Monday, December 17, 2018

Weekend Shenanigans

There are just eight days until Christmas you guys - can you believe it? I finished my Christmas shopping this weekend and I'm just waiting on two or three more items to arrive to be completely wrapped up... see what I did there? My weekend was pretty low key, which is not the way weekend normally go in the run up to Christmas - but I've loved having very little on my plate over these past few weekends.

Puppy snuggles!
The office closed at 3:00 on Friday and for whatever reason, all I could think about doing was going home, putting on my cozy clothes and lying on my couch with my twinkly Christmas tree lights on. That's exactly what I did - and Watson decided he'd like very much to crawl right up on top of me and do the same, ha-ha! I passed my Friday evening doing a lot of nothing... I had soup and a sandwich for dinner while watching an episode of Mr. Robot and then joined my parents to watch Christmas with the Kranks before hitting the sack. 

I slept in until shortly after 8:00 on Saturday morning, which was absolutely blissful - just like my cups of coffee! It rained almost the entire weekend and Saturday was a particularly dreary day. My Mom and I ran some early morning errands that allowed me to completely finish my Christmas shopping and when she dropped me back at the house shortly after lunch, I was able to finish up with wrapping gifts, sit back and admire my tree with all the presents under it.

I was a complete bum the rest of the day - and I have 0 shame about that. I watched The Star and Elf while I finished up my wrapping, then spent a good hour organizing and rearranging my closet before heading upstairs to have dinner. I shared a pizza with Watson (I promise I didn't feed my dog too much table food...) and then took a bubble bath, before settling myself in the front of the fire to watch more Mr. Robot - I'm halfway through season two!

Sunday morning was church and then lunch at the house, watching the newest episode of Outlander and just relaxing through the dreary Sunday afternoon. We met our friends the Hunts and the Eschelmans at Mission BBQ for dinner and then made our way back to the house for our annual Christmas celebration... when I first moved here, the oldest two kiddos were still so wee, Amelia was just a baby and Evie didn't even exist yet... now there are four of them, loud and wild and in the middle of everything!

Amelia is my spirit animal - she loves to take a good selfie!
It's a little harder to earn a smile from Evelyn - but I got one!
We exchanged gifts and the smallest two were enchanted by their new goodies - a Glo Worm ornament, a Country Critters cottage, a singing elephant, a pea pod baby and play ice name a few of the things they got. Amelia (she's almost 5...) decreed a new outfit "oh so cute!" as she held it up to herself and also informed me that the small pieces that came with her critter cottage were "a choking hazard"... I'm sure because her younger sister has a habit of popping anything and everything into her mouth... kids are so funny ya'll!

Chocolate cupcakes are life! That's the face of pure joy!
Silly little ladies...
Our Christmas festivities finished up around 8:45, I took a shower and then perused the internet/social media and the like for about thirty minutes before crawling into bed. Watson was in the center of almost everything all weekend - so much so that I discovered I took more pictures of him than anything else this weekend! He's certainly a spoiled rotten little guy; evidenced by him crying to have the fireplace turned on while we were watching TV on Saturday night - the photographic evidence is below, in the top row - center.

Watson's weekend activities...
And now here we are - the Monday before Christmas Eve, the last full week before Christmas and the second to last week of 2018! Time flies y'all - and I'm sure this week will be over before I know it!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Five on Friday

Don't panic - but next Friday is the last Friday before Christmas! How in the world has time passed this quickly? There are only two more Five on Friday posts (after today) for the year of 2018...which is just mind blowing! Having said that - let's get right to it!

One. Holiday Shipping Meme - It's funny because it's true... I'm still waiting on some packages and I recently discovered that one of them is coming via China Post. *face palm* Here's hoping that it actually arrives before Christmas - I definitely didn't know when I ordered it that it was coming from China. Oops!

Two. Ladies of Life Christmas Party - The ladies group I am in at church had out Christmas party earlier this week and it was a wonderful time. We had a wonderful time together, laughed until we cried and had some absolutely delicious food! I contributed to the delicious food with some peanut butter magic squares...and I've shared the recipe below. 

Three. Peanut Butter Magic Squares - These are to die for and absolutely so easy to make! Grab the recipe below and make these for your Christmas party; they'll be a hit!

Image result for peanut butter magic squares

- 1 roll peanut butter cookie dough
- 1 cup peanut butter chips
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup salted peanuts
- 3/4 cup miniature Reese's cups
- 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

1. Spray your baking pan (I used a 9x11 metal pan) with non-stick spray and press the cookie dough into the pan to form a crust. Bake @ 350 for 7-8 minutes to allow the cookies to begin to "set up" but not bake completely. 

2. Remove the pan from the oven and top your soft cookie layer with three fourths of the mixture of chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, peanuts and miniature Reese's cups. Drizzle the sweetened condensed milk on top of the bars and then top with the remaining mixture of chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, peanuts and miniatures Reese's cups.

3. Bake @ 350 for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut and serve.

Four. 2018 Top Nine - Do y'all use the Top Nine app to see what your top posts are for the year? The app compiles your nine most liked posts for the year into one image and I'm always intrigued to see what my pictures are. I had to look back to see where some of these came from - but it seems like most of them are from the back half of the year...except one.

The top row: Autumn storm clouds, my Christmas gift from Tiffany's (from 2017, but it arrived in early January of this year) and the snow in November.
The middle row: Saint Mark's Square in Venice, breakfast at the airport in Frankfurt and the snow in November (again) at an earlier stage.
The bottom row: Watson begging for macarons, Lindsey and I in Virginia Beach in July and a selfie I took before getting my hair done in late October, ha-ha!

Five. Weekend Plans - I'm not sure what I'm going to get up to this weekend... but it's supposed to pour all weekend long! There is a flash flood watch on my phone for the weekend, so I'm thinking whatever I do it will need to be an indoor activity? I am going to do some shopping tomorrow and get the last few gifts I I can hopefully get those all purchased, wrapped and then sit back and enjoy the rest of the Christmas season. 


That's all I've got for this Five on Friday post - I'm looking at an early work day and a pretty wide open weekend, which all sounds really nice to me. I've enjoyed the slower pace that this Christmas season has had so far. Y'all have a good weekend!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Watson Wednesday

Have you ever seen such a face? Always with the puppy dog eyes when he wants a bite of something to eat. How could you deny a face like that? And that sweetly placed paw that seems to say "hello - please, I'm standing right here waiting on a bite..."

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Lately I've Been...

What I've been doing lately - at least, on this blog - is writing recaps on my recent trip to Italy, but having finally finished those up on Sunday - I thought I'd shared some pictures and anecdotes from the past few weeks and weekends. 

The Christmas season is in full swing and all things red, green, cheery and wonderful are everywhere to be found! I'm spending my spare time wrapping gifts...and I'd normally be watching Christmas movies but I've gotten distracted by Mr. Robot, ha-ha! I've had some hits and misses with Christmas themed food items over the past few weeks...

Peppermint Stick Ice Cream topped with chocolate shell? It's divine!
Juniper Latte? It definitely tastes like drinking coffee with Pine Sol for creamer. *gag* 
I'm convinced that Starbucks head honchos sat around their brainstorming table and took a bet on how many brainwashed Starbucks clients would buy a latte flavored with juniper and sage...and I am one of the idiots that did. *sigh* Seriously - don't buy it. It tastes AWFUL. You've been warned.

Vivid mid-week rainbow at the office...
My sweet little pup in his favorite spot - curled up by the fire!
The first week of December was a movie weekend for me - seriously. After work on Friday night, my friend Danielle and I went to see Bohemian Rhapsody (my second time) for a girl's night. We had fried dill pickles, peppermint milkshakes and I specifically asked for the Killer Queen cocktail and what do you know...they were able to make it for me, even though it wasn't on the menu! Whether it be alcoholic beverages or deep life questions - you never know what you'll find out if you just ask!

Freddie being fabulous...and my fabulous Killer Queen cocktail. 
Saturday afternoon naps under the Christmas tree...
Saturday afternoon I went to see The Grinch - and I went on my own, which is something that has never really bothered me. Once a movie starts, you don't usually talk to the people you're with I've never seen the big deal. However, the woman I was seated next to loudly exclaimed "you're here to see the movie ALONE - you're sitting in that seat BY YOURSELF?!?" Talk about making a person want to crawl in a hole! In spite of her rudeness, the movie was an absolute delight and I enjoyed sipping my Earl Gray with Lavender and watching the antics of the Grinch - I'd highly recommend it, especially if you have kiddos!

Tongues out for rude people, ha-ha!
"Better" Beer & Canary Creams for watching Fantastic Beasts!
Sunday afternoon my Mom and I went to see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and we decided to get some canary creams and better beers from the themed menu! The canary creams were lemon sugar cookies and they were divine...but the better beers (no doubt inspired by Butter Beer) were only okay - it was apple cider, brown sugar and cream - but it was cold instead of hot and so it was a little odd. My Mom thought it was a lot odd and didn't touch hers after the first sip...but I finished mine! The movie was delightful and was a perfect round-up to my weekend of movies!

Sparkling trees & a dusting of snow...
It snowed just a wee bit the middle of last week - nothing really stuck at the office but once I came home, there was a gentle dusting covering everything that stuck around overnight and left everything looking crystalline in the morning light. We attended my church's Bethlehem Experience live nativity on Thursday night and I didn't snap any pictures but I did pet two donkey and was very tempted to steal a teeny pink and black speckled piglet, ha-ha! We set out after I got off work on Friday for Charlottesville to spend a little time over the weekend...

The ceiling of the Yurt - do y'all know what a yurt is?
This seems perfectly idyllic!
Such an epic sign!
We stayed in a yurt that had canvas walls and a roof but was heated and had a tile shower, kitchen and everything you'd find in a modern home - it was pretty cool - and it was really cool when we woke up on Saturday morning due to the drop in temperature through the night! Eek! We had breakfast at nearby Krecek Kakes, a little bakery we'd found on a previous visit to the area and then made our way to the Charlottesville Walking Mall to peruse the shops and eventually have delicious lunch at a little cafe called Revolutionary Soup! Once our stomachs were filled, we made our way up the mountain to Monticello for a Behind the Scenes Tour - which was quite neat!

Monticello - Home of Thomas Jefferson.
I can't resist a good photo bomb opportunity!
Can you see the ice on the fish pond? It was COLD!
Mulberry Row @ Monticello
Peeking around the door of the tower... watch post... I'm not sure what it was...
Selfie in the dome of Monticello!
Jefferson's granddaughters created a hideaway off the dome of the house...
The dome of Monticello reminded me of...the Pantheon in Rome!

Just chilling with TJ!
The tour lasted a full two hours and covered all three floors of the house - the staircases were seriously tiny and winding, but I couldn't take pictures of those! We were able to snap photos while we were in the dome of the house and our guide even opened some doors to show us the spot where Jefferson's granddaughters had made a spot to hide out and play, which was neat. I'm not sure how I feel about ol TJ though... based on what our guide told us, he seemed to be only okay at a lot of things but thought quite a lot of himself. Who knows though, right? History - still something of a mystery.
Pimento Cheese Fritters * Grilled Chicken with Macaroni & Cheese & Root Vegetable Gratin!
The twinkling lights of Gordonsville, VA!
So big & twinkly! *sigh*
Don't you just love all the Christmas sparkle?
Seriously committed to that holiday twinkle!
We had a delicious dinner at a find on Yelp - a place called Maya that was southern cuisine and absolutely delicious! I split some Pimento Cheese Fritters topped with Pepper Jam with my Momma and then for my meal I had Grilled Chicken with homemade ham gravy, macaroni and cheese and a yummy root vegetable gratin made up of carrots, sweet potatoes and Yukon potatoes! We perused a nearby Barnes and Noble and checked out some Christmas lights before heading back to the yurt on Saturday evening. 

The weather forecast for Sunday in the Charlottesville area was snow - and a lot of it! We'd planned to get up, maybe have brunch somewhere and then head home but when we all woke up around 7:00, the radar showed the weather bearing down on us - so we hopped in the car, stopped at the Burger King on the way out of town and ended up back home in time to head to church and hear the Watoto Children's Choir - which was spectacular!

The Watoto Children's Choir!
Dancing & singing & praising Jesus!
The Watoto Children's Choir is based in Uganda and they provide schooling for children, teach women to run small businesses so to be self sustaining and rescue abandoned children and give them a chance at a prosperous life, living their dreams. The choir was such a joy to listen to and the whole experience just filled my heart with warmth. We made our way to Olive Garden to have lunch and then headed home, to be joyfully greeted by my sweet pup!

Just taking a Sunday afternoon nap in the chair...
I passed the rest of Sunday afternoon cleaning up my room, rearranging my furniture, wrapping some Christmas gifts, watching the season one finale of Mr. Robot, loving on my puppy dog and just generally enjoying the afternoon and evening. My Mom and I watched the most recent episode of Outlander and then I happily crawled into my bed to read, peruse the internet a bit and get some sleep.

The new layout...
So - that's what I've been up to for the past few weeks! I can't believe there are only fourteen days until Christmas, can you? I've got to finish up my shopping this weekend, get everything wrapped and then sit back and enjoy the rest of the season!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Happy Birthday to Mom!

A very happy birthday to my precious Momma - she is truly a gift and I'm so blessed to call her mine!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Making Memories on the Mediterranean

We have arrived at the final post about my recent trip to Italy - although as I post this, I can't believe it's about a week shy of being a month in the past! Isn't it funny how time just seems to fly by?

We got up EARLY on Friday morning and made our way to the airport to catch our flight from Rome to Catania - a city central to the island of Sicily. If Italy is shaped like a boot, the island of Sicily is the football that is being "kicked" at the toe of the boot...and it's also where my younger sister has been stationed for the past four months. Our flight was uneventful and we arrived in Catania around lunch time, picked up our rental car and then ran errands on the Naval base where my sister has been stationed...

Just a shepherd taking his sheep home @ the end of the you do...
The errands at the base took up most of the afternoon and then we drove toward the appointed meeting spot we'd set up for our final AirBnB location - we followed the host to her apartment, which had the most incredible views of the Mediterranean...SO incredible... but the area was also SO deserted that it seemed almost like something out of an apocalyptic scenario. Eek! Please hear me when I say the apartment itself was beautiful and lovely, comfy beds and impeccable views - but everything around it looked like it hadn't seen human contact in years and years... It was a little eerie.

Despite the slightly eerie tone - the views from the balcony of the apartment were stunning and there was also a staircase that led right out to the Mediterranean Ocean - and that was beautiful. 

Mount Etna glimpsed across the ocean from our balcony. 
My toes at the edge of the Mediterranean...
The Mediterranean Ocean & Mount Etna.
Views of the ocean...
Taking it all in...
Striking a pose alongside the Mediterranean...
I don't have many pictures from our Friday night - it didn't quite play out the way we'd hoped. We found a restaurant online in the nearby town of Ragusa and made our way to the town with the intent of having a nice dinner. After walking up and down the street the restaurant was supposed to be on, we asked a local gentleman and he pointed us in the direction of the restaurant. We'd walked by it twice but only this time noticed that it had a sign that it would be closed on the 23rd. *sigh* Everywhere else was closed or we ended up getting microwave pizzas from a grocery store! You have to look back and laugh now - but we weren't on that Friday night.

A chapel in downtown Ragusa.
Lindsey has explored the island of Sicily from one end to another and found tons of absolutely gorgeous little spots - but we only had Saturday and so we decided that we'd explore the towns of Taormina and Ortigia, and so we set out. After some road detours, we arrived at the parking garage, parked the car and then proceeded to climb the set of stairs leading up the hillside to the little town of Taormina.

Foliage on the walk up the stairs..
The view from the parking garage - my sister said "oh - it will get better".
I call this one - parking lot through the flowers...
A violet blooming along the side of the staircase...
Once we arrived in the midst of the little town, we made our way to a small cafe and settled ourselves into a table to have a late breakfast. I had the most delicious coffee; the best of the entire trip, sitting at this little cafe - it was Caffe Freddo, which is cold coffee with cream - and it was divine! Along with my wonderful croissant and more divine freshly squeezed orange juice, it was a perfect breakfast! Once we'd finished, we set out to explore the town and some of the shops.

Caffe Freddo with a croissant!
I'll never have orange juice this good again... *sigh*
A more idyllic street scene I've never seen...
Gorgeous ceramics were everywhere - I purchased an ornament & wee scooter.
The emblem of Sicily - the head of the gorgon atop the triskelion. Yea...I have no clue.
Lindsey led us along the street and up to her main destination - a Greco-Roman amphitheater that provided sweeping 360 degree views of the town of Taormina, the Mediterranean below and the island of Sicily stretching into the distance. It would be an understatement to say the view was breathtaking - the pictures don't do it justice, but I'll share them nonetheless, ha-ha!

The view before entering the amphitheater & climbing all it's steps...
Gorgeous - isn't it?
The Mediterranean Ocean!

The amphitheater is built of brick - which means it likely dates from the Roman occupation but is laid out according to the Grecian style, hence the name of the theater: the Teatro Greco. The theater is remarkably well preserved and work was ongoing while we were there visiting - it is still used today for performances and wooden bleachers have been installed above the worn down original brick seating. The views from the floor of the theater are impressive...and when you climb to the higher seating levels, they just become more stunning. 

The back wall of the theater - and Mount Etna in the distance.
The Greco Roman Amphitheater of Taormina!

Arches perfectly framing Mount Etna.

I've said it before...I'll say it again - you can't take her anywhere!

In case it's not obvious - the bulk of my pictures from our time in Sicily came from not just our visit to Taormina but from the Greco-Roman amphitheater. It was located on one of the uppermost portions of the little city, which is built along the hillside - and the views were too wonderful, so I just kept snapping pictures.

Mount Etna - still an active volcano; it's erupted while my little sister has been in Sicily. 

Once we'd made our way around the amphitheater, we walked back down into town and wound our way through the small cobble streets, turning this way and that as my little led us to the botanical gardens, another spot she'd discovered with beautiful blooms and views. The charm of the little city; streets that wound and turned on one another, stores crowding the streets and cafes with seats alongside the little alleyways, it certainly had personality. 

The beautiful little city - in bloom!
Orange trees everywhere!
Vespas were everywhere...
Perfectly idyllic little streets...that cars squeeze down at high speeds!
The view from the entrance to the Botanical Gardens.

Seriously - how cute are these streets?
We made our way to a restaurant Lindsey had frequented in previous visits for our lunch and I had tomato soup (delicious) and one final Margharita Pizza before we made our way back through town, picked up some pastries at a shop and headed down the stairs and back to our car.

Pizza Margharita
Look at all the wonderful goodies!
The pastry shop - yum!
Our final stop of the day was in the town of Ortigia - a small island connected via channel and bridges to the larger town of Syracusa. The town is known for it's shopping and tourism and in mythology is where the goddess Leto stopped to give birth to Artemis. The mathematician Archimedes hails from Ortigia as well... and here I was thinking Archimedes was just Merlin's wee owl sidekick in The Sword in the Stone!

Temple ruins in the town of Ortigia.
"Happy Holidays" in Italian!
I'm completely kidding about Archimedes - I know he was a real person, ha-ha! There was a piazza in Ortigia that may be one of the prettiest places we'd been the whole trip - the Cathedral of Saint Lucia took up a large portion of the piazza and is built on the foundations of the original Temple of Athena, which dates back to the 5th century BC. We had some desserts at a cafe in the Piazza before taking a quick tour of the church - which was filled with religious emblems and relics of Saint Lucia.

The Cathedral of Syracusa..
Do I look over it here? Ha-ha!
Smile! I'd had coffee when I took this picture, ha-ha!
One of the alcoves of the Cathedral of Syracuse.
The vaulted & arched ceilings of the cathedral. 
The altar & dome of the cathedral. 
The columns on the left & right of the gate are original to the Temple of Athena (from 5th century BC)
We meandered our way back through the streets of Ortigia, stopping for my Mom to get a clementine fruit Popsicle along the way and to snap a few pictures here and there, before returning to our apartment for the evening!

Delicious fruit pops - so tasty!
A fountain in Ortigia.
We packed up our things that evening and all tried to get a good night's sleep and on Sunday morning we set out for the last few hours of our time in Italy. We had breakfast at The London Cafe in the wee town of Misterbianco (which I sadly have no pictures of...) before Lindsey dropped us off at the airport in Catania to catch our flight to Frankfurt. I can't say the experience of checking in and getting on the flight in Catania was anything less than completely nerve-wracking and our flight from Frankfurt to DC clocked in at almost 9 hours and with far more turbulence than I liked - but we made it home safe and sound on Sunday night around 10 PM.

Morning views of the Mediterranean...
A final selfie in Italy!
The trip to Italy was a once in a lifetime trip and sometimes I still can't believe that I spent a week riding along the canals of Venice, walking the streets of ancient Rome and Pompeii and exploring the island of Sicily. I will treasure the memories we made for the rest of my life and I'll look back on the pictures and these posts with love!