Friday, February 27, 2015

Countdown to Florida

It's usually in February when I start daydreaming about our Florida vacation. So that's what I'm doing today - daydreaming about Florida.

We've been snowed-in and powered-out this week in Raleigh.  We've had enough of winter.

If you've been reading my blog over the years, you know we go to the Keys every spring, either March or April. I think I prefer April because the weather is guaranteed to be HOT! March is kinda hit or miss.

I had been checking flight prices for the past few weeks, so once the price finally dropped below $150, I bought our tickets. It's hard to justify going anywhere like Cancun or on a Caribbean cruise when we can go to the Keys for relatively cheap.

We look so much younger here in 2010! 
Can you tell Brian and I are warm weather people?
We are happiest in the sun. We should probably move to the tropics. :)

Here's my Florida Keys Vacation Guide if you're interested: FL Keys Vacation Guide. It needs updating, since that was a blog post from 2013.

This year I've got so many new ideas for restaurants, bars, and activities. I cannot wait for our trip! One of our friends from Raleigh, Brandon, is coming down to FL with us this year, which will make it even more fun! It will be nice having a buffer, you know, since I start driving Brian crazy about 10 minutes into any trip. ;-)

When you go on vacation, do you like to relax on the beach or have a full schedule of things to do?

Brian is OK with laying on the beach for about an hour, then he gets bored.

I love planning vacations, but I always struggle finding a balance on exactly how much to plan versus just being spontaneous. All of our past trips to the Keys have been spontaneous, but I think this year I am going to have a better idea of the things I want to do each day.

I definitely want to try Florida Keys Jetpacks.

It looks a bit terrifying, but who could say no to this?!

I'll report back and let you know how it goes, given that I don't die. :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Kitchen Remodel Project - Day One

Well, it's 11 AM and a snow day here in Raleigh, North Carolina. I'm already going stir crazy and I am craving pancakes. We have no food in the house! I tried to go to a nearby grocery store this morning, but the roads were terrible and I was forced to turn around and go back home.

Today was supposed to be Day 2 of our kitchen remodel project. The guys got here this morning, but decided to go home because the snow was coming down fast.  I don't blame them. This is the second week in a row that the weather has delayed our project, but we just have to go with the flow. It is what it is. :-)

You can check out the BEFORE pics here: Kitchen Remodel - Before Pictures

Once they took down the wall yesterday, everything started to feel very real. It was so exciting to get home from work and see how different it looked without the wall!

From the beginning, this house has been our labor of love. I can't sing Brian's praises enough - he has researched, designed, and managed every house project along the way (inside & out!).

Here are the pictures from different angles once they took down the wall. Stay tuned for more blog updates throughout the process. New floors, new oven, and new bar should be installed next week!

Sorry the pictures are a bit dark. I had to take these after work and it was already dark outside.

Also, that random pipe? We're not sure why that's there. It was an unexpected surprise. Fingers crossed it's an easy fix. Brian said we could leave it and have an industrial, "warehouse" look. Ha - not exactly the look I was going for!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Favorite Cake, Cookie, and Cupcake Recipes

I had a big baking project that I delivered yesterday for a minion-themed birthday party. On Thursday, I worked on it from the time I got home from work until midnight. It was exhausting! I always enjoy baking but it really tires me out.

Everything turned out so cute!

I don't have much of a sweet tooth and I have no problem turning down dessert (notable exceptions are ice cream, creme brulee, and key lime pie), but I can say with confidence that my cakes and sugar cookies are top-notch.

They always get rave reviews and I've taste-tested enough to know! :)

As far as recipes go, I need to start by telling you this:

In our family and at our church, my mom is famous for her sausage balls.

She honestly makes the best sausage balls you've ever eaten. She has given the recipe to everyone who asks, yet no one's sausage balls ever turn out to be anything like my mom's. Even with the same exact recipe! It's a mystery as to what she is doing that makes them so good.

My recipes are not my own, but I've been using them now for 5 years, so they are pretty much second nature. If you ever try these and they don't turn out good, I probably don't have an explanation.

Sugar Cookies:
Dorie Greenspan's All-Occasion Sugar Cookie 

Royal Icing:
Basic Recipe + Tutorial

Vanilla Cake/Cupcakes:
Whisk together:
1 box Duncan Hines white cake mix
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pack Jello instant vanilla pudding

3 large eggs
1 and 1/3 cup water
1 cup sour cream
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Mix everything together. (I don't use my KitchenAid. Just one mixing bowl and a large spoon).

For two 9" round cake pans - Bake at 325 for approximately 40 minutes
For 36 cupcakes - Bake at 325 for approximately 25-28 minutes

Bunnywoman's Buttercream

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Valentine's Day/Ski Weekend

Brian and I took a long weekend and went up to West Virginia to ski last Friday. Well, technically Brian snowboarded, but I stuck with skiing. Snowboarding seems like something I would be really bad at, and I know Brian doesn't have the patience to teach me.

The dogs came with us, which is always fun....for them. Waking up at 6 AM to take them out in the -4 degree weather wasn't exactly the highlight of my vacation. :)

Right before we left for our trip last week, Brian got a really bad cold. Then the following day, I got a really bad cold.

Vacations never go as planned, or maybe I just have bad luck.

I envisioned us having a romantic, fun-filled weekend together. Hard to be romantic when you've got a puffy face, watery eyes, and a runny nose.

Despite feeling pretty miserable, we managed to get in some good skiing.

A blizzard came through on Valentine's Day and there was a ton of snow!

Speaking of Valentine's Day, I originally had several blog posts intended for last week, but my plans got derailed once I got sick.

I was able to make some cute sugar cookies though....

This recipe is one of my favorites. I'll share the recipe on the blog later this week!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Chips or a Drink

In honor of Valentine's Day next weekend, I figured I'd dedicate this week's blog posts to my valentine.

Here's a picture of us in a heart:

Today's blog post is one of my all-time favorite Brian stories.

Early in our relationship, Brian and I were on our way to a saltwater aquarium expo.

I feel like I need to pause here and explain.

Brian has several hobbies: cars, pool, guns, sound systems/home theater/electronic gadgets, and saltwater aquariums.

Yes. They're all as expensive as they sound.

But, believe it or not, with the exception of his ridiculously expensive hobbies, Brian is THE CHEAPEST PERSON I'VE EVER MET.

So, we're on our way to the expo and we stop for lunch at Subway.

Brian orders first.
He gets a $5 footlong.

When it's my turn to order, I politely ask for the six-inch Chicken Teriyaki on Italian Herb & Cheese, unprepared for the reaction I'm going to get from Brian....

"Why aren't you getting a $5 footlong?"

(Completely caught off guard, my eyes are darting between Brian, the Subway employee, and the list of $5 footlong options. The Chicken Teriyaki is not a $5 option. )

"Um.....I want the six-inch Chicken Teriyaki."

So this is Brian:

We continue through the line and when Brian's at the register paying, the cashier looks at me and says...

"Ma'am, would you like to make yours a combo?"

And I'm like:

And then Brian says the infamous line he will never live down for the rest of his life:

"Kelly, chips or a drink."

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Kitchen Remodel - BEFORE PICTURES

We finally got the ball rolling on our kitchen remodel project.

When Brian and I started house shopping in 2012, we each had our own list of requirements. At the top of Brian's list was a 3-car garage. My requirement was a kitchen counter with bar stools.

This...this is exactly why God laughs at our plans.

Here we are in 2015, and a 3-car garage and a kitchen counter with bar stools are still on our list. Our "to do" list.

Whenever you buy a house, you're pretty much setting yourself up for a life-long to-do list. At least that's what it feels like.

I love our kitchen, just like I love our master bedroom, but.....

Here's everything wrong with the kitchen:

Complaint #1: Unnecessary wall

Once the wall is removed, it will open up the kitchen to our living room.....Much better, don't you think?

The plan is to add a wood-top bar where the wall currently sits.
I'll finally get my bar stools. :)

Complaint #2: The kitchen is too cramped. See graphic below. Only room to comfortably fit 3 people (or 2 people and 2 dogs).

Since Brian and I invite friends over about once a year, it's kinda problematic.

Complaint #3: There is only room for a tiny table.

I'll admit this table has worked perfectly for me and Brian. The two of us eat dinner together every night here, but a table any larger would not fit in this space.

I'm not sure if this is true for you, but when I was growing up, my family used the dining room for special occasions and the kitchen table for everyday family meals. I'm pretty much set in my ways. I don't want to eat weeknight dinners at the bar, but I also don't want to eat dinner in the dining room. Fortunately, when Brian was designing the new kitchen, he considered the fact that I desperately wanted a 4-person kitchen table for weeknight dinners. He modified his bar design to make it happen for me. Sometimes I'm high maintenance.

Complaint #4. Electric stove

Personally, we'd prefer a gas stove.

OK, so there you have it. Stay tuned for the AFTER PICTURES!

Like I said, the ball is rolling....slowly don't expect to see those pictures anytime soon!