…. for all of the birthday love!

There’s not too much to say since I posted so many photos elsewhere, but I just wanted to say thank you to my amazing family, friends, and husband for helping me celebrate the beginning of my last year of my 20s. Where did the time go? How are all of our friends already turning 29 and 30? This has been a pretty awesome year, though, filled with lots of trips (to Chicago, Nashville, St. Augustine, Lake Tahoe, Costa Rica, San Francisco, NYC, and VA Beach — phew! how was there time for all of that?)… we got to witness my little brother proposing to his amazing girlfriend… several other friends have gotten engaged, married, and are having their first babies… I had my 2-year anniversary with Stella & Dot and my 6-year anniversary with the Center for Puppetry Arts this summer…. there’s just been so much to celebrate and be thankful for! And I look forward to this year being even better — mostly because I’m going to be gaining a sister when Andrew and Lauren get married next May!!

Some favorite photos from the bday celebration week…

Dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, The Iberian Pig, in Decatur::

Whoopie Pies brought in by my coworker, Hilary::

Peanut butter & Chocolate — my fave combo::

Annual Triple Birthday Celebration — Danielle, Big Mac (Adam), and me::

Fried goodness — mini corn dogs and fried pimiento cheese balls::

29 until further notice… we’re all going to adopt this idea::

Andrew & Lauren::

Some of my favorite girls::

And some favorite friends from college::

Everyone needs a cookie cake::

restaurant review:: the iberian pig

We celebrated my 29th birthday a little early last Thursday night with my brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law. I’ve been dying to go back to The Iberian Pig since we first tried it in May, so that was my #1 choice for my birthday dinner. The restaurant is located in the charming Decatur Square and is mixed in with a variety of great little restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops.

What does The Iberian Pig mean? Well, according to their website, “The Black-footed Iberian Pigs that roam Spain create some of the most sought after cured meat in the world, Jamon Iberico. Only recently imported into the United States, we are one of the select few restaurants in the country that serves the acorn fed Iberico ham from Spain. To preserve the integrity of Jamon Iberico, we slice the ham in view of our guests on a imported mechanical proscuitto slicer from Italy.” So now you know.

Their menu is largely tapas-style, but they also offer entrees. Both times we’ve vistied we’ve chosen mostly tapas so we could try more options — it’s my favorite way to eat a meal. We joked that our waitress probably thought we hadn’t eaten in days because of how quickly we enhaled each dish…

The B.W.D. and the Spanish Tortoloni are my two current favorite dishes. What are B.W.D.s, you ask? Bacon Wrapped Dates, of course! It’s a magnificat combination of sweet and salty and BACON — what’s not to love? And the Tortoloni is filled with “drunken” goat cheese and is gooey and delicious — just watch out for oozing cheese/oil. I almost had a catastrophe with that oil and my shirt last time.

Pork Cheek Tacos and the Carne de Cerdo flatbread are also a must if you like pork — but I’d think that given their name, most anything with pork is fantastic there. (Although I was NOT a fan of the pork belly…. way too slimy for me.) Lauren also got the Eggplant Rellenas — eggplant dressed with goat cheese, caramelized onions and corn salsa — and it was definitely a crowd-pleaser.

For dessert, we ordered the House-made Churros with cinnamon-chili infused chocolate sauce, but they were greasier than I remember and just so-so. The dessert star was the Dulce di Leche gelato topped with fresh raspberries — I could have eaten several more servings of that! And our complimentary prosecco was the cherry on top of my yummy birthday dinner!

VA Beach restaurant review:: fire & vine

On our last night of Meg’s beachelorette trip, we were given a recommendation to check out Fire & Vine, which is off the touristy strip where we were staying. I think the manager and waiter were surprised we managed to find them since we were all out-of-towners. Given the name, it’s pretty obvious that much of their menu features woodfired items (which I love). We were the last table to be seated for the night and we ended up closing down the restaurant. They even gave us free celebratory shots! Fire & Vine had great staff and food, and it was nice to eat somewhere not filled with tourists on our trip. I’d definitely recommend if you’re ever in the area.

We shared a few appetizers, and my top favorite was the woodfired baby brie with peaches that came in a cast iron skillet. I only had one bite (with a little bit of pita), but I think I should have ordered that as my meal. I also loved the fried green tomatoes with goat cheese mousse. Goat cheese makes almost anything better!

A couple of us shared woodfired pizzas (the margherita and pepperoni) and each got a huge caesar salad. Nothing was too out of the ordinary, but it was all yummy. One of the other popular dishes at the table was the Charleston-style shrimp and grits… since I don’t care for shrimpies, I took their word for it on that one.

Our lovely group of ladies with the bride-to-be::

Hot pizza::

a beachelorette weekend in VA Beach

I spent last weekend celebrating one of my dear college friends, Meg, and her upcoming wedding. I met Meg on Bid Day for our sorority, Tri Delta, and we became fast friends. I didn’t know anyone going to UGA other than my older cousin Stuart, so it was really comforting to make those first few friends right away. Meg is from New Orleans and after moving around the country for work, she’s been in Washington, DC for several years with her fiance, Jason.

To celebrate Meg’s last big outing as a single girl, she invited all of her bridesmaids on a “beachelorette” weekend in VA Beach. Since I grew up in FL, we didn’t really go on vacations to beaches like VA Beach, Panama City and Destin… so the touristy/crowded factor of this beach was shocking! I have never seen so many…. interesting people on a beach in my life. But it made for GREAT people watching!

A couple of us arrived several hours before anyone else on Friday, so we entertained ourselves with lunch and mimosas, wandering the strip of Atlantic Ave, buying salt water taffy, and people watching on the boardwalk by the beach. 

The “beachelorette” doing a victory dance — finally at the beach after a way-too-long car ride from DC, thanks to so much weekend traffic::

Our hotel was right on the beach and we had this view from our balconies::

Champagne toast to kick off the weekend! We ran out of glasses, so I used Meg’s boot glass, which I brought back for her when I studied abroad in Austria… in 2004. I’m impressed that the boot has made it safely around the country with all of Meg’s moves.

I’m not sure what VA Beach likes so much about Poseidon, but there is a GIANT statue of him outside the hotel on the beach, and we got a teeny version of him made out of chocolate in our rooms.

Salty Chihuahuas::

This weekend was the first time I’ve seen the bride-to-be in 2 years::

Meg with all of her bridesmaids (minus 1) at Catch 31 for dinner — such yummy seafood, a funny waiter with a big dream, and the largest lazy susan I’ve ever seen::

Beach day — we loved the giant, cushy chairs::

Sarah’s homemade champagne cupcakes::

Meggy and her sweet sisters, Kay and Sarah, at Fire & Vine for dinner on our last night::

Luna Sea, complete with volleyball and bocce ball courts::

Farewell send-off with Poseidon, in honor of our Tri Delta roots::

I love a good excuse to get together with some of my favorite girls and to make some new friends, too. It’s hard to believe that the 4 of us (in the pic above) have been friends for over a decade now. And even though some have moved back home or to another state and we may not see each other as often as we like (but 2 years is FAR too long!!), we always manage to pick up just where we left off. I wouldn’t have missed this weekend for the world, and I can not wait to spend the weekend in New Orleans celebrating Meg and Jason in October!

quick recipe:: bacon cheeseburger pizza

Cheeseburger Pizza
We love making pizzas at home (but not from scratch, because we cheat by using pre-made dough). There are so many options… some of our faves are buffalo chicken and chicken sausage w/blue cheese and red onions. I love the cheeseburger and BLT pizzas at California Pizza Kitchen, so Craig and I decided to make our own. These pizzas are so simple to make, and the options for toppings are endless.

1 package of Pillsbury pizza dough (types vary, but we’ve started using the artisan wheat)
1/2 lb ground beef
8oz bacon
1/4 onion, chopped
cherry tomatoes, chopped
bag of shredded lettuce
bag of shredded mexican blend cheese
2 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp mayonnaise

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Unroll pizza dough and spread out onto cookie sheet or baking stone. (We use a Pampered Chef stone for pizzas.)
3. Bake dough for 8 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and set on a plate with a paper towel to drain grease. Chop bacon once it has cooled a little.
5. Cook ground beef and chopped onion until browned.
6. Mix ketchup and mayonnaise together in a small bowl. When pizza dough is ready, spread onto dough as the base.
7. Cover pizza with cheese, then sprinkle with ground beef, onion, and bacon.
8. Put pizza back into oven and cook for approx 10 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
9. Remove pizza from oven and cover with shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes.


in a new york minute

As an early birthday present from Craig, he and I spent last weekend in New York City visiting Charlotte, one of my best friends from college. I love getting to visit friends in other cities, and NYC takes the cake as one of the most fun. It’s nice to visit such a huge, busy city (with a rather intimidating subway system compared to MARTA in Atlanta) and know we don’t have to worry at all about where we’re going or what to do because we’re with a local. I’ve visited Char many times, but this was the one of the first trips that involved almost no sightseeing or touristy activities — just going to hang out with our bestie in one of the most amazing cities there is.

We decided to visit from Friday night – Monday morning so we’d have the most amount of time to spend with Char while she wasn’t working. After a delayed flight (thanks to too much air traffic at LGA), we had a surprisingly quick cab ride to her apartment in the Financial District. And as a random surprise, I ran into Sara, one of my sorority sisters and summer roommate from college in the bathroom at the airport! She had just flown in from Rome and we happened to be in the same place at the same time. I also found out that she just opened her own boutique candy shop in Brooklyn called Sugar Shop. We didn’t end up making it over to check it out, but it looks amazing, and I am so excited for her. I mean… isn’t that every kid’s dream to own a CANDY shop??

Charlotte promised to take us to her favorite pizza place in New York, so we walked to dinner at Adrienne’s Pizza Bar in Financial after we got in. One of my favorite things about New York is how accessible everything is by walking on my own two feet. It makes me not feel so bad about myself when I spend the day eating brunch, pizza, and cookies. (Adrienne’s was mentioned in this week’s restaurant review post, along with La Bottega, where we also ate last weekend.)

We also went to one of her other favorite places, Brother Jimmy’s, which is a Southern BBQ restaurant/bar. They are all over the city, but she and her friend Erin used to work at the one we went to all weekend. Craig liked it so much that we had to go every day. The karaoke on Friday night was less than impressive, but the live band on Sunday afternoon was great.

Mimosas and brunch was a big favorite on Saturday and Sunday. I looooved my nutella french toast from the Russian place across from Charlotte’s apartment. Ironically, it was an Italian restaurant — just run by a bunch of nice Russian folks.

Our one touristy activity for the weekend was riding a shark! No, no… not a real shark… just the shark speed boat. There were all kinds of rules for not being able to ride the boat. One of them was that if you don’t like getting wet, don’t ride the boat. We didn’t think too much of it, but we got a big surprise when all of us were SOAKED on the way back — Charlotte, especially. It was so hot out, though, that the water (although sticky with salt) was kind of welcome.

Charlotte, Craig, and me at the South Street Seaport before boarding the shark::

The Freedom Tower, which stands in place of the World Trade Center towers::

Up close and personal with Lady Liberty::

Under the Brooklyn Bridge::

Before we were drenched. I’m being nice and not posting the after photo here::

Oh — and we also got to see Craig’s Chartis office building in NYC — big timers. He had to show a work ID and tell them about where he worked just so they’d let us in the front door to take this::

There was a massive food fest going on with more food trucks than I’ve ever seen. I thought Atlanta had a lot, but that’s nothing compared to this. Steets and streets of ice cream/yogurt/shaved ice, pizza, chicken… and ice cream sandwiches! We got the bourbon ice cream/ginger cookie and the cinnamon ice cream/snickerdoodle cookie… although I really liked that bright green guy.

Touristy shot by the Brooklyn Bridge::

Yummy group dinner at La Bottega in the Maritime Hotel. I love al fresco dining::

Night #2 at Brother Jimmy’s::

Sunday Funday started with brunch at Essex and ended at Brother Jimmy’s::

Craig says we need this sign for the entrance to our basement::

As always, it was sad to leave New York and our favorite person there, but it’s so nice knowing we can go back and visit. And Char’s moving soon, so next time we’ll be going to Brooklyn!

quick recipe:: mini meatloaves

I’ve always been a big fan of my mom’s meatloaf recipe. We were making it for dinner last night and decided to try something different, as it takes at least an hour to cook the traditional way. We’ve tried mini loaf tins before, but this is more fun — we used a cast iron drop biscuit pan that we typically make corn bread discs with. I followed the regular recipe, but it allowed the loaves to cook in under half the time, and we already had pre-cut portions — perfect for meatloaf sandwiches as leftovers!

1 lb ground beef
1/2 tube Jimmy Dean pork sausage with sage
1 egg (or 1/4 cup of egg beaters)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (plain)
1 tsp each – thyme, basil, oregano
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 – 8oz can  tomato sauce (reserve 1/2 can for topping)
cast iron drop biscuit pan (makes 7)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Once oven has heated, place cast iron pan in oven for 10 minutes.
3. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
4. Remove pan from oven, grease, and spoon mix into each section of pan.  (If any mix is left, make a mini loaf and cook on small cookie sheet.)
5. Top with remaining 1/2 can of tomato sauce.
6. Bake for 25 minutes or until no longer pink in the center.

2 NYC restaurant reviews:: adrienne’s and la bottega

While we were in NYC last weekend visiting my bestie Charlotte (more on the trip in a later post), we ate at some YUMMY restaurants, so I had to share my faves! Coincidentally, both were Italian.

Restaurant #1:: Adrienne’s Pizza Bar in the Financial District
We walked to dinner after we got in town on Friday night, which I just love. We can’t walk anywhere from our house in Smyrna, so walking to eat is sort of refreshing, especially when I’m planning on pigging out on pizza and bread and wine…. The restaurant is located on the cutest cobblestone pedestrian street. As soon as we turned onto the street, I felt like we’d been transported to Europe. The rows and rows of outdoor tables were filled to the brim, even though it was hot hot hot. What a perfect way to kick off the weekend with friends or family.

Some of Charlotte’s friends met us for dinner, and we shared a couple of the traditional rectangular pies that I sense they’re known for. Char and her friend Erin immediately insisted on the “pepps and mush” pizza…. I had no idea what sort of special pizza that was until I realized it was just their shorthand for pepperoni and mushrooms. Should have known with Char and her abbreviations. Anyway, we tried that, a veggie, and a pepps and pepps (my own version with pepperoni and bell peppers). The pizza was so so tasty — just the right amount of dough and crunch and spice. We also had hot bread to dip in olive oil, caesar salad, and caprese salad (Craig’s new fave). Everything was perfectly delicious. The restaurant was really hot, but we were also sitting right by the kitchen. Char claims it’s the best pizza in NY, and I am sure there could be a debate about that for days, but I’ll take her word for it.

Restaurant #2:: La Bottega at the Maritime Hotel
Saturday night, we had reservations here for one of Charlotte’s friend’s birthdays. It was such a neat place! I love dining al fresco, and this place felt like we were eating in a big park in the middle of Chelsea.

How fun is this arial shot of the umbrellas on their patio?

And the Chinese lanterns… so festive!

We started the meal with some hot-out-of-the-oven pizza dough dipped in olive oil… mmmmm. Charlotte tried the watermelon and watercress salad (below) and I got the Tri Colore salad (hers was better and much more interesting). Craig got the farro salad (which is a grain) with mozzarella and orange segments. It was more filling than I’d want for a salad/appetizer, but it was interesting to try.

A big plate of the Burrata Caprese was passed around the table as well. I wasn’t a huge fan of the watery texture inside the mozzarella ball, but it seemed to be pretty popular with everyone else.

I stuck with one of my new faves for the entree — Tagliatelle alla Bolognes (basically pasta with a bunch of meat sauce) and it was good. I ate most of it, despite having eaten all day.  Craig chose the artichoke and goat cheese ravioli, which were HUGE and green and tasty-looking. We had a large group and shared several pitchers of the white sangria, which was filled with fresh fruit. So refreshing on such a hot, humid night!

We went to a number of other restaurants while in the city, but these were my faves. I can’t wait to go back and try more. What are your favorites in the big city?

quick recipe:: rolo stuffed cookies

Quick Recipe::
Snickerdoodle Rolo Cookies

I found this little gem on Pinterest via Rachel Schultz — thanks for the quick recipe! Actually, Craig found it… but he didn’t want to save it because he doesn’t pin “girly stuff” like cookie recipes. When I went to our nearby Kroger to get the ingredients, they didn’t have snickerdoodle dough, so I improvised.

1 package of break-and-bake cookies (snickerdoodle is preferable, but sugar cookie* will work as well)
1 bag of individually wrapped Rolo candies
*If using sugar cookie dough, you’ll also need a few tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. If using regular sugar cookie dough, you’ll need to mix the cinnamon and sugar together in a bowl — it’ll be used to roll the dough balls in before baking.

Flatten 1 tablespoon dough and wrap around Rolo candy. Roll into ball and set on cookie sheet.

Bake for 14 minutes.

And that’s it! Easiest recipe ever for something a little more fun than a regular old cookie.

PS — they’re best when warm so the caramel inside is melty!