Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Wedding Circuit has ended... at least for now

We started our wedding circuit in March, as I wrote about previously. All the weddings were great, each having their own special touch. Currently we don't have anything on the schedule for the rest of the year. It's almost a little sad to think I won't have wedding cake again this year.

We ended the wedding circuit this past weekend with the only wedding either of us was actually in, Ryan was a groomsman. Two of Ryan's closest friends, Ben and Katie, got married in Ashtabula, Ohio. Katie and Ryan grew up across the street from each other and Ben and Ryan have been best friends since middle school. It was a fantastic wedding weekend in a place neither of us had ever been, surrounded by friends Ryan has known much of his life.

The hotel we stayed at and all wedding events were right on Lake Erie. I have never seen a great lake and I will say they are appropriately named "Great". That lake is huge. I thought I was standing on the shore of the ocean.

While the guys played golf, the girls had a great lunch at Gale's Coffee Corner in Geneva, Ohio. It was a cute little coffee shop/bakery with a great soup and sandwich lunch. They only had chili but it was great. They had fantastic looking desserts that we almost resisted, but finally got a fresh chocolate chip cookie (the big kind) and devoured it in about 2.5 seconds. The neatest part of lunch was that the lady who waited on us used to live in The Woodlands! She sat and chatted with us some, it was just such a little small town lunch. We really enjoyed it.

The rehearsal dinner was a "Clam Bake" at a local winery. I had never had clams before so I tried one or two. It wasn't my thing but Ryan loved them. I think he had three bags.
The highlight of dinner was the clam chowder, I think our table was in agreement that we could have had at least three bowls each. Following close behind the chowder on the highlight reel was the discussion about who did the best job eating their corn on the cob. Brandon and Brandon seemed to disagree on who did best.

Friday night was a long one that included a stop at Sundae's Ice Cream stand...

...and ended in a stop at Mike's Gyro's, open till 3:00am! It was no Keifer's but he made a pretty darn good gyro with cucumber dressing. Between the wedding party, I think Mike's sales probably tripled that night... well, it was up by at least 10 gyros. I think everyone would agree that Mike's Gyro's were "skinny" (sorry, I just really can't explain in this blog, "skinny" is worth it's own post).

Saturday we had fantastic burgers at Eddie's Grill, made a quick trip to Carlisle's gift shop and then hit the pool until the wedding. We even took a quick dip in Lake Erie which is I guess one of the warmer great lakes... a nice 70 degrees.

The wedding was held on the property of the Carlisle Family, right on the lake. It was just a beautiful day and a beautiful setting. The bride and groom did a fantastic job with all the arrangements and the food was fantastic. I did not take pictures of all the food, which I regret now. The passed appetizers were not only yummy but presented beautifully, I hate I don't have pictures of them but I always feel like a wierdo taking pictures of food. Dinner was amazing and we danced all night long.

I did get a picture of the drink of the night... the "skinny" that could only be ordered by that name. Not a Redbull Vodka, only a "skinny". I don't know why people like Redbull (other than the hope it really will give you wings) but apparently its pretty popular. Blech.

The hot dog cart arrived late in the evening for those who were still hungry. It was a big hit!

We rounded the weekend out with Texas BBQ at Katie's parent's house on Sunday and then headed back to Texas.

Thanks to Katie, Ben and their families for a fantastic weekend! A larger album of pictures can be found here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2 years ago....

...Ryan and I were just about to get married. July 22, 2006 was the day of our wedding. All our family and friends gathered in Jackson, MS for the big event. It really was a great day, everything we could have hoped for. Thank you to everyone who shared it with us.

Last night we celebrated our anniversary a little early with dinner at Jasper's Restaurant. It was quite possibly one of the best meals we have had in a really long time. I really don't remember a meal that we enjoyed each course as much as we did.

We ordered the Blue Cheese Potato Chips appetizer that is one of the signature dishes. It was good. I don't love Blue Cheese so it was a little overwhelming to me, but Ryan loved it. We then split a Jasper's Green Salad which was also really good. It had blue cheese crumbles and roasted pecans (mmm) and a really nice light vinaigrette dressing.

Jasper's is known for the their ribs so that is what Ryan ordered. It came with a hot potato salad, dressed with a creamy cheese sauce and topped with fried onion strings. The meal was absolutely delicious and Ryan let me sneak a few extra bites of the potatoes.

I ordered the Shrimp and Pork Tenderloin Brochette, substituting the rice for the sauteed zucchini and squash. The shrimp and pork and a great flavor, a little spicy but delicious. The zucchini, squash and carrots were shoestring style and had a nice Asian flavor on them. It was the first time in a long time I pretty much cleaned my plate.

For dessert we ordered the Cherry Limeade Pie. I must say it was one of the most refreshing desserts I have eaten at a restaurant. We polished it off in no time flat.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Family Lake Weekend

When my dad was a kid, his parent's owned a boat and they would take the boat out skiing on the rivers in Mississippi. Granddaddy, Dad and his brother and sister were all excellent water skiers. I never saw my grandmother ski, but she might have at one time in her live. Dad actually almost killed himself skiing one day, but thats a story for another day.

When my dad was in high school, Granddaddy built a house on Dalewood Shore Lake outside Meridian, MS. It was a quaint little house, 2 bedrooms, one bath, house with a huge second story porch. The house was all on the second story with a huge garage underneath to store the boat and all the boat toys. The driveway was long and steep and went straight into the water as a boat ramp. We had a nice pier that you could tie the boat up to, swim/play in front of, fish from, etc. One of my fondest of the lake, and there are many, is that each year Granddaddy "carpeted" the pier in some sort of "astroturf" and cap the wooden posts of the pier with aluminum foil so none of the kids would get splinters. He wasn't the mushy type of grandfather but he really went out of the way for his family in many many ways. And Grandmother would go out and rake the sand in the shallow water, removing all the muscle shells so we didn't cut our feet. You always knew when you ventured too far into the neighbors property when you started to feel the shells!

Much of my childhood revolves around trips to the lake. My dad has a brother and sister who both have lived on the East Coast. We lived about 2 hours from Dalewood so our summers involved lots of trips over for weekends at the Lake. My Mom's family was from Meridian too so there were lots ofjoint family reunions.

I learned to ski when I was 6 years old. Mom and Dad were off at Montreat (a little slice of heaven) and my brother and I spent half the week with Pop and Grammy and the other half of the week at the Lake with Grandmother and Granddaddy. I was determined to learn to ski that week. Granddaddy had just bought some new training ski's (because he ran over the old kid ski's and chopped on in half the summer before) and i was ready to learn. He was in the boat by himself and my brother sat in the shallow water with me, holding me steady and telling me what to do. I don't know how long it took me to get up on the skis but I just know that I fell in love quick. Being the second youngest cousin in the family, I never was as good as my older cousin's but I progressed to slalom skiing in the next few years.

My dad's family would all gather at Dalewood at least once a year. Instead of remembering birthdays of all the cousins throughout the year, we celebrated with one big "Cousins Birthday Party". Anyone at the lake the weekend of the big get together was included on the cake... relatives, cousins-cousins, friends. It didn't matter. If you were a "kid" your name went on the cake. We all brought small gifts for everyone and they were stuffed into paper bags that we decorated the day before/day of. Homemade PJ's were a favorite and of course any type of toy that shot water! And remember, all of this is 20+ people in a 2 bedroom, one bathroom house. Showers were optional, we bathed in the lake (right, thats clean) and we squeezed mattresses in wherever they would fit.

My fondest memories revolve around our weekends/weeks at "The Lake". The summer before my sophomore year of High School, Granddaddy decided it was too much work for him to keep up the house and the yard so he sold the house. Most of us kids were really mad at him. We understood but we were so sad that "The Lake" was no more. We vowed to meet each summer and we did. The following year we rented a house in Montreat and had a great time. No water skiing but still a great reunion. Granddaddy died that December and we all knew that him selling the house was the right thing to do and were glad he did it when he did. We sat around after the funeral, writing down all the little things Granddaddy did and said over the years. Most of our memories revolved around weekends at The Lake.

Wow, this is long.

Last year, on our anniversary, I asked Ryan what he thought we'd do in the following year. He jokingly said "buy a boat". Ryan had never driven a boat but had always dreamed of one. Of course, my dream has always been to live on a lake. One day, one day. Ryan's joke turned out to not be much of a joke. That weekend he found a boat in the paper that was just a steal. Within 2 weeks, I paid off my car note and replaced it with a boat loan... we owned a boat. Not knowing if we would enjoy the boat enough to balance out all the work, we really dove into this purchase. Ryan had never skied, never wakeboarded, nothing. Of course, the first time we took it out and I skied behind it I wrote home to my parents that I had died and gone to heaven... which I had. Ryan has learned to drive the boat, we work well as a team getting it in and out of the water, off and on the trailer. Ryan has also taught himself to wakeboard and gets better each time we go out. I think his height hurts him a little, but as with everything, he rises to the challenge.

This summer, we rented a house on Lake Conroe, where we keep our boat in storage, and my parents, my brother and his wife and little girl, and Ryan and I stayed the weekend. Ryan's parents and one of his brothers came out for a day, keeping with the family tradition of opening our doors to the extended family and friends. It was a great weekend. My brother, Ryan and I got up early both mornings to enjoy the calm waters and got some great skiing and wakeboarding in. My niece enjoyed playing off the pier and at the "beach" on the "island". I hope this can continue and maybe one day, one of us will own our own house on a lake again.

Here are our pictures from the weekend. My brother is still a far better skier (and wakeboarder) than me! He even successfully jumped both wakes at one time. YIKES!!!!

I am slightly glad that wakeboards didn't exist when we were growing up. I am pretty sure my brother or my cousins would have severely hurt themselves because they are so much easier to do tricks on than skis.

In closing, I have to thank my Grandparents and my parents and my dad's family for all the great memories growing up. They will be with me forever and I love you all.

A few more pictures are here.
300+ pictures are here.

EDIT: Dad informed me that Grandmother did ski at least once in his life, but that she would not drive the boat after almost killing Granddaddy one time. I'll have to get that story later.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Beer Can Chicken

How do you get a husband that doesn't like chicken to eat chicken? Cook it with beer! I had often heard people talk about "Beer Can Chicken"... one of my High School friend's families called it "Beer Butt Chicken" which is really an appropriate term.

Sometime after we got married, I decided to give it a try. I had heard that the hardest thing was getting the chicken to stand up on the grill which always made me nervous. I was at Wal-Mart one day and found a little stand that is made specifically for beer can chicken, so I bought it and it's great.

What is so fantastic about cooking the chicken this way is that it stays VERY moist. Even though the chicken takes an hour to cook, its not dry. This is always Ryan's biggest complaint about chicken, that it's dry. Not the case with Beer Can Chicken!

There are probably many ways to season the chicken but this is what I do.

Beer Can Chicken
1 whole fryer chicken (about 4lbs)
1 can of beer, your choice
Tony's Seasoning
Garlic Pepper
Vegetable Oil

Preheat grill so that the coals/flames are on the outside of the grill. Chicken will drip lots of grease so you don't want it on the coals.

Drink (or pour out -- gasp) 1/2 can of beer. Carefully cut open beer can so it has a larger opening. Be careful -- don't cut yourself.

Remove all insides of the chicken and rinse the chicken. Pat chicken down with a paper towel to dry off some.

Rub chicken with vegetable oil, inside and out.

Sprinkle/rub chicken with Tony's and Garlic Pepper, inside and out.

If you have the little stand, place the can of beer in the stand. Place the chicken down on top of the can, so that can goes INSIDE the chicken. The chicken will be standing up-right, with legs at bottom, wings at top.

Place chicken on grill and cook for 1 hour or until it reads 180 on a meat thermometer.

I have no tips on how to cut the chicken up. I just do my best to get the breasts off and then cut off the drumsticks. It's not a pretty sight. I won't be going on any sort of cooking show anytime soon!

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