Ringing in 2017

On New Year’s Eve we went to a GT basketball game with some friends and after a surprising and fun win, we went back to our place for games and eventual snacks.

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After they departed for the evening we realized we were spent, and instead of going to a party we ended up running to the grocery store and renting a movie. For NYE dinner I made us steaks and it turned out so yummy—I followed this guide from North Carolina Charm—except I did not use nearly as much butter. I added about 1 TBSP of EVOO and about 2 TBSP of butter to the pan, melted it down and got it hot, then added a generously salted and peppered steak, flipping after 3 minutes, and then putting it in the oven for 5 minutes. I served it with roasted okra and undercooked baked potatoes. I did not make it to midnight, but J assures me he nudged me awake at midnight for midnight smooch. The next morning I made us a sweet potato hash with Brussels sprouts, turkey bacon, and runny eggs on top.

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Afterwards we played games and went to the gym before making a late supper of the traditional ham/black eyed peas/greens. I stewed together some black eyed peas and kale with onion in chicken broth, and pan sautéed some ham in a skillet, and baked cornbread to go with it all. We had Monday off and after breakfast we went to run some errands—taking some cast offs to Goodwill and making sure I picked out the best pad folio for J’s Christmas gift. After leaving Office Depot J suggested walking around the mall, which turned into me picking out my Christmas gift from him (booties and a blouse). We got home, had leftover Minestrone soup I made last week, and played a couple games before heading to bed. A solid start to 2017!

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Christmas 2016 Recap

J and I worked through the 23rd and celebrated Christmas together that evening. We had eggnog, J opened his gifts (I was still deciding on mine), opened gifts from my aunt and uncle, and chatted on the phone with family. The next morning (Christmas Eve) we headed down to Albany after a slightly delayed start (and to J’s dismay, no drive through breakfast biscuit). J drove down and I worked on our annual yearbook, getting 1.5 years of photos and Instagram screen shots organized. J’s parents have recently downsized so it was exciting to see their new house (and allll of the hard work they’ve done). We played games and had dinner, before heading to bed in the old house. On Christmas Day we exchanged gifts together and then went to the farm to be with family. I got to help out in the kitchen and then cuddle some babies, as two of J’s cousins have had little ones in the past year. After lunch we headed back to Albany to hang out, play more games, and relax together. The next day followed suit, save going through some of J’s childhood memories and getting them packed up for Atlanta.

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On Tuesday morning we packed up (a very, very full car) and went to Augusta to celebrate a wedding! We were frequently met with raised eyebrows when sharing that we were going to a wedding on a Tuesday, but it was a blast. It was one of J’s friends from college (who was also a groomsman). The drive from Albany to Augusta was interesting—we were on so many backroads and there were so many little and quick turns—I was glad J was driving. We arrived to Augusta and stayed downtown, and after settling in walked around downtown and sat down for a late lunch. While we were walking we heard someone call “hey Joe!” and it was the bride to be! After a quick visit with her and eating lunch we got ready for the wedding, met up with a friend, and headed over. It was a Catholic wedding—I have not been to one in years. The reception was at a beautiful old home and we had a blast. The next morning was a little painful for yours truly so J drove us home, completing our “A” triangle tour through Georgia (Atlanta-Albany-Augusta-Atlanta).

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J went back to work on Thursday and I went and visited Athens for a while, neglecting the giant pile of boxes and suitcases from Albany that were all over our home. That night we met J’s friends who were in town from Colorado at Brickstore Pub. Earlier that day while in Athens Mary and I went on a post-Christmas Target trip and I left with two baking mix cast offs that she did not want. They ended up being super useful as friends came to our house afterwards for dessert and I was able to whip them up in about 15 minutes. I am a total baking snob and usually will not use a mix, but I had noooo complaints about being able to make something for guests on the quick. On Friday morning I had PT (silly knee), met a friend for brunch (at Bread and Butterfly, which was every bit as lovely as I thought it would be), and then I went home to tackle the boxes and piles and dishes and everything else that has accumulated and by the time J got home from work I was 97% done. He took out the trash mountain, I cleaned the floors, and we were ready for New Years!

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Defrosting meat trick

One evening I got home from work and realized I had forgotten to pull out sausages for dinner from the freezer. I  had remembered reading about this trick to defrost your meat of stacking it between two metal pans so I figured it was time to try it and guess what…it worked. PERFECTLY! What I did was took a small cooking pan and put it upside down, so the open part was down and I had a level surface. I then put the meat on top of that pan. Then, I put my stock pot on top of that and put water inside the stock pot. I walked away and 30 minutes later walked back to perfectly defrosted sausages. Here’s my handy graphic:
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P.S. “Wow, Diana, that graphic is amazing! What program did you use to create that work of art?” “Well friends, that would be our favorite computer program from childhood, PAINT.”

In the kitchen in December 2016

Cookies on Deck | This year I baked cranberry bliss bars (LINK), sugar cookies (#favorite), and double chocolate cookies with snow caps.

The other night I tried on my favorite winter pants and they were skin tight, so this is the last of the baking I’ll be doing for a good long while.

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Cauliflower Rice | I’ve been hearing so much about cauliflower rice taht I finally gave it my own attempt and O. M. G. I understand the hype! I made a recipe from Eat Yourself Skinny for fried rice and both J and I devoured it.
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A few December 2016 Highlights

Friendsmas | Both my friend Jamie and I traveled for Thanksgiving, removing the possibility of left overs and entertaining at home, so we decided to host a Friendsmas together! We menu planned and joined forces for a tasty meal. It was so fun to work together for holiday merriment. My responsibilities included pre-dinner cocktails, the turkey, rolls, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a salad. I made a turkey breast in the crock pot and until we have bigger crowds, J and I will not be going back to roasting turkeys. It was SO SO SO good. I used a recipe from Skinnytaste and because Jamie and her fiance brought gravy (among other amazing tasty items) I used the liquid/vegetables left in the crock pot as a soup base that J and I could not get enough of. Following dinner we went and looked at Christmas lights before calling it a night.
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Girl’s Earring Exchange | I hosted some dear friends from Athens (who almost all now live in Atlanta) for an afternoon of snacks and an earring exchange. I tried my hand at a fancy cheese plate (#roomtogrow) and had cookies, mimosas, and hot cider.
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Cake Contest | An office at work hosts a huge holiday party and they are always kind enough to invite our little office. One element of their party is that there is a dessert competition. I HATE cake decorating but I got a bee in my bonnet about entering the contest with a decorated cake. I did a little pinterest sleuthing and landed on a beauty from Country Living. It took about 2 days of prep work and if you happen to read through the recipe you’ll see at end SEVEN sticks of butter went into this cake between the frosting and cake itself. The frosting was a pain–I had to add a ton of water to make it spreadable, but we got there. It was also my first go round on sprinkling the sides of the cake…again, #roomtogrow.
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However, the cake got made, the trees got created, and I got the cake into work (with the hubby helping me carry it into work). The cake won first place in presentation and my prize was 2 tickets to brunch at The 4 Seasons!
Wreaths, wreaths, and more wreaths | Last year at work I was majorly disappointed with the wreaths that we rented from a company. After they were packed up and went away I told my supervisor that I would like to make them myself for our lobby. The team was on board with that and when November rolled around I rolled into Michael’s for some quality time with picks, ribbon, and wreath bases. I spent about an entire day watching YouTube videos on how to make bows and ended with 3 wreaths, including this one:
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A coworker saw my handiwork and asked if I would be willing to craft a few wreaths for her and her family. Enter more time at Michael’s, a couple of evenings with craft wire, more time on YouTube and ended with these:
Finally, hubby asked, “where is a wreath for us?” leading to this:

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I am hoping hat none of those balls start popping off. I sorely underestimated how heavy the wreath would be and it makes me a little nervous, but hey, we have our own wreath now! And I feel confident to make any wreath for our front door.

Thanksgiving Recap 2016

For Thanksgiving this year hubby and I traveled to Indiana to visit family. When we originally planned the trip we were going to work through Wednesday afternoon and then take off (driving), which necessitated a half-way stop. I have dear friends who live in Nashville and we got a hotel and made plans to see our pals. However, the week before Thanksgiving traffic was being forecast at “hell” on Wednesday, especially at the time we were to leave, so with our supervisor’s blessing we took the full day off and left Wednesday morning. I drove us up to Nashville and we spent some time exploring downtown and enjoying a tasty sammie before being run to our hotel by the rain. J was beginning to feel sickly so this was very necessary. After naps and more meds we enjoyed a fun and tasty visit with the G family, stopping on the way home for some Tennessee beers.
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We hit the road the next morning to go from Nashville to Indianapolis. The time change got the better of us and we ended up being nearly an hour later than our anticipated arrival time…ooops. We had a nice visit with my family, one day visiting downtown Indianapolis and another day visiting an artist community about an hour away. J was sick the entire trip, and the pleasure of driving home fell on yours truly. We laughed that going up to Indy our food stop of choice was Cracker Barell, and coming home we had the same. Our 7 hour trip home took nearly 9, and I was so happy to get out of the car!

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While we were unpacking J asked what we were going to for next year’s Thanksgiving and without missing a beat my first answer and instinct was “something tropical.” Boom and done.

Weekending | 11/21/16

This weekend started off not in our normal routine of pizza-movie-early to bed. Instead, we went to a collegiate basketball game, woo-hoo! I really enjoy watching (LIVE, not televised) college basketball. The players do not tend to be ego-maniacs and actually play together in a fast moving sport (I am glaring at you football) that gets you in and our in around 2 hours (again, glaring at you football).

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On Saturday J wanted to celebrate my bday so we started off with breakfast at The General Muir. I had a bagel platter and while it was tasty, it was over priced (IMO). J was not too impressed with his breakfast, but we were both pleased with the bakery. After breakfast we did a little shopping and errand running. We picked up a Christmas present at  the mall and then ran to the new Kroger to get a few food items for dinner. As mentioned, it is a new Kroger and we could not find anything. I asked where the noodles were and I was directed to instant ramen noodles.

Umm, not quite. We asked another sales clerk who send us to the same section…young people, not all food is instant! Anyways, we grabbed what we needed and then headed home to make our sides to have with dinner with the D family! I made Pioneer Woman’s mac-n-cheese and green beans and we purchased Finding Dory to watch with them. We went out to their home (about 45 minutes away) and we ended up falling asleep and having an impromptu slumber party (where we slumbered hard. J was out almost 11 hours…sorry friends).

On Sunday we (definitely) missed church and our lunch plans cancelled so we had an easy morning at home before I took off to Athens to deliver a birthday prezzie and see a dear friend from Scotland. J started dinner and I finished it up when I got home–chicken noodle soup! While we were driving earlier in the day I was dictating our shopping list,

D, “chicken, new line, noodles”

J, “you know they make those together in a can right?”

Ha, no. Dinner was tasty, I read over a paper for J, and we watched the cutest episode of Duck Dynasty (Phil and Kay’s wedding!) before bed.

Weekly Recap | 11/18/16

Oh sweet goodness, praise God it is Friday. This week has dragged. And dragged. And then dragged a little bit more. On Thursday morning the Mr. excitedly proclaimed upon walking into the bathroom where I was getting ready, “it’s Friday!” His disappointment at me telling him it was in fact THURSDAY was palatable.

5 nuggets from the week:

I had company last weekend and my house is still a flipping mess. A clean mess, but a flipping mess. The washed sheets need folded, air mattresses need to be re-stashed in the closet, blah blah blah. Minor inconveniences in light of fun company that I assign too much weight to.

I did my first fitness class with a buddy on Tuesday and LOVED it. Granted I could not move my body the next day, it was fantastic. J loves spin classes on Fridays and I see why—you have to turn your brain off of any distractions and just FOCUS.

The cold weather is finally arriving to our area. The T family has a strict rule that I do not get a ride to work if we leave after 6:55 a.m. That was blown out the window by my amazing hubs twice this week who took me to work, despite leaving at 7:05 both mornings. It is highly likely that I was also (very vocally and with lots of verbiage) whining about the winter weather.

Our community group had a potluck this week! I did not know quite what to bring, so I made balsamic green beans—easy and quick.

On Thursday night I joined J and some of his classmates for a night at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra! We met at MARTA and then walked over early and (I) grabbed a cocktail at the High’s restaurant. We then had a private tour of the facility, grabbed dinner (let’s ignore some hangry moments), then enjoyed a night of beautiful music (also ignoring the funeral dirges in the second part that made me pass out hard). We had never been to the ASO and it was a delight!

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Turning 31

A few weeks ago I had the idea to have a girls weekend with my aunt and cousin for my birthday, and they took the bait! They got flights for Thursday-Sunday, I got Thurs/Fri off of work, and we were set!

But wait. On Wednesday some co-workers were being sketchy at my desk for a while (sketchy behavior being they were lingering while one went outside). I assumed I was about to receive flowers or something but no. I received a visit from KODA! One of work’s K9 doggies. It was awesome, and as I told Joe, the bar was raised for birthday celebrations.

My fam arrived on Thursday and after showing them around my apartment (it’s 1100 square feet. It didn’t take long.) we went off to the Westside to window shop and have lunch at JCT Kitchen (where I need to lunch at everyday). Following exploring the Westside we went over to Lenox to explore some shops and partake in the Kendra Scott 50% birthday discount before heading home to make dinner. After dinner we checked out 6 Feet Under before calling it a day.

On Friday we hailed an Uber and Ubered over to Krog City Market. We grabbed a beer, some fries, and then walked the Beltline, stopping at Ladybird for another beer. Once we arrived at Ponce City we grabbed lunch, J came and met us, we window shopped some more, and then headed home before attending the GT basketball game.

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Saturday brought with it wineries in North Georgia—a beautiful delight that we were very thankful was not a smoky day. We stopped in downtown Dahlonega for dinner, then went to the outlet malls on the way home (sensing a theme?). J scored a pair of loafters from his favorite company, so he was pretty pleased!

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Sunday (my birthday!) we tried brunch at Morningside Kitchen. Every place is entitled to a rough morning and WOW. They were having one. We were seated in the back room with all the babies, the waiter never refilled our waters, my food was served with what I directly asked was not…bleh. I talked to the manager about it and comped our meal, but I’m in no hurry to return. We went to Allon’s for birthday dessert, and then stopped at Argosy for a birthday drink before getting them to the airport.

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A part of J’s homework included stopping by here for “research.”

J and I ran some errands, then I met up with some dear girlfriends for dinner while J did homework. It was a weekend full of my favorite people!

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Shredding chicken

Do you know about the Kitchenaid stand mixer shredding chicken trick? Put cooked chicken breasts into the Kitchenaid with the paddle attachment, lock the head, turn it on the first speed, and after 1-3 minutes you have shredded chicken. After telling a coworker I was met with a dubious stare, so on Sunday while prepping dinner I took pictures of the process and sent the photos to her—it is like magic!

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Cooked chicken breasts, cooled

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Paddle attachment, low speed

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Shredded chicken!