Saturday, October 29, 2011

'Twas (Two Months) Before Christmas

There were a lot of things I looked forward to about being married; living in the same zip code as the love of my life, sharing fun experiences and making memories together, and, of course, finally sending out a joint holiday card. I could never bring myself to send out cards from the two of us before we were married; to me, it felt like something specifically reserved for when you officially become a family. (Obviously, this is just my opinion...plenty of people do it and I've never thought twice about it!) One of the highlights of our first holiday season as husband and wife will certainly be sending out our very first Christmas (and Hanukkah) card!

Because Shutterfly loves bloggers, we will not only be sending out holiday cards, but we will be sending out some gorgeous holiday cards at the perfect price: free! I have used Shutterfly in the past for photo prints, including of our engagement pictures, and it is always exciting to see an orange envelope in the mailbox! The quality is definitely top-notch.

Plus, scrolling through all of the designs for cards this year is almost overwhelming; there are so many cute ones! Here are a couple of Christmas cards that caught my eye:

My side of the family is Jewish, so we'll also be sending out a Hanukkah or generic Holiday card as well, and Shutterfly has cute options for both!


It looks like I've got my work cut out for me; I know it will be tough to choose! (Not to mention picking the perfect pictures, too! One last use for wedding photos, anyone?)

Disclaimer: In exchange for this post, I received free holiday cards from Shutterfly. The opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own!
If you're a blogger too, head here to get in on the deal!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Budweiser Brewery: Jacksonville Beermaster Tour

So, I feel the need to preface this post with a small disclaimer. Brian and I are not huge drinkers, although we do enjoy a beer or glass of wine every now and then. We are more the kind of people who love unique experiences, knowing how things are made, and seeing "behind the scenes." A couple of years ago while Brian was at West Point, we were given the opportunity to take a private tour of the Sikorsky factory where Black Hawk helicopters are made; it was so neat!

So, when we found out that you can tour the Budweiser factory in Jacksonville, we knew it would be right up our alley.

The Jacksonville Brewery has a complimentary tour that allows you to see certain parts of the factory from a distance and a Brewmaster tour that, for a small fee, takes you into the factory to see the process of how beer is made. We took the latter, knowing that if we were going to go out of our way to do it, we should do it right!

After stopping to pose with a Clydesdale, we headed into the factory and met up with our tour at the gift shop. We were given some hats (that we got to keep) and super cute safety glasses that we were required to wear for the duration of the tour. We heard a little bit of history about the brand and then set off for the Brew Hall!

This very warm room is where the hops simmer with barley, rice, and other ingredients (depending on the specific beer) in large tanks in the first step of the process. We tasted a couple different types of barley to understand the difference in taste and smelled several different varieties of hops.

All of the brewing beers are closely monitored by computer, and the operators can tell you what type of beer is in each tank at any time. There were surprisingly few people actually working in the factory because so much is done electronically!

A sharp contrast to the warmth of the Brew Hall was the Hops Room. The hops are stored in large trashcans in this chilly room before they set off to become beer. Someone at Budweiser has my sense of organization, because the different varieties of hops are all color-coded. Also, hops smell pretty terrible.

An important part of the beer-making process is the fermentation; it's what creates the alcohol! The mixture created in the Brew Hall sits in these tanks in the Fermentation Cellar for a couple of days before it's ready. These green ones are actually emergency tanks to deal with the additional volume needed during the summer and football season. There are floors and floors of these tanks, and they are huge!

Most of the rooms (with the exception of the Brew Hall) had been pretty cold, but the Finishing Room was (literally) almost freezing at 38 degrees! This is where the beer sits while Budweiser's Beermasters taste the finished product to ensure the quality.

This was definitely the coolest part of the tour; we got to taste fresh Bud Light and Budweiser right from the finishing tanks!

The rest of the tour took us through the (very loud) part of the factory that fills bottles, cans, and kegs and then labels and packages them. All of the lines moved so quickly! There's also a small quality control room where they pull random samples and make sure everything looks (and tastes) good.

It's kind of unbelievable to think about how much beer the factory produces and ships out. They also only distribute to Florida and a handful of surrounding states!

At the end of the tour, we got to hang out in the Tasting Room and try some samples of Budweiser's products that are produced in the factory. I think my favorite was their new wheat ale called Shock Top (which is kind of like Blue Moon); the pumpkin Shock Top was pretty good as well.

It was definitely a fun experience, and this is probably the longest blog post ever written solely about beer. :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Scenes from Jacksonville

We made our trip to Jacksonville for Monday Night Football into a mini-vacation by spending a couple of days exploring around in the days before and after the game; walking beside the ocean at Jacksonville Beach, driving up Ponte Vedra Boulevard to look at some gorgeous houses, and shopping at the St. Johns Town Center to take advantage of some of the stores that Savannah is, sadly, lacking.

Is there anywhere better than the beach? Something about the sunshine and the salty air just makes me smile.

One of my favorite things about traveling is trying new restaurants, and asking blog and Twitter friends for restaurant recommendations has resulted in some of our best dining experiences! On this trip, we had some amazing tacos at TacoLu and a yummy meal at the Salt Life Food Shack (many thanks to Natalie, Grits, and Tricia for the suggestions...we will have to make at least one trip back to try them all!)

We spent our first evening in Jax walking along the riverfront and enjoying the sunset view from Jacksonville Landing. There were so many Ravens fans around town, and it was fun to be part of the excitement leading up to the game!

After sunset, the lights of the city reflecting off the river was so pretty! When we were leaving Jacksonville Landing, a little cat was hanging out around our car. He ran away at first, but I decided to leave him my leftovers on the sidewalk. When I got back into the car, he scurried back and started eating. I asked Brian if we could take him home, but he said no. What a mean husband! ;)

 On the other side of the river is Friendship Fountain, which lights up a dozen different colors at night.  The picture on the right reminds me of a tri-colored popsicle you'd get from an ice cream truck.

Speaking of popsicles, vacation obviously wouldn't be complete without indulging in dessert. I always struggle with decisions at these self-serve yogurt places: fruit or chocolate?! I usually go back and forth for a while before deciding on fruit because it makes me feel like I'm being healthy when I'm really not at all.

Lots of little moments and memories; it was so nice to get away from our routine for a little while and explore somewhere new.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

MNF in Jacksonville!

A couple of weeks ago, Brian and I were sitting at a local sports bar watching the Ravens game. When they showed a schedule of the remaining games, we noticed a Monday night game in Jacksonville at the end of the month. In that moment, a plan was hatched to road-trip the hour and a half down to Florida to go to the game. It took Brian a while to officially get off work for a couple days (at the very last minute, of course), but late last week we bought the tickets and packed our bags. Gotta love a little spontaneity!

On Monday night, we donned our Ed Reed jerseys to head over to EverBank Stadium, home of the Jaguars.

The stadium in Jacksonville has an awesome location right on the water, so people pull up their boats to tailgate before the game. How fun is that?! Sadly, we don't have our own boat (as much as Brian wishes we did), so we took a river taxi over to the game. Which was almost as exciting.

After taking in the beautiful sunset views of Jacksonville from the water, we headed over to the stadium. We walked through throngs of people and tailgaters (and, surprisingly, lots of purple!), passing by ESPN's Monday Night Football buses. There was so much excitement in the air. And, naturally, some good-natured trash talking, too.

The weather was absolutely perfect for my second NFL game ever (and much better conditions than the last game we went to!) I might have to stop there in describing our game experience though, as the sting of loss is still a little painful today.

I won't talk about the extremely poor showing by our offense or how embarrassing it was to lose to the Jaguars.

Or how they won by only scoring field goals (which shouldn't even count as a real win!)

Or how objectively terrible the officiating was.

Or how most of the Jaguars' fans were totally just jumping on the bandwagon for the night.

I'll be a good sport and just say it was still fun to cheer our boys on in person. :)

Of course, despite the less than stellar outcome....we love our Ravens. It was still totally worth the trip!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Facebook Official

As of today, my little blog is Facebook official. I have had a chance to connect with so many amazing bloggers on Twitter that I figured I could only interact with more people (including those who might read but don't blog themselves) by setting up a page on Facebook, as well. I hope to share more day-to-day tidbits, pictures, and updates over there. :)

So, on that note, if you like my on over and "like" my page, too!

While you're at it, click out of your reader and check out my snazzy new blog design! It was done completely by moi (with only a teeeeny bit of frustration...). No computers were harmed in the process, so I'd consider it a success. :)

Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Well, It's Not a Crab Cake...

Another thing I took for granted before I moved (besides knowing the history of where I live) is the delicious seafood offerings in Maryland. Growing up with steamed crabs caked with Old Bay, steamed shrimp, and, of course, the Maryland crab cake certainly instilled in me a deep love for these regional staples. When I discovered that not everyone knows how to pick a crab, I was kind of perplexed! Because of the Chesapeake Bay, seafood is almost a religion in Maryland; kind of the way college football is in the South (but that's another post altogether!)

To me, summer means long lazy days spent outside picking crabs with friends and family. With the exception of one crab feast the week before our wedding, Brian and I felt like we missed out this year. :(

It wasn't long after we moved here that we started hearing about the Low Country Boil. It seems the coast of South Carolina and Georgia is famous for this one-pot meal that pretty much involves throwing a bunch of seafood and veggies into a pot and boiling them. I can't say Brian and I were too enthused by the description, but we decided to head to the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival this past weekend to see what all the fuss was about.

After scouting out all of the booths, we settled on a boil from the Shrimp Shack, a huge pile of butterflied potato chips, and sweet tea (obviously). Our boil included shrimp, sausage, corn on the cob, potatoes, and a spice that tasted a whole lot like Old Bay. Sometimes they have crawfish or crabs as well; it seems like almost anything goes!

We had pretty low expectations, but the Low Country Boil was surprisingly flavorful and pretty delicious! We might be seafood snobs, but I think an extra shake or two of Old Bay just might make me feel like we won't go through Maryland Crab Withdrawal while we're here.

What foods is your area known for? Would you miss them like crazy if you relocated too?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Pasta Deliciousness


We have made some recipe discoveries in the past two weeks that I have a feeling will definitely enter our regular dinner rotation for years to come; they just so happen to include two of the most delicious pasta dishes I've ever had! We also did some repeat meals (including Brian's favorite Chicken Burritos and budget-friendly breakfast for dinner) and some simple throw-together ones (like tuna over salad) so I don't have as many real recipes to share as usual. BUT these new meals we did have are definitely worth a try!

Bacon Mac is a recipe I discovered from Rachel @ In No Simple Language. Her Menu Monday posts are always inspiring and have given me so many good ideas since being newly-in-charge-of-dinner as a newlywed. This is a favorite of ours that shows up often in our meal planning; this is the first time I've had the camera or my phone out to snap a picture to share. Definitely take the time to add some extra cheese to the top and pop in under the broiler; it makes it a thousand times better!

I have made Chicken Parmesan before, but this recipe from Skinny Taste blew all of the other ones out of the water! It is baked in the oven, so it's a little healthier than the pan-fried versions, but it turned out perfectly crispy and delicious. I served it with a recipe for a basic red sauce that Kristin from Iowa Girl Eats described as "so good it's pissing me off." Simmering a can of whole tomatoes, a bit of butter, and an onion together for a while makes an awesome sauce with hardly any effort at all. You should absolutely, most definitely make this meal. It might be my favorite thus far.

Brian's only request for our last set of meals was meatloaf; I don't even know if I've ever had meatloaf before, let alone cooked it. I used a recipe I found on Pinterest, and he seemed to like it well enough. I don't really have anything to compare it to, so does anyone have an amazing recipe for this meal my husband seems to crave?

I usually only share recipes from the past two weeks of meal planning, but I'm way too excited about the meal we made last night; Pioneer Woman's Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce. I was unimpressed when I made the Pasta a la Betsy from her cookbook, but this? Oh. my. goodness. I can't wait to raid the fridge for leftovers; the recipe even made enough for me to freeze half the sauce for another meal. It is the perfect tomato cream sauce, and I can't wait to add chicken or shrimp next time we make it. It calls for a cup of heavy cream, which obviously makes it less than healthy. We made it as written (which is probably what made it so good); next time I'll experiment with some lower-fat substitutions. :) But ohhhh was it worth the calories and extra time at the gym!

I've also recently had the baking itch, so I whipped up my favorite Banana Bread (I always substitute the buttermilk with 1/4 cup of regular milk with a tablespoon of white vinegar mixed in) and a Chocolate Chip Loaf. The latter was a tad dry, so I might try tweaking it a bit next time (maybe with a bit more sour cream or some milk added).

So that's what we've been eating around here lately. Do yourself a favor and try the Chicken Parmesan or Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce. They are definitely crowd-pleasers!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Savannah Bucket List: Fort Pulaski

I think I'd be perfectly content to have a weekend just like this one over and over again. Lots of time outside in the gorgeous weather, yummy food, and a big Ravens win! Even though we will be living in Savannah for at least another year, we've already put together a small bucket list of things we want to do while we're here. I hope to keep adding to it and crossing things off so that we hopefully feel that we've fully experienced Savannah's charm when it's time to leave.

One of the things on our list was a trip to the Fort Pulaski National Monument. With us both being from Maryland, we have made plenty of trips to Fort McHenry and know all about its history. I'm pretty sure every public school student in the state learns about how Fort McHenry defended Baltimore from invasion by the British and that Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner when he saw that they had been successful. I think I took for granted knowing the history of where I lived, and I definitely feel like we have a lot to explore and learn to get up to speed on all of the stories and mysteries set here in Georgia.

Fort Pulaski, which is located between Savannah and Tybee Island, was occupied by the Confederacy during the Civil War and surrendered to the Union Army after a brief bombardment. During the battle, the Union Army successfully tested the rifled canon, rendering brick forts obsolete; as a result, no others were ever built.

After the battle there and even for some time after the Civil War, it was used as a prison for captured Confederate soldiers.

From the top of the fort, there are some beautiful views; you can see all the way to Hilton Head Island!

We just so happened to be visiting on the anniversary of Fort Pulaski being named a national monument by President Coolidge (although we sadly missed out on the celebratory cake). Because it was also a Saturday, we were able to see a musket demonstration and two cannon firings!

After we explored around inside the fort, we took to the trails for a short run out to the Cockspur Island Lighthouse. We have this affinity for lighthouses, if you hadn't noticed. :) The Cockspur Island Lighthouse is one of only five surviving historic lighthouses in Georgia.

We ended our trip with a picnic on the water, including homemade chicken salad and a chocolate chip loaf. A trip to Fort Pulaski was the perfect way to spend a beautiful day enjoying the great outdoors...and we even learned a thing or two in the process!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What I'm Loving: NEW JOB Wednesday!

I'm loving that I landed the job I interviewed for yesterday! It's a seasonal corporate position (so it's not ideal) but it will definitely help Brian and I out with some spending money in the next couple of months as we travel back to Maryland for the holidays and purchase gifts for our family and friends. I'll be working in the heart of downtown Savannah on the riverfront, right in the midst of all the hustle and bustle! I am hopeful that it is a step towards more opportunities and maybe even my dream job. Yay for being a working woman again! :)


I'm loving that Brian made me dinner last night. Nothing complicated, but I definitely appreciated the break. Thanks babe!

I'm loving all of the free printable greeting cards I've found around the Internet (and pinned here). While shopping for a greeting card for Brian's sister's birthday last month, I was so frustrated at how incredibly stupid they all were! I am so happy that I will likely never have to search for another card in the racks at the store again! I may even break out my scrapbooking supplies and make some handmade cards as well. :)

I'm loving all the positive feedback about the pallet sign we made! It sounds like quite a few people will be getting something similar for request! :)

I'm loving looking at cute pictures and videos of labs as Brian and I talk about getting a puppy. Brian is even doing some serious research, including reading Puppies for Dummies and a couple of other books we got from the library (I went to go look for the other titles, but I just realized he totally took them to work!) It probably won't happen anytime soon (even though it is really, really tempting)...but it's fun to think about!

SO cute, right?!

What are you loving this Wednesday?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Columbus Day Weekend

Federal holidays are my favorite, because they mean that Brian (usually) has a four day weekend! This Columbus Day was even more wonderful because we had one of my best friends, Joella, and her boyfriend, Bobby, here from Maryland to visit!

On Friday night before they got here, Brian and I went down to River Street in Downtown Savannah. On the first Friday of every month, the city puts on a little fireworks show over the river. I also have an interview for a job in the corporate office of a store there today, so we were also scouting it out a bit. It's not my dream job, but it is something at least! I am super nervous, so send any spare good thoughts my way this afternoon! This wouldn't be such a bad view from the office. :)

On Saturday morning, we picked up Joella and Bobby from the airport and took them into the city! Joella is vegan, so I spent some time researching food options around the area before they got here. Our first stop for lunch was at The Sentient Bean, which is on the "hippie" side of Forsyth Park, as Brian calls it. Definitely an interesting place... :) We took them around to all of our favorite places; City Market, River Street, and some of the beautiful squares around the city. I think we saw at least three weddings going on, too! Our new favorite restaurant, The Green Truck Pub, has veggie burgers, so we were luckily able to take them there for dinner! That evening, we set out on a ghost tour of some of Savannah's haunted landmarks, including Moon River Brewery. I love learning more and more about this city!

Sunday, we woke up to cloudy, crappy weather. So disappointing! We made breakfast and then went up to Hilton Head to see the beach and do some outlet shopping. Joella scored an absolutely fabulous deal on a really nice Columbia winter coat: $30! After a day of shopping and exploring around Hilton Head, including a late brunch at Lowcountry Backyard Restaurant, it was already time for Jo and Bobby to head back home. :( It was definitely too short of a trip and I can't wait for them to visit again. Next time, we just have to remember to take pictures! This is an oldie but a goodie. :)

A last little (but important!) note after my weekend update: nine days after his surgery, Brian's dad called to tell us that he is officially in remission. His cancer is GONE. It was such a relief and definitely an answered prayer; thank you so much to everyone who was thinking about us. :)

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