Thursday, September 27, 2012

It's Was A Girls Only Weekend

For the last five years a small group of girls, mostly from my sorority, I went to college with have gotten together annually.  There are 11 on the 'official' invite list, but getting 7 of us all there is generally considered a success!  Our little group is spread as far north as Wisconsin, south as Carbondale, east as Champaign, and as far west as St. Louis, MO., so it's really quite a feat to get us all together.  One day though!

Our first event was at Vintage Illinois near Utica, Illinois. 
Vintage Illinois is a community wine festival where you can sample lots of wine from local vineyards, listen to music and of course, hangout with friends!  It was here we decided that we'd make this an annual event.

The only stipulation is we go somewhere that has local Illinois wineries!

So far we've been to Utica, Grafton, Galena, and Peoria.  This year we decided that since it's a milestone year... Getting a group of women together for five years in a row is a milestone, we'd go back to where it all began...


My friend Susan was the host for this year and we all stayed at her house, she even kicked her husband and dog to the curb for us!.  I headed down Thursday mid-day and the rest of this year's group got into town Friday afternoon.  That night we went up town and had some AH-mazing barbecue at 17th Street Bar and Grill.  This restaurant is seriously good!  If you're ever around one, give it a try.  The Murphysboro one is the original and it's by far my favorite.  After we ate we went to check out the street dance.
Saturday, after everyone had surfaced, we ate brunch, went for a walk and then got squared away for hitting the wine trail!  Around 1pm our Escalade limo showed up. Ya that's how we roll! 
Honestly if you're going to do the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, getting a DD is the way to go!  Throughout the day we captured lots of great photos of the group and might I say, we all look smokin' hot! 
2012, We've come a long way baby!
The first winery we went to was Von Jakob.  They have a large tasting room and just recently started brewing craft beers, in addition to their wines.  They have a beautiful back deck that accomidates a bunch of people.  The view isn't half bad either!  We sat there for quite a while and chit-chatted about life, love and the old days!
Our next stop was one of my favorites, StarView!  This location is great because they have a pond, a huge white dog named Berkley, and they allow you to bring your own snacks in.  Bonus!  Snacks are VERY important to have on any wine trail!  You've gotta counter all that wine with food.  I may or may not be speaking from experience here! 

We also stopped at Owl Creek, but no pictures.  Sorry!

Our last stop was Blue Sky.  They have a beautiful tasting room that resembles an Italian villa, large umbrellas to sit under that over look the pond, a stage for live music, and best of all, great wine and sangria!  One quick warning, this place is ALWAYS busy!  Always.  But the white sangria is so deelicious, it's really worth it!

Our group shot at Blue Sky was an ode to the old Olan Mills portraits.
The rest of the evening, as you can imagine, turned into a bit of a hot mess after 6 hours of drinking!   But there will be no pictures to protect the offending parties!

Sunday morning everyone was moving pretty slowly.  We all bugged out around noon, headed North, East and West.  I'm already looking forward to seeing these girls again next year!  Where are we headed?

Chicago, baby!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Recipe Review

On Sunday morning the hubs and I were up and at 'em pretty early.

I was up even before my alarm was set to go off at 7:30am.  I was headed out for a day of 'junkin' with the girls at the 3rd Sunday Market in Bloomington.

Since both of us were going to be busy all day I decided to try the Southwestern Steak and Cornbread Dressing from Eat at Home.  I found this recipe on Pinterest and I'm so glad I did!  You should definitely try it, it's really really good!

As Matt was busy preparing to make pizza sauce with the fresh tomatoes from our garden and I threw the FOUR ingredients in the slow cooker for supper.

Yep, four.

The only change I had to make was, instead of sirloin tip or round steak, I used an arm roast because that was what what I had in the freezer.  Any cut of meat that is used for slow roasting would be perfect in this recipe.

I got home that afternoon, unloaded my goodies, and had to have a sample of the deliciousness!  And oh boy was it awesome!

For our supper, I served it with green beans, but next time I'll do a salad or something with some 'crunch'.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reflect on the Past to Shape the Future

On this day, 11 years ago I was a senior in high school.  

Summer was officially over and I'm sure I was concerned with what I was wearing and was eagerly anticipating the football game that was coming up Friday night.  

My mom was (and is) a faithful listener of the radio when she gets ready in the morning.  There are at least two on, one in the kitchen and one in the living room, every day.  I had come up from my room in the basement and my dad was sitting in the kitchen drinking a cup of coffee before he headed outside to do chores.  I remember being in there with dad and hearing on the radio something about a plane hitting on of the towers of the World Trade Center.  Details were still really scarce, everyone was assuming it was a terrible accident!  

I drove my 1991 Chevy Blazer to school that morning and for once in my life, I willingly, turned the radio from my favorite country station to the news station that my mom listened to.  The trip to school was short, less than four miles.  

There was nothing new to report on my trip in to school.

First period was art.  We always had the radio on in class, but this particular morning I don't really remember it, nor do I remember what we were working on in class.  It could have been entries for the local community college art show, but I'm not 100%. After the bell rang to announce the end of first period I made my way to study hall.  My high school had a very small enrollment and there was only one other student and our PE teacher in the library that day.  Knowing that something epic was happening outside the school walls, we had the TV tuned to the TODAY show.  

Shortly after getting the TV plugged in and tuned to one of the major media outlets we sat huddled around the TV as everyone was still trying to sort out details.  Then it happened.

We watched on live TV the attack on the second tower.  

The three of us in the library that day just sat there and stared at the screen, only looking away to to confirm with each other "did that just happen?!?"  

I remember not moving from study hall to my third period class.  We just sat there and watched everything play out on the television.  By that time, I'm sure all the classes were in front of a screen somewhere and no one was worried about the first and second bell ringing.

The minutes seemed to fly by.  

We watched the towers collapse, the hysteria and the fog that filled the air.

The rest of the day was whirlwind of news shows, well wishes, and sadness.

Reflecting on this day I'm so grateful to those who have previously served and are still serving, in every branch of our military, to protect our freedom!  Thank you (and your families) and stay safe!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Midwestern Values

On Saturday I was heading home from a program for work and I came upon this sign as I was driving.  I can't hardly express how much I LOVE it!  To me it just really expresses the true values and character of those living in small, rural farming communities.

Share the road, farmers keep us fed!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Shameless Fall Decorating

Fall is by far my most favorite time of the year!  The weather cools off, the air gets crisp, the leaves change, hunting season kicks off for Matt, we celebrate our wedding anniversary, and harvest begins... See, so many good things!!

Since Matt and I got married in the fall (and no two tables sported the same decor) I have TONS of decorations that I store in tubs in the basement and drag out each year.  Although I'm a little early and the seasons haven't 'officially' changed I took advantage of the quiet, empty house to decorate!

It all starts with be hauling said tubs upstairs.  There are FOUR of them.

Okay, really 4+ because not everything fits.

 I spent the better part of the day unpacking and placing the decorations I have.  Last year I made this 'Thankful Tree' and at our family Thanksgiving I asked everyone to write something they were thankful for and display it on the tree.

The buffet in our dining room is full of glittered pumpkins.  I spent two years scouring craft stores for cheap pumpkins so I could have this huge 'punkin patch'!  The large white monogrammed pumpkin and two silouhette ones are from our wedding.   

Sidenote: We had the best wedding!  I'm biased of course, but it was a blast!  

The three falling leaf pieces are just some canvas I painted, hand drew a leaf, smeared glue and glittered them up.  I love 'em! 

This A-frame wine rack was a gift from my friend Kira.  It's reminiscent of aFrench riddling rack's.  I have it decorated with faux 'mum-kin's', again from our wedding.  There's also a little ceramic tile tucked in there that I mod podge'd a wedding photo on to!

Here are the decorations in the kitchen.  I could literally decorate the whole house top to bottom, but then I just have to clean it all up later so that keeps me in check... kinda.
 I made the 'give thanks' blocks last year from some wood laying around, scrapbook paper, mod podge, and wood stain.  I think it's super cute and could do a tutorial if you wanted?  Lemme know!

The two pumpkins were a birthday gift from one of the uber crafty ladies I work with.  I love that they're primitive!  The farm scene was a high school art project that I just happened to keep track of.

The harvest artwork on the other wall I painted last year.  I dig it, but would I really claim something as mine if I didn't? Nope, probably not!

Hi, Mr. Pheasant!  I hope Matt shoots lots of your real pheasant friends this season because they're awfully tasty.  You don't have to worry though, you're safe on the kitchen counter!

And frankly, you're too small to eat!

Well there you have it friends, my house all dressed up for fall!  Now go get your decorations out and get to cracking!  I'm off to put my horses in the barn before the rain we are experiencing from Hurricane Isaac starts up again.  Later!

I just linked up with Between Naps on the Porch and I Heart Nap Time.   Check it out!I Heart Nap Time