A Month of Thanks

I have seen so many “days of thankfulness” posts and they always just make me smile. Obviously, there are things we are thankful for every day – but I really enjoy reading about the little things that you might not normally think about.

Like comfort food. Who doesn’t love a body and soul warming bowl of soup or a casserole? But do we really think about how thankful we are for those things?

So, I just wanted to share with everybody a few of the little (and big) things I’ve found myself thankful for this month. I hope to continue with the list so when I find myself in a not-to-thankful mood, I can look at this and remember how blessed I truly am and knock “grumpy Mary” out of her foul mood.

Day 1 – My husband’s friends. I often get a little down because a lot of my best friends live so far away, but it’s been fun really getting to know this great group of people over the past 5 years and I’m so thankful that they have become my friends too.

Photobooth Fun

Day 2 – College football. Seriously, I love waking up Saturday mornings for College Game Day and catching football action all day long!

CGD

Day 3 – Sleep. Especially when it’s an extra hour for Daylight Savings…

Day 4 – My co-workers. They help keep me sane on the really stressful days!

Day 5 – Our church community. I sometimes struggle with integrating myself into a group and really feeling like a part of that group, but we have been blessed with the people we’ve met through 2PC.

Day 6 – My love for cooking. I am so thankful that my mother taught me how to prepare meals and how to love cooking and hosting. I can’t imagine what my days would be like if I didn’t look forward to coming home and preparing a delicious dinner.

Party

Day 7 – My wonderful husband. We spent Thursday night celebrating a major milestone in his personal life and in his career and I could not be more proud. He is the man of my dreams and I cannot believe I have been lucky enough to have met him almost 5 years ago. He is my best friend and I cherish every moment I’ve spent with him – whether traveling to Mexico, reading on the couch, touring Disney or just having a picnic on our floor, my heart is always full when I’m with him.

HusbandDate night

Day 8 – My husband’s family – they helped shape the man he is today and I love when we’re able to spend time with them.

Day 9 – My nephews. The hubby and I were in charge of ALL 4 boys for 24 hours this past weekend. Not gonna lie, we both opened a well-deserved beer at 8:00 p.m. and were wiped out – but they are so precious. It’s wonderful seeing them interact with each other and it makes me feel pretty darn special when they’re sad to see us go. I love my Pookers!

Day 10 – Ice cream. Like I said, we watched 4 boys over the weekend. Ice cream makes everybody happy, right?

Ice Cream

Day 11 – The amazing U.S. of A. No matter what opinions you have on politics, religion, etc.  – I am thankful that we’re able to hold and voice those opinions without fear.

Day 12 – Our home – because it’s home, not just a house.

Day 13 – Seasons. I love experiencing changes in the weather – each season gives me something to be excited about – football, fireplaces, family time, vacation. Except for raking leaves, I’d gladly give that one up…

Seasons

What are you finding yourself thankful for today?

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Work and Success

One of my absolute favorite “inspirational” quotes is something one of the basketball coaches at my high school always used to say (I think it’s attributed to Vince Lombardi) is “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

There are so many examples of this in my daily life, and yet I still find myself almost waiting for positive things to happen. That would be like an athlete just hanging out between games without watching tape or working out or meeting with his team and just showing up expecting to win.

Take this blog for instance…I’ve gotten a few questions lately on how I come up with recipes, test them, etc. One of the questions I found funny was “Do you put everything you cook up on your blog?”  I wish. But honestly, it takes a little more work than what you might see on here.

If I’m trying something new, I do go ahead and photograph it in case it turns out awesome – but I don’t put anything on my blog that I don’t like. Unfortunately, I’ve made a few meals lately that haven’t turned out so hot.

One item I found on Pinterest was a stuffed flank steak. It’s stuffed with spinach, roasted red peppers, blue cheese, and a lot of other goodies. It sounded delicious. It looked delicious. But when I bit into it, I was completely underwhelmed. I don’t know if I didn’t pound the steak enough or it was roasted instead of grilled, but the flavor just wasn’t there for me.

StuffedFlankSteak

Another recipe I tried came as a recommendation from a co-worker from a blog she found. I’m terrified of my crockpot when I’m not at home to check on it, so when she assured me that this chicken curry recipe didn’t turn into a pot of black lava in her home, I figured I’d give it a try. My kitchen smelled awesome – but I don’t know if it’s my dislike for coconut or if I just don’t like curry, but I was not at all a fan. I actually didn’t even eat it!

ChickenCurry

So, just a testament that it’s not as simple as throwing together a meal and calling it a day! I try new things and make sure they are tasty before sharing them with y’all, so if it doesn’t pass my test, then I don’t pass it on to you! It’s disappointing because I get my hopes up for meals and put a lot into them, but obviously, it’s a learning process on what works and what doesn’t – so I just try to learn from my mistakes and improve upon them down the road!

On the other hand, a surprising success in my sad little world of “I can’t keep green things alive” – my babies I planted on April 7th are still here and are looking beautiful! See…not dead! The rain has definitely helped me, but it’s so much fun seeing what a little TLC and work will do…

Planter

Well, now I’m off to cheer on the Memphis Grizzlies as they take on the LA Clippers in Game 6 of the playoff series. My Grizz are up 3-2 and are coming home tonight to hopefully pull off a W for the home crowd, so I’m super pumped to be there with my husband! My Biffer and I attended Game 4 last Saturday (thanks to our wonderful hubbies) to see the Grizz tie up the series, so tonight is going to be even more intense.

BiffersandGrizz MemphisGrizzlies

may  have listened to Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight” a few times this afternoon just to get myself in the spirit…and I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit that.

Hope everybody has a great weekend…and GO GRIZZ!

On the Move!

I seriously apologize for the lack of posting – I know, some blog I have going.

It has been a whirlwind of activity! With last week being the 4th of July and us not going anywhere, we decided to have a little get together – which meant 1 solid evening of preparing food and the other putting the finishing touches on everything!

Then we had to run home on the 4th of July, do laundry and pack because on Thursday, we flew to Pittsburgh to stay with one of my best friends from college for a day. We had so much fun seeing her and her fiance, who are getting married in October – and enjoyed exploring the city for a day! The husband experienced his first Primanti’s sandwich (which is piled with your choice of meat, then cheese, coleslaw and french fries!) – and we got to take the incline to the top of Mt. Washington to get an amazing view of downtown Pittsburgh. And, of course, we went to a Pirates game that evening!

On Saturday, we drove to Ohio for another college friend’s wedding – which was absolutely beautiful! Probably a bit hotter than she had bargained for – but it was such a great time, as it always is when I get to hang out with my girls.

So, as y’all may have noticed – it’s been brutally hot lately! A few weeks ago, the husband and I decided to brave the elements and go to a drive-in movie. I had planned on chicken tenders – but he said he wanted something cold before we went. Like a pasta salad.

I was totally okay with that, because I had just the thing to whip up – a tortellini and veggie pasta salad! It is so delicious and I’m sure it would be easy to adapt for tailgating, picnics, etc. by throwing some olives or salami/pepperoni. Consider this delicious recipe my apology for falling off the face of the earth the past few weeks…

Tortellini and Vegetable Pasta Salad (serves 4)

Dressing:

2 Tbsp. minced shallot

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/2 c. red wine vinegar

1/4 c. olive oil

Salad:

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed

9 oz. cheese tortellini

1/3 c. red onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 c. fat-free feta, crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Add dressing ingredients together in a small food processor and pulse a few times until blended well. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add tortellini and cook according to directions. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.

Refill the pot with water and bring to boil. Add asparagus and cook 2-3 minutes. Have a bowl of cold water or ice nearby. Transfer asparagus to cold temperature – this will keep it from cooking any longer and allow it to keep the pretty green color!

Add chopped veggies to the tortellini and stir to combine.

Pour dressing over top and sprinkle with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir until combined.

Add crumbled feta and stir again until combined. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Then, it’s time to dig in! I definitely want to double this next time to make some yummy lunches for the week…

Meet Me in St. Louis – Part 2

So I know I left you with a total cliffhanger last week…but I’m back to share the rest of our amazing trip to St. Louis!

After trekking around the zoo and stuffing ourselves with a very hearty Italian lunch – it was time to do some more walking! We took a 5 minute drive to visit the Missouri Botanical Garden, which was just amazing – I wish I had planned some more time to spend there! We had to look at the map and pick a few key spots that we wanted to see. We made our way back to the Japanese garden, which was absolutely beautiful – lots of picturesque bridges and flowers around the water and rock gardens.

The Gardens are in the middle of a lantern festival – so there are a bunch of really cool looking lanterns in the shapes dragons, flowers, etc.

We passed through “Magnolia Grove” and wandered through the day lily garden – and the husband and I both fell in love with a giant Dogwood tree that I just wanted to live under forever!

Sadly, we had to make it through rather quickly in order to get to the next stop on our trip – the Anheuser-Busch Brewery! I had just done the tour a few weeks prior, but since my husband is a huge fan of Bud Light, I knew we had to stop by the very historic site – so we went to beer school.

We were given four samples of beer ranging from light to dark and taught the proper glasses to serve them in and pouring techniques for each. I also think I found a new beer to drink during the summer months – hellloooo Shock Top Lemon Shandy!

After wetting our whistles, it was time to check into hotel #2 for the weekend, which was downtown. We changed and headed out to the next destination – the Broadway Oyster Bar. I’d read up and found out that it’s “the” place to go before a Cardinals game – and boy was it ever! We managed to find some seats outside on the patio to enjoy some drinks before the game while listening to live music and hanging out with fellow fans.

A great place to go before, and I’d imagine after, the game – not a far walk to the stadium at all! I’d love to make it back here to check out the atmosphere at night – and to eat some of the stuff I was drooling over on the menu!

Enter Busch Stadium – I love sporting venues and this place was no different!  I absolutely loved the Arch in the field! We ended up feasting from the concessions for dinner (I just can’t pass up good ballpark food!) and then heading back to the hotel afterwards…a little dejected from the loss, but still a great time!

Saturday – I took it a little easier on the husband! We took the Metrolink out to The Gateway Arch – the symbol of St. Louis. I just couldn’t fathom how something like that is built! We didn’t have time for a tour (there was a long line) but that didn’t stop us from being a little touristy of course! I’m sure he’s making a face at me…but at least he got my good side! =)

 

From the Arch, we took a cab to the Schlafly Tap Room. People, if you ever make it to St. Louis, do yourself a favor and go here. A lot of good beers on tap and I cannot even explain to you how good the food was – so I will, of course, show you pictures!

We started with some beer bread – the blue cheese cream cheese was out of this world. Then I had the turkey monte cristo – turkey, brie (my FAVORITE) and cranberry chutney – beer battered, deep-fried and topped with a little powdered sugar.
Clearly minimal calories consumed here…

The husband got pork schnitzel on top of potato salad – it was pretty delicious too – but it didn’t have brie! (Hey, at least we walked a lot on the trip!). This place was bar food taken to a whole new level – I’m salivating just thinking about it!

So then it was time to head to the afternoon game – which was the big birthday gift! We had some pretty nice seats…but let me tell you what friends, I have never been so hot in my entire life! Mis-er-able! Especially after eating that super-light meal pictured above. However, it was an exciting game and we enjoyed every single second of it. Probably even more when the sun finally made it behind the stadium! It was such a fun trip and the Cardinals certainly showed us a good time and won – so it was totally worth it!

Took this one early before the combination of sweat and sunscreen took it’s toll!

Well, that concludes our St. Louis trip! I hope you enjoyed a little insight into our travels and maybe were inspired to plan a trip of your own. We will definitely be back!

Meet me in St. Louis – Part 1

My apologies for the lack of posts lately – I have been crazy busy the past few weeks, including last weekend! Luckily, it gave me some great blogging material that’s a little different from the usual…

My husband’s birthday was in April (remember the super naughty cookie pie I made for him?) and since he was studying until June, I wanted to give him something he could look forward to – so I presented him with a trip to St. Louis to see the Cardinals play!

He was very brave and let me plan out the entire weekend, which, shockingly enough, did not involve any shopping!

So we drove in on Thursday night and had 2 full days of being touristy – and of course, eating!

Our first evening, we stayed outside of downtown and chose a fabulous hotel. The Cheshire is a boutique hotel that is essentially diagonal from Forest Park (home of the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Art Museum, a history museum, a boat house, tennis, etc.). The Cheshire is modeled to look like a traditional British inn, and from the very little time we spent there, I can tell you that the details and staff are amazing! All of the rooms pay tribute to a different British author (we were in the Elizabeth Barret Browning room) – and they even have amazing themed suites (the James Bond suite looks the coolest to me!) Even the lobby makes you feel like you’re in England!

Right up the road (maybe a 5 minute drive) is “The Loop” – a strip of restaurants and bars located near the beautiful Washington University. I know my husband’s love for pizza, so Thursday evening after we arrived we went straight to Pi Pizzeria for some deep dish pizza. We split a 9” and it was incredibly delicious – especially sitting outside on a beautiful evening and enjoying a nice cold draft beer.

After that, we wandered down the street and headed to the top of The Moonrise Hotel for a drink on their rooftop bar – which gave us a beautiful view of downtown St. Louis. There were a ton of other great places I’d love to have explored, but we had a very early morning ahead of us according to my very strict itinerary…

Early Friday morning, we headed to the St. Louis Zoo – which is pretty much amazing. It’s free admission – and we managed to hit Caribbean Cove in the first hour of operation so we didn’t have to pay the fee. You can pet the rays and sharks…but we chose to just observe!

We walked around and took in a lot of exhibits – and I have to say I absolutely loved the penguins! One species of penguin is outside – but then you walk inside into a very very cold corridor that has the Antarctic penguins. They are so beautiful – and it’s a nice reprieve from the heat!

 

We got to see hyenas being fed, two baby elephants playing in the water and a Daddy lion sleeping on the job while his two little kiddos played.

 

After that, we headed to “The Hill” – which is the Italian district of St. Louis. It’s about a 1 mile square that is full of amazing looking restaurants. I chose Zia’s – which was absolute perfection. A glass of wine for me, a beer for my husband – and of course, a delicious Italian sausage sandwich with peppers and tomato sauce. And the obligatory side of pasta..

Well, I will leave it there for now – but I will post Part 2 of our trip soon, which includes a trip to the Botanic Gardens, beer school at the brewery and of course, some baseball!

Hope you enjoy this little peek into our fabulous weekend trip – and I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!