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?

November 27, 2011

We're Back!

We just returned from an 8 day trip to Wisconsin to spend Thanksgiving with Jake's side of the family. We are busy cleaning, catching up on laundry and decorating for Christmas, but I wanted to post this photo of our little Penelope.

I am excited to share some more details from our trip, including some pics of our new niece, Madelynn, who we got to meet while we were there.

It was a great trip - but we are a little overwhelmed trying to get everything back in order.

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

November 16, 2011

Our Love Story Chapter I

A lot of my favorite bloggers have written really beautiful love story posts (some of which you can find here, here, here and here). Their love stories have given me a better idea of who they are and what they are all about.

I go back-and-forth with the concept of posting personal stories on this blog. I tend to be private with things that are close to my heart. After much thought, I have decided that I want to be more open and to use this blog to document many different facets of my life. I made this decision when I noticed a common thread that ran through the blogs that I really really love... Many of these women can post a DIY photo collage one day, and the next will write about their struggle with trying to conceive a child. It is this dynamic thread that runs through all of us as women that has inspired me to push myself to open up.

Without further ado, our love story...

To start, we will have to travel back in time to the year 1999. Jake and I were both 12 years old and went to middle school together in Upstate New York. We had a lot of mutual friends and probably met in passing a couple of times the year before. The first meeting that jumps out in my mind though, was at a local park that had soccer fields and basketball courts. It was fall and there was a chill in the air. Jake had a black ski hat on and his nose was running (funny which details stick out in your mind). I was interested in one of his friends at the time.

We became friends and would occasionally talk on the phone or on AIM (please tell me that you grew up in the generation of AIM) his screen name was JkBball50 and mine was Smileylyke a match made in heaven. Back in middle school, we had this strange ritual where you would ask someone what their list was. As hilarious as this sounds, you would list off the top 5 people that you liked in order of importance. Jkbball50 instant messaged me one day asking for my list, and I put him at number 4. This gave the kid some hope. He was very persistent from that point on - asking me to be his girlfriend about 5 times over the next month. 6th time was the charm and on October 28th, 1999 I said yes.

We started off pretty awkward, communicating through notes folded in a very intricate fashion written in pink gel pen ink. We pretty much did not talk in person for the first few weeks. Slowly but surely, we started to be less shy around each other and actually, gasp, spoke to each other face-to-face. Soon we were talking on the phone every single night and hugging in the hallway at school! Big steps. In December on Jake's 13th birthday we had our first kiss.

What happened next was very unexpected. I actually liked him. Like, really liked him. Dare I say loved him. Are we capable of knowing what romantic love is at age 12? The Wonder Years says, "Yes!" and so do I.

For the next 10 months we were inseparable. But, at 13 when things start to get too heavy too fast something is bound to break.

To my extreme shock, Jake broke up with me a few weeks before we started 8th grade. How could this happen? I was the one in control of this relationship. I was the one that he had pursued.

It's not easy to learn at 13 that no matter what I did I couldn't force someone to want to be with me. I could not make him love me.

I have this vivid memory of calling him and sobbing into the phone to please change his mind. After he hung up on me I cried on the floor in my parents bathroom and prayed, asking God to please let Jake see us the way that I did. Dramatic for 13? I would argue that age is just a number, isn't it? My feelings were very real to me at the time. It is easy to dismiss someone for being young and naive, yet is there ever a time when your feelings are more pure?

I will end Chapter I with a page from my journal written in 1999.

 
The sad thing is that my handwriting really has not improved much.

Stay tuned for more of our love story. I hope to add a post each week leading up to Jake's birthday on December 7th.

November 15, 2011

Panko Fried Green Beans with Spicy Mayo Dipping Sauce

Last night the Packers were on Monday Night Football. Since we live in the south, it is a rare treat that we get to see Packers' games live on television. I made an easy football watching snack that was crunchy, spicy and satisfying. This is a crowd pleasing recipe that is super simple to make, try it out at your next get together!


Ingredients:

Fresh green beans, washed & trimmed
Flour
Eggs
Panko Bread Crumbs
Seasoning (salt, pepper, cayanne & garlic powder) 
Vegetable or Canola Oil
Lemon Juice or 1 lemon

Instructions:

Wash and trim fresh green beans. Put 3 bowls in a row - the first bowl will have seasoned flour (salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder), the next bowl will have eggs that have been whisked, the final bowl will be panko bread crumbs.

Heat oil on stove until hot enough to fry, if you have a liquid thermometer you can use this, if not gently toss a very small amount of flour into the oil- if it bubbles vigorously the oil is hot enough. Be careful not to get the oil so hot that it smokes. Use canola oil (it has a higher smoking point) if you are not used to frying.

Dip green beans first into the flour, then the eggs and lastly, the panko. Gently put them into the oil. They should bubble quite a bit, if they do not bubble, your oil is not hot enough. Leave these in long enough for the panko to become golden brown- turn them once. Use tongs or a spider to remove green beans and set them on wadded up paper towels on a plate or on a rack so that excess oil can drip off. Top with a little extra salt and pepper to taste and a squeeze of lemon.

Sriracha Dipping Sauce


Ingredients:
Mayonnaise
Sriracha Sauce

Start with mayo as a base. Whisk in sriracha sauce (we love this stuff in our house) a little at a time. I added quite a bit because my husband and I love spicy food.

Enjoy!

November 10, 2011

All About My Camera

Recently, a few of you have asked what kind of camera I use - today I will spill the details. 

A little background: I have always been interested in photography and took a couple of courses in college. Since getting my DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera I have been taking classes at a local photography museum. I think the equipment absolutely can matter, but there are also many techniques and compositional aspects that can improve your photos on any camera - even a cell phone. I hope to share some more photography "how tos" on this blog in the near future.

Some of the benefits of a DSLR camera include: the ability to change lenses (there are a few point-and-shoot cameras that are now offering detachable lenses), the manual capabilities which provide full creative control and allow you to tell your camera exactly what to do and lastly, the crispness of photos that a single lens reflex offers.

Now, on to what I use... I have a Canon EOS Rebel T2i. I have found this to be a great entry-level DSLR camera that is more affordable than some of the higher-end DSLRs. If you do not already own any lenses, I would recommend buying a DSLR camera with a lens kit included. This will be a lot less expensive than purchasing the lenses separately up front. My camera kit came with a good "every day" wide angle lens of 18-55mm and a telephoto lens of 55-250mm. 

My favorite lens is my 50mm 1.8 prime lens. In many cases, a decent lens can cost as much or more than the camera body. Not this puppy, I got mine for about $100 and I have seen them available for cheaper. Why is this lens so great you ask? The "1.8" in it's name refers to the maximum aperture size (or minimum number). The smaller the aperture number i.e. 1.8, the larger the aperture size, confusing I know. The 1.8 aperture allows you to take photos with the often sought after shallow depth of field (blurred background with the subject in focus). Since the lens is prime (does not zoom) it forces me to move around to create the composition that I am looking for in my photos. I recommend buying one of these if you are on a budget but want the ability to take more creative photos.


  My camera strap (pictured above) was found on Etsy from the shop A Diva & Three Dudes... I love it because it slides right over the strap that came with my camera, it is padded - which is a lot more comfortable on my neck and it has a small pocket to put lens caps in while I am taking photos.

I have a photography related wish list a mile long, starting with an external flash that I am hoping to purchase this week. I have seen the difference that it can make in photos and hope to share this with you once I start using it.
 
So, now you know what camera I use... Do you have any photography related questions that you would like me to take a stab at in my next post?



*Update: I'm now shooting with a Canon 5D Mark II and have added a few lenses
 to my camera bag a 50 mm f/1.4 and an all purpose lens that I love, the Canon L series 24-70mm f/2.8 which you can find here.

November 9, 2011

Fall in the South

Have you heard the nasty little rumor that the southern states do not have four seasons? In particular, that there isn't an autumn? I would like to dispel this myth with some of my favorite seasonal photos taken right here in North Carolina.

The first four photos were taken on a day trip to Raffaldini Vineyards when my friend Kristen came to visit. I had to include a snapshot from our epic picnic... We brought stuffed grape leaves, spicy Italian peppers, apples and sharp cheddar (great combo) but probably the most delicious of all - crusty bread spread with brie cheese and topped with prosciutto. Wash it down with a glass of Vermentino, perfecto!

The last three photos were taken in my parent's neighborhood which is on Mountain Island Lake here in Charlotte, N.C.




I hope this clears things up! We love fall down here in Dixieland.

November 2, 2011

Sharp Cheddar and Bacon Corn Casserole

This weekend I tested a recipe that I found here, and did not have to change a thing. It was absolute perfection. Very sinful, but what do you expect from a recipe who's first ingredients are bacon, butter and cheese? Below is the original recipe, with a few minor adjustments. I suggest using this as a side dish with a roasted chicken and pair with a less rich side dish, like asparagus or roasted veggies (something green, people!). We may even be making this for Thanksgiving. I photographed the finished product below. 

      Original recipe found on Pinterest pinned from here

4 slices bacon, finely chopped
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ cup flour
3 cups milk
4 oz. cream cheese, cubed
2 oz. Velveeta, cubed
2 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp. paprika
3 lb. fresh or frozen corn kernels
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste (wait until the very end to salt this dish- the cheese and bacon really add enough saltiness)

Heat oven to 375°. Heat bacon in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium heat, and cook, stirring, until browned, about 8 minutes. Add butter and garlic to pan with bacon, and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add flour, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in milk, and bring to a boil; cook, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 2 minutes). Add cream cheese, Velveeta, cheddar, and paprika, and cook until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in corn; season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a 9″ × 13″ baking dish and bake until top is golden brown and bubbling (about 40 minutes). I put mine under the broiler for about 5 minutes on low to really brown up the top. Let cool before serving.
 
Enjoy!
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