Thursday, October 31, 2013

European Vacation: London part 2

I never finished sharing about our European vacation that was back in May.

In order to not get overloaded with posts, I'm going to try to have travel posts of our vacation on Thursdays. We're not going to be traveling anywhere exciting in the near future with all of the upcoming holidays.

So, looking back at our Europe trip will have to keep my desire to travel at bay for now.

You might remember our first day in London.

Our second day was packed full.

After stuffing ourselves on the delicious hotel breakfast, we took our coffee and headed toward Buckingham Palace.

Can we just talk about how amazing European hotel breakfasts are? And how miserable American ones are in comparison? The American breakfasts are full of processed, unhealthy foods whereas every European breakfast we ate had fresh bakery items, muesli, eggs, meats, and tasty coffee and teas.

We stopped by crowded Buckingham Palace for a quick photo op before following the calvary down another street.

We found a changing of the guard to watch before continuing our walk.

We followed the calvary for more changing of the guard.

And I even elbowed my way past the other tourists to get a photo with this man and his horse. 

We loved walking around the city, seeing the sights of Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey.

We decided we didn't have enough time to see the inside of too many sites after our walking tour.

Westminster Abbey was unfortunately not included in our London Bus Tour and was fairly expensive with a long line, so we opted to visit the famous tour of London with an exhibit of the Crown Jewels instead.

I accidentally lost our Bus ticket with a 24hr hop on hop off but somehow still had the included river cruise, so we cruised down to the Tower of London.

We really enjoyed the ride because we saw another view of the city and got more history.

We loved the Tour of London with the tour from a Beef Eater and seeing the royal jewels.

After our afternoon touring, we grabbed a taxi back to our hotel before heading to dinner at Kettner's.

It was a recommendation from one of the Chef's friends, and it was the best place we ate in London. The atmosphere was incredible with everything decorated in roaring 20s style.

We would have loved to have stayed longer, but prior to our trip we bought tickets to our favorite show: Wicked.

It did not disappoint.

We loved London and wish we had had more time to spend in that amazing city. Honestly, I was a little overwhelmed by the crowds of tourists and how long the lines were, but I can't wait to go back someday again.

Our next stop was my favorite because it was home to Vienna!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

S'mores Cookies

There's nothing quite like eating a messy s'more sitting next to a fire pit, except maybe a s'more cookie fresh out of the oven. 

I found these on Pinterest and finally had a reason to make them: small group. 

My first batch, I made the cookies too large, so there was way too much graham cracker cookie to be eaten. 

My second batch for Mallory and Hollins was a success. 

The marshmallows were golden brown and the chocolate kiss was perfectly melting with each bite.

Recipe: from Six Sisters' Stuff

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
10 marshmallows cut in half
20 hershey kisses

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside. In another bowl, beat the butter and sugars together until creamy and smooth.  Add in the egg and vanilla extract and mix until combined.  Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto a baking sheet, 1-2" apart.  Bake for 6-8 minutes or until edges are just getting golden brown.  Remove from oven and gently press a half marshmallow, sticky side down, onto each cookie.  Let cool completely.  Once all cookies are cooled down, preheat broiler.  Place cookies back on baking sheets and broil for 1-2 minutes, keeping a close eye on them so they don't burn.  Once marshmallows are golden brown, remove from the broiler and place a chocolate kiss on top of each cookie.

Linking up with JessicaAshley, and Cheslea

Friday, October 25, 2013

high five for friday

Here are a few of my favorites from this week...

1. I've only worked one shift so far this week, so Wednesday I took Emily's Pure Barre class and then had coffee with her afterwards. 

Thursday, I met my new friend, Danielle for coffee and a biscuit at Jubala for the second time this week. 

It was so refreshing being encouraged by chats with both of these girls. 

2. We got our photos back from Heidi Joy Photography. I can't wait to order my Christmas cards. I promised myself I would be ahead of the game this year, and I'm on track to meet that goal. 

3. My mom was in town this week for a doctor's appointment and spent two nights. We chatted, went out to lunch, and watched girly tv shows together. 

4. We're going to look at three houses today. It's always fun to check out different neighborhoods and see what we like and don't like. 

5. By some miracle, I ordered and received a J.Crew herringbone vest that I've been swooning over. I'm so excited to check out IG and bloggers to see how they've been styling the vest. 

Linking up with Lauren and Lindsey

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Meal Planning

We've already started planning our 2014 trips and vacations.

Two wedding dates are set for the spring, a mountain/cabin trip is in the works with my besties, and a few others that will hopefully take shape soon. 

As we start planning these trips, we're also trying to save for our first house. 

In order to do all of these things. I have started trying to cut back in other areas of our life. 

I'm trying to improve our grocery budget. 

That's where meal planning comes in....

The past few weeks, I've been trying my hardest to create meal plans and stick to them. We've used EMeals and love it but also want to start re-using recipes from EMeals and our moms' instead of constantly trying new plans every week. As I write this, we're trying two new ones this week. 

Here is what this upcoming weekend/week (my work week starts on Saturday) will hold: 

1. Veggie Lasagna, loosely based on Jenna's recipe

2. Tacos. We have most of the ingredients on hand already. 

4. Mustard-roasted pork tenderloin with red potatoes and a side salad 

We're also hosting our small group next week and decided to do heavy appetizers: turkey meatballs, veggies and hummus, and sweet potato coins
What are ways that you are cutting your budget, so you can splurge in other areas? 

We're obsessed with traveling, especially before babies, so I'd love any tips or tricks to save money to do so. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

a Raleigh weekend

It's already Wednesday, so I'm more than fashionably late to the weekend update posts, but I can't pass up sharing the great weekend that we had with family and friends. 

Last Thursday, my mom and sister came to town and while they were here we went shopping to finish a gallery wall project I've been working on. 

Friday afternoon, my bestie Mallory and her husband, Hollins came to town. 

Our first stop on Friday night was at Yard House for drinks before dinner at Cowfish. 

Ending the night with champagne toasts at Vivace. #champagneJeff

Saturday morning, Mallory and I headed to a Pure Barre class at the Raleigh studio while the guy went golfing. After wiping the sweat off, we headed to Jubala, my favorite coffee spot in North Raleigh, for waffles, coffee, and time together.

We both loved the almond lattes, banana waffles, and cheddar, bacon biscuits.

Everything was so delicious. I'd go back any day.

My friend, Carolyn recommended going to the Furbish Studio for their sale.

Everything was absolutely adorable. I loved all the pieces and wished I could have brought more items home.

I bought two glittery pumpkins.

But wished I could have bought the coral dresser for my navy/coral guest bedroom.

Thankfully, Mallory is incredibly more creative than I am and came up with an idea for my guest bedroom.

Tutorial and guest room reveal coming soon!

Saturday was so much fun because I got to hang out with one of my best friends, shop, chat, eat, watch Auburn football, and craft.

Aida wasn't too sure about sharing everything over the weekend with puppy Sadie.

I made s'more cookies for the second time.

The first time I made them was for small group and the cookies turned out way too big. The second time was the charm. The chocolate melted perfectly like a real s'more.

Sunday morning we cooked breakfast, the girls: me, Mallory, Aida, and Sadie went on a walk and took the dogs to Woof Gang Bakery which they loved. 

The Chef, Aida, and I then had family photos done by Heidi in Durham before we all met for an early supper at Gravy. 

I love spending time with Mallory and Hollins. It's such a blessing when friends feel like family. I'm so thankful for meeting her at Samford and being friends for the past eight years.

And we definitely missed you this weekend, Amy and Justin.

We're already planning a trip our next trip to see each other in January, and I can't wait.

Linking up with Shami, LeeAnn, and Sarah

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fall Booties

I'm loving booties this fall. I always love pulling out my boots in the fall and winter to warm up my freezing toes. I love that they dress up an outfit but are still comfortable to wear all day long.

Three of my favorite looks are these...

1. Trolley boots. These might be the perfect fall boots for me this season. I love that they have a classic, sophisticated look but could easily be dressed down for a more casual look.
2. Ramiro boot. I have been dying for a pair of glitter heeled boots since I first saw these appear on fashion blogs and pinterest last winter. They would be so fun to pair with jeans for a night out or even a simple coffee date.

3. Phillip boot. I stumbled upon these at Nordstrom and love the rustic, woodsy feel and look of these Frye boots. And there is nothing rustic, woodsy, or outdoorsy about me, but I still love them. I wouldn't mind any pair of Frye boots while we're talking about them.
These are a few of my picks for this season. What boots are you loving? 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Chicken Parmesan and Sprouts

You are going to be shocked by this, but I actually made this chicken parmesan and Brussels sprouts. 

Aren't you impressed? 

I used Jenna's chicken parmesan recipe, and it is definitely a keeper. I would make this again any night. The only change I would make is to maybe cook the chicken in the oven longer so that I don't have to stand over the stove for as long. 

She suggested serving it over noodles, but I opted for a healthier side of Brussels sprouts. 

I saw the Brussels sprouts recipe in a recent Real Simple magazine. It's super easy, fast, and makes a great side.

1 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts
1 red jalapeno pepper, halved and sliced (I omitted this)
3 Tbs canola oil
1 Tbs fresh grated ginger
1 Tbs honey
salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400 F. Toss the sprouts, jalapeno, ginger, oil, salt, and pepper and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, tossing once until golden and tender. 15-20 minutes. Drizzle with honey and toss to coat.

Linking up with JessicaAshley, and Cheslea

Monday, October 7, 2013

the work weekend

As much as I love the nursing schedule of three days/nights per week. The dreaded weekend shifts always seem to put a damper on things.

This past weekend was my weekend to work. 

Thankfully, I had a great assignment for the three nights. It makes such a huge difference when you get the same kid back night after night. Consistency is usually a nice thing.

I did end up getting Sunday night off.

We had a lazy relaxing afternoon and evening. I dragged myself out of bed and over to Pure Barre to get my butt (legs, arms, and abs) kicked.

And then we enjoyed a big bowl of this warm beef and butternut squash stew curled up on the couch with a lit pumpkin candle, catching up on our tv shows.

Honestly, I have never been much of a fall lover until this year.

I don't know if it's that I always feel like summer is so short (and it's my favorite!) and this year it has been warm until October or if it's because of the impending winter season. Or if it's the football craze. I'm not sure which but this year I've been embracing fall.

I'm looking forward to slightly cooler weather and trying to not think about winter. I love the famous pumpkin spice lattes, I love the pumpkin patch setup near our apartment, I love the crockpot recipes I've found on my favorite foodie blogs, and I love that my favorite B&B wall scent is back so our home smells amazing. And football, I'm learning to like...

Hope you've had a happy Monday!

Linking up with Shami, LeeAnn, and Sarah

Thursday, October 3, 2013

#AJdoColorado part two

Part two of our Vail trip started Saturday morning at the Little Diner for intended breakfast that quickly turned into brunch. The food was tasty but the service was extremely disorganized and slightly unfriendly. Recommendation: despite Trip Advisor recommendations, skip this spot and opt for other breakfast options. 

We then soaked up the sun and strolled through Vail Village popping into shops and checking out the eats and found the local Starbucks for a skinny vanilla latte. 

The beauty of Vail speaks for itself.

After a morning of poking around town, we headed back to our cozy room for a little football, a nap for the Chef, and sitting by the fire catching up on blogs, for me.

In the afternoon, we headed over to the Four Seasons for a cocktail and beer, a gorgeous fireplace, and more football. The lounge overlooked this view. 

We loved an early dinner at Leonora of tapas: cheese plate, corn soup, sliders, sweet potato fries, and beets. I highly recommend this restaurant: everything was fresh, tasty, and elegant.

Sunday morning, we were both up and ready to enjoy our last morning in Vail. We loved Tavern on the Square, and it thoroughly made up for the Little Diner. I loved the muesli with fresh fruit and sunny-side up eggs. The restaurant also had an incredible view. 

After a hearty breakfast, we hit up a short trail. The scenery was beautiful, and it was so much fun getting a little exercise and fresh air before heading home.

We absolutely loved our weekend away traveling and relaxing in such a pretty place. Vail, you were such a treat.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Cyndi arrived!

Remember when I told you about Better Life Bags and how much I love them? I received my Cyndi bag and absolutely love it. It is gorgeous, the perfect size, and I love who I'm supporting: local women in Detroit in addition to low income entrepreneurs in developing countries.

I ordered the Cyndi, chose custom colors for the outside and inside, chose the brown leather option, and added an inside zippered pocket. The quality of this bag is amazing. The leather is incredibly soft and durable and the size is perfect for toting items without becoming a massive grab-all bag. 

I originally ordered this bag as a "work" bag but have been using it everywhere I go.

Carrie - Better Life Bags
And if you follow Better Life Bags on IG then you know that she just released the newest bag "Carrie" that's a cross body bag. I'm in love with it. I'm hoping this beauty will be under the Christmas tree this year. *hint hint*

This review includes all of my own opinions. Better Life Bags has no idea who I am.