Thursday, April 26, 2012

Until next time!

Happy Thursday! My bags are packed and I'm heading out of town! First stop, Columbia, SC for two days of governmental audit training. Second stop, Litchfield! I can't wait to have my toes in the sand and a drink in my hand! Until next time loves!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

{Recipe} ~ Spaghetti Squash

I tried something new tonight! I try lots of new recipes, but usually stick with ingredients I know what to do with and am familiar with how they'll taste. But spaghetti squash was something I had always wondered about but figured I would mess it up. Let me tell you, it's almost foolproof and yummy! 

I searched for awhile for instructions just on how to cook it. I found this article which was very helpful. I wanted to go the quicker route, as I went shopping after work and was starving by the time I got home for dinner. To be honest, cutting the squash lengthwise before cooking it was extremely difficult. I had to use some muscle power and didn't exactly cut it evenly, but it worked just fine after a few tries (and if you don't mind the uneven halves). I microwaved it cut side down on a plate, with plastic wrap across the plate. I cooked it 9 minutes, and that seemed to work.

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Since I read that you can use this as a base, just like you would pasta, I just threw some ingredients together to top it off. I sauteed some veggies (tomatoes, red bell pepper, and onion) in olive oil with some salt and pepper. Once I shredded the squash with a fork, I stirred in a bit of pesto and topped it with the veggies. 

The result? Delicious! It's so similar to pasta, with twice the nutritional benefits and half the calories and carbs. I can't wait to try spaghetti squash with other toppings! It's a little sweeter than pasta, but would probably change flavor based on what you serve it with. Maybe just a dash more of salt and pepper would do the trick.

Here it is! My spaghetti squash creation! Hope you all try something new today, too!

Monday, April 23, 2012

{Recipe} ~ Grilled Chicken with Pineapple Salsa

I had to post this recipe almost immediately after I cooked it for dinner tonight. This was SO good. The salsa is amazing. I highly recommend it for the summer months. It's such a fresh, healthy salsa. I ended up scooping some of it out of the bowl with tortilla chips before I ever got to pour it on top of my chicken. I'm telling you...go make this for dinner ASAP!

Grilled Chicken with Pineapple Salsa
adapted from Eat Yourself Skinny

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Ingredients:
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (I used chicken breasts because it was all I had on hand!)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Cooking spray

Salsa:
2 cups cubed fresh pineapple (about 1/2 pineapple)
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels (about 1 ear)
1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
3 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt 


Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat; lightly coat with cooking spray.  Combine garlic powder, cumin, 1/2 tsp. salt, and pepper in a small bowl; sprinkle over chicken.  Add chicken to pan; cook 10 minutes on each side or until done.



Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, pineapple, and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.  Serve relish over chicken and enjoy.

Eat up and enjoy!


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Weekend Update ~ Beer Festival

I always get a little bummed when Sunday night rolls around. It means the end of another great weekend. This one was equally fun and relaxing. I hate to see it end!

Friday night, Lauren and I went to our End of Busy Season party at one of our shareholder's house. It's always fun to hang out with our co-workers outside of the office. The house was beautiful, too! I could've definitely moved in.

After the party, I met my parents for the last few innings of the Drive game. My dad had gotten box seats through work, so I didn't want to miss an opportunity to see my parents and the end of the game. I was only there for about an hour, and the Drive lost, but it was still fun!

There's an apartment building with sweeping balconies that overlooks the stadium. I've always thought to myself how cool it would be to live in a condo there and I wondered what they looked like inside. Ryan texted me to tell me that one of his coworker's lived in an apartment there and to come join them out on the balcony. I jumped at the opportunity! The apartment did not disappoint! I was casually asking them when I could move in, too!


A view from the balcony overlooking the stadium




















We lingered as long as possible before heading home. We had to rest up for the Beer Festival! We had lunch at Mellow Mushroom before heading over to the Bi-Lo Center. They decided to move the festival inside because of the chance of rain forecasted. It never actually ended up raining, so it would've been cool to stay outside, but that's okay! The festival was so fun! We made stops at pretty much every station, sampling beers as we went. Most of the breweries were familiar, but we got to try a few new brews for the summer as well. I'm already looking forward to going back next year! 
Abita Beer Garden! (they unfortunately didn't have Strawberry Lager) 


Our mini 2 oz. sampler mugs



So many people!














Reading the map proved to be a challenge
We ate dinner at a mexican restaurant downtown and called it an early night by watching the Braves game at home. While waiting for a cab, I managed to catch an amazing photo of the sunset!


Ryan and I are now enjoying a lazy Sunday at his place. The weather was so crazy today, with some rain (and rainbows!). I took some pictures from Ryan's huge loft windows. 


Awesome rain cloud

Double rainbow! 

Water tower/blue sky after the storm
We also managed to cross three movies (3 movies in one day! It has to be a record!) off my list today! We watched Office Space, Reservoir Dogs, and The Breakfast Club. I had seen Office Space a really long time ago but I enjoyed the new ones as well. Yay for making my movie list a little smaller.

Hope y'all enjoyed your weekend as much as I did!

Friday, April 20, 2012

An Ode to Busy Season

Happy Friday! Yay for the weekend! Since that beautiful tax deadline (April 15th, in case you forgot) has come and gone, I thought I would opine on the great three and a half months known to accountants everywhere as "busy season." I won't bore you with the details of how (or why on earth) I chose to be an accountant. We'll save that story for another day. However, I will give you a little background, followed by some numbers. Because, obviously, I love numbers!

I'm an auditor for a mid-size regional public accounting firm. Hold on to your seats while I explain what that means. Most companies require an audit, mostly by law or in order to get and/or keep a loan with a financial institution. The most basic definition of auditing I can find is this: "a systematic examination of the books and records of a business in order to verify and to report upon the facts regarding the financial operation and the result thereof."  So yeah, that's what I do on a daily basis. Which means we spend a lot of time in our client's place of business, working with a senior or manager (someone with more experience than a 1st or 2nd year staff), looking through their files/documents/reports, etc. As an auditor, busy season is a little different than a race to the tax deadline, but we're still busy this time of year with our own filing deadlines.


Here's my cube. I'm working on the decorations...
The firm I work for is amazing. I interned here twice and never thought about working anywhere else. While busy season is rough (i.e. a LOT of hours and less sleep), they do their best to make it as bearable as possible. Enter: food. Lots and lots of food. They fill empty file cabinets with snacks to keep us fueled. The snack drawer just happens to be conveniently located directly outside my cube. Let's just say it's a good thing I wasn't in the office much over the past few months. They also provide lunch every Saturday for us while we're working. They also let us dress as casually as we want on Saturdays, too. They provide an "afternoon surprise" every Wednesday (candy, cake, ice cream, you name it). Have you noticed a common theme here? Apparently busy season = stress eating. But hey, it works and we all survived. We're having a party at one of our shareholder's house to celebrate another busy season in the books. I can't wait! (PS. It's a complete lie that accountants are boring. We are fun people, okay?!)

Now let's do busy season by the numbers, shall we??

701 hours worked
8 different clients audited
2 different states visited (Savannah, GA and Birmingham, AL)
6 Saturday lunches consumed
10 weekends worked
93.5 "overtime" hours
300 (at least) lunches and dinners eaten out
10 Friday night happy hours
2,483 visits to the snack drawer (an exaggeration? probably not)

Whew. There you have it, folks. I survived my first busy season! I think It'll be fun to do this comparison of the numbers each year. 

Until next time...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thankful Things Thursday

Well, it's that time again! Time to start being thankful! Work has been especially slow this week (see ya busy season). Not sure if I'm adding that to the list of things I'm thankful for yet or not...Moving on.

I'm thankful for date nights. Usually Ryan and I are both busy after work from eating, working out, to working late, we sometimes don't get to see each other until 9:30 pm or later, if at all. So on Tuesday, I promised to cook him dinner (pork chops w/pineapple fried rice, obviously). I managed to get home from work and the grocery store early, so I even whipped us up some appetizers! Okay, so maybe "whipping up" isn't the right term. I sliced the cheese and poured the wine and put it on a pretty plate. :)

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I'm thankful for this little purchase at Target. Seriously, how cute are these? Mini Luna bars? I had no idea they even existed.

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I'm thankful for rainy evenings in my pajamas. It rained all day yesterday. Perfect nap weather. Unfortunately, a nap wasn't in the cards because of a little thing called work. So instead, when I got home from work and the gym, I put on my pjs at 7 pm, got in bed with a bowl of popcorn, and crossed 2 movies off my "to see" list (Breakfast at Tiffany's and The Fighter).

I'm thankful for tax refunds. It makes it a little better that the government is giving me a smidge of the money I earned back to me. I'm also thankful I didn't have to do my own tax return. Worst accountant ever? Probably. Sorry I'm not sorry.

I'm thankful for having the greatest nachos in the world for lunch (this may just be my personal opinion..jury's still out). One of the greatest things about working downtown is being able to walk somewhere for lunch. When we're all in the office (which is rare for us traveling audit people), we always get a group together. I've been in the office for the past two weeks, and I've actually been thankful to go home for lunch (so much cheaper and healthier). But after the "official end of busy season," we decided to splurge. Enter Chicora Alley. An extremely underrated, amazing restaurant/bar. I realize that this picture looks a little gross. But trust me, it was delicious. And yes, I ate every.last.bite. Chicora makes their own salsas, including a grape salsa, mango salsa, corn salsa, and guacamole. On a related note, I could eat nachos all the time. I even ate them for dinner on both Friday and Saturday two weekends ago. Oops.

I'm thankful for $1 beer night at the Drive stadium. Yes, that's where I'm headed on this lovely 75 degree evening. Put a Strawberry Abita in my hand on the porch while writing this post before I leave and you have one happy girl.

I hope everyone has things to be thankful about today, too! There's usually ALWAYS something!

{Recipe} - Pork Chops with Pineapple Fried Rice

Everyone must go make this NOW! I'd actually made this one before, but didn't have a blog back then, and it was definitely worth posting and making again! This recipe is SO good! This is great when Ryan and I both have a craving for chinese food (which happens more often for him than me). The additional of the grilled pineapple really makes the dish. I would eat the rice by itself! I did tweak the recipe a little bit. We cut up the pork chops and stirred it in the rice - it's just easier to eat that way. 

Pork Chops with Pineapple Fried Rice
adapted from The Pioneer Woman


Ingredients

1/2 whole Pineapple, Cut Into Spears And Skewered
2 cups White Or Brown Rice, Cooked
6 whole Pork Chops
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Tablespoon Peanut Oil Or Canola Oil
1 whole Large Onion, Sliced
6 Tablespoons Soy Sauce (more To Taste, Or If More Liquid Is Needed)
1 Tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Honey
1 Tablespoon Sriracha, Or Other Hot Sauce
Salt To Taste
3 cloves Minced Garlic
2 whole Eggs
1 jar (small) Drained Pimentos
1-1/2 cup Frozen Peas
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce (additional)

Preparation Instructions

Cook rice according to package instructions. Set aside.
Grill or saute pineapple spears until they have good marks/color on the outside. Slice, then set aside.
(Note: soak wooden skewers in water for a few hours first.)
Heat butter and oil over medium high heat, then add the pork chops to the pan. Saute on both sides until they have nice color.
Throw in the sliced onions and work them into the crevices between the chops. Shake the pan and move the onions around and let them cook for a good couple of minutes.
When the onions are starting to soften, add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, honey, and hot sauce. Shake the pan, stir it around, and let it cook and bubble up for a good couple of minutes until the pork chops are completely cooked and the sauce is thicker. Remove the pork chops to a bowl, then let the sauce bubble up and cook for another 30 to 45 seconds. Pour it over the pork chops. Set aside.
Add a small amount of oil to the same pan (without cleaning it) and return it to the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir it around, then crack in the eggs and immediately stir them to scramble them a bit. Add peas, pimentos, and a couple of tablespoons (additional) soy sauce. Add cooked rice and stir it around to cook for a couple of minutes.
To serve, pile rice on a plate, then top with a pork chops and onions from the sauce. Drizzle a little bit of sauce over the top.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday Randoms

Hello! I've been accumulating quite a few pictures on my iPhone, all so they could be shared in this random post!


First: The Sleep Cycle app! This thing is awesome -- and makes me completely aware that I sleep like crap. You place your phone in the bed with you and it monitors your movement and gives you a graph of your "sleep cycle." You also give it a 30-minute window in which to wake you up, so the app avoids waking you up in your deepest sleep (making you feel groggy). While I think it's a neat idea, I'm not 100% sure it actually works. If you do happen to be in a deep sleep before you need to wake up, your alarm has no choice but to wake you up anyway. Still, I like having the graphs in the morning, mainly to say, "No wonder I don't feel rested! I woke up 5 times last night!" (see below. woof.) Side note: Ryan, two of of our friends, and I have a group message going in which we compare our sleep cycles in the morning. Comments include: "Dang Charlotte, your sleep cycles are messed up" and from Jordan: "I'm pretty much awesome at everything I do. Including sleeping." It's pretty hysterical.


On the left is a picture of my "breakfast." Okay, not really, more like a morning snack. Our office is really good to us during busy season (i.e. feeds us A LOT) and there were cranberry orange muffins in the training room last Monday morning. Even though I had already eaten breakfast, I couldn't resist. I ate it all day long - the muffin was the size of my hand! But oh, was it good. Must find a recipe for these!

On the right: my standard lunch for the past week and a half. Mom sent me home from Easter with some leftover ham (thanks Mom!), which I turned into lunch for days. Fun fact: I'm not a fan of sandwiches. People always look at me funny when I say this. But it's true! I just don't get excited about lunch. If I could survive on breakfast and dinner alone, I would. Lunch foods are a necessary evil though. Sorry, rant over! With my dislike of sandwiches aside, this one was pretty tasty! I bought some cranberry honey mustard a while back that is a standard for me for turkey/ham sandwiches. I'm a little impressed with my well-balanced meal. But then I ate it for 5 days in a row, and today, I had popcorn for lunch. Ha, I tried.


Kate Spade purse & sunglasses, J.Crew cardigan

Earrings from Anthropologie
 As it's gotten warmer out, and I've switched to wearing some of my "summer" wardrobe, I noticed I have an obsession with coral. It's everwhere! I was discussing this obsession with Lauren, to which she agreed with me. We decided it was because the color, when wearing it, makes you look tanner. I can totally agree with that one!


And last but not least, the beautiful sky last night when I got home from the gym. I have a mild obsession with sunrises and sunsets. I have been known to pull over on the side of the road to take a picture of the sunset (which never seems to do it justice). I swear, Clemson had some of the best sunsets. I have a few pictures saved just to help me remember how gorgeous that place really is. Sunrises and sunsets over water are a particular favorite. Maybe I'll do a post of my favorites for a rainy day.

Thanks for sticking it out through my brain's random thoughts today!

Monday, April 16, 2012

{Recipe} - Grilled Balsamic Bruschetta Chicken

Another recipe! This dinner was delicious and really simple to throw together. I fixed it in the skillet because I don't have easy access to a grill and it worked just fine! It was filling too! I was starving after going to yoga after work and waiting until 8 pm to finally get around to eating dinner. Definitely a "make again" recipe!

Grilled Balsamic Bruschetta Chicken
adapted from The Picky Palate


Ingredients:

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Pinch of salt
¼ Cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 Cup of Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
4 Roma Tomatoes, seeded and diced
8 fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled and thinly sliced into chiffonade
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
Pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ Cup extra virgin olive oil
Directions: 
1. Preheat a grill pan over medium heat on the stovetop. Spray with cooking spray. Combine balsamic and olive oil in a bowl. Season both sides of chicken with pinches of salt and place on grill. Brush top sides of chicken with balsamic mixture.Cook for 4-5 minutes and flip chicken. Brush with additional balsamic and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes or until cooked through. Add cheese before removing from the pan and let it melt. 
2. In a large bowl combine the tomatoes, basil garlic, salt and balsamic. Toss gently to combine. Spoon on top of chicken, hot from the grill, and serve.

{Recipe} ~ Creamy Sausage and Tomato Pasta

I haven't been cooking as much lately since I've been busy! I finally made it to the grocery store last week (after eating toast for breakfast, pb&j's for lunch, and popcorn for dinner) and stocked up on some goodies. My old roommate Laura has class in Greenville a few nights a week so I invited her over to the apartment for a girls' night with Lauren and me! I love having two of my girls to hang out mid-week. I gave this recipe a try, and it was a hit! Laura brought bread from the Fresh Market and Lauren made the salad. Red wine was also a must. Without further ado:

Creamy Sausage and Tomato Pasta


Ingredients:

4-5 Italian sausages (about 1 pound) found in the fresh meat department
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (16 ounce) can Italian style diced tomatoes
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
5-6 big leaves of fresh basil, chopped
12 ounces penne pasta (get a 16 ounce box and use 3/4 of it)
grated Parmesan for topping

Directions:
1) Cook the pasta in salted water al dente, according to package directions.
2) While pasta is cooking, brown the sausages and cut them into slices (I actually removed the casings and then browned and crumbled the sausages like you would ground beef).
3) Add the onions and garlic to the sausage and saute for a couple of minutes.
4) Pour in the entire can of diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce and heat through.
5) Pour in the cream and heat through. The longer you cook the sauce the thicker it will get so simmer it until it is the consistency you want.
6) Add the fresh basil and let it simmer for a few minutes.
7) Finally, mix the sausage sauce with the pasta and serve. Top each serving with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Serve with crusty garlic bread.








Sunday, April 15, 2012

Weekend Update ~ Braves Opening Day & Clemson Spring Game

Happy Sunday! I've returned back to Greenville after traveling again this weekend and having lots of fun! Here's a quick recap:

On Friday, a big crew of us went down to Atlanta for the Braves Home Opener. This game was extra special because The Civil Wars performed a pre-game concert! Lauren and I saw them in Charlotte back in December, and were excited to see them again! They played a shorter set with a few of their new songs from The Hunger Games soundtrack. While I must admit that their music isn't really appropriate for a baseball game venue, I still enjoyed hearing some of my favorites again live (plus, we were so close to the stage)!




Now onto the game! The Braves won 10-8 against the Brewers!






Our wonderful friends Jacob & Emmie, who live in Midtown, let us crash for the night. They have an awesome view of the city! We were in Atlanta back in March for a weekend reunion and I was excited to see them again!


We walked a few blocks to Einstein's for brunch. The food was to die for. Tom and I split the Fried Green Tomatoes and I had Shrimp & Grits as my meal. Yum. We could've spent all day drinking on the fabulous porch.


After brunch, Tom, Ryan, and I were on the road again to Clemson. We spent the afternoon tailgating. Honestly, we never actually went into the stadium for the spring game. It was just so nice to prop our feet up at the tailgate; I really didn't want to move. And since I have no pictures to show for it beside this one of the stadium, I'll give you some pictures from the Clemson vs. Furman baseball game at the Drive Stadium we went to on Tuesday night.



And now I'm off to enjoy Sunday Funday by the pool on this gorgeous day! Hope everyone had a great weekend! 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thankful Things Thursday Remix

Hi! Apparently I've gotten in the habit of only posting weekend recaps or my weekly "Thankful Things Thursday" post. This has got to stop! I promise I'll stop being so busy and I'll be back to more consistent posts! I've got some good ones planned already!

I think I'm going to shake this post up a bit. Instead, we're calling it "Things I'm Looking Forward To Thursday: Summer Edition!"  Since we've finally gotten through to the other side of busy season and I can return to my social life, I realized I've got a lot of things to be excited about this year. I love making lists, so let's just combine the two!!


April

  • Atlanta Braves Opening Day/Civil Wars Concert
  • Clemson Spring Game
  • End of Busy Season Audit Party
  • Trip to Litchfield (hopefully!)
May
  • Lauren and Rachel's Birthdays
  • FAMILY VACATION to Arizona for Memorial Day (yay, Grand Canyon!)
June
  • Father's Day
  • Mom's Birthday
July

  • Independence Day by the pool
  • Week-long trip to Litchfield
  • MY 24TH BIRTHDAY
  • Ryan's 25th Birthday (two days after mine)
  • Trip to San Antonio to see Ryan's Dad's family and 3 high-school friends
August
  • Trip to Dallas to see Ryan's Mom's family

September

  • Labor Day Weekend
  • Clemson vs. Auburn in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome (Labor Day Weekend)
  • Official start of college football!

October

  • Dad's Birthday trip to the mountains
  • Half Marathon #2 in Greenville
  • Halloween (not a favorite of mine, but people seem to get really excited)

November

  • Three back-to-back home games in Death Valley
  • Thanksgiving! (Tied with Christmas for my all-time favorite holiday)

December
  • Christmas Eve & Christmas Day
  • New Year's Eve

This post has gotten me so excited about the upcoming year! I'm pretty excited I have this blog now so I can journal things before they happen and as they happen (and include pictures)! I have so many things to look forward to and be thankful I'm able to travel and enjoy time with friends and family. Hope you all are excited about the rest of 2012, too!




Monday, April 9, 2012

Weekend Update ~ Easter

Hello! Hope everyone had a great Easter weekend! I had a great weekend full of friends, fun, happy hours, delicious food, and of course, the blessing of Easter! 


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On Friday, I worked from home, but only had to work about 4 hours to hit my weekly total. The morning involved a much-needed mani/pedi. Lauren and I had bought a Living Social for a local salon for a pedicure with wine. Unfortunately I made my appointment at 10 am, so the wine was semi-socially-unacceptable. I opted for coffee instead.

OPI's Cajun Shrimp
 



















After work, I started baking some Easter treats! I found the idea on Pinterest, but basically all you have to do is melt a Hershey Hug on a pretzel and then top with an M&M! So easy! Actually, the hardest part is just unwrapping all those Hershey kisses! I ended up taking them to work Monday morning and they were gone before lunch. If you want to get rid of sweets, take them to the office!


All plated for Easter dessert!
Friday night involved happy hour at Ale House with the work crew, and then bar hopping for the remainder of the evening with both my work friends and Ryan's. I believe our stops included Nose Dive, Ford's Oyster Bar, Corner Pocket, and last but not least, The G-Spot. Side note: The G-Spot is a pretty seedy bar. But Ryan and I had our first kiss there. So we return for nostalgia sake. And sometimes, the music is good for dancing.

Saturday was a lazy day! I really wanted to drive to Asheville to see the tulips at the Biltmore. Unfortunately, you can only buy one ticket as admission (for $64) and Ryan and I weren't in the mood to tour the house while we were there. Bummer :(

Here's a picture my dad took of the garden several years ago:

Instead, we decided to spend a day enjoying our own city! We went to lunch at Luna Rosa. This place has the best gelato and the food is actually pretty amazing too! I had a grilled cheese panini and Ryan had the eggplant tomato bisque. We had to finish our lunch with gelato (caramel latte crunch for me and peanut butter cup for Ryan). 

Pretty flowers at our outdoor table
 We spent the next two hours sitting at Falls Park on a bench and people watching (one of my FAVORITE things to do). It was so nice to just relax and hang out and chat. The weather was gorgeous! Here's a few pictures:



Hi ducks! You're cute. Let's be friends.
Saturday afternoon was spent napping while watching the Masters. Ryan and I met one of my coworkers, Trent, at Liberty Tap Room for appetizers and dinner. We ended up making friends with the waiter and stayed for hours. 

Sunday was Easter! Ryan, Trent, and I headed to Anderson to the church I grew up in, First Presbyterian, and then had Easter lunch with my family. The church was packed so I'm glad we got there early for a seat. Lunch was delicious! We made our usuals: honey baked ham, asparagus, mashed potatoes, and rolls. My mom made these precious "easter baskets" for dessert! 



Hope everyone had a great Easter weekend with their families!