Sunday, June 29

Our Most Amazing Housewarming Gift!

This afternoon we had a wonderful surprise visit from Stephen, Kim and the kids to bring by a housewarming gift. Kim is one of the most thoughtful people I know, so it was really no surprise she thought of something completely unique as a gift for us. They presented us with a painted picture of our house! It's beautiful and we can't wait to have it framed. We've already got the perfect spot picked out. This is a gift we will always treasure!

The Family Do List

We had such a productive weekend with the house projects. We used some housewarming and birthday gift cards to purchase the Larson storm door we've been eyeing ever since we made an offer on our house. It has etching that matches our windows perfectly. We also purchase new bath hardware for our bathroom.

Sunday, my mom and Jim came out to help us put up the door. While Ben and Jim were installing the door, my mom and I put up all the bath hardware. Our bathroom is complete now! We now have seperate towel bars and our each handtowel ring. Putting up the door took most of the day, so the girls were able to tackle a few other things on the to-do list like hanging pictures and putting away things in the attic. Finally the door was done and we love it. Our house already brings in so much light and with the storm door we have even more. It reall opens up the front of the house.

Thanks to my mom and Jim, we were able to get a few things marked off Ben's Honey Do list!

Welcome to Small Town Charm

As this being one of the first weekends we've gotten settled enough to take a break from the unpacking and enjoy Apex, we decided to venture the short distance of 2 miles to downtown Apex for ice cream. I had heard about the fabulous ice cream shop downtown. After parking, we discovered a concert at The Depot. We strolled along pass Peak City Grill, which we can't wait to try, and then a few stores down to the ice cream shop.

I ordered a scoop in a sugar cone of Raspberry Rocky Road and immediately start devouring it. Ben got Banana Pudding and went to pay. Turns out they only take cash or check...we never have either with us. So, we panic and the teenage girls tell us there is a Suntrust a block away or we can come back another day and pay. In Raleigh, that would never happen! Of course, Ben just walked down and got cash...I didn't want having to go back and pay $4 for our ice cream looming over me.

It was a perfect end to our Sat. night, walking through downtown Apex and stopping in all the store windows and then driving 5 minutes back home! Apex is living up to it's slogan..."The Peak of Good Living."

Saturday, June 28

Breakfast in a Bag

Yesterday I discovered google reader and a few blogs were suggested to me. While reading them, I found a post about making omlettes in a ziploc bag. Not that I mind cleaning up a pan for just two omlettes, but once I told Ben about this, we had to try it out.

You crack two eggs into a Ziploc bag (freezer kind preferrably). Add a little milk and any ingredients you like. We added ham, onions, banana peppers, cheese and a little ground pepper. Close the bag and get as much air out as you can. Shake to mix everything up. Put in a large pot of boiling water for exactly 13 minutes. Remove: cut open the bag and let your perfectly cooked omlette slide out.
I actually saw Paula Deen make these on her show once and thought it was odd, but it's an easy way to make many different omlette's if you have a crowd. Everyone can get their own made to order breakfast. You can put up to 8 bags of omelettes in one pot; therefore no one has to wait too long. It also seems like a perfect breakfast for camping. No mess to clean up.

Thursday, June 26

Inherited Flowers

While we've only been in our new house for a month now, we've already seen a few changes in our landscaping. These beauties popped up this week, just when we thought we'd missed their bloom. After a consult with my mom, I figured out they were gladiolus.

I wonder what will pop up next. I love all the little surprises our new house is giving us...the good surprises of course!

Tuesday, June 24


Everyday I get a chuckle when I pass this mobile home park called Shangri-La. Ben and I always say it in funny ways to each other when ever we pass it. It's definitely the little things that crack us up.

And of all people, Cameron, our 10-year-old nephew, told us what Shangri-La really means:

According to Wikipedia it is "a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. In the book, "Shangri-La" is a mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains. Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise but particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia—a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. In the novel Lost Horizon, the people who live at Shangri-La are almost immortal, living years beyond the normal lifespan."

:chuckle, chuckle:

No offense if you live in a mobile home park, but why would anyone name one Shangri-La...permanent happy land! Teehee!

Monday, June 23

The Handyman Hubby!

It's been two weeks since we got our new TV and we finally have a custom entertainment box. Ben did his homework, got his measurements and we picked up the supplies at Lowe's Sunday. He spent the majority of Sunday evening cutting the wood and putting it together. Today he painted it white and set everything back up. I love the detailed molding he added. It makes it looks nicer than just a wood box.

I'm beyond impressed with his handyman skills. I admit, I never considered him handy, but I guess I'll have to rethink that. He's extremely proud of his hard is his wife! I'm looking forward to many more housing projects in the future.

Sunday, June 22

Fun with the birthday presents!

Since my birthday over a week ago, I've been extremely busy and in NYC for a week. This weekend was finally time to enjoy all the great birthday gifts I received. On Sat. night I made a mouth watering peach-blueberry cobbler that was a cross between my great-grandmother's peach cobbler and my favorite Cooking Light cobbler. I think it's my new favorite now.

To accompany dessert I used my new Bialettie Moka Express Espresso Maker. It's a staple in any Italian household. It's very similar to a peculator, but better than any drip coffee as the pressure forces the water through the coffee, but giving it more time to aerate in the coffee. My dad also gave me a hand held frother, so we had perfect cafe lattes.

Today, we went to Durham to 9th Street Active Feet. If you ever need running shoes this is the place...these people really know their stuff. After taking a look at my current shoes, my callus pattern on my feet (gross, I know), they way I walk and finally the way I stand on each foot, I was recommended 4 pairs of running shoes. For the first time in my life, I selected shoes based on comfort and what I needed, rather than color, brand and price. After a few test runs up and down the street I used my gift certificate from my mom to buy the Etonic Jepera 2 SC. Comparably, they are heavy for a running shoe, but offered so much cushion and also giving enough support for my over pronation. I can't wait to test them out. Being so busy with the move, birthdays and then NYC, I haven't run in over a month! But, just another reason to get back in the groove and start training for the OBX marathon.

I'm still debating on how to spend my Lowe's and Bed Bath and Beyond gift cards. I'm thinking of putting them towards a new storm door to match our windows, bath hardware for our master bedroom, or a ceiling fan for our bedroom.

Friday, June 20

So Long City Life...Hello Suburbia!

I'm about to head out to the airport in less than an hour and couldn't be more excited to leave the big city. At first working in NYC was exciting. I've now had my fill. I'm ready to get back to the south, where life is slower and people are nicer in general.

In the last two days, I conquered my fear and went to Times Square alone and saw a show. At the last minute I decided to go dispite the rain. Bought a ticket to see A Chorus Line (with Mario Lopez) at the TKTS counter. The show was wonderful and I'm so glad I went. Especially since it's closing on Broadway in Aug. I enjoyed a wonderful Italian restaurant, tasted real NY cheesecake, did some shoppping and had the best filet mignon at Frankie and Johnnie's steak house.
The trip was a blast...a great experience nonetheless. I'm nervous to come back home to do the work part of it. It was great being at the office to ask questions and now I'm totally on my own. But, I'm more than happy to enjoy my house and relax this weekend...a first since we bought it!

Wednesday, June 18

Alone in A City of Millions

I'm offically on my own now. Ben left the city today for home and made it safely. I sure hope he was able to get a quick nap in this afternoon before working 12 hours tonight. I've traveled by myself many times, but realized this is the first time ever I've stayed by myself. It's quite weird. The thought of going back to the hotel alone isn't really appealing. I'm thinking about going back to Times Square and seeing a show by myself tonight. Maybe A Chorus Line, which is definitely something Ben would never want to see. But, then again, we've been so busy in the evenings, a nice evening with take out (Italian or Chinese) and watching TV and the NYC skyline from my king sized bed also sounds quite nice. Considering it's a little chilly here and raining...ugh. Lovely, I forgot the umbrella and I've got a 14 block walk. Now, I'm thinking anything that is delivery sounds great! Maybe I'll wait on the show and see it tomorrow night.

It seems like I've been in New York for a month. At first it was fun doing touristy stuff, then intimidating and depressing to have to go to work, then I thought I might be able to get used to the city life, now I just miss suburbia. Everyone is always in a rush. I can go get lunch and no one will be in line and they rush me to order.

Nevertheless, we've had an awesome impromtu vacation. Ben saw more of the city than he ever thought. Monday, he spent the day in lower Manhattan. He went to Battery Park, took a ferry to Ellis Island and then the Statue of Liberty and walked through the financial district.

He picked me up at work and went to the Whole Foods in Union Square and bought several beers NC is not allowed to sell. We then headed to Mesa Grill, Bobby Flay's restaurant. It was a little pricey, but worth every penny. I had, by far, the best peice of salmon ever and mashed potatoes with cilantro puree. Dinner would only have been better if Bobby Flay himself brought me my dinner.

We ended the night at Max Brenner's Chocolate by the Bald Man. Wow...a true Chocolate Factory. We had a dessert sampler of Fondue, Smore's, Banana Waffles, ice cream, Chocolate poprocks...everything of course drenched in chocolate. It was really almost too much.

Tuesday I went to work and Ben stuck close by. He picked up cupcakes for us at Crumbs, met me for lunch and purchased tickets for Aveneue Q. After work, we got all dolled up and went up to Times Square. The show was great...a perfect fit for both of us. It's a parody on Seasame Street and comedy musical all in one. Since we ate a late lunch, we decided to get dinner after the show. Ben found an awesome local brewery in the Empire State Building and we had a late night dinner there...complete with a few local brews.

So just two nights the big city. I must say I'll be ready to get back home. I'm looking forward to vegging out in the new house this weekend, which I haven't been able to do since we moved in.

Monday, June 16

Happy Monday from NYC!

I'm working from the NYC office this week...It's so strange to be in such a touristy city that I've only visited for pleasure and be working! But, I'm using my bosses office since he's on vacation and I have a perfect view of the Empire State building. I can almost make out the people on the top and occassionally see a few flashes from the camera!

Getting to the office this morning was a little nerve-racking...I guess intimidating is a better word. All I knew was our building is located on Madison and 24th and my group is on the 11th floor. So when I asked the front desk, they sent me on a man hunt to Access Control to get my ID updated with access to the building. Then, there are 2 building and several other elevators that go to different floors. Once I finally found the 11th floor, I wandered around the maze of hundreds and hundreds of cubes to find my group.

Hopefully, that I've found my route tomorrow morning will go much smoother and I won't be a nervous nelly commuter.

Our trip so far: We flew in yesterday morning were in the city and our hotel by 11am. We decided to brave Times Square and hit up John's Pizzeria. This pizza place has been featured on the Food Network and is located in a renovated church. After that we went to Serendipity and had a Frozzzen Hot Chocolate. We each had our own, then purchased some mix to bring home.

We hit up H&M for some shopping and took a stroll through Tiffany's and the rest of 5th Ave. Then went up in the Rockafeller Building which had a wonderful full of the city from every direction and headed down the street to watch the Red Carpet for the Tony Awards. We were just on the other side of the street where the Red Carpet was and we saw Harry Connick, Jr., Alex Bladwin and Liza Minelli.

It was pretty much an exhausting day and we mustered up some energy for a late dinner at a French restuarant, Artisanal. According to my Zagat, it's the 25th most popular restaurant in NYC. We ordered the Artisanal blend fondue with bread and kielbasa. Ben ordered a fish soup and I had a delicious beet and goat cheese salad. We were too stuffed from dinner to order dessert. By the the time we got back to our hotel, which is georgous by the way and offers a stunning view of the Crysler building from the 23rd floor, it was 10 and I fell into bed.

Ben went to the Statute of Liberty, Ellis Island and Ground Zero today. And finished with a beer at a local brewery/restaurant, Heartland. He's currently on his way to meet me at the office. We have dinner reservations at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. After dinner we plan to stop by Max Brenner's Chocolate by the Bald Man for chocolate dessert.

When we get back I'll update our posts with pictures, but for now that gives you an update on our trip so far.

Monday, June 9

Happy Happy Happy Birthday!

What a great day! Just when I thought this was another birthday and a regular ol' Monday. Ben greeted me early this morning with an awesome birthday gift. The new Nike+Sportsband. I have a brand new classic Ipod and the Ipod version on Nike+ doesn't work with it. I'm so excited for new running shoes and the Nike+ to keep track of my runs. Perfect for the half marathon training.

Work was a busy day, but not nearly as bad as I had anticipated. The next few weeks will be very busy as I leave for New York City on Sunday for a week of training. One our co-workers in NY resigned today and they selected me to go up ASAP and train with her. We're now scrambling to find Ben a flight to join me for most of the week. I can't wait to get back to the Big Apple...I've been so jealous of all of my cowokers traveling to NY and now it's finally my turn. I know I'll be working everyday, but hopefully I can catch at least one show, a few good dinners and some light shopping.

After work, my dad, step-mom and sisters joined us for dinner at Lucky 32. Ben and I both enjoyed the shrimp and grits. I got so many wonderful gifts from everyone. My sister, Sara, who just returned from a week in Spain, gave me a few pieces of cool handmade jewelry, new sandals and beautiful pashmina. The little girls potted some flowers that are beautiful for the patio. And my parents gave me new Jack Rogers sandals, an espresso maker, and few other small gifts for the house. After dinner we had Ben's cake he made for me.

Also, our new TV was delivered today. It's huge! I've never looked at a TV this size. Now if TWC will change our cable box to the HDTV we can see how this bad boy really looks.

Thanks again for the all birthday wishes. It's been a fantastic day!

Sunday, June 8

Birthday Party #1

Much to my surprise we got our act together and got the house presentable within 2 weeks to host a birthday party. My mom, step-dad, grandparents, brothers, sister-in-law and Ben's parents joined us Sun. afternoon for an early dinner.

3 generations and my brothers and grandfather.

Despite the heat, Ben grilled tequila-lime shrimp and chicken kabobs and corn on the cob, while the rest of us stayed inside in the cool air conditioning. He bought an awesome marinade from Williams-Sonoma made with silver tequila agave nectar and balanced by Key lime and lemon juices, roasted jalapeños and cracked black peppercorns. Kabobs are my favorite and this marinade was perfect for the summer heat.

Ben grilling the kabobs on the new grill and Jenni with the red plate! The red plate has always been the special cake for any special occassion in our family.

As a sweet ending, Ben made me a Better Than Sex Cake, that I've been craving for months. The cake was a very rich chocolate cake with caramel, whipped topping and heath bars...but that didn't stop me from having a second piece. I also served homemade Key-Lime Pie ice cream.

Finally...the best part of the evening...Presents! My mom and Jim gave me a gift card to Ninth Street Active Feet for new running shoes. Since taking up running, my practically brand new Nike's aren't cutting it and 9th St. specializes in fittings for the perfect shoes. My brother and sister in law, Amanda, gave me a gift card to Bed Bath and Beyond as well as Pedegg. My inlaws, Susan and George, also gave me a Bed Bath and Beyond gift card. It'll be nice to finally buy something "pretty" for the house, rather than essentials from Lowe's. And lastly, my grandparents gave Ben and I a little cash for a house-warming gift. I've already received tons of cards, which are displayed on our mantel...we love having a fireplace just for this reason.

Tomorrow is the big birthday...too bad I have to work and know it'll be a hectic day...Mondays always are! We plan to celebrate with my dad and sisters at Lucky 32's.

Thanks everyone for a great birthday celebration and all gifts!

Sunday, June 1

The Big 5-0 Birthday

This year was my mom's big 50th birthday party. It was my dad's too, but he wasn't interested in having a big party as he had a big suprise for this 40th. My brother and I started planning this party back in Feburary and it turned out wonderful. Her actual birthday was Tuesday, May 27. After spending 2 weeks at the beach, she came back and we surprised her with dinner at the Weathervane. As a general rule our family celebrates at home rather than go out, but since this year was a big one, we splurged. Not only did we splurge on dinner, I think we gave her one of the best birthday gifts ever.

She's been wanting a nice COACH bag for quite some time. I think every time we go shopping she looks at them. My brother, Zack and I went in together and bought her one that I knew she'd love. It's the perfect size and shape...a hobo, so it's comfy. Needless to say, she was quite surprised and overly giddy. She kept kidding she was going to sleep with it, but I wouldn't put it past her!

If the new handbag and dinner wasn't enough, we threw her a big party catered by Daniel's for all our family and friends. Everything turned out better than expected. The food was wonderful and it was so nice to see friends we haven't seen in years that came to celebrate. My sister in law, Amanda and I made a few appetizers that were a huge hit. Her brushetta, caprese and antipasta salads were delicious and I got rave reviews on my stuffed mushrooms and tiramisu.

Mouth-Watering Stuffed Mushrooms

12 whole fresh mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 340 F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Carefully break off stems. Chop stems extremely fine, discarding any touch ends of the stems.Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and chopped msuhroom stems to the skillet. Fry until any moisture has disappeared, taking care not to burn the garlic. Set aside to cool.

When garlic and mushroom mixture is no longer hot, stir in cream cheese, parmesan cheese, black pepper, onion powder and cayenne pepper. Mixture should be very thick. Using a little spoon, fill each mushroom cap with a generous amount of stuffing. Arrange the mushroom caps on a prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the msuhrooms are piping hot and liquid starts to form until caps.

White Russian Tiramisu
1/2 cup ground coffee beans
1 3/4 cups cold water
1/4 cup Kahlúa (coffee-flavored liqueur), divided
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) mascarpone cheese
1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
24 ladyfingers (2 [3-ounce] packages)
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa, divided
Assemble drip coffee maker according to manufacturer's directions. Place the ground coffee in the coffee filter or filter basket. Add cold water to coffee maker and brew to make 1 1/2 cups. Combine the brewed coffee and 2 tablespoons Kahlúa in a shallow dish, and cool.

Combine cheeses in a large bowl. Beat at high speed of a mixer until smooth. Add sugars and 2 tablespoons Kahlua, and beat until well-blended.

Split ladyfingers in half lengthwise.

Quickly dip 24 ladyfinger halves, flat sides down, into coffee mixture; place, dipped sides down, in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish, slightly overlapping ladyfinger halves. Spread half of cheese mixture over ladyfingers; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon cocoa. Repeat procedure with remaining ladyfinger halves, coffee mixture, cheese mixture, and 1 teaspoon cocoa.

Place 1 toothpick in each corner and 1 in the center of tiramisu (to prevent plastic wrap from sticking to cheese mixture); cover with plastic wrap. Chill 2 hours.

I have to give a huge shout to the Lowes Foods bakery in Apex. Originally I wanted Cinda's Creative Cakes to make a wine-themed birthday cake. When she couldn't, I panicked, then procastinated, then ran to Lowes 2 days before the party to see what they could do. I gave them a black and white photo of a cake design I had in mind and they exceeded my greatest expectations. The cake was beautiful and decorated in an "Aged to Perfection" wine theme.
My uncle tried to have a little fun and have the Sheriff come and out arrest her for being too old. Too bad they didn't have enough coverage and couldn't play along with the little idea. Otherwise he would have gotten her good.

All in all it was a great she'll never forget!

New sexy TV and other house purchases!

I finally caved in and let Ben buy a new TV...obviously I'm stoked too. Kind of hard to believe that I'm this excited over a TV as well as dropping that much money on electronics. Since we moved into the new house and got everything arranged I decided a new dining set could wait. That little nook over the fireplace was screaming for something Ben was not looking forward to putting our 93 lb 27 inch tube TV up there.

We've both did extensive research and decided on either a Samsung or a Sony Bravia. Ben found a 1080p Samsung 40 inch...which literally fits our entire nook with less than 1 inch to spare. He got a smokin' deal on it through Newegg and saved us $600. I'm glad he hit the "BUY" button on the website this morning rather than me.

After we made the bug purchase, we tidied up a little and went to Lowe's and got fun yard stuff. A new lawnmower, weed-eater, hedge trimmer, rake, grill cover (for the new grill my dad gave us as a house warming present), roman shades for our bathroom, a new bigger umbrella for the patio table, and a few other odds and ends including some fresh herbs to grow on the patio.