Thursday, April 17, 2014

Looking for What the Locals Know

      I am addicted to Tripadvisor. When we travel, even if it is only an hour from home, I check out the reviews of restaurants and if it is an overnight, the hotels and the listed "things to do". We love to find restaurants that feature local foods or something unique and if we can avoid the chain restaurants you find in every city in the country, we do so.  We took our time on the way home from my daughter's wedding. We wanted a little post wedding down time, so after staying a couple more days in Florida on the beach, we headed north. Our first stop was in Prattville, Alabama. We stay here often on our way to and from Florida, but we always grab dinner someplace very close to the hotel. We had read on Tripadvisor that the number one restaurant was Uncle Mick's Cajun Café, so we decided to give it a try. It was located in historic downtown Prattville, just a short drive from the area with all the hotels. We knew it wasn't going to be fancy, but everyone claimed the food was fabulous and it was!

     The Cajun food is authentic and served cafeteria style, on Styrofoam plates. "Uncle Mick" greets you and asks if you have been there before...if you say "no", you are suddenly given sample bites of everything and anything you want to try. I walked in thinking I was going to have one thing, but after my sample mind was completely changed. The plate above is mine. The Shrimp a'La Crème was the best thing I ever tasted (and I usually hate fish in a cream sauce). What you see is a half order of the shrimp and a half order of Crab Meat au Gratin, which was also delicious. My meal came with 2 sides and you can see I selected the deviled eggs and tomatoes with feta. 

     My husband had the Shrimp Piquant over rice with the Tomato and Feta and Corn Maque Choux and he loved every bite. Our dinners were both about $9.00 each. We took their Bread Pudding back to our hotel for later and it too was delicious. It was just like eating in New Orleans only we were in a small restaurant in Alabama!

     Our second night on the way home we spent in the Franklin/Nashville area. We have always loved Nashville, there is so much to see and do there. We met for dinner with a dear friend we hadn't seen in almost 30 years, it was wonderful. If you get the chance to reconnect with someone, take it!

     We stopped by The Mall at Green Hills in Nashville and we were greeted with the World of Wicked museum display. Wicked the musical was in town and this display was so much fun. We saw Wicked several years ago in St. Louis and it is one of my favorite shows. It was a small exhibit but there were original costumes and the soundtrack was playing, so fun!

     Our last night was in Paducah, KY. It isn't a long drive to our home from there, but we just had to make the short drive from there to Metropolis, IL to blow $20 at the Casino (we love Casinos, but only play the penny slots and only spend $20, doubt we will ever get rich). We did not love this Casino, it felt dirty to me. We won't go back. We also stopped to see the famous Superman statue.

     Once again I turned to Tripadvisor to find an interesting place to have dinner in Paducah. We would never have found this place without reading about it, it is in town, but down a road that appears to lead to nothing and there isn't a sign. Flamingo Row is a Caribbean restaurant and as we were driving to it, I wondered what we were getting into.
The outside was very colorful and the inside...was just fun!

     My husband had the Baja Bash, grilled chicken breast topped with Caribbean Mango Vinaigrette on a bed of coconut lime rice, with black bean salsa, avocados, salsa and topped with  toasted pumpkin seeds.  It was $10.89 and much prettier than my phone picture shows.  

     I had the Coconut Grove, fried coconut chicken tenders, bananas, pineapple, spring mix, toasted coconut, almonds, and Pina Colada yogurt dressing for $11.99. I  couldn't eat it all, it was so big. Our food was interesting and great. We would definitely go back.  
     I think it is much more fun to find those hidden spots, not the tourist spots. The food is usually delicious and the prices are often much less. The next time you have a road trip, check out Tripadvisor, Yelp or just ask the locals in your hotel or a store where they may find a new favorite place!
     I wasn't compensated by any of the above websites/locations, just sharing my opinions.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Here Comes Peter Cottontail

     A few bunnies have shown up around my house in the past few days. The baby above must have slipped away from her mama as she was sitting in the backyard for a while and we kept the big bad beagle away until she was gone, hopefully back to her nest. I really wanted to pick her up and cuddle her, but I knew her mother might not take her back if I did.  
     My other bunnies aren't nearly as cute, but at least I did bring a little Easter into the house. When we were in  Florida in March I found a William Sonoma Outlet and bought these cute little bunny plates. I actually did a tablescape, not for the blog, just for me. It had been a long time and I forget how nice it makes the house look to have a pretty table.

     The only new items are the bunny plates. I had the egg shaped placemats and matching napkins, the flatware I have used many times and the dinner plates are Fiesta. I used my favorite garage sale wine glasses and that was it.

This is my favorite plate!

     The centerpiece is a basket (of course, it is Easter). I used silk flowers that I already had and tried to make them look as real as possible. I added a few eggs and a moss bunny to create a natural, simple look for the table.

     I think it is easy to forget that not all tablescapes have to be elaborate or expensive. Keeping it simple is quick and easy and it is a great way to add a seasonal look to your home without a major decorating project.
     Blogging has obviously taken a back seat to life these days. We have taken on a major project at our house. We are cleaning out, re-packing, decluttering and getting rid of almost 40 years of stuff. We know that an early retirement is coming in the not too distant future and along with that will be a house sale and a major move. We knew we had months of work ahead of us, so we decided to get started. Our first project has been Christmas things. While all of you have been decorating for Easter, I have been going through about 100 boxes of Christmas decorations. Many of our things were already in tubs, but some were in boxes. We are getting rid of things that we either don't use, don't like, or have had for so many years we are just sick of them. The things we are keeping are being packed into tubs and labeled. My goal was to get things down to a dozen tubs, it didn't happen. We probably did cut the Christmas collection in half. Progress. Next up, our kid's toys that they saved. I am loaded with Ghostbusters, Raisin Men, Ninja Turtles, Fraggle Rock, Tonka, Legos, Dolls and all the things that go with them and who knows what else.
     The problem we have is that our kids don't have the room to take their own things and they also don't want us to get rid of them. We also have many, many family pieces that pull at my heart strings. I read an article that was about the challenge of my generation getting rid of things. We have items that belonged to our parents and grandparents (and great-grandparents), we have things that our children want but can't or won't take and of course our own things. One of the quotes was, "that sweater your mother gave you isn't your mother" and I am trying to remember that as I go through things. It is only "sort of" working. I am too sentimental but I truly am trying to only keep things that really mean something to me. This is an all consuming task, but one that needs to be done and should have been done years ago!
     Other than that, not much is happening in our world. We both got sick as soon as we got home from Florida. It took 2 rounds of meds to get me back to close to normal and my husband (who wouldn't call the doctor) is still not 100%. We, like many of you, have been trying to get our yard back to normal after the harsh winter. We mowed over the weekend when it was almost 80 degrees and tonight we have snow in the forecast. Crazy!
     I will be catching up with some of you over the next few days. If there is a post you really want me to read, leave it in the comments please!

Monday, March 17, 2014

So Raise Your Glass!

     When you write a blog, you have to really think about what you are going to post. How much is too much to share? Where do I draw the line between instructional and personal. Why do I write in the first place? Is to just show that I have a little skill with decorating and cooking or is it because I think that maybe, just maybe, if I am lucky...what I write might make a difference for someone. Maybe it is both and maybe that will happen today.

     My daughter got married a few days ago. It was a glorious day in Florida at the Disney Vero Beach Resort. The ocean is just behind the greenery in the picture above, it was 5:30 in the evening and the temperatures were in the high 70's. With the exception of becoming a mother, I have never been happier than I was that day. Actually, for several days!


     My daughter's bouquet was white hydrangea and white roses. The stems were wrapped in lace from my wedding veil and netting from my mother's wedding veil. A silver starfish was attached to the lace. Just before the ceremony we added a rhinestone brooch that belonged to my husband's mother, so she had a little bit of all of us with her. 


     There were 65 guests. When a wedding is that small, everyone there is very special to the couple. The weekend was full of happy tears. Instead of the Bridal March they entered to Bruno Mars, Marry You, After the ceremony,we had hors d'oeuvres and drinks out on the croquet lawn.

The colors were the colors of the water. 
Turquoise, sea foam and cobalt blue. 

 The tables were kept simple, 
 sea glass, candles and live white orchids. 


There were several little "pops" of color as you will soon see. 

     Disney did the cake and the cupcakes. We knew they were going to be wonderful but they were even better than we dreamed. 

     They used crushed graham crackers to look like sand. The cupcakes above were key lime with cream cheese frosting and white chocolate seashells.

     Vero Beach is known for turtle rescue. So of course there had to be a turtle cupcake. Chocolate, crushed pecans, caramel frosting and spun sugar "water" with chocolate turtles. The really nice thing is that everything tasted as good as it looked. We also had chocolate covered strawberries after dinner of mahi-mahi or filet. 

     My daughter's gown had a removable long skirt, so she could take it off and be in a cocktail length dress for dancing. I thought that was such a great design idea! I could stop writing now, and you would never know the "rest of the story". The traditional destination wedding you have been reading about wasn't all that traditional. We had laughed at how we never set out to be ground-breaking, but we were.

     You see, we had two brides. It was the first time for this Disney resort, although certainly not for Disney's other locations. The entire resort was involved and excited. I spoke with the General Manager a few days later and he said they really wanted to "get it right" and they certainly did. You see dealing with two brides is different. They both have their own ideas. My daughter was all about the beach, but my new daughter was all about rainbows. So, we had little pops of rainbow tucked in unexpected places. You saw the little rainbow treats on each table.

The cake surprised everyone! 

As the guests arrived they all got sunglasses. 
When the girls walked in, everyone had them on.

     The girls also both had on rainbow colored shoes.

     I feel so lucky to have another daughter and we couldn't love her more. You can see how excited she was coming down the aisle!


     The girls got through the ceremony, but their bridesmaids were all crying. You see, they love their friends and they know how happy they are. I had someone tell me that they were honored just to be a part of it. They exited to Sugarland's Stuck Like Glue!

     The bridesmaids and the brides came into the reception to Pink's Raise Your Glass and the party began. There was dancing, a photo booth and a few adult beverages! It was so much fun.

     So, while I know that some of you may find this hard to imagine, I had several people tell me how it was "just a wedding". In other words, it was the same as any traditional wedding. It was two people in love, surrounded by those who loved them. There were people there who had traveled their journey with them, friends from work, friends from home and family, all united in joy that these two incredible young women found each other.

     I don't like to draw attention, but someone told me that maybe this is my purpose. I hear stories of people who turn on their children when they find out they are gay and I just don't get it. My daughter was a little later than some to put the pieces together, so she certainly surprised us. I have to say that it made no difference in our feelings for her. There were things that concerned me about having a public wedding on Disney property. What if someone said something and hurt my child. It didn't happen. People were watching from the balconies, taking pictures and clapping. My daughter had her dream wedding and it was perfect. The world is changing and while I know that some may never agree with me, I truly feel that love is love and the change is for the better.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Here Comes...the Wedding!

     I know, I know...I have been the worst blogger in the world lately, but you should all be thanking me for staying away. I can barely speak in complete sentences, much less write them! My daughter's wedding is very soon and for those of you that have been through this, you will understand when I say that it is "all wedding all the time" around here. I have given up sleep, it seems as if the moment I close my eyes I start thinking of things we need to check on or do.

     Weddings used to be simple. I know my mother would disagree if she were here. I do remember how stressed she was for mine, but it was three days after Christmas and she still had a young teen at home who expected a real Christmas. I had a lovely wedding, but we didn't have a destination, favors, a fancy dinner, a DJ, or a photo booth and people simply signed the guest book and found their own seat somewhere. We sent out invitations only, no "save the date" and no web page. Well, times have changed.

     This wedding is going to be more fun than mine was, there is a beach involved and cupcakes (2 of my favorite things). However, helping to plan a wedding when you are 1000 miles away from your daughter and also planning all the things you need to take with you has almost driven me crazy. Let's just think about the shoes...flip flops for the beach, work-out shoes, walking shoes, flats, shoes for the long dress, shoes for the cocktail dress and I guess I will more than likely need my boots on just to leave my house! It might be hot, it might be, jackets, coats, long-sleeves, short-sleeves, panty hose aren't in style anymore but if it is cold they might be necessary...throw them in the suitcase! 
     Luckily, most of the table décor is provided by the resort and the florist, but not all of it...some of it is here, grab another box for that! Old, new, borrowed, it and the jewelry...mine, hers and remember we have two brides, add some more! Reservations are being made, dinners being planned, hair appointments, make-up and nails...all in a town that none of us live in. Can you see my brain spinning?
     Actually, we are good to go. My daughter got her gown back from being altered today and she says it is perfect. The ceremony is planned, everything is booked, my family is coming and almost all of their friends are able to make it. We are excited and ready to just have a good time. Of course, after this winter in Illinois, the fact I will be somewhere warm is certainly a plus!
     I really have had very little to blog about anyway. I haven't decorated a thing or set a table. We haven't been able to go anywhere because the weather has been terrible and I have only been cooking plain comfort food. We did escape one nice day to Alton, Illinois to see if we could find any of the eagles that come there in the winter. It was cold, but sunny and we were lucky to find a few of the majestic creatures.

We also had a wonderful lunch at My Just Desserts.

We both had the chicken casserole.

     They had so many desserts to choose from. My husband had the bread pudding and I had the apple praline pie with cinnamon ice cream. Both were just perfect. We will certainly go back there again.

So, wish us luck and good weather!
I am sure there will be pictures to follow!