lately: beer & bourbon festival


Ross and I at the beginning of the festival, showing off our glasses!


…because sometimes Kelly and I make goofy faces.


Cortez Cigars make an appearance every summer and it’s always so neat to see them hand rolled.


This was a find! We got to sample our namesake bourbon, and it was H.E.A.V.E.N.L.Y. …if only we could have taken some home!


Watching them pull pork – it was so cool! I was like a kid in a candy store.



Ross and Chris after tasting some delicious beers.


One of the many local food trucks posted up under tents!


A little cornhole action, showcasing the theme of the festival.



Cloudy skies and rain couldn’t deter our fun!


Over 40 types of bourbon and more beers than we could count. Pulled pork and good ol’ Southern food for days.

This was the third summer in a row we’ve ventured down to Cary, N.C. for the annual “Beer Bourbon & BBQ Festival” and, true to form, it was a winning time. We sampled a good amount of tasty brews and beverages, but the best part? Spending time and catching up with friends we don’t get to see nearly as often as we’d like. I feel so lucky we were able to make the trip, and we are already counting down to next summer’s shindig!

lately: our beach trip!

The hubs and I spent an amazing week {just the two of us!} living large on the shores of Carolina Beach. Blessed with absolutely perfect weather, plenty of activities, and within walking distance to just about every amazing restaurant/bar in town, we made sure to live up this trip! Take a peak into how we spent the week.


one of the many beer flights we sampled during the week {this was on our way out, at the Flying Saucer in Raleigh}


the view from our balcony


a rosemary-infused cocktail that the bartender created just for us! {we basically closed it down and hung out with the staff, it was so fun}


rare grilled tuna with an arugula salad, grilled peaches and jalepeno foam


oyster back {oyster on the half shell eaten after enjoying the cocktail of gin/pickled onion/cilantro}


one of the things on our “beach bucket list” was to make a sandcastle – we blew this one out of the water!


at the Shuckin’ Shack {another item on our list was to do an oyster shooter every day – again, we rocked that!}


bringing home with us – Attimo Wine enjoyed, porch sitting style, after an amazing day on the sand


home for the week – 3rd floor of the Marriott


great wave riding this week!


walking along the pier after dinner on Tuesday evening


we made sure to document our presence when we were at the Fat Pelican!


sunshine and tan lines



cocktail night!


we found the hidden bookcase entrance to the Green Light Bar{!!} in Raleigh

vacay recap: sonoma county!

The last few days of our trip out West were spent winery hopping with Lisa, my awesome sister-in-law. We visited 4 wineries throughout the weekend, and ended up shipping an entire case back to our sweet little east coast abode. Truth be told, the wines we tasted were probably some of the best I’ve had, and not to mention the absolutely gorgeous wineries all along the area. Talk about breath-taking! Here are a few shots of our weekend; enjoy!


Lisa enjoying her wine – and the view – at Bella!


Ridge Winery – our first stop!


barrel room at Ridge – stop #3 on their wine tasting tour!


Preston Winery


crisp white wine to sip on at Preston Winery – we sat right outside their herb garden!


wall art at the Dry Creek General Store


gorgeous, locally crafted stoneware for sale at the Dry Creek General Store {I wanted to take all of it home!}



crate of wine on display at Bella



food bites at Bella are handed out before entering the tasting room


the entrance to Bella’s tasting room is located underneath the hillside of their winery!



down the hallway to Bella’s tasting counter



starting our Sunday off with some amazing Zinfandel






Let’s Discuss: Have you ever been out to Sonoma County? What are your favorite wineries? 

vacay recap: our trip to tahoe!

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the hubs and I were extremely lucky and blessed to spend a long week on the West Coast – Tahoe City, to be exact! This trip has been in the books since November 2013, and to say we were excited for this adventure is an understatement! The entire time was wonderful – from short hikes to long “high sierra” adventures, happy hours in the hot tub, beachin’, and everything in between, it was more than we could ever have imagined! I wanted to share some of our favorite memories, views, and of course FOOD here with you all, so sit back and enjoy!

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part of our “high sierra” expedition into Desolation Wilderness – a 14 mile adventure!

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boats loved to park in Secret Cove and take in the stunning views


our first morning waking up by the lake, at sunrise no less – this was the view from our loft!


Lisa and I

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Ross and I at Vikingsholm – 4th of July celebratory shirt and all!


Ross and Lisa

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Secret Cove – part of my and Lisa’s “sister in law” day…certainly one of the most beautiful places on the trip!

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Ross is ready to rock and roll

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estate at Vikingsholm

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views past Sand Harbor


views past Sand Harbor

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Ross playing bartender at the beach

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some leisure reading at Sand Harbor

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exploring the pier down past the Y after dinner one night

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Hula Pie!…dessert was well deserved after our 14 mile adventure

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hot tub, wine, and sunset at the chalet {standard evening fare}

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Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co! We spent a fair amount of time there one afternoon, and sampled fantastic beers!

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brother & sister

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some Ridge wine at dinner




wings for lunch at the Brewery!

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view from Desolation

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rock hopping!

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the smallest lighthouse I’ve ever seen


one of the many mountain lakes we encountered on our “high sierra” expedition

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mid-hike pitstop

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gnome tree! I could seriously stand in there and not touch the “ceiling”

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an afternoon spent cocktail-hopping around town


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beer sampler at Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co!

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there was still snow!…granted, our elevation was about 8,000 feet…

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….sometimes, you just need a marg

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greek pizza at Front Street

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morning coffee at the chalet

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we made a “california cooler” in the lake on sunday-funday!

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…so a bear broke in the day before Ross’s parents arrived. NO LIE! came in through the bedroom window, walked around and tried to exit via the back door, but all he did was create a lot of dust and debris to clean up!…an interesting start to vacation, to say the least.

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Ross showing off his uncorking skills at Spoon {out to dinner night!}

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Sugar Pine State Park – we spent a lot of time there!

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Let’s Discuss: coming soon, I’ll show you our jaunt into Sonoma County! 

buttermilk, made at home (!)

Two simple, common staples is all this one takes. I’m not joking.


We all need a few “party tricks” to pull out from under our sleeves. Whether baking, mixing up a cocktail, or throwing out a wing and a prayer and hoping for dinner, it never fails that sometimes, you need to roll up your sleeves and pull it out.

This is one of those recipes.

I was baking not too long ago and, lo and behold, was elbow deep in dough and came to the realization that I was fresh out of buttermilk. OUT OF BUTTERMILK! – how did I let this happen? I typically always have this tangy ingredient in my refrigerator, tucked away for when days begging for homemade biscuits are calling my name. But here I am, out of buttermilk and out of luck. The hubs was busy doing yard work, so what was a girl to do? Rather than running the risk of a last-minute store trip, I turned to my recipe repertoire and sent up a quick prayer to the culinary heavens.

I was certainly in luck when I stumbled upon this gem. Calling for no more than milk and freshly squeezed lemon juice, a perfect substitution was on the way to being born! These are the moments that I love in the kitchen…coming across the perfect solution for what seems like a truly huge issue {when in reality we know it’s not at all}. Regardless, I’ve got this one tucked away for the next time that I need to whip this one out. Keep it in mind – it truly is a miracle worker!


Homemade Buttermilk*


1 cup milk {I tend to use 1% because that’s what I have on hand}

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice



To Prepare:

In a small bowl, add your milk and lemon juice. Whisk to combine, then set aside for several minutes.

Once the “buttermilk” is ready to use, you’ll see that the mixture has curdled slightly – this is the acidity from the lemon working its magic! Use in any recipe that calls for buttermilk.

I prefer to not make this in batches to store in the refrigerator; rather, I’ll make it shortly before starting a recipe. I’ve never stored it long term and am not sure how the flavor or texture would be. 

*this can easily be doubled or tripled, depending on how much buttermilk your recipe calls for. Simply do the math and you’re set – 2 cups milk + 2 tbsp. lemon juice will yield you two perfect cups of buttermilk, etc. 

thirsty thursday: let’s talk beer & bacon!

I thought it would be fun to mix up this week’s “thirsty thursday” post with a recap of a recent festival that I was lucky enough to attend with the hubs and a group of good friends – the first annual Beer & Bacon Festivalheld down in Cary, North Carolina.


We are no strangers to beer festivals. In fact, it’s one of the main events we try to attend on a regular basis; it’s a great way to get our friends together (after all, we are all spread apart up and down the East Coast) and, of course, sample lots of great craft beers, cocktails, and delicious foods! This was the first “bacon” themed festival we have attended – some of the other ones we typically frequent include the World Beer Festival (held in Durham, NC), the Beer & Bourbon Festival (also held in Cary), the LivingSocial Beer Festival (held in DC), and Blacksburg BrewDo (held in Blacksburg, VA).

To say that these types of festivals are fun would do them an injustice. Aside from the great beers and food, you also get to sample a wide variety of specialty food items that are local to the area. At the Beer & Bacon Festival last week, I was lucky enough to be exposed to more varieties of bacon than I had ever seen in one area in my entire life! They brought in over 2 TONS of bacon to serve throughout the day, all in different flavors – can you even believe that!?

I wanted to share with you dears some of my favorites {both food and booze} from the day’s festivities! In no particular order, let’s run down the food, shall we?

-Sweet Onion Pancake with Bacon Jam & Smoked Maple Syrup

-Puppy Poppers {these were a type of hush puppy, with jalapenos and bacon folded  into the sweet batter}

-Bacon & Pimiento Mac & Cheese

-Collard & Pork Belly Sandwich {this was served on cornbread – oh so good!}

And for the booze {because, after all, isn’t that what ‘thirsty thursday’ is all about?}

-fox barrel blackberry pear cider

-foothills hoppyum

-angry orchard crisp

-lagunitas IPA

-white street brewing co hoptimist IPA

-heavy seas loose cannon

If you are ever, ever presented with the opportunity to attend a festival like this, I can surely promise you that you won’t be disappointed. Not only is it a great way to spend a Saturday, but I’ve had the wheels turning for fun recipes and cocktails that will be sure to follow :)

Stay thirsty, my dears – and cheers!

liebster award


The Breakfast Drama Queen commented on my blog to let me know that I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Blog Award. If you’d never heard of this before, according to Skinny Muffin:

This award is an award to spread blog love and draw attention to blogs with few followers

Needless to say, I was very touched when I saw this. What makes it even more fun is that I get to answer some questions to let you all know a little bit more random & interesting things about me. I’ll be passing this on, along with some new questions, for blogs that I will nominate – yay!

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

  1. What is your favorite movie?…this one is tough for me! ‘The Little Mermaid’ will forever have a special place in my heart, as it was the first movie  I saw as a young girl with my dad. I am also a huge fan of most comedies (Bridesmaids, etc)…and I am a huge sucker for Moulin Rouge. I definitely don’t discriminate!
  2. What is your biggest fear?…somewhat cliche, but the fear of someone close to me being hurt or injured, or worse, is what scares me the most.
  3. What food would you request as your last meal?…anything my mom cooks, hands down. Homemade pizza, her chicken casserole, or chicken divan come right to mind. Dessert would be her apple pie with walnut streusel.
  4. What is one cooking utensil you have always wanted but have never bought?…oh man, there are numerous things that come to mind. As simple as it sounds, I am dying for a French-style rolling pin. I’d also love a nice set of pie weights, a pasta roller…you name it, I’m sure I would love to have it :)
  5. Coffee or tea? Coffee!
  6. What do you do in your free time?…aside from loving to spend time with my husband (whether it’s hiking, camping, walking our sweet Lab), I love to work out, do yoga, read, and enjoy arts and crafts.
  7. What is your favorite thing to cook?…anything that I can get my hands on. I often times find that the more involved a recipe is, the more I love it. Cooking for me has always been therapeutic, so there really isn’t anything I don’t like cooking.
  8. What is your dream car?…Range Rover, or a BMW.
  9. What was the last dream you had that you can remember?…it was about work. I find that I often have a hard time leaving that at the office!
  10. If calories didn’t exist for a day, what would you eat?…ice cream, cheese and crackers, Thai food…probably a funky salad of sorts. I really don’t discriminate and I love all types of food. Everything in moderation, after all :)

Now for the random facts about me:

  • What is your favorite meal of the day?…I love dinner, because I get to enjoy it at home with my husband.
  • If you won $150 million in the lottery, what would be the first thing that you would buy?…a new house with an amazing kitchen (that I would design, as that is what I do for a living – I am a kitchen & bath designer), a beautiful yard for Lane to play in, and a really fun garage with lots of gadgets for my husband to have fun with (he’s an engineer). & plenty of room for our future family.
  • Would you consider yourself a materialistic person?…I certainly enjoy having nice things, but at the end of the day it’s the memories I create with friends and family that mean the most.
  • Pasta, rice or quinoa?…toss up! I love them all.
  • What’s your favorite country in the world? Or is that question too hard?…I am the proud daughter of a US Marine (Semper Fi!) so I have a lot of American pride. I am dying to travel the world, though!
  • If you could be eating anything right now, what would you have?…an ice cream treat from a local ice cream shop down the road from our house.
  • What’s your favorite holiday?…I love Christmas! I have always enjoyed buying gifts for people, and the meaning behind the holiday is important to me.
  • How often do you watch TV?…probably too much, honestly. But the majority of the time it is Food Channel, or I have it on for background noise (it’s on at the moment!).
  • What’s your favorite cookie flavor?…oatmeal chocolate chip, all the way!
  • Why did you start your blog?…to me, it’s like having a scrapbook, a way to keep track of all the delicious (and sometimes fails!) that come out of my kitchen. Cooking has always been a huge passion of mine, and spreading love with food and sharing that with people is one of my biggest joys. By starting my blog, I am able to share stories of what food means to me, what it represents to my family, and helping people develop an appreciation for it as well!

To continue spreading the Liebster love, here are my questions for you! I would like to nominate the following blogs:

Cooking Diary by Shruti,shannaward, Crayons and Croissants,The Healthy Apple, and Coffee Cake and Cardio!

  1. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
  2. If you could only watch one tv show for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
  3. What is your favorite meal to cook?
  4. Is there any ingredient that intimidates you? How do you plan to overcome it?
  5. If you could cook with any person, who would it be any why?
  6. What is your favorite book?
  7. Have you ever been out of the country?
  8. What is your favorite color?
  9. How do you like to spend your free time?
  10. Purses or shoes – which do you like better? 

I do hope you write back, and continue to spread the love! Have a fabulous Tuesday, and thanks for stopping by! xo

homemade vanilla extract

We’re getting creative today, y’all. We’re going to make our own vanilla extract. From scratch. 

Say what?!

Well, I’m saying it – Yes! It can be done! I saw you scratching your heads, looking at me like I’m crazy, so I just wanted to clarify.

Vanilla extract has always been one of those ingredients, for me at least, that was always just a super market convenience. Need to make cookies? Go grab a bottle. Brownies or blondies? Oopsy, need to buy some more. And then, before I know  it, I’ve somehow accumulated four or five bottles of extract. #cookproblems

But I digress. When the hubs and I were flying back from our honeymoon in the Dominican Republic, almost two years (!) ago, I happened upon a stand in the middle of the outdoor airport that was selling jars of vanilla extract, and vials of some of the most beautiful vanilla beans I’d ever seen. Having only used the ordinary vanilla extract (not that I’m hating on McCormick), I decided to go ahead and pick up both a bottle and a vial. I thought to myself, if they’re selling it at the airport, it should be fine, right?

And boy oh boy, I could not have been more right. The first time I opened that bottle of extract, my sensory system felt as if it had died and gone to culinary heaven. Never before have I smelled vanilla that fragrant; so rich and floral, it could have passed for fragrance. I’m not even kidding. This was liquid culinary gold, and you bet your bottom dollar I was going to use this sparingly, and really really really enjoy it.

Flash forward some year or so later. I decided to use my first of only six vanilla beans for the hub’s birthday cake. Again, I was welcomed with that same, overpowering, delicious scent of exotic vanilla. Scraping out the beans, I knew that these pods were too special to just be tossed aside, so I put on my thinking cap and got to work.

Enter Joy the Baker. This baking goddess, a true inspiration of mine, knew exactly what I needed. I had recalled one of her posts when she talked about making homemade vanilla extract, and after that it just clicked. I assembled all three things I needed, and 5 minutes later, I had vanilla extract prepped.

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The toughest part about this recipe, my dears, is the waiting period. Joy suggests letting the vanilla steep in the alcohol for two months for the flavors to fully develop. Storing it in a cool, dark place and giving it a good shake every week will help it move along. The wait is long and painstaking, but I promise, the end result is worth it. Do you really think that Joy would ever steer us wrong?

I didn’t think so.


Homemade Vanilla Extract {adapted from Joy the Baker’s recipe}

2/3 C. high proof alcohol…think 80 proof. I used a mix of Bowman’s Single Barrel Whiskey & Maker’s Mark. Feel free to use whatever you have on hand.

2 vanilla beans. My vanilla beans are from the Dominican Republic. You’ll find that, depending on where your beans are sourced, they will have slightly different flavors. Take a look here to see the different kinds!

1 mason jar, or any vessel with a very tight-fitting seal

a dark spot to store the jar

…and patience. Lots of patience.

To Make:

Use a sharp paring knife to cut lengthwise down the center of the vanilla beans, leaving about an inch at the top of the bean uncut. Put the vanilla beans into your mason jar, and cover completely with alcohol (you might find that you need to bend or fold the beans to fit – that’s okay!).

Tightly cover the jar and give it a good shake, then store in a cool, dry place for two months. Give the bottle a good shake every week to help meld the flavors (I find it helpful to set a reminder on my phone’s calendar).

After two months have passed, you’re ready to use it!