Friday, April 27, 2012

Five For Friday

1. Your anniversary present was so sweet and thoughtful.
2. Thanks to your gift, I know a computer skill I want to learn from you!
3. You made the suggestion to look at cars with my parents and then head to dinner tonight.
4. You looked so cute while holding Kristen's son.  Can't wait to see you with our future kids!
5. I can't believe it's already been 5 years since our first date.  And an amazing 5 years it has been!

Back in the day celebrating our 6 month dating anniversary with a Fall Out Boy concert

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Our First Year

Our first year of marriage has flown by.  I can remember April 23, 2011 like it was just yesterday.

Being surrounded by the love of our friends and family is something I will cherish forever.  From the amazing moments, such as looking into Chris' eyes as we said our vows, to the funny moments like the cake dropping - I treasure the memories we made on that day.

Our first year for the most part has been amazing!  I'll be honest with you, it had it's low points too (from an outside source), but it taught us that we are stronger together.  Sometimes we just have to step away from a situation, focus on the good that we have in our lives and hope that time will heal the hurt that they caused us.

But enough of that, lets get to the celebration!!  Our family cruise was planned for the beginning of April so we decided to celebrate our anniversary a little early sailing the Caribbean.

On Isla Roatan, in our Mexican cooking class in Cozumel, enjoying a martini tasting on Carnival Liberty.

For our actual anniversary on Monday we kept to the tradition of eating the top tier of our wedding cake.  Here it is in all of it's glory on our wedding day.

And here it was a year later after defrosting for a couple of hours.

We never had a chance to taste it on our wedding day because our top tier was different from the two tiers that were cut. Chris and I love strawberries, but we didn't think that all of our guests would be big fans of strawberry cake/strawberry filling combo so we saved that just for us.  The cake part was a little dry, but the middle section with the filling was very tasty for year old cake!

After tasting the cake, we enjoyed dinner at Brio and exchanged gifts.

Since we're gearing up for a house hunt (yay!) we decided to keep it small and stick to the tradition of paper.  Each of us came up with something to add to our future gallery wall (thanks for the idea Amanda!).  I finally printed a couple of our wedding pictures and decided on a double frame.  The top half has one of my favorite detail shots, our rings on top of our personalized cake topper. The bottom frame contains the words we said as we slipped those rings on to each other's finger, printed in the font from our invites and matted on the green and blue cardstock that we used in our DIY projects.

Chris' gift was amazing and touching as always!  He took passages from the book he wrote for our wedding day and incorporated wedding images into the words "Love Of My Life!".

I can't wait to see what the next year brings for us!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Travelin' Tuesday: Cruising the High Seas

My first cruising experience set sail back in 1998 and I've been hooked ever since.  I love the inclusion of all  meals, the fun on board activities, and the option to see different islands and ports all within one week.  I love these family vacations because we always have the option to explore on your own or enjoy what is available with the rest of the crew.

Chris' first time on a ship was our last family cruise in 2009, right after we got engaged.  Since the itineraries were similar (two of the ports were the same), the next couple of weeks will include pictures from our 2009 trip as well as the one we took a couple of weeks ago.

The rooms on a cruise ship range from inside (with no windows) up to awesome suites.  I've roomed in an inside and can honestly say that I felt like I lost so much time on that trip.  This was due to sleeping in and thinking it was still early (because it was so dark in the room) and then learning it was actually almost noon. I'll always remember one cruise with Corinne's family where Corinne and I had to run to the spa because we overslept for our massages.  I have wised up over the years and now remember to bring a portable alarm clock just in case, and have also shelled out a little extra money for outside cabins (ones with a window)

or balcony rooms.

The rooms on Carnival are pretty generous in size (for a ship) with two twin beds, that can be pushed together to make a king, and a sitting area with a couch and chair.

Every night a daily guide of the following day's activities will be placed in your room with a cute towel animal.

They have everything from pool contests, trivia and bingo to karaoke, wine tastings and the casino.  Some of those activities are free while others come at a minor cost, such as bingo, a mixology class, wine tasting and the casino.

Food & Wine Pairing

Mixology Class

With our favorite master mixologist Ioana

Martini Tasting

The meals on board are pretty tasty...then again, I would enjoy anything when I don't have to cook for a week.  Some of my favorites:

Strawberry Bisque, Lobster & Shrimp, Warm Chocolate Melting Cake, A study in Sushi

On this past cruise, I really wanted to try some foods that I have never tried before.

Cured Salmon & Candied Tomato, French Onion Soup, Chateaubriand, Smoked Duck & Caramelized Oranges

Carnival has started to incorporate a specialty dining restaurant that you can opt to enjoy for $30.  The delectable meal is a special treat and great for any celebration.

Chef's starter of Salmon & Parmesan, Ahi Tuna Tartare, Shrimp Cocktail, Surf & Turf

Caramelized Washington Apples

Our latest cruise ship, Carnival Liberty, was one of the first ships to go through the 2.0 upgrades with features such as the BlueIguana Cantina with made to order burritos and tacos (a favorite of Chris')

Guy's Burger Joint, with a menu crafted by Food Network personality Guy Fieri

Serenity, which is an adult only retreat area

And several nice bar areas like the EA Sports bar, Alchemy Bar where you can create your own concoction from their unique ingredients, and the Piano Bar.

While the ship is an experience in itself, traveling to exotic locations is the part I love most about cruising. Stay tuned for a look at each port and our exciting excursions.

Have you ever cruised before?  Were you a fan?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Five For Friday

1. You excite me about our future bar area.  We picked up so many tips during the cruise.
2. You developed the underwater camera and the memory card from my video camera that sadly no longer works.
3.  You fit right in with my family on vacation.
4. After my motherboard burned up you saved me $100 (Best Buy fee for data retrieval) by being able to pull out my hard drive, put it in another laptop and transfer my files to our external hard drive.
5. You were the voice of reason when I didn't want to replace my computer, pointing out that I couldn't make it without a personal laptop.

Winning the first of many ships on a stick in trivia

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bacon Ranch Crockpot Chicken

My first crack at using a crockpot, and there is no going back!  I don't know why I haven't used one before.  Chris brought one home before we got married and it sat in our pantry until we packed it up and put it in storage after the move.  My dad loved using one while he was working out in Atlanta, and brought it back to Texas where it sits up here in the gameroom with us.  After staring at it for a couple of months I thought it was finally time to test it out with a recipe from Kelly's Healthified Kitchen. I tweaked the recipe and doubled up to have enough for four and a decent amount of left overs.

- Bacon, cooked and shredded
- Garlic Powder
- 2 packages of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
- 2 10.75oz cans of Cream of Chicken soup
- 16 oz of Sour Cream (not pictured because I forgot it was in the fridge when I took this shot)
- 1 bag of Tyson frozen Chicken Tenderloins
- 2 packages of pasta

I cheated a little and used Oscar Mayer's fully cooked thick cut bacon which saved me some extra time cooking.  I substituted the recommended minced garlic for a couple of pinches of garlic powder.  Combine the bacon, garlic powder, ranch dressing, cream of chicken and sour cream together in a bowl.   Place the frozen chicken into the crockpot and top it with the mixture.  Cook on high for 3.5 hours.

Right after I placed it in the crockpot

As you get closer to the completion time of the chicken, cook your pasta per the instructions on the package.  Lift the lid on the crockpot and shred your chicken using two forks.  When the pasta is ready, dip up the bacon ranch chicken and top it off with a little Parmesan cheese (if you are like us and love cheese).

We all LOVED this meal!  I know I will definitely be up for some more crockpot meals in the future.  They usually include veggies, so I get to see if Chris will be up to try something new.

Do you have any favorite crockpot meals?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Travelin' Tuesday: Water Views

It's so hard to come back to reality when you just spent the past week with views like this.

And this.

While I sort through pictures and memories of our 7 day Western Caribbean cruise, I'll leave you with one last shot.

Hope you all have a great week!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Baked Parmesan Garlic Chicken

I find that we tend to prepare more chicken then any other meat in our household.  Because of this I'm always looking for some different chicken recipes and found a perfect 4 ingredient one over at Moms Who think.

-1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
-1 package Good Season Italian Salad Dressing Mix
-1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
-Chicken Breast

I ended up using a little more than the recipe called for since I was cooking for four and wanted to have left overs.  Mix the cheese, Italian mix and garlic together in a bowl.  Run your chicken under water and then coat with the mixture.  Into a baking dish and into the oven at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until your chicken is cooked through. 

I paired mine with some rice and a Caesar salad for a pretty tasty and easy dinner.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Travelin' Tuesday: Trinidad & Tobago

This trip was 20+ years in the making!

In Miami before flying to Port of Spain

My dad was born and raised on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago and has always said that he would take my brother and I back to see where he grew up.  Every year he said we would go, and every year we came up with other trips that ended up trumping T&T until 2009 when I finally got the ball rolling.  We all had a substantial amount of airline miles, coupled with some credit I received for giving up my seats and we were able to book tickets on the cheap.

The trip got off to a rocky start when customs took longer than we expected and we missed our connecting flight from Trinidad to the smaller sister island of Tobago where my dad actually lived.  We killed time in the airport with some classic fried chicken (don't worry we did taste several island delicacies while we were there).

Once we finally made it to the island of Tobago it was dark and we were tired, but so excited that my dad's friend was putting us up at one of the island's beautiful hotels.

Welcome drinks at Coral Reef

Our time on Tobago was spent driving around and seeing first hand my dad's old stomping grounds.  I don't think I've seen my dad so proud to introduce his family to all of his friends and relatives that have never had to chance to meet my brother or me (Mom made a couple of trips to the islands back in the day).

That tree on the left was in front of my dad's home when he was growing up, now it's a doctor's office.

Coral Reef provided us with the tropical views you picture when thinking of an island in the Caribbean.  Granted it was more of a bay so we did have some rocks around the hotel to help with the waves.

Along with visiting dad's old friends, we made it to the higher point of Tobago and Fort King George which had some amazing views of the whole island.

While on the island we made sure to try some of the local favorites that dad grew up on including roti, conch & dumplings, and solo.

We spent a couple of days on the tail end of the trip back in Port of Spain, Trinidad at the Hyatt.

Our days in Trinidad were spent lounging by the pool, throwing back some island beer and enjoying one last meal as a family.

This trip produced memories that I will cherish forever.  There is nothing like seeing the joy on my father's face when he was reliving his youth.

Have you been on any vacations that have a connection to your family?