Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Laura's Baby Shower

There are some distinctions in life that are honors and to me, "baby shower hostess" is one of them. "Honor" is exactly what I felt ever since I Laura told me she was pregnant. My first question was if I could host her shower and she said yes. I have known Laura practically my entire life. Her sister Rachel and I have been best buddies since we were 2 years old at our little day school. Laura was always "our" big sister--she taught me all about music, combat boots, and always let us dance to "Booty Mix 97" when she drove us around. Since Forrest and I moved back to Gadsden she has always included us in all of her parties and fun events and we have gotten to be really close (I mean, you can't go see NKOTB twice with just anyone!). I wanted her shower to be unforgettable and meaningful and I think it's safe to say we pulled it off. There were 11 hostesses, one florist, plus Rachel and her mom as helpers. Even though my next Gadsden Style article is (spoiler alert) about baby showers and how pretty much anything goes this day and age, I wanted Laura's little girl (eeeekk!) to have a perfectly pink shower, full of frilly, meaningful touches. Shall I show you?

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 Upon entering the shower, guests were greeted by the "Wish Tree", designed by Julie. They were to write their wishes and words of wisdom for Mommy and baby and hang them on the tree. I thought Julie did a beautiful job!  photo b120b2e5-8072-496b-869d-20f8a11c732e_zpsf41315f3.jpg
This was our invitation. I loved how it wasn't too baby pink but still had a traditional feel. We went with a "pram" theme overall.  photo 524F8B1F-77EA-4E1C-8BC9-29016AF7745D_zpsgtlgswge.jpg
The coolest thing about the shower was that we held it in Laura's own home. That way, she didn't have to haul any gifts AND the guests got to see the baby's nursery! This is a shot of her crib, decked out in Peter Rabbit as well as the heirloom christening gown and bonnet from the 1800's that has been passed down in Laura's family!  photo 8089DAE1-8EE8-4A2F-A1FB-3118CADDE6FC_zpssbf1n3zd.jpg
Rachel and her Aunt Dianne painted this mural for baby Harper and hung the letters with rosettes and ribbons! A bedroom fit for a princess!  photo 3069ABE4-A8C8-46E5-BD6E-CA68859A516B_zpsau9jxwa1.jpg
Lauren, aside from being the set up guru, created this sweet candy station! Guests enjoyed filling bags of sweet treats to take home as favors from the shower.  photo 7F20A35D-A046-42CC-80C1-76257B982DF6_zpsnzvmvpvn.jpg
We had these beautiful cookies made from our resident cookie extraordinaire, Alison!
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Casey hand made these adorable mints! It was so special to have touches added by each individual hostess.

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This cake--simple and elegant! It was the perfect compliment to the party (especially because the cake inside was also pink and white!) I really wish I had taken more pictures but it was such a busy day! Laura received some beautiful gifts and should truly feel blessed by all the love that was in that house, just for her and her baby! It was a thrill to be such a big part of such a special occasion, and I hope it was all she ever wanted!
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Monday, February 24, 2014

Wide Open

Boy oh boy is today a Monday! Nothing like finding out that your car registration is all jacked up, through no fault of your own, and having to spend the majority of the afternoon dealing with it! I've decided to take a break from things obviously beyond my control to fill you in on our weekend. It was pretty wide open, and I kind of need a nap today, but NO--I'm dealing with my car registration. Anyway--I digress.
We spent Friday evening at an engagement party for Erica, a girl I have known pretty much her entire life. I love a good shower, as you know, but I was caught a little off guard when the bridesmaids got together for a photo. For some reason I felt SUPER old. It has been nearly 5 years since Forrest and I married and seeing the "young" girls posing for the photo made it feel like 500. On the other hand, it seems like we haven't been married a minute. Perception is really weird---I suppose I felt much older than the girls taking the picture, but at the same time I still feel like Forrest and I are newly weds--we aren't an old married couple yet! Who knows, but I left the party feeling very nostalgic.

We washed all the nostalgia down with a late night sushi snack and some House of Cards...my kind of Friday night. (Wait, does that suggest old married couple status?)

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On Saturday our plan was to "sleep until we wake up and hit the ground running". (Literally we discussed that as an actual plan--it was my wording). That translated into I didn't see my husband until 7pm, and it wasn't a work day. We were both SLAMMED with things we needed to finish--for work, for the move, for life. After about a million errands and odds and ends to do around the house, I went with Farrah to Restorative Yoga, a special class we signed up for weeks ago. I had no idea what to think but I knew we'd use lots of yoga props. Turns out, Restorative Yoga is kind of like a 2 hour nap time, except you aren't asleep (well one guy fell asleep) and you do several poses while lying down with these props supporting you. I felt like I had gotten a 2 hour massage afterwards--BEST feeling ever!!  photo C40D91A9-CAF1-419F-B731-BD9D0A52088D_zpsnsnouzil.jpg
All of my yoga props

Or at least I thought it was the best feeling, until we went to Baby Ren's Sip and See and I sipped champagne while still in my yoga high. THAT is the best feeling ever. (except that my yoga teacher came to the sip and see and caught me not only with said champagne but also with a tiny cake--oops).

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Isn't he the most precious little thing!

After THAT, Farrah and I picked up our husbands and went to supper club at Jay and Claire's to celebrate Mardi Gras with gumbo, shrimp and grits, and Bailey Ann!!

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You all must know that the sleep after Restorative Yoga is the best sleep you will ever experience--go do it RIGHT NOW!! It was all I could do to pry myself out of that dreamy sleep, but there was churching and showering to be done on Sunday. I have been planning Laura's shower since the day she told me she was pregnant. The conversation went a little something like this:
Laura:  "Hi Catherine, it's Laura. Are you sitting?"
Me:  "Hi! Yes I'm sitting. I'm in the car in the parking lot of my office" (Note: usually I instantly think someone is going to tell me they are pregnant when the conversation starts like this but in all honesty I thought Laura was going to tell me that she got the green light from her husband for us to go on the New Kids on the Block Cruise...so you know I was kind of disappointed when she said the following)
Laura:  "Ok good because well, I'm pregnant!"
Me: high pitched scream, heard only by dogs and Laura and surely her unborn child because it was that loud
Laura: Um well so I guess you are excited?
Me: YES! Can I plan your shower? (no "when are you due", "how are you feeling", just "can I plan your shower")
Ok so since like September or October I've been working on this shower (with some other great hostesses) and the big day was Sunday. I will do a separate post on the shower hopefully tomorrow but just know it was LOVELY, if I do say so myself!

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Soon to be Aunt Rachel, Mommy Laura, and me! (who still wants to go on the NKOTB cruise)

Afterwards Forrest and I enjoyed the 70 degree weather (yes, we went from snow to 70) by taking the dogs on a walk, and I got to break in my new shoes........

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After dinner with my parents and more House of Cards, our weekend was a wrap! I hope you all are getting warmth and sunshine like we are! I'm enjoying it today because apparently we are back in the 30s mid week. Boo.
Happy Monday!!
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Friday, February 21, 2014

I'm Loving It

Guys!!!! So I'm sure lots of you are aware of the Influenster VoxBox program. You know that thing where you sign up to review products and they send you free stuff? I know I've talked about the 2 that I have received before, but they were no where NEAR as awesome as my latest one! The JaDore VoxBox arrived at my office on Wednesday chock FULL of items that I either use or need! Let's break it down, shall we?

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1. Let's start with the FAMILY SIZED bag of Hershey's Kisses! Who doesn't love these little treats? I ate about 10 trillion of them right off the bat but I think I should probably take some home to share... Or maybe I can make some more of my famous Snuggles candy??

2. Moving right along to the Red Rose Tea. I love having a cup of hot tea at my desk in the late afternoons. I have to have an afternoon snack and a cup of tea is usually enough. Plus, it warms me up on cold days and also calms me during stressful afternoons! I'm excited about the Lemon Chiffon decaf tea because I can't do caffeine, plus I love lemon, so it's a perfect combo! I'm going to give the caffeinated bags to my brother and sister in law, as they are tea connoisseurs!  A $2 off coupon was included so I will be buying more Lemon Chiffon in the very near future!

3. On to the Kiss eyelashes. Truth be told I really like wearing fake lashes. I don't do it regularly but I do for special occasions. I really got into them when my sister was Miss Alabama and we all went to Vegas for Miss USA. I am saving these babies for our next formal event, which is coming up in the next few weeks. I know I'm going to love the "Shy" style of lashes because they are full without being overwhelming. I like to looked amped up, but I like to be as natural looking as possible in the process.

4. Next we have what I consider a full sized bottle of Botanics Shine Away Ionic Clay Mask. I really like doing facial masks because I have such junky skin, especially in the winter. First it's peeling because it's too dry. then I moisturize and it get's oily and I break out. There is no happy middle ground. I have been reading about Botanics online and I think that this may be the thing for my hyper active skin. You can check all of their products out for yourself at Target!

5. Last but not least is John Frieda 3 Day Straight Flat Iron Spray. Now I'm sure you all remember my discussion of my hybrid hair so I'm really looking forward to trying this. I may wait to try it until we go on vacation so I don't have to pack my straightener. We shall see how much patience I can have!

I am beyond thrilled with the contents of this box! I know that lots of you also received it and that some of you got different products in yours. Since I haven't really started using my products let me know what your favorite things are!!! Can't wait!

*I did receive this box and the products inside for free but the opinions are all my own!
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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I'm the Kind of Girl..

....who waits until the last minute to write a post. Sometimes this backfires on me but today it worked out because I found this fun link up for today!

I'm pretty sure when you have a blog the whole world gets to see the kind of girl you are, but today, I will break it down a little for you all. You know, in the spirit of linking up and having nothing else interesting to talk about.

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So today, I'm the type of girl:

--who is always hungry. I am only starting with this one because I'm chain eating Hershey's Kisses at my desk like they may be the last food I see for a long time. I could literally eat just about anything, any time.

--who doesn't like to sweat. Ick. Gross. Please don't make me start sweating! I can't stand the way it makes you feel. My husband tells me that no one likes to sweat, which I assume means I need to deal with this, but I really hate it. Now, that doesn't mean I don't put myself in situations to get sweaty--I run, go to football games in Alabama September heat, and lay out at the lake and the beach, but it doesn't mean I like it. That's the only think I dislike about summer.

--hates to be cold (haha, you simply can't please me when it comes to temperature). The only think worse than sweating is being cold. I HATE it. Once I'm cold I'm cold--there is no warming up for me! This snowy winter down here has been sheer misery for me!

--who gets obsessed with books. Once I find a book that really draws me in, I can't stop reading. I don't care if it's 3am and I have court the next day, I WILL finish the book (and I will be awesome in court the next day). I'm also the kind of girl that feels sad when I finish a book like that.

--and in the same vein, I get hooked on TV shows. Sherlock? Well I drowned the first 2 seasons of that show in like 3 days. The same with Mad Men, Orange is the New Black, and Downton Abbey. I feel like binge watching tv is the way tv was meant to be watched, except that I know it isn't, but dang it, Netflix makes it so easy!

--wants to be everyone's friend. I just like having friends. I like hanging out with all different types of people and doing different types of things. In my opinion, the more the merrier. I just really like including as many people as possible!

--who won't give up. I'm relentless, but I think in a good way. Sometimes I know when I've been beaten and I can recognize that and accept it, but if not, I am not backing down. I'm going to get what I want or need and I'm going to work tirelessly to achieve that! I think that's why I love being an attorney

--who doesn't want to miss out. I can't stand regrets, and while some are going to come, I try to avoid them at all costs. That's why I'll try just about anything, at least once. I'll eat anything, go anywhere, do anything just so I don't miss out on a life's experience.

--who is blessed beyond measure, and I know it. I am so grateful for everything in my life--friends, family, job, everything. I am a lucky girl and I hope that in my actions, I show my appreciation.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Food of Late

Sometimes I do a Life Lately post, but today I wanted to share with you a "Food Lately" post. I've done some cooking over the past 2 days and I have found some amazing recipes to share! Let's start with Cousin's Dinner.....

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Remember this picture from yesterday's post? This is Tortellini Soup, made here by my cousin Ashley but discovered by Aunt Dawn. They were sweet enough to give me the recipe so I could share with you. This is chock full of veggies and every good thing, and you could make some simple modifications to make it extra healthy for you!

Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup

3.5 oz Italian Sausage (casing removed)--you could use turkey sausage, shrimp, or go meatless for a little extra hearth health (although MAN the sausage was good)
1 c chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 c beef stock
1/3 c water
1/2 c red wine
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 c chopped carrots
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 c tomato sauce
8 oz cheese tortellini
1 green pepper, chopped
1 tblsp fresh parsley
Parmesan cheese for topping
(Ashley also added spinach, and Kale would be amazing!!)

1. In a large pot, brown sausage according to package directions (I always use ground sausage when I cook, not sausage in casings--way easier). Drain the fat and add in the onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes.
2. Add the beef stock, water, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 min, skimming any fat that may surface.
3. Add the zucchini, tortellini, bell pepper, and parsley to taste. Simmer, for 10 minutes, or until tortellini is fully cooked. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese.


My friend Kelly calls these "baby shower sandwiches". You know what they are, right? The gooey, melty, hammy and cheesy sandwiches? LOVE these but have never made them--I actually always ask Justin and Farrah to bring them to any events so I can eat them but not make them (I do the same thing with Buffalo chicken dip--yum). Anyway, since we were having soup at Cousin's Dinner I thought we needed a hearty appetizer and so I selected this tried and true favorite. I don't have a picture because we kind of gobbled them up before I thought to take one! You are just going to have to make them and take a picture for yourself! Here is the recipe, according to Farrah:

2 pkg King Hawaiian rolls
1 pkg thinly sliced deli ham
1-2 pkg Swiss cheese, sliced

1 stick butter, melted
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp mustard
1 tbsp dried minced onion
1 tbsp poppy seeds

Cut the top off rolls and set aside. Place a slice of ham and a slice of cheese inside each roll. Replace tops. Place them in a large baking dish or heavy cookie sheet tightly together.
In a medium bowl, whisk together topping ingredients. Pour over all of the sandwiches--just enough to cover tops. Let sit 10 minutes or until butter slightly sets.
Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Uncover and cook 2 more minutes or until tops are crispy. Serve warm.

Oh how I wish I had some of these left over!!!!!

Now on Monday night I had it in me to cook a full dinner and I wanted to try out some new recipes I found on pinterest. Forrest and I LOVE breakfast so I went with a fancy breakfast for dinner theme. Here is what we had:

Paleo Friendly Baked Eggs in Avocados, by My Tiny Little Life

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Halve your avocado, sprinkle inside with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, some cracked sea salt and some thyme.
Crack your (preferably organic) egg, discarding about half of the white, into the cavities.
Sprinkle top with a tad more extra virgin olive oil, more thyme, and a bit more sea salt.
Bake for about 10 minutes, checking your eggs every few minutes after that, and when they are done to your liking, remove from the oven.
Let them cool a bit so that the flavors can continue to meld just a little.

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Clean Eating Blueberry French Toast Casserole, by The Gracious Pantry

- I had an entire loaf of bread left over from the snow (yes I was that person who bought bread). We never have bread and I hated to waste it so I found this yummy and easy way to get us to eat it! 

8 egg whites
1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup honey (or maple syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups fresh blueberries (frozen works too, as do other berries.)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg whites, almond milk, honey, extracts and cinnamon. Whisk well.
Oil a baking dish (about 9 x 13), and fill it with the bread.
Pour the liquid mixture over the bread and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes, mixing once or twice to be sure all parts of the bread are moistened.
Mix in the blueberries.
Bake the casserole at 350 F. for about 45 minutes or until there is no longer any liquid between the bread.
Allow to cool a bit and serve.

This was SO tasty and you didn't realize you were eating "healthy"! The best part is you can reheat it and it tastes just the same!

For the final flourish, I went with a tried and true favorite, shrimp and grits--a dish I love but had never made. It's now safe to say I will be making this much more often because it was that good and that easy! 

Shrimp and Cheesy Grits, by A Healthy Makeover

3 cups fat free low sodium chicken broth
1 cup old fashioned grits (instant grits seem to be frowned upon by real Southern cooks, so do them some justice and use the real stuff)
½ cup 2% shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp olive oil
6 slices ultra-thin deli ham, chopped
1 ½ lbs large/jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
Juice of one lemon
3 tsp low sodium Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp finely minced garlic
1 T chopped fresh parsley
Salt & Pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, boil the chicken broth over medium heat.  Slowly stir in the grits and reduce heat to med/low.  Cover and simmer for approximately 12 minutes stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and mix in the cheeses, stirring until melted.  Cover and set aside.

In a large skillet heat olive oil over med/high heat and add ham when hot.  Cook the ham until it is a little bit crispy – about 3 minutes – remove to a paper towel and set aside.

In the same pan, cook the shrimp for about 3 minutes, sprinkling with salt and pepper to taste.  Flip the shrimp about halfway through, and cook until no longer pink.

Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic and stir.  Heat through to a low simmer and remove from heat.  Stir in the ham.

Spoon grits onto plates and top with shrimp mixture and parsley.  Be sure to include sauce, the combination is divine!  Serve and enjoy!

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Needless to say, our dinner was fab last night!!!

Anyone got the urge to try any of these? Which look best to you?? 

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Monday, February 17, 2014

It's the Freakin' Weekend

Y'all---I have had that song stuck in my head for about 2 weeks. And yes I'm aware that it's Monday and not the weekend. Thanks Cathie and Rachel for filling my head with R. Kelly. Anyway, my weekend was pretty awesome and I thought you should know about it!

Friday was Valentine's day and we celebrated with our Young Marrieds group at our church dinner theater. Our table had a great time together, especially when Forrest was announced as the winner of this bad boy...

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BOOM--that's over 40oz of chocolate!!

On Saturday I had double duty. First, was a baby shower for my friend Devin whom I have known since I was 2 years old!!

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This cake was so different--I'd never seen one with a baby on it like this before!
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Me and Devin, the mommy to be, and then the two of us with her twin sister Whitney. I have known these girls my WHOLE life and am so proud of them and so lucky to still have them in my life!

Next was the 9 o' Clock Dancing Club, one of the local dance clubs of which we are members. We had a LONG table for dinner for our group of 28! I love going to dances and partying the night away with my friends. It's kind of like being at prom or a college formal, but everyone is legal. Wearing a fancy dress, eating a delicious meal, and breaking it down to the band is my idea of a good time!

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Farrah and I with Rachel, Cynthia, Julie, and Claire. Our table was so long we had to get up and walk if we wanted to talk to anyone that wasn't sitting right next to us!

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Me and my gorgeous Mom!

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Alie, Me, Kelly, Farrah and Kelly, right before we started the Wobble. Super classy and grown up.

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Britney Shawna, Kelly and Me! Love these sweet girls!

Sunday was equally as busy. After a marathon event in the grocery store (WHY must it always be so difficult?) Forrest and I went to Birmingham to do a little shopping for an upcoming trip. Then we had "Cousin's Dinner" at Ashley and Jeremiah's house. I am one of 10 grandchildren on my mom's side and we are all basically grown up now (the youngest just turned 16). 3 of us are married and have our own homes so this year we have started doing "cousin dinners" about once a month. I think it is a great way for us to keep close and in touch now that we all have our own grown up lives. We had a blast watching the Olympics, playing with their sweet doggy, Penny, and quoting lines from the movie Cool Runnings (bobsledding was on tv). I'm excited that we will get to host the next dinner in our new house!!

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Spoiler alert!! The recipe for this amazing soup is going to be on the blog tomorrow!

Doesn't reliving your weekend make you feel a little bit better about it being Monday?
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Friday, February 14, 2014

I'm Loving It

Happy Valentine's Day! I don't really get too into Valentine's, to tell you the truth. We've just had Christmas, Forrest and I have recently celebrated our birthdays, and so by February I'm OVER shopping, gift giving, etc (for the record I'm NEVER over gift receiving). Therefore, we don't really go all out. However, that doesn't mean that I don't like celebrating love! I'm so lucky to have such a wonderful husband who is also my best friend and who "gets me", no matter how cray cray I can be sometimes!

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Other things I'm loving this week include my sweet sweet friends. I know I am lucky to have as great a group of friends as I do. I don't know what I'd do without my girls to call on when I need to vent, shop, have a glass of wine, and just be myself! Friends make everything better, right? Case in point.....

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It may have been snowing outside but it was smoking over at Farrah's house--literally! She and Justin invited us across the street for a snow day dinner--all I had to do was bring a salad (well and some liquor).  I don't know what we are going to do when we don't live across the street from them anymore!

I'm also loving the snow this week. Yes I know I was crabby about it on Wednesday but Old Man Winter listened to my letter and gave us the perfect snow. Big, white, powdery flakes came pouring down and since everyone was home, everyone felt safe. It accumulated about 3 inches at our house so we had plenty to play in. We also kept our power and satellite the whole time--which is necessary. Finally, it melted enough in the morning that we were all able to get to work by lunch time. That is how you do snow!!!
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Sonny LOVES the snow!

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Brownie did not...

What are your thoughts on Valentine's day? What are you loving this week??
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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Recipes for Love

Well friends, I am happy to say that the winter listed to my letter yesterday and went easy on us. We had about 3 inches of beautiful snow, kept our power on, and got to sleep in this morning! Now it's melting and we can go back to our regularly scheduled lives! Hooray!
Since it is Valentine's Day tomorrow I thought I would share some Valentine's treats I have made this week! Everyone loves treats, right??

Catherine's Own Valentine's Mix

mini marshmallows
white chocolate chips
Teddy Grahams
Valentine's M&M's
Pretzel Goldfish (did you know they made these? my mind was blown)
Valentine's candy corns (yes, they make these too!)

Throw all of this in a storage bag, shake it on up, and pour in a jar. People LOVE getting gifts in jars!

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Valentine's Snuggles

I LOVE these things SO much and they are so easy to make!

Put a Hershey's hug or kiss on a pretzel, bake for 3 min at 250, then quickly press in a holiday colored M&M. After I ran out of those I starting using mini marshmallows--delish.

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Tuscan Bean Soup (from the Pioneer Woman)

Nothing says love like a big ole bowl of soup! PLUS, this soup is actually good for your heart!

Pioneer Woman's Ingredients
5 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
3 cans (14.5 Ounce) Cans Great Norther Beans, Drained And Rinsed
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
2 teaspoons Dried Oregano
1/4 cup Tomato Paste
3/4 cups Dry White Wine
1 can (28 Ounces) Whole Or Diced Tomatoes
6 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 bunch Kale (more If Desired)
 Plenty Of Torn Fresh Basil
4 Tablespoons Butter
1-1/2 pound Raw Shrimp, Peeled And Deveined
1/4 cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
 Fresh Parmesan Shavings

Pioneer Woman's Preparation Instructions
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic and stir to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir to cook about 2 minutes, getting lots of flavor in the bottom of the pan. Stir in red pepper flakes and dried oregano; stir and cook for another 30 seconds.
Pour in wine and whisk, scraping the bottom of the pan a bit as you go. Allow this to bubble up and reduce, cooking until the wine is reduced by half.
Add canned tomatoes. Drain and rinse beans, then add to pot. Pour in chicken broth. Stir to combine and allow it to simmer for 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste.
While the soup is simmering, cook the shrimp: melt butter in a small skillet over medium-high (or high) heat. Throw in the shrimp and chopped parsley and toss to cook until no longer opaque, about 4 minutes. Season with salt. Set aside.
Rinse the kale and tear it into chunks. Stir into soup. (It'll shrink quite a bit, so don't be afraid when you first add it!) Add a bunch of torn basil and stir. Allow the soup to simmer for another 5 minutes, tasting and adding salt and pepper (or even more red pepper flakes) as needed.
Transfer soup to a large serving bowl and top with the shrimp, or ladle into individual bowls and top with 3 or 4 shrimp.
Add big, fat Parmesan or Romano shavings and more torn basil at the end.

Love it!!!
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Happy eating!!!
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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dear Old Man Winter...

I've written to you a few years back, so I know you remember me. As I write this, I'm at home, waiting for the next bout of snow that is expected to befall me within the next few hours. I need to tell you that this snow is not appreciated. Yes, kids love it and we all enjoy a day or two off of work, but we are Southerners. We don't do snow, at least, we don't do snow this often. Remember 2 weeks ago when you totally shut down the states of Alabama and Georgia? Yeah, that's how we do snow. Well, I take that back. The actual way we do snow is like this. Threat of snow is posed to us--we freak out. Severely freak out. You can't get into the parking lot at the grocery store, they only have hamburger buns left in the bread aisle, and don't you even think about buying a gallon of milk because it's long gone. Then, we shut everything down for the next few days--schools, government buildings, everything. Usually Walmart is the only place still open when the snow actually falls. Well, there and hospitals. Anyway...I digress. Then we all sit at home eating our bread and drinking our milk while it proceeds to flurry, or maybe it doesn't snow at all. It doesn't matter--the fear of snow is enough to buy you at least 2 days off of school. If we hear 32 degrees and there has been any precipitation in the last 48 hours, we are convinced that the roads will freeze and we just stay home. Did you get that, we STAY HOME. When people were all up in arms because Atlanta was gridlocked and full of wrecks and people had to spend the night in their cars last week during the storm, I was surprised it wasn't worse. You see, we didn't know snow was coming. We were told that the snow was going to hit far south of us--like at the beach south. If you were wondering the beach is about 5 hours from my house and therefore about the same distance from Atlanta. If we had even thought a flake of snow MIGHT possibly fall, we would have shut 'er down and stayed home. However, the fact that the South was at work proves that we had NO idea. What happened when it did start snowing? We panicked---we had no bread and milk--we don't have chains on our tires--we don't know how to drive in snow! We also all left work at the same exact time--it was like leaving a football game at the very end--you are better off just staying put for a good hour before you even think about pulling out of the parking space because you are going to be parked on the on ramp to the interstate for at least that long.
Now you may be chiding me and saying that we should be prepared for weather like this! Well, I'll have you know we have snow once a year--maybe. It's just not good business to be prepared for something that rarely causes a problem. Instead, we prepare by buying staples and staying home! Had we been prepared last time there wouldn't have been any drama. Now, because there was, we are all running scared. That's why I'm sitting here, staring out of the window at nothing. Not even rain. It might start snowing in an hour or 2, as expected, but I've basically been home all day, minus a quick errand and stop by the office. If it gets worse, like they say it will, I ask that you just be kind. Let us have some nice white powdery snow for the kids (and me) to play in and then you can start warming it up by about 10am so we get to sleep in but we can still carry on with our lives. I don't have time for this many snow days, and neither does anybody else down here, ok?
And while I'm asking for favors, why don't you just go ahead and warm up all the way. I don't need 80's yet, but a consistent stream of 60 degree days would be nice. Heck, I'll even take 50. We don't do 32, no siree, and I'm actually quite appalled at your behavior because I know you know that. You're just being tacky.
Anyway, I hope we are all on the same page now and we can resume with our regular programming--you staying far far away from us and me whining about how cold I am when it's 55 out.
I remain yours always,
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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dear SNL,

Hi! I know you don't know me, but I'm Catherine. It may be slightly premature but I wanted to introduce myself. You see, I'm coming to see you in the spring! Yes! That's right! My friend Becky scored me tickets through a friend and she says it is all set up and legit, so I'm being cautiously optimistic and taking the time to write you this letter of introduction. My husband and I are all about "making it count" when we are on vacation. If we are going to spend money to go somewhere, we are going to see and do and eat all there is in said place so that we basically get the most for our money and the best experience possible. That is where you come in. First of all, let me say that attending the taping of SNL is a dream come true. I don't even care if I'm hanging from the rafters, I will just be thankful that I am in the building. However, since I'm not sure if you have your hosts lined up that far in advance, I thought I might aid you in that capacity. You see, "making it count" in NYC not only includes seeing SNL, but we could really make it count MORE if the guest were say, one of my personal favorite celebrities.
 For example, I would flip my everything if you had Benedict Cumberbatch host the show.

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YES! Sherlock himself! What a doll! I'm sure the ratings would sky rocket! I mean a precious British guy speaking in his precious accent? You've got every American woman tuning in!! (John Watson would be ok, but Sherlock would pack a bigger punch)

 OR, if you wanted to go a more "American" route, you can do no wrong with John Hamm.

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I mean, he's already been on the show so you know he can handle it. Plus, Mad Men comes back this spring so everyone would be really jazzed about seeing him.

Want someone a little less bad boy and a little more "Hey Girl"?? Well look no further than Ryan Gossling!

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 He wouldn't even have to say actual words, but people would tune in!!

Need someone more "Oscar nominated"? Well that's easy! Bradley Cooper is your man!!

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 And maybe, just maybe you could do one of those surprise shows where another celeb shows up? Maybe Jennifer Lawrence?

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Plus, I'm sure Forrest would enjoy seeing her.

Someone out of left field? Well Maks from Dancing With the Stars.

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He can dance with his shirt off, play the violin, AND be funny! That's good TV right there my friend!!

All time, dream host? FOR EVERY WOMAN IN AMERICA? George Clooney--hands down.

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I mean you'd probably have to cancel the rest of the shows forever because nothing could top that, but it would be worth it. I promise.

OH! And for musical guest, I submit to you Luke Bryan.

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Maybe you could even extend the show and let him sing a couple more songs, so all the country girls could shake it a little longer. Everyone loves a good time dancing with a country guy!!

Now, now, now. I know that aside from the cameo from Jennifer Lawrence, all of these proposals are guys. Should you really really really want to hit the nail on the head with a leading lady, well Beyonce--duh. Enough said!!

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Now that you have my ideas, good luck in setting your schedule and remember when I will be there. Again, I will be happy just to be in the building, so if you can't rustle any of these guys up, it's ok. I just thought I could be helpful, you know? Anyway, looking forward to the show coming back in March and more importantly, looking forward to tuning in each Saturday (ok, that's a lie--I usually watch you on DVR on Sunday afternoons) to see who I will NOT be seeing live and in person.
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(aka Leo--he would have been on the list but he was already on this year--DARNIT!)
Until we meet, I will remain your friend always.....
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