Summer fun with friends

26 May 2014

As we’ve discussed before, our friends are busy. We are busy. Yet, we still like to get together and do things. We often use Doodle to coordinate multiple schedules for things like dinner parties, but sometimes it would be nice to just be able to get together, simply, casually, without all the crazy organizing and calendar consulting. (Not complaining – any amount of wrangling ends up being worth it in the end with these folks!)

tacos-and-cheerwine

Tacos and cheerwine – always a good excuse to get together with friends

I have an idea I’m going to try out this summer, and I wanted to pass it along! Mind you, I haven’t actually implemented it yet, so it could be a total flop, but hopefully it’s not. Basically, I’m going to consult my and John’s calendar at the beginning of each month, then send out an email to our ten or so couple (and single) friends, giving them a heads up on casual events we’re planning to attend. I’ll let them know there’s no need to RSVP, but that if they decide to go (even the day of!) they should text us so we can look for each other. I’ll keep it to group activities with little to no advance planning required – things like outdoor movies and free concerts and local peach festivals, or maybe even blueberry picking or a hike, if we’ve got plans on the books. Summer abounds with options for casual get-togethers!

I hope this will be a win-win-win situation: they don’t have to feel bad if they can’t attend, we’ll still have fun even if we’re the only ones that end up going, and some of our friends who were previously unknown to each other might end up meeting! I’ll let you know how it goes.

P.S. Can’t find things to do? Try this post.

Buckwheat and banana pancakes

19 May 2014

pancake-breakfast

Remember in this post when I mentioned I wanted to start making my own buckwheat waffles/pancakes for breakfast? Well, I found a recipe that’s been working wonderfully, and I wanted to share it! It’s from Goop, though I made a few modifications.

Ingredients:
— 2 1/4 cups whole milk
— 2 tablespoons lemon juice
— 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
— 2 tablespoons maple syrup
— 1 cup buckwheat flour
— 2 teaspoons baking soda
— 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
— 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
— 1 teaspoon salt
— 3 seriously ripe bananas (I recommend they be pretty much black – mine sat on the counter for about a week and a half)

Preparation:
1. Mix all the wet ingredients together in a small bowl (including bananas – just mash them roughly with a fork).
2. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a slightly bigger bowl.
3. Add the wet to the dry and stir just enough to combine – be careful not to over-mix (that’s how you get tough pancakes).
4. Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat (we use our Griddler, which we love – no need to use any oil or butter, and you can make 4-6 at a time!). Ladle as many pancakes as possible onto your griddle.
5. Cook for about a minute and a half on the first side, until the edges begin to firm up and the surface is spotted with small bubbles. Flip and cook for about a minute on the second side.

My version is doubled, because I like to make a big batch then freeze them for a quick breakfast before work. If you’d like to freeze them, too, I recommend lining a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper, then arranging the pancakes in a single layer. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for about two hours, until they’re firm, then peel them off the paper and store in a gallon freezer bag. I cook two for about a minute in the microwave and eat with maple syrup or apple sauce!

Seriously, y’all, if you like bananas, these are AMAZING! So light and fluffy, moist, and just absolutely delicious. They puff up beautifully on the griddle and freeze really well. I actually find myself getting out of bed earlier in the morning because I’m looking forward to eating them :)

What do you eat for breakfast? Do you like banana things? I feel like bananas can be very polarizing – people either love them or hate them.

P.S. The photo above is not of these pancakes – it’s an instagram my friend Samantha took of her Sunday morning breakfast, and I appropriated it because I thought it was so lovely :)

Shark Tank

15 May 2014

At 9 o’clock on most Friday nights, there’s only one place to look for John and me: in front of our TV, watching Shark Tank :) Perhaps not as hopping as your Friday night plans, but we adore this show, and love to talk about it with anyone who will listen! Today, y’all are my captive audience :)

We started watching in the second season, in 2011. I was headed to a conference where one of the sharks, real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, was the keynote speaker, which sparked my interest in the show. By the time the conference rolled around, we were hooked! At this particular conference, attendees are randomly split into small groups for dinner with the speakers. I practically levitated out of my seat when I found out I was one of eight dining with Barbara! Our dinner lasted about four hours (!), and she was so genuinely interested in what everyone did and the market segments they operated in. (As a side note, I’m not surprised that intense curiosity is one of Barbara’s defining character traits – I think a desire to continuously learn is a mark of most successful people. It’s something I noticed about Martha Stewart when I attended a taping of her show a few years ago.)

barbara corcoran

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the show features a panel of potential investors (sharks) who consider offers from entrepreneurs (of varying levels of success) seeking investments in their businesses or products. Many investors leave without a deal, some partner up with one investor, and a few, with more than one. As the show has become more popular, even just appearing on the show without getting a deal can cause a huge spike in orders.

I actually really like all of the sharks for different reasons – Kevin’s curmudgeonly ways crack me up, Mark can be surprisingly emotional, and I have a personal connection with Barbara – but if I had to choose, I think Robert, “the son of an immigrant factory worker,” is my favorite.

Aside from the fact that I L-O-V-E entrepreneurs and seeing people go after their dreams with total passion (cheesy? yes), my favorite part of this show is the products and businesses being pitched. A few that have stood out to John and me:

Favorite entrepreneurs:
Simple Sugars Scrub (loved this 17-year-old gal’s passion!)
M3 Girl Designs (wildly successful mother and two daughter team)

Products we’ve actually purchased:
Clean Bottle (water bottle that unscrews at both the top and bottom for easier cleaning)
Freaker (one-size-fits-all bottle insulator made in the USA – this guy was also one of THE most memorable entrepreneurs we’ve ever seen)
Gobie (water bottle with a built-in filtration system with “flexflo” technology)

Products we want:
Spatty (miniature spatula designed for getting the bits out of makeup/lotion bottles)
Bambooee (reusable bamboo towels on a roll – machine washable!)
Revolights (bike lighting system that illuminates in 360 degrees)

Products I’m proud to have known about before I saw them on Shark Tank:
Lolla Cup
Freshly Picked Moccasins
FuzziBunz cloth diapers
Mo’s Bows (we featured him in Southern Weddings V5!)
Nearly Newlywed

Most memorable:
I Want to Draw a Cat for You (John and I catch ourselves singing his little song to ourselves from time to time)
Copa Di Vino (this guy went on twice with his premium wine in a glass, and he was quite the character)
Billy Blanks Jr. Dance With Me DVD (Billy and his wife had a really emotional segment, and they initially left the tank without a deal – until Damon chased them down and worked something out.)
Rent a Goat (enough said)

If you don’t watch Shark Tank, I’m afraid this post might sound like total gibberish to you – but if you do watch it, I hope it brought back some good memories! If you fall into the latter camp, I would love to hear about your favorite product or entrepreneur, if you’ve ever bought a Shark Tank product, and if you have a favorite shark!

Front porch inspiration

12 May 2014

I’m not sure how typical this is, but when John and I moved into our house (about a year ago), we made very few immediate changes or improvements. We wanted to live with the space for a bit, and we also wanted to let our budget adjust to a mortgage vs. rent! Until last month, when we added handsome black rockers thanks to my in-laws, our front porch looked pretty much the same as the day we moved in:

porch-side-view

maroon-front-door

porch-with-rockers

It’s a pretty good place to start, so I can’t complain! (Aside from the heavy dusting of pollen – thank you, North Carolina.) We love the haint blue ceiling, the columns, and the generous proportions. We don’t love the lack of privacy or the color of the front door. We would love for this to be a more comfortable space to hang out (it is one of my 60 Before 30 goals!), so we’re hoping to make a few improvements over the next few months. My inspiration:

front-porch-inspiration

A few of the things on our to do list:
— Paint the front door
— Add a planter with fern beside the door
— Hang string lights
— Add a side table between the rockers
— Build a trellis and plant something climbing for more privacy
— Hang a swing (!!!)

As you can probably tell, the swing is most exciting to me. John, however, is worried that hanging a swing will compromise the integrity of our porch roof (…?), so I have a little more convincing to do before I get the green light.

Most intimidating to me on this list is painting the front door – it just seems like such a big change! If it were you, would you go with poppy red, haint blue, or glossy black?

May goals

5 May 2014

I’m usually good about posting my monthly goals on the first of the month, but so far, May has thrown me for a loop! I had my post pretty well written but not quite ready on April 30th; I left it in draft thinking I’d do a last check and hit publish the next day. Instead I was up most of the night with what felt like food poisoning, stayed home from work and slept for most of Thursday, then hesitatingly got on a plane (RDU –> PHL –> PVD) Thursday night to fly home for an award ceremony for my dad. I was within ten minutes of Providence on my second leg before we were turned around due to fog, in the Philly airport until 2am, slept in a hotel for two hours, then caught a train to southeastern Connecticut at 5:15am, arriving at 9. Whew!! At least I could sleep on the train :)

Let’s hope the rest of May goes a bit more smoothly! I did so-so on my April goals, but that didn’t stop me from being ambitious with my May ones…

spring-bike-ride

To recap, my April goals:
Set an appointment with an allergist
Break out calligraphy supplies and do something with them
Pick strawberries
Make final reservations for our California trip
Purchase a spring/fall jacket
Send out invitations for two showers (invitation number one has been printed and cut – waiting on addresses before I send!)
Fulfill one of our Easter traditions – paying for the car behind us in a drive-through line! (Yikes – we forgot!! Going to find another opportunity soon.)

May goals:
— Install a rain barrel
— Take photos of our house and post a tour on the anniversary of our closing
— Set an appointment with an allergist
— Address shower invitations with newish nib skills
— Hang art in the kitchen

If you’ve posted your monthly goals, I’d love to take a peek!