Sunday, September 28

A little weekend getaway!

We just returned from a nice weekend in Eastern NC. We went with my family to ECU's family weekend to visit my sister. Since Ben is now a Pirate we've had it on our list to go to a football game this year.

All hotels were booked, so my dad reserved us rooms at a Bed & Breakfast in New Bern. I love New Bern and it's always been a favorite city of mine, with Camp Seafarer so close. We drove down Friday night with a quick dinner stop at Kings BBQ in Kinston. I'm pretty sure we were the only guests at the Harmony House B&B Fri. night. The breakfast was delicious...egg strata, coffee cake, fresh fruit, and homemade toast.

After breakfast we drove to Greenville with my parents. My sister, Sara's sorority was hosting a parent's weekend brunch of their own. We spent the rest of the afternoon tailgating with spread of food. I was so stuffed from 2 breakfasts and lunch. I didn't check the weather right before we left and thought it'd be cool...the temps were in the high 80's and we were sweltering! And being that it is almost Oct. I never thought about sunscreen. So hours in the sun resulted in a nice farmer's sunburn for me. Other than the heat and the Pirates losing, we had a great time.

After the game we headed back to New Bern to find a place for dinner. It wasn't hard to settle on Captain Ratty's. Ben and I shared the biggest mug of Clam was so thick and creamy. For our main course I ordered the catch of the day, blackened salmon on a big salad and Ben got the Cobb Salad. Both we were huge and amazingly fantastic, but we really should have shared.

The day was exhausting and after a quick shower, Ben, me, Sara, Laura and Lillie were fast asleep by 945 in our suite.

Sunday morning's breakfast was even better. The owners, Sookie and Ed, had made homemade french toast casserole with homemade blueberry syrup, coffee cake, homemade granola and fruit. Nothing was open at 1030 when we left, so we took a quick drive by the waterfront and through downtown. I love New Bern and it was really neat to see how much it's grown up since I've been there last. Ben loved it too and mentioned on our drive home how he'd like to go back and stay at the B&B again. I wish we had time to browse all the fun shops and visit the old drug store where Pepsi was born, but we can save that for our next visit.

Girl's Weekend!

I'm a week late getting around to updates! Last weekend, my college roommate, Meg and her mom came down from the DC area for a long Girl's-Mother/Daughter weekend. We made it to our beach house by late afternoon. After a quick a few glasses of wine and a walk on the beach we ordered the best pizza ever from Basil's. It's a very small authentic NY style pizza place right across from the beach. Without any boys to please...we ordered a white pizza with spinach, mushrooms and shrimp. Delicious! We topped off the evening with a little McDreamy and watched Made of Honor.

Saturday I went for a run while everyone else walked. I was quite proud of myself...I did 4.13 miles in 40 minutes! After our morning exercise we literally shopped 'til we dropped! Most of the day was spent shopping at the outlets. I scored quite a few new tops, dress pants and a very comfy and versitle black jumper. Coach was having an awesome sale and my mom got a great new work tote. We ended the night at T-Bonz with a glass of their new Octoberfest which they had just tapped. And the night wouldn't be complete without another chick flick...Baby Mama.

Meg has never been to Charleston and since Charleston is one of our favorite day-trip places, we decided to go Sun. The day was beautiful and very pleasant. We started our trip off with lunch at 82 Queen with sandwiches and their famous She-Crab Soup. We wandered through the market, in and out of the side shops, had a wine tasting and ended with dinner at the Noisy Oyster. My uncle had just arrived in town on business and treated us to dinner. We all ordered Shrimp and Grits...we were stuffed by the time we headed home.

It was a great weekend with the girl's and I was sad it ended so quickly. Meg and I go months and sometimes a year between seeing each other, but we always pick right back up where we left off. We did promise it won't be a year before we visit again...hopefully we can get up to DC in the early spring...possibly for another girl's weekend!

Wednesday, September 24

Happy Happy Anniversary to US!

Yesterday Ben and I celebrated our 2nd anniversary! I can truly say I have the best husband ever! He always puts me first and thinks of anything and everything to make me happy! Since we've planned a late fall trip to Asheville we decided to keep it low-key. For weeks we made plans to go to PF Change on Monday night one day early, where we had our very first date over 4 years ago.

Us before dinner at PF Changs!

When I came back Mon. afternoon from a girl's weekend at the beach, I could tell Ben had something up his sleeve. He could barely hold it in any longer and told me my surprise...For weeks he's been planning on cooking dinner at home on our actual anniversary. He took off the night from work and planned and cooked the entire dinner.

Ben made the most awesome Angus Barn worthy dinner: NY Strips with blue cheese, crab meat and homemade hollandaise sauce on top, twice-baked potatoes and asparagus. We shared a bottle of one of our favorites wines, Hayman & Hill Cabernet Sauvignon. I had picked up cheesecake for dessert on my way home from work. We both had so much fun remembering the details of our wedding and reception will eating by candlelight on our china.

The 2nd anniversary gift is cotton. I could not come up with a memorable cotton gift for Ben. This weekend I found a t-shirt dyed with beer and said "Will Sell WIFE for Beer." As a last minute gift I got him a pair of Lucky jeans he's been eyeing. Ben got me the most beautiful flowers and a new robe from Victoria's Secret.

We can't wait to continue our anniversary celebration in Asheville over Thanksgiving weekend!

New Recipes

I've been meaning to post these recipes...just two new ones I made last week and they were delicious!

I was in the mood for a non-traditional salad and saw Chicken and Couscous Salad featured on one day. This was perfect for a quick dinner, but even better for lunch almost everyday later in the week. It's very versatile and I added whatever veggies I had on hand. In addition to what the recipe called for, I added shredded carrots and substituted tomatoes for the radishes. We had fresh chicken breasts, so Ben grilled those. But you could easily buy the prepared chicken breast slices in the deli and they'd be grea too and even quicker! This recipe definitely goes on my quick go-to dinner and spice it up lunch menu!

Chicken Couscous Salad (Cooking Light)

1 1/4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 (5.7-ounce) box uncooked couscous
1 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken (about 6 ounces)
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup diced radishes (about 3 large)
1/2 cup chopped seeded peeled cucumber
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

To prepare salad, bring broth to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually stir in couscous. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Spoon couscous into a large bowl; cool slightly. Add chicken, onions, radishes, cucumber, parsley, and pine nuts; toss gently to combine.
To prepare dressing, combine vinegar and remaining ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle dressing over salad; toss to combine.

The second recipe is Orange-Sesame Noodles with Grilled Shrimp. It's another featured recipe on, but from back in the summer. I never got around to making it, but wish I had made it sooner. I think Ben was impressed I used peanut butter for the sauce...he's a PB freak! The orange, sesame and peanut butter made for some interesting flavors...very thai!

Orange-Sesame Noodles with Grilled Shrimp (Cooking Light)

1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
3 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
10 ounce soba noodles or spaghetti
1 cup snow peas
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl.
Boil noodles according to package directions. Before draining, add snow peas and carrot. Let cook 30 seconds.

Drain pasta, peas, and carrot, and toss immediately with orange juice mixture. Set aside.
Brush shrimp with sesame oil, and grill over medium-hot coals 3 to 5 minutes.

Arrange pasta on serving plates, and top with shrimp.

Sunday, September 7

Grown Up Furniture

After getting settled in our new house over the past few months, we decided we'd officially start furniture shopping for our living room. We've been window shopping for a while and narrowed down our style. Today we found some awesome pieces and finally bit the bullet for some quality more Target particle board! And even better we were able to find Ben a leather "Man Chair" that we both loved. I had strict rules that it can swivle or rock! Hopefully he'll still love it in 10 years! We brought the man chair home today, but the sofa, loveseat, cocktail table and end tables will be delivered in about 3 weeks.

Here is Ben enjoying the big Panther's win over San Deigo today in his chair with a beer.

And our other stuff that we can't wait to get. We purchased a sofa and loveseat in a Khaki microfiber suade. And I love the tables with plenty of storage. Our tables are slightly dark in a Java Cherry finish. I can't wait to start decorating and pulling together our hodge-podge living room!

Dark Chocolate Cherry Brownies

I absolutely love chocolate and cherry combinations. In fact, I can devour an entire box of Queen Anne's Chocolate Covered Cherries in Liquor at Christmas and my concerte of choice at Goodberry's is chocolate with bing cherries. So when I saw this recipe in my newest Cooking Light I had to make these! Delish! I probably added a little more cherry preserves than the recipe called for, which I think made them even more moist.

I made these to take to my brother's for a little dinner party since my Unk was in town. We had a great time and it would have been better if this annoying cold wasn't dragging me down.

Dark Chocolate Cherry Brownies (Cooking Light)

Cooking spray
3.4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cherry preserves
1/3 cup water
5 tablespoons butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large egg white
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper; coat with cooking spray.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, unsweetened cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine cherry preserves, 1/3 cup water, and butter in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Add preserves mixture to flour mixture; stir well. Add egg and egg white; stir until smooth. Stir in semisweet chocolate chips. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool in pan on wire rack. Garnish with powdered sugar, if desired.

Yield 16 servings

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 155(31% from fat); FAT 5.4g (sat 3g,mono 1.4g,poly 0.2g); IRON 1mg; CHOLESTEROL 23mg; CALCIUM 10mg; CARBOHYDRATE 25.8g; SODIUM 168mg; PROTEIN 2.2g; FIBER 1.1g

Thursday, September 4

Thanks to Hanna!

This weekend we had plans to go to the beach and meet up with my college friend, Maryellen and her family. We haven't seen them in over a year and were really excited. Until Hurricane Hanna decided to make landfall. While the weather won't be terrible, we didn't want to chance driving to the beach IN the hurricane. So, change of plans...we're staying home! Maybe I can convince Ben to rip out the tile above the oven in the kitchen and start prepping the walls for a new backsplash and microwave. But a nice rainy day spent being lazy sounds good too!

Monday, September 1

One Last Summer Hoo-Rah!

As Labor Day is typically considered the last weekend of the summer, we celebrated it at the beach! We still have a few more weekends planned to the beach. Next weekend is one of them if Hurricane Hanna decides to make a sharp right turn and head back out to sea.

Both Saturday and Sunday turned out to be incredibly nice, although a little hot. We started Sat. morning off early with a run. My best 5k ever! I did 3.14 miles in 31:23. The rest of the day included the beach and pool. Then dinner at our usual favorite beach place...T-bonz. It didn't take much convincing, but we ended up at the Chairmen of the Board concert at the House of Blues. This is my favorite place to see them and this being the 6th time I've seen General Johnson, it was probably the best. I'm sure the drinks Ben was handing me all night had nothing to do with that. My uncle and my mom ended up on stage, so I guess you could say we had a great time!

Sunday was a lazy day. We spent most of the day by the pool and then headed in to pack and head home. I had to work today, Labor Day. It wasn't all that bad and I get an extra vacation day for working the holiday. I came home at 230 and Ben and I have been tidying up, doing errands and now finally relaxing!

Until I flipped the calendar to September, I was sad summer is almost over and nowhere near ready for fall, but now I can't wait to buy new fall decor and start decorating our new house. I can't wait to set out pumpkins on our front porch.