Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Good Eats

Before we rush headlong into the Christmas season after the turkey leftovers are put away in a couple days I have to share a delightful dinner Hubs and I had one fall evening at a great little place called Grits and Groceries.

First, take a look at this menu:
Butternut Squash Soup
Stuffed Oysters
Roasted Pears with Prosciutto
Celery Root and Beet Salad

Pumpkin Muffins
Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples
Stuffed Pork Loin
Beef Ribs

Pear Walnut Cake with whipped cream and caramel sauce

Welcome to Grits and Groceries, a little restaurant in the middle of NOWHERE. Seriously. And so worth the drive.

Oh, the memories...of food so ridiculously good. There's the celery root salad in the back on the left, the stuffed oysters in the back on the right and right up front there are some luscious roasted pears with some luscious prosciutto...luscious, I tell you.

Just one more look...

I went back for seconds on this soup, and that's a big deal because I was rationing myself big time so I'd have room for dessert. It sounded so simple, but it was so warm and fragrant and comforting...yummmmm

I think this was called something much more fun than "Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples", but I can't remember...all I remember is that it was GOOD. There are some raisins in there, too. So simple and lightly sweet.

The ribs, oh the ribs. I even skipped the pork loin because those ribs demanded my attention. They were lightly spicy and tangy and tender.

This is Tephanie! She waited on me the very first time I went to Grits and Groceries almost 2 years ago, so she is my favorite of all the great waitstaff. She's so sweet, doesn't meet a stranger and is not shy with the menu recommendations. (There is a bit of a funny shadow on the right side of her face because the sun was setting off the left side of the frame when I took this picture.)

And here is Six Chickens and A Beer "THE Upstate Band for Celtic, American, Honky-Tonk and Swing"! They were GREAT and added so much to the evening. The music was easy to listen, too and you couldn't help but tap your toes or bounce your leg or something. At some point during dinner I looked around at my sweet hubs, my plate full of delicious food, my ears full of music and was so glad to be alive.
You can listen to a little bit of the great music and see me chowing down in this video and this one, too (which is a little dark as the sun was almost gone).
I am so grateful to Grits and Groceries for creating such a relaxing and inviting atmosphere. They don't just feed us full of yummy stuff; they make the soul feel nice.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pink Saturday!

I am still pretty obsessed with skydiving since I did my first tandem jump 2 weeks ago, so what better than some pink stuff for jumping out of an airplane??

I'd like to start with a moment of silence to thank that parachute over Chuck's shoulder there, the very one that brought me floating back to Earth just minutes before this picture was taken.

Here's a sweet parachute on Flickr.

Ooo, and I like this one, too.

And if I'd been wearing this pink jumpsuit I feel sure I would have been brave enough to keep my eyes open during freefall.

Happy Pink Saturday!

Zombie Swap!

Halloween has come and long gone, but I have to share the goodies that Tan of Enchantments and Giggles sent me for my very first swap.

What a haul! There's a roll of orange and black crepe paper festooning (I haven't been able to find anything like that in any of the stores near me...can't wait to use it next year!!), a bracelet, a tag, a cute card and unfolded there in the background is a little Halloween themed scrapbook that unfolds to be about 2 1/2 feet long. Its lined in several cute Halloween papers and just waiting for me to fill it up with little bobs and bits and my scariest pictures.

Tan made this toggle bracelet; how cute! The charm with the menacing eyes has a set of scared eyes on the other side. The large dark green bead on the upper left has a little black glass spider on it. Have you ever seen a more loveable Frankenstein?? Love that Jack O'Lantern!

Check out this tag! It is SO cute!
Tan has been recovering from an injury for several weeks and has had to stop crafting until her doctor gives her the OK. She was so sweet to send me these goodies.
Thank you so much for these wonderful gifts, Tan! Get well very soon!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TWD: Arborio Rice Pudding

Update 11/21/08, 11:36 am: This is the most updated post ever. Abby committed to holding her back feet up with absolutely no part touching the floor until the pudding thickened. She's got the strongest abs ever, I think.


Update 11/19/08, 6:17 pm: Breakfast was GOOOOD this morning! Hubs and I split the chocolate bowl, and both agreed it was a very good thing. The pudding was just on the soft side of set up in my opinion, but it certainly wasn't chocolate rice soup. I tend to like to have something to chew on, so the rice added just the right note for me to really enjoy the pudding.

I snuck a bit of the vanilla batch just now, and it was quite yummy, too: milky, sweet, just right. It seemed a little less set up which is weird. Breakfast tomorrow morning will be GOOOOD, too :)

Next time I will probably use a little less milk and have the mixture simmer somewhere nearer medium heat than low for the entire 50 minutes. I think that'll give me a bit more of the set pudding I'm looking for.


Update 11/19/08, 1:36 am: Answer: it takes milk a long time to boil. But boil it finally did, so I got the parboiled rice in there and set it to simmer for a while. By the way, my Wal-Mart is obviously stuck in non-foodie land because I could find no evidence of arborio rice among the scads of rice items. I got a bag of basmati (which I found was a reasonable substitute when making risotto, so I figured I'd try to make it work for pudding), but when I got home happily discovered about half a cup of arborio left in the pantry from my last Whole Foods run.

Now, one advantage of my complete slackness in regards to my TWD duties this week is that I got to learn from my fellow (responsible) bakers' mistakes as well as Dorie's own tip concerning the cooking time. I used closer to 1/3 cup of rice and set my timer for 50 minutes. At the end of 50 minutes I had this:

This just was not enough for me so I let it go for 10 more minutes at least twice, if not 3 times until I got this:

I figured I shouldn't push my luck (I've nicely burnt caramel with TWD; I'd like to keep milk off the list) so I poured it up into two bowls. Of course I had to do this to one of them:

These babies are now chilling in the fridge and if the lick I snuck off the stirring spoon is any indication, tomorrow's breakfast should be quite a treat.


Update 11/18/08, 11:22 pm: Good grief, how long does it take the milk to boil??


TWD: Don't kick me off yet! I have been slack in the last few weeks, I know, but I'm back, honest I am! I bought the rice last night and everything!

When I got home I got in a funk because the house is all messy and it was 9 pm before we got home (1st job ran long, 2nd job just added to the fun) and there wasn't time to do all I wanted to do (clean, blog, cook, shop, buy, wrap, snuggle, watch Dancing With The Stars, get to bed on time) so I went and got in bed and put the covers over my head. Best-hubs-ever came and hugged me and rubbed my back and told me I wasn't a complete slacker bum like I said I was. I really meant to get up and play the laundry relay he suggested we do (tackling mountains of clothing is much easier when there's a game involved) and get that pudding boiled and in the fridge, but I just wanted to pout a few more minutes...and the next thing I knew I woke up and it was midnight...sigh...

But today I'm making that pudding! And I'll post about it! And then tomorrow I'll eat some of it and post about it!! Promise!!!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008


This picture is NOT me, but it will give you an idea of what I did recently!!! This photo was taken by Les Duggins, Jr. and is part of this article on skydiving. The guy wearing shorts is Chuck Hammond who was my tandem instructor.

This past Sunday, November 9, I went skydiving!! Here I have posted a VERY LONG second-by-second account for any and all who would like to know every single thought that went through my head during this experience. Get out now while there's still time.

SKY DIVING!! OH MY GOODNESS!! Hubs surprised me with this for my 27th birthday. It wasn't totally out of the blue; we'd seen a bumper sticker when we were dating advertising a skydiving drop zone and agreed that we should "do that someday". I think I'm the one who suggested it because I honestly thought it was right up hub's alley; he was always up to new adventures (still is). Then a delightful lady moved into the office next to mine at work, and she suggested we get a group together one weekend to go skydiving! I was a tad surprised she'd said skydiving (I guess I figured she was going to say "go hiking" or something), and I said, "Yeah...Cool! Let's do it!" I found out she has jumped over 35 times and just loves it. Here Hubs had someone to grill for info on all things skydiving; he's so good to do his research. Wednesday night, Nov 5, at about the stroke of midnight, so that technically my Thursday birthday had begun (why in the world were we still awake??) he couldn't wait any longer, so he handed me a piece of paper that turned out to be the confirmation email from
Skydive Carolina in Chester, SC. I couldn't believe it!

Come Sunday afternoon I was at the drop zone; I had filled out all my paperwork, signing things like, "You understand that this is dangerous and it is possible that you could die?", and was outside watching as each plane load of people went up and floated back down. We could just barely make out the plane about 13,000 feet up. They would announce when the jumpers were in the air, but we couldn't see anything for a minute or so until parachutes started popping open out of thin air.

In the time since hubs had revealed the surprise I had watched several You Tube videos of tandem jumps at Skydive Carolina and, boy, were they exciting. Except I could not help actually squealing out loud in a very nervous sort of way when seeing people actually leave the plane. I was not ever scared for my life, just slightly nervous as I thought about the actual jumping out of the plane part; I figured falling through the air might challenge my sense of self preservation.

Our training seemed to last all of 15 minutes and consisted of us first watching a video of Skydive Carolina's attorney making sure we understood that we had signed papers saying we couldn't sue if something happened and if we did sue we couldn't win; and then one of the tandem instructors describing what would happen during the jump, how we needed to hold our bodies in the air, etc. He said we'd actually need to hold the toggles that steer the parachute for a minute or so as our instructors readied the harnesses for landing and that we might need to steer toward a certain point. I was like...what? Steer "toward a certain point"? What point? So I raised my hand (why did I do that? There were 2 of us in there with the guy...and I raised my hand??) and asked, "So...they'll tell us where they want us to aim??" The instructor's all cool and like, "Oh, yeah, it'll be no big deal". I worry A LOT about not knowing what to do in an important moment...I did not feel it was not a big deal :)

I was still calm after getting the jumpsuit on over my clothes (the guy who got us our suits suggested I should wear a small, bless his heart...I can't believe I went through the motions of getting the jumpsuit legs down over my jeans and getting my jeans all situated only to confirm that, um, no this behind is not fitting in a small, thankyouverymuch...thankfully the medium was fine).

Look at that; picture of coolness right there.

I was still ok when Chuck got me all harnessed up.

Boarding the plane: no big deal. That's Chuck in the white sweatshirt holding on to the back of my harness.

However the higher we got the more my stomach fluttered at the thought of that first step.
When we got to a certain elevation Chuck connected our two harnesses together with me facing out strapped to the front of him so snugly I couldn't draw a full breath, and honestly, it was reassuring. Around 14,000 feet they slid up the clear plastic door panel and people started sailing out...into thin air! There were a couple groups of solo divers that were doing formations or something because they jumped with their arms linked together. As people jumped and space became available Chuck scooted us down the bench (seating consisted of 2 benches, one running down each side of the plane's interior). I was getting more and more nervous and was not helping with the scooting, but Chuck was not giving me a chance to pause.
Much quicker than I would have liked we were crouched in front of the door looking out. I was absolutely freaking out in my head. Chuck had me lay my head back on his shoulder, so that when we jumped my head wouldn't snap back and hit him in the face, and cross my arms over my chest until he gave me the signal during freefall to put my arms out Superman-style to help keep us stable. We rocked forward into NOTHING ("Ready!"), backward into the plane ("And!") and then ("Arch!") WHOOSH Chuck launched us out the door. I was seriously going, "Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod" in my head...freaking out. I feel safest when I'm all curled in on myself, so even loosening up enough to open my mouth to scream was not an option. My teeth were clenched and my eyes shut TIGHT. I barely peeped maybe twice during the freefall part before Chuck opened the parachute. Saw a glimpse of someone else near us in the air and saw part of the ground and just could not handle it mentally, so I kept my eyes closed.

I didn't feel my stomach drop like on a fast elevator ride or on a roller coaster. You really don't have a sense that you are falling. You just hear and feel the overwhelming rush of wind (like if you stuck your arm or head out the window of a moving car) from beneath you. And you know that there is NOTHING HOLDING YOU UP! CRAZY!!
I was just holding on to my sanity long enough to get to the canopy ride when the chute opened. I wondered afterwards what would have happened if I had kept my eyes open. Obviously nothing would have happened to us, but I guess mentally I just couldn't do it. Maybe I would have really freaked out and by keeping my eyes closed I kept myself calm...dunno. Also I was congested already and was trying hard to pop my ears, but not being successful, and I HATE the feeling of full ears. At one point I could feel us spinning and knew that Chuck was doing it. He couldn't see my face or know that I was freaking out; it was just one of the fun things the instructors can do to make the experience even more exciting. I was not excited. I felt that last little bit of control I had ahold of slipping away so I waved my hands back and forth in a, "No more of that!!" motion hoping he'd see, and I guess he did because we stopped.
FINALLY Chuck opened the chute; he had said there would be a weird dropping and then jerking sensation after he deployed the chute. It takes a beat to open thus the little drop before the jerk. At that point we were about a mile up, going nice and slow, and we could talk. He asked me how the free fall was ("TERRIFYING!!") and how my ears were ("Bad") and told me to hold my nose and blow gently. Since I had come that day with head congestion, the normal ear clearing tricks weren't working (my right ear finally started to open back up around Tuesday night) but I did try and just decided not to worry about it. There was a lot of pressure on my eardrums though.
But there was no fear. The canopy ride was AMAZING!! I guess it would have been frightening on its own had it not been for my sheer terror during the free fall. The canopy ride felt like the safest thing ever. The view was gorgeous! Green trees and fields as far as I could see. Chuck pointed out the field where the final battle scene in The Patriot was shot. He pointed out the sunset over my shoulder (we were the last plane load of the day right near sunset) and the faraway glint of light off the buildings of Charlotte, NC. He pointed out the runways of the drop zone. They looked so short, yet they were each a mile long. He had me take the toggles, and it really wasn't a big deal...I get so worked up over nothing sometimes. Pull on the right strap to turn right and the left strap to turn left. He had me put them both all the way up and then pull them all the way down, and we came to a virtual standstill in the air which was weird. We did a practice landing while we were way up high where he had me pull my legs and feet up in front of me (oh why haven't I been working on those ab muscles??) I guess so they wouldn't drag on the ground and make us face plant. He took the toggles back and did a couple deep swoops one to the right, one to the left and those made me a little nervous. I asked him if, after 12 years (you know that was one of my first questions to him! And sir, just how long have you been doing this??), this ever got old and he said not with tandem students.

If you click on this picture to enlarge it you can see about 11 little tiny parachutes. One of those is probably me!!

2 of the tandem jumpers from my plane load. The one on the right could be me, but I can't really tell...I don't remember being this close to another chute, though.

Before I knew it we were coming in for our landing which was flawless! Tandem landings tend to be of the sit down variety, sliding to a stop unless the wind is right for a stand up landing. We did do the sit down landing, but it was so smooth. I had seen a couple earlier in the day that definitely seemed to land with a "whump!" that didn't look too comfortable on the behind.
We had paid to get a video (got to have me a video!) so Pete the video guy who filmed the freefall and then boogied down to the ground to film my landing came over and helped me stand up. Chuck started undoing the tandem parts of the harness and then my legs started shaking. It reminded me of January 12, 2007 when I was laying in the chair at the dentist's office waiting to be sedated to get my wisdom teeth cut out. I was so nervous and my legs were shaking so much as the doc probed that darn needle around in my arm to find a place to put my IV that my shoes were making this very loud "SLAPSLAPSLAPSLAP" sound on the vinyl chair. And I couldn't control it! That's how my legs were shaking after the dive. Though I wasn't scared, and I was actually having a great time doing my post-jump interview. The lady at work told me it was the adrenaline dump and that makes sense.

Chuck, me and Pete after we landed. There's my parachute on the ground! Love that piece of fabric!

Pete did ask if I actually opened my eyes, and I confirmed that, no, that had not been an option for me. He had told me before the jump that he would come up to me in the air and offer me a hand and if I wanted to take it I could and we would spin. He told me afterward that he never offered me his hand because my eyes had to be open for that part. I assured him that I was not the worse for missing the opportunity.

Here's hubs, me and Chuck. Please ignore the ridiculous face I'm making. I was laughing at something and the fellow taking the picture seemed a bit tipsy, and I wasn't sure I could impose on him to take another...sigh.
It was all amazing!! I definitely plan to do it again. My goal for my 2nd jump is to keep my eyes open during the freefall. I'll probably be a sucker and pay for a second video, because I want to be able to compare the two jumps. I would include a link to my first video, but a copyright violation issue surrounding the Tom Petty song used as part of the soundtrack is currently keeping us from posting it to You Tube. Hopefully I can get Skydive Carolina to send me another video with a different song in the background. Click here to see some random guy jump at the same place with my instructor...that's what my video is like! Except with me!

I highly recommend a tandem sky dive at Skydive Carolina! If you ever happen to be in Chester, SC let me know and we'll go :)
Update: Here's a link to the video of my skydive!

Pink Saturday! (There are a few hours left!)

These lovely roses were the last of the season to come off our rose bush just a few weeks ago. And by "our rose bush" I do mean the one that the Mr. brought home from the plant company we work for. The one that he then planted and tended and the one that I forgot existed. I get to enjoy the gorgeous roses though! And they smell sooo good.

Monday, November 10, 2008


NOTE: 11/12/08 I should point out that the card in question was my debit card. Don't think I said that.
Well we've just had something weird happen to us.

Yesterday while waiting to be tossed out of an airplane (TERRIFYING!! AMAZING!! Post coming soon) the Mr. had his laptop going using their free wifi (what, your local drop zone doesn't have free wifi?? How gauche), and he says, "Hey our bank account has this much in it...does that sound right? I heard the single number he said and assumed it was an abbreviation to indicate how many of the base units of money were in the account. "Yeah, that sounds right," I say scanning the sky as the most recent plane load of jumpers starts sprouting parachutes. It actually sounded high, but we'd just been paid and hadn't had time to fritter it all away yet (just kidding! We are very responsible with our benjamins...retirement accounts, emergency funds, the whole bit). He must have noticed I wasn't paying the closest attention so he started looking around and found several charges to gas stations that were hovering around an amount we might use if we were gassing up the H3 and commuting to work 2 states away every day. We do not own an H3 and thankfully the gas prices around us have come down to around the $2 mark so unless we were gassing up every 4 wheeled item we own (cars, lawnmower...gas powered radio control trucks??) plus the leaf blower, electric chainsaw, refrigerator, DVD player and those little light up earrings I got at Christmas last year there was absolutely no way we could use that much gas...or buy that many snacks.

Then he notices a couple major shopping sprees at Publix. The nearest Publix is an hour drive...and those commercials might make me weak in the knees, but they sure don't make me want to drive an hour (of course that's what I was doing wasn't it...I was filling the car up before AND after driving to Publix to buy 2 months worth of groceries...I just forgot to tell the Mr.!!!!).

I went through my envelope of receipts to mark the legitimate charges and hubs heads to the bank today. After an hour with a most wonderful woman at our bank he comes back with news of a total amount taken that would go a long way toward making not one, but two very Merry Christmases for us and our families. One of the late breaking charges in the "Point of Sale" category turned out to be a $200 spree at Bath & Body Works; he eyed me suspiciously when he told me that one. Just kidding! He was with me the last time I went to B&BW and saw the $7 candle holders I got at 50% off. Turns out the charges are coming from somewhere in Florida.

The strange thing is I did not lose my card, and I shred all mail with personal info on it. Maybe a waiter or someone else I gave my card to during a trip we took weekend before last wrote down the card number?? Who knows.

So weird! I thank God that he alerted hubs to all this before charges started bouncing. Our bank is filing some paperwork, and we should get the money back in the next few weeks. Also THANK GOD that we are in a secure enough financial position that this will not devastate us. We'll have to watch what we spend, but we'll be able to pay the bills and eat.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pink Saturday!

Happy Pink Saturday! This Saturday I am sharing some photos of the pink church you saw in some paintings I featured in a previous Pink Saturday post.

This is Trinity Episcopal Church in Abbeville, SC. This little church is 145 years old. It is open to visitors, so drop by if you are ever near Abbeville.

This is part of the archway over the front door.

You can see that the years have left their mark on the exterior. The pink is still there and going strong!
Have a great rest of the weekend!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Birfday!

Today I am 27 years old! I just can't help but feel special on November 6. I grew up in a family where birthdays were recognized with parties and gifts or a special dinner at any restaurant the birthday boy or girl chose. And people are so nice to you on your birthday!

My sweeter than sweet hubs made my day when he surprised me with a birthday cake he made! Check this out!

Look how smooth that icing job is! He rigged up his own rotating cake stand with a small lazy susan and one of those little rubbery grip pads one can use to get the pickle jar open. The pad kept the parchment under the cake from sliding around when he turned the stand. He is so smart!

And boy, was that cake good. The people at work raved.

To top it all off, this Sunday afternoon he is taking me SKYDIVING!!! OH MY GOSH!!! We have been talking about skydiving for YEARS, and he decided to surprise me for my birthday this year. I have never done anything like this (bungee jump, hang glide, parasail...nothing!) so I am psyched...and nervous! I'll let you know how it goes!