I Have A Crush On You

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The hubs and I took a trip to Charleston, South Carolina this past weekend. We joined over twenty others to celebrate one of our favorite friends joining us in the "You're in your forties now" club. We had so much fun! We drove there on Friday and arrived around two in the afternoon. Although check-in was not until four, the wonderfully, accommodating Hilton downtown let us check-in early. We were very grateful after our five hour drive. When we checked in our hosts had left homemade Buckeye candies for each room. (Jill-you rock) Of course we had quite a few friends that had beat us there, and they were immediately texting us to join them. They were all starting the party weekend at Bay Street Biergarten. We decided we would walk there, which was fine, but we miscalculated the distance. It wasn't that far, but it was about a twenty minute walk from the hotel. By the time we got there, most of our friends were thinking about going back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. I was there long enough to drink one beer and appreciate the beauty of the bar. I did not choose to eat since we were all meeting up for dinner early, but the menu looked yummy. I'm still thinking about the pimento cheese with bacon jam that was listed on their appetizer menu. Next time I will try them! I mean their menu touts the food as Bavarian inspired-Southern made, which intrigues me. After my beer, I grabbed a ride with one of my friends and headed back to the hotel, leaving the hubs to have some guy time. I had missed the window of time that would have allowed for a shower, but I did at least have time to remove my flannel shirt and jeans and put on a dress and some lipstick. My husband arrived shortly after on a bicycle rickshaw with another one of our friends.
All twenty-three of us met up at Magnolias for dinner. We had a nice dinner and then we did a little bit of exploring the local taverns before each couple did their own "Houdini" version of slipping out. We were out by ten. I know, it's embarrassing, I just find it hard to stay up after a big dinner and a couple of drinks. We were not alone though. We all talked junk to each other the following morning about it. We met up with about half of the group for breakfast. I'm sad that I cannot remember the name. I had sweet potato pancakes with an orange marmalade and pecan praline sauce. They were super yummy!
After breakfast my sister suggested we sign up for one of the historic tours by horse drawn carriage. We took a look around the city market and I purchased a few gifts to take home. We grabbed some coffee after, joined our husbands and checked in for our 11:30 tour. Dan is the name of the horse that led our carriage. He is beautiful and I had a little time to talk with him and rub his neck. Ben was our tour guide, or narrator. He was so much more than I could have asked for in a guide. He clearly loves his job, Charleston, and history in general.
Here’s me with my new friend Dan:
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The weather was sunny with a little chill in the air. We had hot coffee, coats and each other to stay warm in the front of the carriage. The following are a few of the pictures I took on the tour. As you can tell from the pictures, Charleston is picturesque.
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The hubs and I napped for about an hour after the tour. The guys had already looked up the local sports bars and had checked to make sure that they could all watch the Carolina game together, so we met up there around 2. B and I took a rickshaw there. I had so much fun. A lot of memories were made.
We all met for dinner at Hank’s Seafood Saturday night. I’ll be honest, the hubs and I talked for most of the prior week about how we couldn’t wait to eat raw oysters. Although the season has been here for a little while, the opportunity to eat them had not presented itself yet. I was almost swayed by the menu and the server’s recitation of the night’s special, but we both stayed steadfast with our plan to stay traditional with our orders.
First up was the She-Crab soup:
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Next up we had a sampler platter of Oysters:
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Ending our dinner, we had espresso and we shared a crème brulee:
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After dinner we all walked around downtown. We visited places like Husk and ended our night at The Rooftop bar. I shared a bottle of champagne with my girlfriends which led to lots of flirting with my husband. I can imagine that this place would be impossible in the warmer months to find a table, but we had prime seats on the upper patio.
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No doubt we will be making every effort to return to Charleston because, “Charleston, I have a crush on you.”

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And coming home to Mr. Sugarbears is the best! Thanks Mahan family for taking care our baby.

Just Add Wine

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I was really hungry after taking Mr. Sugarbears on his walk this morning. I couldn’t help thinking about the fresh French bread that was sitting on the counter in my kitchen. I started thinking about appetizers and holiday get togethers and one of my favorite things…a charcuterie tray. I decided that I should stuff some of my favorite ingredients for one in that French bread, which is how this goats cheese, honey and prosciutto stuffed bread occurred.

Ingredients:
1 medium sized loaf of French bread
4 oz goats cheese
2 oz grated fontina cheese
2 oz honey
1/4 pound prosciutto
2 tsp balsamic glaze

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix both cheeses and honey together. It’s easy to do with a spoon if you allow the cheese to come to room temperature first.

Cut French bread like they do at Subway.
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Take 2-3 slices of prosciutto and make a layer on the bread.
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Spread the cheese mixture on top of prosciutto.
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Add the remaining prosciutto on top of spread.
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Return top piece of bread and wrap in aluminum foil.
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Bake for 13-15 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve immediately with balsamic glaze on the side.
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This was super easy. I hope you try it and enjoy it. Just add a good glass of red-a peppery cab would be a great pairing.

Struggling To Find My Voice

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I’ve made quite a few changes to my life in the last six years. My husband and I left our long time home at the beach and moved across the state to a small town resembling the town I grew up in. I know most people will chuckle at that-I mean we didn’t move to a different state or across country, but trust me, it was a big deal to us. We made the move for quite a few reasons, cost of living being one of the reasons and the others I’ll discuss in this post.
It all started on Thanksgiving 2007 at my amazing baby sister’s annual Thanksgiving dinner. She and her husband had purchased their first home a couple of years before and their home had become our Thanksgiving holiday destination. The location of their home had been decided upon for logical reasons. Her husband was working on his masters degree at Chapel Hill and had found a school to teach at locally. She was working at a large accounting firm in Greensboro. This city was right smack in the middle which made commuting fairly easy for both of them. They had purchased a great home in a quaint, perfect neighborhood…the kind of neighborhood that beckons you to walk everyday and say hello to your neighbors. It was dreamy.
My sister is a Thanksgiving baby and she celebrates it with abandon. She uses every cheesy, decorative, Turkey Day accessory you can imagine. She and her husband open their home and welcome all with big hugs. The invitation is extended to the whole family, but what’s really nice is that it’s also extended to people that may not have a family or home to go to. There’s always at least one new face. I’m in heaven each and every holiday visit. She has been hosting for close to ten years now. We all have our parts to play and dishes to bring, but what stays the same every year is that her husband will be roasting the turkey, she’ll have made a fabulous coffee station with Bailey’s liqueur, and she will have set the table the previous night to perfection. She always makes the place cards by hand. Oh how I love having a sister.
So with all of this in mind, let me tell the story of Thanksgiving 2007. My sister was pregnant with her first child and although our immediate family knew, we didn’t know the sex, nor did they. We all enjoyed our Thanksgiving meal and then they opened the envelope. We all wept with such sincere excitement and love. It didn’t matter what that envelope held inside-none of us would have felt any differently had she read it was a boy. It just became real in that moment for all of us…very real, very fast. There was no Bailey’s or coffee for my sister that year, but the excitement that we shared as a family was legendary. Mom and I cuddled up with my sister after dinner and started our plans for the nursery. My parents would finally have a grandchild. I’ll never forget that day…ever.
The next day as the hubs and I were traveling home, something very odd and wonderful happened. We both had the same thought. It went something like this… “Hey B. I’m going to say something and I’m just curious how it sounds to you. What would you think about moving there?” to which he looked at me astonished and replied… “I was just thinking the same thing.” Two hours later into the drive we had decided that if one of us could find a good job, we’d make the move. I’ll be honest, I still can’t believe how things worked out from that moment on. My husband went through a series of interviews that led to a great, well-deserved position. Christmas morning, one month later, we told my sister and the rest of the family that we were making the move. More tears of happiness ensued.
Since making the move my husband has done great with his career and my sister has had a second child. I’ve found a church community that I love and I’ve found friends like I could have never imagined finding. I find myself referencing the overflowing cup a lot.
Of course, I met my wonderful rescue dog, Mr. Sugarbears, too. He’s the precious angel that I rescued from a shelter a couple of years ago, or as I like to say…he’s the angel that rescued me. Life isn’t what I thought it would be at 42, but that’s not to say that it isn’t wonderful. I pushed through college and received a degree in design. I owned and operated a small store that I loved. I’ve been faithful and truly in love with one man for 22 years. I’m in love with my community, my family and Mr. Sugarbears. I love all 5 of my nieces and nephews but I know that I won’t have children of my own and I’ve found peace with that in my life. I’ll just give more love to the children in my life. It’s tough to grow up. Life isn’t always easy, but sticking with it can bring you so much beauty.
So these days I’m counting my blessings and trying to make sure that I am reciprocating the love I receive from so many. I’ve been searching though for something. I think it’s me. How do I finish my book? How do I make my blog the blog I want it to be? Today I read a wonderful blog post from Foodie Crush. Please see link http://www.foodiecrush.com/2014/11/garlic-and-herb-gnocchi-salad/ It was as if this blogger had heard my cries. So often I’ve expressed to my sister and husband that I’m in need of help, but I really don’t know where to turn. There are a bazillion people online that want to teach you how to have more followers, but what if that’s not my goal? My goal is to just be better at blogging and I’d like to work through it on my own. It’s hard to admit you need help. I guess I’m just struggling to find my voice.

Grilled, Stuffed French Toast with Blackberry Sauce

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Ingredients:
4 slices of French bread-approximately 3″ wide each

For Cream Cheese Stuffing:

4 ounces cream cheese

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp butter pecan syrup

For egg mixture to soak bread in:

3 whole eggs

5 oz half and half or whole milk

1/2 tsp vanilla

For Blackberry Sauce

2 tbsp butter

6 oz fresh blackberries

2 tbsp sugar

Mix cream cheese, cinnamon, sugar and syrup with a hand mixer until combined. french4

Carefully scoop out bread from one side of the french bread-making a pocket.  Leave the other side in tact and try to keep the removed bread as much together, as possible, as you will be using it to cap the other side, once stuffed.

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Stuff bread with cream cheese mixture and top open side with removed bread.
Whisk together eggs with milk and vanilla and put bread in the egg mixture. Soak bread for one minute on each side.
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In the meantime heat 2 tbsp butter with 1 tbsp canola oil in a grill pan on medium high heat. Add bread and grill on all four sides for approximately one minute for each side. You should have dark grill marks. Remove French toast and serve with warm fruit sauce.
To make fruit sauce:
Add 2 tbsp butter to a boiler with 6 ounces fresh blackberries and 2 tbsp sugar. Bring to a slow boil and continue to simmer on low for 5 minutes until slightly reduced.

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And yeah, whipped cream on top would be acceptable, too. Serves 4

He Inspires Me To Be A Better Person

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Have you ever been recognized for your dedication to a project, someone or something? Yesterday my dad was awarded by Methodist University for his outstanding service.
He graduated from Methodist in 1965 and has worked tirelessly since then as an alumni, as a trustee, and a board member to make Methodist an even better place. It truly brings him joy to see the Universities growth and fires him up to think of its potential.
The day started with an awards ceremony in the auditorium, where my father and three other people were honored. Linda Huff, the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award was first. She was introduced by President Hancock of the university. I listened as he spoke of her years of service to the school and to the community and watched as she fought back tears while listening. Next Dr. Clayton introduced my father as the award recipient for Outstanding Service. My heart grew and my eyes swelled with tears as I watched my father walk to the podium. I had not prepared myself for his humble acceptance words and I was overtaken with pride as I listened to his dreams for the university. I’ve always known without a doubt the importance of the school to my dad, but somehow I really missed the whole picture. Like my fathers love for his wife, family, church and community, Methodist University was and is a life long commitment. He loves this school so much! He told me that the prior night he had a young man walk up to him and thank him for giving him his Greatest Gift.
The Greatest Gift Scholarship is unique to the university in that an alumni can award this to a prospective student. My dad takes this responsibility very seriously. He knows the value of an education and he wants to see everyone do well.
Howard Hudson was also recognized as an outstanding alumni for his service to athletics at the university. He raises money through many avenues, but golf really is his thing. My favorite shared memory he spoke of was his first golf game where he teamed up with the then new President Hancock. He said he just wanted to get to know the president. He said he found out first that he was a terrible golfer, but he said by the third hole he’d found out what truly mattered. He asked the president what pushed him each day and the presidents reply was, “creation” to which Mr. Hudson questioned what he meant by that. President Hancock told him the sparks he saw each day in students eyes…the creation that was happening in them each day. I’d say this guy is a keeper, too.
Lastly, Pastor William Walker was presented with the Outstanding Faculty Award. He was introduced by Mrs. Munoz, a colleague of his. At this point, I think everyone in the audience had already broken out their tissues and hankies, but this last introduction took the cake. This man is Dean of Student Affairs and it’s a job that can make you loved while simultaneously make you not so loved. It takes an extremely fair person to sit in his chair. The reverence in his voice as he humbly accepted his award was enough to make the toughest of men cry.
After the awards ceremony, we were all invited to attend a special luncheon at the Burns Center. The food was delicious! Being that it was also homecoming weekend, the excitement in the air was palpable. The kiddos got their faces painted while we waited for Mom and dad to finish their tv interview. I assume one of the universities Fine Art majors was doing them, because wow! See for yourself:image
After lunch we were invited to join mom and dad in the Presidents box to watch the football game. They had great food, drinks, and free swag. I watched my husband as he and President Hancock gave each other high fives throughout the game and felt a little giddy. My dad’s brother and wife joined us for the day and I loved watching them cheer on MU together.
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My sister and I gushed with pride as so many came up to us to tell us how wonderful our dad was and how much he is appreciated. Of course we have always known how great our dad is, but it sure is nice to see him honored for it. Selfie time:
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At halftime they introduced dad on the field and the tears welled again. My heart is so full of pride for this man. This man I’m blessed to call my dad. He inspires me to be a better person. I love you dad!
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