dippin’ it

We had our first dinner guest in quite a while the other night, so I perused my recent Pinterest meals for the perfect dinner for two laid back, hard-working fellas. What did I choose? A dinner of dips. I tried a new, super easy crockpot fiesta chicken dip recipe. I modified the recipe found here to make it a little healthier. I also added lime juice to give it more flavor complement the Coronas. ;)

IMG_1976[1]Crockpot Fiesta Chicken
2 frozen chicken breasts
1 can Rotel tomatoes w/ green chiles
1 can corn kernels, do not drain
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 pkg. Ranch dressing mix
1 T ground cumin
1 t chili powder
1 t onion powder
1 t white pepper
1 8-oz pkg. fat free cream cheese
lime juice to taste


Put the chicken in the crock pot, then top with the tomatoes, corn, black beans, ranch dressing mix, white pepper (I use this to add a subtle spice), cumin, onion and chili powders, stir to combine. Top with the cream cheese. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, stirring periodically to blend the cheese as it melts. About 5 hours in, add lime juice to taste. Use tortilla chips (yellow corn) to dip and enjoy!

For dessert, I made one of my favorite hand-me-down recipes from my mom – fruit salsa.  My mom used to make “elephant ears” (quartered tortillas spread with butter, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, then baked) to dip the salsa. I decided to experiment with homemade cinnamon pita chips. If you want to take the easy way out, I recommend Stacy’s cinnamon sugar pita chips. Be warned – it is easy to eat the entire bag and not even notice!

IMG_1978[1]Mama’s Fruit Salsa
1 jar strawberry or
blackberry preserves
5 kiwi, peeled and diced
3 bananas, peeled and diced
1 pint strawberries, capped and diced

Combine preserves and fruit. Refrigerate for 1 hour to release juices. Serve with cinnamon pita chips (recipe below).

Cinnamon Pita Chips
1 pkg. whole wheat pitas, cut in eighths (triangles)
Butter flavored cooking spray (I prefer Smart Balance)
2 T ground cinnamon
1 T light brown sugar

Once you’ve cut pitas, coat both sides with cooking spray. Combine cinnamon and brown sugar. Sprinkle mixture over pitas. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, or until crispy. Enjoy your pita and salsa with a nice chilled glass of your favorite white wine!

Bon appetit! :P

things i’m loving

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via Target
Who doesn’t love a good cross body (especially for under 20 buckaroos!)? This bright cobalt is all the rage this season.

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via Essie
My joints are aching for some warm weather…and this polish in mint candy apple doesn’t help. Would be super cute with a golden accent (i.e. gold nail or two or even a design).

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via Pottery Barn
My bathroom is so happy with its new robe hooks and matching fixtures in oil rubbed bronze. Just my style – classic with a hint of antique.

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via Jillian Michaels’ Body Revolution
These workouts have been kicking my butt! They’re only about 35 minutes each and make you hurt in all the right places :). Hopefully by summer I’ll have her abs…I can dream, right?!

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via Moi
French press coffee is the best – especially if you don’t have to leave your house! Mine is made by Bodum and I love it. It’s easy to use and easy to clean. It’s available at Target and  Bed Bath & Beyond. I also have a Keurig but it’s easier to adjust the strength with my press.

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via Moi (again)
I recently had dinner with my friend, Elizabeth, at Soul Gastrolounge in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood of Charlotte. I’ve heard great things about it for years, but never tried it. Believe me, its name doesn’t do it justice. We ended our tantalizing tapas dinner with a dark chocolate cupcake with salted caramel ganache and a whipped malt frosting. The photo isn’t very clear, but it didn’t last long enough to get another ;). This was one of the best cupcakes ever! It paired perfectly with a good ole cup ‘o joe.

vintage finds

In case you didn’t already know this about me, I am kind of obsessed with old things. Vintage things. Antique things. Beaten up treasures, as I like to call ‘em. Any time I need inspiration or feel blue, I simply head over to my favorite antique shop, which, coincidentally, is about one full mile from my house. It is called Piccolo. And it is AMAZING. (And yes, I know I use this adjective quite a bit, but sometimes nothing else seems to suffice.)

It is a two-story shop with booth after booth of items that have been repainted or stained or hidden away in someone’s garage or attic for far too long. I love to look at old stuff, even if it’s not my particular taste, and think about its story. Why did someone turn that old bike into a planter? Who decided to make mason jars blue? What prompted someone to paint an old chair black, then green, then pink? So many questions with so many stories.

Here are some of my most recent finds:

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1} I love the shape of this mirror – symmetrical and unique. 2} How much would you love organizing office documents in this postal station?! 3} I love chairs…and this one is fab! I may have to return to snag this baby!

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4} I’m really digging this slate milk paint on this gorg buffet. A nice refreshed piece! 5} The detail on this coffee table is so eye-catching. AND it’s on wheels! This would solve the problem of having to pick up a table whenever I want to exercise in the living room…

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6} Beach cruiser turned planter slash yard art equals lovely, or bc –> planter = lovely. Now that’s math I like :)

I think a part of me identifies with these old things. Not because they’re old or distressed, necessarily, but because even though they may be a little worn or newly refreshed, they were once special to someone. They tell a story about the person that used to own them, used to treasure what they were or the memory of who gave it to them. Every time I visit an antique shop, especially this one, I think of my grandmother. She used to turn worn out things into beautiful pieces in my grandparents’ home. I think that’s where I get my knack for it. Whenever I recover a chair or stain a dresser or even make a burlap memo board from a falling-to-pieces cork board, I think of how I used to watch her do things like that when I was little. I was mesmerized by what new things she could create out of someone else’s discarded treasures. Now that I am creating things for my own home just as she once did, I feel close to her again. I can smell her in the drawers of the bedside tables I stained…hear her in the creaks the aged window I hung on my front porch makes when the wind blows…see her smile in the sunny yellow fabric I covered her old camel back sofa in last summer. If she were still here, she would have helped me with every project I’ve done to make my first house my home. I am so grateful for the time I had with her and for all the things she taught me.

How about you? Find any treasures lately? Found any worn out furniture or knickknacks that remind you of someone?

choco-lot!

I have been on a crazy chocolate kick lately…not that I don’t partake in the usual fix, but I have been baking chocolate things a little more than normal. The past couple of weeks I have made a double dark chocolate cake (just because),

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milk chocolate cupcakes (for a friend’s birthday),

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and dark chocolate cupcakes with orange buttercream frosting (for dinner at a friend’s).

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Now, I haven’t gone on complete chocolate overload as I have tried to share/give away as much as I can. My mom is a lover of chocolate, too, so I of course had to share a little bit of all of the above with her.

For the chocolate cake and frosting, I used Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate cake and frosting recipe straight from the box of cocoa. For the milk chocolate cupcakes, I used the original Hershey’s cocoa box for the cupcake and frosting recipe. I say, if the recipe is the BEST, why mess with it?! For the chocolate orange cupcakes, I did take a few liberties with the recipe. I used the Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate cake recipe, subbing one teaspoon of vanilla for a teaspoon of freshly squeezed orange juice. I also snuck in a little orange zest. For the frosting, I used 1 stick of unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed orange juice, 4 cups of confectioner’s sugar, 3 tablespoons of milk, and half of a jar of marmalade.

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I think these were kid tested and approved, wouldn’t you say? (Thanks to Beckham, 1, and Jack, 4, for letting me use them as my taste testers and posing so preciously for this photo. :))

Have you tried any new chocolate recipes lately? Feel free to share…

Giving Thanks and Black Friday Crafting

I know this comes a bit…er…late.  In my defense, my computer is ancient and likes to freeze up so I haven’t had the patience amidst the stress of the holidays to attempt a blog post.  We all know those can be difficult sometimes without an added computer problem. 

Anyway…our Thanksgiving was turkey-licious!  (Is that too corny?!)  My friend, Kristin, was down from DC so she convinced me to do an 8K Turkey Trot.  It was quite cold but definitely enjoyable.  I love seeing runners all dressed up in homemade turkey outfits ready to hit the pavement!  We did not dress up this time, but I’m already planning next year’s costume.  My faves of the day were two dads with Indian headdresses and speedos with “leather” strips attached.  Other than the head-gear and speedo skirt, they were clotheless.  But the cutest part was that they were pushing their daughters in trike strollers.  It was wrong and presh all at the same time.

Kristin has been marathon training so of course she kicked my butt, but 50 minutes ain’t too shabby for someone who hasn’t done a race since May when she completely ruined her ankle for about a month.  I have been perfectly fine with easing back in.  After the race, we spent half an hour searching for each other amidst the other 10,000 trotters.  We met up just in time to snap this:

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before heading to our respective houses for Turkey Day.  E and I decided to host out families this year, so we had a fun time selecting the menu and decorating.  His parents came down the mountain and my parents, sis and her bf and their 2 kids spent the evening eating and celebrating.  I made sweet and sour apple cranberry sauce, perfectly mashed potatoes, a beautiful apple pie with maple leaf detail and roasted molasses vegetables from December’s Southern Living.  All were a hit.  Everyone brought something so it was a little less stressful than usual.  I’d say it was a very happy day, especially since I didn’t beat myself up about eating so much after I ran 5 miles first thing that morning. :)

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The next day was the infamous Black Friday.  I never partake in the sales and ruckus so I decided to host a Christmas craft day instead!  I picked up a ton of stuff on sale at Michael’s and had a table set and ready to go. WARNING: the following photo is intended for craft nerds only.

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E’s sis and my good friend, Rachel, Kristin and I spent the entire day painting and glittering ornaments, making burlap wreaths and drinking poinsettias. Veronica (my friend with the awesome kids I talk about all the time) even stopped by for a poinsettia and some hang out time. 

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The wreath was definitely my favorite thing I made.  The piece with the flowers detaches so I can change it out with the season.  It was about $30 for the materials but I ended up with 5 wreaths.  It was another successful and fun day and I was even able to decorate half of my tree with the ornaments I made! 

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Anyone else doing some holiday crafting?  Do share…

Happy Holidays!

And she’s back!

I know, I know. I have been MIA for a couple months. I have no excuse except to say that I began a new job and a fellowship with Organizing for America in June, started another semester of grad school, was working about 60 hours a week and then found myself looking for another job…While I enjoyed taking the risk of joining the corporate world, I realized that wasn’t where I belonged. I am truly a nonprofiteer and am not happy doing anything else.

It took about 2 weeks of finally trying recipes I’ve pinned for months, redoing some antique finds, getting back on a regular running routine, sleeping long hours (and by long, I mean actually getting the recommended 8), volunteering and doing things I love/once again had time for to find another job. I’ve found that the whole “when God closes a door, He opens a window” saying is right on the money. I am absolutely thrilled to get to work with the Boys and Girls Club in my community, doing more than just fundraising. We’re still working out the details, but I will doing a lot more development work, which is largely the reason I applied to grad school in the first place. AND I will be working from home. You know what this means….another office remodel! There will be plenty of pics of this work in progress soon. Last weekend we had a yard sale to get rid of a lot of the crap that we’ve been storing in our current office and ended up raising half of what the Pottery Barn desk we’ve been eyeing costs. Woohoo! There will be more on the remodel soon.

Until then, here are some pics of what I’ve been up to:

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Interview with Ross Matthews about volunteering for the Obama campaign…

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Fall mantel redecorating…

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Mason’s (my nephew) 2nd Birthday at the park…

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Trip to Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia and a wine festival…

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Carrington’s wedding in Asheville…reminiscing with Jen about our days at the American Cancer Society…

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Fierce pose with my sister after a run and Insanity workout…

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Dresser remodel…from old, worn oak to smooth navy nautical…

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Beckham’s 1st Birthday (I’ve known his parents since high school)…

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Rally to hear Michelle Obama at the Charlotte airport…

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Corn and roasted red pepper soup with a brie, turkey and cranberry compote baguette.

I am so glad to be back online! See y’all soon ;)

Buying, Eating and Living Local

This weekend was one of those “I couldn’t have planned it better” weekends.  I did a lot of catching up with friends.  My new job has kept me tres b-u-s-y so I haven’t had much time for the people I care about lately.  This weekend certainly made up for it.

Friday after work I met my old coworker and friend, Becca, at a local Belmont dive, JAX, for Happy Hour.  We try to do this once a week but sometimes we have to skip a week or two.  This week was exceptionally crazy for both of us so it was a much needed date.  Appetizers were half off so we split nachos and our favorite fried cajun shrimp.  We desperately wanted to snag these glasses, but the waitress was kind enough to let us have them:

The next morning, I got up bright and early to help set up a Voter Registration booth with another friend, Elizabeth, at the local farmer’s market in Mount Holly.  I love going to the farmer’s market and checking out local produce and talking to farmers about harvesting and what they enjoy most about cultivating delicious fruits and vegetables.  There were beautiful sunflowers, peaches, meats, cheeses and vegetables galore.  I skipped breakfast as I was running late as usual so my mouth began watering immediately.  I sought out the bakery booth and got a blueberry muffin and cinnamon orange bread.  Then I sampled a bacon cheddar cheese, fresh sausage, gala apples, pimento goat cheese….and suddenly my hunger subsided.  The coolest part of the market was the cooking demonstration by a local chef and caterer, Bocca Felice.  The master chef herself, Gina, was super spunky and fun to watch. She even posed for this pic while she was talking about produce:

All of the ingredients in her cooking demonstration were from various vendors at the market.  How cool is that?!  The only thing that wasn’t was the olive oil, but she got that from a local place called Olive 2 Live (where I get all of my infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars).  Her menu included basil pesto yellow fin tuna steaks, zucchini fritters with fresh corn kernels and tomato basil soup.  Elizabeth thoroughly enjoyed her tuna!

Isn’t she cute? I think so. It was very hard to take this picture without stealing her tuna!  After we sampled all of the tasty dishes, we loaded up our reusable “shop locally” bags with goodies from a few of the booths.  One man had fresh veal and if it hadn’t been $40 I would’ve definitely come home with some!  Instead, here was my spread at the end of the day:

Goat milk lavender lotion, wildflower honey, heirloom tomatoes, okra, cinnamon orange bread, pimento goat cheese, goat cheese log and sausage.  I am so excited to indulge this week!

After the farmers market, I met my BF Jayni at a Selwyn Pub in Charlotte for a drink (she had just gotten off from a 12 hour shift in the ER) and froyo.  We double treated ourselves :).  My froyo was taro with coconut and brownie bites….DEEEELISH!

A few hours later, I met my old high school friends, Veronica and Andrew, along with their adorable baby, Beckham, for dinner at a new local place, The Round Bistro.  On the way, we had to drop their oldest, Jack, off at his grandparents.  But not before singing “Call Me Maybe” and dancing in the car.

Adorbs!  He is my little buddy.  I love spending time with them…Ronica, Drewby and I always have some great laughs about high school, parenthood (even though I can’t quite relate) and our food obsessions.  They totes (short for totally) get me.  I also kinda set them up in high school, so I consider them my most successful matchmaking experiment :D.  Anyway….I had a scrumptious portobello burger that I could only eat half of (maybe it was the late afternoon beer and froyo?).

After dinner (and some awkward sightings of peeps from our past lives), we came back to my place and enjoyed another beer while we made peach crisp from fresh local peaches Andrew got from another local farmer’s market.  Then it was Beckham’s bedtime so they had to scoot and I took full advantage of an early bedtime myself!

Sunday morning was a continuance of my weekend of catching up, eating and apparently drinking.  I met Elizabeth and Becca for brunch at 2 p.m., where we had a blast mixing our own Bloody Marys at their brunch bar.  I decided to go for a mix of the lobster, crab and Jamaican Me Crazy tomato juices, worcestershire sauce, tabasco and lime.  I also snagged a ton of okra – my fave - from their pickled veggies selection.

My drink went so well with my afternoon breakfast…

The bacon was thick AND crisp, which almost never happens, and the grits were creamy goodness.  Becca literally licked my bowl.  I’d say all in all I had a pretty tasty weekend!  I had a fabulous time trying new, local dives and shopping locally!