Makes Me Happy VI

Happy Monday!  The weather in Charlotte went from gorgeous on Saturday to flooding and chilly the past two days.  Gotta love that crazy spring weather 😛  For today, I am going to share things that make me smile even when it is dreary outside!

 

Binge watching new-to-me TV shows:

My husband and I have very similar tastes when it comes to the majority of televisions shows and movies.  While I will watch pretty much anything, my husband doesn’t like anything horror/scary, lots of blood etc. so some of the programs I want to watch, he refuses to, lol.  After lots of hinting, Kyle finally agreed to start watching Game of Thrones with me.  He loves that fantasy realm a la Lord of the Rings so he figured that this would outweigh the violence and gore and so far we are hooked!  I have watched several random episodes when staying with friends and family over the past few years so it has been great to start from the beginning.

 

How GREEN everything gets:

I inherited the gardening gene from my dad.  I love planting herbs, fruits, and vegetables and watching them grow and using them in recipes.  I knew we were in for some heavy, heavy rain so I wanted to make sure that I got the last of my plants transferred from indoors to out so they could settle before the weather came.  One of the most interesting things living in our new home is seeing random plants pop up from time to time.  While we were away for Easter, we came home to beautiful amaryllis flowers in what looked to be a long-abandoned flower bed 🙂  I have lost count of the number of text messages to my dad asking what the plants growing around our yard are and if they were weeds, lol.  When the rain comes in spring, the grass, plants, and trees all look beautifully green and healthy.  Green is my absolute favorite color and being able to look out my window and see my yard and planters overflowing with the color make me so happy.

 

Getting creative with pantry and freezer staples:

When the weather gets nasty, something happens to my husband and I (and I would guess most people) that makes us not want to leave the house for anything.  I had some items in the refrigerator pegged for specific meals, but would have needed other ingredients from the store to complete them.  Instead, I looked to the pantry and freezer and got creative.  Chicken breasts combined with condensed cream soup and rice in the crock pot became a hearty, comfort food perfect for dreary weather. I marinated a pork tenderloin in condiments and herbs and paired it with potatoes and grilled vegetables from cooking out for a yummy meal with the taste of sunnier weather thanks to the veggies.   Tonight will include pasta, homemade sauce and meatballs from the freezer.  Tomorrow looks to be the last of the nasty weather so I will be making BBQ turkey meatloaf with potatoes to stretch out grocery shopping an extra day!

 

What do you like to do when the weather prevents you from going out? Any binge-watchers out there?

What’s your favorite color? 

What kind of meals do you like to cook from your pantry or freezer?

Spring Break

How is it that no matter how great a vacation, 1.  You never want it to end and 2.  You need a week to recover 😛

A week ago, Kyle, Bentley, and I packed up the car and headed to my parents’ house in sunny south Florida.  We had a day with my parents before my brother and his girlfriend arrived in time for dinner on Easter.  Bentley has a very adverse reaction whenever he sees us packing in any form (the move was the WORST) and absolutely nuts at home. He normally is great for long car rides, but he seemed to be in rare form for the 9 hour drive.

We arrived very early Saturday morning (like 4 AM) and enjoyed sleeping in, swimming in the pool, and going out to dinner to celebrate my birthday early (less than a month until the big 3-1).


Sunday, the plan was to meet up with a couple members of the bridal party in West Palm, but we discovered that there was a baseball game at the local Single A stadium.  We got bogo tickets and enjoyed the beautiful breezy Florida day with our friends.  They joined us back at the house as well for Easter dinner which was a wonderful time spent with family and friends!

Monday was our last real day in Florida so naturally we wanted to spend it in the pool 🙂  Bentley and Darcy are best buddies so they had plenty of playtime and stealing each other’s toys and beds lol. 
Later that day/night, my parents had some family friends over for appetizers, drinks and conversation.  Many of the guests were also guests at our wedding so it was nice to see them again.

Tuesday, sadly, we left to come home to Charlotte.  On the way home, we naturally had to stop at WaWa twice to gas up and get hoagies and other northern goodies that aren’t available in NC (Herr’s chips = <3).  Bentley was night and day better on the way home and the perfect road trip companion.

The past couple of days have included work for Kyle, an orthodontist visit for me (which they are hinting may come off sooner rather than later, woo!), and cleaning/laundry/grocery shopping… what exciting lives we lead 😛

 

Anyone do anything fun for Easter/Spring Break?

What regional foods do you love that you can’t get where you live?

Do you have pets?  How do they do on road trips?

Makes Me Happy Mondays V

Hi all!  I took an unexpected break last week due to illness, starting my new job, doctor visits, and time spent recovering from a biopsy.  I will go into more detail in a future post, but I will say for now- wear sunscreen and get an annual skin check!

Now, time for some things that make me happy!

Trader Joes

I have always had a soft spot for the grocery store Trader Joes.  I now live relatively close to one and OMG I can’t stop going, lol.  My husband teases me relentlessly about my obsession and the fact that I haven’t stopped talking since rediscovering it 😝  I was blown away by how reasonable their prices are, especially on pantry staples and dry goods.  Needless to say, I have been doing 85% of my grocery shopping there to save money, visitng Harris Teeter or Publix for most meat and produce.

Made a tasty paleo dinner (inspired from eMeals) with pecans, ghee, raw honey, parsley, lemon and asparagus from TJs!

Chicken with Parsley Pecan Sauce and Roasted Lemon-Garlic Asparagus

Spring Baking Championship

I have been spending a good amount of time taking it easy this past week and catching up on a few shows on the DVR.  I have a minor obsession with Food Network, especially baking shows.  I finally got a chance to watch this season!  While my favorite didn’t win, I definitely enjoyed this season and thought each of the finalists deserved it (though I missed Bobby Dean 😔 hoping he’ll be back for Holiday Baking Champtionship!).

Spring Weather-

Save a couple days, the past month has been amazing weather-wise in North Carolina.  My husband and I have been hard at work getting things together in our new-ish home (though we still have a garage full of STUFF to go through), including a new grill and lawnmower.  While not the most “fun” it’s been great to be able to do this outside in the lovely weather.  I am holding out and waiting for a couple garden things to go on sale before I really go crazy gardening 🌞

 

Bentley Boy sunning himself in the beautiful Charlotte weather!


What is making you happy today?

How I Meal Prep

I am a list/shopping/deal fanatic!  I truly love making shopping lists, searching circulars, and planning meals for my husband and me.

Breakfasts for me include green smoothies, oats (overnight and cooked), yogurt bowls, and the occasional waffle or bowl of cereal.  Lunches are leftovers from dinners, salads, and wraps.  As far as dinners go, I try to plan 5 meals for the week and allow one night for pizza/take out or a date night out and one night for a family favorite (aka, not always healthy, lol).

I find meals in cookbooks, from favorite blogs, and a meal plan service called eMeals.  I discovered it through Groupon and have been in love ever since.  Through eMeals, you can select your diet, store, and size of the family you’re feeding.

Some favorite plans of mine include Paleo, Clean Eating, and Quick and Healthy.  They also have diets for low carb, low calorie, gluten free, and even geared toward children.  Certain plans allow for members to pick what store they want to shop and the meals will reflect what’s on sale or abailable on that given week.  Stores include Whole Foods, Walmart, Publix, and more.  Lastly, you are able to decide if you want the meals to feed 1-3 people or 4-6 people.  What’s even better, you can swap the plans as often as you like.  Say this week there is only one dinner that sounds appealing, you can go on the site or app and select a new one!

In addition to dinner plans, eMeals offers breakfast, lunch, dessert, and special occasion ones that you can add on to further plan your meals.  The breakfast and lunch plans tend to reflect the type of dinner plan you have (paleo, gluten-free, etc.).  The sizes of the add-on plans is typically for 4+ people.

Unsure if you want to commit to a 3 or 12 month plan? eMeals offers a 14 day free trial!

Once I figure out what meals I want to prepare, I start looking at my coupons and the ads for the week.  Three stores in my area offer online pickup/delivery, and while I prefer to shop myself, I am able to see the exact prices for the products on my list so I can make sure I am getting the best price,  After I write down the prices, I go to a different store where I purchase anything that is cheaper than my list price before i head to the next two stores.  While that seems like a lot to go through, luckily, the stores are within a mile or two of each other so it doesn’t take too much time.  I also don’t always go to all the stores on the same day, provided I have the ingredients for whole recipes from one store.

Once home from the store, I will divide the meat and vegetables to sort into dinner groupings to make my life easier come mealtime.  If I bought in bulk, I label the extra portions and place them in the freezer.  Then, depending on the vegetables etc., I will prep them for quick cooking.  If I need grilled chicken or other basic staples for meals, I will then fire up the grill (or oven/stove) and get cooking.  Last, I will make up smoothie packs for quick blending, prep overnight oats and lunches.

My whole process takes a couple hours, but it makes the rest of the week SO much easier.  I am lucky enough to only be working part time so I do have the time to do all of this.

 

Do you meal prep?

How do you find recipes? Deals?

Any recommendations for me?

 

The links for eMeals and Groupon are referral links.  I will be given credit for these sites for anyone who signs up and makes a purchase.  I was not compensated in anyway for this post.  I believe in these services and paid for them out of my own pocket.

Planning a Wedding- Venue Search and Tours

I knew when I got engaged, or let’s be honest as a little girl, I wanted to have a high level of control over my wedding.  I am fortunate enough to have great parents who wanted us to have our dream wedding (realistically speaking… they are retired teachers after all).  I am a deal hunter so I did a LOT to save money throughout the process, from “crafting” to spending hours (and hours, and hours…) shopping around for vendors, gifts, and items for the ceremony and reception.

The wedding posts will be coming weekly will go through different aspects, starting with planning, through rehearsal, wedding and honeymoon and everything in between.

The Venue:

Kyle and I knew we wanted to get married in the Fall (my favorite time of year) and didn’t want to wait over a year to be husband and wife.  We started shopping for venues in January, which in a popular area like Charlotte, is a bit late to be getting in the game, especially if you want a wedding on a Saturday evening.

I emailed countless places within a 50 mile radius that appealed to me (and Kyle).  We didn’t want to have anything too cookie-cutter or traditional. We liked unique, but wanted something that could be used to having important events (like weddings) so we could avoid confusion and things could go as smoothly as possible. I read review upon review on The Knot, Wedding Wire, Google, Yelp, etc. to ensure that we would have the best experience possible. 

Due to limited availability, we narrowed our choices to three places:

 

Separk Mansion

While this was near the top of my list, Kyle was a little less enthused about Separk Mansion.  I loved the unique floors and fixtures of this venue in Gastonia (about a half hour from Charlotte’s city center). I have a strong feeling that fate intervened to prevent us from actually touring this location.  Our initial tour had to be cancelled due to my mother in law’s mom passing away unexpectedly.  We rescheduled to tour after we went to Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens.  Kyle and I ended up going to see the Mansion before our other tour just to look at the outside.  I knew I wanted the option of an outdoor ceremony.  While this location offered it, looking at the outside, I couldn’t imagine it for myself.  It was more like a yard than a true ceremony site, and it left me overwhelmed.  The parking lot also seemed small.  Since we are relatively isolated from our friends and family (primarily in NJ, MD, and FL), we knew we needed more room for cars to safely park off the street.  I still clung to the beautiful images and glowing reviews so were still planning to tour after we finished at the Gardens (especially since they had some great dates available)…

 

Alexander Homestead-

Looking at pictures, I couldn’t put them all together to “understand” Alexander Homestead until we saw it in person.  Was it a house? Barn? Garden? This Charlotte venue was elegantly charming.  I loved the old house, garden ceremony site, and barn reception area.  They were reasonable price-wise, all-inclusive, and willing to accommodate my vision.  We really loved this venue.  There were a couple little things that nagged us when we were trying to make a final decision.  We kept saying “we like it, but…” which isn’t necessarily what you want for your dream wedding.  Our hang-ups included- rain contingency plan was cramped for the number of people we were expecting and the chance for rain and unpredictable temperatures, the reception site was a beautiful barn (which wasn’t really what we had in mind for our “theme”), beer/wine only (I come from a large Irish family… need I say more? Lol), we wouldn’t necessarily be able to try the menu for the food (that was a big one), and lastly, while the offer to customize was there, most of what we would have would have been picked out from a binder (centerpieces, bouquets, etc.) and I wanted more than that.  I would recommend this to anyone looking at venues in the Charlotte area, though!  It is so lovely and it would be perfect for the right wedding!
 

Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens-

Christi Falls Photography

We have quite the story with the DSBG.  I emailed them and was told to schedule a tour for the location in Belmont (a little over a half hour from Charlotte’s center) and that would be in about three weeks.  I was warned that there was only one Saturday evening available for the venue (though they had daytime slots available- which happens while the gardens are open to the public) on October 15.  Kyle and I talked it over, but I knew that I really needed to see the place in person before I made a decision about booking.  We felt that if it was meant to be, it would still be available when we toured.  Less than four days later, we got an email that the date was gone.  They only had Friday evenings left for the entire fall season. We talked it over and decided to still go tour the gardens.  The day of our tour came and we absolutely loved it.  They had various special areas that could be used for ceremony, reception, cocktail hour, etc. and plenty of options to customize.  With the exception of catering and equipment rentals (which I will get to soon), we could pick our own vendors for everything from flowers to photographers.  We knew that this would be the perfect place for us to get married.  We asked about potential date availability and got the best news.  Our guide informed us that the person who booked October 15 had cancelled due to a music festival taking place at the gardens which would push any wedding that day back a half hour. We JUMPED on it and had our date and venue!
 

All three places were different and would be great for anyone planning weddings that might not be the traditional church, hotel ballroom, etc.  We are so glad we got to see a mansion, home/country, and garden setting to make the best decision for us.

 My advice? Ask questions both to your spouse and of the venues! Do you want extra options for unpredictable weather? Do you want to be more hands on or hands off? Do you want to have an all inclusive venue or a la carte? What kind of menu (food and bar) options are available for the space? Do they have specific vendors that must be used? Does this fit our vision? Can we see ourselves getting married here? Is there enough room for everyone we want to include? Are there accommodations nearby for out of town guests? Do you want your ceremony and reception in the same place?

These are just a few questions to think about and ask when touring potential spaces. 

 

I was not compensated for this post in any way.  All opinions are completely my own.

 

Where did you get married?

How did you decide on a venue?

Did you get a venue based on your vision or get a vision based on your venue?

Where Have You Been?!

Needless to say, I have neglected this blog 😦  It certainly wasn’t my intention to disappear for so long, but alas, here we are!  I plan on documenting my husband (yep, we’ve already gotten married) and my wedding over the next few weeks!


Like I said, we got married, and it was WONDERFUL!  We are almost six months in, and I still can’t believe I am married and Kyle is my husband.  We went on our honeymoon the morning after the wedding and got right back to reality.  I was lucky enough to have my wedding and honeymoon braces-free!  I’m a complete metal mouth now and things seem to be moving along.  I hit the six month mark at my last appointment so hopefully (if things keep progressing well), I should be all done with them by this time next year!


Being part of another family also gained me two nieces, with a third who joined the family in December.  We were lucky enough to go meet the new baby a few days after she was born and needless to say, it only raised the degree of baby fever I’ve had for… too long, haha.


I hosted my first Thanksgiving last year!  Our tiny two-bedroom apartment was overflowing with Kyle’s family.  We were joined by his mom, stepdad, two teenage half-sisters, and their friend.  I had some help by way of Fresh Market, but added my own dishes and desserts.  Needless to say, I enjoy being the hostess, but would be much happier in a bigger place next time.


Speaking of bigger place, we moved! We were given the option to renew our lease, but the rate was much more than we were expecting.  We knew we wanted a bigger place for family to visit us more comfortably, a larger kitchen for my sanity (plus the generous wedding gifts we received), and hopefully a yard or a better place for our dog, Bentley.  While we were sad to leave the Lake Norman area, we hit the jackpot of houses with our new home in Concord!   Not only did we get everything on our list, our yard is fenced in with a small dog house, has a patio and fire pit, and the location is great!  We are close to shopping and restaurants, and the drive (while about the same distance) avoids most of the congestion on 77 for Kyle’s (and my) job!  We plan on staying put until we buy (or if a dream job elsewhere comes along).


My job?  Oh yes, I am actually getting ready to start a new job next week 🙂  I am working part time for a very familiar company… Disney!  While not a career by any means, I am excited to have something for me that will help Kyle and I continue our pilgrimage to the mouse and love of Disney!
That’s about all for now! 

 

30 Flirty and Thriving… With Braces???

Since my wisdom teeth came in over ten years ago, I have been relatively unhappy with my smile.  I spent a good 3+ years in braces through middle school to only have those years nearly erased by shifting teeth.  Looking at pictures of myself, especially in the last few years, I noticed that I wasn’t really smiling with my teeth anymore.  All photos had me either open mouthed and excited (blocking much of my teeth), smiling with my mouth closed, or kind of zoomed out and only on one side of my mouth.


When I turned 30 earlier this year, I decided to start looking into smile fixes, specifically Invisalign.  I have seen several of my friends and favorite bloggers (Peanut Butter Fingers and A Healthy Slice of Life) find success with the process and thought it could work for me too.  They also mention that many of their patients are former braces-wearers and just want to get back to the perfect smile.  Before I could have a consultation, I had to have a LOT of dental work done.  While I don’t grind my teeth, I do clench my jaw.  Needless to say, it has left my back teeth riddled with tiny cavities that I had to have fixed (around 13 in all!!!).  My mouth has been poked, prodded, drilled, filled and SORE for the last two months!

When I finished all the dental work, it was time for my Invisalign consult.  I had those NASTY molds taken of my teeth and in two weeks, a digital week-to-week mock up of the treatment process was presented to me.  It was really cool to see a computer generation of my current smile to what it could look like 22 weeks later!  While the finished product was much better than what I am currently working with, it wasn’t perfect.  My front two teeth are a bit bigger and lower than the rest of my teeth (though not as bad as when I was a kid… flash backs of those spaced buck teeth… yikes!).  And while Invisalign closed the gap and straightened them out, the lengths of my teeth were still relatively different from tooth to tooth. Not to mention, Invisalign is NOT cheap.  I knew that going in, but WOW, lol.

I decided to do more research on my own and look at patient reviews from people with similar issues as mine.  I was very surprised to see that while their providers recommended Invisalign and put them through the months (and even years) of treatment only to have to get traditional braces later to actually fix their smiles!  A few people mentioned that unless you are only dealing with crowding or gaps, you should go through an orthodontist.  They are more trained to work with moving teeth around than traditional dentists.  So, I called a local orthodontist.

I did not have the best experience with my orthodontist back in the day.  With a few exceptions, everyone there was miserable!  The hygienists were rough and not personable.  The orthodontist was about 10 years PAST when he should have retired and barely paid attention to what he was doing (seriously, he always watched TV while working on you and dropped things on you because he got distracted… not fun).  BUT coming from a small town, there wasn’t really a choice for where to go.  And all in all, the finished product was great and for about 5 years after, life was good!

The orthodontist I found was NIGHT AND DAY a different experience… even from the moment I called.  Everyone was so friendly and helpful.  They seemed genuinely happy to be there and to be helping their patients.  I went through all my concerns and what I had researched about Invisalign vs. braces etc.  They also confirmed much of what I had read about braces being a better option for me.  Since I am getting married in a month and a half, I was concerned about my smile and wanted to get a start to maybe improve my smile by then… but I did NOT want braces in my pictures (call me vain, but #sorrynotsorry).  They mentioned that braces could help move my teeth faster for more improvement by then AND they could remove them right before the wedding and put them back on after the honeymoon.  SOLD!

Braces have come a good amount of way since I had them almost 20 years ago.  I have ceramic ones which are relatively clear aside from the bar going across (which right now is thicker than it will be when the braces get put back on).  The gap in my front two teeth is already GONE… and it hasn’t even been a week yet!  Unfortunately, since they are trying to do a lot in a short amount of time, I was warned I will be in a good amount of pain and for much longer than if I was just getting regular braces in a normal timeline.  Since I have been in and out of the dentist a LOT in the last few months, not being able to eat normal food has been pretty much the norm… only now I also have to be careful with the braces, not just pain.  But I am very excited to see where my teeth will be in October for the wedding, and then again in a year or so when I finish up!


Here’s to a lifetime of smiling!

 

Have you had braces or Invisalign?

How old were you?  

Any two (or three+) timers with orthodontics?