Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Five Things

I have been in a random sort of mood.  I am a little scatter-brained today.  So I thought I would just share 5 things that I am loving today with all of you. 


I am loving this popcorn machine.  I actually gave this to my grandparents a number of years ago.  It might have been over 10 years ago.  My grandparents used to always stay at hotels when they would make their trips to South Carolina, and they stayed at a hotel that had fresh popcorn in the lobby.  The two if them would stock up before leaving the hotel, sometimes taking 5-6 boxes with them on the road!  I gave them this machine so they could make their own at home.  When we were going through their house, I decided I wanted the machine.  And I am loving it.  I popped popcorn for a meeting I had today and my classroom spells like the Target concessions area.  (Which means it smells GOOD.)



Since this is an air-popper, you have to season it after it is popped, so I used this popcorn spray and butter flavor.  Probably not the best thing for you… but it’s so good.


These boots.  Y’all don’t know how long and hard I have searched for boots.  I’m talking a 5-6 year search, friends.  I can never find them wide enough to fit my calves!  UGH!  It has been a long and frustrating search!  But on Black Friday, my luck changed.  I found these fabulous boots that fit perfectly!  And I even found them in brown, too!  The brown pair should be arriving soon! 


Leftover spaghetti.  One of my biggest challenges is having lunches readily available so that I don’t have to A—buy from the school cafeteria, or B—go without and eat crackers.  On Sunday night I made a big batch of spaghetti and portioned out lunch-sized leftovers.  So in the morning, I grab and go.  Literally.


My new iPhone.  My Blackberry died a few weeks ago.  I never knew how reliant I was on having a phone at all times until I didn’t have one.  I know some people say it feels great to take a break from their phone.  I am NOT one of those people.  I love being completely linked into the world at all times.  At first, I didn’t think I would ever get used to the iPhone.  But now… this phone is seriously like carrying a computer in my pocket.  If you’ve got an iPhone and are on Instagram, you can follow me!  I am posting pictures throughout the day so you can get sneak peeks at what is coming!  My username on Instagram is Couchpotatoliz. 


Finally—number five.  Clementines.  I get so excited when these start appearing in the stores.  They are so sweet, juicy, and easy to peel.  The perfect portable snack!  Funny story—when I was pregnant with Sadie, I had a “thing” for all orange foods and drinks.  I couldn’t get enough orange Gatorade, juice, oranges, orange soda…if it was orange and had liquid, I drank it.  One morning I packed a bag of 8 clementines to take to work to have throughout the week.  I ate all 8 of them that morning. 

So there you have it.  Those are five things I am loving today.  What are you loving today or lately??? 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gloriously Ordinary Night In and Christmas Decorations

Happy Monday to all of my blog-world friends!  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!  We returned from our Thanksgiving festivities on Saturday and have been busy cleaning, decorating for Christmas, and de-cluttering a little bit.


You know, tonight was a gloriously ordinary night in at the Confessions House.  I’ve been so busy this fall.  Don’t get me wrong—I love everything I am involved in—Girls on the Run, teaching Zumba classes, taking Zumba classes, Wedding festivities for my sister Adrienne (who is getting married in less than three weeks!!!) and countless other activities.  I would say this is the busiest season our family has had in a long time.  So tonight it was so nice to have time to actually cook dinner and eat it at the kitchen table.  That has not happened very often this fall. 

We had one of my favorite items tonight: chicken thighs.  I know, what a random favorite item, right?  Well, chicken thighs are a great dinner option for several reasons.  First, they are cheap.  A pack of 4 thigh pieces usually costs about $3.  (For more info on how to save money on groceries, see this post.)  Second, you cannot overcook them.  No matter how long you cook them, they’ll be tender and delicious.  Third, they are easy to prepare.  Here is how I made ours tonight:

I started by seasoning them (in the package).  Don’t worry—you can season the other side when you put them in the pan.  You can use any seasonings you like.  I usually use salt and pepper and tonight I added some garlic powder.


Heat an oven-safe skillet sprayed with cooking spray over med-high heat on the stove.  When the pan is hot, add the chicken, seasoned side down.  (Then as that side cooks, season the other side.)  Let it cook about 6-8 minutes before you flip it over.  The chicken should be golden brown. 



Cook another 6-8 minutes on that side.  Then cover and put into the oven to finish cooking.  (*NOTE* If you are cooking with boneless chicken thighs, you may not need to finish these in the oven.  Boneless and skinless thighs are smaller and will cook much more quickly.)

Typically you’ll only need to keep them in the oven about 15 minutes longer—which is the perfect amount of time to steam some peas and whip up some couscous!


Voila!  Dinner on the table in 30 minutes! 



So let’s talk about holiday decorations!  It’s a tradition in our house to decorate right after Thanksgiving so that we can enjoy it as long as possible.  As soon as we got home on Saturday, we got to work.  Here’s a little glimpse of our work so far.  We’ve still got the dining room and the outside of the house to work on, but the inside is looking pretty Christmasy!

Kitchen table… (this is my everyday holiday china… I use my Spode Christmas Tree china in the dining room and for entertaining.)


Mantle with stockings… (don’t jump to conclusions when you see the 4 stockings… one is for Baylee.)



Sadie’s favorite item… the Nativity set.  My mom adds a piece or two (or more) each year and Sadie LOVES playing with all the pieces.  Here you can see that she’s got all the animals watching over Baby Jesus.  (So.  Sweet.)




(I just noticed the curtains are falling!  Oops!)

We don’t use a star or an angel on the top of ours—more decorative picks, branches, and swirly thingies!


Most of our ornaments have special meaning, so I love unpacking them and remembering them.

This was an ornament for my very first Christmas.


Here’s another one from my childhood. 


This one was from our first married Christmas!


Here’s Sadie’s first Christmas ornament!


I think it’s really neat to have so many ornaments that help to tell our family story! 

Have you started decorating?  What are some of your traditions?  Share them by leaving a comment below!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gobble Gobble!

To all my American readers, I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  We sure did have a fun (but busy!) day!  Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.  I know what you’re thinking… surprise, surprise… I love the food!  And it’s true.  I do love the food.  If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know this.  But I also just love the time together with family and friends.




I love doing “look-backs!”  If you want to read about last year’s Thanksgiving, just click here and here!

This year, we had our normal double-dose of Thanksgivings.  We usually have a lunch with Ryan’s family and then dinner with my family.  I love how everyone gets so excited to make his or her “specialty” item.  Thanksgiving is so neat because everyone brings dishes together with family history. 

What did I make?

Sadie and I made three pumpkin pies this year.  She was such a good little kitchen-helper and she was so proud of our pies.  We use the Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe.  I’ve tried other recipes, but honestly, Libby’s recipe is so delicious and perfect that I always use it.  And it is so simple! 







Do you like pumpkin pie?  I love it.  Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be right without it!  Or at least, it wouldn’t seem right to me

My other contribution this year to both Thanksgiving feasts was my Memama’s Macaroni and Cheese.  It’s one of my Dixie-Style Dining recipes, and you can find it here.  I made a few adjustments.  This time, I did not use whole wheat pasta.  I like WW pasta, but I thought that since I was using white cheddar, the white pasta would look better.  I used Vermont Sharp White cheese (Cracker Barrel brand) and I loved the switch.  I also slightly changed the crust.  I used a mix of regular and panko seasoned breadcrumbs on the top.  I think that gave it a crunchier crust. 





It’s simple: layer noodles, then cheese, then noodles, then cheese, then noodles, then cheese.  Add milk until you can barely see it peeking through the noodles.  Then breadcrumbs on top with pats of butter.  (1/4 to 1/3 of a stick is plenty for one casserole dish.)  Bake at 350 or 375 for 30-45 minutes, or until the crust is golden and crispy and your kitchen smells like heaven.

We enjoyed our day with family and friends and of course we ended the day feeling completely STUFFED.






We have so much to be thankful for—health, a warm home to live in, family nearby… we truly have everything we need and then some.  This year, I have several friends who are facing some serious health issues and my heart goes out to them.   

We missed having my grandparents with us this year.  I think every holiday will be bittersweet for us… we miss them so much.  But we’re so glad they are together. 

So now… we’re enjoying coffee and rest… and I am sure we’ll have some more fun family time later.  We typically don’t get caught up in the Black Friday madness… but we may hit up a store or two once things have calmed down a bit. 

How about you?  Did you hit up the 3 a.m. deals?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you are all having a wonderful Thanksgiving! Well have so many blessings to be thankful for today!
Enjoy the food and time with family and friends!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Anniversary Weekend: A Tour of Restaurants

We had such a fun anniversary weekend in Charlotte last weekend.  Did you read about our room at The Blake Hotel and our trip to Pinky’s Westside Grill?

We had no plans Saturday morning… we just thought we’d see what we felt like and where we’d end up. 

We started off at Zada Jane’s for breakfast.  I had never been there before and the reviews on Yelp sounded great. 


We weren’t disappointed.  The place was small and packed (a sign of a great spot), but it was full of charm!  Check out the colorful atmosphere!  There was lots of local artwork on the walls.


I started with a bloody mary, which was fantastic!  Nice and spicy!


And an omelet with goat cheese, spinach, mushrooms, and other veggies.  Delish!


We made a few stops at a few stores and even got our nails done!  Yes, the husband is totally ok with getting a mani/pedi!  (No polish for him… gotta keep it masculine.)

We settled on the Icehouse for lunch—mainly because they were showing football. 


We split pimento cheese and a Dagwood sandwich.



And finally… dinner.

We decided to make a reservation at 131 Main.  I’d never been there before but had heard great things about it and have passed it several times and wanted to check it out!



They were featuring a great deal: the Main Event.  For $59, we were able to get:

an appetizer (deviled eggs)…



…two salads (not pictured…

… two entrees (trout and couscous salad for me)…



… dessert (banana cream pie)…


… and a bottle of wine!

How about that for a great deal???  What a great way to celebrate our first 10 years together—great food, conversation, and time together!


And after all that eating, we were exhausted—so we headed back to the Blake Hotel! 

We totally enjoyed our restaurant tour of Charlotte!  But we had one more stop to make on the way home.  :)  Stay tuned for our final breakfast.