Tag Archives: Just for Fun

A Yankee Girl Heads South

I’m the first to admit I haven’t spent much time “down south.” With the exception of a few trips to Florida, Eric’s hometown in southern Illinois was as far south as I’ve ever been.

Until now! Eric and I just got back from an AWESOME trip to Nashville, TN! We decided to road trip from Iowa and with a stop over at the in-laws in southern Illinois, it wasn’t a bad drive at all! Even if you don’t have a place to stop, this is a one day drive from the Midwest easily. πŸ™‚

I loved everything about this city. Everything. I never thought I’d want to leave the Midwest but I’d make an exception for Nashville. Yes. I would live there. This is HUGE for me. Huge. I’m not even kidding. I fell head over heals IN LOVE with Nashville.

Let me tell you why I like it. Ready? Great! Take a trip with us to fabulous Nashville, TN!

1. It’s a big city without being too big. All the great things about a big city are there without all the hassles. Case in point – we were downtown early in the evening on Sunday night…there was a Titans game about to start, a pretty big name at the Ryman and the streets were packed with people. We still found a place to park without much searching AND got a table at a restaurant right there in the middle of the action without evening without waiting more than 5 minutes. Now THAT’S what I’m talking about! LOVE it.

2. I loved the mix of old and young. The city totally has a young, hip vibe with cool places to eat/hang out/shop with a nice splash of history and old-timeyness thrown in. I loved that we heard a young guy play Hank, Sr. in a honky-tonk. I loved that the people at the next table were our parents age. There is truly something for everyone there and it’s all mixed up together into a melting pot of wonderfulness!

3. Live country music. Ice cold beer. And NO cover? Yes, please!

4. And, last but not least, there is a ton to do and see…and EAT! Here’s some highlights from our trip to Music City.

First, let me hype up this AWESOME deal from the Nashville CVB – The Total Access Pass. $45 gets you admission into four attractions of your choice. There are 16 to choose from including the Country Music Hall of Fame. This was a GREAT find. With two Total Access passes, it was like getting into all the attractions at two for one. This is a must. I mean, it’s 20 bucks to get into the CMHoF alone – this thing pays for itself in three attractions. Worth it. With our passes we went to the Hall of Fame, toured the Ryman Auditorium, went to the Hermitage and to the Belle Meade Plantation. The pass also included free admission to the Parthenon (yes, there’s a replica of the Greek Parthenon in Nashville! Who would have thunk it?!) but we ran out of time and didn’t get over there.

We loved the Hall of Fame – especially the exhibit about the Williams family. Fascinating!

The Hermitage (home of our 7th President, Andrew Jackson) was really interesting too. I learned a lot about him I didn’t know from high school history!

The Ryman was truly amazing. No wonder they call it the Mother Church of Country Music. We kind of went in there on whim and I’m so glad we did. I need-NEED- to see a show here someday. I bet it’s beyond amazing. I’m already on their mailing list. Next trip to Nashville WILL involve a show here.

Belle Meade (home of the bloodlines of such famous racehorses as Seabiscuit and Secretariat, among others) was great because they let you wander around the entire house and get up close to the items inside (most of which are original.) Very cool!

Other highlights – we drove down to Lynchberg to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. This was probably the highlight of the trip for both of us. SO amazing – you can read about our trip down there here.

And we saw a show at the Grand Ole Opry. Wow, was that like stepping back in time or what?? The modern artists on the stage that night – Josh Turner and Montgomery Gentry. Both awesome. It was fun to see some old timers too. Eric is more familiar with those folks than I am, but I enjoyed it too. It’s a live radio broadcast (complete with sponsors and commercials!) so the announcer would prompt us to cheer and clap every now and then. So much fun! They actually let you come right up to the stage and take pictures if you want. I didn’t, but that’s pretty neat that you can get that close to the stars!

We also had our very first pro-hockey game experience with the Nashville Predators. We are hockey virgins no more! I’ve never been much of a hockey fan but it was actually a lot of fun – even though the Predators didn’t play that well this particular evening. Helpful tip – we waited until the day of the game to get tix and we got cheap seats for only 10 bucks each! Can’t beat that with a stick. Apparently they sell a hundred tickets at a reduced price the day of the game. Great deal! Sure, they were nosebleeds but they were far from bad seats. I liked being up high because we had a nice birdseye view of what was happening. It was easier for me to follow along that way. I learned all about penalty boxes and power plays. Hee. This game was a treat for sure! The zambonis are my favorite part. Of course.

And now the reason why you’re here – the FOOD!

Big, HUGE thank you shout out to Erin over at Erin’s Food Files. Erin’s blog is FAB! One of my favorites for sure. Her recipes are so creative-I love when she features the goodies she gets in her CSA baskets! Please be sure to check it out! She gave me the low down on all her favorite local eats and provided us with some GREAT recommendations. See, this is what’s so great about the food blogging world – although Erin and I have never met, we are acquainted through our mutual love of food – and blogging about it! We’ve connected through blogging! When she heard we were headed her way, she quickly came to the rescue with her recs as I was at a complete loss on where to eat! Thank you, Erin!!

Here’s just a sampling of where we chowed down. I could go on and on forever about every single place we ate but I’ll spare you and just mention the highlights. πŸ™‚

Jack’s BBQ – 416 Broadway, Nashville

Okay. Jack’s ROCKS! It’s located right downtown in the heart of the action and has cute little flying piggies on the marquee. Hee. This a counter service type place, where you order at the counter and then take your food and go sit down. It was SO good. Now, I LOVE barbeque, but I really don’t know much about it. What I do know is that it’s serious business. Especially in the south. This was our first meal in Nashville and it was a great way to kick things off!

As I pondered my choices (had plenty of time do so, the line was pretty long!) I thought I’d probably end up with pork. I always get pork. But the smoked turkey was speaking to me. Calling to me. I went for it – in sandwich form. Mmmm. Like butter it was so tender. Perfect smokey flavor, lots of charred, crunchy edges to enjoy. Yum. I got baked beans on the side. They had a nice kick of spice to them – just how I like ’em. πŸ™‚

Eric got the pork. I didn’t even end up trying it, I was so enthralled in my turkey, but he really seemed to enjoy it. On the side, he got mac and cheese (homemade and very cheesy and delicious) and cinnamon apples (like pie-sans crust. YUM.)

We got little cups of all the sauces to try before deciding which one to pour on our sandwiches. Eric liked the mustard-based sauce the best. I liked the sweet/spicy/tangy vinegar sauce the best, with the mustard coming in a close second. The tomato based sauce was good too but there’s something about vinegar and mustard sauces that always outdo the tomato sauces for me – not sure why that is!

This was probably my favorite place that we ate. Also one of the cheapest! Ha. I’m a cheap date, I guess. πŸ™‚

Cabana – 1910 Belcourt Ave., Nashville

Cabana is on Nashville’s west side near Vanderbilt University. The neighborhood over there is totally cool. Very hip and vibrant. Once I got over feeling like a country bumpkin trying to fit in with the rich kids, I really enjoyed myself. Ha ha…I *think* Vanderbilt is a little fancier than what we public state school grads are used to (Going out on a limb and guessing they probably don’t have classrooms with scary looking live wires hanging out spaces where the ceiling tiles have disintegrated like we did? Am I right? Ha ha.) The area around campus is really beautiful.

On to our dinner! Well. Let me just say, if we go back to Nashville, I would absolutely try Cabana again. The food was excellent and I LOVED the atmosphere. We liked how the menu was a bit more upscale but there was still a couple giant TVs on hand to watch some football and keep things casual. Very cool vibe.

However. Yeah, there’s a however here. Just hear me out though!

We debated back and forth about getting a couple smaller plates to share or getting entrees. In the end we each went with an entree. I kind of wished we went with the smaller plates so we could have had more variety. The entree I chose originally was a pasta special. They were out. I know that’s no one’s fault but….you know….when you have your heart set on one thing and then you have to choose something else it’s like a major bummer. I ended up getting the braised bison short ribs with gnocchi. I liked the flavors a lot and the meat was insanely tender and delicious – but there was like four gnocchi on my entire plate…and I gave one to Eric when he tried a bite! I wanted more soft, potato-y goodness. There wasn’t enough contrast of textures without more gnocchi. Eric got a tri-colored cheese tortellini with Italian sausage and a crushed tomato sauce. It was for sure delicious, but it wouldn’t have been my choice when there were so many other interesting things to choose from! He’s kind of scared of the unknown, so no surprises that he chose that. It’s okay – I still love him. πŸ™‚

Also, our server told us it was happy hour and that draft beers were a dollar off – I had a draft and Eric didn’t so I don’t think he knew how much it was supposed to be when he got the check. I looked at our receipt after we left and we didn’t get the drink for a dollar off. In the grand scheme of things, does one dollar matter? No, of course not. But still…you know…yeah….

Again, I will absolutely give Cabana another shot. The menu is so eclectic and fun, I can’t wait to get back and try it a second time. Overall, we really enjoyed ourselves there.

Jackson’s – 1800 21st Ave. S, Nashville

Jackson’s is also on the west end near Vanderbilt. We stopped in here for brunch on Sunday afternoon. It was getting late – close to 2:00 and this place was still packed to the brim. This is actually the only place we went on our trip where we had to wait to be seated. I’m a big believer in following the crowd and the crowd for sure knew what they were talking about here. There were so many things on the menu that sounded good, we really had a hard time choosing! Eric got an omlette (I can’t remember what was is in it!) and cinnamon toast. He seemed to enjoy it. I tried a bit of the cinnamon toast and thought it was just so-so. Just a basic buttered toast with a bit of cinnamon sugar on top. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I don’t think it was that. Oh well. Everything else was good.

I just had to get the monte cristo – ham, cheese, sandwiched between what tastes a lot like french toast and deep fried. I got mine with a side of bypass surgery. LOL. Kidding, of course! I knew I was only going to be able to eat about a quarter of the sandwich because they are always so so SO rich but I couldn’t pass it up. My prediction came true…I couldn’t even finish half of it but it was decadent and delicious. I’m big on the sweet/salty combo so this was right up my alley. Dipped in maple syrup, this is treat is salty, crunchy, melty and delicious!

I had a side of french onion hash brown potatoes. Onions, potatoes and cheese? I’ll take two orders, please. πŸ™‚ These were good too – thick chunks of potatoes, fried up crispy and topped with lots of melted swiss. Loved the sweet background from the onions. Eric ate what I couldn’t finish of those. πŸ™‚

Big River Grille and Brewery Works – 111 Broadway, Nashville

We came out of the Country Music Hall of Fame around noon absolutely famished. We wandered down Broadway and saw people pretty much streaming into this place. We need to follow that crowd, I told Eric. So we did. I was just expecting your basic bar food and sandwiches, which is all well and good, but I was actually pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed my meal here. First of all, they’ve got real, fresh-squeezed lemonade on the menu. Two big, enthusiastic thumbs up from me right there. I’m sold! You don’t see that nearly often enough. I ended up with the fish tacos. Grilled mahi-mahi kicked up with spicy cajun seasonings, lettuce, fresh pico de gallo, pepper jack cheese and an avocado sauce. All that yumminess came stuffed in a crunchy blue corn tortilla and then wrapped in a flour tortilla. Mmmmm. Very fresh and delicious. It came with a spicy rice and delightful black beans. And with ice cold lemonade to wash it all down, I left there a happy camper with a full tummy.

Oh, Eric had a bacon cheeseburger, I think. He enjoyed it. πŸ™‚

So there you have it! Erin and Eric’s Excellent Adventure in Nashville. Let me just add here that everything expressed in this post is my personal opinion only. I received no compensation in any way shape or form, monetary or otherwise, from anyone mentioned above. We just had a really great time in Nashville! I hope anyone else planning a trip finds this post useful!

Bye y’all! πŸ™‚ (Does that sound authentic? Do I fit in yet?)

One Year Ago:

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We put the SPRING in Springfield!

Up until this past weekend, I had never been to Springfield. I think every junior high age kid in the entire state of Illinois took a weekend trip to the state capital at some point. I missed out. Or, more accurately, I skipped out. I remember what I was doing too…my cheerleading squad was in a competition that weekend. Jumping around, screaming and being tossed into the air beat the pants off learning any day, so I skipped the trip. According to my husband, this made me a horrible Illinoisan and traitor to my home state. Sheesh! I don’t think I’d go that far. I knew I’d get there. Eventually. So it took a good 15 years and move to a different state to make it happen. But I got there, didn’t I?

Look, look! I’m officially a good Illinoisan now. Rubbing Lincoln’s nose for good luck – just like I used to do to the replica in Lincoln Hall at U of I before those killer finals!

Now, just for the record, the reason we went to Springfield was for the wedding of one of Eric’s good friends. It wasn’t like we just woke up one morning and said “Hey, let’s take a vacation in fabulous SPRINGFIELD!” There was a reason to go…but since we were going that way anyway, might as well see some of the sights.

This is us out at Lincoln’s tomb. Very cool, but I think my favorite thing we saw is the new Lincoln museum and library. It’s exceptionally well done and totally worth it. If you ever get the chance to stop in there, I highly recommend it. Like, say you are driving from Chicago to St. Louis – you’ll need to get out and stretch your legs and take a potty break eventually…do it there. You will not be disappointed!

All that history and learning and what not is all well and good, but the highlight – the absolute BEST part of the weekend, the thing that made the entire thing worthwhile – was our (semi) celebrity encounter!

People in big cities probably see celebs all the time on the street, in restaurants, in bars, at sporting events, etc. etc. but here in Midwest, we don’t. In fact, I’ve only had one other celebrity encounter in my entire life and it’s not exactly a fond memory. It involved a campus bar at U of I, a very well-known (and apparently inebriated) pro football player/activist, a couple scantily-clad college girls, and some jaw-droppingly inappropriate yelling. I’m going to leave it at a that. Please note, that I was in no way involved in this situation, I was merely one of many very surprised (and disgusted) witnesses that happened to be nearby at the time.

Anyway, Eric and I were hanging out in our hotel room on Friday evening in between sightseeing and going out for ice cream. We happened to flip on the local news just in time to hear that one of Eric’s TV heroes was in town filming – Adam Richmond from the Travel Channel show Man v. Food! Seriously, Eric LOVES that show. He’s the one that found it to begin with a couple months ago and got me watching it too. Adam is HI-larious. If you like Guy’s show on the FN, you will LOVE Adam. In fact, you will like him BETTER! Trust me! New shows start on August 5th.

They mentioned where he would be on Saturday – Cozy Dog! Ta-da!

Apparently, Springfield is the birthplace of the corn dog. Did you know that? Yeah, I didn’t either. This place is right along historic Route 66 and has a ton of history behind it. We decided we’d check it out at lunchtime and grab something to eat. (I am partial to corn dogs, people…true story. So no complaints from me) That way, if we saw him, great, if not, no biggie, we’d just enjoy our great local eats!

When we got there, the crew was there setting up. We got some food (which was delish, BTW. The fries were AWESOME!) and settled in. We basically got to watch them film the entire segment which was really neat! We kind of hung back and watched, we didn’t want to look crazy groupies getting all up in his face. When they took a break from filming, he was totally laid back and chatting with everyone so we approached him and told him how much we enjoyed the show. We told him we got all our friends watching (which is true) and he told us a bit about the new season. He was totally cool to talk to and a lot of fun! The sound guy took our picture. πŸ™‚

Here’s the proof!! Look how excited Eric looks. He’s like a kid on Christmas, I tell you what!

I had to laugh because I seriously have not worn my glasses out in public in like 10 years. The ONE time we get our pic taken with someone worth while I don’t even look like I usually do. Stupid, red irritated left eye! LOL!

So anyway, we had a GREAT trip and I have officially met my first foodie celeb! What a great weekend!

Oh yeah, and the wedding was great too! Big congrats to our friend Jim and his new bride! πŸ™‚

Okay, I’ve been on the road the last THREE weekends and have had ZERO time to cook. Bummer! Someday I’ll get back in the kitchen…until then…

One Year Ago (approximately):
Dijon-Glazed Grilled Shrimp – A simple summer supper
Strawberry Lime Stuffed Cupcakes – a bit more trouble than they were worth, I think.
Candy Kiss Cupcake Bites – mini cupcake treats with a candy surprise in the middle. YUM!

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Finally! A Tent I Like!

Usually the thought of tents makes me squirm. They make me shiver and shudder and fill me with dread. I don’t do tents. I do resorts. I do indoor plumbing and rooms with king sized beds and flat panel televisions. I make reservations, not campfires.

Let me tell you why I hate tents. It all started with the Girl Scouts. Where impressionable young women go to become robust, wilderness loving, mountain women. Or, in our case, where impressionable young women occasionally take a field trip to the roller rink and hand off our cookie selling sheets to our parents to take to work. We’d have “overnights” where we’d all sleep on the floor of some Girl Scout-owned rec room somewhere but that was about as close as we ever got to camping.

Until we were about 10. Then all of a sudden we were old enough for an overnight in the platform tents out in…Woodstock? Or Sycamore? I don’t even remember, but it was in the North ‘burbs and an official Girl Scout campsite. I was wary before we even got out there. Even at that young age, I had absolutely no desire to sleep in a tent. It’s only one night, said my mom, one of our leaders. Maybe so, but it could be my last night when I’m mauled by a bald headed killer bear (Great Outdoors, anyone?)

So we get out there after school on a Friday evening. It’s cold and rainy already and we’d hardly even gotten started. Canvas tents pitched on wooden platforms stood in a menacing row at the top of a hill on the edge of the woods. I linked arms with a friend of mine and we ever so cautiously approached what would be our home for the next 12 hours plus.

I reached out my hand and slowly pulled back the flap on the tent. Out of the tent shoots a big, black, hairy bat. Right into my face. I mean, RIGHT into my face. Pandemonium ensues. I’m screaming bloody murder. My friend is screaming bloody murder. A dozen or so other girls who have absolutely no clue what is going are screaming bloody murder.

A bat. Flew into my face. On my first (and last) camping trip ever. That’s it for me, folks! You’ve been great! Be sure to tip your bartender, GOOD NIGHT!

But, have no fear, my friends! I have finally found a tent I could actually live in – The WILTON tent! I had planned to go home to the ‘burbs for the weekend and realized on Friday before I left that I would in town for the Wilton Tent Sale in Woodridge! Oh my goodness, SCORE! I was so so so excited at this point. I couldn’t wait to get there. Wilton Products puts on this sale every year and it’s just piles of kitchen stuff, baking gear, scrapbook materials and wedding stuff. It’s A-MAZE-ING. Heaven in a tent! Never thought I’d say that. And I’m proud to report…NO BATS! YAY!

My mom and I went on Sunday, getting there around 10:00 a.m. I was worried there would be a line out the door but there wasn’t. It was certainly crowded but it wasn’t ridiculously crowded. We could move down the aisles and see everything so it was great. We spent about 90 minutes going through everything and came out with boatloads of stuff. The best part? I only spent about $80! WOW.

Here’s a pic of my loot:

I got:

  • A 3 in 1 cake/cupcake caddy
  • Storage grater
  • Cake stencils
  • Nut/Party cups
  • Cookie Spatula
  • Ice Cream Scoop
  • A set of three quiche/tart pans
  • A set of three mini loaf pans
  • Colored Sprinkles
  • Romance mini cookie cutters
  • Cake leveler
  • Sprinkles
  • A box of 12 gel food colors
  • Disposable pastry bags
  • Pure Vanilla
  • Parchment Paper
  • Cookie Cutters – pumpkin, snowman, bell, ice cream cone
  • Cupcake liners

There you have it! My new found love of tents! If you are in the Chicago area and have a chance to get to the sale, GO! You will not be disappointed! I am going to make a special trip home EVERY YEAR now for this sale! Can’t wait to use everything!

HOORAY FOR THE WILTON TENT SALE!

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It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas!

Wow! With all the baking I’ve been doing this week, you would think I was one of Santa’s little helpers….if Santa’s workshop made cookies…you know, instead of toys. Yeah…

Anyway, I got a jumpstart on holiday baking for an open house we held at work to try to recruit more volunteers to our non-profit program. I volunteered myself to make all the refreshments. Why? Because I’m all kinds of crazy, I guess.Β  I went totally overboard, of course, but I couldn’t help it. This was my first time really baking for a crowd and it felt great! Eric is always teasing me that I should just quit my job so I can bake cookies and write books for the rest of my life. He best shut it with that talk because that is all too tempting. I’ll do it, I swear I will!

I made and assortment of yummy goodies for the event and everything was a huge hit. So much fun! I never get to cook or bake for anyone else so this was a blast for me! I couldn’t have done it without all the other lovely bloggers out there. I was inspired to include recipes I spotted on other blogs. So much talent out there.

Here’s one pic of part of the spread:

The posts below this one highlight some of the recipes I made, but it’s not all inclusive. Here’s a list of everything I made, with links where applicable.

Chex Party Mix
Rice Krispie Treats
Red Velvet Truffles
Oreo Truffles
Cream Cheese Mints
One Bowl Brownies
Cranberry White Chocolate Bars
Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sugar Cookies
Holiday Grog
Fruit Tray
Meat and Cheese Tray

ENJOY!! Happy Holidays!!

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Coming Attractions!

Hello out there! ::insert echo here::

Well, I’m knee deep into NaNo – cracked the 30,000 word mark on Friday afternoon. And since we are exactly half way through the month, that officially puts me ahead of the game. Woo hoo!

I’m about 99.9% sure that it’s the worst novel ever written. In the history of the world. Ever. But, I’ve come this far, I gotta keep going!

Of course, that means I’m going to continue to neglect my poor little blog. :*( At least for a little while longer. Just thought I’d post an update of things to come. I’m still cooking because, well, we’re still eating, but I’ve been working on my NaNo every spare minute I have. In fact, I can’t believe I’m wasting written words right now! LOL!

So when this novel writing frenzy is finally over, expect these mouth watering updates:

  • Texas Chili – As big as the Lone Star state on flavor. Mmmm…
  • Italian Turkey Meatball Stroganoff – Pretty tasty and I really don’t care for sour cream!
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies – A timeless classic
  • Rigatoni All’Amatriciana – Onion good, bacon great – Onion AND Bacon, yeah, I’m pretty much in love
  • Chicken and Noodles – Just like…someone’s grandma somewhere…used to make.
  • Red Velvet Truffles – like the cake, but better
  • Chocolate chip cheesecake – No need for words, you get the idea.

And now…Must.Go.Write.Crappy.Novel.

See you all on the backside of 50k! πŸ™‚

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Help me win $100!!!

So this is a shameless plug for the advancement of my own selfish agenda and has absolutely nothing to do with food. Sooo…yeah…sorry in advance…but $100 is a $100, after all. πŸ™‚

The point of this entry is to ask for VOTES!!! Every year, our local paper has a Halloween story contest where the paper provides the beginning of a scary story and then the readers finish it with their own endings in 300 words or less. I love creative writing and have been told in the past (mainly by teachers in high school and college) that I was actually pretty good at it. Hmmm…who would of thunk it! I gave the Ghostwriter contest a shot for the first time last year, made the finals and actually ended up taking 2nd place! Yeah for $50!

Well, 2nd is good…but 1st would be better! So I decided to give it another shot this year. Well, low and behold, I am a finalist AGAIN! YEAH!!!

So, if you are interested in helping a fellow food blogger out please click this link to vote:

http://www.wcfcourier.com/ghostwriters/voteADULT.shtml

My entry is story ending #1. Votes are cast through 8:00am on Wednesday, October 22. Thanks so much! Think of all the awesome kitchen stuff I could get for 100 bucks and the subsequent awesome blog entries sure to come as a result of my loot!

Happy Halloween!!

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Meet Me In St. Louis!

You know, it’s kind of hard to believe that I have lived right here in the Midwest my entire life and I had never been to St. Louis! What’s up with that?? I guess it’s probably because all the city I ever needed was right in my backyard in Chicago but now that we are in Iowa there is NO city in our backyard. There are cornfields. Literally, that’s what’s in our backyard. And silos. And barns. And other such rural things.

It was time for a little change of scenery, so Eric and I planned a weekend trip down to St. Louis. It was his birthday gift from me. A trip to St. Louis with the intention of seeing a Cardinals game at the new Busch Stadium. He hadn’t been yet so he was pretty excited. Now, we are a house divided. I am a Cubs fan….that’s just the way it is. Eric is a Cardinals fan. Those backwards southern Illinois-ians!! LOL! So, I went to the game and cheered on the Cards ONLY because it was Eric’s birthday gift and I love him. NOT because I’m turning to the dark side. GO CUBS GO!

We saw the game on Friday night. Eric got a foul ball! It came over into our section and he dove for it like a crazy person.

Today we salute you – Mr. Over-Zealous Foul Ball Catcher!

We made sure to get a picture of my feelings of the whole cheering for the Cardinals thing. LOL!

We’ll get the food part in a sec. First, let’s talk BEER! The most wonderful drink in the world, HOORAY!

The Anheuser-Busch brewery is in St. Louis and, belive it or not, you can tour it for FREE! That’s right. 100% free of charge complete with two free samples at the end. It’s really a great way to spend an afternoon. The brewery has been there since the 1890’s so it’s full of neat, old-timey architecture.

Here’s the brew house.

We made sure to collect our samples at the end. Mmmmm….free beer.

Now, we didn’t have much time so we only had one nice meal while we were there. I always get so overwhelmed trying to pick out places to eat when we go out of town. There are so many choices and I have no idea what’s good. I enlisted the help of Eric in picking the place, since he’d been there before and he decided he’d like to try Mike Shannon’s Steaks and Seafood, right across the street from the Stadium. (620 Market St., St. Louis) Okay, sounded like a plan to me. I made a reservation for later in the evening on Saturday, since we scored a couple tickets to the game that afternoon as well.

I always get roped into reading restaurant reviews and I just shouldn’t do it. Of course, there are tons of poor reviews of the place and I get all paranoid. But then I think…meh…of course people are going to write if they thought they had a bad experience. Nobody writes about good experiences. I went in with an open mind.

When we arrived the place was PACKED! That’s got to be some indication of quality, right? The host seemed pretty relieved that we had reservations. I think he was getting tired of being scoffed at when he told people it would be 10:00 before they were seated. We got our table immediately.

I enjoyed our meal very very much. Everything was delish! Eric had a Caesar salad, prime rib that came with this yummy cheesy popover thing and Irish roasted potatoes in a garlic butter sauce. The potatoes were so good! I very, very, very rarely order steak. It’s not that I don’t like it…it’s just that…ya never know, you know? If it’s not great steak, I’d rather have something else. I decided to just take the plunge and go for it and went for an 8oz. filet. It was perfect! Perfectly cooked, tender and a great flavor. I also had a house salad that had roasted red peppers, artichokes and red onion in a red wine vinaigrette and these super yummy onion rings. They were nice and thin and crispy. Yum! We rounded off the meal with a piece of blueberry gooey butter cake. Oh.My.God. YUM!!! I was so full by that point but it didn’t matter…the cake was sooooo good, we couldn’t stop eating it!

We had a great experience there, I recommend it. And at about $75 a person, it’s pricey but not ridiculous. I don’t think I’ve ever woken up still full from a meal the night before, but I sure did on Sunday morning!!

We had a great time in St. Louis! Great city! I can’t wait to go back! Maybe next time, we’ll do it when the Cubs are in town! πŸ™‚

A few more pics:


The Arch!


Feeding the fish at Union Station.


Upper deck!

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Summer Gift Swap!

So it’s been a few days for me. Slight computer malfunction. The power cord for my really old DellΒ laptopΒ broke. Needless to say, after that, I had about 30 minutes of power left. That went fast, of course! Man, no computer all day SUCKS! Big time! So I’ve confiscated Eric’s laptop for the evening so I could update my blog and play catch up!

I frequent a message board full of the world’s most fabulous cooks and foodies. These girls have the most inspirational delicious looking blogs, amazing ideas, and not to mention poise, humor and sophistication to boot! Just a great bunch of ladies!

One of these fabulous ladies organized a summer gift exchange using a website called Elfster. It’s been done before, but I had never participated due to extreme busyness. Well…not nearly as busy this summer (yeah…) so I decided to go ahead and sign up! I had a blast both giving and receiving. Thanks Joelen for organizing this!

I received a wonderful gift from Geriann over at Toby’s Treats. Check out her awesome blog!Β She sent these really fun mini-cookie skillets that I cannot wait to try! I’m drooling just thinking about a big cast-iron skillet cookie covered in ice cream and hot fudge…mmmmm! She also sent a yummy mint chocolate candle that’s burning away right now and some delicious chocolate! Thanks so much Geriann!

Unfortunately, the photos I took of my loot are trapped inside the dead laptop, so I will have to add them in a few days when my new cord arrives!

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Li’l Country Cakes: The Story of a Mini-Bakery

Eric has started referring to my time off as the “Summer of Erin.” That’s a nod to Seinfeld when George loses his job at the Yankees and spends the summer doing absolutely nothing until he slips on the party invitation and hurts his legs. HA! Well, I don’t plan to injure myself on stationary supplies, but basically, he’s encouraging me to do all the things I’ve always wanted to do but never had time for before.

So, I’ve decided to take on a summer project. Something fun and creative. I purchased a small two-room dollhouse kit that I am going to build and decorate as my own little bake shop called…Li’l Country Cakes! I had a dollhouse as a kid and I just loved it. It’s amazing all the stuff that’s out there in miniature world! I’ve already started shopping for my goodies! But, first things first…gotta build it!

Many pieces and a big ole mess in our empty guest room!

Day 1: Erin vs. the Hot Glue Gun.I admit that my heart sank when I read the instructions it said to construct the house with hot glue. I was all set to use wood glue. I bought a nifty glue pen and everything. Dang! I HATE hot glue. I always burn myself. Did I burn myself this time around? YES! HA! But after aboutΒ 2 hours of work I had the beginnings of a house!

Day 2: Painting Day! I’m doing the outside in a pretty pastel pinky/peach color that reminded me of the gerber daisies I had in my wedding bouquet. Inside, I painted the walls white (for now).

Next up: building the window seat and putting in the the floors and trim!

Stayed tuned for more! πŸ™‚

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