Friday Five: 5 Reasons I Love My New Car

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So, earlier this week I traded in my 2010 Honda Civic for a 2012 Nissan Rogue SV. It’s only been a week, but so far I love it. For the past several months I had really, really started to hate my car. It was only four years old and had so many issues. And thanks to 13 trips between Charlotte & Arkansas, a trip to Chicago, a trip up to Maine, multiple trips between Little Rock & Dallas, and about 10 trips from Virginia to Charlotte, it also had 106,000 miles on it. Most of the issues it had were minor things, but still ridiculous for a four year old car. And in 2012, when my air conditioner stopped working, it was even more annoying. I remember driving through Chicago, kicking this spot under my dash to get it going again. My front bumper came loose recently. It won’t stay up. So, that got us talking more seriously about trading it in. We talked about selling it right before G deployed. That way I could just drive his, and we wouldn’t have a car payment for six months.

But Monday I hit my limit. I was driving home from Richmond (about an hour away) and my car started making an awful noise. I was worried I had another blow-out, so I pulled over to check everything out. All of my tires looked fine, so I laid down and looked under the car. Underneath the car there was a big piece of plastic that covered everything. And it was dragging. I tried to pull it off, and it wouldn’t come. So, I drove home, dragging this huge, piece of plastic with me.

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Also on that ride home my tire light came on (it does this about every two weeks. NEVER BUY TIRES FROM FIRESTONE.) and my oil light came on. I know neither of those are Honda’s fault, but I was already really, really annoyed.

So, when G got home, he put my car on jacks so he could take it off. When he did, two other pieces came off with it. At that point I was DONE. I spent the next mornings’ drive to work hoping one of these crazy Virginia drivers would hit me and total it. I pretty much knew what my next car would be, so that evening we went car shopping. Ridiculously frustrating experience, but I’m beyond happy with my “new” car. It’s bigger, a lot more comfortable, has more bells & whistles, has crazy low mileage, drives great and I just love it!

So, here are the top five reasons I love my new car:

  1. All of the locks & windows work. This may not seem like a big deal, but my previous car had one window that didn’t work period, one lock that didn’t work period, and one lock that worked occasionally. Considering both of the locks that didn’t work were on the driver’s side, it was especially annoying. I mean, if you’re out shopping, you naturally put your bags in the backseat on the driver’s side. Not being able to do that was super annoying. Oh! And if I unlocked the back door manually, and forgot to lock it back it would click every 30 seconds while the car tried to lock it. SO. ANNOYING. Also, the panic button didn’t work on the remote. When you can’t find your car in a crowded outlet mall parking lot, you really, really want the remote to work.
  2. I love some of the features I previously took for granted. My mom used to drive a Ford Focus and it had the iPod hook up. My Civic didn’t have that, and I really missed it. My new car does. I like being able to control the music on my phone with the radio controls (little things make me happy). It also has a back-up camera and since I’m a horrible parker this is amazing to me. And while it isn’t important to me, G was all about the alloy wheels instead of wheel covers (since the ones on my Honda had worn off paint & looked horrible). When we were looking at cars, we looked at brand new Rogue selects that were the same price as the 2012 model I bought, but the selects had none of the features that came with the one I ended up getting.
  3. Y’all. Two little words: cargo space. Now, this is a small SUV. I call it a baby SUV. But going from a Civic to this makes me feel like I’m riding around in a stretch Hummer or something. There is more than enough space for me, G, Hermione, Buddy & Charlotte. We’re going to try and not use my car for animal transportation, but it’s nice knowing we have plenty of space. AND I could totally purchase an already assembled bookcase from Ikea, and not have to disassemble it in the parking lot after 20 minutes of trying to fit it in my car (still one of my stupidest moves to date).
  4. I love being higher up when I’m driving. I’ve only ever driven compact cars (I’ve had three Civics, I drove my mom’s Ford Focus for a while, and my first car was a tiny Toyota Paseo), and I was really surprised with how much more comfortable driving a SUV is. Does that mean I’m getting old?
  5. The interest rate on the Civic was really high, and I owed a LOT more on it than it was worth. We got a really good price on my new car, and the interest rate is HALF what I was paying for the Civic, and the cost of my car insurance went down. This one was a huge surprise, since it’s a newer vehicle. I remember back in the day, Honda Civics were desirable for car thieves. Maybe they still are, who knows. But my insurance went down a little more than $10 a month. Since my new car payment is a little bit higher, I’ll definitely take it! My car payment is more than it was before, but I’m

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So there you have it. I know Honda’s are supposed to be amazing, reliable cars; but this one wasn’t. And when you’re hoping for car accidents or are filled with rage when you look at your car, I think it’s definitely time to get a new one.

Restaurant Review: Bodega on Granby

Friday night we headed to Norfolk for our date night. We went to the Hermitage Museum and Gardens for the Bruce Munro exhibit first, and then we decided to check out Bodega on Granby for dinner. It had been a while since we’ve gone for tapas for dinner. The last few times have been disappointing. We went to Waterstreet Grille in Yorktown last year, and had one of the most disappointing dinners of our relationship. We went to our favorite tapas place in Little Rock before we moved, and found out they had closed *sniff*. Luckily, this experience did not disappoint.

They weren’t busy, but I had a reservation anyways (thanks Open Table!). The interior of the restaurant is small, but it’s charming. I especially loved the light fixtures over the tables. While we had an overwhelmingly positive experience, it got off to a shaky start. They offer wine flights (four wines for $9) and beer flights (four beers for $8). I ordered a wine flight, and our server told me they were no longer serving those. I was annoyed by this, since it was written on the drink specials board, printed on the specials menu and another table had one of them on their table. So, that irritated me but I shook it off and went with a glass of the white sangria. I’m glad I did, because it was delicious. It was sweet, delicious, made with Chablis and had tons of apples floating around.

Whenever we order tapas, we always order 2-3 side dishes and then about four things from the tapas menu. There were so many things we wanted to try, but we narrowed it down to seven. We had Brussels sprouts with raisins and pine nuts, sautéed garlic spinach, country bread with olive tapenade, marinated artichoke hearts, Moorish pork skewers, seared tuna and fried oysters.

The first thing our waiter brought out wasn’t something that we ordered, but two pieces of sugar cane. He said it was to clean out pallets, and we just chew on it till the sweetness was gone, and then spit it out. This was super weird for me. The chewed up sugar cane had a weird texture, and I felt really uncomfortable spitting out food at a nice restaurant. But oh well. Then he started bringing us all of our food. They brought out three dishes first, starting with the marinated artichoke hearts, the Spanish country bread and the Brussels sprouts. Everything was so, so good! Out of this first course, I think the marinated artichoke hearts were my favorite. They were served with Kalamata olives, manchego cheese and roasted red peppers.
2014-10-24 20.01.57 The bread was good, but the real star was the olive tapenade, of course. And yes, I am completely addicted to Kalamata olives. My only complaint is that I would have liked about 4x as much of the tapenade.

2014-10-24 20.01.44 The Brussels were good, but nothing special. I prefer them when they’re roasted, but these had good flavor, and the raisins were a pleasant surprise.
2014-10-24 20.02.28 Before bringing out our next course, our server replaced our plates and silverware (nice touch!) and then brought out the rest of our food. This next course… oh. My. Gosh. Everything was amazing. But the winner here was surprisingly not the perfectly cooked tuna, but the pork skewers. Unfortunately, there is nothing more I can tell you about this dish. Their online menu is not up to date, and we ate so much I don’t remember it all. But this pork was probably one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. And I loved that they served it on thick slices of toasted bread. The bread tasted like the pork and was so, so good.
2014-10-24 20.16.59A close second to the pork was the tuna. This was probably the prettiest tuna I’ve ever had, and it was delicious. The tuna was served on top of a chorizo salsa. Chorizo and rare tuna are not two things I would have ever put together, but I’m glad Bodega did, because it was an amazing combination.
2014-10-24 20.16.31 2014-10-24 20.16.46The fried oysters were pretty good. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever had oysters before, but I really liked these. The breading was light and the flavor was excellent. But the best part of this dish was the seaweed salad. I really, really love seaweed salad.
2014-10-24 20.17.23And last, we had the sautéed spinach. This was pretty garlicky and delicious. Nothing special, but it was a nice side dish. I like eating something green to go alongside all of my olives and meat =)
2014-10-24 20.17.55I wanted dessert, but I was pretty full after all of that. Then I saw dessert going to the table next to us. And I changed my mind really, really quickly. I was torn between the crème brulee and the flourless chocolate cake. I went with our waiter’s recommendation, and we ordered the cake. It was brought out with whipped cream, ice cream, and was drizzled with chocolate sauce and strawberry syrup. Y’all. This was amazing. I had never had a flourless cake before, and wasn’t prepared for the richness of it. It was absolutely the perfect way to end our dinner.
2014-10-24 20.43.36So, yeah. Great experience here (other than the wine thing). Our server was knowledgeable and friendly, the restaurant was charming and the food was excellent. And what’s even better than an excellent dining experience? An excellent dining experience with reasonable prices. All of the food pictured here, along with two sangrias and two beers was about $80. It’s nice looking at the bill after an excellent meal and not feeling queasy when you see the total… We will definitely return here! There are about a dozen other things on the menu I’d love to try out!

What I’m Loving Wednesday: Buddy & Charlotte

It’s National Cat Day.

And I have the two greatest cats in the history of the world. I’ve mentioned how special Buddy is many, many times; but Charlotte is pretty awesome too.

I love these two furry little monsters so much. They are a constant source of entertainment, love, fun and most importantly, companionship.

So, here are some of my favorite photos of two of the furry loves of my life. Happy National Cat Day. And go adopt a cat. I promise you won’t regret it.

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Weekend Recap

Friday night G and I kicked off our weekend with the coolest art exhibit ever. We headed across the bridge to the Hermitage Museum for the Bruce Munro Light exhibit. I saw some pictures on Coastal Virginia Magazines Facebook page, and I immediately bought tickets for us.

This exhibit was so, so cool. I took a ton of pictures and oohed and ahhed my way through the grounds. And we arrived at the perfect time. The sun hadn’t set yet when we arrived, so we went and saw the indoor displays first. This one, Light Shower, was my favorite. When we build a dream house one of these days, I want something like this as a light fixture in my entry way.

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I thought Lighthouse was amazing. It was breathtaking, and extra cool since it was inspired by the area where it was displayed. Even cooler, the flashing lights are actually emitting a morse code message: “There is a light that never goes out.
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Field of Light. Oh my gosh y’all, this was breathtaking!  These lights were everywhere. And there was a large field of them. But to me, they were the most beautiful in this spot overlooking the water. It was absolutely magical. If you do go see this exhibit (and you should), so at sunset so you can experience this view.
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Water Tower was another favorite. Each tower is made with over 200 plastic bottles that are filled with strands of fiber optic lights. And music comes from the center of each tower. It was very, very cool.
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While Brass Monkeys wasn’t a favorite, I loved how this one worked. He was inspired by the saying ‘cold enough to freeze the balls off a Brass Monkey‘ and kept the colors a cool blue and white. Since all the other displays changed colors constantly, I loved that this just went back and forth between blue and white. And, it kind of reminded me of the prophecies Harry Potter et al found in the department of mysteries…
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Fireflies was really beautiful, but I would have really loved to have seen in on a grander scale.
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We ended the evening at Bodega on Granby and had tapas for dinner. It was delicious. But more on that later.

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Saturday was low key. And delicious. My allergies were kicking my butt, so for dinner we had homemade chicken noodle soup. It totally hit the spot.

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But it wasnt nearly as good as the doughnuts I picked up that afternoon from Duck Donuts. These are so much better than anything I’ve ever had from Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’ Donuts. They make them when you order them. You tell them what toppings you want, and they top them and box them up in front of you. Right now in addition to their plain doughnut they also have pumpkin. G had never had a Duck Donut before, so I got us a variety. I had two pumpkin doughnuts, one maple bacon, one chocolate and two strawberry frosted with sprinkles. He ate the maple bacon & chocolate and loved both of them. I had a strawberry & a pumpkin. Hermione ate the other strawberry & pumpkin while we weren’t paying attention…

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Sunday we packed a couple of backpacks and headed back to Mary’s Rock for a fall hike. It was just a beautiful as last time, but a little more dangerous… We wanted to go to the mountains to see the leaves changing and to enjoy a hike in cooler temperatures. And we did. But what we hadn’t taken into consideration was that leaves have a tendency to fall off the trees in, well, fall. So, the already rocky path was COVERED in leaves. It was a little slippery and I’m not going to lie, I was terrified of falling and hurting myself. I’m clumsy and almost always land on my butt at least once during a hike, I definitely didn’t need any help from the leaves. But, we survived, and had an absolutely wonderful day!

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Restaurant Review: Venture Kitchen & Bar

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I’ve heard good things about very few restaurants on the peninsula. And I hate that. I hate having to cross the dreaded Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel if we want to have a really good meal. But, that’s life. We could move to the other side of the bridge, but then we’d both have to cross the bridge daily to come to work. Right now, we only cross it when we want to. Like when we go out to eat or want to go to the beach. Anyways. One of the restaurants I constantly hear good things about is Venture Kitchen and Bar in Hampton. I’m off on Fridays, and G took a half day on Friday since his parents were coming to town. Since we had a few hours to kill before their arrival, we decided to go have lunch, and I picked Venture. And I am so, so glad I did.

Their menu is not large, but it is diverse and full of interesting options. For lunch, our options were one of their brick oven fired pizzas, several sandwiches, and salads (for the dinner menu they take off the sandwiches and offer a decent variety of small plates). They also offer an impressive bar menu, including a pretty awesome cocktail list.

We were starving, and the only small plate/appetizer they offer during lunch is their house-made tots, so we went with those. And oh my gosh, I’m glad we did. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that these tots were one of the best things I have ever eaten. Ever. The tots were made from cooked potatoes, shaped into cubes and fried. The texture of these bad boys was amazing. The insides were soft and fluffy, and the outside was perfectly crispy. They were served with spicy mayo (which I didn’t touch, since I loathe mayo), but these were amazing.

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I wasn’t really feeling pizza for lunch, so I went with their daily salad special. It was a shrimp couscous salad (lemon garlic sautéed gulf shrimp on a bed of arugula and couscous with tomato and feta). Y’all. This was good. Really, really good. The shrimp were amazing. They were large, perfectly cooked and had so much flavor. The couscous was delicious, I just wish it had larger chunks of tomato, instead of the microscopic pieces that were there. I do wish the arugula had been tossed in some type of vinaigrette. It definitely needed something… I’m going to recreate this at home in the near future, and that will be the main change that I make.

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G ordered the meatball bahn-mi (braised pork meatballs, pickled carrot, cilantro, jalapeño, bean sprouts, & fresh mayo on a crusty roll), and it was delicious. It was served with more tots (yay!) and had tons of flavor. I loved that they sliced the meatballs in half. The meatballs having a flat side made the sandwich much easier to eat. All of the flavors worked so well together and it was really, really good.

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Our meal here was excellent. Every component of it was. The food was delicious. The service was great. She was available, but not overbearing and pleasant. The prices were very reasonable. The salad I had was $11 and G’s sandwich was $8. I cannot wait to go back in the near future for dinner (and cocktails) or Sunday brunch (and cocktails).

What I’m Loving Wednesday

Happy Wednesday!

Adobo Chicken bowl from Cosi. We were in DC on Sunday and I was starving. When I’m really, really hungry I could care less about finding the perfect place to eat. Instead I just point and say “let’s just eat there”. So, we ended up at Cosi. I saw a sign on the way in advertising the adobo chicken bowl (marinated pulled chicken, roasted veggies, fresh pico de gallo, avocado, and grains) and that sounded so delicious I didn’t even consider anything else. And I’m glad I didn’t, because it was so good. Everything about this bowl just worked perfectly. I just wish it had a little more guacamole.

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These sweaters from Target. I swore I wasn’t going to buy any new clothes till I lost weight, but I couldn’t resist these sweaters when I saw them a couple of weeks ago. I just couldn’t resist. They were already inexpensive (19.99 each), I had a coupon, and a cartwheel deal (score!), and considering every sweater I own has stripes, I figured I needed something different. The one with the dog is my favorite, but I love the navy one too. Both are soft, light weight, and I can’t wait to wear them… if the temperature would ever freaking drop (seriously, it’s supposed to be in the 70’s this week. IT’S OCTOBER!).

PicMonkey Collage

These candles from Anthropologie are gorgeous. I love the shapes, the gorgeous tops, and the jewel toned colors. These would look amazing on my new shelves =) And at about $36 each, the price isn’t too bad either. I think the green one is my favorite, although the blueish-purple one has the prettiest lid… Decisions, decisions…

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Tis the season for pretty dresses… =) I fell into a rabbit hole of fun dresses when I was browsing Anthropologie.com. It’s been a really lon time since I’ve found so many dresses that I like at one time. Now I just need a place to wear one or two of these…

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1/2/3

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 Hope everyone is having a great week so far!

Things I Make My Husband Build: Floating Shelves

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I know building things out of pallets is trendy these days (thanks, Pinterest), but that look isn’t very appealing to me. It’s just a little too rustic. And pallets typically stay outside, so the thought of what has crawled on them, or what they have been sat in, just makes me feel a little queasy.

When we were in Charlotte in late August for a camping trip with G’s family, we stopped by his dad’s shop on our way out of town so that he could take some pallet wood with him. He gashed his head open and nearly gave himself a concussion getting this wood, got home and after all that he decided not to use it for what he had intended. A few weeks later, I decided I needed shelves in the living room. Our living room has plenty of wall space, and in the year that we’ve lived there I’ve thought about shelving a lot. But I’ve never followed through because the perfect space for them is the wall where the thermostat controls and a light switch are. So, I just laid down on the floor, and just studied the wall. I thought about starting the shelves above the switch & control panel, but that was exactly why I kept changing my mind- I wanted them lower than that. I thought about putting them on the opposite wall. The space over there is perfect as well, but that wall is already pretty busy. Our black frame gallery wall would be on one end, and a white Ikea bookshelf would be on the other. Finally, I decided I was tired of my decorating ideas being held hostage by an eight inch area on a massive wall, so I just decided to work around the panel & the switch.

We decided on four shelves, at 48 inches long. We were hoping to use the pallet wood, to make this project pretty cheap, so we headed down to the garage to see what we had, and luckily we had enough for almost the whole thing. We had enough to do the front and the sides, and just bought another piece for the backs. We also bought a large sheet of ¼” plywood for the tops, and carriage bolts just to give it a little something extra.

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So while this project was fairly cheap, it did take a while. Since we didn’t want the wood to look like the gross, pallet wood we had, G had to plane it all down. Which took forever. And was messy. He filled one of those large black trash bags with sawdust, and a good bit of it is still all over the floor. It took about two days to get everything planed down, all the holes drilled, and the small wood pieces installed that would hold up the top piece.

Then it was time for staining. I love the look of stained wood, but unfortunately you never really know what you’re going to end up with. We used the same stain on all four shelves, and each of them are slightly different colors. I love the way it ended up, I think it gives it character. I’m just glad that all four are different, instead of one being the different and all four being the same. Staining was easy though. Then we added a coat of polyeurethane to protect them. We have no air circulation in our garage, so it took forever for them to dry! We let them dry for about four days and finally were able to hang them yesterday. And I am in LOVE. I love the warmth of the color. I love the wood grain showing through. I love the way the bolts look on the end. I love that since this wood did come from gross old pallets, it has a lot of character. You can see the original nail holes and funky spots in it, and I think it looks pretty cool.

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And I love that I finally have places to display some of our things that have been in boxes for ages. Like books. I have books shoved everywhere (the bottom of the linen closet we use for DVDs, a shelf in the guestroom we keep the printer on) and about 10 boxes of books in the garage. Even though these books are more about style & color, and less about practicality, I love being able to get some of our things out of storage.

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I love having a home for the statue we bought of the Sears Tower (Willis Tower) in Chicago.

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I love having a place for this giant print, since we no longer have a mantel to put it on. Graham was finally able to put out some of the cool beer glasses he’s gotten from various places.

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And this fake flower clipped to this fake Ikea plant is actually the flower I wore in my hair at our formal wedding.

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And yesterday after G’s parents left, I threw an old comforter over the guest room bed, so the animals won’t ruin the pretty bedding I have for that room. Graham suggested that I take it off, but we seriously have zero storage space. Anyways. A little while later, I walk in the room and see a Buddy sized lump, under the blankets. So, we woke up the lump and introduced him to the shelves. We were anxious to see if they could handle our little ninja. So far, so good…

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(I’m linking this post up with Celebrate Southern.)