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Posts from the ‘weekends’ Category

Weekends

Weekends always go by far too quickly. My life is busy, busy… and I look forward to my weekends, like a kid looking forward to Xmas.

Though I usually have so much that I want to accomplish, that they end up being just as busy as my weekdays… and… well… it’s just a vicious circle really.

However, this past weekend, I was able to take a well-deserved lazy day on Saturday. I had gotten off of work a few hours early on Friday, and was able to do my weekly grocery shopping, as well as a much-needed trip to Costco that afternoon. Then I came home and turned my kitchen into pumpkin-flavored heaven, as promised.

Pumpkin muffins (so moist and doughy!), pumpkin butter and pumpkin cream cheese. All made with real food ingredients, and respectably healthy.

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Put all three together, and you have a winning combination, as we happily discovered…

super deluxe muffins

Saturday morning was my usual ritual of Farmers’ Market and coffee…

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I was thrilled to find GREENS at the market again… and (possibly?) went a little crazy, buying Collards (two types), and arugula! As well as 3 green peppers, breakfast radishes, and something called ‘Asparagus Beans’… (they look like Chinese Long Beans to me). I also bought some fingerling potatoes, eggs and some chicken breasts… as well as these super-cute itty-bitty tomatoes …

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Awwww.

I returned home in a light drizzle, to find Susan and Victor (Tristan’s Mom and nephew) at our house, hanging out. After Susan and I caught up -we’re both quite chatty (much to Victor’s dismay – 12 year old boys get bored pretty easily around women); they headed out, and that marked the end of my productive day! The rest of the day was spent in sweats, on the couch with Tristan, watching the first season of Raising Hope on DVD, and taking a nap.  It rained, it poured, and we lounged. Fantastic. I didn’t even have to cook dinner, courtesy of Mellow Mushroom and my lovely boyfriend who went to pick it up.

We were excited for the premiere of Saturday Night Live with Alec Baldwin, and bought some Schweddy Balls in his honor. It didn’t disappoint! (The ice cream or the show!).

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(If you don’t get that reference, I’m sorry, but we can’t be friends).

When it comes to relaxing, I’m normally such a guiltaholic (Tristan says it’s my Catholic school childhood!); but on Saturday I was able to take a step back, and not give myself a hard time for relaxing. I know I deserve it (always!), but sometimes it is honestly hard to let go.

Sunday morning I had a mini lie-in, and then a breakfast of coffee, local eggs and homemade pumpkin muffins.

Then it was back to the business of my weekend to-do list… multiple loads of laundry, and of course, keeping busy in the kitchen.

I turned these… applesauce1

into applesauce. (will post the recipe tomorrow)

And I  lightened up my favorite hummus recipe, by using some vegetable broth (not exactly authentic – but rest-assured there was evoo and tahini in there – just less of it – as I tend to eat hummus by the boatload).

Sunday night I made my Minestrone soup (recipe to come), and indulged in a giant bowl of healthy comfort food. Seriously, it is so GOOD. I’ve been eating it nonstop ever since.

I also enjoyed my first Schlafly Pumpkin Ale this weekend, as well (which came to me all the way from Illinois! More on that later).

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Do you find it easy to ‘let go’ and relax on the weekends….? Or are you a control-freak, like me? 🙂

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Yiasou!

The second weekend in September here in Charlotte, means one thing to me… Greek Fest!

I’ve been going to the Yiasou Greek Fest since I first moved to Charlotte in the 6th grade. We used to walk there for a field-trip from my Elementary school… and the tradition continued into adulthood. Any year that I’ve been living in Charlotte come September, that is where I will be.

It’s a big, loud, Greek party – that has been going strong since 1978 (just like me!)

Highlights…  Mythos beer, Spanakopita, Frappe, and Greek coffee… ohhhh, the coffee.

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After getting our fill of the festival and deciding it was time for dinner, we scoped out the food lines, and finding the line for Gyros and Kota Pitas (T’s choices) particularly massive, we decided to take our food to go. Thankfully, the Yiasou fest has a drive-thru! We picked up what turned out to be a ton of food to take home and enjoy on the comfy couch, while catching up with Fringe on Blu-Ray.

I had the Baked Fish, which came with all sorts of sides. I broke my “only local humane meat” rule and sampled a bit of everything… from the dolmade to the pastichio. All delicious. And then… there was dessert…greek fest15

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Babies Are Delicious

Er, Fudge Babies, that is. Don’t want you to get the wrong idea here.

Lucy over at Porridge & Parsnips  (btw – don’t you just love her blog name?), made a bunch of CCK’s Fudge Babies the other day. After reading Lucy’s post, I knew what I would be doing last Friday evening.

I bunked off from cooking dinner and sent Tristan to Mellow Mushroom (pizza for him, veggie sandwich and Greek salad for me), and then got to work deciding which variety of “baby” make. (I don’t read CCK’s blog, and was unaware of this phenomenon). I have however, made date balls before (which is basically what these are), but I called them Powerballs. Oh yeah. Anyway, I settled on the Samoa and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavors. The Samoas sounded the best to me, but I felt that I should make a non-coconut version for T to enjoy, as well. (Despite the fact that coconut is not his favorite food, he enjoyed the Samoas the best! Go figure).

I made a few changes with the Samoa Babies… namely that I added a handful of cashews to the mix (they were originally nut-free), and also I rolled them in shredded unsweetened coconut when they were finished. This was definitely not a mistake. And it made them so festive looking, to boot! Other than those little changes, I think I followed the recipes to the letter.

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This was a quick and easy way to get delicious treats in about 30 minutes. A messy hand, notwithstanding! ; )

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Weekends… What Have You Done For Me Lately?

I feel like I race, race, race through the work-week… waiting for the weekends… and then, bzzzt, the weekend has come and gone as well. Hello, Monday. I struggle between trying to get everything done on the weekends, and being able to relax and enjoy myself as well. It’s a constant tug-of-war.

I spent this past weekend…

Saying goodbye to a friend, (and inheriting some of her handmade pottery), who is moving to Canada. (I imagine a trip to Toronto some time in 2012 might be in order).

Watching the men in my life replace our garage door-opener.

Cleaning up more dog hair than I really care to discuss.

Feeling sad for the people of Norway. What a tragedy. What a crazy person!

Feeling sad about the death of Amy Winehouse. Back to Black is one of my all-time favorite albums. She was immensely talented and genuinely troubled.

But on a more positive note…

This weekends eats included…

this…  chia breakfast

this…  mellowmushroom

and this… chix tacos

to name a few!

And lest I forget… many laughs were had, while watching 6 episodes of this…

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The Inbetweeners is absolutely irreverent and hysterical. If you have BBC America, or Netflix Streaming – you should check it out.

It is loverly.

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How do you spend your weekends? Catching up on your to-do list? Or relaxing? 

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Veg-Out & Booze It Up

As per my ritual, Saturday morning found me at the Farmers’ Market. I went a little nuts this week (everything looked so beautiful!) and spent about $45 (I think. Maybe it would be best if I just “forgot”). I spent $27 at one of my favorite vendors… Hinson Farms. (My other favorite farm is Carlea Farms). All of the vendors at the market are fantastic, but these two definitely get top billing in my book!

I normally only go to the market with about $30 in cash (plus my checkbook for must haves and meat!). However, flush with cash… I spent, spent, spent. I was paying with quarters by the time I dragged myself away. And here is what I came home with…

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Two dozen farm-fresh eggs, cucumbers, edamame, romaine (3 heads), Cherokee purple tomatoes, peaches, Russian fingerling potatoes, purple and green bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, Japanese eggplant, and a small honeydew melon.

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After the vet and car ordeal, I popped into the ABC store to restock some of our favorites and scope out some new finds…

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Lunch was simple sandwich of guacamole, tomato and pepper jack cheese on Great Harvest Honey Whole Wheat (the heels), with a few sweet potato chips. And then… then we napped. Food coma!

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Lilly napped as well… she was worn out from her exciting vet visit!

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When we arose, I got to work in the kitchen (again – and always!)

First, I macerated some fresh strawberries in Limóncello. This is a summertime favorite of ours!

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Then, it was cocktail time! I purchased Skinnygirl Margarita for the first time. I am a huge fan of Bethenny, and thought this was definitely worth a try! It was good… none too sweet – but of course, that’s how I like my margaritas! As I make a damn good one myself, this definitely will not be a staple in my house – but I think it is a good product, and I would love it if restaurants started carrying it!

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Dinner was a simple pesto pasta with sautéed veggies, drizzled in balsamic, on the side.

In the mix:

9 oz. whole wheat rotini

prepared pesto, to taste

15 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

Prepare your pasta, drain and stir in as much pesto as your little heart desires. Throw in your drained cannellini beans, and stir to heat through.

Topped with:

garden fresh cherry tomatoes

fresh parmesan cheese curls

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For dessert? Limóncello strawberries, of course!

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Holiday Weekend Happenings

What a weekend it was! I had 3. 5 days off from work, and tried to make the best use of my free time and long weekend!

I cooked good food.

I cleaned and organized my house.

I played with my puppy.

I tended to my garden (bugs and all!)

I spent some quality time with my other half.

Some highlights…

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Come Saturday afternoon, I made a full dinner for a family that I had never met. I signed up to help out the Breen family with a meal for a couple of months, while Tonya is fighting cancer. I live locally, and it just seemed like the right thing to do. (Thanks again to Caitlin for sharing Tonya’s story!)

I had intended to snap a photo of the food I made for them, with handwritten ingredient tags, etc – but when it came down to it, I was more concerned with packing up and getting the food to them – rather than snapping pics. (Poor blogger = good person? Hee, hee). I took them a pan of Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas, salad with veggies fresh from my garden, my homemade Cilantro-Lime salad dressing, some fresh salsa from the Farmers’ Market and a batch of Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. I figured even if Tonya and Kevin didn’t want to indulge in the cookies (they are trying to eat a semi-vegan diet), that their little boys might appreciate the sweet (healthy!) treat. Little did I know, that when we dropped the food off at their house, we would find a house FULL of people! It was a bit chaotic, but we did chat with Tonya for a few minutes, and we met her Grandmother, and the two boys. I received a nice message later that night from Kevin and Tonya, and apparently all EIGHT of them (6 adults and 2 kids) enjoyed our dinner. I was thrilled that they were able to feed their unexpected dinner company with our meal, as I had been a little concerned when we left! But I had made a large amount of food, figuring in that situation, leftovers would probably have been appreciated, as well. Thankfully it all worked out. Now I just have to figure out what to make them for dinner in August…

Monday night, the rain and storms drove us inside to cook out dinner (we had planned to grill the burgers and corn). We cooked our local grass-fed beef burgers in a skillet, and they were still tasty. Come dessert time, we braved what were merely sprinkles at that time, to make S’mores! These were Tristan’s first s’mores ever – can’t you believe the man got to be 33 years old without ever having a s’more? Shocking! We set our marshmallows ablaze and got to work assembling them.

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They were even better than I remembered! A rare treat!

Having graham crackers reminds me of how much I love them – but I don’t like the ingredients in store-bought crackers. I must try to make my own! And soon!

We saw a few fireworks from the comfort of our living room… and let me just say – Lilly is NOT a fan. What she IS a fan of, however… is watermelon! Can you tell?!?!

Asheville–Day 3

This was supposed to post while I was away in Illinois – but it did not?

 

This was our Biltmore* day!

We had a reservation to tour the house at 1:30pm. We arrived before noon, after a quick bagel breakfast at the local Bruegger’s Bagels. Prior to touring the house, we walked up the grassy hill in front of the house to the statue of Diana the Huntress; as well as touring the gardens and Conservatory.

This was Tristan’s first time inside the house. He had been to the Estate with me for work events, including a special dinner out on the South Terrace. As much as history and architecture are much more MY interests, I think he really enjoyed himself.

It was HOT. Super hot. Kind of a bummer, but it meant getting to enjoy a margarita at some point in the afternoon, while sitting on a bench at the Conservatory. Not a bad thing, indeed.

Photos are not allowed in the house, so here is everything ELSE

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(Boy do I miss using my employee discount at the Winery!)

It was a lovely, albeit muggy day on the Estate. After coming back to the Cottage and showering, we decided to cancel our dinner reservation at Zambras. Relaxing on our private porch, with a glass of wine, and getting take-out from HOMEGROWN sounded much more appealing at that point.

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HOMEGROWN proved delicious, once again. I opted for the Smoked Tempeh Burrito (w/local Smiling Hara Tempeh), and a side salad. T and I split a Candied Bacon Brownie for dessert. Our first choice was their Banana Pudding, but they were sold out for the day. The brownie was yum, and I loved the little candied bacon flecks throughout. The bigger chunks of bacon were a bit unappealing simply because they weren’t as crunchy.

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Even in take-out, HOMEGROWN proved exceptional. The take-out containers were compostable, as was the plastic carrier bag. Incredible. I brought the containers home, and put them in my composter. Hooray for loving the Earth! 🙂

 

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* Background information… If you aren’t aware, I used to live in Asheville. I worked in Human Resources for Biltmore Estate in their corporate offices, on the executive level. It was quite a job! had daily interactions with Bill Cecil Jr. (President and CEO of Biltmore), who is the great-grandson of George Vanderbilt, who built the Estate.

Being the “Jill-of-all-trades” that I am, I also worked a couple of weekends a month out at the Estate Equestrian Center. The BEEC (Biltmore Estate Equestrian Center) is not open to the public, per say. When you visit the Estate, you don’t encounter it, unless you know where it is! Rather, it is for people who live in the area to board/ride their horses at; and also for those people who travel and camp with their horses. It was an interesting, albeit dusty, experience. Now if I overhear someone talking about “Coggins reports”, I know what they are talking about. (Any horse riders here?)

I also briefly assisted Philippe Jourdain, the former Winemaster at Biltmore Estate, as part of a side-project. I was able to learn a lot about wine in a short amount of time. (While deciphering his very thick French accent!)

So, that is my Biltmore background. It was a great company to work for, and I truly enjoyed my time there. I was sad to leave, when I ended up moving to Charlotte to be closer to Tristan. *

Asheville–Day 2

Saturday dawned bright, clear a little cool – which was a nice change from Charlotte weather! We headed out early to the local Farmer’s Market, Asheville’s City Market, downtown. As a die-hard local foodie, the Farmer’s Market was something I didn’t want to miss!

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It was very different from my local market, and had about twice as many vendors. There was so much beautiful produce! But I wasn’t there for that since I was on vacation… I was there for the local goodies… nut butter, jams, pasta… things that would travel well back to Charlotte with me.

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And tempeh! My one perishable purchase!

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I knew I just HAD to get some Smiling Hara Tempeh to take back home with me.

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After running back to the Cottage to put the tempeh in the freezer, we popped over to Early Girl Eatery for breakfast.

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This is one of our favorite breakfast spots, and well worth the inevitable wait. This time we only waited about 20 minutes – no big deal. We window-shopped on Wall Street, snapped a few pics, and just hung out. (How did we ever survive without Smartphones? ha).

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Tristan pointed out that Mimosas were on special, and insisted I have one! No argument here!

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Starting the day with coffee and champagne = happy Angie.  It WAS vacation, after all! We had a lovely window seat overlooking Pritchard Park, and enjoyed people-watching.

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I had the Sweet Potato Scramble with Local Sausage. Mmm, mmm. I am definitely going to re-create this at home!

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We spent the afternoon walking around downtown… shopping… snapping pics… seeing all that had changed since we were last here… and that which has stayed the same.

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We stumbled upon the Three Dog Bakery and even did a bit of shopping for Lilly!

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For lunch we popped into Salsa’s Mexican and Caribbean.

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Tristan wanted to try this place, as we had never been. There wasn’t much that appealed to me on the menu, for a “light lunch”. Everything seemed to be either huge or fried. Not my cup of tea. This was probably the only disappointing meal for me, of the entire trip. I ended up ordered an appetizer called the Spliff Roll (heh, heh – very fitting for Asheville!) and it was super-fried.

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I only ended up eating half of this small appetizer plate, (but ALL of the fresh mango salsa hiding underneath – yum), and it still managed to give me a tummy-ache later. I just don’t do well with fried stuff.

After lunch we walked and talked and walked some more. Everyone seemed to be out enjoying Pack Square Park, either cooling off in the fountain, or hiding out underneath the trees in the shade. This park was fantastic, and had been in the works before I moved away, but was far complete. The finished product is lovely.

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We saw my old office building at 1 N. Pack Square, which looks at first glance to be an unsightly concrete mess, but was actually designed by I.M. Pei.  I really enjoyed working right in the thick of things downtown, and miss working for The Biltmore Company.

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After a visit to Malaprops for some local Asheville LOVE,

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we hit up The Chocolate Fetish for some truffles (to enjoy a few days later, back home in Charlotte).

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Before we knew it, we were heading out for our dinner reservation!

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Dinner was at Stoney Knob Café in Weaverville, NC. (Just up the road about 10 minutes, still basically Asheville). Stoney Knob is our absolute favorite date restaurant in the area. It was where our first real ‘date night’ took place (as our first date had been a lunch date on a Saturday afternoon), and we ALWAYS pay them a visit when we get to the area. We had reservations for 8pm, at this cute little revamped Diner that serves “Cuisine from Near and Far” (mostly Greek with some Italian/Asian/Caribbean thrown in the mix for fun).

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I was dismayed to find that they had taken my favorite dry Rosé wine off the menu (sad face), and opted for a Sauvignon Blanc instead. It was delicious, and I had  a second glass with dinner.

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Our appetizer was a special for the night… flatbread pizza with herbed goat cheese, arugula, caramelized onions and mushrooms.

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For our mains I went with the Carolina Shrimp and Grits (featuring NC shrimp). This had a fried green tomato on top, with some more of that herby goat cheese, and was divine.  Tristan had the Filet Minion.

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For dessert we split the special, a chocolate tart and of course, Greek coffee. (Which we both LOVE).

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It’s so funny, every time we order Greek coffee at Stoney Knob, the servers asks us “Have you had it before?” or “Are you familiar with Greek coffee?”. And we chuckle. Yes, we are VERY familiar with Greek coffee. I’d imagine that they have gotten some rather shocked reactions from patrons in the past, who didn’t know that they were ordering a strong, short, sweet little demitasse cup ‘o joe’. If you haven’t had Greek (or Turkish) coffee yet – what are you waiting for?!?!

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Stoney Knob always gives us a lovely date night experience, and this was no exception. Love.

It was a PERFECT Asheville day.

Love.

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Asheville–Day 1

Tristan and I took Friday off from work to get an early-ish start on heading up to Asheville for our Anniversary weekend. We took Lilly to my parent’s house bright and early, and said our goodbyes. I’m getting better at leaving her each time that we do it – but it still tugs at my heartstrings. The easier it gets, the better… this woman likes to TRAVEL!

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After heading back home to load up the car, we hit the road around 12pm. We took turns driving… chatting and dozing on the way up the mountain. Well, one of us dozed, as it wasn’t me. (I won’t post the pic I snapped of him sleeping in the passenger’s seat – that would be mean).

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As we were pulling onto I-240 we received a call from Terry at The Hill House Bed & Breakfast , that our Cottage was ready, and we could come check-in at any time. This was a pleasant surprise, as check-in was not supposed to be until 4pm. We had asked to get in earlier, and were pleased that they accommodated us!

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The Cottage looked pretty much as we remembered it, with few changes since we last stayed here in 2007. It’s a lovely little house that sits behind the “main” house of the bed & breakfast. (The structure you can see on the right, behind the Cottage, is Bill & Terry’s home). The Cottage has a kitchen, a jacuzzi tub, and a little flat-screen TV in the living area, for those of us who are CNN junkies and can’t stay away from the news! (me).

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The Hill House Bed & Breakfast is located in a lovely little area, off of Merrimon Ave, just about a mile from downtown Asheville.

After checking in, unpacking the car and freshening up a bit – we headed out for a late lunch. Tristan had checked out Yelp for any new and interesting spots in town, and recommended HOMEGROWN . So off we headed!

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HOMEGROWN was incredible. I wasn’t starving, as I had snacked on a homemade granola bar and a Diet Coke on the journey up. (By the way, it is damn near impossible to find a cold, caffeinated beverage – sans sugar or sugar substitute in a gas station! Had I any other options, I wouldn’t have had the Diet Coke. I used to love them, but almost never drink one anymore. Only when travelling. It was a necessary evil. Ok – rant over).

I wanted to eat light, so I settled on an appetizer of Pimento Cheese w/ Veggies & Flat Bread (which Tristan was able to share) and a side of Sautéed Sesame Kale w/ Carrots. I also ordered my first Buchi, a local Asheville Kombucha.

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Tristan ordered the Grilled Chicken Sandwich w/Mozzarella, Lettuce, Tomato & Watercress Pesto and probably a sweet tea (?). He sampled my kombucha  as well. I enjoyed the Buchi more before I started eating. With food, it tasted a bit more vinegary to me.

As will be the theme of the weekend, HOMEGROWN touts a farm-to-table philosophy with lots of local produce and meats. We had food from here again before our weekend was over, but more on that later!

After our late lunch, we drove around some of my old haunts… cutting through the UNCA campus, and driving by my old apartment in Historic Montford. This is where I lived in an apartment in a 100-year-old house, sans dishwasher, with a CRAZY landlady, who lived downstairs. Ah, memories.

After driving around from Montford to Biltmore Village, we stopped in at Mountain Java for an iced latte, and then we hit Greenlife Grocery (which is now owned by Whole Foods), and did some shopping. I was definitely in my element, and I think Tristan was amused at my excitement. I picked up some things that I am unable to find in Charlotte, and we chose a locally made Salted Carmel Brownie to enjoy for dessert after dinner.

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Back at the Cottage, we unpacked a bit more and just relaxed for a spell, and then opened our Anniversary gifts, before getting dressed for dinner.

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Dinner was at The Laughing Seed Cafe, in honor of our first date that took place there, 5 years ago to the day.

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I ordered the Sweet Basil Martini, which turned out to be delicious! Look how pretty!

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(Sorry for the poor quality pics, it was really quite dark inside!)

To start we ordered the Sweet Potato Dumplings  (Crispy wontons stuffed with sweet potatoes, onions, and herbs and served over fresh greens
with wasabi ponzu sauce), 
which were yummy, if a little too fried for my taste.

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For the main course I ordered the Raw Spinach-Pesto Manicotti (Zucchini noodles stuffed with live sunflower-spinach pesto, cashew ricotta, and fresh basil served over sun-dried tomato marinara with house-marinated olives); and Tristan decided on the Mushroom Enchiladas (Button, shiitake, and cremini mushrooms roasted and tossed with avocado, tomato, and scallion, baked in whole-grain tortillas, and topped with vegan chipotle cream sauce and feta cheese. Served with black beans and a tossed salad). Both were wonderful, and I especially loved mine! I didn’t miss the cheese (or heat) at all!

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We passed on dessert, (knowing we had the brownie at the Cottage waiting for us!), and strolled around downtown a bit, before calling it a night on a lovely 5th Anniversary.

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Stay tuned for recaps of days 2, 3 and 4 still to come! 

Just A Preview

We had an amazing long weekend in Asheville, for our 5th Anniversary. Tomorrow afternoon I am going to buckle down and go through my 1000+ photos, taken on two cameras. Eeeks. Then I’ll be back with a real post (or four) about our trip…

The amazing restaurants. Biltmore Estate. Local food. The Blue Ridge Parkway. Hippies and hipsters. Relaxation. Memories, old and new.

As always, my heart is in Asheville.

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