Saturday, June 16, 2012

It's a Guy Thing...

Many hours have been dedicated to this day. Scouring the internet, researching. Taking trips to manly stores. Hammering, wire-brushing, banging & painting in the garage evening after evening. And yes, even shopping (at Publix). All for "the big show" today, which started at 7 am. Welcome to Father's Day Weekend's Great Smoke Out!

The Beast. This is what took all that work. The re-furbished, jerry-rigged monstrosity that is Jack's pride and joy. It it now adorned with new wheels & thermostats, fresh paint, a propane gas tank, and my old, heavy duty jelly-roll pan, now drilled with various sized holes to properly dissipate heat. (and something that has to do with wood chips, yadda yadda; it's really too much for me to take in)

This is approximately 8 am. The sun and myself are barely up, but happy guy is in his element: he will create his best-ever, soon to be world famous, smoke-filled meat.

This is 5 hours later. See how the sun has moved and he's now in the shade? I'm sure that was part of the research, too. He tore himself away to mow and edge, but I'm sure it wasn't easy. A manly visit from another manly smoker guy, Mitch, a cigar with Al, and a few manly beers later, it was time to eat!

The finished product. Smoky meat. It really was delicious. He crowed, scratched himself, burped, and took a nap, so it was a good day in Manville.
I don't get it.
; )

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My Girl ♥

I'll try not to make this too long and sappy...

On this day, 21 years ago, I knew she was going to be special, and I was right. And so it began. 

Birthday #1. Birthday cousins, only 6 days apart ♥

Birthday #2. From here on out, it was tea sets and princesses and jewelry and makeup...

the beginning of 21 years of dress up.

My Three Musketeers ♥

Birthday #4. My happy girl, in all her pink and purple and sparkly glory.

This girl loved her dresses. And flowers. And being outside. And smiling. And posing : )

The birthday cousins on their first day of preschool, all of 4 years old. Then I blinked...

and this happened. And things just kept happening. Like this...

She became our superstar.

And this. She grew more beautiful as we grew older. And then she went away...

and grew even more, into this stunning, extremely intelligent, independent thinking, hard working, fabulousness of a young woman.

This is us, celebrating this blessed day 21 very short years ago.

I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my baby you'll be ♥

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Charleston Cooks!

This was my favorite part of the weekend; Laura and I had been looking forward to our cooking class downtown since we found out they existed back in January! The weather report was still threatening rain and storms, but we woke up to another fine day, and set off for "Charleston Cooks!" at 8:30. AM! Our philosophy: It's never too early for crab cakes! Or wine! Actually, we were a bit early, so we strolled around the nearly empty streets nearby for some more photo ops (nope, I never can take enough), only to discover I HAD NO SD CARD IN MY CAMERA!!! No worries, I still had my phone : )

A.W. Shucks, by City Market, is a popular seafood & adult beverage restaurant, that was recently closed due to fire. I learned the day before to call it AWWW Shucks, not A.W. Shucks, so as to sound more like a local.

The Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park, facing north. To the south, however, it was turning ugly, so it was time to head toward the cooking store. We just made it before the rain came!  

We're here!!! Emily & Liz were the lovely chefs who would teach us old dogs some new tricks!

Ummmm, Laura is feeling cheeky, isn't she? This picture makes me laugh because we were both still pretty sleepy, since it was only 10 am. Let's get chopping!
Emily began by demonstrating how to prepare each of the dishes we were going to cook (and eat!), then we paired up to choose a dish and begin cooking. We had our eye on the fried chicken so we could practice the filleting technique she showed us, but another duo beat us to it (c'mon, we need to wake up!). We chose...

the salad greens with grilled peach vinaigrette! My job was grilling the peaches, while Foozer started the veggie prep. We had to learn how to properly chop: fingertips of the non-chopping hand tucked neatly down, no finger on the spine, smooth, rocking, forward motions....aarrgghhh! Who knew chopping was so complicated?! Hadn't we done it for years?! Yes, we had, but apparently not the right way! 

Emily assisted everyone in class, particularly this cute young couple on the right. The fellow was making the basil chiffonade, and doing a very good job!

These nice folks were from Orlando. They thought we were there for the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, like they were....uhhhh, no. I had seen the signs all over town, but didn't know what it was all about. Well, it's a 17 day cultural festival, featuring dance, music, art, theater, etc. Huh, who knew?! Next time we'll be prepared! Anyway, here, she was showing us how to portion the crab cake mixture by patting it out and scoring it into portions with her hand. Why didn't I think of that?

Yeah. I posed for this. Look how professional I look! I was in all my glory, lemme tell ya.

After we prepared our dishes, we began assembling the plates for the tasting. So excited!

Finally, lunch! It was almost noon when we sat down to eat, so we were good and hungry by then. Let's eat!: Fried Chicken Fingers & Greens Salad with Grilled Peach Vinaigrette, Purple Potato & Sugar Snap Pea Salad, Crab Cakes with Tartar Sauce, Buttermilk Biscuits & Tomato Sandwich with Basil Aioli, all made from scratch. Yummmmm!

Easy Strawberry Upside Down Cake with whipped topping! HEAVEN!!!
And wine, don't forget the wine! I chose a fruity Chardonnay, and it was perfect.

I have all the recipes if you're interested! I even made the potato salad for dinner the other night. Since I'm a chef now, there'll be no living with me! ; )

Monday, June 4, 2012

Really, A Tropical Depression?! We're Still Headin' to Ye Olde Gardens!

Memorial Day weekend doesn't even mark the beginning of hurricane season; June 1 does! So when the second tropical depression/storm of the unofficial season threatened to visit Charleston on May 27, Laura and I made a beeline for a plantation before it got to us! We particularly chose Middleton Place for its symmetrical gardens, and terraced view from the Ashley River.

Now, look closely at the tip of the arrow. This is the terracing we can't wait to see!

As we began our self-guided tour, these folks happened by! We assumed they were part of the Revolutionary War re-enactors that were there for Living History weekend. Too cool!

The second-largest live oak in North America, said to be at least 800 years old!

One of Henry Middleton's treasured statues: an Italian marble wood nymph, more than 200 years old. 

I just love hydrangeas; they always bring summer to mind!

The sundial in the octagonal garden. When I showed Jack the picture and said, "Isn't that cool?! It really was noon!", he replied, "Uh, yeah, that's how sundials work..." I guess it's the little things for me...

What a popular spot for weddings! There had been one in the adjacent garden the day before, and I decided to wait for the next one. ; )

It seems the bride processes from here. (Con, what are these flowers?)
After this, we caught up with a guided tour and really enjoyed the guide's personality and knowledgeable info!

The oldest crepe myrtle in the gardens. Ours never looked like this, thank goodness!

OK, THIS IS IT! We're looking down towards the Ashley River from the end of the walkway where the house stood...hmmm...the "terracing" doesn't look terribly impressive from up here...let's go down and look UP!

As we headed down, Foozer spots these two gators sunning on the bank...

Let's get a closer look! Wow, neat! Wait, I guess there was only one...

NOPE! There were two! She was trying to telling me that the larger one slipped into the water, but I guess I wasn't listening. When I caught sight of this approximate 5 footer, I nearly had a fit!

This is the terracing...pretty anti-climactic, huh? Check out the aerial at
though! All in all, it was still really cool!

Just a pretty view from inside the rice mill. Oh, yeah, there was lots of history there, too. ; )

The re-enactors, probably trying to stay cool (it was hot!) and ready to pack up.
We were ready to pack up, too. It was sticky, and we had taken off on our three hour walkabout in nearly 90° weather with no water -_-
 Time to head to civilization and a cold one!

Saturday, June 2, 2012


We are soooo lucky. Jack and I definitely have the travel bug, and we're blessed to have the opportunity to take a road trip every now and again. Since we had an extra day off for Memorial weekend, we were off to see our besties in South Carolina! Look out if you're on I-95, Jack is behind the wheel!

First thing Saturday morning we took in Farmer's Market in Marion Square. Fruits, veggies, art, photography, jewelry, crafts, name it!

Right after this pic, we stood in line for breakfast from one of the local vendors. I think we ate at the Omelet Station...Jack had a BBQ pork omelet wrapped around sweet & spicy pickles (YEP!), and I had shrimp and grits with a spicy BBQ sauce. H.E.A.V.E.N! We shared a table with the nicest folks from Atlanta while we ate in the park.

On towards the river to E. Bay Street, and into the City Market; there are so many local artisans, there's almost too much to take in. Laura had gotten a lovely handpainted soap dispenser from a friend a few weeks earlier, so we looked for the stand so I could get one for Jack's cousin. So much talent!

Charleston Spice & Tea Exchange. We sampled a number of herbs & spices; everything smelled so good! Of course, we bought a few grilling spices for the Grill Master ; )

We still needed to walk off that breakfast, and Jack hadn't walked around downtown much last time because his allergies were misbehaving. St. Philip's Episcopal is in the French Quarter, and is a national landmark.

The gate to the parish house, in the East Churchyard. Funny place to put a tombstone!

A house catacorner from the church, on Church Street (imagine that!) Jack, Mitch & Laura are so patient with me, since I literally take hundreds of pictures whenever we're out! This home was the first of many that day that flew the "Save Charleston, Support Cruise Control" flag. The local vendors, however, fly the "Cruise On In...Welcome & Thank You!" flag; an ongoing battle in a port city.

A front door? A garage door? This, and the following are just some of my favorite photos : )

Peeking into a backyard in the French Quarter.

On Queen Street.

My favorite house. Ever. ♥
Side note: I snapped a shot of this house during our January visit, and it's been my laptop & work computer wallpaper ever since. Laura was looking at framed photographs that morning at Farmer's Market, and when I saw this apparently frequently photographed house, I said, "Hey! That's MY picture! I took that picture!" The woman running the stand gave me the death stare and said, "Well, did you use high-speed blah blah blah XLR305PX-S?" (or something like that), thinking I meant that she stole my photo. Wow, did she tell me!!! It was the joke of the weekend : )

We stopped here for my first gelato. Really! I'd never had it, and now I will never stop eating it! Chocolate Cappuccino. Fabulous!

Along East Bay, near Battery Park. How cool is that to just set up shop and paint away?!

Hey, we know them! Best tour guides ever! And they run a fantastic Inn!

This is not their inn, however! We checked out home prices here on Meeting Street, and #7 was $2.7. Yeah, million. Sigh.

I love the iron. And gates. And doors. And windows.

We figured we could split the cost of this one...hardy, har, har.

I love the architecture, Foozer likes the historical-ness of it all. This is 18 Meeting Street, the home of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Heyward. She remembers all this stuff; I have to Google it -_-

Beauty. That's all.

I'm starting to think I have a thing for gates. And numbers, obviously.

Why, a gift from 7 Calhoun Street on my doorstep? Thank you very much! Everyone in the neighborhood got one!!! We're guessing it was a baked yummy...I so shoulda just snagged this one!

10 Tradd Street. Sigh. Again. These houses were a bit more reasonable, being (just a smidge!) under $2 M.

That concludes our tour of Downtown Charleston, but you're not off the hook yet. The next day Laura and I went to Middleton Place Plantation Gardens, and on Monday, took a COOKING CLASS that was THE most fun! So if you wanna be held captive for more Ehrig vacation pictures, check back tomorrow! ; )

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