Harry Potter Photo Op

Confession: Clark and I are HUGE Harry Potter fans. I’ve suffered merciless ridicule from friends who consider me far to realistic and level headed for such “childish” entertainment. But I love Harry, Hogwarts, the talking canvases, the funny looking professors, and most of all their enviable British accents. Ever since our Great Cheap Date “Into the Woods”, we’ve enjoyed reading fiction aloud to one another. We have already read half way thru book 7, so with the recent movie release of part 1 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we selected “Harry Potter” as our theme for this week’s Great Cheap Date Night Challenge #9.

We had high hopes of catching the matinee as part of our date, but one cannot be married to their plans when there are small children to care for. When naptime ran later than usual, we downshifted to plan B, and arranged to leave the kids with their grandparents while we found a quiet spot to sip coffee and read more Harry Potter. Simple enough, right? Not so simple. Considering that we are still in Canton, Mississippi where most local businesses and shops are closed on weekends, leaving a BP, a Dollar General, and a Piggly Wiggly as our only options for a rip roarin’ good time, we were forced to think creatively for our photo op locations. We were fortunate enough to find Union Street Books, a used bookstore that was still open although the rest of the square looked like a ghost town. We settled into two comfy armchairs in the rear of the shop next to the Home & Garden section. Within minutes we were reeled into the adventure of Harry, Ron, and Hermoine, forsaking our disappointment over the missed matinee and that fact that we still had not found any coffee. After gathering enough inspiration for our date nigh challenge, we headed to the Dollar General to pick up baby wipes and breath mints, but not before stumbling on the perfect photo op while leaving the bookshop.

 

Photo Op Exhibit A- The Sorting Hat

 

Photo Op Exhibit B—A magic wand (It was a Twirl Tunes Sound Wand that made all sorts of embarrassing noises when I waved it around.)

Photo Op Exhibit C—Clark’s make shift broomstick– a cinnamon scented holiday sprig

Photo Op Exhibit D- The Sword of Gryffindor

Photo Op Exhibit E—Harry’s spectacles

Who would have thought we could have that much fun at a Dollar General in Smalltown, USA.

Great Cheap Date Challenge #9—  Another win for Team Beasley!

Great Cheap Date Challenge #9

We are still in Mississippi recovering from what feels like a Thanksgiving feast hangover. Tomorrow is Salem’s 2nd birthday which means food, food, and more food. I’m so full, I feel like one of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade inflatables. So, for this  weekend’s Great Cheap Date Challenge I’ve been careful to select an activity for that doesn’t require any food at all!

“Photo Op”

“Make an afternoon of running errands, shopping, or just handing out more fun by bringing along a disposable camera to snap spontaneous shots. What are the strangest places you can find to document on film in the course of a casual afternoon? You may want to develop a theme, like Saturday afternoon fire hydrants, and snap pictures of each other atop every hydrant you come across that day.”

I’m cooking up some fun with this one. Can’t wait to fill you in on Monday! Have a great weekend sleeping off the turkey coma.

Where my Girls At?

I’ve been enjoying the day with my mother-in-law… no really…. I realize that few can readily express affection for relatives inherited by marriage, but I can honestly say that I LOVE my mother-in-law. We’ve spent the better part of the afternoon cooking, baking, and as a girlfriend of mine likes to say, “chattin’ about chit”. While I’m beginning to reflect on that for which I am most thankful, I have to pause and express gratitude in my life for the women who lighten things up when I tend to take life too seriously and who remind me that whatever shabby or unexpected hand life has dealt, one must never lose their sense of humor. Here are a few reminders from some of my favorite women that I like to keep visible around the house.

And my personal favorite…

 

Happy Thanksgiving, Ladies!

Getting to Know You– Savor the Flavor

Fall is slipping away evidenced by the piles of leaves accumulating on my front walkway. I am trying to squeeze every last drop of Autumn out of these final days, so here are a few Fall treats to savor in the coming weeks.

Sweet and Spicy Apple Butter

My friend, Kate writes a blog called The Kitchen Princess. I’ve been enjoying her Sweet and Spicy Apple Butter this Autumn, and I finally asked her to reveal her secret. It is by far, the best apple butter I’ve ever tasted. Thanks so much, Kate!

*Cottonwood Pumkin Ale

This Carolina Beer Company brew has been listed among leading seasonal brands, and I can tell you first hand, it is delicious! I first sampled it at The Dandilion Market in Charlotte, but, locals, if you’re lucky, you make still find a few bottles on the shelves at Harris Teeter, Total Wine, or Cost Plus World Market.

Caribou Coffee Spicy Milk Chocolate Mocha

This hot chocolate is made with chipotle seasoning which sounds disgusting but tastes AMAZING! You can request white, milk, or dark chocolate. I opted for milk chocolate, and I was not disappointed. The only chocolate treat I like better would be Amelie’s salted carmel brownies.

And finally…

I love all of their seasonal treats, but their hot cranberry cider and their butternut squash bisque makes me wish that Fall would last forever.

For this week’s Getting to Know You edition, please comment below with your favorite Autumn memory. Mine is obviously my wedding and spending my first Thanksgiving holiday with my husband on our honeymoon in Asheville, NC. I look forward to hearing about yours!

 

*(photo credit- Christopher Bartlett)

Tallest in Town

I missed you yesterday! My posts this week will most likely be a bit erratic since we are in Mississippi celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday with Clark’s wonderful family. Our children did not get the memo yesterday that thirteen hours in the car the day prior  automatically qualifies Mommy and Daddy for a next morning sleep-in. They were up at 5:30am CST. Strong. Coffee. But I had to fill you in on our Cheap Date Night Challenge #8!

Tallest in Town

“Do a little research to find the tallest building in town, then meet by the elevators after work and have a vertical adventure. This adventure is especially fun when the top floor has a view. If you are a fan of express elevators, you can conquer a few other buildings on the same date. And if vertigo hasn’t set in by this time, head to your corner cafe or bar to share whatever comes in the tallest glass they have. While imbibing, tell each other tall tales.”

The Bank of America Corporate Center is the tallest building in Charlotte towering over the city skyline with its impressive 60 stories visible for up to 35 miles from any direction on a clear day. It is not only the tallest building from Philadelphia to Atlanta, but it is the site of the fictional office tower, JSP funds, where Jack Black starred as Hal Larson in the movie Shallow Hal. Pretty cool huh? It would be if we had opted for the tallest building in town rather than the tallest building in town with a view. I love an ear popping elevator adventure as much as the next person, but for our 5-year anniversary, we settled for a view from a mere 27 stories up at a restaurant called Bentley’s on 27 at the top of the Charlotte Plaza building on South College Street. Swank. Everything was impeccably decorated. Even the hostess looked like an Olivia Palermo project. We chose two secluded seats in the corner of the lounge overlooking the city lights where we each enjoyed an apple martini and an appetizer sampler of bacon wrapped filet, calamari with Asian sauce, and ahi tuna with ginger shavings. Quite an upgrade from the chicken chili we had for lunch. I took the Havilland quote to heart last week and wore the tallest shoes I own along with the diamond and pearl earrings that I wore in my wedding.

This is actually one of my favorite shots from our wedding day, and I think it features the earrings quite nicely don’t you?

We reminisced over drinks and appetizers for the better part of 2 hours. Being that high above ground provides me with an arial perspective on life. I feel the same in an airplane window seat– somehow everything I think is so major before take off seems to take its proper place in the grand scheme of things from 30,000 feet up. It felt like we had a bird’s eye view of our married life while overlooking the city Saturday night, and while we both agreed that we have scaled some peaks and valleys, it occurred to us that our marriage is actually only in kindergarten. So, we toasted to not having it all figured out and to another 5 years of summits and free falls.

Happy Thanksgiving week everyone! We are enjoying our holiday Mississippi style…. casseroles and lazy boys, Baby!

How do you plan to celebrate your Turkey Day?

 

Great Cheap Date Challenge #8

Tallest in Town

“Do a little research to find the tallest building in town, then meet by the elevators afterwork and have a vertical adventure. This adventure is especially fun when the top floor has a view. If you are a fan of express elevators, you can conquer a few other buildings on the same date. And if vertigo hasn’t set in by this time, head to your corner cafe or bar to share whatever comes in the tallest glass they have. While imbibing, tell each other tall tales.”

This is particularly special date night for us since tomorrow Clark and I are celebrating 5 years of marriage! The night that Clark proposed to me, he took me to a restaurant called the Sundial Restaurant on the top of the Westin hotel in Atlanta. While I was enjoying the 360 panoramic view of the city, he was sweating in his soup because he was about to ask me to marry him. I look back on that night with such fondness, and so it is with great nostalgia that we accept this Great Cheap Date Challenge #8.

Don’t forget to enter this month’s giveaway to win a set of 52 Great Cheap Dates by Lynn Gordon by subscribing to my blog and leaving a comment below. You can post this giveaway on Facebook and Twitter and leave another comment below for an extra entry per post. A winner will be chosen on November 30th. Good luck!

In Sickness and in Style

I am posting a bit later than usual today. I believe I have the flu…. yuck! I’m sure that going to the  fashion exhibit on the history of platform shoes and Haute Couture at the Mint Museum the other night in the cold and rain has absolutely nothing to do with me feeling like pipe sludge today. If it did, I can honestly say it was well worth it. Christyn and I are following the Charlotte City Guide as featured on the Design Sponge blog, and the Mint Museum of art was our first stop. I am doped up on DayQuil just enough to give you a glimpse of the exhibit. Again, I’m not sure if the museum frowns on taking pictures, so in my attempts to be discreet, I ask that you please forgive the iphone quality of these images. A girl’s gotta do….

Most of these designs were are from the 1940’s. British shoe designer, Terry de Havilland said, “I love girls being taller and taller and taller particularly tall girls wearing platforms. That is heaven for me!” I’ve always been shy about wearing high heels because I’m already tall, but after reading this, I am more willing to break out those platforms!

The Converse sneakers I was sporting this particular evening don’t exactly look like these red ones.

These sandals are actually roller skates circa 1970!

This thigh high laced platform boot entitled “Fetish”, is described as a “gift in honor of pole dancers everywhere.” Well, there really isn’t anything more that can be said about that now is there?

“Couture is a marriage of design and material”– Christian Dior, Fashion Designer

A true couture garment is a one-of-a-kind perfect fit for a client to whom money is no object. For instance, an evening dress like this one might cost upwards of $50,000!!! It is said that less than 1,000 women world-wide can purchase true haute couture garments on a regular basis. Sadly, I am not one of these women.

Does anyone still dye their shoes to match their dress? I remember that was the thing to do in the 80’s. I love the white gloves!

If this exhibit comes to your town, I highly suggest you round up a few fashion lovers (or perhaps those who could use some fashion inspiration) to go see it. It will be worth your while even if an epic cold awaits you in the days that follow.

Amelie’s

I am enjoying a much needed mom’s morning out at Amelie’s Bakery in NODA. You can get a cup of tea in a dozen other places around Charlotte, and a baguette certainly doesn’t need to cost this much, but what you lose in fun money and gain in extra poundage, you make up for in unparalleled ambiance. The smell of baking flour with Edith Piaf’s velvet voice playing overhead and suddenly I’m transported to a cafe along the Champs Elysees. Amelie’s is open 24 hours which is perfect for an early riser like me who wants to squeeze in a mom’s morning out while the kiddies (and the husband) are still asleep. I tried to snap a few pictures this morning with my iphone without looking like a weirdo just out hunting for photo ops at 6am.

Whoever decorated this interior managed to find every chotchkie west of the Seine and somehow make it work. Next time you inherit one of your grandmother’s horrible antique lamps harkening back to Greek Mythology, pause and consider the possibilities.

Here and only here do I like French toile. This mosaic table turned out a little better than my knitting episode. Don’t ask…. I haven’t fully recovered.

I love the stenciling, the thick two-toned striped effect, and the plate clock face… like I said, your grandmother’s rummage sale and yet it just…. WORKS!

Just wave goodbye to your thighs and your dining out budget.

If you ever come to Charlotte, let me take you to Amelie’s for an overpriced croissant. You will see why it is one of my favorite destinations for mom’s (early) morning out.

Spa Date Night Menu Recipes

As promised, here are the recipes from Saturday night’s gourmet spa night menu… Clark said the chocolate cake with raspberry filling was the best dessert he’d ever eaten. I don’t know. Husbands are supposed to say things like that. You tell me….

*Firecracker Spinach Salad with Orange Sesame Dressing

Orange Sesame Dressing

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce (optional)
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

Salad

  • 6 cups washed baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup daikon sprouts
  • 1/4 cup julienned carrot
  • 1/4 cup julienned jicama
  • 2 tablespoons mixture of black sesame seeds and white sesame seeds, for garnish

*Cal-a-Vie Turkey Cheeseburgers with Chipotle Mayonnaise

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallot
  • 1 tablespoon chopped scallions
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 egg, or 2 egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • wheat germ (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Chipotle Mayonnaise
  • Homemade Sun-Dried Tomato Buns
  • 4 slices mozzarella cheese
  • lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle, for garnish
  • 1. Combine the ground turkey, shallot, scallions, garlic, egg, Worcestershire sauce, tarragon, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Add wheat germ if needed to bind the mixture. Shape into 4 patties. Grill the patties until cooked through.

    2. Spread the Chipotle Mayonnaise on the and add 1 turkey patty and 1 slice of cheese to each burger. Garnish with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle.

    *Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Filling

    • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup cocoa
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • Pinch salt
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk
    • 1 4-ounce jar baby food carrot puree
    • 1 4-ounce jar baby food prune puree
    • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1 tablespoon pure almond extract
    • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee
    • 1 whole egg
    • 1 egg white
    • 1 1-ounce square unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
    • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 1/4 cup nonfat fudge sauce
    • 1/2 cup raspberry all-fruit preserves
    • 1/4 cup nonfat fudge sauce

    1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat a 9-inch cake pan with canola oil. Dust with flour.

    2. In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

    3. In a medium bowl, combine buttermilk, carrot and prune puree, extracts, coffee, and eggs. Beat lightly to mix. Combine with dry ingredients, using an electric mixer on low. Add melted unsweetened chocolate and beat on medium until glossy and smooth. Fold in chocolate chips.

    4. Pour into prepared cake pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on rack and cool.

    5. Invert cake onto dry surface and slice in half horizontally. Spread raspberry preserves on bottom layer. Replace top and frost with nonfat fudge sauce. Slice into 16 servings.

    (*All recipes can be found at www.epicurious.com).

    Getting to Know You- the Music Edition

    Today I feel like singing.

    And so, I’d like to take a moment and reflect on some of my favorite records of all time, their seasons and the memories in their melodies…

    Patti Griffin- Flaming Red (Road trips to the beach and being the only girl traveling with a bunch of smelly musicians)

    Jill Phillips- Writing on the Wall (Georgia in the Fall and wondering if I would ever survive my post-college early twenties)

    Matt Redman- Face Down (Makes me thankful for my faith and for the people that I’ve encountered in my journey toward God)

    John Mayer- Heavier Things or Any Given Thursday (Also Georgia in the Fall, black licoriche candles and down comforters in rain storms, and wondering why in the world I ever wanted to grew up.)

    Damien Rice – O (Reminiscent of life after heartbreak).

    Frou Frou (The Garden State Tracks)– Falling in love with my husband (not to mention that this marked the beginning of my obsession with British pop)

    LifeHouse- No Name Face (So college in West Palm Beach…. years later, I still have every word memorized and I can still smell the salt water in the air.)

    It’s funny to me that these aren’t even necessarily reflective of my current musical taste, but they befriended me at some point along the journey, and so, this is my way of showing appreciation.

    For the music edition of Getting to Know You, please comment below and share with us your favorite record and any memories associated with it. I look forward to hearing them all!

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