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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sour Cream Noodle Bake

I made this Pioneer Woman recipe for friends that are new parents. It was listed as a freezer friendly meal which I think can be good if you are bringing someone a meal so they have the flexibility to store it and eat it another time if they wish. It is hearty, cheesy great comfort food so perfect as they are adjusting to their new lives!

The pictures aren't the prettiest since they were taken before it is baked and dished out due to it being a gift but you can see all the pretty photos Pioneer Woman took on her site if you want :)

I read a lot of the comments and some people said it was a bit dry so I made some adjustments (like not layering it like a lasagna) to prevent that.

Sour Cream Noodle Bake
Serves 8 with sides

- 1 1/4 lbs ground beef
- 15 oz can of tomato sauce and 8 oz can tomato sauce (Note: this is more than the original calls for and even a little more than I used but this is what I would use next time... extra sauce never hurts so go for 2 cans of 15 oz if you want)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Italian seasoning
- garlic powder
- fresh ground pepper
- 8 oz egg noodles
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 1/4 cup small curd cottage cheese (you could also use ricotta)
- 1 cup grated sharp cheddar (use a block and grate it - tastes much better than pre-grated!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (don't need to do this if you are making to put in the freezer or plan to bake it later)

Brown beef in large skillet seasoning with Italian seasoning and garlic powder to taste. Drain fat. Add tomato sauce and ground pepper to taste and stir.

Cook noodles according to package and don't forget to salt the water. Drain and set aside.

In medium-large bowl combine sour cream and cottage cheese. Add noodles and mix. Add beef mixture and a 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese. Mix together well. Add more seasonings/spices if you want like red pepper flakes (Eric's favorite add). Pour into casserole dish. The original did not specify but it fit well into a the 9 by 11 inch foil dish I used.

Now is the point you stop and store it in the freezer or fridge if you will bake it later.

When you are ready, bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until heated through.

This would be great with a salad and bread but I gifted it with steamable mixed veggies and bread instead since that is easier to transport and save especially if they may not eat it right away. Don't forget to put a note on top for how to bake it if you are giving it to someone.

I also want to note that the original recipe says the prep time is 10 minutes. I don't see how that is remotely possible even if you had multiple people helping. The noodles alone take about 10 minutes just to cook not including the time it takes for the water to boil. I do find that many sites seem to underestimate the "prep time"... I guess to make the recipe seem simpler but I'd rather them just be honest :)  I'd say the prep for this is more like 35-40 minutes.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Shades of Aqua Paint - Painting the Nursery

Ever since getting pregnant (well probably before that even), I wanted the nursery to be a light teal or turquoise which you can basically call aqua. Aqua encompasses a lot of different shades and could mean different things to people but in my mind it was a lighter shade of turquoise. We already know how much I love turquoise since that is used in our family room.

The nursery is downstairs so it is fitting that it doesn't stray far from the turquoise and teal accent colors in the family room. I  knew aqua would be calming and bright and fun... all things I wanted for the nursery. The room gets great natural light too.

If you've read any of the other Shades of (insert paint color here) posts you would be really proud of me that it only took 3 samples to decide on the final color! Big progress from my usual 7-10 samples. Here is how we picked Light Gray and Medium Gray.

I followed our usual paint color choosing process of researching colors online and looking at how they looked in people's rooms and also looking at paint chips. Then I selected a dozen or so paint chips and cut them out and taped them onto white paper and put them up in the room. I looked at them in different light/times of day and on different walls. Since the paper is taped on it is easy to do this.

Top to bottom and left to right on each paper: Behr Ionic Sky, Behr Spa, Behr Cool Jazz, Behr Glacier Bay, Behr Refreshing Pool, Behr Aqua Spray, Sherwin Williams Aquatint, Sherwin Williams Tame Teal, Valspar Aqua Glow, Valspar Lake Breeze, Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue, Benjamin Moore Sonoma Skies (this one had to be cut out of a book which is why no name is printed on it), Benjamin Moore Lido Green, Benjamin Moore Robin's Nest.

The two samples I wanted to try first were SW Aquatint and SW Tame Teal. Honestly based on the chips, I thought one of these would be the winner. So we painted samples of these two on the wall and they both looked a little too neon-ish of an aqua to me with the lighting in the room. So it was back to the drawing board. I decided to get a sample of BM Robin's Nest even though the paint chip leaned a little to green for me. I loved the way it looked in several painted rooms I saw online so I decided to try it anyway. Luckily it ended up not looking on the green side when painted on the wall. Just goes to show you that the paint chips don't always give you the best idea of the color. Here are all 3 samples on different walls in different light.

Robin's Nest didn't look too neon-ish and seemed to be the perfect shade of aqua for the room! So Benjamin Moore Robin's Nest was our clear winner! And Eric was super happy we weren't trying more samples haha.

We had it mixed by Sherwin Williams (they can match and mix any color... not just their own) because we like their Harmony paint which is no-VOC and has great coverage. And one Sunday afternoon, my parents, husband and I painted the nursery. Even though the paint is no-VOC, I wore a mask too just for extra protection.

We didn't have to paint all the way to the ceiling since Eric and my dad were going to add crown molding to the top to go with the crown molding we have in the rest of the downstairs. That made it a lot easier to paint since no cutting in at the top was needed. They tackled that project (which neither had done before) a few weeks later and it looks great!

Eric also replaced a builder light with a light/fan.

I just love the way the color looks in the room and it makes me happy every time I walk in. I can't wait to make more progress in here... more updates to come!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Meeting our newest nephew

We had the pleasure of meeting our newest nephew, Asher, last month when he was almost 1 month old when we took a visit to Columbia! We had a lot of fun holding him and snuggling him all day and we were so happy he had made it back to his birth weight. And we got a short glimpse into life with a newborn :)

The three boys

He had some adorable yawns and liked to stick his tongue out. And who doesn't love those cute little Clemson shoes. He's such a sweetie!

We made another trip down this past weekend to see Eric's family and spend time with little Asher again. He liked snuggling with Papaw and he liked his little nautical hat my mom made him.

He has also learned to fist bump his cousin with no training from us :) I actually didn't even know he was doing this until after I was looking at the photos and I love it!

Welcome to the world little one! We love spending time with you!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Phoenix Girls Trip Weekend

At the suggestion of one of my Clemson roomies, we planned a girls getaway for President's Day weekend in between when 3 of us were celebrating turning 30 in January and February (Vic's b'day isn't until July but she was happy to take a 30th birthday trip early with us). We had a fabulous time! This was my first time to Phoenix and to Arizona (other than an airport layover previously which I don't think counts) and I'd definitely recommend it as a fun place to visit.

This is me with my awesome carry on bag for hands free travel ready to head to the airport.

We all arrived in Phoenix Friday afternoon where Vickie had gotten our rental car (upgraded to an SUV for no extra charge... score!) and acted as the chauffeur to the hotel, Hilton Squaw Peak Resort. Brooke, Vickie and I made a quick trip to a nearby grocery store to get breakfast foods and snacks for the mini fridge in the resort room before Celeste arrived. This was the fountain and pool area outside our room. The room (or I suppose it was called a suite) was split into a living room area with the tv, a couch, a chair and small fridge and then a bathroom area with sinks outside of the door to the shower and toilet. And then a room with two queen beds. It was so nice having the couch and chair to sit on and relax instead of only having the bed and a desk chair like many hotel rooms.

We started off vacation with pedicures in the resort spa. It was just the 4 of us in the nail area of the spa (plus the ladies doing our pedicures) so that was nice.

After that we walked a couple blocks to a local Mexican restaurant called Aunt Chilada's. We were all starving by that point and it was delicious. I was not partaking in the drinks but the others said the drinks were great too.

We then went back to the resort and settled in as we were all pretty tired from traveling and the time change and whatnot. But one more fun thing happened... Vickie asked us to be her bridesmaids at her wedding in August! So exciting!

Saturday we took our time getting up and ready and then we went to the Botanical Gardens. I'm sure you are thinking how fun can botanical gardens be in the desert but they had a free guided tour and we learned a lot about different cacti and the desert. The cacti and other plants are more concentrated in the gardens than they might be out in nature but that way you get to see everything and it seems more like true gardens.

Fun fact - the saguaro cactus (pronounced sah-wah-ro) does not grow it's first arm until it is about 70 years old. Subsequent arms can take more or less time than that but if you see one with an arm you know it's at least past retirement age. When I had ever thought of a cactus this is the kind of cactus I pictured and also the ones they use a lot in movies and such.

Then we went back to the room for some snacks and headed to the biggest of the resort pools. The pools at the resort were heated which was one of the reasons we picked this hotel... although they weren't super warm (maybe upper 70's F) but luckily it was sunny out. This one had the lazy river so that is where we spent all our time. The girls got some mai tais (and lemonade for me) and we floated around the lovely lazy river. This lazy river was much better than the one I'm used to at Carowinds because it was longer and didn't rush you along too fast.

That evening since it was Valentines and we knew restaurants would be packed we stayed in and ordered pizza and salad and watched Bridesmaids. It was the perfect girly evening. Oh and all the girls got to feel munchkin kicking. He must like pizza :)

On Sunday, we went hiking in a nearby park area, Papago Park, that had some various trails and neat lookout points and was right by the botanical gardens from the day before. It was quite warm which was a nice break from the cold weather we were having in NC. We actually had awesome weather the whole trip which isn't too surprising since Phoenix doesn't get much rain and had great temps most of the year.

It was actually quite the climb to get up to the cave like lookout part of the giant rock. Clemson girls... best in the world!

After hiking we went to a local brewery/bar for food and drinks.

Then we drove a short distance to Scottsdale to a wine bar, Su Vino, for a wine tasting and cheese/fruit plate. They have a cool option for pairing wines with chocolates and the girls shared the chocolates with me and they were delicious. They all really enjoyed the wine too.

That night we got dressed up and went out to dinner at Beckett's Table which I found after searching various lists/reviews for top restaurants and it did not disappoint.

These are the short ribs I had... amazing!

And we got a complimentary dessert to celebrate our birthdays!

Monday morning we all headed back to the airport for our flights back home. I ended up arriving in Charlotte just prior to the ice storm hitting that had schools and most things closed the next day and on a couple hour delay the day after that. The flight coming into Charlotte that left after mine was cancelled so I lucked out! Although being stuck another day in sunny Phoenix might not have been so bad.

This was the first time the 4 of us had done a trip together with just us since usually we see each other every year in Clemson for a reunion along with significant others and other friends too so it was really special to spend time just the 4 of us like we used to all the time in college. I can't wait to see them again in August to celebrate Vickie's wedding! I love these girls and loved celebrating turning 30 with them!
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