Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Seven Places/Six Wants

So I was going to do seven wants until I realized that most of my wants were basically places...so here we go with six places!


Hubs and I are in the dreaming stage of planning a trip to London.  It's first up on our list.  I have wanted to visit since I was a young girl.

Amanda over at KevinandAmanda.com has been posting photos from their recent trip and she's making me completely jealous not to mention salivate over the amazing food and her out of this world photography skills.

2.  ROME


I seriously want to visit Rome.  The beautiful architecture, the food, the history.  It's on our bucket list.


The Brother, Dad, and I near San Francisco in 1989.
In 1989, my family and my aunt and uncle visited my cousin and her family in San Francisco.  Together we all visited Los Angeles and Hearst Castle in San Simeon.  Around 1990, my family moved to a city outside Oakland.  Lately I have wanted to visit my childhood haunts - the apartment and house we lived in, my elementary and middle schools, just everywhere.  I think it would be fun to show Hubs where I spent 4 years of my life.


I blogged recently about the trip fever I have been having lately and the beach is at the top of that list!


I have some serious hero bloggers and writers and I would love to join their ranks.  I don't know if that will ever happen but until then I'll keep plugging away at what I'm doing!  You never know what the future holds.


I LOVE taking pictures.  People even pay me to take their picture.  But I don't do a good job capturing the everyday.  As Hubs and I look at our 10th wedding anniversary coming up, we have been thinking about 10 years worth of memories.  I have loads of pictures of trips and big special events but then again, I don't have enough.  Maybe being a photographer does that to you, you crave that image memory.  I need to devote more time to just capturing what's happening around me.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Menu Plan Monday

Hubs and I are on a cleaner eating kick.  Of course we are in our ever present search for new menu ideas that are healthy and this week we really did well and since last week we have both already seen results on the scale!  Here is this week's menu...

Since we grocery shop on Thursday nights, I'll start then with our menu...

Thursday - Grocery night and out to eat.  It was Mexican and wasn't entirely healthy but we didn't want hungry bellies for the grocery store.  See I can rationalize this well.  :-)

Friday - Quinoa Meatball Subs - I used this recipe but instead of sliders I used full-length whole wheat buns.  Delicious!

Saturday - I had a wedding photography gig and Hubs spent the day painting so we opted for easy yet it wasn't too bad at all.  We picked up a Palmero's Flatbread Pizza from BOGO at Publix.  We split it for 410 calories each and paired it with a salad.  Delicious and filling.

Sunday - Turkey Meatloaf, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Green Beans
I made up my own recipe using ground turkey, parsley, minced garlic, onions, oats, and quinoa.  YUM!

Monday - Spaghetti and Salad (again using ground turkey and whole wheat noodles)

Tuesday - Chicken Stir-fry over rice
Picked up some sesame-ginger sauce from Publix.  Planning to add onions, squash, and zucchini

Wednesday - Fish (either some frozen whiting filets we have or regular Gorton's Fish Sticks), Rice, and asparagus

For tons of meal ideas (even ones you can make healthy) visit Orgjunkie.com's Menu Plan Monday!

Monday, June 2, 2014

10 Day Challenege - 8 Fears

Eight Fears - Even if they are completely irrational...

1.  Getting beheaded.  Or just generally getting my head separated from my body.  Totally irrational.  But a real fear.

2.  Getting Stuck in an Elevator

3.  The Dark.  I go to sleep with the tv on and I sleep with a nightlight.  No joke.

4.  Raw (or bad) meat.  Undercooked.  Or just bad.  Yuckie!

5.  Flamingos.  No joke.  They creep me out.  I think it's their legs. 

6.  Tripping or falling in public.  Or just general public humiliation.

7.  Needles.  This is sort of ironic seeing as I'm a diabetic...

8.  The Ocean.  Okay, not the ocean exactly but super strong undertows.  I can remember riding waves on an inter-tube and getting pulled under and the undertow and the breaking waves.  I couldn't stand up despite being in less than 3 feet of later.  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

10 Day You Challenge - Day 2

Day One - Nine Loves

#1 - Hubs
Some people say your spouse can't be your best friend but we truly are best friends.  We are both complete nerds and have the best adventures.
#2 - My Parents

My parents are pretty awesome.  They are cool cats who raised me to be strong and independent.
#3 - My Best Friends
And sadly we don't have one single picture with our entire group!!
#4 - The Kiddos
The red-headed baby doll.

Super Handsome Nerd Baby

The Princess
My favorite ball player.
#5 - My Fur Babies
 Shelby is our rescue puppy.  She's a total mutt but obviously she has a LOT of German Shepherd.  We think her other half is Corgi.  She's a total doll and is seriously glued to my side every minute that I am home.
Jax is another rescue but the way cats think, he probably thinks he rescued us.  He is a curious cat but really a sweetheart.  He loves to cuddle on my shoulder and his favorite spot is on the couch behind my head.
#6 - The Beach
To clarify...Panama City Beach.  Our favorite vacation spot.
#7  - Photography
I have a photography business that started out of my favorite hobby.  I love taking pictures.  I love meeting new people through photography.  I have had the opportunity to capture countless family and children sessions and I'm about to photograph  my 5th wedding.
#8 - Thrift Store Shopping
I love browsing thrift stores and in our area, there are quite a few to explore.  You never know what you are going to find.  One time Hubs bought a car seat (like literally a bucket seat from a vehicle) and the other day I found a brand new DKNY sweater.
#9 - Blogs
I love reading blogs.  I don't comment as much as I should but I am getting better.  Here are some of my favorites (in absolutely no particular order).
#10 - Reading
I like to read when I can sit down and really enjoy it.  I like all sorts of genres - Romance, SciFi, Fantasy, Mystery, Classics, etc.  This past weekend I explored Play Books on my tablet and started reading The Secret Garden.  I know that I read this in school but that a little while ago so it is like reading a brand new book.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

10 Day You Challenge - Day 1

I came across this the 10 Day You Challenge on one of my favorite blogs - Peanut Butter Fingers.  I decided to give it a try.

Day 1 - Ten Secrets - I don't really know how good these "secrets" are.

#1 - I want to be a writer!  I write some but keep it hidden.  I am not comfortable sharing it but writing and getting published is definitely on my bucket list.

#2 - I have a soft spot for boy bands.  This may not really be a secret but I love some Backstreet Ones, New Kids on the Block, One Direction...etc. 

#3 - I have to hype myself up to run.  When I'm running, I get pretty unmotivated very quickly.  I have to constantly coach myself to keep going.  It's easier when I take Shelby because then I can say "Come on, Girl.  Just a little bit further," and everyone thinks I'm talking to the dog.

#4 - I'm quite OCD.  Some things I can let be ridiculously messy and unorganized but certain things have to have their place before I can relax.  Sometimes it happens with other people's stuff and I can't relax until I right the wrong. 

#5 - When I lost enough weight to stop shopping in the plus size section, I did a little happy dance in the dressing room. 

#6 - I absolutely despise wearing a swimsuit.  They are horrible creations.  Each time I'm in a swimsuit, I'm constantly thinking about how uncomfortable I am.  And I suck in the entire time I'm wearing one.

#7 - I'm scared of the dark.  I have to have light.  I cannot go to sleep in a completely dark room.  I fall asleep every night with the television on.

#8 - I can't stand nicknames like Kid, Honey, Sweetie, or any of those.  But I never correct someone if they use a nickname.  I'm generally friendly that way.

#9 - I once got my haircut and I told the girl that I liked it but I was crying before I ever got to my car.  It was sooooo short.  I cried all the way home. 

#10 - At Potluck meals, I only get the foods when I know who made them.  I have an irrational fear of buffets and potlucks in general so I make sure I know who made the food before I will even try it. 

Stay tuned...I think my Nine Loves is much better than my Ten Secrets.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend

On sort of a whim, we decided to go camping Friday night.  There was supposed to be a new meteor shower to see and the weather was supposed to be great so we set out for my cousin's farm. 

Don't ya just love my packing list!?
 My cousins have property only about 20 minutes from our house.  It's a giant farm with loads of open sky.  It was the perfect setting.  We found a nice campsite and set up our tent and built a little fire.  The evening turned out much cooler than expected so the fire helped knock the chill off.

 We took Shelby.  First of all, Shelby LOVES to ride in the Jeep and exploring is her favorite hobby.  She was in farm heaven with all of the smells from horses, chicken, crops, and good Alabama grass.

All of the camping essentials - fire, comfy chairs, and the Jeep that got you there.

My cousins were there preparing a field for planting so we got to visit for a while.  When they headed for home, we fired up our tiny new camp grill and made burgers.  We had burgers, chips, and monster munch for dessert.

The meteor shower ended up being a little lackluster and we were just plain exhausted so we ended up falling asleep somewhere during the 11 o'clock hour.  

Shelby kept us up off and on all night.  Sleeping in a new place was exciting stuff.   

We ended up waking up around 5 Saturday morning.  Camping makes you an early riser. 

My cousin came by early to get started on their planting and we attempted to make breakfast.  All we ended up making was sausage patties but we all three ( me, the Hubs, and Shelby) enjoyed them.

I had a photoshoot on Saturday morning but afterwards we headed to my parents' house to enjoy some dinner.  My dad was hungry for bbq so he went a little wild on the grill.  We had ribs, pork steaks, Italian sausage, smoked sausage, and chicken kabobs with squash, zucchini, and onions.  We also had homemade potato salad and coleslaw and corn on the cob.  It was so delicious!

My daddy knows his way around a grill.
 We spent the rest of the weekend hanging around the house, working outside (Hubs!), and swimming at my parents' house.  On Monday, I had a late lunch with my parents, grandmother, and aunt.  It was another round of my dad's grilling goodness. 
My parents have 5,000 beach towels but this one made me giggle.  They have had it since my brother picked it out when Aladdin first came out in theaters (1992!). 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Menu Plan Monday

So I was completely devastated this morning.  I had a gain of 5lbs on the scale!  This gain was due to improper planning - no meal plans, no lunch preparedness and eating entirely too much junk!  Hubs and I are determined to be better - plan better, shop better, be better.  I really want to try more clean eating.  I really need to focus on less fatty and carb-heavy foods.  Instead of dwelling on that horrible number on the scale, I plan to get rid of it by focusing, planning, and working hard!

Here is our menu this week -

Saturday - Stuffed Peppers (these were prepared by the Publix Meat Dept and not homemade), loaded potato casserole, and green beans

Sunday - Country Fried Steak (this is part of that no planning/bad decisions thing...), mac & cheese, leftover loaded potato casserole

Monday - Chinese "Fried" Rice and Chinese Chicken Salad

Tuesday - Steak and Chicken Kabobs (with squash, zucchini, and onions), rice, and corn

Wednesday - Breakfast at home - whole wheat pancakes and smoked sausage

Thursday - Grocery night with a plan for healthy, clean foods!

For hundreds of menu plan ideas, visit orgjunkie.com's Menu Plan Monday!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Our Weekend and Day One of Staycation

Each year we take a week's vacation in May, usually near Hubs' birthday (May 7th).  This week is our vacation and we decided to have a staycation this year.

Our vacation really started on Saturday.  Hubs worked around the house all day and then met me at a wedding. I spent the day decorating and getting beautified for the wedding of my one of my oldest friends. 

I met up with my friends at a local winery and event venue called Vizzini Farms Winery.  We decorated early for the evening wedding then headed to a local hotel to get ready.  It was a nice, busy day full of laughter and good company.  They introduced me to mimosas.  Wow I was missing out! 

 Forgive the blurry pictures.  These were the best I could get in the crowded hotel room.  But above is the bride herself and me before we dressed. 

Above is the maid of honor and my dear friend G and I after we got ready. 

The wedding took place at 6pm.  The weather was picture perfect.  N chose navy blue and gray for her colors.  Instead of tuxedos, the groom and groomsmen wore gray pants and vests with navy blue ties and each bridesmaid had a different style dress in Davids Bridal in marine blue.  Instead of traditional bouquets, the bridesmaids carried white lanterns.  After the ceremony, guests enjoyed to wines made the property (the green apple Riesling was my favorite) and a buffet of chicken Parmesan (with white alfredo sauce), potatoes, mixed vegetables, and rolls. There was dancing and some pretty amazing cupcakes (made by the bride).  We gave the newly married couple a candle-light send off.  It was a great evening for a wedding.

The only bad moment came on the way home.  There was a bad wreck and traffic was down to one lane.  As we approached the wreck, a cop stopped us then asked us to pull over.  We were very confused but I pulled out our registration papers and proof of insurance.  When the officer came to the window, he said they had received reports all evening that we were joyriding drunk, running people off the road and being reckless.  We were stunned.  We both said it couldn't have been us and that we had only gotten on the interstate a mile back and had been at a wedding for hours and hours.  I was still wearing my bridesmaid dresses and we still had the candles from the send off.  The candles were still warm.  I was even prepared to call the bride's family.  He didn't exactly believe us and had Hubs do an eye test.  He concluded that he wasn't drunk.  Well of course not.  I informed him again that I promise it wasn't us.  He sort of apologized and let us go on.  It was the weirdest 5 minutes of my life probably.  Being accused of something pretty horrible and yet we really couldn't defend ourselves without coming across as being disrespectful.   He never asked us for identification or anything.  I hope that if the "reports" were real, that that person was caught.  It was quite scary and just strange.  We drowned our nerves in burgers and chocolate shakes from Steak and Shake.

So for our first day off, we slept in late.  10 am.  We never do that!  We ran errands and enjoyed some Mexican food for Cinco de Mayo.  Hubs worked outside a bit more and I visited with him while he worked.  Now we have been enjoying a Dr. Who marathon for the past 4 hours.  A very nice staycation day.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Old Friends

This weekend I am in a wedding of one of my oldest friends.  Nicole and I knew each other when we were really young but became friends in 7th grade.  We are going on 20 years of friendship.  Every teenage memory includes Nicole.  Our group of friends were always together in some form or fashion.  I know this friendship is forever because it is that type of friendship where we don't see each other or spend near as much time together as we should but when we are together, things just fall into place.  It's comfortable.  And real. 

I'm super excited to be a bridesmaid in Nicole's wedding and celebrate this incredible time with them.

In honor of the wedding and since today is "Throwback Thursday," I want to share this beloved photo.

E, K, Me, G, and Nicole (the bride!)
This photo was taken our senior year of high school - homecoming actually.  These four girls (I'm in the center) made up my entire high school career.  We had other members of our group but this was the core.  I have so many memories that include these women.  It's amazing how much we have changed.  Our lives have taken unexpected turns but we are all still hanging on for the ride. 

E went on to work full-time for I guess all of these years.  She earned a bachelor's and master's in English.  She's as sassy as ever!  When I saw her at a celebration for Nicole, it has been years since we saw each other.  We never skipped a beat.  She's the exact same tell-it-like-it-is gal and I would never want her to change.  Oh, and she drives a convertible.

K went off to school right after graduation.  She is now a science teacher at our alma mater and lives in our hometown (as does E). She has a cute little boy - the only one of us with a child in fact.   And soon she will begin teaching kids of people we graduated with! Scary! 

G has a degree in art and works for a research department for the same univeristy I do (and Nicole too for that matter).  I gave her a reference when she was hired.  :-)  G was never a fashion guru in school.  Just be glad she showed up.  She didn't care for hair, makeup, and definitely not clothing.  Today though, her closet is probably 3 times bigger than mine.  She always looks amazing and her hair and makeup are flawless. 

Nicole is the same as she always was.  She's genuinely sweet and thoughtful.  She was always sort of the mother hen to G and I and she's still that way.  She plans everything out to the minute - which came in especially handy for wedding planning.  She has a degree in interior design.  It fits her.  She works for one of the academic schools on campus.  And I think she's thinking of going back to school to be a teacher.  She'll be a great teacher.  And hopefully she will add mommy to her list soon too.  If there was one person who was born to be a mother, it would be Nicole.  And she had plenty of practice helping to raise G and I.  :-)  G's parents adopted Nicole.  It was so very fitting that she and G became "real" sisters.  I can't wait to watch their mom this weekend.  She's going to be a puddle of emotion for sure.

So that's them.  My old friends.  Four incredibly strong, beautiful, and independent women.  In this group of women, three of them lost their mothers before they turned 25.  It shocked my soul each time.  But they kept going. 

Once upon a time we were just five band nerds with no responsibility.  Now we have husbands, kids, careers, homes, retirements, and the list goes on.  We have each traveled the paths in front of us and I don't know about myself but they are traveling with grace and strength.

I'm glad to have each of them in my life - even though we don't see each other as much as we should.  Maybe this big celebration will help bring us together more often. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Trip Fever

We are in the midst of purchasing a home and all of the fun stuff that goes along with that so this spring, instead of taking a trip, we are having a stay-cation.  And while I do love a nice, relaxing week at home, I also LOVE to travel.  And it doesn't help that my best friend and her family are currently at DisneyWorld. 

We are thinking of going somewhere in the fall, so we need to narrow down a location soon.  I'm up for anything - cruise, beach, mountains, etc. 

I was going through albums on Facebook and I was filled with good memories of our recent travels...

Panama City Beach

Definitely one our favorite places.  We always stay at the same place, the Osprey Motel.  It's an older, family-owned hotel and each room has a kitchen and balcony.  What I love most about the Osprey, well besides their unbelievable prices, is that this isn't a high-rise like so many places in PCB now.  It has 5 floors with easy access to parking both underneath the building and in a lot directly across the street.  No waiting 15 minutes for an elevator or traffic leaving a parking deck.  And there is ample space on the beachfront.  I always feel at home here and that is a big deal to me. 

The Osprey Motel (view from the beach)

View from our balcony
In PCB, one of our favorite places to visit is Pier Park.  Located just a short walk from the Opsrey, Pier Park is a huge shopping and entertainment area.  We enjoy browsing the stores, hitting the movie theater (a beach tradition for us), and having a snack.  In our past visits, we have eaten at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, Hofbrau Beer Garden, and Red Brick Pizza.  We have also made stops at Tootsies for drinks and Kilwin's for delicious fudge and ice cream sundaes.

Deliciousness from Kilwins

Stop #2 - Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

I have loved going up to the Smoky Mountains since I was young.  My parents took my brother and I just about every summer.  My parents visited Gatlinburg on their honeymoon as did Hubs and I. 

It is one of those classic places with lots of shops, amazing food, and beautiful scenery.  And it is home to one of my most favorite places ever - Dollywood!

This area is also home to about 5,459 breakfast places.  Hubs loves it.

I seriously love Dollywood.

We have mainly stayed at hotels because we tend to go and do a lot.  We don't usually kick back and relax when we are in the mountains.  I don't know why.  On our last trip in April 2012, we visited my The Old Mill - my new favorite restaurant.  Their food is amazing.  And the restaurant has a water wheel outside.  I love it.  My parents LOVE their corn chowder and last time I was there, I took back $50 worth of corn chowder mix for them.


Next up, we get a little interational...Cruise #1

We went on our first cruise in August 2011 with my parents and some friends.  Carnival still had a port in Mobile at the time so we took the quick trip to Mobile and boarded the ship around lunchtime on a Monday.  Our cruise was a 5 day to Cozumel and Calica, Mexico.  It was a great experience for us.  No sea sickness for me (which is huge because I get nauseated quickly on various transportation devices) and everyday was perfect weather (well it was HOT).

Cruises are most famous for their food - all you could eat, anytime of the day.  We indulged.  A lot.  We had buffets at breakfast and lunch and formal dining for dinner.  Plus, ice cream anytime I wanted. 
Chicken and Fetticini in the formal dining room

Carnival's famous Chocolate Melting Cake.  Amazing.
Cruise #2
Hubs and I took cruise #2 with my cousin K in October 2012.  We left out of New Orleans for a 4 day trip to Cozumel and back.  We visited a different port in Cozumel so that was really nice. 
We actually took the same ship as our first cruise.  But for us, we just enjoyed the relaxation and weren't so concerned about a different ship, or even a different location.  Plus, it helped us get around faster since we were Elation veterans.
Docked at Cozumel
Deliciously fresh guacamole and salsa.
While my first cruise proved perfect in terms of ship movement, this trip made up for it.  It was very windy and we felt it quite a bit more.  The night we left Cozumel, they posted some nice bags to use in case you got sick.  Thankfully I had plenty of dramimine but I could see where those bags might come in handy. 

Barf bags.

So overall, the sea sickness was a bit rough this time.  And land sickness was actually really bad.  I spent all evening at home in my recliner.  But that wasn't Carnival's fault. 

Despite all of the bad press Carnival received last year, I am still up for another trip. I know that certain circumstances can't be helped.  But one thing I have to praise Carnival for is their staff.  Everyone we have never came in contact with was friendly and always willing to help.  They really see to it that your vacation is as perfect as possible.  Really and truly, the only thing you have to do for yourself is shower.  They do everything else. 

I highly recommend that everyone take a cruise at least once.  If you aren't sure, take a 3 day.  That will really tell you if a longer cruise is in the cards for you.  I don't know if a 7-day is my thing but 4 and 5 were just perfect. 

And lastly, Gulf Shores, Alabama

We visited Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, with some of our best friends and their little girl last July.  We stayed with Ash's dad, who lives in Orange Beach.  They graciously opened their home to us and while it was cramped quarters, we had a blast.  Besides one minor hiccup with our car, it was a great vacation.

Hubs and EK on the beach for the 4th of July

While we were in town, we got our fill of seafood for sure.  First our first real evening, we picked up steamed shrimp from Billy's Seafood.  Their motto is "If it swims we got it."  The shrimp was amazing!  We took it back to the condo and had corn on the cob, potatoes, and hush puppies.  Delicious.

For lunch one day, we hit up the Shrimp Basket on all-you-can-eat popcorn shrimp day.  It was so good!  And their tarter sauce is amazing.

One place Hubs really wanted to try was Lambert's Cafe.  They have delicious southern foods and several all-you-can-eat pass-arounds like fried okra, fried potatoes, and hot rolls (thrown to you).  The only thing I don't care for is the humor they use.  For example, one waitress (not ours) acted like she tripped and her trick cup looked like coke was about to be all over me.  And some of them are sarcastic.  Some people think that is hilarious but I'm not a fan.  Just give me good food and leave me alone.  I'm not high-maintenance.  The food really was delicious though and I took back a plate of leftovers for a midnight snack.

And that last place we tried was the Original Oyster House.  It is a landmark.  The wait was 45-1 hour.  However, they overlooked up so at 1 hour and 45 minutes, Jim went to check and sure enough, we were skipped.  Anyway, I had the salad bar (which was yummy!) and shrimp.  I wasn't so impressed with my dinner.  And everyone sort of had an issue.  Either it was wrong or in some cases the fish was way overcooked.  So I won't say I wouldn't go back but I wasn't so impressed since it has such a reputation. 

So now I'm craving a trip even more!