Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Holiday Bucket List

Jessica, over at The Newly (LOVE her & the blog!), recently posted her holiday bucket list. I thought this was a great idea and wanted to follow suit. With finals and several trips planned around the holidays, I think this is the perfect way to take time and enjoy the season. AR and I made our list over dinner this weekend and I got so excited, I busted out the holiday pjs! Thanks for the idea, Jessica!


Holiday Bucket List 2013

1. Put up a real Christmas tree.
The last two years, AR and I swapped putting the trees up at each other's places. I got it in 2011, het got the tree in 2012. This year we can both enjoy the tree and we plan on getting a big one! I always want a real tree too. There is something about the smell of a real tree. My family always had a real one growing up, and I guess I just follow suit.

2. Get a winter wreath for my front door.
I've never had my own, but this year I feel like it is a must. I *might* even take a trip to Hobby Lobby and make my own!

3. Bake and frost cookies.
I've done this for as long as I can remember. My mom used to have my brothers and I cut out all the cookies. After they cooled, she would cover the dinning room table in plastic and let us go to town. Last Christmas, I rolled out, cut, baked, and frosted cookies with 22 first graders. Talk about a messy experience! We had a blast and for many, it was their very first time. This year it will be a little simpler with just AR and I.
(My mom just sent me a holiday cookie cook book - thanks mom!)

4. Take a Christmas light drive with hot chocolate.
This is always a tradition in my family, and I cannot wait to see the lights of Atlanta. Of course, I will do a second round of this when I get to Houston for the holidays at the end of December. There can never be too many light tours.

5. Spend a day Christmas shopping.
My list is half-way there, so not I cannot wait to get my shopping done. I may take an afternoon break from studying and go shopping the first weekend of December. I need to mail my brother's gift to London, so I need to get it done asap.

6. Watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas"
And several other holiday classics. I LOVE "Meet me in St. Louis", but I cannot find a DVD of it anywhere! Any ideas?

7. Go see the play "A Christmas Carol".
Also a family tradition. We always go see the annual production at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee and it is a-mazing. They do such a spectacular job. I won't be up there for the show this year, but I plan to see it here in Atlanta with AR. We can carry on the tradition :)

What is on your holiday bucket list?
What is your must-see holiday movie list?

Monday, November 25, 2013

ATL Eats: Ink & Elm

On Saturday, AR and I went to celebrate my birthday with some friends at Ink & Elm. I drive past the restaurant almost every day, but had not been there to eat. When a friend suggested it, we made reservations (a MUST at this place) for my birthday.
Having spent some serious time exploring the restaurant scene in Atlanta, I can honestly say that my meal was one of the BEST I have had here. I enjoyed every bite, from the moment I walked in, until the moment I left.
How it Looked: The décor in Ink & Elm is gorgeously elegant. Somehow, they manage to make a very large space seem intimate, but open. I'm considering going back and asking if I can order one of the leather chairs I sat in while I waited for my table. They were not on the menu ;) My friend Luciana and I commented several times that the lighting was perfect because we could actually see our food and each other (I hate obscenely dark establishments).
While waiting for our table, we sat in large chairs and chatted with drinks. It isn't often that a restaurant has seating other than the bar while you wait. Our table was ready before I could make it through the long cocktail and wine list - luckily they let me carry it with me.
What I ate: I confess, I ate lots of things. I love to sample! My friend Luciana and her husband are perfect to go out to eat with because they are the same way. We always order several dishes and share things.
My meal started with a half glass of chardonnay (yes, they have half-glasses. Yes, I am a light-weight) and lovely pop-overs. I skipped the amazing salads on their menu because I was dying to try their vegetable entrée. The vegetable entrée changes frequently, but on Saturday it included turnips, cauliflower puree, roasted pickled garlic, and fried Brussels sprouts. I was a little concerned that the garlic would overwhelm, but everything tasted perfect and I ate every bite.
I also sampled some of AR's polenta & greens (he ordered the pork), and some of Luciana's roasted brussels sprouts with hazelnuts.
For dessert, I splurged. The server brought me chocolate cake topped with whipped cream, caramel popcorn, and a candle! Our table also shared the banana split and the nutella & coconut gelato. If you visit, ORDER the banana split. It is incredible and our table devoured every spoonful.
Our Service: I should acknowledge that we are a hard table to please. Luciana always tastes several wines. I always ask about everything on the menu. We order lots of dishes. Yet our server answered every question, explained every dish perfectly, and never seemed overwhelmed by us. Cheers to her!
I cannot wait to go back - Luciana already made reservations for next week when her family comes to visit. If you are in Atlanta, be sure to head to Ink & Elm for an elegant evening and a wonderful meal.
(Note: These opinions are completely my own. I was not compensated in any way. I really just had a nice evening.) 

Friday, November 22, 2013

5 on Friday - Thankful Thoughts

Hey loves, its Friday and first-year law student has her LAST day of class today! Hallelujah! I'm continuing the thankful theme with Natasha at Hello! Happiness today - I have so enjoyed reading other's posts each week. What a sweet reminder to appreciate everything around us.

one. New friends.
Yesterday at school, one of the ladies brought me a piece of carrot cake for my birthday! I had mentioned that I wouldn't be celebrating much because of finals, but she remembered. I am so lucky to have met some amazing friends at school this semester. I feel like I "click" a bit more here (does that even make sense?) then I did in San Antonio, which has been a welcomed feeling :)

two. The Pioneer Woman.
This is going to sound silly, but I tend to get a little weird with my food. If left alone too long, I can become paranoid about butter, sugar, preservatives, EVERYTHING. I'm much better than I use to be, for which I thank people like the Pioneer Woman. She makes amazing food, gives hysterical narratives, and always throws in extra chocolate and butter. This week, I am making her Cinnamon Bread to take to AR's family for Thanksgiving. It is amazing.
--> For other recipes I've tried from blogs lately, click here.

Source: The Pioneer Woman. (Mine didn't look exactly like this...)

 three. Small Holiday Treats
It is amazing how some little holiday treat can make things seem brighter. Candles, stickers, lights. They don't cost much, but they make my apartment seem to much more cheery and inviting. I spend a lot of time sitting at my desk right now, reading and studying. Burning a holiday candle is just the pick-me-up I need. It doesn't need to be anything extravagant, just a simple reminder of the season. Note, the Christmas tree is NOT up yet, because Scrooge AR says we cannot put it up until after Thanksgiving. I've got a countdown going on the calendar.

This is what I want my home too look like right now.
four. A Walkable City
Now that I live in Atlanta, I am reminded how much I missed walking everywhere. I LOVE being able to step out my door and walk to the store, the coffee shop, the gym, anywhere. It is such a freeing feeling. AR and I have really enjoyed talking walks to the farmers market and out to dinner in the evenings. It is such a great way to unwind and enjoy my surroundings.

five. Ear Plugs
It is football season and finals start in 10 days. Enough said.

Have a wonderful weekend!
P.S.  If you did a post on what you're thankful for, please comment so I can read it!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cooking my Pinterest Boards :)

My New Year's resolution was to try a new food or recipe each week... and as November finished up, I am still going strong! Yes, there was a week in which I counted pomegranate fro-yo as a new food, but the purpose was still there. I wanted to avoid the food ruts I tend to fall in and push myself to be creative in the kitchen.

As of late, I've been flipping through my recipe box each weekend and trying to pick things that I kept wanting to try - here are some of my successes!

1. Homemade Bagels!

Recipe: From Sophisticated Gourmet
Reflection: I made these for my friend Kathryn when I went to cheer her on at the Nashville Rock n' Roll. I was a little concerned about it, but they turned out awesome. Next time I would add some sugar though.. I like my bagels a little sweeter.

2. Broccoli Quiche with whole-wheat crust

Recipe: From Kath Eats (LOVE her blog)
Reflection: Love this - a semi-time consuming dinner, but the leftovers are great for breakfast the next day. And the whole wheat crust turned out prettier than I expected. Quiche is my ideal comfort food because it is cozy and yummy, but can still be made pretty healthy. I filled this one with mushrooms, bell pepper, broccoli and was able to skip the cheese.

3. Black Bean Burgers

Recipe: From Oh She Glows
Reflection: I love to make lentil and chickpea burgers, but this was my first time making black bean burgers. I've said it before and I will say it again - veggie burgers are SO easy to make. Why but the frozen ones? This recipe made 6 big burgers, so I put some in the freezer. I will let you know how they freeze! (Note, the recipe calls for a flax egg, but I used a real egg. This made the hold together a lot better).

In reality, I just wish I could be like the Pioneer Women and cook all the time. Maybe law school wasn't my calling? Let's hope that is just finals talking ;) This week I am trying a recipe for butternut squash soup and some sweet potato chocolate chip cookies. Yum.

Have any awesome recipe successes lately? Please send them my way!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Weekend Recap & Plans for the Week

I've become so boring. I have one more week of class, a week of holiday break, and then finals start on December 2nd. You can imagine what I do all the time My eyes and head hurt, but I am going to make it. I submitted my final research memo this weekend, so I feel a huge weight off my shoulders. One class down, four to go!
I was a networking machine this weekend: One on Thursday, two on Friday, plus a happy hour. I met some amazing women - including Georgia Supreme Court Justice Carol Hunstein (she was SO sweet and informative). I am constantly in awe of how hard these women fought for their place in the legal profession. They were so encouraging and helpful when I asked questions :)
I got home on Friday at about 7pm, and really wanted to put on sweatpants and watch a movie... I was "this" close to doing it, when AR called and asked if I would come meet him at his office happy hour. I quickly changed clothes and headed out (in the cold and rain) for an hour. Afterwards, we went to dinner at an amazing Indian restaurant and split several veggie dishes. Talk about making the networking circuit - 4 events in 24 hours.
(Side note, I wore these amazing pants from J. Crew and I am in love with them. I might wear them every day now. And they are currently 40% off. Just saying.)
Factory dotted Gigi pant with pockets
Saturday was full of errands, the farmer's market, a hair cut, and shopping for bedding. AR and I are still trying to make up our mind. More on this later. AR cooked dinner, I studied --> This is now the pattern of our life. I found such a keeper.

Atlanta friends, this stand has the BEST chicken sausage.
Sunday started early with a run and workout, LOTS of studying at Panera (with a peppermint latte and Christmas music!), and a trip to Whole Foods. The security guard there knows my name - is this a bad sign? I made veggie burgers for dinner while AR prepped dinner for the other nights this week. Here are my plans for the week:
M - AR's red beans and rice (with brown rice and turkey sausage) + Brussels sprouts
T - Turkey tacos
W - Black Bean burgers + sweet potato wedges
Th - Roasted squash soup + grilled cheese sandwiches.
F - Out
S - Whatever looks good at the farmer's market!
Lunches (salads with roasted veggies + turkey, baked sweet potato, squash soup)
M - Spin class
T - 3 miles + abs + arms
W - Yoga class + 3 miles
Th - 4 miles + abs
F - rest
S - yoga class + strength
What are your workout goals for the week??
Do you prep/plan out any of your meals for the week?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Weekend Recap: Nashville and a half marathon

I explored the city for the first  time this weekend and had such a blast! Sadly, I did not see any of the characters on Nashville, or Luke Bryan. But I still had fun :)
All of my classes were canceled on Friday, so I did my Monday reading, baked some bagels, and headed to Nashville to visit my friend Kathryn. We met in D.C. in 2008 and have been friends ever since. We've survived college, Teach for America, jobs, public policy school, and several moves together. Aren't friends like that amazing?
On Friday night, we ate dinner at the Listening Room Café. The live music was amazing and I was in country music heaven! We walked around Broadway Street after dinner, and then went back home
It was soooo cold. In the 30s. I was wearing 3 layers.

Saturday morning was Kathryn's first half marathon. I don't know who was more excited - me or Kathryn! I planned to pace her for the last few miles (I didn't register for the race because it was so close to the Atlanta Marathon). After cheering her on at the start line (at 7am), I went to Starbucks to study. At 8:30, I put my books away and stood at the corner to meet her.
She started crying when she saw me - bless her heart! I grabbed her arm and together we flew through the last miles. She was amazing and even sprinted in the last bit. What an awesome first half!
We enjoyed Nashville for the rest of the weekend, including my first experience with gooey butter cake and pumpkin sangria. After a long walk on Sunday morning, I left for the drive back to Atlanta.  
I came home to fresh fall flowers and homemade gumbo. Is my bf the sweetest of what? He even found chicken andouille sausage for his non-pork-eating gf :)
Tomorrow morning I head back to the grind. Let's hope I can survive the last few weeks of class before finals!
How was your weekend?
What's your favorite weekend destination spot?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Favorites

Welcome Friday, we have missed you! In keeping with Natasha over at Hello! Happiness, I wanted to share some things for which I am thankful.
one. Family.
This is exactly how I would look with blonde hair and blue eyes.
Living away from may family has really reminded me how much I love them. There are weeks when my mom and I talk every day. While I won't be spending this thanksgiving with them, I am so thankful for them! It is a shame we have to spread ourselves out across several states and countries (I am looking at you, Jesse. Get yourself back to the USA ;))
two. AR
He even moved with me. Who would do that?
Last night I was chatting AR on the phone while I was eating dinner (this is our date night. jk) and I told him "I just miss you sitting next to me when I study". Sappy, but true. I have no clue what I would do without him. He did the long-distance thing with me for 2 years. Then he moved across several states with me. He's trained for two marathons with me and crossed the finish line next to me in 6 races. We've taken road-trips, spent holidays with each other's family. We survived the first year of teaching, new jobs, and now law school together. He is a keeper.
three. Baking
Don't laugh. Baking is my refuge. It is how I relax and decompress. It lets me feel creative and productive after a day of reading cases from a textbook. I'm thankful for something that takes me away - and my mom for answering my questions. I cannot tell you how often I call and say "why do you this x is happening?" or "I don't have x, what can I use instead?". Bless her heart.
four. Running
I am so sore right now, it actually hurts to sit (tough yoga class + running + not recovered muscles). And yet I am still thinking about how much I'd like to go running.
Running makes me feel successful when everything else is a mess. I know that if I put on my shoes and keep running, I will get better. Few things in life are that simple.
five. Friends
I am off to Nashville this weekend to visit one of my dearest friends, Kathryn. We lived together in D.C. about 5 years ago and always pick up where we left off. We've both finished college, worked a bit, and are now plugging away at graduate school. I am so lucky to have friends to cheer me on, make me laugh, tell me I am crazy, and encourage me when I need it.
I am also linking up with Heather at Housewife Glamour. Be sure to stop by and catch her fall favorites!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Simple Tomato Sauce

Every time I make my own tomato sauce, I feel amazingly accomplished. It is like I become some Italian Julia Child in a matter of minutes. In reality, the process is simple and more child-like than Child-like.

I've been playing with the recipe for a while now and have no plans to buy tomato sauce again. The recipe makes several cups, so I keep some in the freezer for future dinners. Enjoy!

Simple Tomato Sauce
Yields 4-5 cups.

1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped (or more if you like!)
1/2 c. celery, chopped
1/2 c. carrot, chopped
1 (28 ounce) can of crushed tomatoes**
1 (16 ounce) can of diced tomatoes**
1/2 tsp. dried oregano and dried basil.
1/2 - 1 tsp. sugar
2 Tb. unsalted butter

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and vegetables. Saute about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and seasoning. Let the sauce simmer, uncovered, on low heat for about 1 hour (until thick). Check seasoning and add the sugar and butter, a little bit at a time (this gets rid of the acidic taste).

Using an immersion blender, blend slightly (make the sauce as smooth as you like). If you don't have an immersion blender, process 1/2 of the sauce in a blender or food processor.

Looking for something to enjoy this sauce on? I recommend spaghetti squash or whole wheat noodles.
** I recommend using "no salt added" canned tomatoes. Why? Because it allows YOU to control the sodium and flavor in your food. Check the labels!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Monday Night Dinner Win

So lets talk about Monday nights.

I usually fail at real meals on Monday nights. I take AR to the airport at 5:15 in the morning on Mondays, schlep through 3-4 classes, go to the gym, and then come home to shower, make dinner, and read for my Tuesday classes. I will be really honest: sometimes, I shower at around 5:30 and put on my pjs. Yep, it happens (perks of being by yourself: no witnesses).

Then I make dinner, read and read and read. If I am really lucky, I catch up on Revenge or Nashville on DVR and hit the sheets by 9:30pm. I am an old lady in a twenty-something body.

You try making sense of this while reading cases!
Last night I was actually successful in having a real meal and nice evening. AR spent an extra day at home, so I had to pretend I was normal on Monday evenings. I had plans sit on some phone interviews from 6:30-9:30, so I wanted dinner ready by 6:30. I walked to the grocery store after class, and came home to start dinner.

With AR's help, I made roasted spaghetti squash, homemade marinara sauce, turkey meatballs, steamed broccoli, and garlic bread. And we actually enjoyed it without books in front of us. I felt like a rock star. And it was yummy! Last time I made spaghetti squash, it wasn't my favorite, but this time we loved it. Cooking takes practice, I guess :)

I'll share the sauce recipe tomorrow. It is one I have been playing with and it is AWESOME and so easy.

Have a happy Tuesday!

Friday, November 1, 2013

five on friday

It is
Lots of exciting things happen this month - Thanksgiving, my birthday (!!!), the end of classes! It is sure to be wonderful. Now, onto some Friday favorites :)
one. Fall Food
My friend gave me this amazing tea and I have been drinking it non-stop. It smells and tastes just like autumn and doesn't need honey or milk. It is perfect.
I'm going to enjoy is with the pumpkin chocolate chip muffins I made last night. On my way home from school, I stopped by Trader Joes, and several cans of pumpkin magically jumped into my cart! I started with muffins and plan to continue on to pumpkin oats and maybe soup :)
two. Fall Clothes
This week I've enjoyed rocking some real fall colors, but also some brights. I think it is totally okay, right?
three. Girls weekend
AR called to say he is working all weekend... I was so sad.This means it is an all-girl weekend, but it won't be getting too crazy. I have a competition at school all day Saturday and maybe Sunday (if I do well). Wish me luck! As the first year law student on the team means I have no clue what is going on. Let's hope I figure it out quickly!
four. Christmas
Speaking of holidays, I asked AR when I could get a tree. He said "not until December"!!
I died.
I told him in no uncertain terms that he was being ridiculous. I'm thinking Thanksgiving week is an idea time(at the latest)... we will see who wins. My pumpkin candles are running low, so he might be surprised with Christmas candles pretty soon ;)
five. Dogs in costume
This video was the best part of my day. It is the dog costume parade and they are adorable. My favorite is the dinosaur. Enjoy!