Monthly Archives: December 2011

Big Canoes and Uglier Cakes

As we wrap up Thirty4Thirty in 2011, you may have noticed we moving closer and closer to Atlanta. Because as much as a love to travel, it is great to come home to somewhere you love. The first week of 2012 will be Staycation Week where we feature the best of Atlanta. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, we are still comfortable over here in 2011.

Plenty of Room for Canoeing

The weekend before Christmas the ladies of ‘club’ (formerly book club) and I got comfortable at Big Canoe in the Georgia mountains. The easiest way to describe Big Canoe is a mountain community. It is more than just homes in the mountains. It has a lake, marina, golf course, swimming pool, a spa, as well as restaurants.

Think I Need A Boat

Big Canoe is great for a group who want to do a variety of activities. Naturally, club participated in none of these. We did manage to stop at the outlet malls on the way. We were focused on wearing pajamas, chit-chat, drinking wine, and baking.

The Hero (baked by the Baking Bird) - The Zero (baked by Club)

If this wasn’t a travel blog, it would be about the disappointment in the appearance of food that I bake in comparison to their pictures online. I always get a fail. Case in point, the rosewater pistachio cake that we made. We found a delicious recipe on The Baking Bird blog, and the taste did not disappoint. As a huge fan of icing, we doubled that portion of the recipe. Unfortunately, this might be the ugliest cake I’ve made. Ever. It is also my new favorite cake. And here is the recipe straight from The Baking Bird.

1/2 cup vanilla soy yogurt
2/3 cup soy milk
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons rosewater
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Generous pinch of cardamom
1/3 cup finely chopped pistachios, lightly toasted if desired
1/2 cup more of finely chopped pistachios, for decoration, if desired
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease two 6-inch cake pans.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, soy milk, oil, sugar, and rosewater. Sift in flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, cardamom and salt. Mix until relatively smooth. Fold in pistachios. Fill cake pans about half way, until both are even. Bake 25-28 minutes (time varies). Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before inverting and frosting.
For the Fluffy Buttercream Rosewater Frosting (I halved the original recipe):
1/4 cup nonhydrogenated shortening
1/4 cup nonhydrogenated margarine
1 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted if clumpy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons soy creamer or milk
1 to 2 teaspoons rosewater
Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes. Add the vanilla, soy milk, and rosewater, beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.
Frost the bottom layer of the cake, sprinkle chopped pistachios before putting on second layer, and frost the rest of the cake. Sprinkle/press pistachios around the outside of the cake, and sprinkle with light pink or peach crystals if desired. And there you have it.
I did make a serious comeback when I made this cake for Trip #30, it turned out PERFECT (inside and out). I’m pretty sure the Food Network is going to be calling.

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This One Time at Grown-Up Camp

As a child, I looked forward to summer camp all year. Really from the time that I left until I showed up again the next summer it was all I could think about. I would have stayed all summer if they had let me. Once I was too old to be a camper, I became Counselor-In-Training (CIT), and FINALLY a counselor.

.22 Instructor - I KNOW, forgive the socks... it was 1997.

This past September I got to relive the glory of summer camp at Camp Rock Eagle in Eatonton, Georgia. I was headed there for the LEAD Class of 2012 Opening Retreat. As a member of the Class of 2011, there is some apprehension about not being the “camper” anymore. How can it be as fun? Just like at camp, being a ‘counselor’ is even better.

Doesn't this scream canoe time?

Camp Rock Eagle is run by the University of Georgia System and is perfect for weekend retreats. They’ve got canoeing, ropes course, a variety of venues for dining, playing, etc. The cabins are undergoing renovations as well, and the ‘counselors’ got to stay in one that had just been gussied up. 

Cabin Time

 I already have the date penciled in for next year. I need another trip down camp-memory lane.

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Carolina In My Mind

One of the best things about moving to Atlanta seven and a half years ago is that I was in driving distance of a whole slew of new places. (North Carolina being one of the closest getaways…) In addition to spending Christmas (aka Trip #30) there, I made it to Charlotte in April to speak at a conference and Ocean Isle the weekend before Memorial Day.

Marshall Park

Charlotte is a great southern city, especially as a place to live. I must say I would have trouble recommending it as a travel destination, but would not hesitate for a second if someone told me that they were relocating there. Charlotte as a city is making all of the right decisions… investment in light rail, expansion of the greenway system, you name it.

Hop On the Train

Danimal actually lived in Charlotte until ninth grade, and almost every year we still go on a big ‘family trip’ with the families he grew up with on Heidelberg Lane. When they were little they all had matching shirts and each family wore a different color of the shirt. Since it was the 80s they were awful hues like salmon, teal, and lavender. I swear to you if I had a copy of this image that is all this blog post would be. What I love about family trips is that it is all about 20/20 vision. You forget how torturous moments of them were (wearing a teal shirt, sharing bunk beds with seven people) because as you age it becomes less painful and more hilarious.

Chandler Family Photo: Take 97

For the past several years the Heidelberg Lane crew has vacationed in Ocean Isle. Ocean Isle is near Myrtle Beach, but allows you to bypass the cheese. It is the PERFECT place to go if you want to avoid crowds and do nothing but spend time together.  There are a few restaurants but the way to go is to stop at the grocery and then cook at whatever amazing beach house you have rented. This keeps you from ever having to change out of pajamas and/or swimsuits. Check plus.

Totally Worth It

And, be sure to have cash on the beach… you NEED to buy shaved ice when the cart strolls by.

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I Spy

When I landed in DC and popped into the Dean + Deluca in Georgetown, my first thought was that this blog post can’t just be about D + D and it can’t just be about Georgetown.  (Although Georgetown is where I would want to live in DC and that specific D + D is my favorite one.)

I would come here EVERY day

That evening I headed to dinner with my childhood friend, Anne Brady, and gal pal, Sarah Gonzalez. After an amazing dinner at Brasserie Beck (order the mussels in veal bolognese sauce) I then thought this post was going to have to be entitled “It’s Good to be Sarah Gonzalez” or “Anne Frank: This Time We’re Hiding A Love Story”.

Chapel Hill Farms Veal Bolognese Sauce

Lucky for you, my blog audience, the next day I went to the Spy Museum. My word, this place is fun, and allows you to play out your childhood spy fantasies. Or, if you are me, your adult dream is to be an undercover CIA operative. (A dream I have clearly now ruined by telling all of you about it…)

Before I went undercover...

You can’t even take photos once you pass the entrance. How awesomely spy like. Upon entering you assume a new identity for the duration of your visit, watch a briefing, and then you are set loose. The museum is interactive, fun for all ages and showcases the history of undercover operations.

The Spy Museum is obviously one of many first-class museums in the District. I personally believe that  DC has the best concentration of museums in the country, and I love their support of arts. As I type this post, I’m watching one of the television events I look forward to most each year, the Kennedy Center Honors. Now that is my ultimate DC dream, to attend the Honors.

Don’t worry, I recognize that this falls into dream category of the pipe variety.  I will gladly settle for just seeing a show at the Kennedy Center.

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Sposa Bagnata, Sposa Fortunata (Translation: Wet Bride, Lucky Bride)

They say rain on the wedding day brings good luck. If this is true, Britney + John Dickinson have more than most. Danimal and I drove to Montevallo, Alabama through what seemed like a Monsoon for their BIG day this past February.

Love in the Rain

Britney was a gorgeous bride and didn’t let the rain get in the way one bit. The reception was on the campus of University of Montevallo. Britney went  to school there and now works at the University. There is something nostalgic about being back on college campus even if it isn’t your own.

University of Montevallo

 This trip got me thinking about my list of favorite college towns. Go ahead and add them to your list of weekend trips now.

Athens, Georgia – I love how close Athens is to Atlanta. If the Bulldogs weren’t one of Danimal’s arch enemies, I’m sure we would spend more time there. My favorite aspect of the town… the music scene. Athens gave birth to the likes of R.E.M. and the B-52s

Cambridge, Massachusetts – The brainiacs may run this place, but it is a great college town where Harvard and MIT battle for turf. I personally recommend Upstairs on the Square for brunch.

Mimosas for All

Austin, Texas – I know… I went to school in College Station, but I just can’t hate a city as cool as Austin. I like it for many of the reasons I love Athens, but it has the added benefit of being located in the greatest state… Texas.

Charleston, South CarolinaCollege of Charleston blends into the historic fabric so well you don’t even realize you are on campus.

C of C

Next goal… to find a way to be in college again.

University of Montevallo Photo Credit:

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Merry Christmas from Trip #30

Welcome to Wilmington! Not credit card Wilmington, the fabulous beachfront AND riverfront Wilmington in North Carolina. When Danimal + I first started dating we spent many spring weekends here at Wrightsville Beach. (Danimal’s family hails from Wilmington.)  Eating at restaurants like Roy’s Riverboat Landing (great bread pudding) and Deluxe that are located in downtown on the river. Or we would stay beach side and head to Oceanic. Don’t worry y’all this is not a love story post, it is Christmas for Christ’s sake.

Nativity Scene at the Cameron Art Museum (told you we were in the South)

You all may recognize Wilmington from  the likes of Dawson’s Creek (Joey Potter 4 ever!) or One Tree Hill. They were/are filmed here. I still haven’t had a celeb-sighting (not for the lack of trying), but Maria Zimmerman DEFINITELY has. Nights in Rodanthe was filmed at their next door neighbor’s house a few years back and she baked for the crew.

The Baker + The Blogmaker

Wilmington is wonderfully under-the-radar in terms of Southern charm, and Maria’s house has more than most. We spent Christmas Eve-Eve at their casa in my favorite Wilmington neighborhood, Forest Hills. I mean… everyone should have festive mini-martini glasses when decorating for the holiday. How have these not been in Garden + Gun yet?

Perfect for a Mad Men Themed Party

But really, the next time you are looking to plan a weekend trip to the East Coast, Wilmington should be on the list. From the beach to downtown to Airlie Gardens there is plenty to keep you entertained. (The Azalea Festival is April 11 – 15 in 2012.) And not to worry, if you come at Christmas, Santa does too. Especially if you are Annabelle Chandler.

Good News… She made the nice list

Happy FIRST Christmas, Annabelle!


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To Infinity and Beyond

Generally speaking, it’s not rocket science. Well, unless you’re in Huntsville, Alabama and in that case it probably is.  It’s one of the homes of NASA and has the highest number of PhDs per capita of anywhere in the U.S. (Too bad, so sad Cambridge…)

NASA @ Night

Confession: Huntsville will not be making the ‘Favorites List’ on ‘Thirty 4Thirty’. I don’t blame Huntsville though (the people are just lovely). I blame the fact that this was a work trip that didn’t leave me time to experience the place properly. I mean this is one of fastest growing places in the country. There must be plenty to love.

Downtown Waterfront... Yes, Please!

I look forward to next time when I can give the city its proper due. And, I’m dying to visit NASA… as a child I desperately wanted to go to space camp, I thought space ice cream seemed so cool. (Turns out it is pretty disgusting.) As a person who lives to travel and explore new places, space travel is beyond my wildest dreams… the true final frontier.

Now this is a room with a view...

I am fascinated by the unknown of space. One of the most inspiring videos I watched this year was part of the Honda Power of Dreams series called Into the Unknown. (The one on failure is also fantastic.) It features retired NASA astronaut, Guion Bluford  and much of what they talk about is what is exhilirating to me about travel. There is a “deep inner drive that they can’t explain, but we can’t resist”. Exactly!

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