Christmas Shopping in a Sundress

I am writing this watching football and drinking eggnog while it is still 65 degrees at 11 pm at night...and all the angels sang "Hallelujah" I love warm weather. On Christmas day it can be chilly and maybe even a few snow flakes, the rest of the year, I'll take this!

We had a full weekend that started on Friday night with a gingerbread house competition. My friend Caroline hosted it and she, as is always the case, had an amazing spread! This is how parties are when you're a food blogger and so are your friends;) My other real life bestie, Nicole, was there as was another favorite, Angela from Head to Toe Chic. It was a great night and when I say my husband and I did not win, I mean that sincerely. It was bad. I could never be a craft blogger. You are all so very welcome for that.

Saturday I got my hair done and then got a phone call from my husband about car trouble. After AAA was an hour late to pick him up and the tow truck dropped him off,  we had to get dressed,  I had to do all of my make up and wrap white elephant gifts in 15 minutes so we could then rush out the door and head to his company Christmas party. To say I was stressed would be an understatement. To say the fact they had a full bar helped to alleviate some of my stress would also be an understatement. Life is about adapting;)

Yesterday we shopped and walked around Raleigh with me wearing sandals and a sundress! It was rather amazing. We had a fantastic brunch at Coquette. My french onion soup was delicious, but these butter pecan profiteroles were absolutely scrumptious. I may be dreaming of them for a few weeks to come.

That was my weekend in a nutshell, we have a busy week ahead with basketball and my book club cookie exchange. I will have a few yuletide cocktails for you guys this week!

Philly at Christmastime

This post has been waiting right at about a year for me to write. Every year on our trip up to Boston, whether it be Thanksgiving or Christmas, we usually stop at a different city (or small and charming towns!) on the way up and on the way back. We try to turn our long drive into mini trips and see a new place each time. We were driving and debating between Philadelphia and Wilmington when we found a great last minute hotel deal in Philly and the decision was made.  We were there for less than 24 hours, but these are my favorite sights of Philadelphia at Christmas, with a bunch of architecture, history and food thrown in!

We ended up staying at The Latham Hotel which was recently renovated and in a central location and points for a bar with amazing bourbon cocktails. They obviously cared about me. The rooms were a good size for an older hotel. Not large enough for a gathering, but certainly enough room for the two of us to move around freely. Mainly...the bed. I almost cried when it was time to wake up because I was so comfortable. 

Anyways, once out of the hotel our first stop was historic Reading Terminal via a walk by the absolutely gorgeous City Hall. We ate a bunch and if you want to know how hungry I was...I didn't even get a picture of my food before I inhaled it. Just trust me, delicious. Every meal we ate was nothing short of fantastic. 

We walked around a bunch more, checking out what sights we could because it was a Sunday and lots of places I was interested in seeing were closed. I did grab a shot of the home of the one and only Betsy Ross. I was maybe a little too excited over that. Then we stumbled onto the spot where the first photograph was taken and we pulled up what it looked like on google and took a photo of the frst photo at that sight. Cause we are nerds and everything. 

Interestingly enough, my favorite stop of the whole weekend was at the Macy's. They have an amazing light show and organ concert in the original Wanamakers store. It is a tradition dating back to 1956 and their third floor has a Dickens Village set up. I cannot recommend stopping by there enough. 

Hopefully we get to go back again soon when we are able to spend a little bit more time and really embrace ourselves in all the history. 

Meems Bottom Covered Bridge

One of life's little treasure, at least to me, is the joy of discovering covered bridges. They are usually found on a scenic road in a sweet little town or stumbled upon on a lonely stretch of road. There are a few left in Virginia, but by far, my favorite is Meems Bottom Covered Bridge found in the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley just shy of New Market. The road leading to it is framed by lovely trees that seem to frame the setting. 

The bridge is named after the Meems family that owned the land and was built in 1894 and stayed in great shape until 1976 when it was partly burned. Thankfully they salvaged what they could and instead of scrapping it, rebuilt it with reinforcements. If you ever find yourself traveling on 81 in Virginia, it is found right of the exit and I promise it would be a short detour well worth your time. 

Fall in Virginia is a sight to behold and here is just a little snippet of why I love it so. 

Pumpkin Spice Donut Holes With Butterscotch

One of the best memories of my childhood was when my mom would make my brother and I fried donut holes. It was so simple, but made such an impression on my brother and I. The whole house would smell of cinnamon sugar. My mom would make them and let my brother and I shake the donut holes in a brown paper bag containing the cinnamon sugar. Sometimes this would result in a throwdown between the two of us, but hey...only one could win;) These pumpkin butterscotch donut holes sprinkled with heath is my twist on my childhood memory. They are delicious and,  in a few easy steps, you can wow at your next gathering.

There are few combos I love more than butterscotch and heath, if you read my blog enough that wouldn't exactly be shocking!  The addition of pumpkin spice completes this delicious treat without competing with the other flavors. You can make this rather quickly and it is sure to be a hit. I used butterscotch ice cream sauce but you could always make your own, I like to do that sometimes, and I like to add bourbon. Of course. 


1 tube biscuits

1/3 cup butterscotch sauce

1 tsp pumpkin spice

1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup heath bar bits

Cut each biscuit into four pieces and roll into a ball. Set aside on a plate.  Dump the pumpkin spice, cinnamon, and sugar into a large ziplock bag. Place the biscuit pieces into the bag and seal. Shake vigorously until all pieces are coated. Set aside again. 

(pumpkin spice already has some cinnamon in it, so this is optional, if you forgo the cinnamon, use an extra 1/2 tsp of pumpkin spice) 

In 12-inch skillet, heat 2 inches oil over medium-high heat to about 350ºF. Carefully fry biscuits about 30 seconds on each side or until golden brown. Remove from the oil and place on paper towel lined plate to cool.

Heat the butterscotch sauce for about 20 to 30 seconds in a microwave safe bowl.  Set up a station where you have plate of donuts, the butterscotch sauce, an empty tray, and finally, the heath bar bits.  Using a toothpick, dip the donut holes in the butterscotch sauce and set down on the tray. Once they are covered, sprinkle the bits all over the top of the donut holes.  I let the butterscotch sauce harden a bit before I serve, this usually takes about half an hour. 

Serve and enjoy. Please do me a favor and steal one for yourself while waiting for the rest to harden. Don't let me be the only one. I mean, it's only fair. 

Autumn Palmer

This drink came about as I was playing around one afternoon trying to come up with a cocktail for a get together. Being in the south, Arnold Palmers are all the rage. I suppose I should admit I am not part of that bandwagon. I like my tea just as it is, I don't even want lemons in it. I, however, realize that I am usually in the minority with this, but it got me to thinking. I did have lemonade and sweet tea vodka on hand and as I was glancing through my fridge and spied apple cider, this simple fall version was born.  

Suddenly I was in love. 

Instead of the half and half split of tea and lemonade, I used lemonade and apple cider and decided to half the sweet tea vodka pull the two together. It was good, but still missing something. It didn't take long for me to decide that bourbon was what this cocktail was lacking. I mean, I think we all know my mantra is bourbon makes everything better. This time it was almost perfect, I have played around with it quite a few times and it is a drink that you can play to your taste. I have added bitters and I have added simple syrup. It's more of a preference. 

The one piece of advice I would it with a dry champagne. Bubbles are a close second to bourbon in the making everything better department. 

Make it two pieces of advice...use real apple cider, it needs the apple bits in the bottom or you just will not get the same taste!!! Go for the jug!

Autumn Palmer. 

2 oz lemonade
2 oz apple cider
1 oz sweet tea vodka
1/2 oz bourbon
dash apple bitter (optional)
champagne floater
lemons/apples for garnish

in a shaker filled with ice, add in the lemonade, apple cider, bourbon, vodka and bitters. Shake vigorously and pour in a glass filled with ice. Add in lemon/apple slices and enjoy. 

This would also be good served straight up in a chilled martini glass. This is also great for a large group. Just use equal parts lemonade and cider and use the bourbon and vodka to taste. maybe 1/4 cup to every cup or so, 

Pumpkin Spice Zeppoles

Zeppoles. Fried Dough. Beignets. Basically the same, and yet, not the same at all. I just know that I love each and every one, no matter what you call them. I grew up with my mom making us "homemade" donuts that she would fry up from the biscuit cans on weekends. My older brother and I always considered it a treat. Then, when I married my husband, his family makes fried dough frequently. If you have never had savory ones with sea salt, you're missing out. However, for today, these Pumpkin Spice Zeppoles are the perfect fall treat, especially when paired with the butterscotch sauce!

My husband's family makes them a lot and depending on who you talk to, they will call it fried dough or zeppole. Just for kicks, we are going with zeppole today but you can just call it delicious. I've made zeppole from scratch using this recipe before, but for this particular recipe I used can biscuits as I was in a hurry. You can most definitely use the scratch recipe and then just catch up on the last step back here. 

Usually, when you go to a fair or order these at an Italian restaurant they will come served in a brown paper bag. The hot bites of fried dough tossed in the bag with powdered sugar. I wanted to play around with the traditional for the fall season and do a typical cinnamon sugar base with a little pumpkin spice added in. So no, there's no actual pumpkin in this particular recipe but they don't call it autumn spice, they call it pumpkin 


2 biscuit tubes
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin spice
1/3 cup butterscotch sauce

In a frying pan, place 2 inches of oil and get to 350 degrees. Cut each biscuit in half and kind of flatten with your fingers. Drop in the oil and cook on each side until golden brown.  Place on a plate covered with paper towels to drain for just a second. In a brown bag (or if they have cooled a bit, a large ziplock bag) place the sugar, cinnamon, and pumpkin spice. Drop the zeppoles in the bag and shake vigorously for about 1 minute or until all pieces are coated, You can do a few at a time. 

Serve with warm butterscotch sauce or even ice cream. I used butterscotch ice cream sauce and it was the perfect topping. 

* Notes. the sugar/spice ratio can be adjusted to your taste based on if you want more or less spice flavor. I have also done a mix of powdered sugar and the pumpkin spice and that was really good as well. 

I hope you enjoy!

linking up with Freedom Fridays

The Maddie 'Do List

I think that one of the universal searches we go on in life is for the perfect hair stylist. or dresser. I just thought about this, growing up I think I called them hair dressers and now I usually say stylist. I wonder if this is more generational or specific areas, like the south. No matter what you call them, once you find a good one, it's a relationship you want to last. I mean, they are kind of like a therapist too. 

I struggled through a few lame duck stylist and then on a rainy day in 2008, I sat in a chair and found my person.  Our relationship began bc the salon was having a half price hair cut special and I nervously went for it in the hopes the price wouldn't reflect the years later I am always grateful hers is the chair they put me in. We discovered rather quickly that we were both from Virginia and a few more minutes in and the world grew even smaller, we were from the same town and half of our friends intersected. 

These are my top 5 looks over the past seven years.

In the years since I first became her client, our relationship has extended to that of very good friends. We have taken beach trips, we have had many late night movie binges while one of the two of us poured our hearts out to each other. 

So, today I wanted to give her a shout out and have a little flashback over all of my styles the past 8 years. This was only half. I never realized just how many styles and colors we have gone through over the years but I love looking back on them. 

If you are in the Raleigh Durham area I implore you to make a trek to Wake Forest and see Elizabeth, you won't be sorry! You can check her facebook out here and her website here

Getting Lost In Vermont

Being in the Green Mountains of Vermont is always akin to being in an enchanted forest for me. Every time I prepare to visit, I refuse to believe I can love this magical place more than my previous visits and each time, I seem to be proven wrong. The moment I arrive in Vermont, my whole body seems to let out one big contented sigh.  Not to mention the best grilled cheese and macaroni you will ever eat. 

I actually love all of Vermont and Queechee Gorge and Woodstock,  both are located a  little more towards the center of the state, are two of my favorite spots, but, if made to choose, I think the Stowe area and Lake Champlain captured the largest piece of my heart. 

These are a few shots I took from our latest trip this past month. Most are from around Smugglers Notch and Stowe, but a few are from a few places along the way. Including the ferry across Lake Champlain to New York and Calvin Cooledge's homestead. Both were lovely. 

This go round we stayed at Smugglers Notch resort and our condo was fantastic with great views of the mountains. There were multiple pools and restaurants and quite a few game rooms. We were very close to Mt. Mansfield, which is the highest peak in Vermont. We were able to head to the top on one of the gondolas and the views are just breathtaking. 

If you ever have the chance to go to Vermont, I cannot implore you to do so enough. I just love this place and my only regret is that I have yet to make it in the fall to take in the foliage, definitely on my bucket list!

Munchkin Profiteroles

This is where I am going to use the word 'recipe' very loosely. I mean, I think it could probably fit more under 'suggestion' Either way, you should make this. It is very simple and very tasty. I love cream puffs and even learned to make them from scratch this summer. Which is pretty much the greatest thing ever, however, when you are running short on time...why not cheat a little. 

You can make so many versions of these. I used the regular glaze this go round with creme brulee ice cream and it was divine. Since then I have done the chocolate ones with caramel ice cream and strawberry ice cream and they have the pumpkin ones out for fall and I found some cinnamon ice cream and the combination of the two was fantastic!

The key to these not falling apart when you cut them is using a serrated bread knife!

I obviously used Dunkin Donuts to grab my munckins, but you can pretty much buy donut holes at any grocery store!

Go get you some, but not too many;) 

linking up with Kate

Bourbon Caramel Cider Cake

Bourbon. Caramel. Cider. Cake. I mean, can I fit any more of my favorite things about fall in one dessert? Doubtful. This bourbon caramel cider cake tastes nothing like a typical cake mix cake, it has hints of everything you love about fall and it is relatively easy to make. I used your typical yellow cake mix, but you could really use any flavor you want. There is actually a caramel cake mix out that I think would be a delicious base. I pretty much followed the directions on the box, just subbing out the liquids and adding a few simple ingredients. 

yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 cup bourbon
1/3 cup melted butter ( or oil)
2 apples sliced 
1/2 cup caramel pieces

In a bowl, mix together the cake mix, eggs, cider, bourbon and butter. Once thoroughly combined, pour into the well greased pan of your choice. I used a large tart pan when I took pictures, but I have used an 8 x 13 also. 

Drop the caramel bits into the cake mix, saving a few. Arrange the apple slices and then place remaining caramel pieces over the apples. Bake as directed, 

I am not the biggest fan of fruit in cakes, I am just not at all. No apple pies, no cherry cobbler...just not my cup of tea. I did find myself enjoying this though. Maybe it's because I used granny smith apples and they still had a slight crunch when i bit into it. I think that this was best when it was still slightly warm and served with a big scoop of ice cream. I may have added caramel sauce over the cake and ice cream on more than one occasion. I'll never tell. 

Enjoying this treat while watching Hocus Pocus is about as good as it is going to get. Maybe you can indulge in a hot toddy while you devour this. Or savor it, the choice is yours;)

Rainy Day Thoughts

A few weeks ago I was able to visit my old neighbor, Theresa. She was my favorite part of our neighborhood and I have missed our many nights of movies and fellowship since she and her family moved to SC. I hadn't been to Greenville in years and kept hearing how much they had done to their downtown. I was over the moon to not only visit her, but check out how downtown Greenville has changed. 

These photos were taken on a slightly windy and rainy night, little did we know that two weeks later the whole state would basically be covered. I loved what they have done, even on the dreary day and nothing but a My Little Pony umbrella to keep me dry. They were abpe to develop the downtown but maintain their charm.

Please keep praying for South Carolina, what I am seeing in my newsfeed is just devastating! The Reedy Creek park area was just so lovely and we had such a fun time traipsing around in the rain and not taking ourselves seriously. As far as I have seen from the coverage, Greenville seems to have missed most of the major storms and damage, but just a few miles away and the road I took to travel on, are basically washed away. 

It's always hard to comprehend how fast destruction can come in and level everything in its wake. 

The Soda Monster

My weight has been an on again/off again struggle for me since I broke my leg in sixth grade and was on crutches for two years. I underwent multiple surgeries and was unable to participate in any sports or healthy activities. So I mainly ate. And ate a little more. I developed eating disorders along the way. I went from extremely thin to rather heavy. There was rarely an in between. This continued for about 15 years. 

On my 29th birthday I was the heaviest I had ever been and then, exactly a year later, I was at my thinnest. I gladly peaced out my twenties and grabbed tight to my thirties. Looking better than ever. I kept it off for a good while until my battle with mental illness took a hold of me again and I was put on a medicine that made me gain 18 lbs in less than a week. A few years later and the weight just climbed back on in a not so slow as much as steady manner. 

This photo was me on my heaviest at 29 and then a little over a year later at my thinnest. It was a 91 lb difference. I went from 237 lbs to 146lbs. 

While I am still 30 lbs thinner than I was on my 29th birthday, I am almost 60 lbs heavier than I was on my 30th. I have no desire to be at my smallest weight, but I definitely want to find the middle ground again. Not for the sake of any one else but myself. I want to love taking pictures with my friends again! I want to enjoy my wardrobe instead of clinching teeth and holding back tears when one less piece fits. 

Ultimately, this is where I would like to get back to, about 25/30 lbs less than now and about 20/25 lbs more than at my thinnest.  I weighed around 170 or so in this photo and I would be fine with that. I was a size 8/10. Now I am back in a 14/16. 

My number one enemy is soda. I am allergic to aspartame and so I can't have diet ( I've always heard it's terrible for you anyways) and therefore, the ones I drink usually carry a whopping 40 grams of sugar in them. It is not the calories that bother me so much as it is the sugar. I really need to cut it out. 

My problem is that it is just so good! I need to get back to loving green tea and homemade lemonade. 

If only I drank coffee instead of ice cream with coffee added or sugar filled creamer with a splash of coffee;) 

What is the one food or drink item that you have trouble with? Any tips to help me quit?

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