December 30, 2011

A Look Back at 2011

2011 was a year filled with growth and change. Possibly, the most "change filled" year of my life.

We got married in April in Charlotte, N.C. surrounded by family & friends from all over the country.

                             Photo by Rhonda Danner
Our niece, Madelynn was born in October. I snapped this photo when we got the chance to meet her in November.


Penelope joined our family. She has kept us very busy... Are we the only ones with a crazy-ass dog? Please, tell me that we are not alone.


 The Packer's won the super bowl (my cheese head husband made me mention this). Oh, did I forget to disclose that Jake became an NFL team owner? My parents bought him Packer's stock for Christmas!


We traveled to Georgia, New York, D.C, Hawaii, Pennsylvania (and all of the states on the way), Wisconsin (three times) and Colorado.


I started this here blog of mine in September. I am still amazed at how much blogging has been a catalyst to. Starting No Place Lyke Home has heightened my passions for photography, cooking, crafting, decorating and writing. The most exciting part; I have made new blogging friends and have reconnected with old "real life" friends.

Thanks to all who have followed my journey in 2011. I hope to see more of you in 2012!

December 29, 2011

Our Love Story Chapter II

The second chapter of our love story starts on my first day of 8th grade. If you missed the first chapter, you can find it here.

After a mere 3 weeks since our break up, I was not looking forward to heading back to school in September. My stomach turned at the thought of seeing Jake (my newly ex boyfriend) on a daily basis.

I had decided that if I kept my head down in the hallway, I could make it through the first day of school without any awkward run-ins. As I walked into first period science, I noticed that Jake was in my class. It was a fairly large room, with two-seater lab tables. As fate would have it, our teacher had assigned seats alphabetically (our last initals were K and L). Jake and I would be lab partners for the entire year.

For the first few months of school, I did my best to win Jake back. I loaded up on Tommy Girl perfume and slathered on Limited Too roll-on glitter. I remember intentionally singing Coldplay songs under my breath (one of his favorite bands at the time) hoping that he would hear me and remember how much he loved me.

8th grade came and went with very little non-science related conversation between the two of us.

I dated a few other people and tried to move on from Jake. Eventually, we repaired our friendship and were able to hang out in the same circle without feeling uncomfortable.

After being friends for a while, we started to realize that we both wanted more from each other. At first, we tried to be "together" without a title (does this ever work?). Towards the middle of high school, we officially got back together. We went to Junior and Senior prom together and spent lots of time cruising around in Jake's sweet ride, a teal 1992 Dodge Dynasty (it was '04/'05 at the time... Also worth mentioning, we did not actually take this car to prom).

During my Junior year, my parents made the decision to move to Charlotte, NC after I graduated from high school. The magnitude of the move did not hit me at first, since I figured that everyone would be going away to college. I was excited for my senior year of high school and at 16, a year-and-a-half felt like a lifetime away.

Things started to become more real when I began applying to colleges in the Southeast, while all of my friends applied to schools in the Northeast. Jake decided on SUNY Cortland (not too far outside of Syracuse, NY) and I chose The University of South Carolina (Columbia, SC). A mere 830 miles away from one another.

Our senior year was a whirlwind; football games (Jake was on the team), parties, dances and lots of time spent together. After my parents moved to Charlotte, I stayed in New York for the summer. Without my permission, August came. It was time for me to leave everything that was familiar to me behind.

Jake drove to Charlotte with me so that we could spend a week together before I started school. We talked about what a long distance relationship would mean, and ultimately decided to take things day-by-day. We did not want to put too much pressure on one another, but breaking up didn't feel right.

In a crowded airport we said goodbye. As we drove away, I sobbed in the car with my mom. Immediately following the airport, my mom took me to the DMV to get my SC driver's license. As if driver's license photos aren't heinous enough.

December 27, 2011

Images of Christmas

This Christmas we were surrounded by lots of beauty. Beauty in my mother's gorgeous decorations, in the wonderful food that our family prepared together and especially, in the excitement of our niece, Addie. I will let the images that I captured do most of the talking...

 

My husband, Jake, with our niece, Addie.
Addie made our place cards for our Christmas eve table
My poor mom was sick with Pneumonia. Addie was very concerned about her "Gigi".
Addie, in a circle of all of her presents. She is slightly spoiled by all of us ;)
Jake and I were in charge of Christmas morning brunch. I made gingerbread Belgian waffles and sausage and Jake made the famous Hotel Fremont Bloody Marys.

One of my favorite aspects of photography, is that it allows me to pause and take in the surroundings that I too often take for granted. This weekend was especially beautiful, hence the photo overload.


December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

 The mistletoe is hung, our tree is lit and our presents are finished being wrapped (okay, that is a lie - almost finished). Now, it is time to enjoy my favorite part of the holidays, being with family. 

This year we are spending Christmas with the Lyke side of our family here in Charlotte. My mom has an unbelievable menu planned for Christmas eve and Christmas dinner. I will be sure to post some photos. I am excited because this is the first Christmas that our niece, Addie, really understands what is going on.  It is so much fun experiencing Christmas through the eyes of a child, it really makes everything feel more magical.

We will miss the Koneman side of our family, and are especially sad to miss our niece, Madelynn's first Christmas. I wish that we all lived closer together!

Most of all, I am looking forward to our first Christmas as husband and wife. We spent many holidays apart when we lived long distance, so the greatness of being "together" with the person that I love most is not lost on me. 

I hope that all of you have a wonderful holiday filled with lots of love and warmth!

 

December 22, 2011

Recipe: Cheddar IPA Soup

I apologize for being M.I.A. lately. Let me make it up to you with an easy and unbelievably delicious winter recipe. Serve this as a starter to a festive meal or as lunch for out-of-town holiday guests and you will surely hear rave reviews.


Cheddar IPA Soup 
Recipe serves 4

Ingredients: 
2 12 oz. cans/bottles of beer- I recommend a high quality hoppy IPA (India Pale Ale)
1 qt. heavy cream
2 tbs. flour
1lb grated cheddar cheese (the sharper the better)
1/3 cup melted butter
1/8 tsp. ground white pepper
1/4 tsp. salt


Instructions:
Heat melted butter on stove top and whisk in flour to make a roux. Cook until golden. Meanwhile, boil beer on a separate burner. Once beer comes to a boil slowly whisk in the roux (butter/flour mixture). Once thickened, add cream and bring to a low boil. Slowly add cheese until melted, continuously stir until smooth and fully melted. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. I also added lemon zest and a bit of nutmeg for added flavor. 

Serve with croutons. I made mine from a rosemary bread cut into large squares, topped with olive oil and Parmesan and toasted in the oven.

*Recipe adapted from The Grafton Inn

December 5, 2011

Images of the Weekend

This weekend made my heart smile. We decorated our Christmas tree (sans the bottom 3 feet, since little Miss Penny likes to attack our ornaments) with holiday tunes on full blast.

 

I threw a surprise 25th birthday party for my husband, with the help of my amazing mama. We had friends, family and neighbors over to our house for the Packers game. We made a bunch of food; Greek appetizers including veggie skewers topped with feta, lots of different Mediterranean and middle eastern dips with pita bread and pita chips. For dinner we had a big pot of chili with cornbread (my mom makes theee most amazing cornbread). For desert we had a "Milk & Cookies Bar" with chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies, peanut butter blossoms, lemon bars and the most fudgey chocolate peanut butter brownie cake. I served all of the sweets with ice cold regular, strawberry and chocolate milk. There aren't many photos from the party, because I was busy setting up and hosting - but here are a few that I was able to snap...


    (It was an intense game!)

My favorite part of the weekend was once all of the party guests had left... Jake hugged me so tight and thanked me with tears in his eyes. He said that he felt very special to have everyone there for his birthday. It felt so good to surprise a man that never asks for a thing and is the sweetest, most genuine person that I know.

December 1, 2011

Recipe: Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara was one of my favorite dishes to eat while I lived in Rome for a semester. A definite comfort food, this dish is easy to make and packs a lot of flavor. I made this for the family during our trip to Wisconsin and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. The recipe below is slightly adapted from the Food Network's Tyler Florence. 

On a side note, I realize that I have not posted many healthy recipes here... I think it is fair to say that comfort food reigns supreme over here at No Place Lyke Home. My brother-in-law and I joked during Thanksgiving that if we opened a restaurant we would name it, "Sh*t Slathered in Butter". Sounds delish, right? An homage to Paula Deen.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta or slab bacon, cubed or sliced into small strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped

Directions 

Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready when the sauce is finished; it is very important that the pasta is hot when adding the egg mixture, so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm (as they say in Italian "al dente.") Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce if you wish.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Add the pancetta (or bacon) and saute for about 3 minutes, until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered. Toss the garlic into the fat and saute for less than 1 minute to soften.

Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the bacon fat (very healthy ;)). Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the egg/cheese mixture into the pasta, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble (this is done off the heat to ensure this does not happen.) Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency. Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt. Mound the spaghetti carbonara into warm serving bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Pass more cheese around the table. 



Buon Appetito!

November 29, 2011

Snapshots from Thanksgiving

We spent Thanksgiving this year in Wisconsin with Jake's side of the family. It was a really great trip filled with quality family time, lots of laughs and tons of food. 

(A little background that may make this post easier to understand... You might be wondering where Wisconsin comes into the picture. Jake's parents both grew up there and all of his extended family lives there. Jake and I grew up together in Upstate New York, and his parents moved back to Wisconsin after we graduated from high school. Jake is the youngest of four- his siblings from oldest to youngest are Zach, Adam and Sarah. Zach is married to Jenna and they just had Madelynn, the first grandchild on the Koneman side of our family. Fewf, that was a lot of side information!)

My mother-in-law, Joyce, told us that we were going to see Adam Sandler's not-so-critically-acclaimed movie, Jack & Jill, and surprised us while we were out on the street with tickets to the traveling Broadway show of Les Miserables. The pic below was taken after she revealed the trick she had up her sleeve. 

      (My Mother-in-law, Joyce, and I)

      (My sisters-in-law, Sarah and Jenna with my mother-in-law, Joyce.)

 We had Thanksgiving dinner at The Hotel Fremont, Jake's parent's restaurant/bar/hotel that they own on the Wolf River. They were closed for the holiday, so we had the place to ourselves. My brother-in-law, Adam, and I cooked all of the food except for the turkey, which my brother-in-law, Zach, broasted (high pressure deep fried). All of the food turned out great! 

The photos below are of a cranberry chutney that I made (my mom's recipe), a salad that I made of dark greens, brown sugar toasted pecans, dried cranberries, apples and brie cheese with a poppy seed lemon balsamic dressing and lastly,  my brother-in-law Adam's slap-yo-mama-good cheddar sage biscuits (I need to remember to get the recipe!).

(Foreground - Jake's brother, Adam, background - Jake's brother, Zach cooking Thanksgiving dinner in the Koneman family restaurant's kitchen)
The absolute highlight of the trip was meeting our niece, Madelynn. She is such a sweet baby and we hated to leave her. I made sure to savor every minute that I had with her and of course, to take lots of pictures. 

(Zach, Jake's oldest brother/Madelynn's Dad)

 (From left to right brothers- Jake, Adam & Zach with Madelynn)

     
We were happy that we got to spend over a week in Wisconsin, since we are only able to visit a couple of times a year. It is tough that our families live so far away from each other. Especially, now that there are babies in the picture - they change so fast.

Do you have long distance families? How do you "split" the holidays?
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