Broccoli Cheddar Soup With Crispy Pancetta

Now that the weather is getting colder (or, per usual, in North Carolina...flip flopping daily) soup is making its way into my dinner repertoire with a vengeance. This is one I had been playing around with for a while and finally made it happen one afternoon when I was craving something simple and filling. This recipe fits the bill on both counts. 

This is when I should admit that this may be the first time I actually ate my broccoli. Covered in cheese, cream and the addition of crispy pancetta. And it was worth every caloric bite. 

I also didn't use flour in this recipe so as long as you use gluten free stock, you can make this gluten free. 

This was best served immediately, if you have leftovers and want to re heat, add a little more cream and cheese as it heats.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

3 cups cheddar (shredded)
1/2 cup colby jack (shredded)
2 cups cream
1/4 cup stock
1/4 cup chopped pancetta (crisped)

Heat the cream on medium until it begins to bubble, add in the cheese and stock. Whisk continuously until it begins to thicken.  Add pepper and salt to taste. 

Ladle into bowls and top with pancetta. 

This got my husband's seal of approval and surprisingly...mine 

My New Car Is Saving My Marriage

Ok, slight major exaggeration but due to the fact that it has dual climate control there are literally no telling how many fights it is staving off in the future. I am one of those people who like to have my heat going full throttle in the car. Almost burning I am so hot. 

My not that person and we frequently take long trips. Problem now solved;) 

I realize I am probably late to the whole butt warmer craze and all but my previous car had absolute zero bells and whistles and was solely to get me from point a to b. It wasn't a clunker or anything but had seen its day. I had wanted a new car for a while but mine really had no problems... it was just getting on up there in the miles. As in over 165,000 miles. And I like to travel. 

This is not a new car, it is used but has less than 20,000 miles and has another few years on the warranty, but it is *new to me* and that's all she wrote.

It also got me around 41 miles to a gallon and had been paid over for over three years. Car payments suck. 

But we bit the bullet and got one right before Thanksgiving...and I am in love! 

My favorite things about it are far too numerous, but these are the ones that stand out. 

Sunroof. I have always wanted one. I have had it for two weeks and I keep forgetting about it and then when I remember it I get entirely too excited;)

Bluetooth. Being able to listen to my Texas Country from my phone is fantastic. Maybe one of the best parts. Still getting used to the whole phone ringing and talking, but I am sure I'll get over it quickly;)

Smooth Ride. It really does pretty much hug the road and it drives so smoothly that I almost don't even realize how crappy the roads are around here. Almost. 

Butt Warmer. I mean...self explanatory. My bootie has never been happier. Ok, maybe that time I fit it into a fabulous dress.

Dual Climate. Ok, I rode on a twelve hour car ride with the mister and I never once got cold. In thirteen years this has never happened. I am telling you that VW is to blame for my now perfect marriage. (oh, wait...there is not dual climate control in our house)

Anyways, I promise not to talk about my car all the time or be ridiculous about it but I am pretty excited. We got a great deal on it and there is so much room! My 6'5 husband has insane leg room! 

Vermont Mornings

When it comes to the fall, one of my favorite flavors is maple. We have been to Vermont for trips a couple of times and maple always reminds me of our visits. Maple syrup flows up there like sweet tea does down here.  I love working it into recipes.  I love how it parlays into the winter months as well. I was playing around with different ideas for a breakfast get together and after a few trials, this one ended up being my hands down choice. 

The maple and bourbon played off the distinct taste of the coffee really well. It added just the right amount of sweetness to the drink. The homemade whip cream was the perfect addition and while not, should make it if you can! I could have eaten it with a spoon!

If you are looking for a concoction for Christmas morning or maybe while you watch a movie at night instead of hot cocoa!

Vermont Mornings
1 oz cream
1 oz bourbon
1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
2 oz brewed coffee
*maple candy (optional)

Stir together the cream, bourbon and maple syrup in a mug then pour in the coffee while still stirring. Top with the maple bourbon whip cream and enjoy!

To make whip cream

1/2 cup cold whipping cream
2 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tbsp bourbon

in a mixer, beat the whipping cream until it starts to thicken. Slowly add in the maple syrup and bourbon and keep whipping until very thick.  ( you could also add in more sugar if you want it sweeter)

linking up with the Pin Junkie, made by you, flour me with love, holiday best, ladybug blessings
pint sized baker

Headbands Of Hope

Having been away for the last two weeks, I still have lots of catching up to do around here. I will share all about our trip and a few recipes here soon enough. In the meantime, I wanted to share a few photos from one of my favorite organizations, Headbands Of Hope. If you are still looking for gifts, they have the perfect selection!

Headbands of Hope came about when founder Jessica Eckstrom did an internship with a wish granting foundation. She discovered that girls who were losing their hair to cancer really loved wearing headbands and in turn, launched Headbands of Hope during her junior year of college. For every headband you buy, $1 is donated to the childhood cancer organization of your choice. And a headband is donated to a girl with cancer. They also recently started a boys line of buffs. To date, they have donated over 20,000 headbands to hospitals around the country. 

Jessica is local and graduated from NC State and one of my best friends works for HoH, so I have gotten to see first hand what they accomplish, not only in our community, but around the country. They recently got to dress up as princesses and deliver headbands to some children at Duke Children's Hospital in Durham. 

Here are a few photos of the "Princess Distribution" all photos are via Headbands of Hope. The three ladies who passed out the headbands last nights are (L to R) Elsa ( Lauren) Cinderella ( Jess, the founder) Snow White (Nicole,  one of my besties!)

Here are a few of their headbands, buy yourself something cute or grab a gift for someone this Christmas!!

Please follow this great company on facebook and instagram and if you are looking for any gifts, be sure to check them out! 

Decorating Timeline

Often times, our decorations for the holidays are based on our travel schedule for that year. Normally, if we are going to visit my family in Virginia, we get a tree and go all out. On the other hand, if that year we are going to Boston, we tend to decorate on a smaller scale and usually abstain from having a tree. Due to the fact we are normally gone for about ten days, it's just not worth it. 

Plus...there is the small detail of huge arguments tend to come up when we do the tree. I have little arms and for some reason he always thinks I can hold the tree up. No, me and my T-Rex arms cannot.

The one thing I am habitual on is when I actually decorate for Christmas and that date is always December 1st. And it has nothing to do with being bah hum bug as much as it has to do with fall being my favorite;) Growing up we always did it the Friday after Thanksgiving and it was a tradition I adored. Now half of my friends have had their houses decorated since the beginning of November! 

And for once...I am kind of jealous. Not jealous enough to change how I decorate but seeing some of these photos from friends with their fires, trees and hot cocoa while watching Hallmark movies may be making me slightly green with envy, but only slightly. 

 I have definitely watched more Christmas movies at this point in November than ever before. And I am not sorry about it. I did bring out my Christmas Cookie candle and burn it as I watched North Pole the other night...Maybe that counts for something;)

Another reason I wait until December to decorate is that we don't take our decorations down until Jan 6th, the day after "Little Christmas"  also known as ' The 12th Day of Christmas' We usually have a dinner and celebrate Le Befana with an Italian dinner. This is my favorite new tradition since we have gotten married! And it is one I am sharing with my family as well.

What are your decorating traditions? Do you prefer doing it any specific date? Is there a tree farm you go pick from? Does your family make a day of it? 

Linking up with Liz and Shanna

Traipsing Around Bull City

This past weekend we spent the day looking at cars for me. Fingers crossed that we find one soon! While we were out and about we ended up stopping by the Historic Stagville Plantation in Durham. I got some lovely photos. It was a chilly, but perfect, fall day. 

Later that afternoon, I was in full on hungry rage and had to be fed immediately. We ended up at some burger joint that is very similar to Steak N Shake. It was fine and hit the spot, nothing to really write home about. Except for the huge oreo stuffed with their frozen custard. Oh my gosh, it was so good!

Then on Sunday we hosted supper club and had a few friends over. We made tacos and Tony got cupcakes. One of which was an oreo mousse cupcake. Entirely too good. 

This was our weekend. How was yours?

Girl Nights & Sangria

I am not sure that I can parlay exactly how much I love getting together with my girlfriends. There is just something about being with your favorite ladies and letting go. Over the years 'ladies night' has taken on many different versions. And I have appreciated each phase. 

Some were weekly events with girlfriends at a local restaurant that had half price desserts and cocktails on Thursday nights. And the pours were never held back just because the price was less than usual. Those weekly meetups saw different people come and go from our core group, but each time held plenty of laughs. More than enough were on my behalf because sometimes... I am really blonde and the tipsy version of me shows that off rather well. But I am a damn good time so there's that.

Then as we each got married and moved to different directions of town, girls night became a monthly meeting with no set location. We tasted our way around The Triangle. Those were some of my favorite memories. 

More so lately though, with almost all of the group being mothers, ladies night is an intermittent gathering, usually at someone's house. Cocktails and dessert are still very much present, as is the never ending stream of giggles. You know the kind, you laugh so hard you are making squeaking noises. Those are the times I look forward to the most.

The older I get...the more I appreciate my girlfriends. And any moments I get with them.

  This drink was from my last get together, simple and easy to whip up and it only packs a punch if you want it to. 

Apple Cider Sangria

1 bottle of red wine 
4 cups fresh apple cider
1 cup spiced rum
2 apples cut up
1 orange sliced
bottle of 7 up

In a large pitcher combine all ingredients except for the 7 up. Stir and refrigerate for about 3 hours.. 

Fill glassed 3/4 full and top with the 7 up. Or I have used sparking wine or once I even used Crispin hard cider instead. Each version is yummy! Just depends upon how much alcohol you want to add. 

An (Inter) Stellar Weekend

As I mentioned previously, last weekend I headed with Nicole to her hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana to visit with her family and to attend her friend's baby shower.  I was trying to prepare myself for the coldness that was about to come my way...and for the most part I did just fine in the cold. 

Wine helps. 

We went shopping when we got there and they took me to a store that I had never been to before, Von Maur and I hit the clearance jackpot with these shoes from Jessica Simpson. Now I just need spring to appear so I can sport them...or maybe just a trip somewhere tropical. (Hint. Hint. Mister)

We stayed in a lot and cozied up to the fire, caught up on Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder and popped some bubbly. In other words...perfection. Her mom joked that we had the perfect romantic night in. 

The shower was set for Saturday and was a really fun time. I loved getting to meet her friends from home and I made my Apple Cider Sangria. Super easy to whip up in a hurry. And there was chocolate covered oreos and pretzels...need I say more?

Sunday we packed up and drove back to Indy and we were able to meet up for brunch with a friend of mine from Raleigh that recently moved to the area. I indulged in a short rib grilled cheese and oh. my. gracious. It was beyond delicious and now I am hungry again!

However...I thought I read somewhere that the mimosas were bottomless ( a lot of the places around here do that for Sunday brunch) and I even asked about it. Apparently the guy thought I was being funny or something because $30 later and my mimosas were 'bottomless' but not no much in price;) haha oopsie. 

When we got back all I wanted to do was go home and nap because being lazy for four days is very tiring...just saying. It is. I mean a fire just zaps that energy right out of ya. Anyways, Wiki was having none of it and wanted to see Interstellar. Yawn. But I am an amazing wife and went with only maximum amounts of whining. 

I will say he fed me a pint of candied bacon and wings so I was content. I basically sound like a man with my food wish list. Then he got me chocolate mousse for dessert and I was good to go. We went to the 9:30 Sunday night showing and it was still sold out! I will admit that it was much better than I was anticipating and I actually really liked it. I didn't like getting home at one in the morning but I survived. 

Hope you guys had a great weekend also!

Fall In Carolina

The weather here lately has just been spectacular! The trees are finally turning and the skies have been extraordinary at night. It was 74' here yesterday and today  is supposed to be even better. I am heading out of town with a friend to Fort Wayne and I am afraid I am going to freeze;)  But I am really excited for our trip. 

Here are a few photos I have snapped over the last week. It has been amazing to take advantage of this perfect weather. Our area has fantastic places to see nature and explore and it is such a release when you are feeling overwhelmed. I just love exploring these parks and trails. 

Trail at Lake Wheeler

Historic Yates Mill 

 Duke Gardens


Lake Como ( Torno, Cernobbio & Bellagio)

I am almost at a loss for words to describe just how much I loved this place. It is both relaxing and invigorating... beautiful and majestic. I could easily live here. I loved Tuscany and seeing where our family lives and that was my favorite part of the trip. However, Lake Como owns a piece of my heart. Never has my spirit felt more at peace and more free than the few days I was able to spend in this enchanting spot.

We stayed in the small village of Torno. Our hotel was down about 200 steps and each step simply brought you that much closer to the beauty that is the lake. We stayed at a small family run hotel that was directly on the water. It had no bells and whistles. It had fantastic food and views for days. To me, that is perfection. Also, this is where Robert DeNiro stays when he comes. If it is good enough for must be good enough for him;)

On our first full day we took the ferry over to Cernobbio. This just happens to be where George Clooney was filming a commercial the day before. And where there was a political summit going on which led to the most spectacular fireworks show...pretty much in history. I loved this charming village. Great shopping and our meal was one of my favorites of the trip.

The second full day we spent two hours on the ferry on the way to Bellagio. It was the best way to take in all the small villages along the lake and so many new places we long to explore. Bellagio was a little too 'touristy' for me. Very busy but Tony and I walked to the very tip where there was a small park and the view was absolutely stunning. Words, nor even pictures, could ever do it justice. 

Here are a few shots from our stay.




 Views from the Lake

linking up for Wanderlust Wednesday.

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