A Few of My Favorite Things (71)

[ATL sunset]
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[brews + calamari @ 5 Seasons Westside to start the holiday wknd]
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[Stella & Dot outfit of the week:: grey JCrew tank // American Eagle jean jacket (at least 10 years old) // black Old Navy maxi skirt // Rebel Pendant // Coral Cay Earrings // gold bracelet stack]
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[perfect Sunday]
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[Sunday Funday (night) @ El Taco in the Highlands]
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[Memorial Day project]
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[cookout: party of 2]
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What a great long weekend. For one of the first times ever, we actually stayed in town (mostly just by ourselves) for Memorial Day wknd, and it was actually pretty nice. I definitely missed the beach, but we had lots of pool time, ate several delicious meals, took Coco to the park, and had not one, but two cookouts — one was even with some friends. ūüôā

While reading my HGTV Magazine at the pool on Sunday, I decided it was time to paint our beige upstairs hallway. I’ve been wanting to do it for months, and to be honest, I’ve never liked the dark clay-colored accent wall that you see as you walk up the stairs. Luckily, we were able to utilize paint we already had — a nice light grey for the majority of the hall and the dark grey from the kitchen for the accent wall. ¬†We got started first thing Monday morning, and with Craig’s help, we were finished with the entire project in just a few hours. It looks a million times better than the beige and clay combo the previous owners had chosen, and I’m now just wondering what took us so long to do this. At least it’s nice and fresh for my parents’ visit this coming weekend!

restaurant review:: Ammazza

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Located in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward,¬†Ammazza¬†is one of the newer wood fired pizza joints to make some competition for famed Antico Pizza. While I think the verdict was still that Antico wins for the actual pizza, I’m really glad we checked this one out. It’s located in a cool old brick building and has a big, airy¬†dining area with a¬†bar at the back, as well as a quaint little patio outside. You order at the counter as soon as you enter the building, and the dining area features¬†big windows looking into the kitchen so diners can¬†see the pizzas as they’re being made.

IMG_1469photo credit

We started with the¬†Polpete (homemade meatballs, tomato sauce, romano, mozzarella and ricotta). What we didn’t realize is that they’d be served in a cast iron dish and SWIMMING in melted, hot cheese. I could have just eaten this for dinner. In fact, I’d like some right now.

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Pizzas are offered in either 12″ or 16″ sizes. We split the 16″¬†Ammazzare (artisan Italian sausage,¬†roasted peppers, vidalia onion, basil, and house mozzarella). It came out rather quickly (but not as quickly as the .5 seconds it takes at Antico) — our only complaint was that because we were sitting outside, the pizza got cold really quickly. I’ll attribute that to the abnormally chilly May weather we were having. The pizza was well-cooked, and the toppings were a great combo.

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Overall, I think Ammazza gives Antico a good run for its money. Although plenty busy, the crowd was still a lot smaller (a good thing in my book), the dining area was a lot larger and not crazy loud, and while¬†you can’t BYOB at Ammazza, their bar was fully-equipped with fun cocktails and good beer/wine options. I’ll look forward to going back again.

A Few of My Favorite Things (70)

[Stella & Dot outfit of the week – perfect weekend wear:: green JCrew cardigan // navy GAP eyelet tank // JCrew jean shorts // Tory Burch sandals // Coral Cay Necklace // Eternal Band Ring // gold bracelet stack]
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[friends reunited for dinner at JCT Kitchen]
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[outdoor dining at Ammazza in the Old Fourth Ward]
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[said goodbye to my little race car of 8 years]
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Late last week, my very dear college friend¬†and her husband¬†came down from DC to stay with us for the night before heading off to a wedding in town. When we realized that we hadn’t seen each other since their wedding close to 2 years ago, it was hard to believe. How in the world has it been that long? It was so, so nice to catch up with them and get to visit with our friend Karen. We took them to dinner at JCT Kitchen on the West side, which is a favorite among many in Atlanta. They have a great outdoor bar/lounge area upstairs, and Thursday night, they also had live music playing. The food is fantastic, and I always feel like I’m sitting in a Restoration Hardware catalog when we eat there.

We spent almost the entire day Saturday¬†trading in my old car and buying a new one¬†(the Acura MDX), which was a¬†long but exciting process. The new car small just never gets old, and it’s nice knowing we’re driving around in one of the safest SUVs on the market right now. ¬†We also managed to try out a couple new (to us) restaurants — Ammazza, which is a wood-fired pizza place in the Old Fourth Ward, and Dave Poe’s BBQ, which is located in an unassuming old shopping center in Marietta. Both were yummy, and it was fun to try something different. I’m looking forward to the long weekend, because it’ll be the last quiet one for the next¬†month… June = wedding season!

recipe:: no-bake Oreo dessert

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OK, guys. If you are a chocolate lover like me, you’re going to want to write this recipe down — or better yet, pin it to your pinterest account so it’s handy whenever you need it. My mother-in-law makes this dessert for lots of birthday celebrations, and I finally got the recipe recently for a cookout we were hosting. It was a HUGE hit, and I love now having such an easy recipe in my dessert rotation. I may or may not have been eating spoonfuls from¬†the giant leftover bowl every day since then.

Ingredients::
2 packs of instant chocolate pudding (4-5oz each)
2 containers of Cool-Whip (8oz each)
4 cups of milk (I used 2%)
2 packs of Oreos (16oz each)

Directions::
1. Crush cookies in a large ziplock bag with a rolling pin.  We did about 1/3 of the cookies at a time to make it more manageable. Set crushed cookies aside.
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2. Pour milk in large bowl.  Add pudding mix and beat with a wire whisk for 2 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes.
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3. Stir in cool whip and 1/2 of cookies.
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4. Top with remaining cookies, cover bowl, and refrigerate.
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*NOTE:: This is actually double the original recipe, but it’s a great size for a crowd. Feel free to cut the recipe in half for a smaller dessert. Enjoy!

A Few of My Favorite Things (69)

[Stella & Dot outfit of the week РBraves game!::  GAP white eyelet tank // GAP skinny jeans // brown Tory Burch sandals // Mae Necklace // Nancy Studs // gold bracelet stack]
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[first-ever maternity session up on the website]
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[new favorite donut — the Yin Yang Twist]
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[4th Stellaversary celebrated on 5/9/14]
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[inaugural Sims cousin cookout]
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[cookout delights]
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[Mother’s Day taco bar]

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Although I didn’t post a photo, this week kicked off Smyrna Food Truck Tuesdays at Taylor-Brawner Park, and we couldn’t have been happier. It’s so nice that there’s something like this in Smyrna, and last Tuesday, the weather was just perfect for having a picnic in the park with friends. We¬†tried the WOW! Food Truck for the first time, and the Wow! Factor Bowl (20-hour smoked pork served over a bed of creamy stone ground cheese grits and topped with smoky bbq sauce and chipotle cream)¬†was so good that I already plan to get the same thing next time.

5/9/14 marked my 4-year anniversary working as a Stella & Dot Stylist. It’s crazy how time flies, because it seems like just yesterday that I took a giant leap of faith and joined this company that I’d only heard about a couple weeks prior. Over the past 4 years, I’ve fallen so in love with not only the product that I’m selling, but what the company stands for and how it creates a platform for empowering women (and a few good men). I’ve done things with the company that I never thought I’d do, I’ve gotten to travel to fun places, I’ve added to our income, and I’ve made friends for life. And while I have stepped back a good bit with my business to make room for my new photography business, I love that I can still be active at whatever level I’m comfortable with. Here’s to another year of fabulous jewelry!

We hosted my cousins and my brother/SIL on Saturday night for our first-ever¬†Sims cousin cookout. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in our house for 4 years now, and this is the first time we’ve made a point to have our cousins over. It was such a fun night catching up and spending time together. The food was pretty delicious, too. I just realized that most of this post is centered around food. ūüėČ

For Mother’s Day, my brother and SIL invited family over on Sunday night for a fancy taco bar dinner, and it was such a perfect ending to a nice weekend. From the looks of the spread, I think they spent all day prepping and cooking for our dinner. Aside from all those toppings and dips, they made grilled shrimp, pulled chicken, and chimichurri skirt steak — yum! And while I didn’t get to see my mom on her special day, we celebrated her from Atlanta and are looking forward¬†to seeing my parents later this month. Happy belated Mother’s Day to all you wonderful, hardworking moms out there!

A Few of My Favorite Things (68)

[Stella & Dot bags galore!]
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[Stella & Dot outfit of the week:: orange J. Crew top // Sutton Stone Necklace // Florence Stackable Rings // Macey Bangle // Renegade Bracelet]
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[deck project complete]
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[sometimes you just need sprinkles]
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[Saturday night under the lights @ Turner Field]
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[Favorite vendors at Grant Park Farmers Market]
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[Pre-Cinco de Mayo fajitas]
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Craig’s brother and his girlfriend came in town to stay with us for the Braves game this weekend, and despite my having to work 2 different events while they were here, we had a great time with them. His brother is 10 years younger, so now that he’s a little older, it’s fun to get to spend more time with him more as friends and not just being the “old” brother and sister-in-law. On Sunday, we took advantage of the gorgeous weather with a trip over to the Grant Park Farmers Market — Coco even got to join this time. Our friends own a pizza company called S & J’s Woodfired Pizza (if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know who I’m talking about), and they’re out at the market most every¬†Sunday when it’s open. We love stopping by to see what new creations¬†they have, since they use fresh, local ingredients, many times from other vendors at the market. We picked the beef & bacon and the chef’s special (sausage, goat cheese, spinach, tomato sauce, and mozzarella) — both were equally good to the last bite. Coco really enjoyed getting a few bites of leftover bacon and crust, too. ūüėČ

I finished off the weekend with my first-ever maternity photo session, thanks to an old coworker and her husband who agreed to¬†do a portfolio-building session. They live near East Atlanta¬†Village, so after shooting around their house and pretty backyard, we¬†walked through some side streets of EAV¬†to take advantage of the cool street art — including a giant metal dragon!

Here’s to a great week with what looks like really nice weather here in Atlanta!

DIY:: live edge table

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Last fall, we decided that the deck on the back of our house was in great need of some TLC, so we decided to have¬†it rebuilt (everything except the base) and stained. After getting several quotes, Craig decided he could do the re-building part on his own, and it looks great! So once that phase was complete, we needed to wait a few months before having it stained (we outsourced that ¬†part because Craig drew the line at staining a 2-story deck on his own). It’s been quite a process, but it’s FINALLY all done. The semi-transparent stain we chose turned out to not be so transparent after all, but we’re really happy with the¬†color.

In the midst of the deck project,¬†we decided we’d like to upgrade our Martha Stewart outdoor dining set as well. I found a tutorial for a “live edge” table on a blog I follow,¬†The Hunted Interior. It called for reusing the table base from an outdoor dining set, and ours was¬†a very similar style, so we figured we could make it work. The metal part for the umbrella stand had already broken on our table, so Craig just removed the tiles and rest of the metal framing.

We spent what seemed like forever at Home Depot picking out 2×12″¬†pressure-treated pine boards that not only looked nice, but didn’t have any warping so that they would lay flat next to each other to make¬†the table top. You could use most any size board depending on the width of your table and how much of an overhang you want. I think we allowed for about a 2″ overhang on each side.¬†One thing to note is that when we picked out the perfect boards in the store, we marked them and took a photo so we’d have a¬†reference when building the actual top at home.

Craig built the table top very quickly — from underneath, he just¬†screwed through table frame and into the boards. He then sanded it with medium ¬†and then fine¬†grit paper.

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Next came the most fun part — using a belt sander! We used the sander to run along the edges of the table, giving it a natural, wavy look. I got in on the action for this, and it really was kind of fun. We didn’t own that particular tool, so we rented one (and bought ultra coarse sandpaper made specifically for that type of sander) for a 1/2 day from Home Depot. We had no idea how long it would take to sand down enough of the edges, but that thing is a beast! We took turns running it along the sides, and we ended up doing the two ends as well so that they’d be a bit rounded and more finished-looking.¬†That sander makes a TON of sawdust, so I recommend doing it out in the yard/driveway. In total, we used the sander for maybe an hour.
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We then did a light sanding over the top of the table again. After cleaning the table off VERY well with a wet cloth, it¬†was ready for staining. Before applying the actual stain, though, we used Minwax pre-stain wood conditioner. I tested out samples of the wood with and without the conditioner, and the difference was really noticeable once stain was applied. We ended up going with Special Walnut Minwax stain. If you haven’t stained wood before, be sure to have a cloth handy for wiping lightly across the surface after each coat. It helps the stain coverage to be more even. We let the table dry at least 24 hours in between each coat. After the first one, I thought that we might not need second, but I’m so glad we did — the color is much more rich and pretty.

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After staining, we wanted to add a couple coats of outdoor-grade varnish to help protect from sun and rain. It took a really long time to find what we needed, but we eventually got it at an Ace Hardware¬†store¬†in town. We used Best Look Oil Based Spar Varnish (clear gloss). Be sure to buy a brush specifically made for varnishes so that it has the correct type of bristles and won’t create streaks or leave behind lots of bristles in the sticky varnish.

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We simply followed the directions on the can and did two coats of this as well, with about 24 hours of drying time in between. We also did a light sanding in between the coats.¬†It’s amazing how much more polished and complete the table looks now that it has a shiny coating on it. And we feel confident that it should withstand the elements. In fact, the day we set it out on the deck, it rained — and the water beaded up beautifully along the top.

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To finish the look for our outdoor dining area, I got an outdoor rug and umbrella at Target. They had lots of colorful options for both, but I chose a more neutral color¬†so that we could have fun with the chairs and table decor. I found these teal green Threshold chairs at Target, but when I went back the next week to buy them, they were gone. So I proceeded on a wild goose chase around the city to find more of these chairs. I finally tracked down 4 white glossy ones and 2 teal green ones (at different stores, of course), so I ran to get them before someone else snatched them up. I love the structure of the chairs, and they’re actually quite¬†comfortable, even without cushions. I also recently picked up these turquoise glass vases at West Elm, which pull in the color of the 2 chairs, and I love the subtle sparkle they have. Instead of real candles, I opted for flameless ones so they will last longer (they’re also from West Elm — they were cheaper than Target, believe it or not).

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This was a seriously long process, but we’re really happy with the final product. I can’t wait to have some people over for a cookout and dining al fresco before it’s too hot! Coco loves it, too.

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