Thursday, July 31, 2014

Feeling Blessed

I had an absolutely wonderful birthday and feel so grateful and blessed for the many friends and family who called, texted and, of course, Facebooked! And I think it's the first time (and probably the only) that it will be 60 degrees when I wake up on July 30!

The day started with a trail ride with some friends - Harley was my steadfast stead. I told Ryan it felt like the grown-up version of the Saddle Club books.

Ryan got off work early and it was so nice to see him while the sun was still out! These sweet girls (and their husbands) joined us for a drink on the rooftop wine bar, Sip, and then for dinner at Soby's. I love eating outside and the weather was perfect. We couldn't believe that all six of us could go to dinner at the same time -- a small miracle considering the crazy schedules of interns! 

I'm heading to Birmingham and then Senatobia today to spend some time with much-missed family. So the birthday celebrations aren't quite over yet!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sofa Shopping

When we looked at (and fell in love with) this house back in March, I knew our number one challenge in the living room was going to be a sofa! Ours that we had was way too big and, honestly, I was ready for a different look anyway. The living room is small and has doors that open to the outside on two walls, and one wall opens up to both the dining room/kitchen and the hallway. So not only is it a small room, but there is really only one good spot for a sofa. And the max length of the sofa is no more than 80 inches. If you've looked at furniture lately, you know most sofas are now more like 90 to 95 inches.

We sold the sofa we had in Jackson and bought the one that was in the house from the previous owner. Now I couldn't remember exactly what it looked like, but I remembered not not liking it and that it fit perfectly into the living room. We got it for $75 and I thought we were done. I did not expect Ryan to not like it. At all. Like refuses to sit on it because he doesn't know where it's been. So...back to the drawing board. Fortunately, there's lots of places to look here!

Option 1) This sofa "Milari" from Ashley Furniture was my favorite in the beginning. I love the nailheads on the arms and the color was just right. It was even on sale for $499. However, it was too long for our space and the cushions didn't flip. That's a big deal to me - I tend to spill things like red wine and chocolate milk!

Option 2) Also from Ashley but the same issues as in #1. I did love the buttons on the back - reminds me of Corduroy Bear. 

Option 3) This World Market slipcovered sofa was the right price but seemed just a little small and looked "college" to me and not grown-up-living-room. 

Option 4) Another contender was Macy's "Chloe" sofa. It was the right size but didn't seem overly comfy. And at $699 was more than we wanted to spend. 
Option 5) We saw several options at Haverty's but the salesperson took the wrong approach at trying to sway me. She went on and on about how this $2,000 sofa would last us 10 years. If I spend that much on sofa it better last way more than 10 years! This was one of the options - the "Katy" sofa for $1,499. A steal according to her. Ha! However, the cushions did flip and the quality was outstanding. But way over our budget.

Option 6) When I was getting my oil changed I noticed there was a blow-out furniture store behind the shop. The kind with big neon letters. So I decided to take a look and was impressed with the options. This was my favorite (sans the pillows). It had been marked down from $1,188 to $588. And then the sales guy said $470 and I was walking out the door he said $420. I promised to bring Ryan back that evening. 

We picked it up last night and just love it! The cushions do flip and it's long and wide enough for us to both enjoy it. Now if I can just sell the other sofa and get my living room back in order, we will be all set!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dog Days of Summer

At some point soon Pepe is going to start  hiding when he hears me get the leash out of its basket. We've gotten turned around on several walks that ended up being much longer than intended. Once even the mailman couldn't tell me how to get back to our street without his map! And there are huge hills - we can see Paris Mountain from our street so I guess that should be expected. 

Saturday's trek to the downtown market was fun. We met Jennie and her sister and nephews who are visiting from Chicago. Pepe's a little embarrassed I make them carry their own poop bags. 

Checking out the falls - they loved wading in and cooling off. We left at 9 am and got home over 3 hours later. Even Scout was tired! But not as tired as Pepe - he looks a little rabid. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Happy Birthday Week

Today is Ryan's big 3-0 birthday and we've been celebrating all weekend. I must brag on him a minute on how well he is handling residency and all the crazy schedules and lack of sleep and stress. It's intense! But he functions so well on lack of sleep.

Saturday afternoon we played a round of put-put at our neighborhood park. He won, of course! I did get a hole-in-one on the last hole. It was lots of fun and I expect we'll be going back again soon. He headed into work after this for the night-shift. 

Sunday morning I made Ryan his birthday cake. I'd made a Seven Layer Cake for graduation, but it was practically gone before he got a piece so he's excited to have this one all to himself. After I got back from church and he got up from a nap, he couldn't resist and we had a piece or two! The recipe is below. Later on we headed downtown. Our first stop was to see the ducks at Falls Park - Ryan's favorite thing about Greenville.

Then we celebrated a night early at Wild Wing Cafe downtown. Ryan loves wings and I have grown to like them. These were actually really good and very meaty. Afterwards it was home for a sliver more cake. 

Seven Layer Cake 
Ryan's grandmother used to make him a Seven Layer Cake all the time. It's his all-time favorite cake. This isn't her recipe but Ryan says it tastes the same as he remembers!  

For the cake:
1 package yellow cake mix
4 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cup milk (whole milk works best)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour cake pans. Mix together cake mix, eggs, vanilla, milk, baking powder, and butter and beat with electric mixer for two minutes. Pour 1/2 cup batter in to round cake pans (do seven total). Bake for 12 minutes (or until the edges start pulling away from the sides). *It's important not to "sample" the batter - you need every drop of it to get seven layers!

Let cool in pan and then on wire rack. Once it is completely cool, apply icing between each layer and then around the outside.

For the chocolate icing:
1 pound confectioners' sugar
3/4 stick butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons milk  

In a double boiler, mix the butter, cocoa powder, butter, vanilla, salt. Gradually add in the confectioners' sugar and milk and stir until smooth. Be as stingy as possible with the icing between the layers - you want to make sure you have enough left for the top and sides. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Have a happy weekend

Our weekend was technically yesterday and it was such a fun Thursday! Ryan (finally!) had a day off. I'm hoping the rumors that this next rotation comes with "normalish" hours are true. It felt a little like we were skipping school since the rest of the world was in work mode. There were only two other people in the movie theater at 2 p.m.

We played tennis yesterday morning for the first time since moving. I'm a little rusty - Ryan won 6-2 in our first and only set. Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with a fabulous lunch at Universal Joint. It's in the neighborhood and we've been wanting to try it. There are people on the patio all day everyday!

In the evening we headed downtown for the Downtown Alive concert. This week is was The Whiskey Gentry and we had the very first table on the square. I sent my cousin Warren this picture because they reminded me of his band. Turns out he's friends with the guy on the fiddle. Small world!

Hope you have a very merry weekend!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Time Warp

Isn't it funny how a song or picture or smell can take you back to a certain moment in time? Last week I posted a picture of an underwater digital camera on Instagram that we found when we were packing up our house. Neither of us had any clue what was on it, but it still had a few pictures left so I took it along paddleboarding to use the rest of it. Side note: The kid Jennie and I asked to take our picture with it asked us what it was! He didn't seem to believe us that it was a camera. That made me feel really old.

Anyway, I picked up the pictures from Wally World (it cost $11 and took over a week, my how the times have changed!) and couldn't believe what was on there!

In Hardy, Arkansas with Rhetta and Daniel on a canoeing trip. Pepe got so put out with Ryan and me in the canoe. He kept making us tip over and after one time to many he swam over to their canoe. They let him right in. Pepe has always loved Daniel! 

The summer we all moved to Jackson for the fifth year of pharmacy school, Becca and Bryan and Ryan and I camped out at Gulf Shores for a week. Yes, camped. We had no money, but really wanted a beach vacation! But we had so much fun and the weather was perfect and not too hot yet. We ate Poptarts for breakfast, junk food for lunch and went out to eat every night. 

It's amazing to think that in such a relatively short period of time (7 years), that the way we document our lives has changed so much. For the most part, I love digital cameras and smartphones, but there is a certain thrill in opening that white envelope and seeing your pictures for the first time! I could hardly contain my glee at the photo counter in Wal-mart (now located at the very back of the store).

And, finally, the picture that introduced two young guys to the underwater disposable camera - paddleboarding with Jennie. Now they will probably be able to correctly identify it on a game show in the future.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book Review & Food: The Husband's Secret

First of all, let me give a big shout out to the nice lady from New York who recommended this book to me! Our chitchatting at the oyster bar really paid off - I've found a favorite new (to me) author.

At its core "The Husband's Secret" story is a modern version of Pandora's box. Cecilia finds a sealed envelope in the attic that is only to be opened upon the death of her husband. She, after much internal debate, opens it and the secret changes their lives. I'm not going to spoil the read by saying anymore but here are a few of my impressions:

I found this book very intriguing. The plot was intriguing, the writing (especially the thoughts of the characters) was witty and I loved all the Australian elements like Vegemite and how their seasons are so different from ours.

"It was the Easter Hat Parade, and the St. Angela's mothers were out in force, dressed up in honor of Easter and the first truly autumnal day of the new season."

And food references in books always interest me, like the pavlova Rachel makes for Easter. I attempted these and this is how they turned out. I quartered this recipe by Nigella Lawson. (Cooking note: Caster sugar is just really refined regular sugar. Just run it through your blender and it will be fine).

And the last line..."None of us ever know all the possible courses our lives could have and maybe should have taken. It's probably just as well. Some secrets are meant to stay secret forever. Just ask Pandora.

Have any of you read it? What did you think?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

When we were looking at houses there were certain things we wanted. We wanted a fireplace, a backyard that would be good for the dogs and two bathrooms. We got all but that last one! And as a bonus, an enclosed garden in the backyard. This, for me, was the selling point on this house. It's got six raised beds, a compost bin and a rain barrel water catching thing. Gravel in between the beds keeps the weeds out.

I planted a few things the week after we moved in - about a month ago - and I've loved watching everything grow. We've had a few days of good, steady rain and it's really helped. Here are some pictures I snapped this morning.

I love that the fence keeps the dogs out. Particularly Scout. He just seems to want to go where he's not supposed to!

One of the tomatoes is starting to turn red. It seems like this has taken forever, but I think all the rain we've had the last few days had done the trick. The rain has also made the weeds grow. But at least they'll be easy to pull up!

Bell peppers

Celery and Tabasco pepper plants

I'm excited to make chili rellanos with this pablona pepper plant. The leaves on this plant aren't looking too healthy. I just got it a week ago at the farmer's market and the transplant was a little hard on it. 

Strawberries - these actually came up from what the previous owner planted. The strawberries have been so sweet and I've been eaten before I get to the back door. 

Basil, squash and some other kind of pepper. The squash does good until it flowers and then it seems like the whole plant just dies. Has anyone had this happen? Not sure what I should do! Also, not pictured, are runner beans and cucumber plants. 

As soon as the rain stops I'm going to prepare the back two beds for fall vegetables. According to a flyer from the Clemson Extension Service this between now and the middle of August is the time to plant for the Piedmont area. I'm hoping to try broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lettuce and mustard greens. 

This is the look I get when he wants to go outside. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Grand Prix

Sunday afternoon we went to Tryon, NC for the $75,000 Grand Prix at the new international horse park. It was amazing! Like watching the Olympics up close. There were two rounds and to qualify for the final jump-off the riders had 83 seconds to jump the course without knocking any of the bars off the jumps. One bar knocked down is four faults, two down is eight faults, etc.

See the pretty mountains in the background?

Look at this jump! The spread (multiple jumps close together) is amazing - the horse really has to stretch out over the jump. It's also known as an oxer. In Grand Prix jumping (the highest level of show jumping) the spread can be up to 6 feet 7 inches. 

The riders were from Canada, Ireland, Germany and the US. The tags in the parking lot were from Ohio to Florida and we heard lots of different accents. The event was sponsored by an Irish company who handed out Irish beer. Ryan was impressed!

Of the 20 riders in the first round, only nine made it through clean to qualify for the jump-off. This round they moved much faster as they only had 54 seconds to complete the course. We moved seats at this point and were sitting right in front of one of the last jumps.

The jumps were over 5 feet tall. And many of the horse cleared them with room to spare. 

Ryan was rooting for this guy - Brian Walker on Tamara - they ended up getting second. 

This is the horse and rider team who won - Jordan Coyne on Lazaro, a Dutch warmblood. 

An overview look at Tryon International Equestrian Center about an hour away from Greenville. This was the first part of a huge resort that is being built here. The announcer said they only broke ground four months ago. We will definitely be going back!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Women on the 6th Floor

Don't you just love Netflix? At my mom's suggestion, I watched "The Women of the 6th Floor" on Friday night. A French boulevard comedy set in the 1960s, it follows Jean-Louis, a bourgeois businessman who discovers a happier world right above his head in the community of Spanish maids who live in his family's building.

His wife, Suzanne (who complains of her exhausting days of pedicures and bridge), gets upset with their longtime maid Germaine over the redecorating of Jean-Louis' recently deceased mother's room. Germaine quits and a new Spainsh maid, Maria, is hired. Apparently, having a maid from Brittany is no longer "in." 

It's almost a French version of "The Help." And as the person who always falls asleep during a movie, reading the subtitles actually kept me awake! Plus, I feel like some of the French I learned in high school and college came back to me. Definitely a feel-good, laugh-out-loud type of movie!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Have a great weekend

I've had the most fun this week helping teach a riding camp for three little girls at Sassy Stables. My first day was on Wednesday and as my parents were leaving my dad (dryly) commented that's its the first time my "fooling with horses" has not been completely in the red. Ha!


We've learned how to tack and untack the horses. Along with grooming and mucking out stalls.

Watching their confidence grow in their riding skills each day has been so rewarding. Now they have all mastered forward, stop, turn and the barrel racing pattern (in English gear!). 

And of course, we had to have a little water time. After painting and bathing Harley, we cleaned out a water trough and attempted to swim in it. The mud (and manure!) grossed us all out and we ended up setting up a sprinkler. 

Today is the last day and we are putting on a little show for their parents. So exciting!

I'm looking forward to a weekend at home. Ryan is working this weekend and I am hoping to get a few more projects done around the house. Mom and Dad brought a matching bookshelf to this one and it needs a few coats of paint. Then the last of the boxes should be able to be unpacked. Finally! 

We found a coffee table (for $8 at Goodwill) and I'm trying to decided to paint it or not. I'm thinking of jumping on the chalk paint bandwagon. Have you ever used Anne Sloan? Is it worth it or just as good to make your own? Any advice is greatly appreciated!

Hope you have a great weekend!