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Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving: Car Rides, Cranberry Cheese, and an Austrian Pianist

Our Thanksgiving holiday began with one very crazy idea: driving from warm North Carolina to chilly Chicago land. 15 hours of driving. Don't try this at home, kids.  

If you are brave (or crazy) enough there's several key elements you'll need to survive such as Mariah Carey's Christmas CD (keep it on repeat), plenty of peanut butter sandwiches, and hair ties to style a French braid when real boredom hits.

6 states. With the exception of West Virginia's mountains, they all pretty much looked like this. Oh how I missed the pretty pines of North Carolina!

Let's just say we were excited to reach our destination, our big smiles were proof.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Aunt Kathy whipping up some mashed potatoes. 

Grandma Schneider, she's like the chocolate chips in chocolate chip cookies...the best part!

Yummy cheese spread topped with cranberries and nuts, so good! Now I wish we had some of this for the drive back. Well, maybe that wouldn't be good because I would eat it all! 

We munched on appetizers and enjoyed drinks before settling down in the Rocco's gorgeously set dining room, all ready for Thanksgiving dinner. 

After dinner Mike enjoyed the piano... 

and my favorite Austrian pianist spent most of the evening filling the house with music. It was certainly a treat of an evening! 

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm already so excited to get home to our suburban nest and decorate for Christmas. ho, ho, ho y'all! 

How have you been celebrating?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

{Lunch at The Shoal's Club}

During our recent Bald Head Island vacation, we visited what is now my favorite place to eat on this relaxing North Carolina island. After a morning spent on the beach we headed in for a late lunch. I was content to simply cook at the beach house, but my sweet hubby was set on taking me out for a date. And after arriving at The Shoal's Club at Bald Head Island I'm so glad he encouraged the late lunch date idea. 

Is this place beautiful or what? And it's literally RIGHT off East Beach. The Shoal's Club Grille is a poolside dining area where you can enjoy a perfectly serene view of the ocean.

Whenever we go out to eat we always pick two things we'd both like and split our meals. It's the best of both worlds! Do you ever do the same with your fellow? This time we opted for a cheeseburger and fries as well as a grilled chicken sandwich with fresh fruit. This was no everyday cheeseburger or grilled chicken sandwich was the best burger and the best chicken sandwich we've ever tasted- not at all greasy, perfectly fresh served on possibly the most yummy brioche bun. Maybe the gorgeous view made our meal even tastier. It certainly made it more romantic. 

We took a few moments after lunch to enjoy the gracious southern porch. And I took the opportunity to snap a few photos of my hubby in his new BHI sunglasses. We've been looking for so long for good sunglasses for him, and we loved these and at $15 at the Bald Head Island Maritime Market...well it was too good to pass up. 

I'm still crushing on this guy. 

The Shoal's Club porch extends to this peaceful view of Bald Head Island's East Beach. 

I loved watching these American flags dance in the sea breeze. 

I could spend forever after here just the two of us. 

You can read more about our recent Bald Head Island vacation here

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

{Island Dreams}

Up until just a week before 4th of July weekend, my husband and I had no set plans for the long weekend off. We had thought we'd maybe fly to go see his brother's family, but a double in flight rates kept our plans home bound. That is until we were offered the chance to once again visit Bald Head Island, the place we honeymooned a year ago. You don't have to ask me twice to jump on that offer. I'd go there anytime without a second thought. And so my island dream for the 4th of July weekend began to take form...

...Bald Head Island is always a place where everyday life fades and a glass of chardonnay on the beach becomes a habit that takes the place of checking e-mails...'s a place where we always feel like we can stand tall. No skyscrapers, ringtones or traffic to bring us down to size. Well, except for the golf carts that always seem to pass us because we prefer to barely chug along the road so as to get a good sight of all the gorgeous houses...

...This North Carolina island is where good views are a plenty and the beaches are bare of people and noise... 

...but full of shimmering sand... 

...and steady rolling waves... 

...This east coast beach boasts unforgettable sunsets and beach walks. The sort of sunset beach walks that leave us longing for more every evening, whether we're on island time or back home amidst the hustle and bustle of life...'s a North Carolina beach that gives us time, space and inspiration to think... 

...or simply time to stare at this island's untouched, natural beauty... 

...There is a smile that creeps across my face and grows wider the longer we bask in the rest and fun of the island... 

...a smile that lingers just a little in the dimples of our cheeks, a reminder that leaves us wondering when we can come back for more.

What are your vacation dreams? 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Banana Bread with Dark Chocolate Chips

(don't forget- you can still enter the giveaway through this Saturday)

It's Show Us Your Life on Kelly's Korner and this week's topic is favorite sweet recipes...

There is nothing quite like the scent of sweet banana bread baking in the oven. And I love making a big batch so we have enough of this deliciousness to snack on for days. Whether it's a warm breakfast to go, an afternoon snack, or served as dessert with a side of vanilla ice cream this banana bread recipe is one of my favorites. Oh, and the fact that it's healthier than typical dessert breads just makes me feel even better about that second slice. I hope you and your family enjoy this recipe.  

Homemade Banana Bread with Dark Chocolate Chips
1 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour (I usually do part whole wheat flour, part regular flour)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk (I use vanilla milk generally, such as Silk's Pure Almond milk)
4 tablespoons butter, melted 
3 bananas (I puree them in a food processor before adding them to the other ingredients, but smashing them in a bowl with forks also works)
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 and 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 egg, beaten

For the bananas I recommend zapping them for a minute or two in a food processor. If you don't have a food processor on hand a blender or bullet blender will substitute just fine, and if neither of those are an option a food old fashioned banana smashing fest with forks works just fine as well. 
Combine the dry ingredients in one mixing bowl, and the wet ingredients in a separate mixing bowl. Stir the ingredients in their respective bowls throughly before combing them all together and stirring. 
Bake at 350 degrees for around half an hour or until top is slightly golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool or just dive right in if you're like me and can't resist.

Every time I bake this dessert it just smells (and tastes!) like home should. Maybe someday (long in the future) when I've got grown kids they'll come home to this smell and say it smells like home- ha! Now that's a thought!  

What are your favorite desserts?

Monday, May 23, 2011

One Year Ago Today...Our Wedding

One year ago today was our traditional Durham wedding with a Duke Chapel wedding ceremony followed by a Greystone Inn wedding reception. Here are a few photos from our wonderful photographers, Walters & Walters (they're the best...I tell all my engaged friends about them!). 

As soon as I laid eyes on the Greystone Inn in Durham I knew it was where I wanted to have my wedding reception. It was the perfect southern old estate wedding reception I had always imagined. And all of our vendors did a wonderful job transforming it into a classy evening reception venue. I'm very grateful for all their hard work. I'm truly privileged that I now I get to work with many of these talented wedding professionals. 

I get LOTS of questions about the Jackie Kennedy style bridesmaids dresses I selected so I'll tell you: they were from David's Bridal and were unfortunately limited edition so David's Bridal doesn't carry that style anymore. However, they've still got lots of elegant and stylish bridesmaids dresses to choose from so fret not it you had your heart set on these (seriously, I get so many e-mails asking me where these dresses are from! It makes me feel great to know I actually selected good bridesmaids dresses seeing that the old adage is that bridesmaids dresses are never pretty.)

This was my favorite wedding memory moment, our first dance as Mr. & Mrs. to Michael Buble's "Hold On". 

From walking down that epic aisle at our Duke Chapel wedding ceremony to munching on the amazing local eats prepared by Green Planet Catering our wedding day was all that I had hoped for from start to finish. Looking back I'm so grateful for that amazing day, but even more grateful for what an amazing life with Mike I have today. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

When The Kitchen Becomes a Putting Green

Or perhaps I should entitled this post "learning to live with a man". 

To my surprise the other day I turned on the sink disposal to hear a horrible, terrible grinding noise that seem to shake the whole sink. Obviously, there was something down that drain, and this wasn't a mere fork or spoon gone astray. 

After positioning my lighting just so and digging around with a couple of spoons (I wasn't about to put my hand down there!), out popped a golf ball. I suppose the sink's drain is the perfect size to be an indoor putting hole, isn't it?

To my husband's credit the golf ball found its way into the drain on its own. I guess this calls for a "no golf balls lain on any surface anywhere near the kitchen sink" mandate in our home. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Of Daisy Chains and White Sun Dresses

We have a little tradition at MereCo we like to call "Class Day". Okay, so this is a BIG tradition. In fact, it's often considered one of the most important traditions a Meredith girl will experience during her four years in that safe little gated wonderland. Here are a few favorite snapshots and moments from my senior Class Day. 

Class Day is for seniors and their Lil Sis class (the sophomores) to celebrate their sisterly bond the day before graduation. 

The sophomores rise at 4 AM to gather daisy and ivy to begin making the largest daisy chains you'll ever see. 

That's my Lil Sis, with the curly hair, helping to carry the daisy chain into the amphitheatre. 

The seniors proceed in, each wearing a black glove on their left hand to represent their oddness (a tradition for odd year graduating classes only). 

After much talk and many a speech and serenade the seniors proceed onto the green and form a giant circle, holding hands. 

The Lil Sis class picks the daisy chain back up and carries it down to stand amidst the circle of seniors. 

The sophomores walk the daisy chain around inside the circle twice before placing it down in the center to spell out the Roman numerals that represent the seniors graduation year. 

After the sophomores exit the circle, daisy chain still in the middle, the seniors raise hands counting up to their graduation year, and then race into the circle to take all the flowers off the chain. It's a bit of a madness with girlie squeals and daisies flying everywhere. But it's all in the name of the traditions that bond us together. 

My Lil, Lizzy. 

My Lil, Meaghan. 

"But we know now that no matter how far we traveled on our own separate paths, somehow we would always find our way back to each other, and with that, we could get through anything." 
(Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants)

My best friend at MereCo, Kim. We're like peanut butter and jelly, or chocolate and peanut butter depending on where your tastes reside. 

Looking back now I feel like our lives have changed because they had to, and that the real magic of the onyx was in bearing witness to all of this and in somehow holding us together when it felt like nothing would ever be the same again. 
(Adapted from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants)

 What traditions do you treasure?