Saturday, July 30, 2011

Birthdays - Southern Belle Style

I'm not a cook.  And I don't play one on tv.

I can bake, but cooking...that requires a bit of finesse and creativity that I haven't mastered yet.

It comes to a head on birthdays and major holiday celebrations.  You'd think being raised in the South would mean I had mastered all things "kitchen".  Yeah...that is so not true.

Being from the South, I'd also like to think that one day my birthday celebrations would look like the parties in Southern Living.  I haven't reached that milestone yet, but I'm working on it!  But first and foremost is the cooking.  Oh, the cooking.

Mom, me, my sister- flanked by the better cooks...
My mom is a great cook.  Her mom was a great cook.  My dad's mom was a great cook.  My sister is a great cook.  That good cook gene skipped a relative.

I'm a so-so cook.

I have a battery of dishes that I can cook pretty well---but man can not live on chicken nuggets parmesan alone.

Today is my husband's birthday.  (Happy birthday, honey!)

He's requested Beef Stroganoff and cheesecake.  My so-so skills in the kitchen come shining through on days like this.

I won't even go into the story about the ribs I creamated on the grill.  Seriously--black smoke, ashes, pizza for dinner--cremated ribs.  It was a first in the bbq world, I'm sure.  Feel free to laugh.  We still laugh about that one.

The beef stroganoff recipe is from his mom. ( No pressure there, right?)  My guy's parents are coming to dinner tonight. My parents are coming to dinner tonight.  I'm hoping I can do it justice.  And I'm hoping I can actually get it cooked since I haven't even purchased any ingredients yet.

Good thing for me my guy wants a store-bought cheesecake.

Thank you, Lord, for Fresh Market.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Expectations and the First Stamp in the Passport

Have you ever had a preconceived notion of someone or something that was completely blown out of the water in a matter of seconds?

I'm sure you all have.  We ALL have.  It seems more prominent when the preconceived notion is about the limitations of a child.  

I love my children.  Period.  They are all practically perfect in every way.  But when planning a vacation, I have to keep in mind the things that a 12 year old will find exciting are not necessarily the things a 9 year old and 5 year old will enjoy.  And that, my friends was what I was thinking about when my husband and I decided Mexico would be our destination for Family Vacation 2011.

Here is where the worries about my kids come into play.  Our 9 year old is the wild woman.  She is fearless and that is my most favorite trait of hers (most of the time).  She would be good with whatever we threw at her.  

The others?  Well, let's just say their middle names should be "caution" and "wary"--  not that those are bad traits, but they could limit our activities south of the border.

We arrive to Banyan Tree Mayakoba in Playa Del Carmen.  Amazing.  Wonderful.  Calm.  Perfect.  
Waiting for us at reception is Laura, who takes us on a tour of the lobby area and presents us with a traditional Mayan bracelet of seeds and a flower, symbolizing harmony and peace.  The kids were in awe.

We were then given the "green juice"--- cucumber, spinach, kiwi.  Honestly, it looked like fancy algae water, but we all tried it.  All of us.  This was the first in many "firsts" for my kids and they were champs.

My husband and I didn't plan activities for every day of our trip.  Instead we chose to do something off-property every other day.  Our "off" days were spent at the resort, either in the pool at our room (we had a private pool)  or at the pool by the beach.  

Our "on" days were the days we fretted and talked about.  

Would the kids enjoy themselves?

Was it worth the money to do these things if one of the kids got scared or decided to pitch a fit?

Turns out we didn't need to worry about anything.  Our kids were up for anything!

Here is what we did as a family on our trip to Mexico.  My kids are 12, 9 and 5 and they did everything...EVERYTHING... and enjoyed it all.  In fact, they are ready to go back and repeat this vacation.  To my husband and I, that is the ultimate Stamp of Approval!

1.  Dolphin Experience:  Delphinus dolphin experience was top-notch.  Our family was a "group", meaning we had lots of time and interaction with the dolphins.  We did the typical "dolphin kiss" , "dolphin hug", etc.  In addition, we had the chance to do the "foot push" where the dolphins push you out of the water by pushing the soles of your feet.  I was worried my little guy wouldn't do this--dolphins are lots larger in person.  SURPRISE! He swam right out there, laid in the right position the instructors told him and gave it a try!  He didn't get it the first 2 times, but he was great when the instructor got out there to help him.  We were all so proud and our little guy got a huge round of applause from the instructors and other groups who saw him.

2.  Mayan Ruins:  If you are in Playa Del Carmen or Cancun, you will hear lots about the Mayan pyramids.  Actually, there are ruins everywhere, but there are 3 main pyramids in the general area to see...Chizna Itza (the largest area and most "touristy" site, but still cool), Tulum ( on the coast- beautiful area) and Coba (about 1 1/2 hours from Playa Del Carmen and the only pyramid visitors can actually climb).  We chose to visit Coba.  My husband and I are history buffs and to have the chance to step where people stepped a thousand years ago was too good to pass up.  We hired a private car and tour guide to take us.  I highly recommend this since it makes the trip much more enjoyable and you get a lot more information from your guide.  Plus, you can come and go as you please.   The day we went to Coba, it was hot, humid and about to rain.  This is typical July weather for the area.  Our guide was amazing, telling us great tidbits of information that kept the kids engaged.  The pyramid is about 1 1/2 miles from the entrance, so to get there most people rent bikes or take a trike-taxi.
Trike-Taxi.  Sweet.  And no extra exertion for me. 
 We took the taxi. Heck, we were going to climb a pyramid.  No need to over exert ourselves!  After stops at a game court and an observatory, we see the pyramid.  Awesome.  The kids practically sprinted up the 142 steps.  The reward at the top of the pyramid was an amazing view of the forest.

Sweaty, but at the top.
3.  Swimming in a cenote and zip-lining:  Aktun Chen.  This place was rustic, waaaaaay off the road and truly an experience.  Again, thinking my kids, at least one if not two of them, would not want to snorkel or zip line, I was prepared to sit out one or both of these activities.  We get there, head to the cenote and get fitted with our life jackets and snorkels.  For the uninitiated, cenotescenote, seeing the amazing sites, before I had inched my way in.  It would be another five minutes before I got the nerve to put my head under the water.  

Zip lining was the final activity on our itinerary.  For sure the 5 year old would be a little apprehensive.  Or so I thought.  He was suited up, ready to go and after I made the first run, he was right behind me not looking back.  And his 9 year old sister?  She was trying to mimic all the tricks our guides were doing--going upside down, trying to grab leaves to feed the deer on the ground, no hands.  By far, this was the most popular thing we did.  The kids were sad to have to leave and asked the guide if we could come back the next day.

I love that my kids are willing to try things.  I don't know if I was so willing when I was younger.  Seeing them get excited about things so outside their comfort level got my husband and I excited about the things we can do as a family--snorkeling in the Keys, rock climbing, surfing lessons.  Who knows?  What we do know is that their first passport stamp was from Mexico and they are ready to have more.  

Saturday, July 23, 2011


We've had friends in from Germany this past week.  They came up to our town from Miami after my husband's surprise party and we've had such a great time together.

Tomorrow they go home.  (*sniff*)

I was trying to find things to make me happy, even though I'm a little sad to see "The Germans" go and I found this

Go ahead and click the link.  It isn't a virus, an ugly video or anything bad.  Seriously.  I'm some sort of  southern belle--I'm the sort that wouldn't lead you astray.

Go to Color Me Katie and roam around a while.  I'm sure you'll find yourself smiling at her blog.  

Happy weekend, y'all.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Have you ever gotten an idea for a present that was so fantastic and amazing that you wanted to get it right then and there?  That was me in January of this year.  While celebrating my birthday (#39!),  I started thinking about what I was going to do for my husband's big day in July...he hits 40 at the end of the month.  

His party had to be fun, original and I wanted him surrounded by his closest friends.

I rattled off some ideas in my mind--murder mystery party, traditional cook out, party at our favorite restaurant---none of them seemed right.  Then I thought about trying to surprise him.  Yes.  A surprise party for the guy who seems to know everything I do before I do it.  This wouldn't be easy, but I was determined to do something great for the guy who does so much for me.

Step 1:  Enlist some help.  My guy's business partner and a friend in Miami were quickly called in to help.  We figured out immediately that we didn't want the party to be in our town.  That would be too easy for him to figure out.  We chose Miami--cool city, fun restaurants and easy for the friends I was inviting to get to by airplane.  Did I mention that most of the friends I was inviting are from Germany?  This threw a huge kink in our plans and would force us to get started planning in late January-early February. I swear, by the time it was all done I felt like I'd planned a wedding reception for 14 people.  Doesn't sound hard, but the planning was, in a word, stressful!

Step 2:  Getting the invites out.  With the work schedules of people in Germany, July turns out to be one of the busiest months.  This made picking a date difficult since we were working around 14 different schedules.  Plus we didn't want to pick the actual date of my guy's birthday.  That would be so predictable!  July 15-17 was chosen to get around the schedules of all of our guests.  Oh my.  Booking of airline flights ensued and I was crossing fingers and praying that everyone could get the time off.

Step 3:  Have so many conversations with our Miami-based friend during the carpool drop-off line at school that I'm sure the teachers thought I was seeing someone on the side.  More decisions were made before 8am than at any other time of the day.  My husband wasn't in the car, I was alone with the kids and "Mr Miami" could call and not give anything away.  My husband's business partner would always text first to see if I could talk, then we'd call.  It was all very hush-hush and sneaky.  It was kind of fun!

Step 4:  Planning the surprise moment...We picked a fantastic restaurant as the place for the surprise.  Friday night dinner with Mr Miami would raise no flags with my husband since we'd always met for dinner when visiting.  I highly recommend Barton G for some amazing atmosphere and super fun food.

Step 6: Stretch out the texting muscles.  I think in these months of planning I've texted more than I ever have before.  As a result, I'm almost as good at texting as my husband.  That is quite a feat.  While trying to avoid running into our friends at the hotel when we were checking in, I was texting like a mad woman--warning everyone to stay on the beach or get to their rooms.  A big thanks to my friends Kim and Erica.  I used you all as decoys and told my guy I was texting you all the whole time.  He thought I was crazy but bought that little white lie.  Yea me!  And Yea for great girlfriends who, even though I wasn't texting you, it would seem realistic that I was.  That says something.  I don't know what it says, but it says something.

Step 7:  Don't have a stroke before the big day.  I almost failed this.

It was the longest 6 months of my life, but last weekend - last Friday to be exact- it all payed off.

We walk into the restaurant, follow the hostess to our table and there are all of our friends--some of whom I've not seen in years-- most of whom my husband thought were other places.  It was perfect.

He was surprised and delighted.    That man is the hardest one to pull a joke on and we got him.

We enjoyed a fantastic dinner at Barton G's.  I highly recommend it if you're travelling to Miami.

My suggestion if you go there is to go hungry or get appetizers and a dessert or just get one entree and share it with 12 of your closest friends.

The next day our friend opened his home to us and all our motley crew for a day of boat rides on a Cigarette boat, floating in the pool, munching and listening to music.  It was truly one of the most relaxing days I've spent in a long time.  That sentiment was echoed by all our friends.

How can you not be relaxed with a view like that and a seriously pimped outdoor kitchen with misters? That is my husband's back.  Seriously, this is  the most relaxed he's been in a while.

All in all, a great birthday/anniversary weekend.

I'm spent.  I'm sure this surprise took a few years off my life, but it was soooo worth it.

Happy Birthday to my Favorite Guy!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Speed Cleaning

If I leave for a trip, I like to leave my house clean.

Sally Wheat Interiors

Isn't that pristine?  Isn't it pretty?  Wouldn't it be refreshing to walk in to a nice clean home after being away?

Am I weird?  I think my husband thinks I'm a bit on the odd side, but I'm of the opinion that coming home to a clean house is nice.  Calming.

My kids are out of the house and my speed cleaning is in full force.  How do you clean?  When I speed clean I'm doing one room at a time, as quickly as I can.

My tools of choice?

My trusty Shark Steam mop and my Orek vacuum.  Simple.  That's how I like stuff.

I follow Fly Lady with her swish and swipe routine for bathrooms.  Here is how I leave the brush to dry because I'm in such a hurry to do my speed cleaning...the best part is when I forget I've left the brush there and a guest actually has to use the guest bathroom.

 I mean, the gall of some people to actually use my guest bath.  Ugh.  Some people have no manners.  hee hee!  I bet Martha Stewart has never forgotten a toilet bowl brush in her toilet.  I'm sure she has someone who gets the brushes for her, but that's another conversation altogether.....

Martha Stewart Images
See? No toilet bowl brush.  Man, she's good!

I put laundry, toys, books, whatever else goes to my kids' rooms in a basket to take up to their rooms.  Sometimes the basket actually gets emptied and sometimes I hide it in the tub and pull the shower curtain closed.  If I can't see it then it isn't there.  Right?

I'm going for an overall clean look.  It may not be super clean, but by darn it, it will look clean!

I play great music.  If you peek in my windows while I'm speed cleaning you'll see me doing some version of an '80s dance.  Lately Ke$ha has been my music of choice.   I'm a tragic dancer.

Usually my cleaning goes well until I hit a road block.

It's a good thing she's cute.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Independence Day in The Bubble

**My computer was acting up and I found some more pictures from our 4th of July parade and thought you'd enjoy them!**

I live in a planned community in Georgia.  After you've lived here a few years, you start referring to it as The Bubble.   It is situated around 3 golf courses and we have over 90 miles of cart paths that criss cross through the city.  I have a golf cart that seats 6 people...or 8 if the people are small.  When I describe the location of my house in relation to my sister or parents I use both the street distance (about 5 minutes by car) AND the cart path distance (about 15 minutes by cart).

Being so unique, our city's 4th of July parade is also unique.

Not because of that.

Because of this.

Thousands of golf carts, decked out with red, white and blue.  We didn't go all out this year, but it is fun to see what everyone does to their carts.

For one day the carts take over the roads on the parade route and traffic rules go out the window.

image via web

Wait, that isn't my town.  But it could be if you substituted golf carts in that picture.

That IS my town after the 4th of July parade.    Seriously.  Take hold of small children, close your eyes, point the front of your cart where you want to go and push the acclerator.  It's a miracle we all make it home for lunch! No, not really, but the huddled masses of golf carts is truly a sight to see.

This is the start of the parade.  We have one motorcycle policeman, 2 ATVs, some biker police and a seriously pimped out police golf cart.  It has lights and everything.  I wonder if it goes faster than the 19 mph most golf carts can go.  Hmm.....
 I haven't seen this but the police can pull you over on the cart path.  That mostly happens when teenagers act normal and go crazy on the cart paths.  BUT a few years ago we did have a city official who was ticketed for DUI on a golf cart.  Classy, huh?  There was another story of a man who knew he was too drunk to cart home so he had a friend drive him.  Smart and responsible, right?  

Not so much. 

Turns out the one driving was blind.  It was all over the local tv news.  Made our little town look really great.

So aside from the decorated golf carts, getting to throw traffic laws out the window for a day and celebrating America's birthday with thousands of our closest friends, do you want to know the best part of  this Independence Day in The Bubble?  

We are friends with the Grand Marshal of the parade!  That makes us part of the court, right?  Where else would that happen for some sort of southern belle like me?  BTW, he's practicing his "Royal Wave" with his kids AND video taping the parade!

Gotta love a small-ish town!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fabulous for Today

I'm in the middle of a post that isn't ready and I feel like I'm neglecting my blog!  So I decided I would post a list of things I think are just fabulous RIGHT NOW.

Ask me in a week and they may not be so fab...but for now, here they are in no particular order.

 The Duchess of Cambridge's travel attire----

I know she travels with a staff, but I seriously love love love her outfits!  Young, hip, fresh and attainable.  Yes- I've jumped on the "Kate and Wills" bandwagon and I'm not ashamed to admit it!

Just about impossible to mess up, this cream isn't overpowering and doesn't make you look the least bit orange.  A plus for those of us who are whiter than white.  I've used it twice and it gives just a hint of color so I'm not blinding people in my general area.

From Pioneer Woman
Milky Way Cake from The Pioneer Woman herself.  This cake is the devil in a pan.  I promise you'll gain many pounds just looking at it, so avert the eyes of the very young.  It has around 12 Milky Way bars in it.  TWELVE.  Or maybe 11, but either way, there are a LOT of candy bars in this baby.  I've found that if I eat just a sliver at a time, I can tolerate its richness.  The sad thing is that I've eaten the same quantity of cake... it has just taken me longer to do it.  *sigh*

Peachtree City Pilates
Can I get a WHOOP WHOOP! for Pilates!  I don't know how much of the Milky Way Cake will be burned off during a session, but you'll feel like you've burned off that one bite after a class.  I've just discovered this as a part of some physical therapy and I am hooked.  My instructor is fantastic and if I can learn to do all the things she can do, I'll be kickin' it!  She had me try the move in the picture.  Doesn't look too hard, right?  Well, the flat black board moves up and back, so you are sliding your lower body over the bar and back, using just your arm/shoulder while maintaining the leg up/arm up.  They needed two people to spot me when I did this.  I'm pitiful.  But yes, love pilates and if you can take a lesson at a studio with all the equipment, by all means, do it!

Restoration Hardware
THE WARNER BED FROM RESTORATION HARDWARE!  Sorry to yell, but this bed is now in my bedroom.  I feel like I'm finally getting my grown-up master bedroom.  I'd show you pictures, but I've still got a random pattern of paint colors on the wall and haven't made up my mind on the final choice.  I'm hoping my room will end up as calm and pretty as the one in the picture.

This home in Bridgehampton, NY

Sothebys Real Estate Online

I have dreams of living in the Hamptons one day.  Or is it cooler to "summer" in the Hamptons?  I don't know, but either way, this is house is my idea of perfect.  Click the link to see the photo tour of the home.  Love.

Those are some fabulous things I like right now.  Today.  Tonight...what things are you finding fabulous right now?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What's Going On

A long absence from the blog--life has gotten busy once summer started!  Here's what we have been up to lately.....

2 weeks at camp for the girls.  Fun for all and they are counting down the days till next summer.

Hipstamatic image of Milky Way Cake a la The Pioneer Woman.  This cake is so wrong in all the right ways.

Some vicious UNO games being played and won by Dad.  I think he's cheating in some way.

Our sweet puppy, Piper, looking dejected and neglected after being asked to leave the UNO playing area.  Actually, this is her spot--right in front of the dishwasher and in the middle of everything.

Preparing the golf cart for the 4th of July parade in our city.  Ours is okay this year--wait till I show you the pictures of the carts that are totally decked out.  July 4th in our town is crazy fun.

What are  you all up to this weekend?