Friday, December 28, 2012

Glam-ish Nursery

Once I see something that inspires me I have to get it out of my head, like this living room I cooked up inspired by an awesome sectional I'm craving.  It seems everyone is having babies (no, not me), so I've had nurseries on my mind lately:

This nursery was inspired by the purple rug, which I spotted while perusing Target's site one day.  To me it looked very girly but mature, glam but not overwhelming, and it could be the focal point or used to accentuate an otherwise monochromatic room like this one.  

I feel like the room needs more pops of green, but the lampshade and matching lumbar pillow are a start - the inevitable "stuff" that comes with new babies will likely provide the needed color to brighten the space.

The book cart is my favorite piece - I'm a book nerd and not ashamed, and am so getting my kid a library cart for their book collection.  It would look so cute full of books from Mother Goose to the Hungry Caterpillar to To Kill a Mockingbird, with sets of books broken up by toys or stuffed animals.  Plus, since it's neutral and not baby/nursery-specific, it should be able to evolve with your child as their tastes/collections change over the years.

I tried to leave the glider out and use a cushier piece like this instead, but in our imaginary nursery design, Dave  *must* have a glider.  No exceptions.  Ugh.  Love the little patio table for any supplies you may need near you while nursing - or perhaps a snack or bottle of water for mom?

The roman shade would need a blackout liner on the back to make it functional for a nursery, or maybe you could fake it by adding a blackout roller shade inside the window casing so you get style plus blackout napping on the cheap?

A bonus is that with the neutral, classic crib, glider, and silver leaf dresser, you would only need to switch out the rug, lampshade, and pillow to make the room boy-friendly if needed for next time around!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pioneer Woman - Monster Cookies

I resisted the Pioneer Woman bandwagon for a loooong time, but one weekday a few weeks ago I was home (can't remember why) and caught her show on the Food Network.  Her kids and husband were out hauling hay, or something, all day so she made them some a good, hearty meal topped off with monster cookies.

A few days later I was still thinking about them, so in an effort to get them out of my head and into mah belly, I went into the kitchen and got to work!

Here's her recipe:


  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) salted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 whole large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cup oats (either quick or regular)
  • 1 cup chocolate coated candies, such as M&M's
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (milk or semisweet)
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 2 1/4 cups rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies
  • Cold milk, for serving
[Because I'm lazy and she said you can adjust the candies as you wish, I used 1/2 cup each of M&M's, chocolate chips, and pecans.  I followed her direction on the Rice Krispies and oats, and added 1/2 cup of Reese's peanut butter chips.]


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Cream the butter with both sugars in a mixing bowl until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat.
Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add to the mixing bowl and mix until combined. After that, add in the oats, chocolate candies, chocolate chips and pecans in whatever quantity you prefer. Add the cereal at the very end, mixing until just combined. Do not over mix!
[Once you add the candies and Rice Krispies, the batter will be VERY thick.  I recommend switching to a spoon rather than using your mixer, as the motor in my KitchenAid started to smell like it was burning out.  Don't worry, all is well.  I'm sure you all would have heard my screams (via Facebook, of course) if I broke it.]
Use a cookie scoop to scoop balls of dough onto a cookie sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes, and then allow to cool on a rack.

These cookies are awesome!  Even though I used my 2 tbsp. cookie scoop, these expanded so much they came out monster-sized!  The 4 cookies in the pic above take up the space of 6-8 normal cookies on my cooling rack.  Serve one with a cold glass of milk for a perfect afternoon snack! :)

Happy 70th Mama!

[This post is only 45 days old ;) - forgot to hit that pesky publish button]

To celebrate my mom's fall birthday, we headed up to Charlottesville for lunch and apple picking purchasing!  First stop was lunch at Michie Tavern, which has been providing libations to weary travelers since the late 18th century!  It sits at the base of Carter Mountain, on the only road up to Monticello.  I highly recommend it if you're in the area at lunchtime (the only meal they serve).

In addition to dining, they offer tours of the house, but you have to be willing to do the Virginia Reel with strangers once you reach the top floor.  You game?  Neither was I.  There are also several outbuildings on the property, plus some shops where you can purchase colonial garb and metalworks.

But we skipped all that and dug into the buffet.  I'm sure that surprises no one.  This is the inside of the tavern - set your watches back 200 years folks, it's so authentic! 

Down to the vintage metal plates and mugs on which the food is served.  They had a good selection of food, and I'm ashamed that my plate doesn't look more balanced.  I'm not really.  I like carbs.  THey had black-eyed peas, green beans, carrots, greens, and then the carbs.  The fried chicken was fantastic, but the Diet Coke tasted too modern and seemed inauthentic ;).

After lunch we headed next door and up Carter Mountain to my favorite apple orchard!  It was the last weekend of their Apple Harvest Festival, and though we didn't go into the orchard to pick apples (why when they already did the work?) we had a good time walking around the country store and wine shop.

I picked up some Jonagold apples - my favorite!  Sometimes Martin's carries these, but when I see them anywhere else I must pick some up because they are hard to find.  They lasted long enough in the fridge to make an apple pie for Thanksgiving :).

This is my current desktop background, even though it is almost Christmas!

Here is Hurricane/SuperStorm Sandy rolling in.  We decided, based on these ominous clouds + every newscast in the country, that we should head home and batten down the hatches.  Turns out that really wasn't necessary, but who would have guessed based on this sky 48 hours before expected landfall?

Happy Birthday Mama!

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Birthday week is always an eventful one around here, since we have 4 to celebrate!  Nate is December 5th, me the 6th, and Dave and Agnes are December 8th birthday twins!  So in addition to this week being the last in the semester, we had a plethora of birthday celebrations!

Dave and I started the week on Sunday with a trip to Smokey Bones for lunch with my parents!  Dave had never been, but my parents love the place, and I went once with the girls after a Twilight movie so I have excellent memories of it :)  haha - Team Renesmee!  We had some good times talking about politics (yes, even though the election is over) and plans for Christmas this year, and my mom hooked me up with some new miracle scrubbies!  These are the best sponges on the planet!  I first got one from Miller Farms Market, handmade by Jo, and my mom found these at a church bazaar...she even made sure JMU and UR were represented!

After an impromptu trip to Ikea to kill some time, we met all the Millers downtown at The Bavarian Chef for authentic German fare.

Nate has wanted to eat there for a special occasion for several years, and he finally got his wish. :)  When the server first greeted us, I thought we were part of an elaborate prank - his accent was so over the top I thought he was joking, but nope, he really does talk like Mary Poppins.  God save the queen.  He was excellent, though, and his stories were fascinating.  He's been around the block.

The food was fantastic, the portions HUGE, but the best part was the German chocolate cake:

Thursday night (my birthday), we had dinner with Dave's parents at Firebirds.  We had a reservation, and when Dave and I got there, the hostess said part of our party had already arrived, but didn't offer to show us where they were seated.  So Dave took a lap around the restaurant to find them, with no luck.  So they seated us and we waited...and waited...until Dave started to worry and called them at home to see if anything had happened.  They didn't answer, so I decided to take another lap around the place to see if Dave's eyes deceived him.  Sure enough, they were about 5 tables away, waiting for us!  Hahahahaha!  So we moved, had a good laugh, and enjoyed our dinner :)

Saturday was Dave's 40th birthday and Agnes' 1st birthday!  Sharon had us over to celebrate Agnes and we ordered enough Chinese food to feed an army!

Agnes had her first cupcake - it took her a minute to realize she was supposed to eat it, rather than just mash it around in her hands, but she loved it!

She opened her gifts - Joe and Sharon got her a farm set, but she was much more interested in the box:

Once she was finished with her smash cake and gifts, we enjoyed a funfetti cake Sharon made... some Star Wars cupcakes I brought for Dave - he's 40 and a Star Wars birthday is still age-appropriate right?  We went with it :)

Phew, I'm tired!  Today was our last celebration - the girls told me nothing about our adventure other than to be ready at 10am and to not wear jeans.  This freaked me out because I always wear jeans!  Even to work.  It took a while to find something appropriate - the shoes were the worst part because all I've worn recently are sneakers and flip-flops.  In a bit of a fashion rut, I suppose?

Anyway, Ashley picked me up this morning, and I tried not to over-analyze where we were going.  She asked a couple of times if I knew where I was or where she was driving, but I had no idea.  The only place in Richmond I know of that has a strict dress code for Sunday brunch is the Jefferson, but when she got on northbound 95 I knew that was out!

So I went with it until we reached the Hanover Courthouse area, and I figured it out - we've been talking about having lunch or brunch at Hanover Tavern for a long while, so I was so happy to see her turn in :)

When we sat down, the server brought me a birthday card, signed by the staff - how sweet is that?  Great customer service!

We sat upstairs on the enclosed veranda, and it felt like we were doing that front porch thing.

We had some fantastic brunch food, including grits from a local mill and the most delicious cinnamon butter that I can't wait to copy!

We spent most of the time grilling Melissa on the proper care of chickens - she is renovating a house in a rural area and has some chickens.  We just needed some information, like:

  • can the chickens fly?
  • do you need a rooster to get eggs?
  • how do you know if the eggs are good to eat?
  • how do you keep the hawks away?
  • are you sick of eggs yet?
  • are you going to get sheepies?
Haha - she was very patient with us as we threw questions at her from all angles.  We all want chickens for the eggs, but it sounds like quite the commitment, even though the chickens are pretty self-sufficient.  I'll stick to a cat for now, but when Dave and I move to the country (still working on him) we're getting a chicken. Done.

Once we finished our meal, we walked around the property and explored the Hanover Courthouse complex across the street.

At this point I think I was being lazy and was just holding the camera at random angles to take photos.  Artsy or lazy?  Let's go artsy!

On the way home, Ashley and I stopped at one of my favorite shops, Through the Garden Gate...

...and both of us got out of there without buying a thing - it's a birthday miracle!

Thanks girls for surprising me with a lovely brunch!

Monday, December 3, 2012

nom nom nom

Dave and I go to the movies a lot.  Everybody knows that.  People always ask me for movie recommendations, whether it's in the theater or something they can watch at home, and then we get lost in conversation...which inevitably turns into "Where should we go to dinner before the movie" or something similar and I always go blank!  Awkward silence.  Then I spit something out, but usually it's a place that I hear is cool but have no first-hand experience to share.

So hopefully to avoid this awkwardness in future conversation, I wanted to write all my thoughts in one place so I could refer people to it.  Or refer myself to it. :)  I'm no expert on RVA food haps or tour guide, obviously, but these are some places we love and hope others love.

  • Brick House Diner - Dave's parents took us out for breakfast one weekend, which is unusual because our breakfast times definitely do not coincide, but we fell in love with Brick House that first time and now it's our go-to breakfast spot.  Although we can only go on Sundays because they serve breakfast all day.  Which means we can roll out of bed at 11am and still partake in that yummy pancake goodness. 
  • Note: all the other categories have more options - Brick House is so good that we rarely never go anywhere else for breakfast.
  • Sunday brunch at the Jefferson - I've only experienced this once, but it was very memorable.  I just can't afford $42 per person on any given weekend.  Christmas time is the best time!

Quick and cheap lunch or dinner without sacrificing quality:
  • Coppola's Deli - Barnyard for the win!  Fresh bread, sandwiches grilled to order, and our table is always free!
  • New York Deli - Full disclosure: we've only been here once, but it was last week and I want to go back right now!  It instantly moved to the top of the dinner rotation - great music, awesome hipster servers, good beer selection.  The best part:  the simple, classic ice cream sundae I had for dessert.  No frills or fuss, just an old-fashioned treat.  Yum.
  • Mary Angela's - This is the type of place where you walk in realizing you will wait for a table, you will get meh service because the staff is busy watching a soccer game, and you like it anyway.  NY style pizza with any topping you can imagine.
  • Stuzzi - the first time I visited Stuzzi with friends was a little rough, but I've been back with Dave a few times with better luck.  They cook Neapolitan style pizza in a wood-fired oven so it is smokey with fresh ingredients on top!  Mmmmm.
  • NEW! Eat China Street - from the owners of Pescado's (which we don't recommend) this place specializes in Latin Caribbean cuisine and every dish we've tried is FANTASTIC!  I especially love the risotto ball appetizer and the fish tacos! Yum.
Special occasion dinner without breaking the bank:
  • Portico - Last time Dave's brother, Rich, and his wife, Cindy, were in town, we took Cindy on a tour of our work campus and took the scenic route home via River Road.  We passed a cute little house on the left with a sign out front saying "Now Open" and Cindy and I were both gasping and saying "What is that, let's go there!"  The boys had us on a schedule so we couldn't even see what it was, but I later Googled it to figure out what it was.  Dave and I decided to go there for Valentine's Day, and were blown away by the food.  The salmon is to die for, and they grow all the herbs used to season the food on-site.  They have a patio space outside complete with a fireplace, and the ambiance makes you feel like you're on a grand Colonial estate.  We've since gone back for Father's Day and our anniversary, and it's becoming our go-to place for special occasions.
  • Wild Ginger - Wow.  The flaming avocado.  That's all I have to say about this pan-Asian fusion .
  • Crab Louie's - I love restaurants housed in buildings with history.  This place is known for the sweet bread selection they bring to your table before the appetizer course, they have fantastic clam chowder, and I always get the shrimp and grits.  Always.  Don't try to talk me out of it.
  • Lemaire - Another restaurant within the Jefferson Hotel, with seasonal dishes like autumn apple salad and pumpkin seed crusted salmon.  It just might break the bank, depending on the account number.

Sweet treats:
  • Sweet 95 - Housed in a little hut across the parking lot from Kitchen 64, this place has great treats for a hot summer night.  Most of their items have RVA-themed names like Nuttzy, after the Flying Squirrels mascot.  My favorite are the blizzard-like creations that they call 'Traffic Jamz', which is hilarious since they are located under the I-95/I-64 split which is notorious for daily traffic backups.  I don't even know why they bother announcing the backups on the traffic report anymore - it's a given.  PB&J is the best.
  • Pearl's - Of the several cupcake shoppes in RVA we've tried, this is our favorite.  Moist cake and a modest amount of frosting.  Classic cupcake without all the trendy fuss - and they have gluten-free + vegan options.
  • Ray's Italian Ice - Italian ice is so refreshing on a hot day, and they have a huge selection of flavors.  Peanut butter is always safe, but tangerine is my current obsession!
  • Sweet Frog - Make your own froyo + toppings creation, the weirder the better, and pay by the ounce. Everybody wins.

Places we love but don't visit often enough:
  • KubaKuba - fabulous Cuban food, and I hear the tres leches cake is the best around.  I love the Cuban sandwich!
  • Blue Goat - part of the Wild Ginger family, this place was a favorite of ours last year.  Everything they serve comes from local farms, the food is fabulous, and the industrial decor sealed the deal for me.  We haven't been in a while - traumatized by a stomach flu that popped up soon after finishing a meal, totally unrelated and not food poisoning because we had different dishes with no common ingredients - but we need to bring it back into rotation.  My favorite is the open-faced burger with a quail egg on top - yum.
  • Bottom's Up - Everyone knows Bottom's Up has the best pizza in the world, right?  Why don't we go down there more often?  
  • Empress - We've only been to Empress once and were very impressed by the small portions and quality of the meat and sides.  I had a buffalo dish that is no longer on the menu, and I'm not sure why we haven't gone back.
  • Honorable mention:  Mekong - I don't think Dave and I have been to Mekong together, but I LOVE it!  Vietnamese cuisine (mmm spring rolls and peanut sauce) and the best beer selection in RVA!

Wish list:
  • Black Sheep
  • Millie's
  • comfort
  • Mediterano
  • Pescado's - UPDATE:  tried it. meh.
  • Ideas?

Finally, there are some places that have great reputations and are recommended to us often, but we just can't get into them:
  • Kitchen 64 - After a few attempts, trying to like it, it's just not for me.  But yay for any place that has sweet potato fries on the menu.
  • Brio Tuscan Grille - I think this is the only chain on my list.  It's not too expensive to be out of range on a regular old Saturday night (or, who am I kidding, a Wednesday when I don't feel like cooking), but feels like upscale dining.  I'm just glad they let me in wearing jeans.  Yep, I'm that girl sitting next to the Prom party wearing flip-flops.  It's in this section because there's nothing exceptional about it - but we keep going.
  • Frostings - These guys were on Cupcake Wars and are insanely popular.  But I just don't like their cupcakes.  They're dry and there is way too much frosting.  And that's coming from a fat kid who loves frosting.
  • Urban Farmhouse - I was obsessed with this place when I first heard about it.  The location is fabulous, they open all the windows/doors on nice days so it feels like an open air market, and their blog shows they truly know the composition of the ingredients they serve.  But when we finally drove to the slip to check it out, we walked out without ordering because nothing on the menu sounded good.  I don't know that I've ever done that before or since.  Nothing about it was bad, it just wasn't my style.  I could be convinced to go back if I'm in a culinarily-daring mood. 

This was fun.  I might do another one with things to do around town!  #nerd #isanyonereadingthis

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I wish I could get paid for this!

I could make mood boards!  If I had endless money and the perfect house with perfect dimensions, I would redecorate rooms on a whim or by season.  But none of those are the case right now, and I must live vicariously through the internet. :)

Here's my current daydream:

I first saw this sectional on a house crashing post on YHL and I love it!  It just looks so cozy and there is so much space for multiple people to spread out and settle in for a nice long, movie!  It inspired a virtual living room full of classic and timeless pieces spiced up with some pops of color:
  • I chose this rug at first and Dave vetoed it.  Even though this is not actual redecorating, only virtual, I guess I should let him have a say in our pretend living room, right?  Meh.
  • The striped throw was my way of tying all the bold accents together.  It has bright, cheery tones as well as warm ones, so it is pretty versatile and should go with any seasonal decor throughout the year.
  • I love pillows.  We currently have an overthrow pile in the living room because there isn't enough room on the couch for both of us plus the pillows.  I need a support group.
  • To balance out the bright pillows, throw, and accessories, I included a leather club chair/lamp/comfy throw to create a timeless reading corner, plus an aged trunk as a coffee table that doubles as storage - score!  
  • The curtains aren't too matchy but complement the blue in the rug and is a muted verson of the blue accent pillow and vase.
  • The black and white wall art is a vintage map of Chicago - threw that in as an homage to our summer vacation...ahhh, wish I was back there.
  • I felt like the room needed some natural elements, so I added a tree trunk accent table adorned with an adorable owl lamp.  I'm a bit obsessed with owls right now - it's a trend I'm trying to resist.  We'll see how that goes :)
I love that this combination includes lots of bold colors + neutrals, a mix of modern and traditional pieces, and shows how high-end items like a $248 throw blanket can co-exist with a $40 lamp from Target without either piece sticking out.

Here is a complete source list, if you're interested in any of the items!  Or if you want to go ahead and purchase them and have them shipped to me - thanks in advance! :)

Next up:  a nursery inspired by this rug:

And no, mom+friends, that's not an announcement!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Graves Mountain 2012

To continue our tradition, Bonnie and I trekked up to Graves Mountain for the Apple Harvest Festival - and this time we brought Sharon and Agnes with us.

Agnes was cutting a tooth and she had a virus, so she had an Aggietude all day.  Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

I rest my case:

We walked around the vendor spaces - lots of good stuff!  We were disciplined.  I wanted to buy Agnes a tie-dye onesie but they were like $20 and we all thought that was outrageous, even if they were adorable!  So we kept walking.  These olive oil soaps, by Old Dominion Soap Company, smelled so good - and LOVE the packaging.
Apple Harvest and Oatmeal Country Spice were the best!

Then we had some lunch and made our way over to the apple/pumpkin zone.  This apple butter smelled so good, but I'm not allowed to buy any because we never eat it before it expires.  Just admiring it from afar...

We got bags of apples - I picked Staymans and Fijis this time, although the Red Delicious were looking delicious:

When we were done at the festival we drove up into the orchard to see if there were any apples left - no dice.  So we headed home.  I rode in the backseat with Agnes and gave her my phone - look what she did?  Selfie!

The kid's brilliant, I'm telling you...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Via Colori

I'm a little behind on sharing our adventures because whenever my nose isn't in a texbook I feel guilty that it isn't and don't allow myself to anything that would make me feel guiltier.  Does that make sense?  It does to me.

Anyway, over a month ago (lol) I went to Fredericksburg to participate in Via Colori - city blocks are closed and plots mapped for individuals/teams to create art from chalk.  It's a treat to help create and observe others creating these one of a kind works of art before they're washed away!  Bonnie's company was a sponsor of the event and they reserved a 10x10 spot for their own chalk drawing.

Here's the design they came up with - The Evolution of Music:

Surrounded by bands that have shaped the music industry over the years, we see the evolution of man as well, from a creature on all fours carrying an LP, upgrading to bi-pedal status with an 8-track, cassette tape, and CD; then emerging as homo sapien with an iPod.  Quite a few years and types of media included here! :)

Since the team had worked on the plot al day Saturday, we took over where they left off.  They made a ton of progress, so we needed to fill in the primates and complete the bottom of the surrounding design.  SInce I am no artist, I stuck to the basic black forms that had already been outlined for me.  I got more brave as the day went on, but I didn't want to mess anything up.

Bonnie and Ashley were very careful and wore gloves to protect their hands and clothes from the chalk.  I threw caution to the wind, dug in, and this is what happened:

Black chalk is not my friend!  I was sitting/laying on a piece of cardboard while filling in the designs, but still managed to get black chalk all over my shirt, arms, and hands!  I used my gloves for filling in the color (they were great for spreading the color to make it consistent) rather than keeping me clean, and this was the price I paid.

Here's the finished masterpiece!

The only other contribution I made was the treble clef and eighth notes at the bottom center (Ashley did the ones on the right).  The boombox and headphones (by Bonnie and Erin) are AWESOME!

After we had cleaned up our area, I walked around and took some photos of other drawings - some of these were amazing!  Lots of local artists came out - some who are paid for their talents and others who are just realllly good at their hobby!  Here are some of my favorites:


They even had a small parking lot blocked off for children to get in on the chalk action:

This was so much fun and I hope to participate again next year! :)