Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Raleigh Tourists, Part II

The first stop on this post actually happened the day before when we went to Chapel Hill but I felt like breaking it up. You're welcome! As you know, I am a wine lover. I also like finding and trying local wines and wineries when I'm in a new city. North Carolina has a bustling wine country but the most concentrated area of wineries and grape growing is in the more central and western parts of the state. In all my research, I found exactly 1 winery that was less than 30 minutes from my sister's house.

Chatham Hill is an urban winery in Morrisville, NC. We were a little unsure of where it was exactly because it's in a business park with no grapes around. Quite unorthodox. Once inside (where I didn't take a single picture!), we were pleasantly surprised. They had a tasting bar, retail area, and large open room with tables and chairs. We had the pleasure of having our tasting guided by the owner as we were the only ones in there on a Monday. Chatham Hill grows their grapes elsewhere but all the wine is made and stored onsite.

For $8/person, you got the tour (brief but informative), 6 tastings and the souvenir glass. We enjoyed several of their normal varieties but they also have a number of fruit wines. These were pretty syrupy, sweet and we didn't buy any of those. We did purchase both their Christmas Red and Christimas White and a bottle of Pinot Grigio to bring back to Ohio with us. The Christmas Red also came with a mulling recipe that was delicious. Really looking forward to sharing that with fellow wine drinkers this season.

If you're in the area, this is a good way to kill an hour and try some local wine without having to drive a few hours out of the way.

On Tuesday, we had other cultural things in mind. We decided to check out the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. The museum is open from 10-5pm Tuesday through Sunday, and a little later on Friday nights. Admission is free but they have rotating exhibits to tour for an extra fee. While there, they were running one on Edvard Munch (The Scream guy) and a Still-Life one. I'm sure these were lovely but at $18/person, we opted to tour only the free, permanent collection.

There was a sizeable contemporary and modern art section but this wasn't my jam. I much prefer the Renaissance and older paintings. While I can appreciate a modernist point of view, if it looks like I could have painted it, it doesn't impress me much. The museum also boasts a large Rodin sculpture garden.

Those are just two of probably 15 statues outside. There is also a trail/greenway behind the museum that has various pieces of artwork along it. This thing was HUGE and composed of wood and graphite.

I zoomed in on this tree so I didn't get to read its placard but my guess is the medium is some sort of aluminum.

And because I really liked my outfit this day. Here's one of me! The cowl tunic is from Target. I'm always looking for tops to wear over my leggings and boots. If I had enough options, that would be my everyday uniform.

The museum has two separate buildings housing their collection but both were easy to get around and not far from each other. I would recommend the museum as a good way to spend a couple hours. We are typically speedy museum people opting not to read every single description but we still spent a good amount of time there.

We also ventured to the Farm Market in Raleigh after the museum. I didn't take any pictures there but even in November they had lots of fresh produce for sale. We ate lunch at the southern style restaurant onsite and I succumbed to the fried chicken on the menu. It was fatty, and worth it. The Art Museum had a restaurant but my experience with museum restaurants is that they are often overpriced so we passed on that.

A great day in a new city!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Destination: Raleigh, NC

This past week, John and I loaded up the car and headed down the road 9 hours to Raleigh, North Carolina. My sister, bro-in-law and nephew moved there in February but we had yet to visit them. Thanksgiving gave us the perfect opportunity to do so! The drive wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, luckily. We only stopped once. Yes, that is quite impressive, especially if you knew how small my bladder is.

I passed the time with this.

And feeling sorry for Sadie in the backseat. She was feeling sorry for herself too. The only reason we made it with only one stop is because she wasn't sitting on me, her preferred car ride location. The humans were happy. The canine was not. But, she trooped through.

Look at those sad eyes

We had 3 days to sight see on our own while our hosts were at work. We spent a couple hours walking around Chapel Hill and near the UNC campus. Had lunch at the Carolina Brewing Co. and sampled some of their local beer. The seasonal was called Santa's Secret and it was delicious!

The weather was quite pleasant and the leaves were falling all around the campus. I also happened across this cute sign outside a book shop.

More on Tourist Day Two another day.......

Monday, November 26, 2012

Not Your Grandma's Gingerbread

Bring on the Christmas beers! I have a slew of beers to highlight from our North Carolina trip but this we drank before we left town. Once again, we had already made our selections when this caught our eye at the store. We are such suckers.

This is a special offering from Sam Adams only available in the 22 oz. bottle for about $6.99. You can't tell but it has cute little gingerbread men on the label. Yes, it's a gingerbread beer.

From the site: "This rich dark gingerbread stout entices with the aromas of the holidays, hinting at the merriment and spices within.  The flavor of gingerbread comes alive beginning with the smooth sweetness and heartiness of dark roasted malts and a touch of wheat.  But it’s the intensity and spices of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, & ginger that add a wicked kick for a jolly playful brew full of merry mischief."

This was like liquid gingerbread. It sure was smooth, even at 9% ABV (alcohol by volume). It debuted this year but I think it might stick around as a special holiday offering. I liked it but I don't know that I would go out of my way to make a repeat purchase. John, on the other hand, couldn't get enough and said he'd buy it again and again. It is worth trying if you can find it.

Another gingerbread beer coming up in my North Carolina Brew Review........

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Recipe Reblog: Thanksgiving Recipe Re-hash

Well, I think I survived Thanksgiving. I haven't stepped on the scale yet so I suppose that's the true test of survival. Somehow, I only got to eat Thanksgiving once. Not even any leftovers. What is that about? I tried two new recipes this year for our little gathering. I know you're not supposed to debut recipes for the Big Show but I did anyway. So there.

Lightened Up Green Bean Casserole: This came from How Sweet It is and it was GOOD! Fair warning, it was quite a lot of active work whereas the traditional green bean casserole involves dumping cans in a casserole and popping it in the oven. This one uses fresh green beans and I nixed the mushrooms in the recipe but kept everything else the same. It was delicious and I think you should try it. This would even be good on a day that's not Thanksgiving but I thought it was a refreshing change from the sometimes tasteless green bean casserole that appears on buffets all across the country.

Pumpkin Pecan Pie: Some of the adults wanted pumpkin pie. Some also wanted pecan. (Just FYI - I'm referencing only 3 adults here, the 4th adult wanted chocolate. 2 year old gets no vote) This recipe from Baking with Blondie mixed the two in a layered pie that did not disappoint. I am not a baker but I think I did a pretty good job, although I should have pulled it out of the oven sooner. Don't be afraid to take some help from a pre-made crust. Ain't no shame in that. I would have liked a little more pumpkin flavor as the pecans were prominent but it was still super tasty.

How was your Thanksgiving table? Try any new recipes?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

On Vacation

Taking the week off from blogging, faithful readers. John and I are in North Carolina visiting my sister, brother-in-law and nephew. Much to report when we are back in Ohio. Safe travels to those of you hitting the road or the air.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

New Favorite Shirt

Man, I love a good polka dot. Almost as much as I love stripes. And plaid. And checks. Oh, and paisley too. But really, polka dots are my jam these days. I have been eyeing this totally awesome polka-dot Oxford at the Gap for weeks.


I know you can't see the dots in that picture but they're there. Trust me. The only thing holding me back was the price tag. It retails for $49.95. While I appreciate the quality of Gap clothing, it goes against my nature to pay full price for anything. This past weekend everything was 30% off. What luck! I snapped it up, along with a skinny studded belt and went on my merry way!

Can't get enough of dots like me? Here are some other options........


This one is from my other lover, J. Crew, but the dots are super tiny on it as well and you can't see them in this shot. It does come in other colors, unlike the Gap option. But, it also costs a lot more at $78.


If chambray is your thing, you might try Madewell's Dotted Chambray boyshirt for $72. I saw this in the store and it looks super comfy, casual in person. I know chambray is in right now but I just haven't decided if I can get into it yet.


And if you're working on a budget, here is Old Navy's take. The quality of clothing at Old Navy as far inferior to the establishments listed above but the price also reflects that. On sale now for $24.97. This one is chambray too but I like the darker wash.

For about 2 seconds, I thought if I could find the right broadcloth fabric, I could have sewed my own. Then I decided I'd rather save the time and toil. Somethings are just aren't many to be handmade.

What have you been coveting lately?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cowls coming

You guys. I am all about the handmade gift when it’s done right. Those clutches I made for my staff and co-workers last year? Rave reviews! But, I started those in July and sewed them in 2 rounds and was still overwhelmed by the amount of work that went into them. And then, 5 days before Christmas, I decided I NEEDED a plaid shirt for Christmas. Like, in the worst way. It turned out for the best but really, what is wrong with me?
If I am anything, I am a girl who does not always learn from her mistakes. This year, I decided my handmade holiday would include knit cowls and scarves. Cowls for everyone! I proclaimed. Luckily, cowls knit up quickly. Unluckily, I only have 4 done and I need 10. Additionally, I don’t like the yarn I used for 2 of them and would rather not gift them. For the next 6 weeks, I will be a knitting fool! The downside of this project is that every new skein of yarn I buy is awesome and I want to knit the cowl for myself. All the cowls for Ashley! That’s not really in the giving spirit though, is it. I do have 2 9 hour car rides coming up next week so I’m hoping to make amazing progress then. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

First Winter Beer

Leinenkugel’s Snowdrift Vanilla Porter is new this year as their winter seasonal offering. I am a big Leinie fan in general so when the winter beers started popping up on the shelves, this was one of the first ones we snapped up.
From the Website: "Celebrate shorter days with a fuller body. 
Leinenkugel’s® Snowdrift Vanilla Porter™ is brewed with a select 
blend of seven malts revealing layers of caramel, chocolate and 
coffee notes. Aged on real vanilla, this brown and ruby-hued brew 
imparts a slightly spicy aroma from its creamy body that’s ideal for 
the season"
Well, howdy-doo, I liked this one. This came as no surprise to me because in my top 5 all-time favorite beers is Breckenridge’s Vanilla Porter. (Don’t ask me what the other 4 are because some other beers might have hurt feelings. Kind of like picking a favorite kid, no?). The Leinenkugel’s wasn’t quite as smooth as the Breck (point to Breckenridge) but the vanilla flavor was just as forward (tie) and the Leinie is $1.50 cheaper (point Leinie) at $8.49/6 pack. Definitely give this one a sip!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Holiday Humbug

Things I Am Not Ready For:
-Christmas music
-Christmas decorations in stores
-Christmas decorations on houses in my development

Things I AM Ready For:
-Pumpkin Pie
-Mashed Potatoes
-Macy’s Parade
-Black Friday

……in other words, Thanksgiving!

I think it’s completely unacceptable that on November 1st I was inundated with Christmas at the mall, on TV and elsewhere. Look, I love Christmas just as much as the next girl. But, people. Do we really need to extend the season to a full 2+ months prior? Puh-lease. What about Thanksgiving? Respect the TURKEY! When people start asking for my Christmas lists in October, it’s too early. MUCH too early. I understand you’d like to get your shopping done but what happens when I think of something else I’d like to add to the list on December 8th. So sorry. Much too late for amendments or corrections to the list as everything has been purchased and wrapped. I’ve taken to throwing the request right back at whomever gives it to me. Tit for tat! And still, I have yet to receive lists from any (save for one) of those people who I obliged. Hmph.
Don’t even get me started on the stores that are opening on Thanksgiving and all those poor workers who, while I’m sure are thankful to be employed, are not necessarily excited to leave their families early.
Can we please all just remember that there is a holiday in November too? Don’t short-change me. And And AND! It’s a holiday centered around eating and by association, shopping. Let’s not overlook that marvelousness. And again! For me, it almost always, without fail, involves travel. That’s fine because traveling just happens to be one of my other favorite things in conjunction with shopping and eating. This year, we will be going to visit my sister, brother-in-law and nephew in North Carolina for the first time since they moved there. While I’m bummed to not be headed to Austin and that great Texas weather (and food!), I’m excited to explore a new destination. And though I do love travel, I do not always love the airport at Thanksgiving. This year, we are driving 9 hours instead. That is something to be thankful for, said the girl who hates driving. What I am thankful for is traveling on our own schedule, not having to pay outrageous ticket prices, not worrying about flying with Sadie, and having a vehicle at our destination.
In summation, and because I try not to complain on my blog too much (no one cares to read that), I will just please ask you to celebrate Thanksgiving with gustatory gusto.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Recipe Reblog: Sweet Potato Chili

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili: A crockpot chili chock full of veggies including sweet potatoes? Count me in! I found this recipe online at Can You Stay For Dinner and thought it sounded tremendous. I have several chili recipes that I like but you can never go wrong with chili, am I right? However, there was some unfortunateness with this recipe. If your crockpot is smaller than 5 quarts, you will not, I repeat, WILL NOT, be able to fit in all the ingredients. We fully intended to add ground turkey but after throwing in everything else, there was no room. The turkey (or beef) was listed as optional so my sous chef and I decided that we’d go vegetarian for this chili. This was a mistake, and we were supposed to eat this for 3 nights. Gulp. While I found it overly tomato-y, yet tolerable, John ate his bowl with the worst look on his first and proclaimed he did “NOT LIKE” this recipe. Emphatic, to say the least. I made an executive chef decision and we added turkey for the 2 subsequent evenings. That helped tremendously. So, my advice on this is to make sure it’s meaty. And one more thing, the wildcard ingredient, sweet potato, didn’t pay off like I thought it would. I think there’s a reason no other chili I've had has potatoes in it. Even a tuber as lovely as a sweet potato. I did not appreciate the potato texture juxtaposed with the beans and turkey. Odd.
I suppose what I am trying to say is, cook at your own risk.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

One Last Pumpkin Beer

I know that it's November and if you've been to the store lately, all the Christmas beers are coming out already, including the oft-coveted Great Lakes Christmas Ale. John snapped up the first 6 of the season last Friday on that one. And don't you worry your pretty beer-drinking heads because we'll get to those in good time.

BUT! Pumpkins are a Thanksgiving thing too. So, if you can find this one, you're in for a treat.

The Great'ER Pumpkin comes from Heavy Seas Brewing Co. There is a Great Pumpkin version but this is the Great'ER Pumpkin because it's aged an extra three weeks in bourbon barrels. That's right, folks. You better believe my bourbon-loving husband couldn't pass this one by. It's an Imperial Ale at 8.5% ABV so it's sold only in 22 oz. bottles for about $7.99.

From the site: "Great Pumpkin draws much of its flavor from a mixture of spices: nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and allspice. Dark brown sugar adds color and some dryness to the spicy, malt-forward ale. The addition of the spices and pumpkin in the kettle makes this brew opaque. A warming pumpkin aroma and a slightly sweet taste characterize our special fall seasonal. The bourbon barrel-aged version of this beer, Great’ER Pumpkin, spends three weeks in barrels from Virginia’s A. Smith Bowman Distillery."

They don't have a separate description for the bourbon version but there was a LOT going on here. All the spices, great pumpkin flavor and of course, the bourbon was right in there too. If you can find this one, and I haven't seen it since we bought it, you are in for a real treat. Give it a taste!

P.S. GO VOTE! Yes, I know it's a pain to go to the polling place that is really close to your house. And the weather may or may not be so great where you are. You already get up so early that you don't want to go before work and after work you're beat. I get it. But, it's important stuff, people. And you know what? After today, no more political ads on TV or Pandora. Hooray!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thoughts on a Monday

  • I started watching The Walking Dead on AMC this season. If you're not watching this, you are missing out. If you think you won't be into it because it's about zombies and zombies are like, so dumb? You are mistaken. The problem with Walking Dead is that now I dream about zombies and having to fight them. John started this show in its second season and would tell me all the time that he dreamed about zombies. Foolishly, I laughed at him. People, this is a real affliction. Killing zombies in your dreams is no joke. But, I feel pretty confident in my skills should we ever find ourselves in a zombie-pocalypse.
  • This past summer I bought a Groupon for hot yoga, something I've always wanted to try. This was a STEAL at less than $4/class.  I love sweating! If you're unfamiliar, hot yoga is yoga practiced in a room that is cranked up to 100 degrees. I finally went to my first class last week and had to sit down twice because my vision was spotty and I thought I would pass out. That's a pretty intense work out. But, after that feeling passed, I kept on going -- which they encourage. The teacher said even if you have to rest for 20 minutes, just do it. I have never sweat so much from so little movement in my entire life. I sweat out over 2 lbs in the 90 minute class. I have 9 more classes to go and I'm hoping this will help me detox through the holidays and keep those Christmas cookie pounds at bay. It will also give me an excuse to spend mass quantities of money on new Lululemon yoga gear. If you're looking for Christmas gift ideas for me, just go to the Lulu website and buy anything.
  • I am on a quest to make my anything-but-curly hair much curlier. I have been attempting this hair curling technique using a flat iron. I can get about 3 perfect curls and then the rest of them go wonky on me. I don't get it. I think I need a new flat iron (also on my Christmas list.) One day, I will post a picture of my Shirley Temple hair in triumph. Just you wait.....
  • I have been a knitting fool these days (more on that when projects near completion). Step aside fabric, yarn has become my new drug. Like, my former drug dealer (Joann's) also pushes my new product. Boy, do they ever. It takes all my strength not to buy skein after skein to knit yet anything scarf or cowl for myself. I mean, really. How many cowls can one girl wear at the same time? I'll tell you. The answer is one. One at a time or else you look like a crazy person.

That's all I got, friends. Get out and vote tomorrow! Only one more day of enduring political ads........

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Recipe Reblog: Meatloaf

I have been on the hunt for a new meatloaf recipe. When I was younger, I proclaimed that I didn't want anything in my loaf but meat. No carrots, peppers, celery, what have you. No, sir. Now that I am a wise 29 year old, I know better.

Meatloaf: This is a Paula Deen recipe with nary a stitch of butter in the mix. It does, however, have peppers, onions, and diced tomatoes. The binder is oatmeal instead of bread crumbs which I had never done before but I liked the texture it gave. While I liked the taste here, the diced tomatoes and their liquid made the loaf pretty squishy, even when fully cooked. Next time, I would drain some of that juice and it might help it set up better. I think I can find a better recipe than this. Sorry, Paula. I'll keep looking.......

Thursday, November 1, 2012

October Running Round-Up

This was a big month in running for me. I feel like my resolution to run 500 miles in 2012 culminated in my half marathon. My numbers tapered off this month since I took a whole week off post-race but I still hit my 50 miles. Check it out!

Oct 2: 4.5 mi TM in 40:11
Oct 6: 3 mi OT in 29min
Oct 7: 12 mi (9out, 3tm) 2:02, not incl water breaks 
Oct 9: 4 mi OT in 40ish mins, side cramp and foot pain
Oct 10: 3 mi TM in 27:27
0ct 11: 2 mi OT in 19:00, cramp
Oct 14: 13.1 mi in 2:17 - Race
Oct 23: 3.25 mi TM in 29:54, tough post race run
Oct 25: 2.8 TM in 28 min, side cramp, knee pops
Oct 28: 3 mi RM in 25:36, shorter due to yoga back pain

Total: 50.65 miles

With the weather turning much colder outside, it's time to transition back to the treadmill. I love the treadmill but I was getting more used to running outside where I don't have anything pacing me. For these next cold months, I'm going to work on speed and hills. It's easy to get in a rut on the treadmill and I'd like to keep pushing myself as much as possible. Stay tuned!