typer, I use a computer all day long.  I'm quick.  But when I have to type on a touch screen, which is sitting up like a monitor to make it worse, I can only type with one finger at a time.  Where are the keyboards?   I'm all for technology to make the world a better place, but using technology for the sake of using it and then having it slow us down seems like a horrible decision.

I could go on and on, but I'll stop there and get down off my high horse.  If I could have helped move that line along faster, I would have.  Next election, shoot, I'll even volunteer to give up a day of work to help run the voting center.  Just tell me where to sign up.

There is no reason for someone to wait over an hour to vote when time is being so openly wasted by the people running the process.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Red Pepper Infused Olive Oil

Stephen and I went to dinner last week at a delicious pizza place in Inman Park, Fritti.  Not only is their pizza amazing and unique but the atmosphere in the dining room is electric.  We went on a cool evening and the main doors were closed, the seats were full and the fire in their oven was working hard to bake all the pizzas.  Fritti is one of my favorite places to grab pizza.  It's not where I'd go to pick up pizza for a crowd coming over to watch a game, that will always be Mellow Mushroom, Fritti is where I go for a class of wine, appetizer and a delicious pie.

While we were eating, our waitress came over and gave us a teeny bowl of some red oil.  I wasn't sure what it was and she told us it was Red Pepper Infused Olive Oil.  She warned us that it had a little kick but we dove in anyway.  Wow.  I had no idea it existed and I feel like I was missing out for the past 30 years.  We asked where to buy it and she said the chefs make it in house.  It sounded super easy and the results are so yummy, we had to give it a shot.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Red Pepper Flakes
(We didn't measure any specific amounts of either ingredient, it doesn't matter, it really depends on how much oil you want in the end.)

Roast the red pepper flakes on a cookie sheet for about 20 minutes.  Don't let them burn, but they should be turning brown.  Pour your desired amount of olive oil in an air tight container.  Once the flakes are roasted pour them into the olive oil.  Shake to combine.  Then it's the easy part - just let them sit together for a few days.  After two or three days, depending on your taste, strain the flakes out of the olive oil.  The oil will now be an red/orange color.

To make sure all the red pepper is out of the oil we strained the flakes in a mesh strainer and then through coffee filters.  To do this, we poured the oil through the mesh strainer into a bowl then we threw away all of the flakes that were in left behind.  To get the rest of the red pepper flakes out of the oil we put a coffee filter in the mesh strainer and poured the oil into the coffee filter. Straining through the coffee filter takes a bit of time, but if you let it sit and drain through you'll be left with oil that doesn't have any red pepper bits left.

The oil is best with warm bread for dipping.  We haven't used it in cooking yet, but that's coming soon.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Our New Car: 2013 Honda CR-V

For a while Stephen and I were doing great without a car payment.  Both of our cars were paid off and we were putting "car payment" money into savings.  Life was good, especially while we were planning and paying for a wedding.  In the back of our mind we always knew that Stephen's car would break at some time, but we were hoping to make it to 2013.  The beloved Jetta had other ideas.  It started breaking down on Stephen's commute home at rush-hour.  Knowing that he was stranded on the side of the highway in Atlanta traffic was the final straw, for me, and we decided it was time to go car shopping.

Our 2013 Honda CR-V with AWD
Long story short, after visiting a few dealerships we drove into the Honda dealership to see what they had.  We had our heart set on a 2012 small SUV because all the 2013s were starting to come in and we thought we'd get a great deal.  We knew we wanted All Wheel Drive and that wasn't something we were going to compromise on.  When Honda didn't have any 2012s with AWD we looked at a 2013, just to see how they drove and how they looked.  After about 5 hours of back and forth negotiating on the price, our financing, trade in value for the Jetta and maintenance packages we finally came to a monthly payment that met our needs.  I think it's important to go into the dealership with what you're willing to put down in cash and what your limit is for monthly payments and make the dealership work towards that.  Don't budge!  While we couldn't get the cost of the vehicle down as low as we wanted, we were able to get great financing, below what they offered, a higher warranty package and a lot for our trade in.  All those helped bring our monthly cost to what works for us.

We're in love with this car.  One of the most important things to us was storage because when we have to travel with the dogs, we need to make sure we can get their crates in the back.  Yes, one day we'll have kids and dog crates will be replaced with all the baby necessities, but right now we're focused on our pups.

The car comes with an ECON button that helps you keep your MPG as low as possible and it lets you know when you're getting good gas mileage.  Because the car tracks and shows us our current Average MPG and the range left in our tank of gas, it's become a game to get the MPG to stay in one place or to go up.  I drive the CR-V to and from work during the week and I average around 20 MPG.  Not great, but I'm only driving 7 miles a day.  When we get the car on the highway it climbs up to 24 MPG and higher.  Cruise Control helps it stay high.

The green lights come on when you're getting good gas mileage.  I always try to keep the green lights on.
Dash screens
 It's a little blurry, but the picture above shows the two screens that are on the dash.  The top screen scrolls through 4 different options - blank, music details, the MPG that you see above and just the time.  I like to keep it on the screen you see because it tells me how I'm doing on gas and how much is left in my tank.  The bottom screen can be your phonebook and phone commands, your map with GPS or other info on your car.  When you put the car in reverse you get the backup camera with three different camera options!  Our driveway is very narrow and it definitely helps me back out every morning.

Center console storage
 The car has a ton of space, exactly what we needed from it.  Each front seat has it's own arm rest and the center console is crazy deep and spacious.  There is the standard power jack, the AUX jack and a USB connection as well.  We also have heated seats, which I didn't think I'd need, but I've used quite a few times already on the 40 degree mornings we've had lately.

We've had a few people ride with us in the backseat and all have said it's spacious
This is also the first car I've had with steering wheel controls for the radio and for hands free calling.  It's been SO nice to have my phone connect to the car with bluetooth.  I keep bluetooth turned on on my phone all the time and when I get in the car it automatically finds it (after I've set it up to recognize my phone, of course).  Now when I get a phone call I never have to dig for it in my purse while driving.  I've noticed that my phone also doesn't make noise when I get a text message while I'm driving so I'm never tempted to check a text or send one out.  Love it.  The car pulls my phone's contact list to the main screen so I can call anyone in my contacts right from the car.  While the car is moving the option to scroll or type disappears, safety first.

The trunk area has small storage spaces on the sides and the spare tire is under the floor of the back so it's not in our way.  
When you want to lay the backseats down, you pull a little tab and they fold down automatically.  No pulling and lifting required.  This will be helpful on Home Depot trips or when we travel with the dogs.  I don't want their sharp claws on the nice, pretty, new-car smelling leather.

View from the back of the car to the front.  I keep the trunk cover pulled forward to hide what we have or don't have in the trunk space.
 With the package of the car, a few other awesome treats were included for us - a sunroof  (I've never had a sunroof!) and defrosting side view mirrors.  When you turn on the rear defrost button it automatically defrosts the side mirrors, too.  Nice touch, Honda.

While we were car shopping, Stephen noted that at every dealership we went to all of the cars or SUVs were black, grey, silver or white.  There wasn't variety!  We were going to settle for a black car, because I'd die with a silver or white car, but when we saw this beauty right off the truck, we knew it had to be ours.

I'm 6 feet tall, so you can see that the CR-V, while spacious, isn't a huge vehicle.  We didn't want a gas guzzling SUV with tons of space that two people could never use.

When we bought the car, exactly one month ago (I was waiting to blog about it until I was familiar with it for an honest review), there weren't many 2013s in Atlanta.  We even had to have State Farm add it to their system.  But if everyone who drives one loves it as much as we do, I have a feeling in the next few months we'll start to see a lot more.  I've been driving the CR-V for a month now and I haven't found anything that doesn't fit right, work smoothly or feels awkward.  This is my first fully-loaded car and I'm so glad we have it.  We worked hard with the salesman and his boss to make it work and we couldn't be happier.