thanksgiving festivities

Our Thanksgiving was wonderful – filled with loads of family and even more food. We went to my brother’s soon-to-be in-laws’ home for our now annual pre-Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday night, and had way too much delicious lasagna, bread, chicken, and goat cheese-stuffed fried green tomatoes. We topped that off with a 13-layer cake. What a great way to get ready for the biggest eating day of the year, right?

You can’t celebrate Thanksgiving without fancy turkey cupcakes!

Hayes family photo for Thanksgiving Day 2012::

After watching the Macy’s parade and having breakfast at Cracker Barrel (yum!), we had Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt and uncle’s “party barn” in Cartersville. We gathered with about 50 family members and friends (probably 1/2 were under the age of 10)… it’s always very loud and entertaining with the Sims/Baxter crew!  We stuffed ourselves like turkeys, watched some football, and played with all of our cousins’ kids… perfect way to end the day!

Fresh corn that my dad brought up from a farm in FL::

We had friends join us for dinner with the family::

3 lawyers walk into a party…

Gator rides for the kids::

My cousin’s daughter, one of the most precious little girls ever::


3 meats on one plate!

The Sims Family::

Hope your day was wonderful, too! Happy Black Friday shopping!

happy thanksgiving, y’all!

In honor of  Thanksgiving, I’ve been posting something I’m thankful for every day on facebook. I love Thanksgiving because it marks the beginning of the holiday season, and it’s a time to gather with loved ones and enjoy each other’s company and lots of food and give thanks for the many, many blessings bestowed upon us throughout the year.

We have so much to be thankful for this year! I celebrated my 6th year at the Center for Puppetry Arts and my 2nd year as a Stylist with Stella & Dot. Craig got a new job within his company and is now a Business Systems Analyst… don’t ask me what that means, but I know he’s happy to have made the change. We’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time traveling around the country this year… I think Costa Rica, Lake Tahoe, St. Augustine, and NYC were some of our favorites. My brother was sweet enough to include us in his proposal while we were in Costa Rica this spring, and we could not be more thrilled to officially welcome her into our family next year. I’ve always wanted a sister, and she’s the perfect one! Coco just turned 2 today — it’s hard to believe she’s not a “little” puppy anymore! And to top it all off, we’re all healthy and happy. It’s been a wonderful year, and I’m so looking forward to what next year brings.

Here are some shots of our turkey week so far, as well as some festive inspiration::
Photos of pilgrim hat cookies, Thanksgiving definition, and “give thanks” banner courtesy of Pinterest.

I hope your Thanksgiving holiday is filled with lots of turkey, pie, and a table full of the people you love. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

recipe:: stuffed pablano peppers

We found this recipe recently on Pinterest, and we’d been waiting to try it on a Sunday night since it seemed a little more involved than a one-pot dish that we might make on a work night. Craig got the giant peppers at our international farmer’s market in Smyrna, and I highly recommend shopping somewhere like that for produce… so much cheaper than a regular grocery store! I’d also recommend wearing rubber gloves when handling the peppers to reduce the risk of getting anything in your eyes. It’s happened to Craig before, and I’m surprised he didn’t end up having to wear an eye patch.

The dish was actually less complicated than we anticipated, and it was delicious. Just the right amount of spice, and the goat cheese really added a nice balance to the mixture. The recipe we used was vegetarian, but we chose to add in ground beef. With the beef added in, we had TONS of filling leftover. So next time, we’ll have to buy more peppers and invite some dinner guests over!

Quinoa-Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Chipotle Sauce

Adapted from the blog Once Upon a Cutting Board

Serves 4 (if each person eats one pepper, but we had 2 apiece)
4 large poblano peppers
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup dry quinoa
1/3 cup vegetable or chicken stock (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 garlic clove
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
1 lb ground beef (optional)
1 small yellow onion
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 roma tomatoes, diced
4 ounces goat cheese

Preheat oven to 475°F.  Rub poblano peppers with two teaspoons of vegetable oil and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Roast in the preheated oven until soft and slightly blackened in spots, about 15-20 minutes, flipping once.  Let cool.

Meanwhile, bring 1/3 cup water and 1/3 cup vegetable stock to a boil in a medium saucepan (you use part vegetable or chicken stock for quinoa to infuse extra flavor, but it’s not necessary if you don’t have any open stock, you can use 2/3 cup water instead).  Add quinoa, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low to simmer.  Cook until tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes, then remove lid and fluff with a fork.
While peppers and quinoa are cooking, prepare the chipotle sauce in a blender.  Combine chipotle chile, garlic, 3/4 cup water, and a dash each of salt and pepper in the blender and blend until smooth.  Add 1/2 cup cilantro and pulse a few times to combine.  Set aside.
In a large saucepan or deep skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat.  Add ground beef and saute until brown. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add corn, black beans, tomato, and cooked quinoa and stir until heated through, about 2 minutes.  Add 2 ounces goat cheese and stir until it’s melted and completely mixed in.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Make a small slit down the length of one side of each pepper, being careful not to cut through to the other side.  Carefully remove seeds, leaving stem end intact.  Spoon quinoa mixture into each pepper to fill them.

Pour chipotle sauce into a 9×13-inch baking dish.  Transfer stuffed peppers to the dish, and dot with remaining 2 ounces goat cheese.  Bake until cheese is golden, 15 to 20 minutes.  Cool in pan 10 minutes and serve warm, sprinkled with additional chopped cilantro if desired.


restaurant review:: Muss & Turner’s in Vinings

After a looooooong day of work on Saturday, a dinner date was much needed. We had an OpenTable:AtlantaRestaurants gift certificate (you accrue points every time you book a restaurant reservation through their website, and eventually, you earn a gift certificate), so we decided to check out Muss & Turner’s. It’s located in a shopping center just outside the perimeter of Atlanta in the Vinings area (think more upscale than a regular old strip mall with the Chinese buffet and tanning salon). I love the neighborhood feel… they have indoor/outdoor seating, as well as some spots at the bar, which overlooks the open kitchen. During the day, they operate more as a deli/bakery. For the evening crowd, they operate a full-service restaurant. That particular night, they also had a big green egg going outside the front door, which I thought was pretty cool.

My only experience with M&T (until last weekend) was buying some of their white chocolate brownies for a party I was hosting right after we moved into our house. They were TO DIE FOR… a mix between white chocolate brownie and pound cake, with a slightly crispy topping. So I knew they had some amazing baked goods, but I somehow just never made it in for an actual meal. I was a little weary of the menu at first glance, but after some encouragement from Craig, who will eat just about anything, I found several dishes on the menu that I’d like. It seems to be a neighborhood favorite, and it’s just a couple minutes from our house…. so I’m surprised it’s taken us this long to try it.

We weren’t starving, so instead of a big appetizer, we went for the standard Bread ‘n Butter… sort of odd to have to pay for bread, but it was worth the few bucks. The bread was dense and a little sweet, but the best part was the jar full of butter that accompanied it. Some sort of nuts were mixed in, and Craig contemplated licking the jar clean when we ran out of bread.

Their Fall Salad (apples, red wine cranberries, bitter greens, pecans, blue cheese, pear ginger vinaigrette) sounded yummy and winter-ish, but again, we didn’t want to fill up before dinner, so I bypassed the salad and moved on to the real stuff. I chose the Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf (!!!!) that came with a really good sweet potato mash, crispy tatsoi (some sort of green – it was ok), roasted mushrooms (didn’t touch), and truffle jus (which I had them leave off because I am not a fan). Craig chose the Berkshire Pork, Apple, and Cranberry Sausage with braised greens, yummy, sweet pumpkin bread, and hard cider Welsh rarebit. I think he ate every bite, and I came close to finishing all of my bacon wrapped goodness. Oh — and we also ordered a small side of the Pommes Frites. I love some good, crispy french fries.

I always have room for dessert, and I had to have another white chocolate brownie. Craig added the homemade vanilla ice cream, and they heated the brownie for us. Perfect combination and perfect way to end a delicious meal and nice little neighborhood date.

I’ll look forward to going back to try some other dishes — Swifty’s Dream (pork shoulder, Carolina style bbq, bacon, horseradish slaw, french bun) and Chicken and Dumplins (ricotta biscuit dumplings, celery root, parsnips, carrots). Their brunch sounds pretty amazing, too. I’m eyeing the Pumpkin Bread Pudding French Toast.

patio project progress

Now that the patio has been paved, it’s time for projects to actually make that space an outdoor living room of sorts. For months and months, I’ve been dreaming of a pinterest project that involved turning a couple of wooden pallets into a hanging patio bed, so that was Task #1. I wanted something simple that was comfortable and outdoor-friendly. Here are some of my inspiration photos.

This is in no way a step-by-step tutorial on building a pallet bed, but if you’re interested, I can ask Craig for more detailed steps. Overall, I think it was pretty simple, other than the wood on the pallets being very hard to drill into, even for my super strong handy man.

We acquired the pallets for free — Craig had a cabinet built for our basement at the Builders Surplus outside of our neighborhood, and he happend to see some extra pallets lying around outside the building, so they let him have a couple. He’d tried that tactic at Home Depot, but they sell theirs back, so I’d recommend asking a smaller business if you can have some of their extras.

Craig started by screwing the 2 pallets together side-by-side. He then added four 3/4 inch bolts and a few 2x4s for extra stability. Once the pallet “bed” was together and sturdy, he drilled holes on each of the 4 corners and inserted big metal rings for hanging. The pallets aren’t exactly the same size, and that was fine with me, as it has a more rustic, handmade look.

We bought chain link to hang the bed underneath the deck, and Craig secured large hooks/S rings to the beams for hanging the bed. It’s a good thing I’m so strong (joke, joke) — I helped him carry this giant block of wood around the house and into the backyard AND held it up for him to attach the chains to the hooks. Who needs strong men when you have me as a helper??

Ta da!! It’s sturdy and will *hopefully* hold a few adults. It actually swings a lot more than we thought it would, which makes me happy/a little nervous. I can’t wait to get a cushion and some pillows on this thing and really test it out!

Task #2 was simple — hanging clear glass bulbs to add some warm light at night. It’s very dark under the patio at once the sun goes down, so this would be a perfect addition for evening use. We only had one mishap with a strand falling to the ground mid-hanging and breaking a bulb, but that was easily fixed by using one from the end of the strand that wouldn’t really be seen when hung.

I’m THRILLED with the magical glow that these little guys give to our patio wonderland. Now all we need is a cover for the pallet bed, a small table and chairs, the wine crate planters and some plants, and shrubs around the edge of the patio….. stay tuned for the finish product. Hopefully this part won’t take us another year!

wonderful wedding weekend in the big easy:: part 2

Wedding wknd continued… Meg’s wedding day (10.27.12)

Aside from the temperature dropping about 30 degrees from Friday to Saturday, Meg and Jason’s wedding day was beautiful and perfect! We spent the afternoon with Meg at a family friend’s house while she had her makeup done and got photographed in her wedding dress. It’s always sort of magical to see a bride in her wedding dress for the first time, and this was no exception. I think most of us are more used to seeing Meggy in a t-shirt and Christmas light boxers than all dolled up, but I had no doubt she would look absolutely stunning, and she did! (And Jason looked quite dapper in hix tux and bow tie, too!)

One of my favorite things about New Orleans is the beautiful homes and giant tree-lined streets (the house where Meg got ready was on this street).
Beautiful cookies made for for the big day::


Bridal party bouquets::

Bridesmaids and the mothers of the bride and groom::

Meg and her Sacred Heart girls::

The Reception at Latrobe’s (which was an old bank back in the day) in the Quarter::

Cake pulls! This is a tradition I’ve only seen in New Orleans. We all pulled a ribbon sticking out of the cake and received a charm with a special meaning. Mine was a crescent moon…. it meant something about luck and possibility, I think. Should have gone to play the lottery that night!

Mr. and Mrs. LaBumbard!!

Second line — another favorite New Orleans wedding tradition::

Next up for the happy couple — 2 weeks in Bali!! Wishing you a safe, amazing honeymoon and a lifetime of love!

happy halloweenie festivities

How is Halloween already over?? Here’s what we were up to on the spookiest day of the year!

One of my favorite things we do at work (Center for Puppetry Arts) is the Halloween Potluck. It’s one of the very few times each year when most of our staff can gather all in one place. The assortment of food is always interesting with so many people attending…. this year, some of the dishes included “Tape Worm” pasta salad, “Band-Aid” graham cracker treats, mini sloppy joes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin floats, and some really yummy bread inspired by a couple of our coworkers’ trip to Bahrain earlier this year for a cultural arts festival.

The two Melissas at the Center (also known as Martha, according to some people we talk with on the phone)::
(and thanks to Jeff Domke for the fun photo!)

I love our neighborhood – there are so many kids and fun friends, and it’s the best on Halloween. The streets turn into a block party of sorts, and this year, all the kiddies did a loop around the neighborhood in a little parade to show off their costumes. Lots of super heroes and princesses, as to be expected. We hung out on Craig’s tailgate to watch the festivities and hand out candy until it got dark… I’m amazed at how much earlier everyone trick-or-treats these days! After the flow of trick-or-treaters slowed, we enjoyed some chili and witches brew with our neighbors until it was way too cold to be outside anymore. I can’t say the same for poor Coco — she was a little too excited for all the action taking place, so she had to settle for watching from the window inside.

Had to share this funny photo of Coco hiding under one of the guest beds — it’s her favorite spot in the house::

Coco’s ready to pass out candy::

Little Miss Elephant dropped her candy::

Hope everyone had a safe and happy Halloween! Now onto the most festive time of the year!

wonderful wedding weekend in the big easy:: part 1

Last weekend we traveled to the great city of New Orleans to celebrate my dear friend Meg and her love Jason at their wedding. As I probably mentioned in the post about Meg’s bachelorette trip, she was one of the very first friends I made at UGA, and we have made so many memories together. I had the pleasure of meeting Jason right after college when we visited Meg in Colorado Springs, where she’d taken a job. Jason worked with Meg, but lived in Boulder, so we convinced her that we should go up for the night to visit this guy she told us about… and the rest is history!

Meg is from New Orleans and we visited her hometown several times throughout college. It may sometimes get a bad rap, but I love it for the culture and beautiful architecture and great food and lively music. We stayed at the Bienville House Hotel in the French Quarter for the weekend, and we were able to walk almost everywhere we needed to go. The Bienville is a historic boutique hotel with one of the tiniest elevators I’ve ever been in, but it also has surprisingly large rooms. We had a view of the fire station across the street, so I felt quite safe. 🙂

Craig, our friend Karen, and I arrived Thursday afternoon and spent the evening wandering the streets of the Quarter, sampling the obligatory frozen daiquiris, and eating Mexican food with a funny little dancing waiter until we were able to meet up with a couple other college friends who live there.

Outside of the Bienville House::

The Bienville House Hotel::

Morning walk past Jackson Square::

Fried, sugary goodness and creamy hot chocolate at Cafe du Monde::

Meg’s Bridesmaids Luncheon at Antoine’s Restaurant — open since 1840:: 

The Rex Room — one of the most gorgeous rooms I’ve ever been in! The walls are lined with photos and memorabilia from the Rex crew, which I believe is the largest Mardi Gras crew. How perfect is this for a girly luncheon?

The bride and her Tri Delta ladies::

Meg and all of her bridesmaids::

Meg and her beautiful mom and sisters::

Rehearsal at the Academy of the Sacred Heart::

Rehearsal Dinner/Cocktail Party venue in the Quarter. The lighting in the courtyard was romantic, and the house itself was so beautiful. It was the perfect venue for all of Meg and Jason’s wedding party, family, and out-of-town guests to gather and celebrate before their big day!

UGA girls::

The couple of honor::

To be continued!

recipe:: chili for an extra chilly day

Craig and our friend Hunter found this chili recipe years ago and have since perfected it to be meat-filled and oh-so-delicious, so I thought it would be perfect to share on this extra cold day!


White or Yellow Onion (1)

Bacon (12 oz.)

Lean Ground Beef (approx 1.25 lbs)

Italian Sausage (1 lb)

Diced Tomatoes (32 oz.)

Pinto Beans (16 oz.)

Great White Beans (16 oz.)

Kidney Beans (16 oz.)

Beer (2)

Chili Powder (6 tbsp)

Garlic (6-12 cloves)

Cumin (2 tbsp)

Black Pepper (1 tbsp)


Dice and cook bacon in large skillet.  Remove and place in a large pot or crockpot.  Leave grease.

Dice onion and cook with ground beef, sausage, and garlic in the bacon grease. Add 1 beer about half-way through cooking.

Remove to large pot or crockpot.

Add diced tomatoes, beans, spices, and 1 beer to crockpot.

Cook on low for several hours.

Voila! All done. Best chili ever.

Here’s the finished product! I love this bowl…. we had them as kids and ate our cereal out of them many mornings before school. And although the idea of chili for breakfast seems a little gross, I still think it’s cute. We made cornbread in a cast iron skillet for this meal, but my favorite side is a nice, hot grilled cheese… oh, and Fritos on top! mmm!