In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. ~ Proverbs 3:6

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Beall Mansion Review

       When Matt and I travel we try to stay at places that will help make our trip comfortable and memorable like a quaint bed and breakfast, a charming inn, or a cozy cottage.   We always do our research on places like this, and to be honest, most of the places that are labeled with the above title are tacky and have a price tag that isn't worth the experience they are trying to offer.  However, if you look hard enough, you'll find a few places that stick out from the others.  The Beall Mansion in Alton, Illinois, is no exception.  On our way to St.  Louis, Matt and I enjoyed an elegant evening at the this B&B as well as a delightful day visiting the charming town of Alton.  The Beall Mansion had plenty to offer, and while the price was higher than an average hotel room, the experience was worth the cost.  The rooms were beautiful, the 24 hour chocolate buffet was to die for, the breakfast was casual but delightful, and the service was exceptional.  I would describe the Beall Mansion as a classic bed and breakfast.  This bed and breakfast was purchased by a couple who renovated the mansion to it's original time period.  While the taste of the decor is not something that I would put in my home, you can't help but appreciate the detail of the craftsmanship you find in the mansion.  You can go here for a photo tour of the bed and breakfast.  Check out the Beall Mansion's website for information and be sure to look at the following You Tube video to get a better idea of what the Beall Mansion has to offer. 

St. Louis Weekend






Matt and I have another summer getaway coming up this week, so I thought that this would be a good time to finally share with you the St. Louis getaway we took Fourth of July weekend.  It's a month late, I know, but at least I'm getting around to posting about it :)




On our way to St. Louis, we stopped in neighboring Alton, Il.  It's a small, quaint town thirty minutes outside of St. Louis.

While in Alton, we stayed at the Beall House Mansion.  I'll share more about this part of our trip in my next post.

After checking out of the B&B, we grabbed lunch and crossed the river into St. Louis.  We couldn't check into our hotel until 3:00, so we headed to the Gateway Arch for a three hour wait to the top of the arch. 
You'd think I was enduring the three hour wait with a silly 8 year old instead of a 28 year old : )

Clearly we entertained ourselves while we waited.
 
It was a tight squeeze to the top of the arch.....
......but when we finally reached the top.....
  
......we had a nice view.


After our visit to the arch, we took a five minute walk to our hotel room.....
......where we also had a really nice view:)
We didn't skimp on the hotel room, but it was so worth it!  We only stayed in St. Louis for one night, so we splurged and got an arch view room at the Hyatt for $200 a night.  The hotel has recently been renovated, making it much nicer than Indy's downtown Hyatt, but the best part about our room was the view!
     
Once we got settled into our hotel, we walked one block to Caleco's for dinner.

The food was really good, and the portions were large.  Needless to say, we had leftovers to take back to our room.
One of the reasons we went to St. Louis for the Fourth was because they were having their annual Fair St. Louis under the Gateway Arch. 

 This annual event is a huge American celebration where the city celebrates the Fourth of July under the arch with a weekend fair, air shows, evening fireworks and evening concerts.  And would you believe all of that is free!  That's right, there's no admission!  The only thing you pay for is food at the local vendors, but if you want you can bring your own food and drinks and have a picnic under the arch.  It was crazy-hot the weekend that we went, so we skipped the picnic. 

At the fair, Matt enjoyed fresh kettle corn, but I couldn't resist the funnel cake:)

 
We couldn't help but notice how much flooding St. Louis actually got prior to our trip.  It's hard to see in the picture, but the water level was up several feet from where it should have been.

A view of the fair and concert from our hotel room. This year's free concerts were the Steve Miller Band, Maroon 5 and Montgomery Gentry.
  
It was really hot and muggy while we were in St. Louis, so we decided to watch the fireworks from our hotel room. 

Our room definitely had the better view, and the air conditioning was a bonus :)


After waking up to this view.....
.....we went down to the hotel's restaurant for breakfast.  We got a really good deal and were able to get "all you can eat breakfast for two" for only $5 in our hotel package.

Matt, being a man who always gets his money's worth, had two full plates of breakfast :) I'm never a big fan of buffet food, but this was a definitely a step up from a typical buffet.  It was fully stocked with all you could possibly want for breakfast, including waffle and omelet stations. 

Before heading home we visited Busch Stadium and Forest Park. 
We had a lot of fun during our weekend getaway, and the entire trip was really easy to plan using the Explore St. Louis website.  If you ever plan a trip to St. Louis trip, I recommend you visit that website.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

My Real Life Love Story Part 7 - Then and Now

      

The last post in my love story series has finally been typed.  My original intent was to post about this each day leading up to June 26, but to my dismay it has taken me six long weeks to complete this series.  What can I say.....blogging is a hobby....it's not a priority.  Either way, I complete my real life love story with a post entitled, "Then and Now."


        Three years ago I was a single school teacher living in an 800 sq. ft. apartment (beautifully decorated of course).  I was working all the time, but I was very happy with the life I was living.  Now I'm married to a good man and I'm no longer a teacher.  My master bedroom is quite possibly bigger than that tiny apartment, and if I didn't want to work, I wouldn't have to work.  It's hard to believe that just three years ago I was finding myself at the bank more often than I needed to be, just to get to know someone that I was completely drawn to from the moment I met him.  Now, that special someone wakes up by my side every morning and is a reminder of how good God is to me. 
         Yes, it's amazing how fast things can change in life.  I was happy before I met the love of my life, but I must confess that having Matt in my life brings about a whole different kind of happiness.   In three years time we met, dated, got engaged, got married, got married again, sold a home, bought a home, had a few job changes, and did a little bit of traveling. 
         So what's next for us?  Over the next few years, we would like to do more traveling, finish all of the many projects in our new home and eventually start a family, but who's to say when or if any of that will fall into place.   You see, that's the beauty of a love story.  This blog series may be over, but the story isn't over ~ in fact, it's just beginning.  Who knows what life has in store for us as we grow together? 
         Whatever life has in store for us, we know it won't always be easy.  Let's face it ~ marriage takes a lot of work!  Oh, I'm sure that before our love story comes to an end, there will be trials that test the very foundation on which we stand.  And I'm sure that we will journey through life's failures and disappointments.  But I'm also sure that if we focus on the One who brought us together, we will be able to withstand the difficult times.  We have been given free will, and we have the power to choose to do what is right when it comes to our marriage.  Regardless of what difficulties come our way, through divine grace we can choose a failed marriage or a happily ever after.  It is our prayer that we continue to keep God the focus of our marriage, so that our children and children's children will someday be able to look back on our love story and say....... and they lived happily ever after.

National Cheesecake Day

          

         Happy National Cheesecake Day!  Don't you love how there's a holiday for everything these days!  I discovered that today was National Cheesecake Day last night when the hubs and I were at Cheesecake Factory for our weekly date night.  LOVE Cheesecake Factory!  If you go today, July 30, you can get any slice of cheesecake half off!  You can go to their website for more details.  If we would have known about this awesome news in advance, we would have had our date night tonight instead of last night.  Oh well, my misfortune means good news for you, because I'm able pass the info on to you with plenty of time to spare.  Now you have the chance to enjoy a slice of delicious creamy goodness for half the price!
            I'm definitely a big fan of Cheesecake Factory.  The cheesecake is to die for and is usually my reason for wanting to go, but the menu selection is also excellent!  There's so much to choose from! It always takes my husband forever to order, because there are so many choices.  Surprisingly, the food is really good even though they have a lot of different kinds of cuisines on the menu.  A few years ago, I  ordered the orange chicken - one word, YUM - and now that's what I usually order when I eat there.  Last night, I decided to switch things up a bit and go a little crazy.  The hubs swore I was going to change my mind last minute and end up ordering the orange chicken, but I surprised him a little when I ordered the stuffed chicken tortillas.  While I love the orange chicken, I have no regrets about my decision.  My meal was really good!
            Not only is the selection of food good, but the portions are huge!  I was only able to eat one fourth of my meal.....well, I was only able to eat that if I was going to save room for cheesecake;)  That means that today I have yummy leftovers for lunch and quite possibly dinner:)  Even my husband, the human garbage disposal, brought home leftovers. 
            The best part about Cheesecake Factory is the cheesecake.  I have to tell you that ever since the restaurant introduced its 30th anniversary cheesecake, it’s the only kind of cheesecake I order.  I've never had cheesecake like it!  It's the best thing EVER.....but I must have been in some sort of weird mood last night, because I switched things up and ordered the red velvet cheesecake.  It was very good, but I still say the anniversary cake is the best thing EVER!!!
            So, how much is Cheesecake Factory one might ask?  Considering all you get, the price it isn't bad.  It's still a fairly casual place to dine, so I would describe it as a step up from Applebees and a step down from Ruth’s Chris.  We never spend less than $50 for the two of us.  That's with two largely portioned meals, drinks and desserts.  It's not some place we go all the time, but every few months I request that we have dinner at Cheesecake Factory. 
            It’s time to wrap this post up, because I still have half of my cheesecake from last night in the fridge.  That and a cup of coffee sounds like an irresistible breakfast.  Healthy huh?  Yep, this is why we only have Cheesecake Factory every few months.  Have a great Saturday everyone!   Now I have some cheesecake to go enjoy;)

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Dog Days of Summer



our sad, brown, crispy grass


  
While Webster defines Dog Days as follows....
1the period between early July and early September when the hot sultry weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere
 2:   a period of stagnation or inactivity 

I prefer to define it with a little more clarity and creativity:
You know it's the dog days of summer when.........

....you can fry an egg on the sidewalk...

...you look out the window and the grass is crispy and brown, rather than lush and green....

...nearby pools are putting ice in the water to cool the pool temperature down....

...you start sweating from the short walk out the front door to your car door...

...the playground equipment at local parks is so hot it can give dangerous burns to visiting children...

...temperatures are in the nineties after the sun goes down, and it's too miserable to be outside for an evening summer cookout (or any outdoor activity for that matter)...

...you can leave cookie dough in a hot car, and return to find the dough baked...

...you just can't stand to be outside for more than five minutes at a time!



         Yep, it has certainly been crazy-hot around here the past couple of weeks!  Let's just say that I am thankful for air conditioning, and my sympathy goes out to anyone who is enduring this weather without it!  Like most of the country, Indiana has been going through the dog days of summer.  The heat has been intense, but the humidity has been the biggest problem!  We always have high humidity in July and August, but the past few weeks, we've endured the kind of humidity that completely takes your breath away when you walk out the door!  This kind of weather has been making me wish autumn would come quickly, because I'm definitely ready for cooler days!  Yes, cooler, fall-like weather sounds pretty good about now. 
         While I do love that Indiana has four distinctive seasons, there are two seasons that always seem to overstay their welcome ~ winter and summer!  Winter usually stays longer than it should, and just when you think it has said its goodbyes, it rudely shows up unannounced throughout the course of spring. And while I love summer, it too can be brutal with its extreme heat and humidity....and lately, most of the country has seen a little too much of summer's brutality.  With the temps around the 100 degree mark and heat indexes well over 100 degrees, I'd say I'm ready for summer to start packing up and moving out!  Well.....maybe I'm not ready for summer to go away completely.....after all, it is only July..... but I'm definitely ready for the dog days of summer to kindly exit the summer scene.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

$10 Plate Hanging




While at Home Goods last week, I came across a few plates that would be the perfect completion to a collection of plates that I've been working on with the intention of hanging on this wall.
Now as far as hanging plates on a wall goes, I found a fantastic and inexpensive tip at Blessed Beyond Measure that involved epoxy glue and picture wire.  You can find the tutorial here. 
 
After several months of searching, the collection was complete, and all it took was $10 and a little bit of patience. 


4 Large Round Plates - $1 each at the Dollar Tree
4 Small Round Plates - $.25 each at Goodwill
4 Small Square Patterned Plates - $4.95 for a set of four at Home Goods


LOVE IT!









Fruit Pizza

As I said in yesterday's post, my family came over for a cookout this weekend, and I made A LOT of food.  One of the things I made for dessert was a super easy fruit pizza.  I've made this for several get-togethers, and it always goes over well.  I seriously can't stress how easy this dessert is to make.



INGREDIENTS:

sugar cookie dough - you can make your own, or you can use store bought dough (I bought mine)

cream cheese frosting  - I made my own, but you can use store bought too
 (one 8oz package of cream cheese, four tbs. of butter, one c. powdered sugar, one tbs. vanilla)

fruit glaze (I used strawberry)

fruit topping (I used strawberries, raspberries and black berries)



Bake the cookie dough in a cookie sheet and let cool.  Spread cream cheese frosting over dough, then spread the glaze over the frosting.  Top the sweet pizza with your choice of sliced fruit and enjoy:)



Monday, July 25, 2011

It's A Goodwill Good Deal ~ $4 Picture Turned Into Dry Erase Board

We had my family over for a cookout this weekend, and I am sooo bummed that I didn't think to take any pictures!!!  Even though I don't have any photos to show it, we had a great time, and it was great seeing everyone.   

I have a  big family, and I made a ton of food for our little shindig.  Before my family arrived, I wrote the menu down on a makeshift dry erase board hanging in my kitchen.  Some of my nieces and nephews thought that this project was pretty cool, and it ended up being somewhat of a conversation piece in my kitchen. 

I really wish I could take the credit for this idea, but I can't.  I saw a version of this in blog land several moths ago, and for the life of me, I can't remember which blog I saw it at.  Although this piece has been hanging on my kitchen wall for a few months now, I have yet to blog about it, so without further ado, here's another Goodwill Good Deal....

This is what it looks like hanging on my kitchen wall now.......


......but this it what it looked like when I purchased it from Goodwill for only $3.99.
This purposeful piece of kitchen wall art was really easy to make.  All I did was take out the old portrait, and then I used scrapbook paper and scrapbook stickers to create a new "portrait'.

Lastly, I attached a dry erase marker to the side of the frame using Velcro.  The dry erase marker works on glass the same way that it would on a regular dry erase board:)

And that was it!  One $4 Goodwill frame + scrapbooking supplies that I already had = one practical yet beautiful conversation piece in my kitchen:)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A One Day Getaway

This post is a few weeks late, but better late than never, right?  Anyway, June 26, is our "fakiversary".  If you read my love story posts, then you probably get the idea of a "fakiversary".  If you recall we had two weddings.  March 20, is our actual anniversary, but Matt and I ....or should I say I....like to have a small celebration on June 26.  Matt definitely got the bad end of the deal when it came to having two weddings, but that's beside the point.  So anyway, we decided to spend the day downtown.  Rather than coming home late at night, we booked a room at the Hyatt and came back home the next morning.  It may sound silly to get a hotel room thirty minutes away from our home, but getting a hotel room meant getting rid of the distractions of home.  That's enough reason for me to have a one day getaway ~ even if I'm only getting away thirty minutes. 

Matt's job was to book the hotel room, and he enjoyed himself a little too much trying to get us a good deal.  He really likes negotiating, and what better way to negotiate a hotel room than using Priceline Negotiater.  Matt ended up getting us a $200 room at the Hyatt for only $50.  He was pretty proud of himself.

We didn't do anything new and exciting for this one day getaway.  We were familiar with all of the places we went, but we still had  an enjoyable time.  There are a lot of things to do in Indianapolis.  It's small, so it's easy to navigate ~ both by car and by foot.  It's also a clean city, and there is always something to do. We started the afternoon by walking the arts and theatre district of Mass Ave.  We always enjoy browsing around the unique stores the area has to offer.


Then we went to nearby McNiven's for a casual but delicious lunch.  As usual, Matt ate all of his lunch and most of mine :)

Like many hotels in Indy, the Hyatt connects to Circle Center Mall, so after checking into the hotel, we did a little bit of shopping.  A casual getaway called for a casual dinner, so after shopping, we ate dinner at one of Matt's favorite places, P.F. Changs, which was conveniently located in the mall.  It might be one of Matt's favorite places to eat, but I didn't put up a fight.  I was kind of craving the lettuce wraps anyway ~ so yummy!
After eating, we burnt some calories by walking the canal...... 
.....and then we walked to the heart of the circle city, Monument Circle.

We ended our night in the city with dessert before heading back to our hotel.  Good thing we did a lot of walking, because we packed the calories back on when we grabbed dessert at South Bend Chocolate Company.  While we were on the circle, we decided to stop here for ice cream, but after looking at the cheesecake selection I changed my mind about the ice cream ;) 


I had a lot of fun with my hubby on this one day getaway....can't wait to spend another year of marriage with the best guy in the world.  Yep, I'm one lucky girl :)

DIY Wall Decor

It's been several weeks since we painted the living room, and I was in need of some inexpensive wall art to go above the couch.  For less than $30, I came up with something to fill the void on the living room wall.  Using three canvas boards and items from my craft closet, I was able to create these......   




Here's how I did it......

 
I bought three of these canvas boards at United Art and Education.  They were about $8 each after the coupon.
 
Then I used my staple gun, and stapled fabric to the back of the board.  I orginally bought this fabric for a different project, but ended up using something else in its place.  Rather than having it sit in my closet, I thought I'd use it as art. 

Once the fabric was secure, I used two pieces of scrapbook paper that I already had, and I cut both pieces into thirds.

Once the paper was cut, I hot glued each cut piece of paper to the top and bottom of the boards.


Using hot glue, I secured trim between the fabric and the paper....

.....and I also added trim to the edge of board along the sides of the paper.
This is the finished project.  I now have creative art hanging above the couch, and it cost me less than $30:)