Tuesday, October 29, 2013

All my posts are weekend recaps...

This past weekend TJ was introduced to the Garden State. 

He made a spontaneous decision to take off Friday and Monday to hang out with me and my parents. Train tickets were booked the weather was checked.  I felt a little bit like I had tricked him into coming to the wild North when he realized it would be a high of 40 low of 25. But he dug out his only jacket and long sleeve shirts from the back of his closet and left South Carolina early Friday morning.  He got to my office after lunchtime and I got to show him around my little space and introduce him to everyone. Our train to New Jersey wasn't until 6 and I was planning to work a full day so he was going to have kill some time alone until I got off work. Luckily he's so charming (and my manager knew I'd likely be distracted knowing he was nearby) so she let me leave early.  We headed to the station and we're able to get on an earlier train and start the weekend early.

My parents picked us up from the station and we headed to the Jefferson Diner. The diner is something to see and it's a staple of New Jersey. It's open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. And you can get anything from their 20 page menu at any time of day. Nothing like stuffing yourself with greasy delicious diner food at 9 pm.
And of course that didn't stop us from inhaling mom's chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter cream cheese icing when we finally arrived at my house.

The next day TJ woke up before me and went for a run with my dad- which is great because Dad is always looking for someone to go with him and mom and I are running out of excuses. TJ was a little ill-prepared seeing as it was 30 degrees outside and he was in a t-shirt and shorts but a hot breakfast was waiting for them when they returned.

We ventured back out into the cold after breakfast and drove through the New Jersey countryside. Which, if you're anything like TJ, you might not have known that existed. He was pretty surprised to see how many corn fields and farm lands, and how few oil refineries there were out there. New Jersey was really showing off and everything looked especially inviting in all it's fall glory.

We drove up to High Point, the highest point in New Jersey where you can see 3 different states and freeze your butt off at the same time. We snapped a few photos and jumped back in the car before I could blow away. From there a stop at the local pub, followed by football and a nap on the couch was well deserved.

Of course we didn't let the cold keep us from enjoying a fire and roasting marshmallows on the back porch that night (helped by a few blankets and the two cafe heaters my dad got set up).

Sunday included much of the same, relaxing and spending time cozied up indoors. My parents had the opportunity to share some good little kid Shannon stories- things like not being able to tell time, or make change, or blow my nose, or swim in a pool without belching every time I came up for air. Thankfully it wasn't anything embarrassing...

TJ even humored me and watched some home videos. They redeemed me some because I was pretty adorable if I do say so myself. Then there was more football, some homemade vegetable soup, repacking suitcases, driving back to the train station, and saying goodbyes all too soon.  As per usual. 

It was such a good visit and I just loved that my parents and TJ got to spend time getting to know each other better. And we were able to change the reputation of New Jersey for at least one South Carolina boy. By the end of our visit TJ was saying things like: "I could see myself living in a place like this." And while I'm glad we've dispelled some of the misconceptions people have of the Garden State, lets not get crazy.

Thankfully I didn't have to say goodbye to TJ until Monday morning-when I headed off to work and he didn't follow through on his "threat" to kidnap me and take me back to Charleston with him. Oh well... 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pumpkin Bread with Cinnamon Drizzle

I baked the best pumpkin bread to take with me to TJ and his family over the weekend. It made two loaves which was perfect because I could take one to work and have them taste test it first. Of course I went to Pinterest for the recipe and I ended up combining two- this one for the bread and this one for the glaze on top.  It turned out so moist and delicious and the little bit of sweet crust on top was just right!

The Bread 

4 large eggs
3 cups granulated white sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil (or 1/2 cup oil & 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice (I substituted for Pumpkin Pie spice instead)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups pure (unsweetened) pumpkin puree
2/3 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9x5-inch loaf pans.
2. In large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and oil.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour through salt) and then stir it into the wet mixture. Add pumpkin and water and stir until combined.
4. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cinnamon Drizzle 

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons water

Mix all ingredients. When bread is cool, drizzle over top.  I wanted mine a little thinner/less like icing so I ended up thinning it out with an extra tablespoon of water and I didn't use even close to all of it. But it's delicious and the perfect finish for the bread because it soaks in a bit. Basically though I wanted to drink the leftovers with a straw.

I recommend making this tonight for yourself and you neighbors if you're good at sharing.  Your kitchen will smell like heaven and it will make you many friends.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Feels Like Carolina

I had such a great weekend down in South Carolina with my sweetheart. I flew out Friday night after work and was lucky to have zero delays. Don't you just love being picked up from the airport? Having someone waiting there for you, both of you anxious for the plane to land? It makes me so happy to walk out the door and scan the line of cars for his.

We drove from the airport to his childhood home so he could pick up a few things and show me all the cute baby TJ through high school football TJ pictures. I can't get enough of those dimples... 

After our little pit stop we continued on to the lake. We didn't have any concrete plans for the weekend except to watch football and be attached at the hip and we definitely accomplished both those goals.

Saturday we woke up and watched College Game Day and the fog clear off the lake. For breakfast I had baked some pumpkin bread to share and there was also some of the best cinnamon bread ever which I can never say no to. We would have been pretty satisfied to just stay on the couch and stuff ourselves all day. But we decided we'd feel less guilty about the bread and later the BBQ, and the gumbo, and the steak, if we got outside for a bit of fresh air.

It's slowly starting to look like fall down there so we headed off down the scenic Highway 11 and pulled in to the Keowee Toxaway State Park. It was the perfect temperature, just a little cool and just right for a hike.
We weren't out too long- like I said, Henry's BBQ was calling our name. The rest of the day we happily lazed around, watching Tennessee beat South Carolina (go Vols). We took a break from the football to watch World War Z. TJ and I both share a love of zombie movies although The Walking Dead is by far superior.

After watching a pretty fantastic sunset from their porch we sat down with his parents for a delicious steak dinner with sweet potatoes and salad- all the veggies were from their garden.  Following dinner we attempted to watch the Clemson game... but had to change the channel when it got too painful. I'd had about enough football at the point anyway and ended up dozing off on his shoulder. It was a pretty perfect day.

The next morning his parents headed out early and then we took our time leaving- how was is possibly already the last day of my visit?

We had plans to head into downtown area to meet up with my sister and her boyfriend who also happened to be visiting.  On our way, we drove through our university's campus and laughed about all the times we were in the same place at the same time but didn't really know each other. I'm so thankful that our ties to this place brought us together eventually and at just the right time. (P.S. isn't this just the prettiest campus? I'm not biased, it is an absolute fact.)
Driving into downtown just made me feel homesick. I wanted to go to all my favorite restaurants and just see all the things that I've missed. The number one thing I miss, though, is my sister. 
We ordered some cheese fries for the table (of which the boys had none and sister and I had all of them) and the guys talked football, fantasy football, baseball, whatever. Meanwhile sister and I happily imagined future double dates and vacations with all four of us if only we were all in the same place.  Of course we made the waitress take our photo- the parents wanted this documented. 
We said goodbye to these two and then TJ and I went back over to his parents house for a little while longer, where I got the grand tour, saw the garden where all those yummy vegetables came from, and met their horse (named Dixie- just like my pup).

All too soon TJ was driving me to the airport and dropping me off not even 48 hours after picking me up- my least favorite part of the weekend. Of course in order to make this distance less painful I already have another trip planned in a just a couple weeks. We've decided a month apart is our max and that's pushing it.
Let the new countdown begin. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Long Weekend

This weekend I packed up all my summer stuff and hauled out the colder weather wear.  I also took a bag of clothes that I didn't touch all summer to Goodwill. I figure if I didn't wear them this season there's no point storing them for next summer. I actually love doing this- clearing out space in my closet, having everything so organized before it succumbs to the rush of the early morning when I leave sweaters flung about in a frenzy.

Of course more room in my closet meant a trip to Target was appropriate. Plus I had a $25 gift card which means I only spent $150 instead of $175.... what is it about that place??!

I had off yesterday for Columbus Day. It's so nice to have a random day off and I kind of like that I didn't have any plans. I got sleep in and take a really long shower and take the time to actually style my hair. And then I took myself to Panera for 3 hours and ate lunch outside in the sun (finally it stopped raining) and I chatted on the phone with my mom and I didn't have to cut her off and run back to the office.

But it also felt a bit like a waste of time. And honestly I wish we had this extra day off around Christmas time instead of for this fake holiday.

You see I'm going to South Carolina this weekend to see my boy and I'm just ready to get this week going and get to Friday! It's been over a month since his 24 hour visit and FaceTime is not the same as face to face time.

So I'm hoping this week flies by and I hope my flight is on time but then I hope time stops for a few days and that next weekend passes as sweet and slowly as this 3 day weekend.

Happy Monday, I mean Tuesday!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Five on Friday

one. Sometimes it's hard to find quiet time. Even when I'm home alone with hours of nothing before me, I just can't find the quiet in my house. Between the dishes, the laundry, the tv, the laptop.... So the other night I drove myself to Panera. It was later in the evening and it wasn't busy or noisy. I ordered my soup and salad and even picked up a pumpkin cookie. I set myself up in corner booth and read the book of Ruth which was on my mind because my mom and I had been talking about it earlier. I got out my journal to write down some thoughts, which is sometimes the only way to settle my brain. But I realized I didn't have a pen. So instead I made myself sit there quietly and just unwind. And I didn't get on twitter or facebook (yes I instagramed this photo, but that's it) and it was so needed and so refreshing. 
two. After my Panera retreat I drove over to the house of another leader on my Young Life team. Their family has graciously allowed me to sleepover Wednesday nights so that on Thursday mornings I can hang out with some of the kids before school. My Thursdays now involve waking up a lot earlier and driving my young life girl and I to Dunkin Donuts and then heading to bible study with some awesome high school friends. I am so impressed by how alert and tuned in this group of people is between 6-7 am. We are learning some great truths and building each other up to be strong leaders in the high school. I'm so refreshed by how close they are and how they long for their high school to be transformed.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35

I also love the donuts...
three. After dropping some kids off at the high school, feeling like a total soccer mom, I got to see this beautiful sunrise.  Yes... the sun is barely up when school starts. What's the deal with that? Still, it's an awesome sight that most days I sleep through. We also so a heard, yes a heard, of  20 something deer just hanging out in the early morning fog. It's amazing what a different world it is when you get up early to greet it.
five. Thursdays are long days now but they are so sweet. They're also making me extra grateful for Fridays, and weekends, and my usual 7am wake up time all the other days of the week.

Have a happy weekend everyone!
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