Monday, February 27, 2012

Is it Spring Yet???

I am so ready for spring!!! The weather has been lovely lately and I wish it would just stay like this! I am totally over being cold and can't wait for everything to turn green again!! Aren't you??
This weekend was packed with fun things, although it started out on a sad note. After work on Friday I attended the visitation of my great great Aunt Lucille. She was my dad's mother's sister. I didn't know her very well but that didn't make it any less sad. She was the last of 4 sisters and lived to be 94 years old! I hope I have some of those genes in me! Despite the solemn occasion, it was nice to be able to see the McCreless side of my family. Becky and Pat, Aunt Lucille's daughters, gave my dad a picture of him and my uncle when they were little. Apparently they liked to dress the boys up---it was too cute and funny.
After the visitation, Forrest and I went to the Smith's for a Breakfast for Dinner party. I was expecting pancakes and waffles, but Julie went over and beyond! She had amazing deviled eggs, prosciutto and ham biscuits,  and salmon topped cucumbers to start, shrimp and grits for our main course, and french toast bread pudding for dessert. They also served mimosas and Bloody Marys, along with orange jello shots. They really out did themselves!!! I had so much fun I didn't even think to take any pictures of us or of Julie's wonderful food!! The most exciting part of the evening was when Mamatha announced that she and Anu were expecting a baby this August! Hooray! Congrats to the Gandhis!!
On Saturday Forrest and I were determined to take advantage of the lovely weather, so we started the day off with a long walk with the dogs. It felt wonderful to to be exercising outside! It has been too cold to get a good walk in and we were starting to feel stir crazy!! Afterwards, we went to Eloise LeBlanc's baptism. I was so honored to be invited to the ceremony! As always, Eloise was perfectly behaved! Afterwards we went back to the LeBlanc's to celebrate with the family. I am so glad that we have gotten to get to know them. They have become some of our very favorite friends!
Eloise enjoying Forrest. She really does love him!!

After the party, we ran to Mass and then got some nagging errands accomplished. Then it was off to Convention Hall for the Family Success Center Mardi Gras Magic fundraiser. Oh what a night! The food was very good and we were blown away by the Blackstone Band. How I have never heard them before, I am not sure!! Forrest as usual cleaned up in the silent auction, winning 2 manicures, 2 pedicures, and 1 facial for me! We had so much fun supporting a wonderful organization and spending the evening with the Hayes!
Our friend Jody, the past board president for the Family Success Center, was the Mardi Gras King!

On Sunday, while Forrest had a relaxing day at home, I went with my mom and sister to Birmingham to see Wicked to celebrate Mary Margaret's birthday. We love going to see shows but none of us had ever seen Wicked so when it came to town I knew it was the perfect way to celebrate Mary Margaret's big day! We LOVED the musical! No description I could write would do it justice, so all I will say is that you MUST go see it for yourself!!!
Me and MMM with one of the cast members!

Next, MMM had promised to go shop with me at the Galleria. We have several upcoming events and I wanted her expert advise! We had a great time and I got some cute new things for the spring and summer. It was such a fun girls' afternoon!
That night we celebrated her birthday with dinner at Mom and Dad's with her favorite meal: steak and crab legs. We even got to top off the evening by watching the Oscars!! The whole weekend was so much fun, full of lots of family, friends and fun! We are looking forward to a busy week and another fun weekend!!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Blueberry Muffins

Last night we had Justin and Farrah and Jonathan and Denise over for dinner. I tend to stress out before hosting anything, even when it is only close friends who I know won't judge me if everything isn't perfect. To that end, I try to be over prepared so I don't have to worry on party day! I had most everything ready before I went to work Wednesday morning (despite the fact that I spent the majority of Tuesday night watching the rerun of the dog show, which I LOVE), and luckily the electrician called me and said he could come at 3:30, so I had an hour and a half more time to get ready than I thought I was going to have. Well, that ended up back firing on me because I had to find something to do to fill up all that time, right?? I was in the process of organizing recipes into my recipe binder when I came across the Awesome-est Blueberry Muffin recipe that I had chosen for cooking club this month, realizing that I had in fact NOT baked these muffins, the muffins which I chose! I had actually picked them because I wanted to bake them and take them with us to Mobile for breakfast, but when we decided to go on Saturday morning, the need for a scrumptious breakfast went out the window. I felt sort of bad that I had procrastinated on my OWN recipe selection this long and decided that since I had time, I was going to bake up a batch then and there, in my already clean kitchen. I even had to borrow an egg from Farrah, but I still was not swayed from my baking purpose. I think the only muffins I had ever made in the past were from a mix with the tiny little preserved blueberries built right in, so these were MUCH different!!

The Awesome-est Blueberry Muffins, from Pioneer Woman
3 cups minus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
Heavy pinch of salt
Dash of Nutmeg (I used cinnamon)
1 cup sugar (honestly, I thought it could have used more-maybe 1/2 cup more)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 generous cup plain, unflavored yogurt (throw in extra if you want)
2 cups fresh blueberries (I used frozen--so sue me)
Vanilla Extract
Softened Butter, for muffin tins
Turbinado sugar (optional) (I topped with oats for a healthy twist)
Preheat oven to 385 degrees.
In a large bowl sift flour, baking soda, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In another large bowl whisk together sugar, oil, cap-ful of vanilla, egg, and yogurt. Add the dry ingredients and stir to a count of 10.
Add blueberries, reserving 1/2 cup, to mixture and stir 3 times.
When I poured in the frozen blueberries, they were covered in blueberry juice, which turned the batter purple! This was A-OKAY by this purple lover!!

Add mixture to well-buttered muffin pans. Sprinkle remaining berries on top and press down lightly. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over top. (Brown sugar can be used instead.)
I wanted these to be really big muffins so I filled the cups up as much as I could and put as many blueberries in there as possible. Forrest has instilled in me the value of good "ratio" when it comes to eating!

Bake 20 to 25 minutes and allow to cool completely.
Hush my mouth!!! Don't they look delicious? Instead of topping them with sugar I used oats for a heart healthy addition.

Close up!! Is your mouth watering, because mine is!

I decided before I made the muffins that I would send them to the LeBlancs, since they are having family in town for Eloise's baptism! I did have a little left over batter so I made a few mini muffins for Forrest and I to enjoy. I didn't think they were sweet enough, but the mini muffins were made from the bottom of the bowl so I might not have gotten it mixed well, plus they didn't have many blueberries in them since they were so small, and the blueberries are really what gives these muffins their sweetness. I thought they were great, otherwise. The muffin itself was very tasty! I'm sure the "real" ones would be great with some coffee or tea in the mornings! Forrest and I have given up sweets for Lent (although we don't count muffins, well, we would count more "dessert-esque muffins) and these were a perfect treat and were more "breakfasty" than "desserty"!! I am probably going to make again soon since we gave them all away.
I didn't make the blueberry sauce since I was giving them away, but I just might next time!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

We Went Where??? Oregon, of all places!! Any time I told people where we were headed, the responded with "Really? Why?" Why not, I say. You know Forrest and I love to travel and after our last trip to California we talked about one day doing the Pacific Northwest. We had heard that the scenery was beautiful and it seemed like it would be a lovey trip.
I was right! It is lovely in Oregon, although a bit dreary. I did enjoy that all of the trees were "Christmas" trees!

 SO, all that being said, when Julie and Lance told us there was an opportunity to visit a dental equipment company in Portland, we jumped right on it!! We headed out Thursday after a very very busy week. I had hosted book club on Tuesday night (which is ALWAYS fun) and we were so busy getting the house ready for that, we really didn't start getting ready for the trip until Wednesday.
On the wat to ATL, this was outside my window. It made for the worst flight ever!!! (soundwise)

We flew from Birmingham to ATL (my least favorite flight, but sometimes it makes the trip cheaper--crazy!) and once in the ATL airport, Julie had a restaurant all picked out for us: One Flew South. It was in the E terminal so we did have to take the tram away from our gate to find it, but oh, it was totally worth it. When you think of airport food, I always think of Panda Express, or some fast food place, or even a TGIFridays (now don't get me wrong, I love love love those places too). This surpassed the relatively low expectations I have for airport eating by leaps and bounds, PLUS, they were really fast. When we got to the door, they hostess asked us how much time we had: my dream come true!!!
My turkey sandwich
Forrest's burger

As we were in line to board our flight to Portland, people started coming OFF the plane. Apparently, there was a problem with the landing gear and we had to get a new plane. This freaked me out but when I heard we got a new plane, I felt much better about the ensuing 5 and 1/2 hr flight.
When we arrived in Portland, we were picked up by a limo and taken to the Century hotel. We were SO tired so we ended up just calling it a night to prepare for the next day!
Friday was the big day in the ADEC equipment facility. OMG--who knew there was so much to know about building dental stuff? My mind was literally blown. Now, I am no engineer nor can I build things so I didn't really "get" what they were talking about, but I totally could appreciate all of the work that went into these things and the care that was taken with each product. Plus, the facility was ridiculously clean!!!
Hanging out in the ADEC factory

After a quick lunch, we went back to ADEC to visit the showroom. Oh what fun. My job was to be the patient and to try out all of the chairs. I got to lay down and ride up and down in those chairs all afternoon! I have to say I did my job pretty well!!

That night we were ecstatic to get to eat at Pok Pok, a well known Thai restaurant in Portland. The chef has won several awards and the restaurant was written up in Bon Apetit magazine so we really really wanted to go. They serve the food family style and none of us really knew what to order, so we let the waiter order for us! Everything was totally amazing, just as we expected!! We told the waiter that we had come all the way from Alabama to eat there and his response was "Oh, I hope it's good." Well waiter, it was.
So excited to be at Pok Pok! Julie and I definitely did not dress "Portland" so we stuck out!
"There's a whole lotta chicken goin on"

After dinner we went to the place I was most excited about visiting: Voodoo Doughnuts. I knew literally only     one thing about Portland before I went there, and that was Voodoo Doughnuts. (I clearly watch way too much uneducational tv). The place did not disappoint. We bought several doughnuts and took them back to the hotel to split. I took pics of them all, but unfortunately, there was one that was risque, so I can't post pics of all of them. Or maybe one day I can figure out how to blur stuff---hmmm.
The orange one is Mango Tango (maybe my fave), then there are 2 jam filled voodoo dolls with pretzle sticks, and then the big one has something to do with Memphis.
Maple Bacon doughnut, their specialty. We actually could see them cooking up the bacon while we waited in line.

On Saturday we headed back to the showroom for one last look and then we were off to lunch at Dundee Bistro.  I hear bistro, I think sandwiches, so after such a terrific dinner, I didn't have high hopes for lunch. Well, having low expectations seems to work for me, because I was really surprised at this place. Everything was really delicious, as was the Adelsheim wine. (Ok, so note we had wine at lunch).
Excellent chicken and pancetta risotto!

After lunch we began our day of winery touring and tasting. Last time Forrest and I went wine tasting we were in Napa and were not impressed. The sips were small and expensive and people seemed really snotty. Well, Oregon wine tasting was fantastic. People were super nice and we actually got more than a sip of wine (actually, a problem in the end). We started the trip at Stoller, but weren't really impressed with the tasting. The views were great though, so we got some amazing pics. Sadly, they aren't on my camera so I will have to post those later!

Disappointed but not discouraged, we went to Alexana. As Julie said, this was like wine tasting in Twilight! Now, I didn't get into Twilight, although I did like the way the vampires climbed the trees. The house was amazing, the scenery breathtaking, and the whole experience was totally romantic and fun. I particularly enjoyed the winery cat, LaTosh.

Everything was covered in moss, I assume because it is so damp there. I knew my mom would want to see these funky trees.

We could have stayed there all afternoon, drinking in our surroundings (literally and figuratively) but we had an appointment at Solena for a tour and tasting that included chocolate pairings which I for one didn't want to miss. It was very cool to see the wine barrels and everything else that goes along with the process of wine making. At this winery, you could buy into it and even get your own wine label! How cool!!

Next we were on our way to Adelsheim, the winery that our bottle at lunch came from. When we got there, the sign said it was closed, but Forrest managed to talk them into to letting us have just one taste, since we had come all the way from Alabama (that trick worked everywhere), and so they obliged us with one good taste of their excellent pinot noir.

By this time I was DONE with wine and I think everyone else was too. We went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner (meaning we all took naps, and were rewarded with a wake up call from the fire alarm). Julie and Lance decided to pass on dinner but Forrest and I were still up and at 'em so we met up with his classmate Timothy, who was also there for the equipment tour. We ate at a wonderful Italian restaurant that I can't remember the name of. They had delicious tiramisu and Italian cake!!!
The waiter said the lasagna would be better than any Italian grandmother's. I have to say, while this was good, my Mimi's is much better!

The next morning Forrest and I went to Mass at Resurrection Catholic Church, where the views were incredible! Then, it was back home, after a quick stop in the Minneapolis airport (where that senator was arrested a few years back, haha).

Me and Julie in the limo on the way to the airport. We were excited to get home, especially since her baby Henry started walking while we were away!

Mt. Hood from the air

The weekend was a GREAT success and I would highly recommend a trip to Portland to anyone. I could have stayed there a whole week, I think, with one day of wineries, a couple of days to explore the city, a day or two at the coast, and a drive through the redwoods (I think that redwood that you can drive through is in Oregon, actually). You could even do Portland and then maybe drive up the coast to Seattle. That sounds like a fun fun trip to me. The wheels in my head are turning already!!

Theme song of the trip: "The dream of the 90's is alive in Portland!" from Portlandia
It was so true. For real.

Monday, February 6, 2012

February Fun

Who can believe it's February??? NOT me! Although, Christmas does seem like an eternity ago! Oh what a busy busy week we had! On Tuesday I had dinner with my mom and our friend Akiko at the Courtyard. We were very happily pleased with the specials that night as well as the new baked feta appetizer! Delish!!! On Wednesday We got to hang out with the Smiths and sweet Henry before having dinner at Justin and Farrah's. You would think we see them all the time since they are across the street, but really, during the week, we never really get a chance to hang out so this was a rare treat!! On Thursday night Forrest and I went to Young Leaders at the YMCA. They had several boys v. girls challenges and it was SO much fun! We did an obstacle course, scavenger hunt, and some other summer camp type games that really thrilled all of us old people! ;)
Then on Friday night we went with the Hayes to the 9 o' Clock Dance. This is one of the dance clubs in town, but it is different because it is a sit down meal! I have to admit though, the food was sub par, which was really disappointing. The fun we had with friends, however, was top notch!!
Sweet friends at 9 o' Clock
Alie, Me, Farrah, Kelly, Holly

They Hayes in the lead out! :)

Saturday was kind of a random conglomeration of events but it turned out to be a really fun day! I was battling my 2nd cold of the year but I felt well enough to organize and clean out my kitchen cabinets. Fun, right? For me, this actually was fun!!! Forrest was busy around the house as well for most of the afternoon. Forrest picked us up some delicious sandwiches from Rivertown Cafe. We often forget about this place but I hope we won't again--it was SO good!!!
That afternoon, I met my mom to go meet Trent Richardson, Bama's awesome running back that is going pro. We had VIP passes so we were able to skip the line, get our pics taken, and head back out of the madness. There were so many people there showing there support!
Roy Upchurch (former Bama player, Me, and Trent Richardson!

We went to Mass at 4 and then later that evening, went with Justin and Farrah to meet some friends at the Tavern for Trey's 40th birthday party. It was a nice party but the smokiness of the bar combined with my cold did not make me a very happy girl.
Trey's hilarious cake!!!

We left after singing "Happy Birthday" and headed over to the grand opening of Back 40 Brewery. We are so excited and proud that Gadsden is home to such a cool business! We were amazed at how clean and professional everything was and honestly, I couldn't get over the fact that we were in a brewery, in Gadsden!! If you don't know anything about Back 40, definitely check it out!! They make Naked Pig and Truck Stop Honey, if you know those beers. I don't like beer but even so, it was really cool to get to tour the facility. Forrest and Justin enjoyed sampling the different beers, of course!
Isn't the brewery awesome???!!!

After that, the four of us and Jay and Claire went to the Courtyard for dinner. By this time I was feeling really terrible but we still had a fun time and a good meal!!
On Sunday I was a sad little sick girl. Forrest tried to get me out of the house by taking us for a Sunday drive. We like to ride around looking at houses, not necessarily to buy, but just, to see! We used to do that in Ttown and I am glad we still take time to do that now that we are here and settled. By lunchtime I just wasn't feeling it so we headed back home. Forrest was able to go on a 30 mile ride while I stayed home and napped and watched tv. I was able to go to the grocery store but I was feeling so terrible I was convinced I had the flu!!! That didn't stop us from going to my parents' to watch the Super Bowl. I really didn't care about the game, to be quite honest. First of all, we don't really watch pro football, and I didn't have a preference of team that I wanted to win. (I usually cheer against the Mannings since they beat us in college, but I also am no fan of quarterbacks who leave their pregnant girlfriends for supermodels.) I ended up "being" for the Patriots because they had some Bama players on their team, but I didn't really care when they lost. Oh well. Football is officially over!!!
Today I woke up feeling 1000% times better! Hooray! That is a good thing because this week is going to be crazy, but fun too! Stick around!!!
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