Food & Family: Wednesday Ramblings

Good morning! I hope everyone is having a wonderful week! It’s been pretty busy over here. The house is coming along slowly, but surely. Graham is making excellent progress on the built ins, and I’ve been trying to get unpacked and organized.

I first tried out Blue Apron last summer, and was instantly a fan. I’ve been using the service ever since. Not all the time, usually once or twice a month, and for the most part, I’ve been very pleased with it. The recipes are pretty delicious, the portion sizes are generous, and they’re easy to prepare with very few tools. One thing that has made the move a little simpler is Blue Apron (this is NOT a sponsored post). I know that sounds crazy… Most people just go for take out while their house is in chaos. But after a solid week of eating out, I was ready to get back in the kitchen. Enter Blue Apron. It’s been really nice having EVERYTHING I need at my fingertips to cook dinner, without having to meal plan or grocery shop. The dinners we’ve had the past two weeks have been SO good, and I’ve tried combinations I never would have thought of.

Some of the dinners we’ve had the past two weeks:

Until this week, I’ve never tried freekah, and the salad with the ginger collards was delicious! And the Shiitake Sesame rice? Oh my gosh! I have found a new way to cook rice. I could have happily eaten the whole pot of rice, and given Graham all of the chicken wings. The pot pie from last week (unpictured here) featured purple top turnips, which I was pretty unfamiliar with, and LOVED.

My one complaint about these meals (and it’s a pretty big complaint): they’re very carb heavy. There was an unpictured chicken pot pie with a biscuit topping, and the last meal, which we’re having tonight, is steak tacos. Where are all of the vegetables? Do I have to select the vegetarian option to have vegetables (that spinach salad on the plate of chicken wings and rice was not provided by Blue Apron, I just needed something green)?

I’ve used on and off for years, (one of these days, I’ll get all of my information and actually join the DAR), and every time I sign back up, I discover something really cool. This time, I found several cool things. 1) The location of a family burial ground in South Carolina. I have known about its existence for years, but never really knew where it was. Since the last time I’ve been a member, someone else has been there, posted photos of headstones from the 1800’s, and posted the location. Next time I’m in South Carolina, I can not WAIT to go. And 2)? This photo. A woman on who is related to me through my paternal grandfather posts photos sometimes, and when I signed up this time, this photo popped up. The woman with the red circle around her face is my paternal grandmother. Crazy as it may sound, I have never seen photos of her from when she was young. When she and my grandfather divorced, he took all of the photo albums, and when he died, they were all thrown out. I hate that I have so little from that side of the family. I hate that apparently she and my grandfather married each other twice, but I can’t find any documentation of that. I hate that I have exactly ONE photo of my dad as a little boy. But thanks to this website, I now at least know what my grandmother looked like before she was a grandmother.

I’ve been listening to the John Adams biography by David McCullough lately, and I blame this renewed interest in genealogy on it. Apparently the Adams’ family has one of the most intact written records of any family in American history. John and Abigail exchanged over 1,000 letters to one another, not counting the letters they wrote to their children, friends, and her frequent letters to her sisters. It makes me sad that future generations won’t have the same link to our generation, as we have to the ones before us. Other than blogs, do people actually write things down anymore? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially since finishing Team of Rivals (for the second time), and since G’s grandfather passed away. I want to start writing more. I used to write all the time. One of my most vivid memories of my grandmother included walking down the street to the small drug store, where she would buy me a notebook. And I would fill it quickly with stories, and lists, and the random thoughts of an elementary school child. I hate that I didn’t keep those. I’m going to start again. Not stories, lists, or random thoughts (that’s what this blog is for ;) ), but actually keeping a journal. 2010-07-29 17.35.23


What a weekend!

What. A. Weekend.

It started off pretty insane, with snow on Friday morning. This is crazy for two reasons: 1) I had to work on Friday, which rarely happens; 2) it was 70 degrees a few days earlier.2016-02-05 08.44.06-1 Saturday, I went to a baby shower, and while I was gone, this happened! Graham has the built-ins built! He still has many, MANY steps to go before they’re complete, but having them built makes me happy! They’re HUGE though. Obviously, since they’re going almost up to the ceiling (I think they’re 2-3 inches shorter than the living room ceiling). When I saw them, I was stunned. I honestly was NOT expecting that.
2016-02-06 16.54.22 Also, my February Pop Sugar Must Have box arrived while I was at the shower. I won’t go into details about the contents yet, since a lot of people haven’t received it, but I was VERY, VERY happy with this box. I didn’t love the jewelry item, but pretty much everything else was amazing! 2016-02-06 17.02.16 Saturday night we headed to Norfolk for dinner and a show. The HRBT was traffic free, and the view was gorgeous. 2016-02-06 17.56.51-1 We had dinner at Todd Jurich’s Bistro, and it was pretty good. Definitely on the pricey side, but everything we had was delicious. 2016-02-06 18.44.11 This appetizer was good, but I don’t know if it was $13 good: tuna, crab, mango & seaweed salad. 2016-02-06 18.45.50 I had the filet, served with creamed spinach and polenta. While it was good, I don’t know if it was $39 good…2016-02-06 19.04.11 Our show was Cinderella! And it was wonderful. The actress playing Cinderella had a beautiful voice, and reminded me a lot of Anna Kendrick. I’m a big fan of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s version of Cinderella, and while it was familiar, it also had a few twists on it. I didn’t care for the political movement that was going on at the same time, but it was still an excellent production. It also had several new songs, which was fun, a sympathetic stepsister, also a nice change. 2016-02-06 22.23.52-3 On Sunday, the highlight of the day was getting the new Cat Genie installed. Supposedly, we’ll now never have to clean the litter box again… Getting them acclimated to it kind of sucks though. You’re supposed to keep their regular litter box out too, but not clean it. Supposedly when it gets dirty enough, they’ll start using the new one. So, not only will our laundry room smell God awful in a few days, our concern is that the cats will decide to go to the bathroom elsewhere….2016-02-07 14.23.30Also, I’m now on Snap Chat. Follow along at hnwest83 :)

Annnnnnnd, Sunday night we went to a Super Bowl party… which was devastating. I don’t pull for the Panthers, but as a Charlotte native, I was excited for my city. Everyone is so divided by politics right now, it was nice to see EVERYONE united by something… Even if it was just a football team. That point when Panthers fans knew it was over was heartbreaking. The look on Graham’s face just made me want to cry.

Then came the drama (of course), when Cam Newton walked off stage during the press conference. I have a LOT to say about that, especially the way the NFL had things set up, but I’ll keep it short. He’s 26, and his dreams had just been crushed. Can you really blame the way he acted? I mean, I act like the world is ending when I lose a board game (the one time it’s happened :-p), so I can’t imagine the feeling of losing the Super Bowl. He’ll regret this as he matures, but people need to chill out. 2016-02-08 09.44.56People talk about how he’s a role model & needs to act like one. In my opinion, he did. We teach kids to walk away from conflicts, and he did. He walked off that stage before he said something he would regret. But more importantly, he showed good sportsmanship when he congratulated the winner. Again, not a football fan, but from what I’ve read, other athletes have stomped off the field without congratulating the winner after losing the Super Bowl. 2016-02-08 09.51.32And even more importantly, the way the city of Charlotte is still showing their love and support blows me away. My step-dad always said that he hated Panthers fans, because they were all bandwagon fans. But this? This is amazing. And even had me tearing up a bit. I love my city!

Friday Ramblings

It’s one of those days where I just feel like rambling.

  1. I bought a treadmill. Earlier this week, G had a friend help him move it upstairs (FYI: treadmills are HEAVY), and I’ve used it a few times. Logically I know that it takes a very long time to gain 30 lbs, and it’s going to take a long time to lose 30 lbs, but I still wanted to jump on the scale afterwards and see a 5lb. deficit. Luckily the scale is still packed, and I have no idea where it is at the moment. I will say that finding the motivation to get a workout in is much easier with a treadmill in the house. I walked while watching two episodes of Gilmore Girls on the iPad. I would have done three episodes, but I was SO hungry by the end of the second, I decided to call it a night and go make dinner.2016-02-02 21.22.48-1
  2. So… Our house doesn’t have as much wall space as the apartment. The living room is around the same size, but the ceilings aren’t as high, so I don’t have enough space for all of my decorative things. The current dilemma is where to put my beloved shelves. Here are my thoughts: We could do two stacks of two over the couch. One stack of two over the old entertainment center & two in our bedroom. Or maybe something else… I LOVE these shelves. They’re probably my favorite project of Graham’s, so selling them (as he suggested), or not putting them up, is not an option.2016-02-04 21.39.09 2016-02-04 21.42.59
  3. I dropped my phone in the toilet two weeks ago (yes, the phone that I bought in June… :-/). I’ve had terrible luck in the iPhone department since moving to Virginia. We moved here in July 2013. That September, I upgraded to the iPhone 5s. A few months later, the iPhone 4  that I was using as an iPod was stolen. Then I break my 5s, and then dropped my 6 in the toilet. My friend Sarah joked that it’s a sign that I should switch to Droid… That will NEVER happen :-p I think it’s a sign that I should be more careful. And get insurance on my phone this time. And I did buy a Lifeproof case… Fingers crossed that this phone will last at least a year. Although now II’m annoyed that I paid $72 for the stupid case through their website, and it’s priced at $55 on Amazon…
  4. However, I did $3 back with ebates when I bought the new case. And I’ve said it before, but if you do any online shopping and are not losing ebates, you’re insane. My earnings for this quarter are $61.81. That’s $61.81 cash back for stuff that I was going to buy anyways. The treadmill I bought? Bought it online from Sears, and earned $15 cash back. So, SIGN UP FOR EBATES2016-02-04 13.25.11
  5. I’m ready for the Super Bowl to be over, so my newsfeeds can stop being APATT (All Panthers All The Time). The Charlotte Observer has been VERY Panthers heavy lately… well, actually all season… However, it is fun to see my city so excited about this. I may not care about football, or the Panthers, but judging from my newsfeeds, no group of fans wants a Super Bowl win as badly as Panthers fans. Especially my husband… I was extra nice this year, and gave him a Luke Kuechly jersey as an early Valentines Day gift.2016-01-24 19.35.14 2016-02-03 08.26.39-1 (1)
  6. I feel like I’m starting to finally get the hang of my Silhouette Cameo. I used the other day to make a gift for a friend. I can’t share the photo of that since I haven’t given it to her yet (I wish I could, because it turned out SO cute…), but I’ll share my Christmas gift wrapping. I was SO happy with how my packages looked this year. I have NO idea how I’m going to top it next year! I joined a Silhouette group on FB, and if you have one of these awesome little machines, I highly recommend this group. Loads of awesome project inspiration, and lots of people to answer your questions. 10565254_10102273154961397_4328447616750504005_n
  7. And finally, I can’t narrow down a color for my living room built-ins. Pretty much everything in the room is gray, white, or wood toned. So, pretty much any color in the world would work. Surprisingly, I’m leaning towards a color other than blue this time (Sherwin-Williams Framboise). Unfortunately, G isn’t a fan… Whatever I end up choosing, I think any of these colors would look gorgeous as the backdrop for my white built-ins.2016-02-04 14.28.10

Really thankful the weekend is over.

2016-02-01 20.01.35-1(Source for these super cute moving announcements)

Well… We’re officially out of our apartment. And I cried like a baby as we left as residents for the last time.

2016-01-29 19.41.43 2016-01-29 19.43.00-1It was a crazy…

2016-01-28 11.04.14-1


2016-01-25 17.50.58

calorie filled (we literally ate out every meal)…

2016-01-27 10.17.15-1 2016-01-27 15.34.31 2016-01-28 15.58.31 2016-01-29 15.24.27

But, we’re in our new house. Our bedroom is literally the only room in the house that is perfect (i FINALLY got my pink chair!!!)…

2016-01-28 12.55.01 HDR 2016-01-28 22.27.26-1

but we managed to get the rest of the house at least livable.

2016-01-25 17.51.35We (Well… Graham)… did get the fireplace tiled…
2016-01-28 19.09.57And we did get the living room painted. All of the dark trim is painted the chair railing & paneling was removed, and the walls were painted. It’s much more our style now, and now Graham is working on the built-ins. I can’y wait to have some before and after photos to show soon!

What I’m Loving Wednesday: Living Room Built-ins

We have a pretty significant to-do list for our new house, including a complete kitchen renovation (complete, as in walls are coming down…). A lot of the things on the list are small, and can be done anytime. But the first thing on the list is revamping the living room.

The living room is the room we spend the most time in, and I wanted that room & our bedroom as close to finished as possible before we move in. Luckily, the bedroom was easy. New paint for the walls, and painting the brown trim a clean & crisp white. We still have to out up blinds, and change out the beige outlets and gold door hardware, but that’s easy.

The living room is going to take a bit more work.

I’m a sucker for built-ins. Project #3 on our house to-do list is a huge, built-in china cabinet for the dining room. Once we had officially bought the house, I stood in the empty room, took in the sad little fireplace and started thinking about how to bulk it up. And that turned to built-in bookcases. Then Graham got involved, and we started talking about tiling over that blah brick. And the rest is history.

I wanted to have this done before we moved in. Considering we’re moving in in less than two weeks, I don’t see it happening. Basically, nothing can be done until the tile is down & the wiring is moved (he wanted to add an outlet above the mantle, so we could plug in the TV and not have to see cords). He moved the wiring and patched the drywall this weekend, and we’re going to lay tile tonight, so hopefully the progress will start happening a little bit faster.

Okay. Enough rambling. Here are some fireplace/builtin combinations that I absolutely LOVE, and I can’t wait to share a finished photo of our space in a few weeks.

Where we started: 12191654_10102221202524497_5111437539747362151_nUgh. So. Much. Brown.

Where we currently are:10352568_10102309497330997_3884817000240601129_n

Where I want us to be:54b4956ceaf23f1a0e34a12a1f955e18source. 461d713616e71fb7b5df9732d0ad5b6bsource.
(sidenote: I am so disappointed that our TV is literally one inch too big to go to the side of the fireplace. I hate so much that we’re going to have to mount it above the fireplace. I had so many great ideas for that space.)



Winter in the south is a pretty crazy thing. One day you have sunshine, blue skies, and temperatures so warm, you shed your lightweight jacket halfway through your 5 mile walk. 12573723_10102307629813517_693114248267247943_n12491843_10102309829475377_4422365416046277065_o 12605514_10102309829465397_3069662542215709847_o 12552574_10102307630387367_6522638135869648853_nSeriously, why is this dog not modeling for pet related companies?

Then, the next day it’s 30 degrees and snowing. And not just a few flurries, but HARD snowing. Luckily, the snow didn’t mess up my brunch plans with Sarah. Beyond brunch, I was so grateful for the time I had with friends this week (we met up with Sav & Elise for dinner on Thursday). Not only is everyone moving away from Radius, but now that it’s so cold, and getting dark at 4:30, our dog park time is now pretty much non-existent/  12508826_10102309018435707_6077773241604472087_nGraham was spending Sunday at a friends house, watching the Panthers-Seahawks game, so I was on my own for the day. I went to the house and took some pictures of the snow…
12593960_10102309827913507_5850377612943634922_o 12604836_10102309825737867_1032981339410588410_o

… and made a pot of beef stew. It had stopped snowing (and most of it had melted) by the time we had dinner, but it still felt like the perfect, comforting meal to have on a gross, cold day. 12400976_10102309794245977_9158246701844018001_n(and as you can tell from the bread, I’ve obviously fallen off the Whole30 wagon… Oops.) This beef stew was one of the best stews I’ve ever had. The meat braised for several hours, and just stirring the stew with a wooden spoon completely shredded the meat. SO. GOOD. I served this with some rosemary bread from Whole Foods, and this meal was such a winner.

Restaurant Review: Kindred

Kindred has been getting a lot of press lately. It has been listed on Charlotte Magazine’s list of the 50 Best Restaurants in Charlotte, listed on Bon Appetit’s list of America’s Best New Restaurants, and this article from the local Charlotte paper claims it will be the first Charlotte area restaurant to win a James Beard Award.

Needless to say, I was very, very eager to try Kindred out on one of our recent trips home.

The space itself is beautiful. It’s located in a historic building in beautiful Davidson, NC. The restaurant has three levels, has gorgeous light fixtures, beautiful wood, marble tabletops, exposed brick walls, gleaming white subway tile, and lots of large windows.

We were seated at a table upstairs, and started scanning the menu. The cocktail list was intimidating, like the list at Saint Germain, so I ended up just having a glass of wine. I loved that the menu included an option to buy a round of beer for the guys in the kitchen.

Our server was friendly & helpful. He went over the menu, and made his recommendations. He came back with our drinks, & the milk bread.

2015-12-26 19.59.35The milk bread was fantastic. Soft, warm, and salty. It tasted like a warm, super soft pretzel, and I would have preferred not to have had to share this with Graham.

For our dinner, we went with four items from their menu: the duck fat potatoes & aioli, the NC mountain trout with herbs, radish, and sauce gribiche, the fried oysters with dill yogurt and Calabrian chile oil, and gnocchi with blue crab, citrus, crème fraîche, & chives.

2015-12-26 20.39.58-2Everything we had was fantastic. The oysters were perfect. They were crispy. and substantial. The trout was amazing, and the sauce it was served with was the perfect accompaniment. The potatoes were crispy, & delicious, with lots of extra flavor from being cooked in duck fat. But the star of this dinner was the gnocchi.

2015-12-26 20.40.23-1The dish was beautiful, and so, so delicious. The gnocchi were perfect, fluffy pillows of deliciousness, and all of the flavors tied together so well. There was a hint of citrus, nothing overwhelming (thankfully, since G isn’t a huge fan of lemon). The crab was perfect. The crème fraîche was perfect. I was expecting it to be heavier, but this dish was light, incredibly flavorful, and delicious.

We were full after dinner, but I was adamant that we order dessert. 2015-12-26 21.13.09-1We went with the roasted apple galette, buttermilk ice cream, milk jam, and thyme. We DEVOURED this. It was so, so good. If we had been eating this at home, I probably would have licked the plate.

If you’re in the Charlotte area, I highly recommend making a dinner reservation ASAP. The service was excellent, and the food was perfect. It was a wonderful meal, and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to visit again.