Restaurants

Why, hello fall!

Welcome to the best four months of the year.  Seriously, I’m not kidding.  Let me explain…

September: As this week proved, September is when the air starts to get a little cooler in the mornings, and night time walks with the pups require a hoodie or a fleece.  Absolute best feeling ever.  Football season has officially begun, including tailgating.  You have an excuse to do back-to-school shopping, and Hound Ears is less than a month away.

October: Now fall is in full swing, pumpkin flavored lattes, cakes, muffins, ice cream and even pancakes.  It’s everywhere, and you will never find this girl complaining about that.  You get to start brainstorming Halloween costume ideas, scouring thrift stores, and hosting pumpkin carving parties. Add in a corn maze and the North Carolina State Fair, and you’re as close to a 10 as a month can get.  Plus, it’s now officially okay to start listening to Christmas music.  Don’t even bother commenting on that one.  No one will ever convince me otherwise.

November: Halloween may be over, but the pumpkin foods are not.  Now we’re getting excited for a much needed Thanksgiving break, and a trip to the mountains.  It’s officially cold and I can start wearing my favorite hats and scarves.  Christmas music is now popping up on the radio and in malls…

December: Rejuvenated from Thanksgiving break, you’re now ready to attack the holiday season full force.  Christmas shopping, apartment decorating, holiday parties and visits with Santa at the mall.  Pumpkin is still available most places, in addition to some delicious gingerbread options.  Add in a nice 1-2 week break, and I’m loving life.  A lot.

So when it got cool this week and I got to really think about the season we were approaching I realized it was time to share a little of this joy with others.  Thankfully Jill was in town from DC, so we got a chance to start the celebrating.  Including our first high school football game of the season…

SATURDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL GAME:  7

Despite the sky spitting on us all day, and throughout the night, I’m pretty grateful KIPP was playing locally.  Gave me an excuse to throw on a hoodie, brave the rain, see some of my favorite students, and witness a huge win for the Panthers!  -3 for the rain (meaning we couldn’t sit down, my toes got pretty wet, and my body took about 2 hours to get rid of my goosebumps).

KIPP CHEERING SECTION: 9

HIGHLY entertaining.  Not always the friendliest of comments (hence the -1), but I loved how disproportionate our vocal presence was to our physical presence 🙂

PUMPKIN SPICED LATTES: 9

Yup, after diving in on Thursday I’m worried the seasonal addiction has begun again.  Loved every second of this guy.

Still not over the price 😦

After some afternoon shopping at Southpoint, Jill and I headed to Cheesecake Factory for lunch.

JILL’S ABILITY TO HANDLE THE LARGE, BOOK-LIKE MENU: 2

20 minutes later she was ready to order.

MUSHROOM LETTUCE WRAP @ CHEESECAKE FACTORY: 9

I’m loving several of their vegan menu items, and decided to go with their Mushroom Lettuce Wrap.  Sauteed mushrooms with crunchy rice-like noodle guys, and giant pieces of lettuce to wrap it up in.  Seriously delicious!  And only $5.95.  Meaning I left Cheesecake Factory paying a total of $8.  Unheard of.  Even at the food court.

Was hungry a couple hours later, so not the most filling meal, but still worth it 🙂

After some serious Felicity marathon watching, and a visit to City Bev with great people, we headed out to the mountains.

HANGING ROCK HIKE: 7

I’ve heard a lot about Hanging Rock, and since visiting Blacksburg more recently I drive by the sign on the way there and the way back.  So this weekend was the time to check it out.

2 hours later we arrived.  A bit deceiving, as it was easily 30 minutes off of the highway where I thought it was going to be.  -1.

When we arrived we were presented with several options for hikes.  We went with the classic ‘Hanging Rock’ hike, a total of 3 miles round trip.  Rated ‘Moderate’, I would say that was a bit of an overstatement.  ‘Light Moderate’ would be more accurate.  There were some steep portions, but it was pretty short and not very rigorous.

This is great for an afternoon stroll, but I like to earn my views.  I also like to avoid loud children.  Especially when there are a lot.  And the more strenuous the hike, the less loud children.  And people in general.  -1.

That said, boy were the views amazing.  For an hour hike up, we were definitely rewarded with some of the best views I’ve seen since Maine last month.

Now I know you’re wondering about the last point.  See the ledge we’re sitting on right there?  Yeah, it’s a straight drop down.  Which not only makes me nervous for myself (which it does), but also for all those people I mentioned earlier.  Especially the kids.  NERVOUS. WRECK.   -1.

HIKING WITH MURPH: 6

I love how much Murph likes to hike.  I love how tired he is after a long day of hiking (as I type, he’s sleeping next to me quietly).  And one of the reasons I wanted a dog in the first place was to take him hiking.

However, what I didn’t have in mind was him dragging me up mountains.  And then down again.

I swear I use twice as much muscle on every hike just pulling the opposite direction of him so I don’t tip over.  Case in point:

Don’t worry.  We made up once we got to the top.

Until we started hiking down, that is.

Once we finished we still had plenty of day in front of us, so we drove home (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’, while Jill slept like a baby in the passenger seat and Murph napped peacefully in his bed in the back of the car) and headed to the Tobacco Trail.  My new apartment complex offers free bike rentals and I’ve been meaning to try them out.  After handing over a check for $350 (which I got back as soon as the bike did) we were on the road again.

TOBACCO ROAD BIKE RIDE: 10

I love biking.  And you can’t beat a nice paved road with minimal hills, and good company.  I love biking with music, but I like biking with conversation even more.  Plus the temperature was PERFECT.  Long-sleeved shirt, no sweat, a nice fall breeze, and occasional whiffs of burning wood.

What a great way to end the day 🙂

Until next time, just living for the tens!

Road Trip: Part 2

After some exciting Freeport shopping on Day 2 of Maine time, I finally got my yearly lobster 🙂  My aunt, uncle and two cousins live about 15 minutes from my grandparents, and hosted an incredible lobster feast.  I ended up with a lobster and a half 🙂

YEARLY LOBSTER: 10

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a lobster up here that wasn’t a 10 now that I think about it… We did skip the usual lobster races pre-dunking, but now that I’m more aware of animal rights than I was as a kid, that’s probably a good thing.  Ethically I know at some point I should probably give up lobster, but I just can’t part with it yet.  Or ever maybe…

Why am I the only one smiling???  We’re eating LOBSTER!!!

The next day was my Grandmother’s official 80th birthday, so we went out to a sweet little restaurant on the water to celebrate.  Some delicious home-baked bread, fresh haddock and incredible mashed potatoes later it was time for the main event…

GRANDMA’S BIRTHDAY CAKE: 10!!!

This rating is two-fold:  1) the appearance, and 2) the flavor.

First, the cake was ADORABLE.  Perfect for a spring birthday, it was covered with cute flowers and even some adorable bumble-bees on top.  Have never seen anything like it, and thought it was great 🙂

Secondly, the flavor.  It was actually FOUR layers, and there was lemon icing and apricot flavoring in between each.  Had no idea I liked apricot until eating an apricot cake that was delicious 🙂

Overall a great birthday celebration, and definitely worth the 15 hour drive.

The next day my mom and I took off to Laconia to visit the other set of Grandparents.  Unfortunately my grandmother was recently hospitalized, so we didn’t get to spend nearly as much time with her as I would have liked.  Luckily we did get to see her at a nearby rehab facility 🙂

LUNCH AT FRIENDLY’S: 8

It’s not a trip up north without a stop at Friendly’s 🙂  So first thing upon arrival in Laconia we picked up my Grampy and brought him over to Friendly’s.

I went with the Turkey Club since it was the healthiest option (they’re certainly not known for their nutritional value), and while it was fine, it was no Chicken Parm Melt… -2.

However I went all out with the ice cream (there’s no choice when you’re at Friendly’s), trying out the Hunka Chunka PB Fudge with peanut butter topping…

A. MAZ. ING.

Next morning it was time to hit the road again, heading back to PA where I crashed for the night and took off for North Carolina the next morning.  Happy to be back and looking forward to a weekend full of tens!!!

Birthday Celebrating!

I love birthday weeks (a lot) and I must admit that I woke up a little sad this morning when I realized I’d ahve to wait 368 more days till my next one 😦

That being said, this year’s involved some pretty good times.

Starting with a road trip up to Philly…

And a stop at FRIENDLY’S!!!

PARTYING IT UP AT JENNY B’S WEDDING: 9.5

Weddings are great for many things.  Obviously celebrating someone else’s happiness is great, but reconnecting with old friends is also incredible!  Had the chance to do that with several of my favorites from college, and enjoyed every minute of it.

-.5 because it’s sad to realize how great people are, and then leave the next day to never see them again.  Or atleast not for a long time.

GETTING TO KEEP THE CENTERPIECE: 10!

Another advantage of having my birthday so close to a wedding is that usually they give away the centerpiece to whoever has the closest birthday.  Lucky for me the centerpieces were BEAUTIFUL!  I was pretty excited when Scott relayed the news…

CELEBRATING WITH THE FAMILY: 9

If only I weren’t so tired from the wedding celebrating that happened the night before…


DINNER AT MAGGIANO’S: 8

On my actual birthday the framily went out to one of my favorite restaurants to celebrate not only my birthday, but also Jay’s!!!  Ever since college I’ve been a Maggiano’s addict, and love them even more now that they have whole grain pasta.  Classic Italian style, it was a great combination of incredible food and fabulous company.

-1 because of how exhausted I was after eating all that filling food.

-1 all that food also meant I didn’t save any room for profiteroles- my favorite dessert EVER!

I wish you could hear the beautiful music Jay and I were playing behind the piano…

JAY WEARING PAUL’S GLASSES: 10!

Who knows how we got started trying on each other’s glasses, but as soon as I put on Paul’s I was shocked by my sudden lack of vision.  Never in my life have I met someone with such horrible vision.  I had no idea until I put on the glasses that blinded me.  No matter how painful it was for me, it was totally worth it for the face we got out of Jay when he put them on.  LOVE IT!

All in all another fabulous birthday 🙂

SUPERBOWL!

On the way home from the airport we stopped by Trader Joe’s to pick up some last minute Superbowl snack foods before everyone came over.  That’s when I saw this…

TRADER JOE’S ‘ASK ME’ SIGNS: 10!

What a good idea! Recently I’ve noticed in stores everywhere that it’s near impossible to find someone to help you out.  I’ve found myself actually googling on my phone ‘where do I find wheat germ?’ rather than try and find someone to help me out.  It’s just not worth it.

That’s why this is so brilliant.  Even though I only saw one of them wandering around, you knew exactly where she was, and it seemed she was eager to help.  Unlike recent experiences I’ve had at the grocery store… ‘Muesli?  Don’t know what that is.  Good luck.’  Really?  That’s it?  Good luck?  Oh boy.

From there we decided to grab lunch on the way home.

SWEET TOMATOES:

Had never heard of this place before, but the idea of a soup/salad buffet sounded brilliant.  Lots and LOTS of salad toppings, about 8 soup choices (including shrimp bisque and an incredible cauliflower soup!), several pasta dishes, AND dessert for only $8.95.  Not bad!

-1: No hummus for the salad.

-1: My inability to control portions, inevitably overflowing my plate and spilling all over the table.

-1: That horribly full feeling I left with.

FROZEN YOGURT DESSERT: 9

Didn’t really need it (-1), but when I saw they had rainbow sprinkles I had to get something to put them on (it turns out eating sprinkles with a spoon leads to a rather weird film all over the inside of your mouth).  Added a couple scoops of oreo and was good to go!

Despite the face, Scott wasn’t as big a fan of the ice cream as I was.  That just meant I got to eat the sprinkles off his 🙂

Finally it was time for the big game 🙂

The party was at Scott’s in Wake Forest, and about 15-20 people came out which was awesome.  And really good people which made it even more awesome 🙂

Homemade pizzas, LOTs of snack foods, and a pretty good game.

MY AWARD-WINNING GUACAMOLE: 10

It’s official, my guac has now won an award 🙂  What was Bill thinking challenging me?  Jay’s lucky he bowed out at the last minute.

I give Claud credit for the pretty decorating 🙂

GAME MVP DECISION: 1

I guess the quarterback was good and all, but seriously, I think the game should have gone to the kicker.  3 over 40 yards, and then several touchdown kicks (yes, I know my lingo is spot on), I’m convinced they wouldn’t have won without him.  He kept ’em in the first half.  Way too cliche to just give it to the quarterback.  WAY too cliche.

All in all a pretty fabulous night 🙂

The Coupon Book Adventures Continue

Yes, I love coupons.  A lot.

I love them even more now that I’m a full-time student working a lot of part-time jobs just to pay the bills. Eating out can’t really happen unless I have coupons, therefore I love them.

So when I got another Entertainment Book (aka the Coupon Book) for Christmas I was PUMPED.

Let the adventures continue!

Following candlelight yoga on Thursday, Laura and I (and eventually Snooky) headed over to the local Brixx.

MEDITERRANIAN SALAD: 10!

Lettuce with onion, red peppers, banana peppers, feta cheese, AND an incredible feta cheese dressing.  Plus some delicious bread on the side.  DELICIOUS.  We split it, so it was also the perfect size.  I may never order pizza at Brixx again.

VEGETABLE MEDLEY PIZZA: 5

I was craving pizza, so we decided to split a salad and a pizza.  I love that Brixx offers whole wheat bread, so this is definitely a plus.  However, this pizza was a bit bland.  I liked that it was loaded with veggies, but maybe it needed more sauce or cheese… not sure what it was missing but definitely didn’t hit the spot like I was hoping 😦

COMPANY: 10!

I like to hit the sack early on weeknights, but great company like this is worth staying up past your bedtime.  Plus their giant comfy couches (9- they’re usually hard to get) make it a great place to sit and chat for longer than I normally would.

Great end to a great night 🙂 Excited for some more coupon book explorations!

Catching Up…

I love the excitement of almost-Christmas time 🙂

WARNING: Cheryl, do not read this post if you haven’t checked your mail recently and don’t want any Christmas surprises ruined…

TEACHING DAKOTA TO COME UP ON THE COUCH: 9

It’s funny to me that I’ve spent all my time since getting Murphy, as a 5-week old puppy, teaching him to be well-behaved, and I’ve spent all my time since getting Dakota, as a 8-year old dog, teaching him to ‘misbehave’.  He came so well trained, that I’ve actually had to teach him things like entering a room without waiting for permission, climbing up on the bed, and now climbing up on the couch.  When not encouraged, he just lays around and follows me.

Climbing up on the couch has become his new ‘trick’, and I kinda love it.  Nothings cuter than an 80 pound dog somehow trying to figure out how to curl up his body so it all fits.  And due to the softness of my couch, he just sinks right in and looks like he’s in heaven.  Now I can cuddle with him while doing work, and am entertained by Murph’s attempts to claim his territory.

-1 because I still haven’t figured out a way to get both Murph and Kota to cuddle on the couch at the same time…

THURSDAY’S MAIL: 10!

I often complain about only receiving bills and coupons in my mailbox (not that I don’t enjoy, and use, the coupons, but it lacks that personal touch I’m looking for in my mail), but Friday was a definite exception.

All in one day I received two (that’s right, not one but TWO) paychecks from Teacher U, a $100 gift card for life from my Aunt (turns out Visa makes gift cards that can be used anywhere that accepts Visa), and some holiday towels from my Grandma to help bring festive cheer to my apartment.

I have zero complaints about my full mailbox, and all its exciting contents 🙂  In fact, it may have been the highlight of my day.

Thursday night (after all the excitement from the mail) I headed to one of my very first Thursday night climbs at the Chapel Hill Community Center.  This semester I had Thursday night classes, making it impossible to ever hit the CC on a weekday.  Excitedly remembered that now I could!

For whatever reason the actual climbing was less than stellar, and I got seriously pumped out pretty quick.  Not entirely sure why which made it even more frustrating.  BUT, Scott got belay certified, and Jay’s roommate Tim showed up for the first time, also getting belay certified.  It’s always exciting to see new faces, and to have new folks who are able to belay 🙂

CARRBURITO’S FISH TACOS: 8

After that we headed to Carrburito’s, a pretty popular burrito joint in Carrboro.  While many, many people speak very highly of it, unfortunately I didn’t have the greatest experience the first time I went.  I’ve blamed it on burrito choice, and have been meaning to return.  This time I choose completely differently, opting out of the burrito options in general.  This time I got spicy, cold soft fish tacos, with tomatos and lettuce on the side.  I tried the fruit salsa, and  stole a couple of their delicious flour tortilla chips to go with it.  Overall I would highly recommend this choice.

Not nearly as overwhelming as a burrito, it was the perfect amount of food.  -1 for the lack of warmth (when I eat Mexican there’s something disappointing when its cold) and -1 for the lack of sliced avacados to go with it.

After Carrburitos it was obviously time to head to karaoke at Bub’s.  We’ve recently discovered some new karaoke locations in the triangle, and are flirting with the idea of a karaoke tour…stay tuned for when the adventure will begin.

BUB’S CHRISTMAS TREE: 9

At first I didn’t notice it, but about 15 minutes in I turned around to see a pretty incredible Christmas tree at Bub’s.  Covered in empty beer can ornaments (for a local dive like Bub’s, this is more than appropriate), it was pretty classy.  Smelled delicious (oh how rare real trees are these days), and added some Christmas spirit to the place.

-1- the variety of beers represented could have been greater.  Maybe one from Pennsylvania perhaps…

KARAOKE SONG #1: 3

The Christmas spirit brought by the tree was so powerful, we decided to start off with a Bobbasheely Framily christmas carol.  We went with ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’, as it could easily be divided among four people, and most people know the words to sing along.

Much to our disappointment, the crowd was NOT feeling it.  Probably didn’t help that the DJ introduced us with a ‘bah humbug’.  No singalongs, and in fact I noticed many people turning their backs.  Not the response I’m used to when karaoking, and I must admit it was not fun (the response that is- I still had a pretty good time with the singing).

KARAOKE SONG #2: 9

Lucky for us, Snooky and I had already put our request in for our famous duet, Total Eclipse of the Heart.  We figured we couldn’t waste another opportunity to practice, plus the fact that the crowd clearly needed to know we could do better.

We’re getting better at dividing the song appropriately, and tonight was a good night for us performing.  It felt good, obviously sounded impeccable, and more importantly, the crowd enjoyed it.  Some biker dudes behind us even started swaying to the slow parts and high-fiving mid-song.  I’d say it was a big success.

-1- we’re still working on our coordination and even division of the song.  Luckily there will be many more opportunities to practice 🙂  In fact, I wonder if Harrisburg has any karaoke going on while I’m home… Until then, just living for the tens!

Maggiano’s Celebration!

After finishing up (almost) all of my first semester in grad school, we decided to head to one of my favorite restaurants for a bit of end-of-semester celebrating.  If you haven’t ever been to Maggiano’s before, go.  Ever since college when I dragged my parents there every time they visited, I can’t get enough.  The delicious (and unlimited, I might add) bread, the incredible pasta dishes, reasonable prices (unless you go family style) and best of all, their profiteroles.  Absolute best dessert of all time.

Made with their homemade profiteroles, with vanilla ice cream in the middle, warm chocolate sauce drizzled on top, and fresh, real, whipped cream on the side.  I LOVE THEM.

So when they had Chocolate Peppermint Profiteroles on the specials menu last night, I couldn’t resist.  We split one and it was the perfect dessert.  I genuinely can’t come up with a thing wrong with it.  I was a bit hesitant about the chocolate profiterole versus the classic plain, but it went PERFECTLY with the peppermint ice cream in the center.  Whipped cream was as good as I remember, and all in all it was the perfect finish.  I’m glad I saved room 🙂

The rest of the meal was fabulous as well (I even ventured off my classic list of favorites), but this was definitely worth it’s own rating.

Off to do some Friday afternoon babysitting, and then to throw Will a 75th birthday celebration with lasagna, cake and karaoke at Champps!