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Ava Elisabeth: August 2013

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bread & Butter Pickles


5 1/2 cups (1 1/2 pounds) thinly sliced pickling cucumbers (but not too thin- you still want some crunch!)
1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt
1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

1. Combine cucumbers and salt in a large, shallow bowl; cover and chill 1 1/2 hours. Move cucumbers into a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Drain well, and return cucumbers to bowl. Add onion to the bowl.

2. Combine sugar and remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour hot vinegar mixture over cucumber mixture; let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Road Trip!


So Adam’s Fridays off were coming to an end and the school year was drawing nearer, so we decided to make the most of his last 3 day weekend! We ended up deciding to take a mini-road trip to Charleston. We were only going to stay one night, so we left pretty early Friday morning. However, after waking up on Saturday, we decided to stay another night- and we are all so glad we did- we had the best little family trip.


Our first stop on the road trip was the Charleston Tea Plantation. I figured, as much as our family loves tea, well, it would be fun. It’s the only tea plantation in North America. The next closest one is about 5,000 miles away. Its free to walk through the factory and watch a video that shows you how different teas are made and you can pay $10 a person to ride the trolley that takes you through the fields. We ended up doing both, but while we were waiting on the factory tour to begin we were able to sample different teas that had been harvested right there. Including the ‘First Flush’ which is defined as ‘the growth of new leaves on the tea plants in the spring time after a winter of rest. Their "first flush" of new growth is harvested to produce what avid tea drinkers deem to be the most unique, fresh, and amazing cup of tea.’ And it was different and good. I actually bought a little tin of it to make at home. IMG_5445

Did you know?: Fun fact of the day, Green, Oolong, and Black teas are all made from the same plant, there aren’t separate plants for separate teas, its all in their post harvesting treatment that makes the difference- really it’s the time of oxidation that differentiates each one from the other. Just thought you would like to know.


Ava was so excited to go on the trolley (and of course it was free for her…and Gracie).


They took us to visit their greenhouse and then through the fields, some had already been harvested. They only harvest the top 6 inches, or the new growth, so it looks like a field of shrubs all the time. Apparently it takes special knowledge to be able to blend the tea plants, even though they are all the same the tea taster has to know what leaves to use from what field. Interesting.


On the way out Adam spotted a Golden Eagle sitting on the rope, it let us get quite close to it and didn’t really pay us much attention- I think it was more interested in looking for food.


After the tea plantation, which is about 30 minutes from Charleston on Johns Island, we headed right up the road and stopped at the Angle Oak tree.
The Angel Oak Tree is estimated to be in excess of 400-500 years old, stands 66.5 ft tall, measures 28 ft in circumference, and produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet. From tip to tip Its longest branch distance is 187 ft. The Angel Oak Tree is thought to be one of the oldest living things in the country.


There are signs everywhere warning people not to walk under the tree with heels on, not to stand on the roots, and not to climb over or sit on the branches- they are doing their best to preserve the tree. It really was a sight- a huge canopy of limbs and leaves.


After leaving the Angel Oak we finally made it to our hotel! Ava was so excited about staying in a hotel. We checked in a freshened up a bit before heading to eat a late lunch.


Right down the road was Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ, which Southern Living rated on of the best BBQ eats- next to our favorite- Southern Soul, so we thought we would try it.


It was good, but we both agreed it wasn’t any better than Southern Soul- Adam said we would rate them about the same and Southern Soul is closer- so it wins Smile


With our bellies full we headed to the historic district of Charleston to take a carriage ride tour through the city. Ava was excited since it was a horse and carriage, but…


The excitement was too much to handle. Thank goodness the guy let Ava ride for free since this is what she did the entire length of the tour….


There is so much history in Charleston it was hard to digest everything in the hour long tour. I’m sure Adam remember so much more than I did, but I enjoyed seeing all of the beautiful homes and even if I don’t remember a single thing- I was able to see some pretty houses!


Looking back at these pictures from the tour, I’m certain there was a reason I took them- but I can’t for the life of me, remember what it might be. I’ve asked Adam, maybe he will remember- if not- well, just enjoy some houses in Charleston! haha!


After the tour we walked and walked and walked around Charleston. We eventually made it down to the waterfront and the pineapple fountain.


Apparently in Charleston kids don’t swim in pools, they play in fountains! We walked past one fountain and I think every kid in the city was playing in the water. Ava really wanted to play in the water (of course) so we let her take her shoes off and play for a few minutes.




We drove over to Mount Pleasant (across the bridge) that evening to check things out and stopped at Fort Moultrie and watched the sun go down. It was a great family day together and there was still a lot more fun to be had!

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wordless Wednesday (Thursday edition :) )


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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ava's New Baby

July 19th was a very anticipated day around our house! Ava was going to adopt a baby!


I had "ordered" the baby months ago and they finally called to say the shipment had arrived, so we took the first opportunity we had to go pick up her new baby. I didn't tell her until that day what we were doing. I had ordered a new outfit for the baby and brought along a few of Ava's baby clothes and a special baby blanket Ava had used when she was a newborn. When we first arrived we walked into the nursery at the store and Ava was a little apprehensive. She heard babies crying and cooing, it really did sound as though the baby dolls were real! haha! She wasn't sure what to think!


The nice 'Nurse' had the baby that looked a lot like her with the brown eyes, set out on the changing table. And after Ava held her for the first time, she helped the nurse take care of the baby. They started by putting some baby powder on the baby.


Ava rubbed it in really well- she thought it was so neat :)


Then the nurse weighed her and can you believe she weighed the same as Ava did when she was born? 5 lbs 12 ozs! ;)


She took her measurements- and again! Ava was in disbelief, she was the same length as Ava when she was born- 19 inches! (This one we didn't have to fudge on- the baby is really 19 inches!)


After filling out the paperwork on the baby, she asked her for her name, which Ava had already decided - Gracie, and asked Ava a few questions about the kind of mom she was going to be to her baby. She also wrote her name on her hospital bracelet and placed it on the baby.


After answering all of the questions correctly, Ava signed her name to the adoption papers and the baby officially became her baby!


The nurse gave her some last minute instructions on how to care for the baby. She was so good with her!


This whole experience was so neat for Ava (and her gigi and mama). It's more expensive than just buying a doll off the shelf- but for a special treat and to get the experience it was worth it! She finished her reading lesson goal we had set for her and we wanted to reward her for the hard work, so the time of this doll and her achieving her goal went hand in hand!


She wrapped Baby Gracie up in her special blanket and placed her hat on her head and Ava was beyond excited to hold her. She was/has been so proud to show everyone and that baby can't be left alone at any time. She has changed diapers, yes, I went out and bought a pack of newborn diapers! She has a pacifier, she sucks her thumb, she has multiple outfits, which are constantly rotated, and a car carrier that she sits in when we go places. She strolls her around in her strollers. She even takes her to the store in her stroller sometimes. The funniest thing, throughout this time, has been the comments we overhear from people who think its a real baby. We were eating lunch with Adam at T-Ray's in Fernandina and she set the baby on the table, just kind of flopped her up there and the elderly couple sitting next to us both audibly gasped! They thought she was a real baby. A completely separate time (I meant what I said about the baby goes everywhere with us!) Adam overheard a person tell another, 'Can you believe how they are letting her hold that baby?!' haha! He said the next time someone says something he is going to pick it up by it's leg and let it hang :) She has been the perfect little mommy! I must admit, I love having a little girl and watching her play with baby dolls- its so sweet!

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake





    • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

    • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

    Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough:

    • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

    • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

    • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

    • 1/4 teaspoon salt

    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    • 3/4 cup flour

    • 2/3 cup chocolate chips

    Cheesecake Filling:

    • 10 oz cream cheese, room temperature

    • 1/4 cup sugar

    • 1 large egg, room temperature

    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


    1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line an 8" square baking pan with parchment paper or foil allowing a little overhang and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

    2. Mix the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs until thoroughly combined. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 6 minutes.

    3. While the crust is cooling, prepare the chocolate chip cookie dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt and vanilla until smooth and thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Mix in the flour on low speed, and mix until just incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chips. Set aside. (*Note: This mixture is going to be dry...that’s okay. It’s rather like a crumble topping. You’re going to crumble it on top of the cheesecake layer.)

    4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Mix in the egg and vanilla on low speed just until incorporated. Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared crust. Use your hands to form "clumps" of the cookie dough, smoosh it together and flatten it out.  Distribute the cookie dough onto the top of the cheesecake batter in teaspoon-sized clumps. Be sure to use all of the dough.

    5. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top feels dry and firm (the cookie dough) and the entire pan looks set if given a gentle shake. Move bars to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Chill in refrigerator overnight or for at least a couple hours.

    6. Lift the bars out by the overhang and cut into squares for serving

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    Monday, August 19, 2013

    Mart Days


    Each year we have a group of girls that get away from the every day responsibilities of life and have a trip that consists of every girls favorite things: Food, Fun an SHOPPING!! We look forward to this every year and not surprisingly our group keeps growing. We are at our limit though now, so someone is going to have to drop out before we can add anyone else!

    *Also, apparently, this year- orange is the new black- we all color coordinated but didn’t plan it! haha!


    Caroline is going to be a senior this year, she has come on these trips for the last 5 years and swears next year she will be back, actually, she said there isn’t anything that would keep her away from this trip…but we will have to see how college plays into the picture Smile


    Jenny, Lisa, and I shared a room. We stayed at the Hyatt that was just a couple blocks from the Mart, so easy walking! By the way, can you tell we don’t take selfies/mirror pics! Smile


    Ava loves playing dress-up…and I mean LOVES it! Each year at the mart I pick her up a tiara to play with, well while I was looking at all the tiaras, we found these that were about $100 wholesale…yes $100 WHOLESALE. So naturally Jenny and I decide to try them on. We were too scared to take them out of the package for fear something might happen, but we still got a shot with them on! I think they look good on us and that we totally should have bought them… I mean, it wouldn’t be normal for a girl to walk around wearing one of these as an everyday accessory?


    We always eat at Mary Mac’s Tea Room whenever we come to Atlanta and it doesn’t ever disappoint, except for the fact we were able to seat all 18 of us together at the same table. Sad smile


    Matt and Meghan joined us along with Matt’s parents, I’m pretty sure either Matt and his dad felt pretty lucky or really weird! haha! 2 guys and 16 girls?!


    It’s become a tradition to eat here and its always good food and sweet tea! I get a vegetable plate, mostly because I don’t eat meat, but there are way too many good sides to add meat into the mix anyways! I actually had her scratch the pecan pie for dessert, even though now I’m wishing I hadn’t…haha! I was way too stuffed I couldn’t even eat all my meal!


    I love this girl, she’s so much fun!


    We had seen these people walking around with these balloons and wanted to find one for Ava, especially since they were giving them out for free. We found the booth on the 2nd day and I had to carry it around the rest of the time we were there- thank goodness it was later in the day!


    After two days of shopping, you work up an appetite! I am never one to go for a chain restaurant and our original idea for a place to eat the second night wasn’t able to get us, I suggested Antico pizza. It was such a fun experience- I’m so glad we went!


    You get there and you stand outside until there is room for you inside (fortunately it was a nice evening). The wait took maybe 15 minutes, even though we had a LOT of people in front of us. When you get to the front you order an pizza from the menu- and this is authentic Italian pizza, so half the words I didn’t know what the meant. You also couldn’t make changes.


    We ended up ordering a margherita pizza, a lasagna pizza, a margherita (with pepperoni) pizza and their best selling pizza- San Gennaro pizza. They brought it out quick!


    You sit together at random tables, and we lucked out and were able to get the only large table they had all to ourselves. We actually had to wait for a few people to leave, but they left shortly after we arrived and didn’t mind us taking over their table.


    We all at the pizza quick! It was delish!!


    This will probably become a place we visit each year as well. We are going to have to stay longer just to hit all of our places to eat.


    I didn’t buy as much jewelry this year. I actually bought shirts and dresses and I have loved every single one! I also didn’t buy a whole lot for Ava, this was the first year we didn’t bring her back very much. She’s kind of out grown the sizes they carry for children…she is getting more into the next level of the children’s department, which makes me really sad Sad smile I did bring back a few surprises, it just wasn’t outfits.


    While I was away, these 2 spent some quality time together. They headed to Fernandina Beach to ride bikes and had a good time. They even managed to beat the rain Smile


    I love cell phones! I was able to get pictures of my 2 favorite people and I think Ava Face Timed me no less than 15 times while I was away. Poor thing, she wanted so bad to be in the middle of all the girl stuff! She would call and just sit there on the phone watching everything. haha! Ava has been upset she can’t go, but the rule is you have to be 12 or older. (Not our rule- the Atlanta Mart rule) Every now and then she will tell me she wishes she was 12 and when I ask why she says, so she can go to the Mart with me and all the girls. I on the other hand, would like those years to pass by slowly!!

    Its always such a fun time and even if we didn’t find such great deals or anything we even liked, it would still be a trip we would take each year- its nice to get away and have fun- just us girls!

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    Ava Elisabeth: August 2013

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    Ava Elisabeth

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