Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Feeling Festive

The countdown to Christmas is on, and the usual yuletide whirlwind is now in full effect. With less than two weeks until the big day, everyone is talking shopping, decorating, and celebrating. No wonder I love this time of year, and after this past weekend and all its merriment, I find myself feeling festive.

We kicked things off on Thursday by taking my mom with us to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra in concert. For any of you who may think you aren't familiar with TSO, let me assure you: if you have watched one of those fancy Christmas light shows that are synchronized to music, you have heard their work. The concert was sold out and ticket prices reached levels that quite frankly shocked us, so we Googled Trans Siberian Orchestra to find out what their concerts are like. My favorite reviewer said it would be "a cross between an Iron Maiden concert and a Christmas extravaganza!" He was so right.

I can't even begin to describe to you what a show they put on. Think big hair, leather pants, and lots and lots of effects. My pictures from the nosebleed section don't do it justice, but I will gladly show them off anyway:

There were lights

And lasers

And more lights and lasers

And fog and smoke and moving hydraulic platforms

And pyrotechnics
And more pyrotechnics!

Basically, it was two and a half hours of amazing, rocking, in-your-face music and pretty much a Christmas spectacular. It was so mind blowing that I forgot to take a group picture of us in our tacky sweaters. Let's just say a good time was had by all, and we are already planning to see them again next year, from better seats.

🎄 Merry Moment: It's hard to choose just one moment from such an over-the-top experience, but it might have to be at the point in the show, an hour and a half in, when the lights came up and we assumed the show was over. Imagine our shock when they announced that in a few minutes, we would need to be rested up for the second half!

We woke up Friday morning to rain and sleet, with a forecast of snow moving into the area during the afternoon. It may have derailed the shopping I had planned with my mom, but we were bound and determined it wouldn't stop us from the next item on our holiday agenda: a surprise party for our friend Scott's 50th birthday.

Scott is an avid hunter, and the invitation,which stated "This old buck is turning 50," requested that all the guests wear camouflage since it is a particular favorite of the guest of honor. I had never been to an actual surprise party, and I have to say the anticipation flowing through a huge group of camo-clad friends and family huddled, hushed, and waiting was almost as awesome as seeing Scott's reaction. He was blown away!

Camouflage, shotgun shells, and antlers, to celebrate Scott.
Scott's wife and our hostess, Stacey. I've known and loved her since college.

We enjoyed barbecue, an appropriately themed deer cake, and I suppose you could say going "buck wild" for Scott's 50th. I'm so glad the weather didn't keep us away, because it was a night to remember.

🎄 Merry Moment: As we talked to one of the party guests, Clint pointed out to him that he and another friend had been standing under Stacey's very glittery, ornate mistletoe for a large part of the evening and asked if that was intentional. I will never forget his (very genuine surprise) when he said, "Is that what that is?!? I thought it was something Catholic!" 

Mistletoe, not to be confused with "something Catholic"

We needed a little downtime after all that excitement--my face ached from smiling at this point--so it was probably a good thing that Saturday was a snowy day. Our friends and family in Georgia and South Carolina had beautiful white fluff, but it was just a tad too warm here in Charlotte for any of it to accumulate. Still, it's snow in the South and everything comes to a halt. We played Christmas music, ate junk food, made some Christmasy cocktails and worked on a one thousand piece puzzle I had ordered just for the occasion.

Clint called me a nerd for buying a puzzle for us, and now he's hooked.

As a bonus, Meet Me in St. Louis was on TV, so I took frequent breaks from puzzle assembly to enjoy it. No matter what time of year, I love this movie. It was a favorite for my granddaddy and I to watch together when I was growing up, and I still feel like he's watching it with me every time. While it isn't technically a Christmas movie, if you haven't seen Judy Garland in her gorgeous red dress singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" in the snow, well, you're missing out.

Oh, Judy. You get me every time.

🎄 Merry Moment: even though it's too warm, even though I know it won't accumulate, I still get excited to see snow. I stood at the window at least a half a dozen times watching it fall, and snapped a zillion pictures trying to capture an image of flurries and flakes. This is what I wound up with:

This is a snow day in the South. It may look like rain, but there was still a run on bread and milk.

We worked on our puzzle a little more on Sunday afternoon, and then it was time for the final bookend on our festivities. Our friend Ryan hosted an ugly sweater party to raise money for the Humane Society. Personally, I love a tacky Christmas sweater, plus any occasion to celebrate, and this one even threw in a good cause as well. The evening was a great way to end our four day run of holiday revelry.

Tacky is in the eye of the beholder. I think we look fabulous.

🎄 Merry Moment: Jason, our co-host for the party, has developed a bit of an obsession with charcuterie lately. Every time we get together, he has assembled an array of meats and cheeses, and he's getting pretty good at creating an impressive display. I couldn't help but be amazed when I saw the charcuterie barge, er, board he created for the party Sunday night. When I commented on his chartcuterie skills, he let me know that while it was a labor of love, "my downfall will consist of Brie and salami."

Jason, you clearly outdid yourself.

Whew! Are you tired yet? Like I said, it has been a whirlwind of holiday activity, and we're still not done. I have some serious shopping to do, I haven't had a single sip of eggnog (yet!), and we need to make our annual trip to McAdenville, also known as Christmastown, USA, to see all the lights. But we're off to a heck of a start, and I hope I can pass this festive feeling on to all of you as well. Enjoy the season, and make it merry!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Stop and Smell the Eggnog


Our Christmas tree is up. It has lights, some ribbon streamers, and a sparkly topper, but no ornaments as of yet. We're planning to decorate it tonight, with some Christmas music and a little sparkling apple cider. It happens to be the same night the tree is being lit in Rockefeller Center in New York City, so I'm patting myself on the back for being so timely and punctual. After all, nobody does Christmas like New York, so I'm happy to be co-decorating with them this evening, so to speak.

Some of you, however, just have to get ahead of the curve. Our Thanksgiving dishes were still soaking when I started seeing pictures of Christmas decorations, entirely finished and already brightly shining. My next door neighbors put up their decorations the day after Halloween--although they also hoard cats, rarely cut their grass, and store all kinds of trash on the side of their house, so maybe let's not take a page from their playbook, mmkay?

I saw a gorgeous picture Monday on Instagram of a friend's gifts, all beautifully and ornately wrapped. She's done with her shopping and now she's completely finished with her gift wrapping, too. Heck, I thought I was ahead of the game because I bought two gifts on Cyber Monday...and one of them was for myself. (Side note: years ago, I did all my Christmas shopping throughout the year rather than waiting until December, and wound up overspending by about $87,000 because I kept adding new gifts to everyone's cache. Never again.) My preacher sent out a timely text this week reminding all of us that Jesus wasn't born so we could overspend all month and work ourselves into a fitful yuletide frenzy; he's absolutely right and yet I still have to resist the urge to panic at everything there is to do and how much everyone else seems to have already done.

For whatever reason, practically every decoration or adornment we pulled out of storage has managed to become broken/mangled/inoperable over the last year, so our decorating is taking even more time and patience this season. I'm headed to Hobby Lobby this afternoon with a list approximately as long as the Dead Sea scrolls to restock our holiday arsenal and hopefully put the final festive touches on all our trimmings around here. Naturally, I have about a zillion other things to do, but that won't get better as the month progresses. Looking at my calendar for next week, I discovered we have one vet appointment, a dentist appointment, a Christmas concert, two parties, and a partridge in a pear tree...and in the midst of all this, I still have a husband and a dog who expect to be fed, watered, and cared for, as well. It's a shame Santa can't come early and bring us all a few extra hours in each December day.

A friend, whom I always consider to be on top of her game, sent me this yesterday. Not only did it give me a much needed belly laugh, the sentiment gave me much comfort in thinking that I'm not alone noticing all the Christmas overachievers that are running rampant right now:


Has life gotten so crazy that we can't relax and take it one holiday at a time? It's beyond exhausting trying to keep up with the seasonal Joneses. I'm going to take pride in the fact that my Christmas cards have been ordered (although not addressed, stamped, or sent), a handful of gifts have been procured, and a smattering of lights, garland, and trinkets are on display. We're not there yet, but I'm sure we will be. We still have a month, after all, so I'm pacing myself. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

It's the most wonderful time of the year, but it's also one of the most hectic and stressful. Let's all take a deep breath, and may I suggest taking a little time to stop and smell the eggnog. Bonus points for adding a splash of bourbon to yours and taking a giant sip.



Thursday, November 16, 2017

Tis the Season (To Stuff It)


You may know by now that I am a semi-professional dieter. In my less than forty years on this planet, I have tried, in no particular order: low fat, low calorie, high protein, intermittent fasting, Slim Fast,  the 3-day Diet, the South Beach Diet, the ABS Diet, Super Shred, Jackie Warner's "This Is Why You're Fat," Dr. Phil's Weight Loss Solution, and a program very similar to Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem called Healthy Weigh. It would be easier and way less tedious to tell you the methods I haven't tried. I'm undoubtedly leaving some diets out, but you get the idea: in the battle of the bulge, I am a General.

I've had my shares of ups and downs (and ups again), but this time of year in particular is a struggle for me. September is my husband's birthday month, then we begin tailgate season, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and finally Christmas--whew! I read an article a couple of weeks ago that said the average American gains ten pounds between Halloween and New Year's. As usual, and I don't mean to brag, I'm way above average. I gain weight in the fall like an actress getting ready to play a part.


So far this year, I've done really well. I had a come-to-Jesus meeting with myself and decided that perhaps it was time to drop gluttony from my list of hobbies. I've been having some green juice for breakfast each morning, switched out my Diet Coke for coffee with Stevia, and cut out carbs and dairy as much as humanly possible (except on weekends, for which I gladly pay penance during the rest of the week). But now I've been stricken. I've had a cough and cold for over two weeks now, and my doctor told me it's a virus that will just have to run its course. I haven't worked out in almost three weeks, and yesterday, while waiting on a call from the vet's office about my senior dog, I stress ate a half a bag of baked Cheetohs. Old habits die hard, that much is true.

What I'm hoping to do for the rest of the year is find a balance between my usual jolly holiday heifer ways and eating like a Victoria's Secret model before a runway show. It's all about balance, right? Whatever that means.

I'll tell you what it must not, cannot include: I saw a recipe a few nights ago on Pinterest for cauliflower stuffing. Please note there is no picture of this dish included in the blog, nor am I providing a link to the recipe for that vile creation. Go ahead and eat your cauliflower stuffing any other day of the year that you please, but in my opinion, it should be illegal on Thanksgiving. Innocent turkeys did not give their lives so we could serve them up with steamed cauliflower on what is arguably the most decadent day of the year. And the first one to mention Tofurky is going to get hurt. It will not do, people. It simply will not do.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from cauliflower stuffing, this year those fine purveyors of stuffing over at Stove Top introduced their very own stretchy pants just for the upcoming holiday and, alas, they have already sold out. I guess everyone wanted the chance to "wear the stuff Thanksgiving is made of."

Featuring XXL pockets for extra stuffing. 
The question now becomes: what if I don't want to wear matching maternity pants around the family table? I want to wear regular pants, maybe even with a zipper and button closure, but I want to eat real, delicious food at the same time. Am I crazy? (Don't answer that.)

Maybe, just maybe, I can make some kind of compromise here. I'll enjoy myself during the holidays, but I won't enjoy all I can eat of everything I can eat. Perhaps I'll limit myself to just one piece of my Mom's homemade cornbread dressing (knowing that I will eat leftovers at least four more times, of course). And when it's time for dessert, I'll actually choose just one kind of cake or pie instead of sampling them all. Yes, these sacrifices seem like something I can do.

I also haven't weighed myself since I was stricken with this relentless cough, and that might have to wait as well. I'll get back to my green juice and black coffee diet, don't get me wrong, but I'm also going to enjoy life and all the things I love about this time of year. 'Tis the season, after all: to stuff it!



Thursday, November 2, 2017

We're All Candy Corn


I guess we had about a hundred trick or treaters Halloween night. They didn't start showing up until after 6:00, and I had a moment (or three) of panic that we were going to wind up with a half ton of candy and no one to take it away before I ate it all, but once the doorbell rang, we were inundated for a full two hours of nonstop candy swaps.

We had lots of superheros and princesses, the pudgiest and cutest little Wonder Woman who was too short to reach our doorbell, some older kids who were still trying their best to get into the Halloween spirit, and Henry, a fierce little pirate who was trick or treating for his first time. He deemed our front steps Mount Everest, but was so cute we brought the candy down to him and got an enthusiastic "arrgh!" in return.

I filled our candy bowl with all kinds of treats, including stickers and rings and bubbles and kaleidoscopes. The main reason for this, besides the fact that it's fun, is that I can't eat those things so they are less tempting to have around my house leading up to Halloween. Much to my relief, the kids got super excited over the trinkets, especially the bubbles, and enthusiastically rifled through our selection to pick out their goodies.

It kind of amazed me at how different the tastes in candy ran. Some kids would eagerly paw for the Starburst, while their friend would openly moan, "Eww, I hate Starburst! Gross!" One tween asked if she could have extra Lemonhead candies because they were her favorite, and I happily gave her two fistfuls because they were less than popular with most of our other crowd. Another kid specifically asked if we had candy corn and was utterly disappointed in telling us that not many people were handing out candy corn this year but he loved it.

I think we can all admit that candy corn is a controversial candy. People either love it or detest it and declare it inedible, but it almost always elicits a strong reaction from either camp. My friend Ellen was just saying a few weeks ago that it should be against the law, that's it's a hateful confection that is neither real candy nor real corn. And then we had a candy corn super fan practically begging house to house for the stuff. Funny how our tastes can be so different, isn't it?

I don't mind telling you that I had one of those "nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I'll go eat worms" kind of weeks last week. I cried more than once, feeling lonely and unpopular and just plain down-and-out. Then a funny thing occurred to me Halloween night: we're all candy corn. Some days people can't get enough of us, enthusiastically singing our praises. Other days, they brush right by us and we're left feeling like the proverbial bottom of the candy bowl. It happens to everyone, whether they want to admit it or not. Sweet to some, unsavory to others, it's just a fact of life.

One of the Real Housewives of New York has a tag line: "I'm an acquired taste. If you don't like me, acquire some taste." I don't know if I'm ready to be as bold as that, but I'm not taking it personally any more either. You won't be everyone's cup of tea, and that's okay. Let those suckers walk around thirsty. And maybe start looking at candy corn a little differently from now on, too.





Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Schnitzel and Such

As a girl born and raised in the South, it's fair to say that I don't know much about schnitzel. Or wursts or krauts, for that matter. The closest thing to German food I've really experienced in my sheltered lifetime is sauerkraut, which my worldly friend Wendy convinced me to try back when we were in college, on a hot dog at a baseball game (you were right, Wendy, I've been a fan ever since). When I think of German cuisine, I always think of it as being heavy and masculine. Sausages and beer, eaten by big lumberjack types with heavy accents during Oktoberfest and the like...at least until last week, when we found ourselves in an unlikely restaurant in Pineville, North Carolina, enjoying a very German and very delicious meal.

I suppose I should rewind a bit and tell you how that daring date night came to be. Clint, as I have undoubtedly already complained, has been on a whirlwind travel schedule the last several months. Last week, he was supposed to be in Berlin for work. This left me feeling a little jilted because it is my general rule that he should not do anything that could be construed as fun unless I am around to enjoy it, too (which seems completely and totally fair and not the least bit selfish, thankyouverymuch). Not one to be outdone by his international itinerary, I asked some friends to meet me for our very own little slice of Germany, at the Waldhorn restaurant out in the suburbs of our city. Over the years that we have lived here, I have heard quite a few people talk about how amazing the food is at the Waldhorn, but I've really never had the cause or occasion to try it for myself. And now, the Berlin trip provided just the motivation necessary to try something new.

Luckily for him, the Berlin trip was canceled at the last minute, and Clint wound up home for the week and free to join our friends Ryan, Jason, and me for dinner. He even shook off the man cold he had been battling so he could participate, and I am reasonably sure it was worth the effort.

Located just off the beaten path, the Waldhorn almost looks like a castle from the outside:


Coincidentally, there was a small Porsche convention at the restaurant that evening, so as we walked through the parking lot when we arrived, we were surrounded by luxury sport cars. It was probably an unfair assumption, but took it as a good sign that people with the good taste to drive such beautiful cars had chosen the same dining establishment. We were already off to a, albeit materialistic, good start.

Naturally, we all ordered German beer as our beverage of choice. Hey, when in Rome, right?


Jason and I, because we both love food and enjoy a touch of OCD, had already done a little research about what to order. (The only German I know is "auf wiedersehen" and that is because Heidi Klum says "goodbye" in her native tongue to failed contestants on Project Runway. Let's just say I had plenty of room for learning.)

We read lot of positive reviews and all kinds of recommendations, but the one commonality in all of them was this: pretzel rolls.


Soft, warm, salted, and served with spicy mustard or butter, these little babies lived up to their reputation. They were so light, I could have eaten a dozen of them, and one member of our group may or may not have taken an entire basket of pretzel rolls home in a to-go container. They were heaven!

We each ordered something different, although there were some similarities in a few of our choices. Everyone was ultimately pleased with their decision, and there was lots of oohing and aahing over each other's plates as we dug into our German fare.

The Waldhorn Sampler

Never one to settle, I decided to try the sampler, which came with pork weinerschnitzel, beef roulade, and bratwurst, with homemade spatzle and red cabbage. Spatzle (or spaetzle) is a popular German side dish of soft egg noodles that goes well with all sorts of spices and flavors. The other side, red cabbage, was especially delicious, and I do not usually reserve high praise for things like cabbage. This was basically sauteed, sweet and sour cabbage and I could eat it every single day. Clint also ordered the weinerschnitzel and was pleasantly surprised at how light and fork-tender it was (not an easy accomplishment for breaded, fried pork).

The "Rinderfilet Stephanie"

The next dish was, visually, the star of the show. My friend Ryan ordered the Rinderfilet Stephanie: filet mignon wrapped in bacon and puff pastry and topped with Bernaise sauce. How could you go wrong with that? The night we dined, it was a chilly fall evening and this seemed like such great comfort food.

Schwabische Wurstplatte

I'm just going to come right out and say it: the wurstplatte wasn't pretty; in fact, our whole table got a good chuckle over how, er, masculine this plating seemed when it arrived. This was Jason's choice and it included bratwurst, knockwurst, and something called bauernbratwurst, with home fries and some sauteed vegetables for good measure. It has to be healthy if there are veggies involved, right?

We were stuffed. We ate, we drank, we decided that this German food thing is kind of great. Then our waitress mentioned that the restaurant's monthly special was a free slice of Black Forest cake with every two entrees. Well, I said we were stuffed, not stupid. Always prudent, we decided to split one order of cake and get the other to go. Hey, someone was going to need another dessert to accompany that leftover basket of pretzel rolls, after all.

Black Forest cake, or the remains!

In my excitement, I forgot to snap a picture of the cake when it arrived, so I'm posting a shot of of the aftermath. Clearly, we hated it. I think we left a few granules of powdered sugar and the mint leaf garnish behind, and that's about it.

As walked among the rows of Porsches and back to our own cars, we agreed that the Waldhorn is a unique and tasty find, whether you're looking for something adventurous or just feel like enjoying a basket (or three) of pretzel rolls. I think I've gained weight just typing the details, so, as my friend Heidi always says, Auf Wiedersehen! And if Clint's trip to Germany gets rescheduled again, I know a great dinner spot for myself while he's away.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Man Cold


Be careful what you wish for, dear friends, that is my advice for you today. My husband's travel schedule for work has become so busy and hectic, I have been complaining about his absence for weeks. I've made snarky comments about needing to find a roommate, complained that he only stops by our house to get his laundry washed, and gotten downright bitter about him being away so often. And then, as karma would have it, his trip to Germany this week was cancelled at the last minute and now he's home. He's here, and he has caught the thing that strikes fear into the heart of women everywhere: the man cold.

As any male will gladly tell you, the man cold is much different than any illness a woman has ever had. No medical malady, no matter what the severity, can compare to the life-threatening misery a man experiences in coping with what the rest of us call the common cold. This has become such an epidemic that the term "man cold" is even listed in the Urban Dictionary:

"The name 'man cold' disguises the true terrible, debilitating disease that is the man cold. Nearly all men will die from man colds unless they are administered immediately with large amounts of mindless TV such as daytime TV, or childrens' cartoons. It is essential that they not move from bed or a comfy sofa to allow for rehabilitation, and must have tissues and man cold medicine (such as chocolate biscuits, McDonalds, or a nice cup of tea) brought to them constantly by a nearby female."

Oh yes, that sounds hauntingly familiar.

Saturday, the sick spouse was king of the remote and recuperated while watching football, Sunday was spent catching up on all the shows our DVR had recorded since he had last been home, and I thought we were over the worst of it. After all, a new work week was upon us and I assumed he would suffer through his affliction from the confines of his office and that would be that. Sunday night at bedtime, I enjoyed a NyQuil night cap just like Clint, in an effort to dull the snoring, coughing, wheezing slumber that would be resting next to me. I put in my trusty ear plugs to drown out the noise, and started to doze....

What occurred next I would akin to Chinese water torture. Every single time I almost drifted off to dreamland, without fail, my darling spouse would elicit a cough that I estimate to have reached around 100 decibels (a jet engine at 100 feet is around 140 decibels, so this seems like an accurate and educated guess). I hope that getting the bejeezus scared out of you burns calories, because if so, Sunday night was some amazing body-sculpting cardio, y'all. I spent half the night scared out of my wits, heart pounding, trying to take calming breaths and get back into some sort of relaxed state, and every time I managed to calm back down, the hack attacks started again. I finally surrendered to my captor around 2:30 in the morning and retreated to the silent safety of our family room couch. Side note: anyone who ever tells you they slept well on a couch is, unequivocally, a pants-on-fire-liar. It is not possible to achieve REM sleep on a sofa. 

In addition to the sleep deprivation, I knew we were in the throes of a man cold when I saw how thoughtfully our patient had decorated the house. Every room has been adorned with Hall's cough drop wrappers, strewn about like confetti after a party. The bathroom is now accessorized with a lovely assortment of bottles and boxes of every over the counter medicine known to the Northern hemisphere. Apparently, it is also a necessity to constantly check our medicine cabinet in case any new and miraculous wonder drugs have appeared since the last round of medication. Better safe than suffering is the man cold mantra.



Last night, I had already decided that one of us was sleeping in the guest room. Exhaustion is not a good look on me, and I was beginning to fear what little patience I possess was slipping away. Through two closed doors, a hallway, and a box fan on the highest setting, that high pitched coughing still literally haunted my dreams. 

It's been four days now and I've encouraged Patient Zero to head to the doctor. All this sickness could become *ahem* hazardous to his health, if it continues much longer. I'm starting to get punchy, and there's not enough caffeine in the world to soothe my jangled nerves. On the bright side, at least this is the man cold and not its more severe cousin, the man flu. There have been no sick days taken, and (please hear me Jesus) I don't think the disease is contagious, so the end has to be near. Hey, a girl can dream, right? At least she can if she can doze off, with a man cold lying there next to her.




Tuesday, October 3, 2017

All Treats, No Tricks

I've told you before that I love this time of year--the cooler weather, the leaves changing colors, cozy sweaters and crackling fires...but also, decorating and getting into the spirit of fall. I've never met a pumpkin I didn't love, so this year we bought an enormous one and put out some fun new Halloween decor. At the Stancil house this season, we're all treats, no tricks.

I always start with this sign, which I think sets the tone for nights spent with friends out on our deck around the fire pit:


Inside, I've been enjoying a gorgeous fall lantern my (very talented) mom made for me this year. It's on our hearth in the family room, and every time I walk by, it puts a smile on my face.




Just looking at that, how can you not love this time of year? Acorns and gourds and lanterns, oh my!

I do have to admit that I've been lazy with my outdoor decorations over the last couple of years. Let me ashamedly confess that we have been one of those houses that puts a bowl of Halloween candy on the front porch rather than answer the door a zillion times for all the trick-or-treaters that bombard our neighborhood. Because of that, I have left my Halloween decorations in their storage bins and kept things to a minimum--I feel strongly that to decorate our exterior for Halloween and then not answer our door on the actual holiday is a surefire way to get our yard rolled. This year, however, I promise to stock up on candy, keep the porch lights on, and dole out confections like it is my job. And to go along with that, we have two new friends outside in our yard....


Meet Mr. Bonejangles and his dog, Fang (we thought it would be bad luck not to name our skeletons and we do not invite bad luck in this house). I saw them in a catalog over the summer and instantly fell in love. I knew we had to have them, and they've already gotten their fair share of attention since I put them out Monday.








Can you see that sizable pumpkin in the background? Go big or go home, am I right?

After I found our skeleton and his four-legged friend, I wanted a similar wreath to take the theme right up to our front door. All it took was a visit to the Etsy website, and I found this one which was a perfect companion.




The last step was to give a little Halloween touch to the mailbox, so I fancied it up just a bit with a matching bow and some spooky black foliage.




I think we're dressed and ready for the occasion; now, to restrain myself from eating all the Halloween candy before the end of the month. Maybe the best part of all the decorations is that they're calorie-free!

Happy Fall! 




Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Hubby's Birthday: 41 is Fun



Clint's birthday was Friday, and even though he (unlike his lovely wife) doesn't milk it for an entire month, we did manage to spend a full weekend celebrating. He kicked off his special day by getting up at the crack of early and heading to CrossFit, a maneuver I can neither fully comprehend nor condone, but he said something about being healthy, blah, blah, blah. I encouraged him to stop and eat a birthday biscuit on his way home and, as merciful proof that we are compatible for each other, he did just that.

We bought a gargantuan leather couch several weeks ago that was slated to be delivered on Clint's big day. When we purchased the Titanic couch, he was so excited about all the lounging, resting, and relaxing opportunities it presented that he eagerly agreed it could count as part of his birthday gifts. However, no matter how old one gets, no one is a responsible enough adult to be happy with a couch as their birthday present. I picked the birthday boy up a few other gifts to go along with the leather lounger and let him open them Friday afternoon. I didn't make him pose for pictures with everything, but he was happy to open a new pair of shoes for the aforementioned CrossFit workouts, a Georgia Tech button-down shirt with the Buzz mascot proudly embroidered, and a few other little tchotkes, including this mug:

The man has a fondness for monkeys--they make him laugh every time.

Our dog is so spoiled, he just assumes all gifts are for him. He's usually right.

Once the gifts were opened, we were off to dinner. In honor of the special occasion, we splurged and went to The Palm. When we were young and newly married, our apartment was in the same immediate neighborhood as The Palm. Although our budget didn't really let us become regulars, we were lucky enough to dine there two or three times and the fond memories have stuck with us forever. We hadn't been in quite a while and it was a fun trip down memory lane to go back. Plus, you know, the food--amazing.

We worked our way through approximately half the menu (birthday calories don't count), starting with a shrimp cocktail that was the biggest I have ever seen. It seriously reminded me of the scene in the movie Beetlejuice  when they turn into hands and grab all the dinner guests' faces.


Luckily, we came away unscathed and just had a really delicious meal, including but not limited to: crab cakes (for me), surf and turf (for the gentleman), and lobster macaroni and cheese for the table. We threw in some Brussels sprouts for good measure, you know, back to that whole "health" thing.

The beginning of birthday dinner.

I can honestly say that we didn't fully exhaust their menu, only because we had birthday cake waiting at home. Lest you think we are all hoity toity with our fancy steakhouse dinner, Clint chose a Dairy Queen Blizzard cake for this year's festivities (and changed into an Evel Knievel t-shirt to eat it).

Making his wish.

I did put him to work a bit Saturday, getting ready for friends to come over that evening. The Clemson/Louisville football game was at 8:00 p.m., and even though he is a Yellow Jacket at heart, I made it clear from our first meeting that to love me is to love the Clemson Tigers, and so he does (or pretends to--either way, it makes me happy). The weather here in Charlotte is just starting to feel like fall, so we had dinner and watched the game outside around the fire pit.


Much like me, Clint loves a good fiesta, and this make-your-own-taco bar did not disappoint. Turkey carnitas, barbecue corn, homemade guacamole, chips and salsa and plenty of other options got our game watching off to a nice start.


Just to sweeten the deal (pun intended), I thought a candy buffet was festive for the occasion. Plus, gummy candy is low fat, so it barely even counts. Right?

A little football viewing al fresco.

The margaritas were just salty enough, the Tigers crushed their competition, and a good time was had by all, including our birthday boy.

We slept in Sunday morning and happily spent the rest of the birthday weekend enjoying Netflix and the brand new couch, winding down with some taco bar leftovers for dinner and all the Heath Bar Blizzard cake we could manage. It was a low key weekend by design after our summer vacation adventures, and I think we welcomed Clint's 41st year in style. 

Cheers to 41 years!