Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Our stockings

My parents

The boys and their new toys

Christmas jammies (taken on 12/24/13)

Christmas---12/25/2013 (continued)

letter from Emerson

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Our 14th Anniversary Dinner---12/15/13

Happy 14 years of marriage to us!

We did something completely nontraditional for our anniversary this year by including the kids.  It fell on a Sunday this year and it just wasn't worth the logistics of getting someone to babysit them.  Our first pick was to go to Choplin's in Cornelius but we got turned away due to the place being shut down for a holiday party.  I was very disappointed.  Clayton called our second choice, Epic Chophouse in Mooresville, to make sure that they were open.  He asked if we needed a reservation and the girl said it would be no problem.  Well, she lied.  We had to wait at least 30 minutes before being seated.  As soon as the boys started looking over the menu, they freaked out over the prices and said so loudly.  We were so embarrassed!  We never take our kids to really nice restaurants so they weren't acclimated to the atmosphere or the sticker shock, lol.  It turns out that they didn't really offer a real kid's meal but they could whip up just about anything for them.  Hayden chose his regular chicken fingers, but Emerson was thrilled to get his own steak  E devoured his before I could even begin to eat my fish.  Clayton shared some of his with him so he was in steak heaven.  This place is known for great steaks and it didn't disappoint.  I will not be ordering fish next time, that's for sure.  Oh, I forgot to mention our delicious appetizer.  We had cheese toasts.  They were divine!  For dessert, the boys opted for the Epic cake (the cake was humongous-the pic does it no justice) and I had the creme brulee.  Everything was remarkable and we will be going there again.  

Strange thing to note: This place happens to be a block away from where they film the tv show Banshee.  I have been on set in that area before but didn't notice this great place.  The Cadi, Miles' Diner, and the meat processing plant are all one street back from the restaurant.  

Sorry the pics are terrible but they were taken with my iPhone in low lighting.

Molly was happy when we returned.  She is completely smitten with my man.  I don't blame her, lol.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Yearly Ornaments, Colorado Spruce, & The Novice---12/1, 12/5, 12/10

On the 1st of every December, the elves ring the front door bell and run.  All we ever see is the bag of ornaments that they left for us.  I got the cute owl, the boys each got a penguin, and Clayton got a cool Santa.  This is a fun tradition for us and it will be good whenever my boys move out.  The thought is that they will have a collection of meaningful ornaments to start their own trees with.  Their grandma Christie sends them yearly ornaments also so they will definitely be able to decorate an entire tree by adulthood.  

When I got this unexpected gift in the mail from Lowe's, I cried.  It totally touched my heartstrings when I saw that it was a "Colorado" blue spruce.  I miss that state so much (though I love being near my family and I hated the long winters there).  I hope that we move that way again and that my parents follow us.  We shall see.

I have been doing a lot of background acting lately and it is so much fun!  On this day, I was working on the set of a new TV show called "The Novice".  I had already worked on the pilot the week before but got to return since I wasn't seen.  Unfortunately, I wasn't really seen this time either.  I was in the far background as a pedestrian during a scene where there was some action on the streets.  Clayton's car (the silver Corolla on the street) was left all day to serve as a vehicle waiting at a traffic light.  The people working in uptown Charlotte weren't too happy with us being there as this was a busy intersection that got blocked off for filming all day long.  Egad.  Considering that the show messed up the morning and evening commutes for many people, there were a lot of bad things said online, lol.  Anyway, this show will be on USA and is made by Fox.  It looks to be a pretty decent show.  The lead guy is a cutie named Shane Coffey and his father is played by Alan Ruck (Cameron from Ferris Bueller).  

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Meet Molly---Adopted 12/8

This rotten cat has rocked our world.  She is the sweetest thing!  I had planned to get a cat next Christmas but Molly just kinda happened.  On our neighborhood app, someone was looking for a home for her.  I couldn't resist.  I just had to meet her and see if she was the cat for us.  Sure enough, she is the bomb diggity.  Though Clayton is her favorite person, I won't hold a grudge. ;)
Attached to my hip (literally!)
These bottom pics are grainy because I took them on my iPhone without a flash, but check out this cat's crazy way she lays on our bed at night.  She LOVES the heated blanket.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Week Events-11/26, 11/28, 11/30/13

Clayton and a birthday cookie skillet from Afton Tavern

For Clayton's 37th birthday, we went out to Afton Tavern to celebrate.  The Stewart family joined us.  We gave him some new shoes and golf pants but the coolest gift came from his mom.  It was a 1983 coffee bean roaster, lol.  Yes, I know that it sounds like a crappy gift but you have no idea.  CJ has been roasting his own coffee beans for a while now using a popcorn machine from the early 80s (he had to do some conversions to make it work).  If you want to know how, google it.  Newer machines don't work as well as the old ones so there is a marketplace on ebay for old popcorn poppers to be used as roasters.  Seriously.  They really do work! We have a nice Jura espresso machine and it serves the homemade roasted beans well.  Anyway, his mom managed to find an actual vintage roaster from the same time.  It has been interesting comparing it to his rigged up version.  His sister sent him some green Kona beans to roast and they are soooo good. 

I have been hosting Thanksgiving almost every year since we started dating in 1997.  To say that I have this down to a fine art, is an understatement.  You should see my crazy turkey day spreadsheets.  Heck if I will ever just wing it.  As long as I follow my plan, everything turns out perfect.  I go big so there is usually enough to feed a small army.  This year, I changed up the sweet potatoes, fruit salad, and corn.  These dishes were so much better this go round.  Here are the new recipes that I used:

My parents came to spend Thanksgiving with us and ended up taking the kids back home with them for the weekend.  We took advantage of our alone time by heading down to Matthews.  I had been wanting Clayton to experience the Carolina Beer Temple for some time now.  I had discovered it with my friend Jessica a while back and knew he would love it.  We were hungry when we arrived so we went to Royal Cafe & Creperie next door first.  Our first crepe was a delicious Philly cheese steak one followed by caramel apple pie crepe.  The one shown in the pic is the dessert one.  Both crepes were so big that we split them both.  At the Carolina Beer Temple, CJ had a Mexi-Cali stout from Bird Song in Charlotte and I had Cold Mountain from Highland Brewing Company in Asheville.  Yum!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Southern Women's Christmas Show---11/14/13

Me & My Mom

Every year, the females in my family attend the annual Southern Women's Christmas Show in Charlotte.  It is a tradition amongst us.  We've been going 20+ years.  Heck, I used to skip school to go with them when I was a little girl.  When I moved to Colorado, I missed out on this tradition for 4 straight years but that won't happen again as long as I am here in NC.  It is such a fun event to get into the Christmas spirit.  There are lots of vendors and food merchants that return year after year.  I always look forward to an Amish cheese booth, the wine marketplace area, a NC fudge vendor, and the many fun Christmas decor booths. 

Friday, November 08, 2013

Emerson's 9th Birthday---11/8/13

My baby boy is officially 9. :)

Sorry for being absent for so long from the ole blog.  Things have been crazy here and I slacked off.  My 2013 family scrapbook album is 2 pages from being done but my blog is way behind.  I am going to play catch-up over the next few days to get everything on here for posterity.  Please bear with me as I have a lot to post.

In November, we celebrated E's 9th birthday.  We didn't do a big party this year since we went really wild last year (Great Wolf Lodge).  I let him bring his friend Jacob with us to Red Robin for dinner and then we went home to eat cake.  He didn't have a preference for what kind of cake he wanted, so I baked him a secret rainbow cake.  He had no idea how pretty it was until we cut the first slice.  The oohs and ahhs made it worth the effort.
These silly boys were a riot at dinner.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Bon Jovi: Because We Can---11/6/13

Ok, so I know that we saw this same tour back in March, but I just couldn't resist going one more time when they decided to stop in Raleigh.  The last concert was 3/5 in Charlotte and I was 5 days away from my due date with surrobaby #3.  I was miserable but at least we got to see one of the last concerts that Richie Sambora decided to show up to.  I gotta say though, this second concert was wayyyy better and they did just fine without him.  We had kick-butt seats on the floor in section 1 so we could see Jon in all his glory without squinting (the pics I have suck but there's only so much you can expect from an iPhone).  

It was a great feeling to be back in NCSU territory while we were there.  PNC Arena is home to the NC State Wolfpack.  Ahhh, we had a such a wonderful night.  We stayed at a hotel near the arena and my mom & aunt stayed with our boys back home.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Sherried Tomato Soup

We tried this soup today for lunch and it got a big thumbs up from my hubby.  I thought it was rather tasty but I think it needs some noodles in it.  The flavor is very robust.  We both loved the little chunks of tomatoes in it but I think I will try it blended with an immersion blender next time.  Thanks Judith for this new recipe!

Cathy's Sherried Tomato Soup (via Pioneer Woman)
  • 6 Tablespoons Butter melted
  • 1 Medium Onion Diced
  • 1 bottle (46 Oz.) Tomato Juice
  • 2 cans (14 Oz. Cans) Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon (up To 3 T.) Chicken Base
  • 3 Tablespoons (up To 6 T.) Sugar
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • Black Pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Cooking Sherry
  • 1-1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • Fresh Parsley chopped
  • Fresh Basil chopped
Sauté diced onions in butter until translucent. Then add canned tomatoes, tomato juice, chicken base, sugar, pinch of salt, black pepper and stir. Bring to a near boil, then turn off heat. Add in sherry and cream and stir. Add in parsley and basil to taste.
BTW-My friend omits the sherry and it is still good.  I opted to only use 1/2 C. in it.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sicilian Chicken Soup

Clayton and I love soup so I started a post asking for favorite recipes on Facebook.  I had many good responses so I designated this week as soup week.  We will be trying 7 new recipes that are guaranteed to be tried-n-true by my friends.  Day 1 started on Monday but then I ended up working on a movie set on Tuesday (12pm-2am), so day 2 got pushed to Wednesday. Well, I was too exhausted on Wednesday and we went out to eat instead.  Tonight will be day 2 and then I will finish day 7 on Tuesday.  I will post each recipe here along with a review so everyone can try these amazing soups. :)

Last week, we tried a recipe and loved it.  This Sicilian Chicken Soup is very much the same as the chicken soup at Carrabba's.  It is very hearty and the flavor is spot on.  I want to thank Amy for sharing it with me. :)

Sicilian Chicken Soup (Carrabba's clone)

  • celery ribs
  • 4 medium carrots peeled
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2 medium potatoes peeled
  • 1 large green bell pepper
  • 1 14 oz can Italian plum tomatoes (or whole peeled tomatoes)
  • chicken breasts ( or 2-3 B/S thighs)
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 6 quarts chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • Romano cheese for topping
  • pasta

1. Cook chicken. Reserve broth to cook vegetables in. Tear it into 1 inch pieces, kinda thin, but not shredded.

2. Dice celery, carrots, onion, potatoes and bell pepper into 1/4-inch pieces.

3. Chop tomatoes; reserve all juice. 

4. Place chicken broth, vegetables, tomatoes with their juice, parsley and garlic in a 10-quart stockpot. Season with salt and pepper. Slowly bring soup to a boil over low heat. Partially cover pot and simmer until vegetables are soft enough to mash in the bottom of the pot with the back side of a large cooking spoon. (I did not mash my veggies.)

5. Add chicken and bring it back to a simmer.  

6. Add cooked pasta to soup. Sprinkle the fresh Romano cheese on top.

Note---If you prefer, you can refrigerate and remove the fat that solidifies on the surface of the soup.

Stay tuned for: Day 1-Chicken Verde Stew with Hominy (It was another hit!)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Uncle Jake and Aunt Judy's 50th Anniversary

My Aunt Judy is my "other mother".  She has always acted as a second mom to me.  My mom worked full time when I was little so my aunt stepped in to provide childcare.  I have always deemed her extra special since she played such a large part in my upbringing.  When her 50th anniversary desires for a big party came up, I offered to make invitations.  Originally, I was going to do a simple computer graphic one and print it through Shutterfly.  That ended up not happening.  I decided to make all 54 invites myself.  Besides the shopping and creating the rough draft, I spent a whole day putting them together (7:30am-11:30pm with just a few breaks for meals and picking up the boys from school).  It was a pain but well worth the ecstatic praise I got when Judy saw the invite for herself.  They are elegant and classy, just how I view her. 

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Sunflower Painting

At the end of last month, I went to Thomasville to hang with a bunch of cool gals for a painting session with The Preppy Possum.  These events are always so much fun!  I love to paint. :)

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Stitch Fix #12 and #13 Reviews

It's been a while since I have done a Stitch Fix review and for that, I am sorry.  I haven't felt good lately so taking pics of myself hasn't been on my agenda.  I received #12 back in September.  I didn't take photos of everything in the box because I had already sent back 3 of the items.  The 2 that I kept are phenomenal though.  The RD Style Denver Cable Knit Elbow Patch Cardigan is perfect for the winter.  I love the zagged knitting, pretty buttons, and beautiful natural color.  It will go with everything.  The Rizzo Skinny Ponte Pants by Sanctuary are a perfect fit.  They are like leggings but more substantial.  They feel like wearing yoga pants so they will be much loved by me over the winter.
These 3 tops came in fix #13 that I got recently.  My stylist (Jackie) knocked it out of the ball park once again.  Yep, I kept the whole shebang and got 25% off the entire fix for doing so.  The Ivy Tulip Print Tab-Sleeve Blouse and the Abrianna Longsleeve Knit Cardigan are both by 41Hawthorn (Stitch Fix's in-house brand).  The tulip shirt looks good on every blogger that I have seen wearing it so I decided to put it on my Pinterest a while back.  Lo and behold, my stylist pays attention to my pins.  The gray cardigan is beyond remarkable.  It is so stylish and simple.  The color will match most of my clothes.  The red top is by Dylan & Rose and feels so good.  The fabric is super soft and stretchy.  I requested this one after seeing on another blogger.  It has a nice slimming effect through the waist.  The name of it is the Ruthie Cross-Front Side-Ruched Top.
These teal skinnies are so dang cool!!  My photo does them no justice.  The color is really deep and they are perfect for the colder seasons.  They are made by Velvet Heart and are called the Benjamin Skinny Jean.  I will admit that the Bradman Abstract Chevron Print Blouse by Collective Concepts isn't my favorite but that is okay.  I knew I was going to buy the other 4 items and once you take the discount into account, it doesn't make sense not to get the whole box instead.  It is cheaper to buy all 5 with the 25% off rather than 4 items at full price.  Anyway, I kinda like it.  It matches the pants perfectly.  The only thing that bugs me is that it is pleated around the bust line.  When I turn to the side just right, it looks like my boobs are huge water balloons.  My husband noticed and said that my chest looked ridiculous.  I was wearing a padded bra though so I know a regular one will help me out.

So there ya go, my latest fixes.  If you are interested in joining Stitch Fix, I would appreciate you clicking on any of my links to give me referral credit.  I am simply crazy about this service!!  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Be Our Guest---8/23/13

The boys goofing off with the gargoyles on the bridge

I read a bazillion reviews on BOG and it seemed that the majority didn't like the food but loved the experience.  I concur with that.  We went into BOG knowing that the food was going to most likely be a let down but that was okay.  We just wanted to see the newest restaurant and meet Beast.  If you are even remotely considering eating here, you need to make an ADR (advance dining reservation) at 180 days out from the first day of your vacation to secure a spot.  This isn't just advice, it is necessary.  It is extremely popular right now and I saw many people being turned away at the bridge because they didn't have an ADR.  Of course people gripe and grumble about not getting into restaurants at Disney but it really isn't that hard to plan for in advance.  Sheesh.  Disney suggests booking 180 days out and they tell you when your booking window will open up.  Trust me, early planning is what will make or break your Disney vacation.  If you need help, email me and I would be happy to walk you through planning the perfect WDW vacation. :) 
My desserts: passion fruit tart and the grey stuff

I love passion fruit but this tart was wayyy too tart, IMO.  The grey stuff is never mentioned in the restaurant but will be given to those celebrating something special.  My birthday was 2 weeks before the trip but I celebrated my birthday here too.  The grey stuff is something in the movie but I can't remember.  If you want to try it, wear a birthday or anniversary button and be sure your celebration is noted on your reservation.
H, S, & E had cupcakes: chocolate, lemon, and strawberry cheesecake

Everyone with a cupcake seemed to enjoy them.  Clayton opted out of dessert this round.
And the moment we had been waiting for, our meeting with the BIG Beast.  It was cool seeing a new character.  His home was beautiful!  Now that we have this experience checked off our list though, we don't feel it is necessary to return.  They really need to change the menu to get us to go back.  We shall see.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Disney World 2013 (Day 10)

8.24.13---Dum dum dummmmm...  The suckiest day of the whole trip was finally here.  I didn't want to leave!  We had such a blast.  Here's a few things we learned this time around:

- The Polynesian means a lot to us and that the hefty price tag is well worth it.
- Animal Kingdom was about to get written out of all future WDW plans but Expedition Everest redeemed it.
- Emerson isn't quite ready for thrill rides.
- Magic Bands are the bomb diggity.
- Sanaa and Via Napoli are now in our "must-eat-at" restaurants.
- The Lapu Lapu pineapple drink at the Poly is nothing but straight up rum.
- Sci-Fi Dine-In will always be our quiet refuge in Hollywood Studios.
- Waiting in long lines is for suckers.  Fastpass + and paper fastpasses are the only way to go.
- People are rude even in the happiest of places.  Feel free to put them in their place from time-to-time. ;)
- Counter service options in our resort is a HUGE deal.  We should be able to grab a quick bite easily without having to walk 500 miles to get to it.
- Always, and I mean always, book another trip immediately before departure so that the planning can begin as soon as we get home. :)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Disney World 2013 (Day 9)

8.23.13---This was the last full day and the craziest of the whole trip.  We managed to park hop to 3 of the 4 parks.  It was insane but necessary.  We had 3 fastpass + ressies for Star Tours, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, and Toy Story Mania so we headed over to Hollywood Studios first.  We didn't like our lunch options in HS so we got on a bus to head to Animal Kingdom.

It took a lot of convincing to get my family on-board with the idea of returning to Animal Kingdom.  AK is our least favorite park but I just had to go ride Expedition Everest.  If we left Florida without getting to ride it, I was going to feel cheated.  I only got my family to agree by offering to run into the park to get paper fastpasses while they went to eat at Rainforest Cafe.  Let me tell you, that was no east task.  The park was crowded and the there were people dawdling everywhere.  I ran and dodged around to get back to the Asia section of the park.  Naturally, it was the furthest back I could go on the side.  Ugh.  I was sweating like a pig by the time I got back to the restaurant at the front entrance of AK.  An employee outside of the Rainforest Cafe asked me if I had just gotten off the Kali River Rapids ride.  I was puzzled and told him no.  That's when I looked down and realized that my shirt was soaked with sweat.  Gross!  It actually looked like I had been on a water ride.  After some drinks and lunch, we headed into AK and made our way to EE.  Let me just say that it was worth the trouble.  EE is now my favorite coaster (as well as Emerson's).
Emerson and Steph

We spent the night over at the Magic Kingdom.  Dinner was at Be Our Guest in the new Fantasyland.  I have several pics and things to say about BOG so I will post that in a second post.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Disney World 2013 (Day 8)

8.22.13---This day was spent at EPCOT.  We ate lunch at Via Napoli in Italy.  It was just as good this time as it was the first time earlier in the week.  I adore their charred pizzas and arancini balls.  Afterward, we went to Soarin', Nemo, and Test Track to use our fastpass + ressies.  

E is inside the shark, lol.

 That night, everyone went to the pool while I hung back for a nap.  I woke up just in time to watch Wishes from our balcony.  It was hard taking shots of fireworks when I can't remember how to do so but at least you can get an idea of how pretty they were.  I loved being able to watch the show in the comfort of our room.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Disney World 2013 (Day 7)

 8.21.13---We had breakfast at Kona Cafe in the Poly.  We weren't impressed.  Kona is usually amazing at all meal times but it just wasn't as great as it has been in the past.  From now on, we will stick to lunch and dinner for this place.  Captain Cook's offers all the goodies that we want and is cheaper so I just can't see spending so much money at Kona.  Heck, their signature Tonga toast is served in CC for a lot less and it is the same exact thing.

We headed over to the Magic Kingdom to use our 4 fastpass + ressies.  After riding those rides and a couple others, we headed back to the Poly.  We couldn't figure out what we wanted to eat so Clayton decided to drive somewhere.  When I saw a sign for Chuy's, I knew that was where we should go.  I have heard rave reviews of this place but never been there.  It was good but apparently I really missed out by not trying a margarita.  My friend Jessica says that they are the bomb diggity.  A Chuy's just opened up in Charlotte so we will have to make the trip down there for one soon.
Hayden, Emerson, and Steph on Space Mountain

Steph enjoying some ice cream

That night, we headed back to the MK to see the Celebrate the Magic projection show and Wishes fireworks in front of the castle.  Steph got to see Wishes (for the first time) from our hotel but being in front of the castle is a whole 'nother story.  It turns out the the projection show was every bit of amazing as the fireworks is.  It was very cool how the images changed on the front of the castle.  We had a great time and everyone loved it. :)