Monday, July 30, 2012

Ellen's Beach Weekend

What a fun way to spend a weekend! Claire and I loaded up the car (it was seriously PACKED to the gills) on Thursday morning to prepare for Ellen's bachelorette weekend. She is the matron of honor and it we were staying at my grandparents' condo in Orange Beach so we were in charge of making everything party-ready. After a fun ride down, we got to work. I think everything turned out super cute and was REALLY impressed with Claire's creative skills!
Shoe curtain into the kitchen, where we hung streamers from the ceiling!


Claire made every girl a "bachelorette party survival kit" 

Table full of fun!

After a quick grocery run the bride arrived and the fun began! We toasted with yummy "specialty" drinks that I made we well at hot pink cupcakes! For dinner, we went down the street to Shaggy's. We just wanted somewhere close and quick and casual and that is just what we got.
Ellen modeling her "Bride" hat, made by Caitlin, and her "flower" made by "magic" by our waiter.

The next morning we hit the beach just as soon as the sun peeked out. It was a wonderful day, with great sun and a welcomed breeze!
We started the morning with Caitlin's "I Do" doughnuts 

Sand sculpture on the beach!

We went in a little early so we could get cleaned up and watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics (have I mentioned how obsessed I am with the Olympics? No? Well, it is kinda bad). We were not exactly impressed with the show overall but the fireworks were fantastic!! By the time the ceremonies were over it was 11pm and we were just too lazy to go anywhere, so we opted to stay in--sad, I know--but we were having so much fun lounging around and laughing!!
Jordan, Ellen, and Claire during the Opening Ceremonies with their personalized, light up glasses

On Saturday we hit the beach until the rain started, and then sat around EATING (ugh I probably gained 5 lbs) and watching the Olympics. We did take a break to have Ellen's lingerie shower--so much fun!!
Pretty robe from me.

That night we went to Cobalt to eat and then out to the Flora Bama. The FB was not the greatest choice, as it was ridiculously humid out. We braved the stickiness for about an hour before calling it a night. We decided we were going to have more fun in the air conditioning at the condo than in the humidity at the bar. We were right!
Me and the bride before hitting the town

Riding in the van on the way to dinner

Mini book club reunion at dinner. We ran into Kate!

doesn't she look ready?

The bride and her bridesmaids

How "bassy" of us.
Can you believe this is the stamp we got at the flora bama (I can)

Trying to look un-sweaty! 

Comparison! This is me at my bachelorette party at the flora bama with Ellen! 

It was sad to leave such a fun group of girls the next day but I have to admit it was great to get home to my husband and menagerie! Forrest spent part of the weekend in Selma visiting his grandmother and touring his friends' new dental office. He also did lots of work around the house and yard (thank you husband!) and got to spend time with his mom. She is at a rehab facility for her hip and hopefully she will heal quickly and get to go home. Thanks to everyone for your prayers for Mrs. Bailey, and please keep them coming!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Sonny!!!

I can't believe our sweet boy is 3 years old! I am sure I have told this story before but I will do a quick run down of how we came to be his forever home. It was the first weekend in December, 2009 and we had offered to check in on my aunt and uncle's Golden Retriever while they were at the SEC Championship game (Bama won, of course). Forrest especially enjoyed playing fetch with Chip and running around with him in their back yard. He kept talking about how he was a "real" dog and how he would like to have a dog like that one day. I was no fan of huge dogs so I let it go. Well a couple of weeks later Forrest "surprised" me by telling me he was buying "me" a Golden for Christmas. I gave him a lists of reasons why we couldn't have one and he had a response to each one.
1. It will eat the cats!!! (Goldens were not hunters, just retrievers, so their instinct is not to chase cats)
2. I only want to rescue a dog! (Here is the Golden Retriever Rescue website)
3. I want a girl dog that I can put bows on and buy pink dog toys for (It is your dog-you get to pick) (hooray)
4. We don't have a fence (I will build one)
5. I don't want him to get cold (they are good in cold weather, plus they have good house manners)
6. I don't want a puppy and I don't want to house train it (we can get a fully grown dog!)

The list went on and he had a researched response to each of my concerns. Well, a Golden DID seem to be the perfect dog for us. I wanted a sweet fully grown dog and he wanted a fun playmate. After a trial with a scared little girl dog, we ended up being shown Sonny-a BOY PUPPY. I was none too excited and told Forrest NOT to get his hopes up because he didn't meet my criteria. But then we met him...and fell in love. He was SO sweet and playful and instantly became Forrest's best buddy. He did not chase the cats (only licked them, which they liked--gross). He was 5 months old and basically house trained and so I let him stay. Poor little guy was dropped off at the Humane Society in Kansas 3 days before Christmas. Some people visiting relatives out there from AL adopted him and brought him home to Auburn. After 2 days and a few accidents, they left him in the night drop box at the Auburn animal shelter and then the Retriever service picked him up. Poor thing---he only had 2 accidents with us and that was our fault for not letting him out enough. Even though he went through a lot, it brought him to us and he has made us oh so happy! We love you Sonny B!!!
1st trip to lake!

1st Bath

His mat from Auntie M!

Swimming in Papa Harold's pond. His first interaction with COWS!!

Kayaking


His first time to swim!!

Meeting his sister Ruffles

He LOVES the snow!!


Thank you for adopting me!!

This pic melted my heart



Go Sonny go!!!

Please let me ride!!

Sonny and his bff!

Quick Update

Our weekend was off to a great start on Friday. Forrest was finishing up a great week of work and so was I! I had my first appearance in the Atlanta Immigration Court on Wednesday and got great news so I was riding high! To top all of that off one of my best friends from college, Deborah, came to stay with me! We had the BEST time talking and catching up til the wee hours of the morning! Deborah lives in Knoxville and luckily we are able to see each other about 3 or 4 times a year. We chatted and ate cookies and pizza and giggled just like little school girls (poor Forrest). On Saturday Deb and I headed to Birmingham while Forrest stayed home and worked in the yard and on the deck. It is really coming together and I can't wait to show you pics! Deborah and I met Randi for lunch at Flip Burger and then met up with Deborah's classmate Katrina and her precious little boy John Mark for some shopping at the Summit. It was such a fun girly day! 
The only pic I took all weekend. Deborah practicing her mommy skills. John Mark doesn't look convinced!

Afterwards I stopped by my grandparents' house before heading to Mass with them. On my way there I got the upsetting news from Forrest that his mom was being taken to the hospital for pain in her hip. After long hours in the ER she seems to be ok, although we don't have much info now. Thanks to everyone for checking in on her and for your prayers! We should know more this evening and she can start feeling better! 
Keep those prayers coming!!! 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Baby Shower!

What a fun weekend we had!! It started with a fun girls' movie night for me on Thursday. Then on Friday we helped host a baby shower for Mamtha and Anu at Julie and Lance's house. The theme was "Drinks and Desserts" and I must say it was a hit! Everyone had a great time showering baby Gandhi with love and presents!
Chocolate fountain station. The potato chips were the biggest hit!

Julie did the lovely flower arrangements in mason jars.
I found the invitations at tinyprints.

This was their guest book. We all signed it for baby Gandhi!

My assistant Rachel made these fabulous custom cookies.

Julie had these for the drinks

Baby blue cocktail I adapted from a recipe I saw on Pinterest. The only problem was I mixed it by color and not alcohol content. By the end of the night, people were asking "what was in that blue drink??" Oops. 

Farrah's cupcake tower

Dessert table

Weren't the lanterns adorable?

Baby Gandhi and his cookie

The boys really enjoyed the frosty mugs!

The hostesses: Claire, Shannon, Mamatha (mommy to be) Farrah, Julie, and me.
Notice the lights in the trees--Julie thought of everything!

On Saturday I had a work day for Gadsden Service Guild and Forrest worked outside in the yard ALL DAY despite the heat! That evening we went to dinner with our Young Marrieds group from church and then to see our friends Daniel and Jay play at TuKanoos downtown. It was a really fun night filled with friends (and lots of dancing)!
Me, Emily, Michelle, and Jenna

On Sunday I was exhausted so I watched Downton Abbey ALL afternoon (omg I am obsessed with that show--how am I supposed to wait until next year to find out what happens?) while Forrest did some more work in the yard. He has our patio looking very pretty too! We are actually going this evening to get a few more things to liven it up, but here is a "in progress" pic.
Forrest planted the hosta yesterday as well as some other plants along the brick wall. He has the agapanthis plants on the deck as well as a new tree and a palm. We are going to find an outdoor rug, lounge chair, and umbrella later today! More pics to come!
We ended the weekend with dinner at my parents'. My mom and sister had been at the beach all week long so it was nice to get to catch up with them. Hope you all had a nice weekend and have some fun things to look forward to in the week ahead!

Baby Blue Punch

Blue Curacao
2 bottles Lemonade (I used the bottled kind from the grocery store--it is lighter in color--good for mixing)
Peach Schnapps

This is less a recipe and more a list of ingredients. I mixed according to color (oops) but it tasted delicious nonetheless! I did 2 bottles of lemonade, and then mixed in the alcohol. I used about 1/2 the bottle of blue curacao (the regular sized one) and just a little peach schnapps since it was all I had. Next time I will use more peach and less blue.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Stuffed Tomatoes

On Sunday night my dad gave us TONS of tomatoes from his garden. I was at a loss as to what to do with them because I don't like raw tomatoes and I knew Forrest couldn't eat them all by himself before they went bad. Of course I turned to Pinterest to find a recipe that incorporated them and I was successful. What did I do before Pinterest? Really! Anyway, I found a recipe for Stuffed Tomatoes and since I love to stuff foods (see the recipe list at the right---I have stuffed just about everything) I knew we would probably enjoy these. The recipe was European so the measurements were metric (curse that metric system) so I had to wing it a little bit. After it was over I decided on many changes that needed to be made for an easier cooking process but over all we really enjoyed them! Happy cooking!


Ingredients

  • 8 large beef tomatoes
  • handful of dried porcini (I left this out)
  • olive oil, for frying
  • two 250g packs spinach (Save yourself some time and just buy frozen)
  • flat mushrooms, sliced into rough cubes (I used one package of button mushrooms)
  • 300 ml vegetable or chicken stock (not sure how much this is but I used half of a regular sized can-you can use less)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 sprig thyme, stalks removed, leaves finely chopped (from a bottle)
  • 01 lemon, juice only
  • 100 g cottage cheese or ricotta cheese
  • 60 g parmesan, freshly grated
  • good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (skipped)
  • egg yolk, beaten  (skipped)
  • black pepper
For the dressing:
  • 1/2 tsp French mustard
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar (I used balsamic)
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • small handful basil
Cooked and ready for the dressing

Yummy!!!

Method

1. Blanch the tomatoes in a large saucepan of boiling water for 1 minute. Remove with a perforated spoon, leaving the water still boiling in the pan. Put the tomatoes in a large bowl of iced water and set side.

2. Add the dried porcini mushrooms to the still-boiling water, then remove the saucepan from the heat. Leave the mushrooms in the pan to soak. ( skipped this step because I didn't have porcinis)

3. Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan set over medium heat. Add the spinach and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Tip into a sieve set over a bowl, and press out all the moisture with the back of a wooden spoon. Tip the spinach on to a board and finely chop. Put in a large bowl and set aside.  (it is much easier to use frozen spinach and just defrost it and let it drain)

4. Using a perforated spoon, gently remove the porcini mushroom from the hot water, Strain the liquid through a fine sieve and reserve to use as vegetable stock.

5. Put the frying pan back on the heat and add a good splash of olive oil. Fry the porcini and fresh mushrooms over a high heat for 3-4 minutes until beginning to brown.

6. Reduce the heat to medium and pour over 300ml of the stock. Add the garlic, thyme and the lemon juice. Continue to cook the mushrooms until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are shiny. Remove from heat and allow to cool. (honestly, you can just use the cooked mushrooms and don't need to do this step because you really can't taste all of this stuff)

7. If using cottage cheese, drain it in a sieve, gently pushing it against the sieve to remove as much liquid as possible. (Ick I did not use cottage cheese--but I used part skim ricotta. Do yourself a favor and use the real stuff)

8. Stir the cottage cheese and mushrooms into the spinach. Then add two-thirds of the Parmesan, a pinch of nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and put in the fridge.

9. Preheat the oven to 160°C/gas 3.  (350 was perfect)

10. Peel the tomatoes and slice off the tops about a third of the way down. Reserve the tops to use as lids. Using a teaspoon, carefully scoop the pulp out of the tomatoes, reserving it for the dressing. (I didn't peel them and I am glad I didn't because they fall apart easily!! I also didn't top with the lid just because)

11. Fold the egg yolk into the cottage cheese mixture. Stuff the tomatoes with the mix, piling it up well but without pressing down - this may cause the tomatoes to split.

12. Sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan on top and replace the tomato tops, tilting them at a jaunty angle. Carefully place the tomatoes in an ovenproof dish and drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes until the filling is heated through.

13. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Combine the reserved tomato juice and pulp with the mustard, vinegar, oil and basil. Whisk together and pour over the cooked tomatoes before serving. (OMG the dressing is SO good!)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Vegas Wedding

On to the main reason we went to Las Vegas: Julianne and Ben's wedding!! It was held at the Valley of the Fall at Mandalay Bay. Everything was so beautiful and it seemed like they had been planning for years, not weeks!!
Our group met up before heading to the ceremony site together. I was so glad to steal a minute with the bride and groom!

Julianne's gown was breathtaking!!

Ceremony site

Almost time!

Here comes the bride!

The red and white theme was a nod to their Alabama backgrounds

Vows


Blessing over the marriage

You may kiss the bride!

The new Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Garton!


Me and the groom at the reception dinner at Craftsteak at the MGM Grand. This was seriously one of the best meals of my life!

Ben and Julianne shaped cookies!

Cake time!


Instead of a guest book, all of the guests signed this champagne bottle

Cutting the cake!

Face full of frosting!

After dinner they took all of the guests by bus to the Las Vegas sign for pictures

This Elvis was slightly creepy

Viva Las Vegas!!! We had a great time and can't wait to go back!!!
Thank you Ben and Julianne for including us in your fabulous wedding! We wish you all of the best of luck and can't wait to see you guys soon!
 
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