The most delicious weekend.

My longtime friend, Heather, came to visit this past weekend. She arrived on Friday, and left on Monday.

By the time she had left, I likely weighed 10 lbs. more. I’ve enjoyed each of the visitors I’ve had this summer, but since we’re both foodies, dining out was definitely the most fun this time.

We started out the weekend with dinner & drinks at Luna Maya. We had spicy guacamole, stuffed poblanos & tamales.
2015-07-24 18.15.55 This is actually the same thing I ordered the first time I ate there. I was happy not to have a table in a dark hole this time, so I could actually get a decent photo of my food. 2015-07-24 18.26.51-1Saturday night, we went to one of my absolute favorites: Venture. When we got there, there was a wait, but there was seating available at the bar. There were no menus at the moment, so the bartender asked what I was in the mood for, and picked my drink for me. He made me the El Diablo, and it was delicious. I’m really glad I let him pick for me. I’ve actually looked at this drink on the menu every time, but had never ordered it. 2015-07-25 20.11.03-1We also ordered way too much food. We started with the pimiento cheese & grilled bread. It was still bubbling when he brought it out, and was so good. We also had the tots (of course), and the seared tuna. 2015-07-25 20.39.08-1We also shared a pizza, or, a beet-za. This pizza was roasted beet, fresh basil, roasted garlic, tomato sauce, mozzarella, goat cheese, & arugula. 2015-07-25 21.04.15-1Sunday morning, we had brunch at the Handsome Biscuit. When we arrived, the line was out the door. They really need to expand… The teeny-tiny building is cute, but not practical. We both had biscuits, blackberry agua-frescas & shared an order of hashbrowns. 2015-07-26 11.53.54-12015-07-26 11.52.01And of course we went to Le Mu on Sunday night. The menu that night was one of the most unique that he’s featured so far, and everything we had was delicious.

We started with the country ham croquettes. They were served with a cheddar mornay (a fancy term for a bechamel sauce with added cheese) and chard. This was so good. I had never had a croquette before, but I’d order them again! And the chard… so perfect. 11051810_10102068160995947_8269051497136614978_nI had the japanese rice noodle bowl with roasted beets, pickled daikon, bean sprouts, napa cabbage & a strawberry-lime vinaigrette. This was delicious, and the dressing was amazing. It had just enough sweetness, and I couldn’t get enough of the color. 2015-07-26 19.04.42-1And dessert… for the first time, something on his menu was too out there for me. I love funnel cakes. They bring back fond memories of summers at Carowinds with my family. But the thought of a funnel cake with sweetened red beans was a little intimidating. I went for it though, and was blown away by how delicious it was. All of the flavors & textures worked together perfectly. 2015-07-26 19.31.03-2And Monday, before she headed back to Charlotte, we stopped by the Barking Dog for lunch, and had their fish tacos. These are super simple, and so good. By far my favorite fish tacos ever. 2015-07-27 11.51.42-12015-07-27 11.51.55-1

And with that, my summer of visitors is over. Honestly, it feels like summer is over (thank God). I’ve missed Graham this summer, but I’ve also had a lot of fun. But bring on fall! I’m ready for sweaters, boots, pumpkin flavored everything, the holidays, and buying a new house!

What I’m Loving Wednesday

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these… Oops. Lately I’ve just tried a lot more things that I haven’t liked, and no one wants to read my whining… But here are five things I’ve tried lately, that I have absolutely LOVED!
8ef186f72a02885484dee03bc511ce27My friend Heather recommended this book to me a couple of weeks ago, and I LOVED it. I listened to it on audiobook, which is fine normally, but one day I got out of the car & wasn’t ready to stop listening. So, I brought my iPod inside with me, and listened to it for the rest of the day. Seriously. I spent 6 hours, laying on the couch, listening to my book. I was really tempted just to go down the street to Barnes & Noble, and buy an actual copy of the book, but that felt wasteful.

966Spongelle-Infused-Body-Wash-Buffer-Coconut-VerbenaI received one of these sponges in my last Pop Sugar Must Have Box, and I LOVED it. You get about 12-14 washes from each sponge, but then you can lather the sponge up with your own body wash when it’s not doing it’s job anymore. They included a 30% off coupon in the box, and I’m definitely going to buy a few more of these. I think they’d be so great for traveling.

8002fffaae23f41915a0ab11086c1947Most women become obsessed with skincare when they hit 30. For me, it was 31 & 1/2. I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect moisturizer, and I think this one may be it. It’s thick enough, so it actually feels nice going on, but it’s not heavy. I can actually put it on at night & in the morning, and not feel like an oily mess an hour after getting to work.

cat drawer pullsThis cat drawer pull from Anthropologie. I ordered these back in May, and I could have SWORN I’ve already written about them, but a search through my blog says otherwise. Anyways. So cute. They’re a little pricey, so I only ordered two (one for each nightstand), but I absolutely LOVE them.

30262-clarisonic-mia-2-electric-pink

I’ve been going back & forth on getting a Clarisonic Mia for a while after reading Christina’s thoughts about it, and a few weeks ago, I finally splurged. I’ve been using it for 3-4 weeks now, and I can already see a difference in my skin. I’ve always had TERRIBLE skin. Lots of break outs, uneven skin tone, blackheads, you name it. I typically won’t leave the house without a full face of make up (liquid foundation, pressed powder, blush, mascara), and lately I haven’t had to do that. Unless I’m going out with friends, these days I just put on a little tinted moisturizer and I’m good to go. My skin tone is evening out, I haven’t had as many break outs, and my skin feels so smooth!

Deployment Diaries #12

It was a fairly low key weekend, but G and I reached a pretty big deployment milestone!!!
11230925_10102055626819537_3866264270577784500_nWe hit the 50% point while skyping on Friday night (technically Saturday morning), and Buddy and I were both pretty excited! 2015-07-18 01.04.33The rest of the weekend was uneventful. Saturday morning I took the dog for a walk as soon as I woke up. Considering I didn’t wake up till 10:30, it was already brutally hot.
2015-07-16 17.23.45-12015-07-18 11.56.43Hermione & I were both dying. Unfortunately, I couldn’t jump in the river fully clothed. Well, I guess I could, but it would be a really uncomfortable trek back to the car, so I sucked it up. And then changed into my bathing suit as soon as I got home, and spent the rest of the day in the pool with my book. Not at the pool, mind you. Actually in the pool. I only got out when it was time to go inside. Saturday was a lot of fun, though. A group of us went to play laser tag, then came back to my apartment and ordered pizza & played Cards Against Humanity.

The weekend was low key, but really delicious. While walking in Yorktown on Saturday, I stopped by the farmer’s market & loaded up on summer produce, and Sunday night I ate nothing but summer fruits & vegetables for dinner. It was all so, so good. 2015-07-19 19.54.12-1Monday night, I met Susan at Hayashi for an early sushi dinner. Honestly, I didn’t like this place very much the first time I went. The service was bad, the food was meh. But, it’s grown on me over the last few months. We always sit at the bar, and Justin (the bartender), is adorable. We decided last night that he’s the Newport News version of Jess Mariano. I always get the same thing: a seaweed salad, a rainbow roll, & the Alaskan roll. 2015-07-20 16.42.44-1I was really pleased with the size of the rolls this time. One of my biggest complaints about Hayashi was the size of the rolls, compared to Kero. But the rainbow roll was HUGE this time. Although, I don’t know if it can be called a rainbow roll… I wanted something different, so I asked Justin if they could make it spicy, so they subbed out the crab meat inside for spicy tuna, and it was delicious! 
2015-07-20 16.52.13-1So, it was a good weekend, and we’re another week down! I have my last house guest of the summer coming this weekend, and after that I’m not sure what I’ll do for the rest of the summer. Honestly, my wanderlust is getting REALLY bad, so I might just get in the car and go places… I’d rather go someplace more exotic, but honestly I don’t want to go anywhere amazing without Graham. So we’ll see where I end up. I really want to road trip to Arkansas, & visit my friends there, but it’s really, really hot in Arkansas, so I don’t see that happening until the fall.

A Sadder Caturday…

I know this cat isn’t one of the ones you’re used to seeing, but meet Mao… the first furball I ever loved.
128394152MhLaoj_phI learned yesterday that Susan from 2 Cats & Chloe is having one of her two cats put down today. Ever since learning that, I’ve been thinking about Mao.
373793142cWGcJR_phMao came into my life when I was 16. My mom was had been dating a nice man for quite a while, and around Christmas 2000, he was in a horrible accident and passed away. 2670676160054400659haooGE_phWe had never had a cat, and weren’t really cat people… But Ken had loved Mao, and my mom grew to love him as well. So, his family gave him to her. We brought him home with us, and we fell head over heels in love with him. 2904475100054400659wgVPAu_fsHe made me a cat person. He was affectionate, and so smart. He had the most beautiful blue eyes. He was mischievous, and always getting into trouble. I remember one night he went missing, and I was devastated. I spent the entire night going outside, opening cans of cat food and calling for him. The next morning we found him in the pantry, hiding behind boxes of cereal & microwave popcorn.

Then, in 2006, he was hanging out in the dryer. I didn’t realize this & turned it on… This is from my journal from that day:

So, tonight I was trying to dry my laundry. My mom had clothes in the dryer, so I asked her to get them out. I left the door open. A few minutes later, she went and checked them, they were still damp, so she turned it back on.

I was online, talking to Trey. I heard thumping. I thought it was my tennis shoes… So, I looked for Mao and couldn’t find him. I then realized that Mao was in the dryer, and the thumping was him. I ran, opened it, & he was in the dryer. He made a little sound, so I knew he was alive, but I was scared shitless. He was in there for about 5 minutes.

Once he was out, he couldn’t walk straight, he was panting & bleeding from his mouth. Mom & I took him to a 24 hr. emergency vet in Gastonia. On the way there, he pooped on me. I honestly was so scared I didn’t care.

Anyways, the vet said he was fine. The mostly dry towels he was in there with saved his life. They gave him a steroid shot & gave us some antibiotics to give him. Hopefully he’ll be okay. I’m kinda scared to go to bed in case something bad happens to him. I hope he’ll be okay.

128394157yfuZap_phSeptember 13, 2009 we took him to the emergency vet. It was a Sunday. This was what I wrote in my journal that day:

He’s lost so much weight. Last year he weighed like 17 lbs. Today at the vet when they weighed him he weighed 9.82. The vet told us that based on his weight loss & his low body temp, as well as a physical exam thahttps://bakecreatelove.wordpress.com/wp-admin/users.phpt they thought he either was in kidney failure or liver failure, or he had diabetes. Diabetes would require twice daily insulin injections, with liver failure there was nothing we could do, & with kidney failure they would have to put in feeding tubes. The vet said his quality of life would be poor & since Mao was over 12 years old that he would have a difficult time. So we decided to have him put down. I couldn’t bear the thought of him being in pain.

I miss Mao, and I’m so grateful that he made me a cat person.

And if you have a second, send Susan some prayers/good vibes. And hug your pets a little tighter today.

50 Women Game Changers in Food: Betty Fussell (Week 29)

In 2011, Gourmet released their list of the 50 Women Game Changers in Food. I stumbled on this entirely by accident. One week a couple of months ago, I was meal planning, and didn’t have access to my Ina Garten cookbooks. So, I googled the recipe I was looking for and found it on a blog that was making its way through the list (she’s number 39… I’m a little disgruntled that Rachael Ray is higher up than she is). I was inspired to do the same. I need to challenge myself more in the kitchen, and I thought this would be an excellent way to do so.  As I’ve been planning for this, I’ve been flipping through cookbooks, checking out websites and buying new equipment, and I’m excited. I’m also really looking forward to learning more about these game changing women, and introducing myself to recipes I’ve never cooked before.

(And since this entire year-long project will be all recipes I’ve never made before, I can’t promise that everything will turn out the way I want it to. But whether a dish is a winner or an epic fail, I’m going to be completely honest about it.)

Week 29 brings us to Betty Fussell.

betty_fussell_590px

Betty (Harper) Fusell was born on July 28, 1927 & is a trail blazing food writer. She has authored 11 books, and contributed countless essays & articles to national publications, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The New YorkerTravel and Leisure, Vogue, Cosmopolitan,Journal of Gastronomy, Wine and Food, Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, Saveur, Gourmet, & many, many more.

“She was a trailblazer in the American food movement, though she’s not as well known as James Beard, Alice Waters or Larry Forgione. But she worked right beside them, helping persuade Americans to understand and embrace their own food culture, instead of always looking to Europe.” (source)

A few weeks before I made this, Graham had requested fried catfish for dinner. I checked out one of her books (I Hear America Cooking), and found exactly what we were looking for. This book is interesting for multiple reasons. It’s a great collection of recipes, in general, but they are sorted by region, and include background information for each one. It’s really interesting to read about how some of our favorite foods came to be.

So, catfish. Being completely honest, Graham actually cooked this. I don’t like fried food, and I really don’t like frying food. A pan of hot oil makes me very, very nervous. So, I got the fish cut, & battered, and he did the frying.
IMG_3963I was really pleased with how this turned out, and it was a very comforting dinner. It reminded me of home. My stepdad loved to fry catfish. He had a specific pot, and did it in the back yard. It was one of my favorite dinners. I remember one night I had gone out with a girlfriend for dinner, and came home to find fried catfish, hushpuppies and french fries on the island.

I had a second dinner that night.
IMG_3960Fried Catfish & Hushpuppies
(Recipe from p. 206-207 of I Hear America Cooking)

Catfish
Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. of thick catfish fillets
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of cornmeal
  • 2 T. of all-purpose flour
  • Peanut oil
  • Salt, pepper & cayenne pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Cut catfish fillets into large pieces. Sprinkle generously with seasonings, wrap in plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet to 375 degrees, the oil should be hot, but not smoking.
  3. Beat the egg & milk together, and pour into a shallow bowl. Combine the cornmeal and flour, and add to a separate shallow bowl. Dip the fish first in the liquid, and then in the dry ingredients.
  4. Shake off any excess flour, and fry a few pieces of fish at a time, until each piece is golden brown.
  5. Drain fish on paper towels & keep warm in a low oven until ready to serve.

Huspuppies
Ingredients:

  • 1 T. of baking powder
  • 1 t. of salt
  • 1/2 t. of black pepper
  • 1/2 t. of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 t. of baking soda
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 C. of buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Combine all dry ingredients. Fold in the wet ingredients.
  2. Drop small spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil (same oil used for the fish), being careful not to overcrowd the pot.
  3. Let them cook for a minute or two, or until golden brown, and then drain on a paper towel.

IMG_3959 IMG_3962

Deployment Diaries #11

I feel overwhelmed.

Over the years, I’ve seen countless military families re-home their pets when someone deploys because they can’t handle the responsibility. I’ve seen them utilize Dogs on Deployment, and have the pet boarded when the other person deploys, because it’s just too much to handle.

I’m not re-homing any of my furry children, or sending them to live with someone else for the next few months (I would be absolutely lost without them), that thought never once has crossed my mind. But this morning, for the first time ever, I actually understood why some people make that choice. Especially someone who has children also, and a house to take care of (deployments are much, much easier in an apartment…)

My animals have been batshit crazy the past few weeks. I’ve cleaned up countless piles of throw-up , I’ve come home to find that Hermione had ate everything she could reach in the pantry, (the pantry that I had closed, and that Buddy had opened). I’ve wanted to yell at Hermione in the mornings , as she sniffs every single piece of mulch in the dog park, instead of doing her business (when I’m already running late for work). Every morning for three months, I’ve tried to ignore Buddy scratching at my bedroom door at 4:00am, before I finally give up & stumble into the kitchen to feed them.

I know I’m only saying this because I’m exhausted. I’m so, so tired I’m barely functioning today. Last night I went to bed at 12:00ish, but my allergies were so bad I couldn’t sleep. So, I finally got up at 1:00, and took a Benadryl. It did it’s job, but my 4:00am wake-up call from Buddy was brutal. At least, I’m guessing it was. Honestly, I was so tired, when I finally fell out of bed at 8:15, I couldn’t remember if I fed them or not. So, I fed them again… just in case.

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They’re exhausting, but adorable. And I love them more than words.

Work is also frustrating. Paperwork keeps going missing, people are irritating & I’m so, so thankful that today is my Friday.

Anyways. I know this was a lot of whining. I just miss Graham. I miss him for 17,000 reasons, but one of those reasons is that he makes my life easier. I feel guilty saying that, but it’s the truth. I married him because I’m madly in love with him, but part of the reason our marriage is so amazing is because we also have an extremely equal partnership. He helps me with things, I help him with things. We take care of each other, and our furry children. I make dinner, he does the dishes. I wash towels & bedding, he takes the dog out at 6:00 in the morning. I do the grocery shopping, he makes the margaritas. I miss my husband. I miss my partner.

11700905_10102051655253587_7950246912962032661_n

Thankfully, we are right at the halfway point. I won’t say more due to OPSEC, but Saturday we reach a very significant milestone. Time is already going by quickly, but I’m hoping once Saturday gets here, and I see the change in my countdown, it’ll just fly by even faster.

Okay. Done whining. Time to put on my big girl panties, down a diet coke, and get on with my day!

 

 

Tupelo Honey – Virginia Beach, VA

Disclaimer: Our meal at Tupelo Honey was complimentary (we did pay for the cocktails), but as always, all opinions are completely my own.

Tupelo Honey officially opened it’s 11th location in Virginia Beach on Monday. And I’m really, really excited about this. I’ve been to their Asheville location, and last year I celebrated my birthday at their Charlotte location. I’m a big fan of their creative spins on classic southern dishes, their inventive cocktails & diverse craft beer selection, and the eclectic decor.

They had a soft-opening week, and I went for dinner last Thursday night. I brought my blog-friend turned real-friend Susan, and my friends Sarah & Courtney along with me, and we all had a great time!

2015-07-09 20.45.57They were doing things a little bit different for their opening. Instead of letting people order off of their regular menu, they had four small menus they were randomly passing out… But, lucky for us, the menu they gave our table didn’t have any of their gluten free options, so their very accommodating staff (thanks Tony & Matt!) let us order from all four of their menus.
2015-07-09 20.09.09As a table of four, we were allowed to choose two appetizers, 4 (different) entrees, and two desserts, and unlimited non-alcoholic beverages. But, since it was a girls night, we all ordered alcohol as well ;)
2015-07-09 20.22.00-1Sarah’s was the prettiest… (‘Carolina Peach’ Mai Tai | Bacardi ‘Superior’ white rum, triple sec and house-made tropical fruit juice punch)2015-07-09 20.22.30-1Courtney’s was the classiest… (‘Violet Beauregarde’ Champagne Cocktail | Silver Fox vodka, St. Germaine, blueberry puree, fresh mint, fresh lemon and sparkling wine)2015-07-09 20.23.26-1Mine was the most simple, but the most delicious (‘Tupelo-Ritaville Margarita’ | Margaritaville tequila, Tupelo Honey-liqueur, house-made fresh sweet & sour and a chili-salt rim).

For our appetizers, we chose the Appalachian Egg Rolls & the pimiento cheese. The pimiento cheese was more queso-like than I was expecting, but it was so good. The dip is typically served with tortilla chips, but to accommodate the gluten intolerant member of our group, they served it with gluten free bread. And, since there was a lot more cheese than bread, they even re-filled the bread bowl for us =)2015-07-09 20.25.282015-07-09 20.26.362015-07-09 20.26.42For my entree, I went with the scallops (surprise, surprise). It was served with risotto, and this dinner was absolutely perfect. The risotto was delicious and the scallops were amazing.
2015-07-09 20.45.01Sarah went with probably the most southern thing on the menu… fried chicken, goat cheese grits & mashed potatoes. I tried the grits and the mac and cheese, both were wonderful. 2015-07-09 20.45.30Susan went with the pork chop. It was topped with figs, served on a bed of sweet potatoes, and served alongside asparagus. This dish was very sweet, but the pork was wonderful. Very tender, and moist, and the figs were a wonderful accompaniment. 2015-07-09 20.47.12Courtney had their burger, which was good, but the mountain of fries she got… oh my. She commented that she rarely ever takes fries home, but she did ask for a to-go box for these. 2015-07-09 20.46.36For our desserts, we had the most quintessentially southern desserts imaginable: banana pudding & pecan pie. Both were good, but the banana pudding was by far the favorite. Even Susan couldn’t help herself, despite knowing she was setting herself up for a night of… intestinal discomfort. 2015-07-09 21.15.05-22015-07-09 21.16.02-1It was an absolutely wonderful night, with good friends & amazing food. They’re now open in Town Center (right by West Elm & Anthropologie… woo boy…), and are open for lunch, dinner & brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Stop by for a meal, or a cocktail. I promise you won’t regret it!

(And if you go, ask for Tony, the server we had. He was phenomenal!)

Want more info about Tupelo Honey? Check out their website, their facebook, and Susan’s review!