Crystals, Uncategorized, Woo woo

Blue healers

I’m missing the ocean today so I think I was drawn to pull these stones in various calming shades of blue to be my companions today.
Blue Kyanite – Aligns all chakras.
Campitos and Indian Creek Turquoise – Turquoise offers us so much, wealth, luck, healing and protection.
Blue Tiger’s Eye – A calming stone for strength and motivation.
Azurite with Malachite – The stone of the healer priestess. Awakens inner confidence and brings healing and abundance.
Aqua Obsidian – A stone to bring comfort and strength during times of grief and letting go.
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A bride’s confession about thank you cards

I have a bit of a confession to make in the wake of all the wedding excitement, and hopefully my confession will serve as some helpful advice for other newly engaged or married folks. My confession is in regard to thank you cards. Now, from a young age, my mamma instilled in me the importance of sending thank you cards.

While I think there are many traditions or protocols relating to weddings that can be ignored based on personal preference, sending thank you cards is definitely not one of those things. And when I say thank you card, this does not mean a text message, an email or a Facebook message. This means an actual handwritten, personalized, stamped, mailed, signed, sealed and delivered snail mail thank you card. I personally think handwritten thank you cards should still be sent for any gift you receive for any reason, but bridal shower, wedding and baby shower thank you cards are a definite must!

According to the Emily Post Institute, a couple should send out thank you cards no later than three months following the wedding. However, etiquette also indicates that should that deadline pass, the cards should still be sent no matter how late. Weddings are a busy, hectic time and settling back in following the honeymoon can be crazy too. I imagine people are understanding when it comes to receiving that thank you card several months after the fact.

Another part of traditional thank you card etiquette involves mentioning the specific gift received. At

the bridal shower one of my bridesmaids took copious notes on who gave what. We registered on a honeymoon site that conveniently tracked each monetary gift we received towards our trip and even had a handy downloadable spreadsheet which included the gift and address of the person who gave the gift. I digress again here to say that I highly recommend a honeymoon registry, especially for couples who have everything they need as far as housewares.

After the wedding and reception my new husband and I got into a limo, our heads buzzing with excitement (and some champagne) and headed off for our honeymoon. At this juncture we were handed a stack of cards from our wedding guests. In our excitement we tore open the cards. To our delight there was money in the cards. In our excitement we did not even think to take note of who gave what. So my confession is that I cannot be as specific as I would like in some of our wedding thank you cards. What we should have done is put each card back together with its enclosed gift and waited until we were at the hotel so we could make notes on each gift. So, brides and grooms, if you can contain your excitement when you get into your limo to head off for the honeymoon, try to remember to do that.

A popular new tradition when it comes to wedding thank yous is to take a cute picture of the newlyweds either at the wedding or on the honeymoon holding a sign that says thank you. We did not do this, but I think it’s a really cute way to say thank you. We did however have a photo card made with one picture from the wedding and two pictures from our honeymoon. This is particularly nice to send to any family members or friends who may not have already seen the 600 plus honeymoon photos on your Facebook page.

When it comes time to send out those thank yous, just parcel it out a few cards at a time if you don’t have time to sit down and write them all out at once. Some may be particular that the addresses should be handwritten also, but that’s one tradition I do ignore. I suggest printing address labels for the cards, which can save you a lot of time. You can really save time if you sit down as a couple and do them assembly line style with one person writing out the cards and the other labeling and stamping them. I love printing out labels on the Avery site. There are cute designs to choose from so the outside of your card still looks very personalized. I even printed return mailing address labels that included a tiny picture of me and my groom.

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Be a Bridezilla

11227042_10103026074978308_1185687063457009172_nFrom the time I got engaged last Christmas I got tons of advice from friends, family, even strangers, and read lots of wedding planning advice on websites and books. Since doing the deed myself a few weeks ago I now feel equipped to share my own wedding planning advice for those of you who may be newly engaged.

1. Be a Bridezilla. My favorite piece of advice I got was from my matron of honor who told me to be a bridezilla. That’s right BE a bridezilla. She said no matter how polite and accommodating you are, at some point during the process someone will probably call you a bridezilla anyway so you might as well go ahead and embrace it. Obviously you don’t want to be so bossy and overbearing you alienate friends, family or your new spouse-to-be, but the bottom line is, it’s your wedding and you should do it your way!

2. Do it your way. There are many traditions and lots of etiquette associated with a wedding. You may feel pressured to do a certain thing because “it’s tradition.” The most important thing though is that at the end of the day you are married to the love of your life. I spent a lot of time worrying (cause it’s one of the things I do best) about what people were going to think about our wedding. Would they be offended that we didn’t hand address the invitations or send formal invitations with the fancy little onion skin paper thingy. Again, the bottom line is, that’s not what is important about your wedding. If formal invitations are important to you, go for it. If not, find a unique, creative and less expensive way to let friends and family know. We chose to do a single sheet simple invitation style without all the frou frou extra envelopes and such. We also opted to do a dessert-style reception instead of a full meal. The most important thing is to include special things that make the ceremony and reception feel unique and personal to you and represents your relationship.

3. Ask for help. Wedding planning, even if you are opting for a smaller event, is still a lot to do. If you have an extensive budget you may decide to hire a wedding planner to help. If you, like me, are on a tighter budget, don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for help. They are undoubtedly thrilled for you and will be happy to assist in any way they can. You never know what secret creative talents your friends may have. We got married in a wooden band shelter at a winery that was pretty plain, but my godmother turned it into a lovely wedding wonderland with white paper lanterns, beautiful ferns, some candles and flowers from the farmers market. It was unbelievably beautiful.
On a side note, one of the things I was told over and over when starting to plan for my wedding was that everyone would likely not send back their RSVP cards. We opted to include a stamp on our RSVP cards, but still did not receive them all back. Again, don’t be afraid to ask. If it’s getting close to your deadline and you haven’t heard back from folks, go ahead and give them a call and ask if they plan to attend.

4. Shop around. Again, if like me, you are on a tight budget, be sure to shop around for your wedding and decor items. The veil I had my heart set on at the bridal shop was $250, way out of my price range. I ended up finding an identical veil online for only $26. If you are crafty there are lots of neat do-it-yourself ideas for wedding decor. I also found a lot of beautiful things well within my budget on the site Etsy.com, which features individual sellers of handmade items. Another piece of advice I got early on was not to stress too much over centerpieces, people likely won’t remember them anyway. As our wedding was at a winery and our theme was peacock feathers, we had the simplest centerpieces of wine bottles with peacock feathers in them. Find something unique and simple that celebrates you as a couple or ties in with your venue for a neat, no-stress centerpiece.

5. As time goes by. Another thing I was told many times is that time at your wedding will fly by. You spend months and months planning and it all seems like a blur the day of the wedding. This was probably the most true thing I was told about a wedding. I was worried about feeling like we were having to wait forever once we got the venue, but that was not the case at all. Once I arrived, got into my dress, walked down the aisle, said “I do,” danced with my husband and my dad, ate a bite of cake and tossed my bouquet in the air — it felt like the blink of an eye.

You will undoubtedly have a wedding photographer and possibly a videographer and you will be so happy about those images and videos because it will give more time to relive the event in slow motion. Another great thing about getting married this day and age are smart phones. Most likely you will have friends taking pictures and videos on their phones and this is a great way to get a quick look back at the day before your official photographs are ready. Looking back at the pictures has been my favorite pastime since returning from my honeymoon.

To sum up my wedding advice, it is this: read all the articles you want, pin all the things on Pinterest, listen to what everyone has to say about weddings and at the end of the day, do what feels right for you and your future spouse and you will surely have a special day to remember for years to come.

Cooking, Uncategorized

An ode to pizza

Today’s post is quite simply an ode to pizza. Oh pizza, how do I love thee. Let me count the toppings. There’s that tangy sweet sauce topped with ooey gooey cheese and from there the sky is the limit.

For folks of my generation it seems like pizza always existed. I remember my Mamma telling me a story though of the very first time she had pizza. In East Bend back in the ’50s and ’60s there wasn’t a place to get pizza. She had her first slice at a restaurant in Winston-Salem called Vincenzos. I remember her always saying she never had a slice quite as good as that very first one. That restaurant is still in Winston-Salem and Mamma still used to enjoy it, but I think there was something special and magical about that very first slice.

As for me, I don’t remember the very first time I had pizza. I do remember making it with my Mamma sometimes at home, which was sort of a special treat. I always wanted to help carefully place the toppings on top.

For most people who enjoy pizza, they are very specific about the toppings they want and they seldom veer from their favorite toppings. For my dad, it’s always pepperoni, sausage and green pepper. I think pepperoni may be the variable most people agree on, but even that you can’t say for sure. I’ll admit that I actually prefer mine without pepperoni. I can do plain cheese pretty much any time.

In recent years I have begun to enjoy my pizza with a variety of more unusual toppings. I started out with ham and pineapple, then added bacon (have I mentioned I adore bacon?). Now I love all sorts of out-of-the ordinary toppings. One of my favorite pizzas at a local restaurant in Elkin has macaroni and cheese on it. Let me say that again, pizza with macaroni and cheese on it! Yes, it’s quite amazing.

My other favorite pizza hails from an area winery and it’s topped with brie and bacon (yes, again there’s the bacon!).

Pizza lovers don’t always agree on the same toppings (thank goodness for being able to do half and half) and they probably also don’t even agree on the best type of crust. Thin, thick, chewy or more on the crunchy side. The diversity represented by pizza eaters and their likes and dislikes is unbelievable.

The thing about pizza, in my humble opinion, that makes it so special is that it’s such a sociable food.

I think about being a teen and having pizza parties. It’s always an easy dish to pick up on the way to a friend’s house to watch a favorite sporting event on TV or a movie. I’m sure when you think back to fun times celebrating special events or just hanging out with friends, there is a good chance there were some slices of pizza being passed around. Making pizza at home can also be a fun meal to get the kids involved with helping cook dinner.

So next time you enjoy a slice of pizza, even if you want something like anchovies on it, think about the magic that is this delicious dish that brings so many folks together.

There’s a great recipe for homemade pizza dough on one of my personal favorite blogs, The Pioneer Woman. She says on her blog that she channels Lucille Ball, Vivien Leigh and Ethel Merman. I just channel the Pioneer Woman, minus that whole cattle ranch thing.

As for sauce, I normally cheat and buy a jar of pizza sauce, but I think making my own sauce would be fun. Let me know if you have a recipe. As for toppings when making pizza at home, I recommend getting a little out of your comfort zone and trying something other than the traditional pepperoni. I love caramelized onions, prosciutto and spinach on mine. And of course, there’s always bacon!

Cooking, Uncategorized

Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes

I love summer best of all, but pumpkin anything and holiday treats help me make it through fall and winter. This fall I am on a mission to find THE perfect pumpkin cupcake. I found several on the internet this weekend, but when I stumbled on one that was chocolate I knew I had to try that one first!

Mamma graciously agreed to be my sous chef and even assisted in gathering the ingredients for a photo!

Pumpkin Ale Cupcake ingredients

I admit I was a little dubious about this recipe at first. I love pumpkin and I love chocolate, but I wasn’t sure how they would be together. As pumpkin was my primary flavor objective, I decided to up the pumpkin on this recipe. Instead of just using the pumpkin ale, I also added 3/4 cup of pumpkin. I cut down the amount of sour cream to about 3 tablespoons.

I found the original recipe here.
I’ve never understood exactly what adding one egg at a time really does to enhance the recipe, but nevertheless, I followed the instructions. (This time anyway.)
Yep, there’s pumpkin beer in there! Yum!
And now it’s getting chocolatey!

True to the recipe instructions, the batter is very runny, but don’t worry!

And in we go!

As the batter is fairly thin and runny it is easy to drip where you don’t want it to. No matter, just scrap that off with your fingers (feel free to take a little taste!)

And now we bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. I often find cooking times unreliable, but 25 minutes was right on the nose for this. The recipe does say this makes 24 cupcakes. Our batch actually made 30 cupcakes. I think the secret to pretty cupcakes is to not overfill each cupcake well. This also means more cupcakes, yah!

I think these cupcakes would be great with just a basic cream cheese icing, but the buttercream icing recipe is also quite yummy.

Pumpkin spice buttercream icing ingredients

We decided to cut the icing recipe in half and we had plenty to ice each yummy cuppycake!

Yum!!!

And now for the final touch.

Aren’t they beautiful?

This recipe turned out to be a lot of fun. The combination of rich dense chocolate flavor combined with the spicy pumpkin and pumpkin ale flavors was very unique. I would definitely make these again.

If you know of any pumpkin recipe I should try, please let me know!

Cooking, Uncategorized

Sunday Dinner

Our menu for tonight’s dinner promises to be very exciting. We are trying several new recipes shared with us by friends and making up a few recipes of our own. It’s really a joint effort between myself, my boyfriend and my mom. I confess, they are doing most of the work. I’m more the idea person! (Teehee)

The pork loin was rescued from the freezer and we searched various cookbooks and the internet for a recipe before finally deciding to make up our recipe. A friend of ours makes a fantastic dry rubbed pork loin and we used his seasonings. Unfortunately, we didn’t exactly have the measurements so we pulled some spices out of the spice drawer and started dumping stuff in the bowl!
Spice line up for our dry rub
The spices in our dry rub are kosher salt, garlic powder, onion powder, hot paprika, dry mustard and course ground pepper. Dump desired amount into bowl and mix together then smash it into your meat (I made boyfriend do that part!)
Yummy spiced up pork loin all ready for the grill!

The pork loin should be cooked on low heat for a long time! Meat should have an internal temperature of 170 when done. Hey, I told y’all this wasn’t one of those detailed food blogs. 🙂

 Our next menu item was recommended by a family friend. This recipe combines a vegetable with one of our all-time favorite ingredients. . .bacon! Cut a cabbage head into four quarters, sprinkle with salt, pepper and seasoned salt. Wrap with two strips of bacon. Wrap bacon-wrapped cabbage quarters tightly in foil and cook on the grill for 45 minutes to an hour. The bacon wasn’t quite crispy enough for us so we unwrapped them and put them in the oven on broil for about 5 minutes. YumEE!
We need a fun name for these!
Our sweet cousins brought us a whole bunch of jonagold apples that they picked straight from an orchard in Ohio. We just had to incorporate these beauties into our meal. We threw in a pan with a stick of butter, brown sugar, white sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon. It’s fruit! It’s good for you. Yum!
Yummy Fried Apples

So just to recap, we had grilled pork loin, bacon wrapped grilled cabbage, twice baked potatoes and cinnamon apples. We were all pretty much stuffed by the time we finished eating, but it was all delicious!
Our decadent Sunday dinner
Close shot of the pork loin. Yum!

Many thanks to Mamma and Morgan (that’s my boyfriend;) who helped (ok, did most of the work) put this meal together. Yum!

Cheers and Pork!
Cooking, Uncategorized

Steak and pumpkin cake

Our annual Pumpkin Festival is this weekend and I volunteered to bake some pumpkin goodies for a charity bake sale. I really wanted to try to bake these pumpkin nutella muffins, but I decided instead on this pumpkin pound cake recipe.

Pumpkin Pound Cake

I thought the overall flavor of the cake was nice, although it could have been more pumpkiny (is that a word?) The cake called for a glaze, but frankly, I’m just not a glaze kinda girl. Since it was for a charity bake sale I also thought it would be less messy without any icing. If I make this recipe again, I would definitely ice it with a cream cheese frosting.

When fall arrives, I become a pumpkin junkie! If you know of any other great pumpkin recipes I should try, please let me know! And now on to my other culinary adventures of the evening. . .

Tonight for dinner we had one of my all time favorite meals ever, steak, baked potato and salad. Sadly, I have realized that I am actually quite content to just eat steak and potato and forget the salad. Oh, yes, and garlic bread. I do adore garlic bread! Yum!

Steak, Salad, Wine & Garlic Bread. Yum! Yum!

Since we are such good friends, I will share my secret steak recipe with you. If you are a steak purist, like my boyfriend, you may not care for this, but if you like a steak with a little kick, you will love it! I put a small splash of olive oil in a deep pan and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, then I lay the steak in the pan. I prefer a t-bone, preferably one with a large filet side! I sprinkle both sides of the steak with an unflavored meat tenderizer, white pepper (you know it’s my favorite!) and garlic powder. Then I coat the entire thing in Tony Cachere’s creole seasoning. I adore creole seasoning! I think I could actually just eat this stuff right out of the container. Ok, maybe not, but it is yummy! After I put the creole seasoning on the meat, I sprinkle a few more dashes of Worcestershire. I like to let this marinate for a few hours, but even if I don’t have time for all that, I still use this same method and it makes the steak very flavorful. A few minutes before putting on the steak on the grill, I add a sprinkle of kosher salt to the meat. This steak is so good I actually lick the bone when I’m through! YumEE!

I always like to serve a nice hearty red wine with steak. In the above photo is a bottle of Castle Rock Petit Verdot that I bought at the beach this summer. (I confess this was taking awhile back as I was too intent on chowing down to actually take any pictures tonight.) Tonight we had Cupcake Malbec, which was excellent!

Cheers!