Monday, December 15, 2008

Flea Market Montgomery

Just b/c Greg and I felt we hadn't drawn attention to this recently enough . . .


Friday, December 12, 2008

Biltmore

Wow . . . finally a new post =)

The Monday before Thanksgiving we were able to take a drive up to Asheville with my parents and Dad's parents to visit the Biltmore. Greg had never been before and I think the last time the rest of us has visited was circa 1995. And we had never seen it decorated for Christmas.

I didn't take many pictures because you're not allowed to bring your camera inside and it was cold and rainy that day so we didn't explore any of the gardens. But Greg and I did upgrade our passes to an annual pass, so there will be many more visits and hopefully more interesting pictures to accompany them!



Lunch inside the stables

They had a professional photographer taking pictures for holiday cards . . . this is a bootleg copy

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's Christmas Time!

Well, we've had a pretty busy (and really fun) week celebrating Thanksgiving with our families. I can't wait to post the very few pictures I took and tell some fun stories . . . but I'm still recuperating and cleaning house from all the excitement =)

In the meantime . . . check out some of our favorite Christmas music on the side bar. My all time favorite Christmas song is O Come All Ye Faithful (but Amy Grant's TN Christmas is a close second) . . . what is your favorite?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Weekend in DC

This past weekend Greg, Mom, Chelle and I took a quick trip up to DC to visit my grandparents and paint their living room. We had a wonderful time with them and got all the painting done. There are still some final touches that need to be taken care of (like switching out outlets, hanging new blinds and putting some art on the walls) but the room itself has been rescued from the dark wood paneling.

In between coats of paint, we were able to hear my Pawpaw tell stories. He's in his 80's and as the result of multiple strokes, his short term memory is weak; but all Chelle had to do was ask him how he met and fell in love with Mawmaw and he shared clear and detailed stories for nearly 2 hours about their love story, his career in the Marine Corps and his many tours overseas. What blessing for all of us to hear our family history and how his life was spared multiple times in combat situations. My only regret is that we didn't have a video camera or tape recorder.

While we were there, we got to visit our very close family friends, the Mercados, at their church in Ashburn, VA and then go out to lunch with them. Sushi on a Sunday afternoon. It really doesn't get more perfect than that. Our time together with them really was too short and missing about 1/2 of our families, but (Uncle Dave and Aunt Susie . . . are you reading this??) we're hoping to see them when they come to visit for Christmas (right??).

We were also visited by one of Mom's best friends from jr high/high school, Helen Jo. It was a lot of fun listening to her tell stories that Mom has conveniently forgotten over the years. She comes from an amazing family and she and her Dad played an integral role in Mom's salvation.

Because we were working all week, I didn't get many pictures at all. We were hoping to get out and walk around DC all lit up at night and see the new Air and Space Museam Annex, but we ran out of time . . . I guess we'll just have to take another trip soon.

But I did get some pictures of the room we painted. To truly understand the significance of the change you have to see some before pictures. Unfortunately, I didn't take any before we started working and the only ones I can find are from Christmas morning 2006. Please look past the people and only focus on the walls. I know you will do that for me. =) (We really have no airs about ourselves on Christmas morning and make no attempt to be picture perfect and cute while opening gifts. Bed head all the way . . . )

Ok, you get the point.

And now, after:



Doesn't it look so much better? I can't wait to see all the finishing touches completed.

**Photo credit** The first picture, of the Capital in DC, was taken by my friend Colleen Mercado and stolen by me since I wasn't able to get downtown this trip.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy Anniversary

This morning I got an email with the subject line "Happy Anniversary" from Carol, Greg's mom. Hmmm . . . I think to myself . . . 8 months early, ok . . . but then I went on to read that today is the 5th anniversary of Greg's "new face".

Let me explain . . .

Greg went to college in Pennsylvania. I stayed in Charlotte to go to UNCC. So one night, 5 years ago, I was at the M28 coffee house and received a phone call letting me know that Greg (who at that time was my boyfriend of about a year) had been riding a bike and was hit by a car. Up in PA. 461 miles away. I found Leah who then found Joe and we had a time of prayer amidst all the business of the coffee house. I was naturally distraught and trying to think of the fastest way to travel 461 miles to see Greg and would I even make it in time (grim thought, I know).

Well, wonderfully, about 10 minutes later I got another call from someone who was a little less emotional and who informed me that, in fact, Greg had not been on a bike that was hit by a car. No. No car. He was on a bike that had run into a pedestrian.

(And I must explain the story for his sake so he doesn't sound like a big jerk. He was riding a borrowed bike with bad brakes to ride down the hill to the cafeteria. Narrow sidewalk, mud and large rocks on either side. A foreign exchange student who didn't know that your're supposed to keep right. They play chicken until the very last moment and then both ditch off the same side of the sidewalk, thus colliding.)

Greg was taken to the hospital because his head had rammed into her knee. He didn't know that at first and played the part of the gentleman quite well. Then someone asked what happed to his face, he reached his hand up there and could feel that his right sinus cavity was now caved in.

So, long story short (and trust me, I'm leaving out some hilarious dialouge here as Carol, Nate and Kristie rushed up to PA - I was chosen to housesit for them) Greg had surgery over that weekend to repair his face. The pictures are quite disturbing, so I won't post any. Trust me, you should be thanking me =)

Oh, and right before everyone left to drive up to PA we were able to talk to Greg on the phone. At the end of my turn he said (whimpered . . .) "I love you . . " And that was the first time I told him that I loved him in front of anybody else. Nathan laughed at me because I said it really quiet and then turned bright red. Good times =)


In leiu of nasty broken face pictures, here's No-Shave November. Greg's dorm happened to have the challenge already shceduled which worked out quite nicely for Greg seing as he couldn't shave for a month anyway. Several Charlotte guys participated, too, in honor of Greg. (l-r Greg, Kelly G., Dave M.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

A rather boring post . . .

Well, we haven't been up to anything very exciting over here in Ross-world. We're in the midst of refinishing some furniture for our guest room which took up most of Saturday afternoon (I'll post some picture when it's completed!). Other than that, we've just been keeping busy with the normal demands of our life right now. Nothing incredibly blog worthy =)

But I did find a new cooking aid this past week that I wanted to share. I love using chicken broth to flavor rice and all sorts of other things but don't always have a box or can of broth on hand, so I was reluctantly using bouillon in the past because it's so quick and easy. But I wasn't crazy about the MSG. Admittedly, I do prefer homemade, but that's just not practical for everyday life. Some convenience items are good to have on hand. Well, long story long, for really no reason . . . a lady in our CG introduced to me chicken base:It's not quite as good as homemade and does have a decent amount of sodium in it (yet comparable to canned stock), but it dissolves very nicely into warm water and contains no MSG. And it's a soup worthy stock. Not weak and grainy like a bouillon broth. Another benefit is that you can make exactly the amount of stock that you need and there is no waste.

Any who, that's a little window in my life if the most exciting thing I have to blog on is chicken broth . . . =) I think it's time for another weekend getaway, huh?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Apple Picking 2k8

Per yearly tradition (with last year off), we went apple picking with Nate and Kristie at Sky Top Orchards. We had so much fun! This orchard has acres of pick your own apples and a vast array of varieties to choose from. Plus, it's on top of a mountain with breathtaking views on all sides. We of course had to taste each different type of apple before committing to picking it or not and by the time we left we were covered in juice (some more then others *cough*cough*) and completely full.

There were many other families out picking today; it was so much fun to see dads lifting their small children up to pick from the highest branches. It reminded me so clearly of our family apple picking outings when we were little and lived up in northern Virginia. I hope we get to make those same memories with our kids one day.

But for present, I will be cooking, baking, canning and freezing this week . . . I really can't wait!They also have a small vineyard

Greg bobbing for apples, only without water and a large tub.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Panthers Game

(written by Greg)
Steve was fortunate enough to get some tickets to the Panthers' game last Sunday vs. the Falcons through one of his vendors at his job. Getting tickets was awesome enough, but they were in the Alltell luxury box! The seats were located on the 25 yard line and we had a catered buffet with prime rib, cheesy bacon potatoes, fruit, cheescake and other wonderful stuff. If it costs $5 for a hot dog, I'm sure Steve and I downed a good $200 in just the food. Even better, the Panthers CRUSHED the Falcons 24-9 and quarterback Jake Delhomme ended up winning the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award for his performance.

Here's a few pictures of the game taken from our box and of course...my food.




Dorm Room Sleepover

Another weekend away! As we planned it, Greg was supposed to go backpacking with a group of guys and I was supposed to go up to Montreat to spend the weekend with Allie . . . well, the weather canceled Greg's plans and the lack of gas in North Carolina threatened to cancel my plans as well. Fortunately, we were able to find gas Saturday morning and I hit the road for the mountains. (I know, I know, if you're short on gas, a road trip isn't the best idea . . . but boy, do I miss my sister badly . . . It was worth it to me!)

I got up there in time to see her volleyball game. Mom and Dad had gone up the day before and spent the night, so I got to cheer with them, which is always fun! After the game we went out to eat with Mom and had a great dinner at Black Mountain Bistro (Where was Dad? you might ask . . . long story short - - Dad had to get back to Charlotte for a work emergency and Mom was able to ride back with some other team parents who live in Charlotte as well). It was the first time I've been up there and not eaten at "our" pizza place, but they had all gone there the night before so we switched it up a bit.

After dinner and after mom left for home, we immediately changed into sweats, cuddled up and watched a couple movies in Allie's dorm room. Plus some girl talk . . . there is always girl talk . . .

I got to go visit the church Allie goes to while at school on Sunday morning which was wonderful! (That's a main downside to going out of town every weekend for a month, you miss the Sunday meeting!) There were a little more than 200 people at the service we attended and it reminded me so much of what our church here in Charlotte was like 15 years ago or so. It was a great experience for me.

I can't begin to describe how much I enjoyed spending time with my sister. It was so refreshing to my soul to get to spend time with her . . . Obviously, being sisters, we grew up together and that's a unique bond right there. But in addition to that, because I got married and moved out when she was a Jr. in high school, I've experienced a lot of her growing up and maturing from outside of the family home which in a way has strengthened the friendship aspect of our relationship. She truly is one of my closest friends and I treasure the time we get to spend together!

We think these are female wild turkeys . . . please comment if you know otherwise . . . they really are some of the oddest looking birds we've ever seen!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have a mental list of cooking requirements for myself, and a perfect chocolate chip cookie is definitely a top item. And though the Toll House cookie is a good one, I wanted something a little different. I think my search is over! I found this recipe a couple months ago and got the chance to make them last week. They were gooey, which is a must, and the size of a child's face, which is a great bonus!


Chocolate Chip Cookies


If you have a kitchen scale, I highly recommend using it here. This recipe is written in both volume and weight, but I chose to use the latter, so that I wouldn’t have to mess with measuring cups. It was unbelievably quick: just put a bowl on top of the scale, tare it to zero, and go.

2 cups minus 2 Tbsp. (8 ½ oz.) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 ½ oz.) bread flour
-or- 17oz all purpose flour - that's what I used
1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. coarse salt, such as kosher
2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups; 10 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups (10 oz.) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (8 oz.) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ¼ pounds chocolate chips or chunks (The original recipe called for bittersweet chocolate, but I chose to use semi-sweet instead)
Sea salt, such as Maldon, optional

Combine flour(s), baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk well; then set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until very light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low; then add dry ingredients, and mix until just combined. (Unless you have a plastic guard that sits around the rim of the bowl, this will make a big mess at first, with flour flying everywhere. I found that carefully holding a dish towel around the top of the bowl helped a lot.) Add the chocolate chips, and mix briefly to incorporate. Press plastic wrap against the dough, and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. The dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the bowl of dough from the refrigerator, and allow it to soften slightly. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

Using a standard-size ice cream scoop – one that holds about 3 fluid ounces, or about 1/3 cup – scoop six mounds of dough onto the baking sheet, making sure to space them evenly. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt (I skipped the additional salt for Greg's sake), and bake until golden brown but still soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the entire baking sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies onto the rack to cool a bit more. (Because there is so much brown sugar in the cookies, if you try to take them off the cookie sheet before the sugar can cool you will end up with a mess!)

Repeat with remaining dough.

Yield: About 24 (5-inch) cookies.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fripp Island

September has been the month of weekend getaways for us! It has been a lot of fun, but now that we are going to be home for the foreseeable future I'll try to get some pictures up here.

Two weekends ago we headed down to Fripp Island for Greg's company getaway. His company generously provided for all the employees and their families to stay at the resort island for the weekend as a kind of "bonding" experience. The timing was perfect, too, as the whole office had been in high gear for the previous several weeks as they worked on a new release of the software they sell.

Fripp Island is in South Carolina very close to Beaufort and Parris Island (a Marine base). It's actually a wildlife preserve and there were wild deer roaming the streets! As we drove in at night and saw numerous sets of reflective eyes, we thought of a few friends that would love to vacation there with a bow and arrow or two . . .

We had a relaxing couple of days, lounging around (our little house had a very nice tv and we put in some good hours watching Discovery Channel, HGTV and the Food Network) and also exploring the island and the marshes just over the bridge. We ate most meals w/ co-workers (I also worked at the same office for 2 years, so it was fun to see a few old friends) and then had a fantastic company dinner on Saturday . . . including an oyster bar. We're hoping this becomes a company tradition!



A shrimping boat as we cross the bridge off the island


Just off Fripp Island

We walked through this marsh on the boardwalk one afternoon

One of our neighbor deer . . . Greg said a picture of a male deer would be more interesting, but they were scarce in the daylight



Monday, September 22, 2008

Firstborns . . .

I am the guinea pig of my family. Born the oldest of 3 girls, I was the "practice child" in many ways. Now, honestly, I'm not complaining about that at all. I'm alive and I turned out ok. And I'm not alone . . . Every family has a guinea pig. The adjustment to parenting is a huge one (so I've been told) and it's only to be expected that parents will learn from their mistakes and treat later children differently. (And just b/c I am a first born doesn't mean that I have any expectations of raising my first born perfectly.) Whenever I felt like I was being held to different standard (to be fair, this was sometimes just my own incorrect perception of the situation), Dad was usually the one I would plead with . . . he's an oldest child, too.

All that being said, I always feel very vindicated when I read those articles on birth order analysis. They usually have the the oldest child pinned; from our ability (and often desire) to entertain ourselves to our strong tendency to be perfectionists, I can usually check off every point and laugh at how stereotypical I am.

Last week, Focus on the Family did a short series with author Kevin Leman that you can listen to here and here. It was great to hear the topic of birth order from a biblical perspective and how God uses those natural tendancies in spouses to strengthen a marriage. It is also helpful, speaking as an oldest here, for parents who AREN'T oldest childen to hear as they raise their first borns. The strongest characteristics of a oldest (driven to suceed, very detail oriented and organized) can also be the biggest pitfalls (perfectionist attitude and critical of others, just for starters) if left unaddressed. They are just under 30 min each and very fun to listen to as the author is a youngest child and quite the class clown =)

Monday, September 15, 2008

2nd Annual Ross-Hawkins Family Vacation

Such a long title for a weekend getaway, but even 2 days away with our best friends deserves such an illustrious name. Because our closest friends live out of town, weekends like this are much anticipated and hard to let end.

Friday evening Greg and I headed up to Lake Norman to spend the weekend with Evan and Leah at her dad's condo. When we arrived we headed straight to the lake for an evening boat ride and got to see a beautiful sunset over the water.

The view from our bedroom

The next day we spent completely on the water. I think Greg and I picked out about 5 different dream houses as we cruised around. We have decided that a helipad is a must =) Also a must are large amount of sunscreen which we apparently did not use. I look very much like a lobster and Greg looks like a lobster with tan. We are a cute pair.

video
Greg entertaining us (sorry about the loud wind noises in the background)
Saturday evening the boys grilled for us and then we did our best to stay awake for SNL (had to catch Michael Phelps . . . ) . Staying up until 1 was much easier a couple years ago. We are getting old . . .

Taboo after dinner . . . the girls won




It was hard to leave Sunday afternoon, but we look forward to our next mini-cation!