Thursday, January 30, 2014

House Decor - Inspiration Boards

Now that we've lived in the house almost a year, the decor has finally started taking shape. The house color palette has remained with shades of gray with pops of turquoise, green and purple and we've acquired some more furniture. 

Bedroom colors. Our bedroom is ALMOST that teal color... just a little more green in it.
Inspiration for house color palatte

Family Room
  • Painted the room in Behr's Dark Pewter a dark gray color with undertones of dark blue and purple
  • We've added a light gray sofa and chair.
  • To bring in a little more color into the space, we'll be covering the sofa with colorful pillows 
  • Need to decide on window coverings. Currently undecided between wide strips or a more graphic pattern.
  • We bought a big 60 inch TV that is currently sitting on our old coffee table. We plan to buy a dresser and paint it a pretty mint or turquoise color.

The second room is the Dining Room...
Dining Room
  • Painted the room in Behr's Lap Pool Blue a medium shade of robin's egg blue.
  • We plan to add board and batten to bottom half of wall
  • Spice things up with some fun Ikea Janette curtains
  • Add Furniture: We refinished a large dark wood table and bought 4 metal dining chairs.
  • Switch out our current lighting for something fun (undecided on this) but we like the idea of many hanging bulbs.
  • Dress up main wall with some chunky mirror frames

Master Bedroom
  • The master bedroom was painted in Behr's Lap Pool Blue
  • We are planning on switching our gray bedspread for some crisp white bedding.
  • Ikea Hacked some Rast dressers with brown stain and white paint to use as nightstands.
  • Add some bright pillows to bring color into the room
  • DIY the gray metal column lamps with white lampshades.
  • Frame large wedding picture for above bed
Have inspiration boards helped with your house decor?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Once A Month Cooking: Jan 2014

Getting home from work to only 15 minutes of prep work/cooking, delivering delicious healthy meals, followed by a quick kitchen cleanup and just a couple of dishes has made me a freezer meal convert.  My first foray into once a month cooking (here) gave such great results that I decided we should continue.

For this round of cooking, I did 8 recipes, most of them 3x for a total of 29 meals of 4 servings. I selected 3 new freezer meals ( Dumping the meat and all the ingredients in a bag) and redid 4 of pre-cooked meals I prepared last time.  For this cooking session I selected Honey Balsamic Chicken, Garlic Lemon Chicken and Plantain Stuffed Chicken Breasts as my freezer meals and Kielbasa Sausage Soup  Meat Sauce, Lasagna, Twice Baked Potatoes and Asian Meat Mix as my pre-cooked meals. 

Honey Balsamic Chicken (edited)

2 Medium chicken breasts (split in half)
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1 clove of garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil 
3 Tbsp honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the chicken breasts in a gallon plastic bag and pour in all ingredients. 24 hours before cooking thaw bag in refrigerator. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. 

Lemon Garlic Chicken (edited)

2 Medium chicken breasts (split in half)
2 cloves minced garlic
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 lemon pepper seasoning

Place the chicken breasts in a gallon plastic bag and pour in all ingredients. 24 hours before cooking thaw bag in refrigerator. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. 

Plantain Stuffed Chicken Breasts (my own recipe)

2 Medium chicken breasts (split in half)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 VERY ripe plantains
2 Tbsp butter
4 oz of Cream Cheese

Slice plantains and place in pot with 2 Tbsp of butter and cook until plantains are golden yellow. Mash plantains. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Place 1/2 oz of cream cheese and 1 Tbsp of plantain mixture on one corner of chicken breast and roll. Wrap individually rolled chicken breasts in plastic wrap and place in gallon freezer bags. 24 hrs before consuming, thaw chicken breast in refrigerator. Remove plastic wrap and place in oven safe dish and cook for 30 min.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

3 Day Getaway: Memphis & St. Louis

On the first of the year, we woke up early to snag some more beignets and take one last walk around the Quarter. We wandered though a bunch of art galleries and were really attracted to the art of Jamie Hayes, we even bought a couple of prints to frame for the house. We checked out of the hotel and drove to the famous plantations in the area. Unfortunately I didn't do any planning beforehand and when we arrived they were all closed for the holiday. EPIC FAIL. At least we got to admire the plantations from the outside.

Evergreen Plantaation

Oak Alley Plantation

We drove 6 hours to Memphis and arrived a little after 7 pm. We checked in at The Days In at Graceland, it's across the street from Graceland and would allow is to save on parking the next day. We set out to find someplace to eat and EVERYTHING in the city was closed down, it looked like a ghost town. We ended up trying 5 or 6 different places before giving up and going to the movie theater. Next morning, walked we one block from the hotel to Graceland and got our tickets for the tour.

Living Room @ Graceland
Guest Bedroom @ Graceland
Dining Room @ Graceland
Pool Room @ Graceland
Elvis's Awards
One of the most visited graves in the US - Elvis Presley RIP
We spent more than 3 hours exploring Graceland and the grounds before grabbing lunch. We couldn't decide were to eat so we ended up having lunch at 2 different places. We stopped first at Central BBQ to have some good Memphis Style BBQ. We ordered a half rack of dry ribs and a pulled pork sandwich to share. Memphis is known for it's dry rub and although yummy I'm not it's biggest fan, because I prefer my BBQ smothered in sauce. The pulled pork was fantastic, moist, tender and mouth watering. We then had a second lunch were everyone ordered one piece of friend chicken at Gus's Fried Chicken. I was expecting a delicious, juicy piece of chicken, I was NOT expecting how spicy and hot the coating would be. It tasted incredible but definitively different from any other fried chicken I've ever had. After stuffing our faces we started our drive towards St. Louis. Lucked out on Priceline Express Deals and for $50  grabbed a room with Hyatt Regency with view of the Arch. We were starving and Yelp steered us towards Sauce on the Side, a fast casual calzone place just a few blocks way. They have a calzone stuffed with banana, mascarpone and nutella. Enough said

On the morning of January 3, we grabbed some Starbucks and made our way to Gateway Arch.

View of the city from the top

It was then lunch time! We headed to Pappy's Smokehouse for lunch at the recommendation of my husband who had visited during the business trip. Pappy's had an hour long line but once we ordered the food came quickly. We ordered half a rack and a pulled pork sandwich to share and it was all scrumptious. The one hour wait was worth it. We visited the Anheuser-Busch brewery after lunch, We visited St. Louis during the 2014 Polar Vortex and it was freezing as we walked between the buildings if the brewery. Having done the free tour of Coors in Colorado, the Anheuser -Busch one in St. Louis is much better. There are a lot of historic buildings with beautiful architecture in addition to being able to get closer to different stages of brewing.

We ended our week long roadtrip vacation with a 5 hour drive to Cincinnati where we discovered that my husband had turned the heater to cool by mistake and our house was around 30 degrees. We were lucky our pipes didn't freeze and that we had enough blankets to cover ourselves in that night. Ironic end to a great vacation

Trip Stats:
7 Days
2,158 Miles or 29.4 hrs of driving
Drove through 10 States (Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana) 5 of which we had never visited before.
Many great memories :)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

3 Day Getaway: New Orleans

We celebrated Christmas this year with a visit from my parents to our home in Cincinnati and on December 28 we started a roadtrip. In our quest to visit all 50 state before we turned 30, we planned to knock off a couple of states during this winter vacation. We drove from Cincinnati to New Orleans and back with a couple of stops along the way. I must admit upfront that I did  not do any planning in preparation for this trip other than make dinner reservations for NYE. 

We drove from 5 hours from Cincinnati to Nashville and stopped at Monell's Dining and Catering. Monell's is a unique soul food place in which you sit at huge table with 10+ chairs filled with strangers-soon-to-become-friends, the food is served family style and the whole experience is cozy and warm, just like you're eating at your grandma's. We got there just in time to still be able to have their incredible brunch and left a couple of pounds heavier. For brunch they served, different pieces of pork (bacon, sliced ham and sausage), fried chicken, corn pudding, cheesy grits biscuits and some other stuff I've forgetting. At $15 per person it was more than enough food for the price.

Instagram pic as we left Monells
Stuffed to our gills, we continued our drive down through Alabama. We decided to take Route 90, a scenic route between Mobile and New Orleans. It took us one extra hour to get to NOLA but the beautiful scenery was well worth it. We had the gorgeous Gulf coast to our left and some great architecture to our right. It was well worth the extra time driving. 

It was during this scenic route while driving through Ocean Springs, that we got hungry again and Yelp suggested a place called The Shed a couple of minutes drive away. The Shed is a shack on the side of the road that has delicious BBQ, probably the best we had on the trip. They even have a show on Food Network!

The bills forked to the ceiling were signed by people from all over the world. 
One of the stalls at The Shed
We got to New Orleans in the late afternoon on the 29th and checked in at the hotel. We stayed at the Four Points at French Quarter. Fantastic service, safe parking ( for $30 a night) and the ABSOLUTE BEST location. We could walk out of the lobby and into the madness of the French Quarter able to get famous Hand Grenades just across the street. Try one of these was the first thing we did after dropping our bags at the hotel a 4 pm. The close proximity to the bar may have facilitated us having more of the drink than what is recommended. 

We lucked out on Open Table and found a last minute reservation for that night at Muriel's. The restaurant is in one of the most recognized building of the French Quarter and the inside is just as beautiful.We thoroughly enjoyed the food as well, even had alligator for the first time. It was a delicious and leisurely meal, we spent almost 3 hours at the restaurant and enjoyed every minute. After grabbing another round of Hand Grenades, we headed to the hotel to meet up with our BFF's, L and C, who had arrived around midnight and would be joining us for the rest of the trip.  

We woke up early the next day to explore the city and of course our first stop of the day was Cafe Du Monde. If you didn't know, having beignets at Cafe Du Monde is a Must Do while in the city of New Orleans and for good reason. We waited in line for about an hour before being seated and were starving by the time we got our tasty beignets and frozen cafe du lait. I was not prepared for how incredible everything would taste. Jackson Square was a great place to walk around, we visited St. Louis Cathedral and admired the artists that adorned the streets. 

St. Louis Cathedral

We grabbed an early lunch of Po Boys, and headed to St. Louis Cemetery I, a short walk away from the French Quarter. We visited and walked on our own but halfway through the cemetery we ran into Walter. Walter was telling an interesting story to a family of four and encouraged us to listen in. He claimed to be the caretaker of the cemetery and shared his vast knowledge about the different tombs. He was very entertaining but  after a little while we decided to break off and explore the rest of the cemetery by ourselves. It was then that he asked us to pay $20 per person for the tour, the tour we did know we were on nor had we any interest in joining. Tomas gave him what little cash we had on ourselves before we all walked away, shaking our heads. 
Supposed tomb of Marie Lavou, was painted pink a few days before we visited.

Supposed TRUE tomb of Marie Lavou
We went back up to the hotel to change for dinner at the Pelican Club. Before dinner, we went on a walking ghost tour of the city. It was a fun way to spend a few hours, learning more about the history of the city and the different tragedies that had occurred there but unfortunately we didn't see any ghosts. 

On New Year Eve, we woke up bit later and headed start to Cochon. While the group had brunch there, I slipped next door to taste Cochon Butcher and learn what all the fuss was about. I had the pork belly sandwich and was not disappointed. Very tasty and refreshing sandwich , I was pleasantly surprised and how good the cucumber complemented the pork belly. After lunch we took a street car up the Garden District. The day was cold and rainy so we decided not to go out and explore the area but we were content admire the pretty houses from the cozy streetcar. We had NYE dinner at Broussard's and it was definitively one of the highlights of the trip. Everything we tasted was amazing and the service was top notch. After dinner, we enjoyed the craziness that as New Year's Eve at Bourbon Street before waking to Cafe Du Monde for a late night snacks. 
In front of the craziness that is Bourbon Street during NYE
We walked all the way to the edge of the river at Jackson Square to claim a spot from which to wait for the fireworks. It was below 30 degrees F and raining, so it wasn't the most comfortable wait. We were surrounded my thousands of strangers that all burst into cheers as the clock struck zero. It was a faboulous moment in time and a great way to start a new year.
Happy New Year! Hello 2014!

Friday, January 17, 2014

100 Things To Do Before We Die

New Year, New Plans! What a better way to start the New Year, than to dream big and make plans. We revised the lists of places we'd like to visit and things we'd like to do in our lifetime. It was a lot of fun to compose the list and it'll be a lot of fun to do them together.

Travel - US
  1. Sit in Lincoln Memorial steps in Washington D.C (April 2013)
  2. Swim on a beach in Hawaii
  3. Check out Natural History Museum in NYC (Sept 2012)
  4. See the Grand Canyon while visiting Vegas
  5. Visit Graceland in Memphis (Jan 2014)
  6. See the Northern Lights while in Alaska
  7. See Liberty Bell in Philadelphia
  8. Drink around the World at Epcot in Florida (May 2013)
  9. Take a Big American Roadtrip
  10. Drive through the mansions in Charleston, NC
  11. Ride up the Space Needle in Seattle
  12. Stay overnight in a Smoky Mountains cabin
  13. Take a picture at The Bean in Chicago (Oct 2012)
  14. See Mt.Rushmore in South Dakota
  15. See the fishes at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta
  16. Take a scenic drive in Colorado (Aug 2013)
  17. See Old Faithful at Yosemite National Park
  18. Do the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
  19. Walk Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco ((Nov 2012)
  20. Ride the Lady of the Lake at Niagara Falls
  21. Drive through the lighthouses in Maine
  22. Go to the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis (Jan 2014)
  23. Stroll the French Quarter iin New Orleans (Jan 2014)
  24. Visit all 50 States (29 Left) before we turn 30
  25. Visit 20 different zoos (7 down; Houston, Bronx, SLC, Cincinnati, Columbus, Denver,San Francisco)

Travel - International
  1. Visit Prague, Czech Republic & Budapest,Hungary
  2. Walk the streets of Jerusalem
  3. Walk through Angkor Wat in Cambodia
  4. Walk the grounds of Chichen Itza in Mexico
  5. Snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef & visit the Sydney Opera House
  6. Admire “Birth of Venus” in Florence (Jun 2012)
  7. Visit Alhambra in Granada, Spain
  8. Celebrate Carnaval in Brazil
  9. Drink Limoncello in Amalfi (Jun 2012)
  10. Travel around  Russia (St.Petersburg & Moscow)
  11. Visit Taj Mahal in India
  12. Sail Lake Geneva in Switzerland
  13. Drink some wine in Portugal
  14. Walk the streets of Montreal
  15. Stay in a water villa in the Maldives
  16. Visit the Acropolis in Athens, Greece (June 2012)
  17. Go to the Haga Sophia in Istanbul (June 2012)
  18. Ride a  camel in Egypt
  19. Visit Petra in Jordan
  20. Watch the Lanna Yi Peng Festival in Thailand
  21. Marvel at the Machu Picchu in Peru
  22. Walk the Great Wall of China
  23. Ride a gondola in Venice (June 2012)
  24. Visit the Colosseum in Rome(June 2012)
  25. Visit Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany
  26. See big cats while on an African Safari
  27. Try to make a British soldier laugh in London
  28. Kiss on the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
  29. Set foot on all 7 Continents
  30. Visit 50 countries by age 50

  1. Get Married
  2. Buy a House (Feb 2013)
  3. Furnish a House
  4. Sell a House
  5. Have Children
  6. Raise happy & healthy children
  7. Get another dog (Gnocchi/Feb2013)
  8. Celebrate our 25th year Anniversary by reliving our honeymoon
  9. Meet our grandchildren
  10. Plant a herb garden
  11. Plant a tree and watch it grow
  12. Mentor someone at work
  13. Volunteer at a charity we are passionate about
  14. Start a scholarship fund
  15. Get a Masters Degree
  16. Learn a third Language
  17. Coach a Little League team/Boy Scout troop
  18. Write & Publish a Book
  19. Write a Blog
  20. Be able to Retire before 60

  1. Go skiing/snowboarding
  2. Go surfing
  3. Run a 5k
  4. Run a 10k
  5. Run a half-marathon
  6. Complete a marathon
  7. Learn to play golf
  8. Get scuba certified
  9. Brew our own beer (Sept 2013)
  10. Go on a rainforest canopy tour
  11. Go to a Turkish Bath (Jun 2012)
  12. Break a Guinness World Record
  13. Go on a hot air balloon ride
  14. Take up hiking
  15. Go whale watching
  16. Swim with dolphins
  17. Take a ballroom dancing class
  18. Take a photography class
  19. Take cooking classes (Jan 2014)
  20. Learn to play Piano/Saxophone/Conga
  21. Attend a Broadway Play
  22. Attend all Cirque de Soliel performances
  23. Attend a Super Bowl
  24. Attend a Summer Olympics
  25. Attend World Series

24/100 = That's not bad!

What do you have on your bucket list? Any suggestions of things we should add to ours?