Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend- Part II

I realize there are a lot of people out there who do the Black Friday thing- which, thanks to Kohl's advertising team is not only an annoying event but now an annoying song. However, I've NEVER been into the idea and avoid anything public on the infamous day.

But, with a shortage of days and some unbelievably good weather, we decided to at least brave the historic St. Charles shopping district on Friday. The area is a little water-front stretch of colonial homes and cobblestone roads that sports numerous accessories, home decor, Christmas, fudge and candy shops as well as a handful of nice restaurants. I've always loved the area so when the thermometer read 65 degrees, we headed towards the potential shopping hazard.

Despite the street being left open, the occasional overly crowded store and not actually making any purchases, we had a good time. Bill was VERY tolerant- especially for a man still in pain- and walked with us the entire way. We finished early with some standard American fare for dinner but not before I grabbed a few pics of the experience...

The next day we also headed out shopping to a "flea market" on the Illinois side of the river. My mom's boss, who has seemingly good taste, recommended it. However, when we pulled up to the Belleville Flea Market and Craft Fair and saw it was being held at dirt track racing grounds, we knew we might have overestimated Southern Illinois's ability to host anything decent. 
Inside didn't disappoint- about 8,000 square feet of country decor, doilies, tie dyed hoodies, homemade baby clothes, marshmallow guns, hillbilly Christmas items, and hot glue-decorated liquor bottles. We walked around with a bag of kettle corn and a ziploc of fudge for all of 15 minutes before we decided the trip was entertainment-only. 

A marshmallow gun- this was actually for sale


Later that night my dad was feeling a little better so after stuffing our face with pretzels and dip we had bought in St. Charles we headed to the movies to see Hugo. 

A pretty decent family flick, the film seemed to provide a cinematographic wonderland for kids while offering an interesting tribute-to-film for older audiences. The movie has a star-studded cast (Emily Mortimer, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lee, and Jude Law to name a few) but didn't use this as a crutch. In fact, most of them have very minute roles. While certainly no Take Shelter or Martha Marcy May Marlene that we've seen recently, it proved to be a good choice for a family outing. 


Our last day, Sunday, was relatively quite. My dad was feeling a little better so we were able to grab breakfast at an old favorite in Highland (my high school town). Afterwards, I met up with my best friend from college, Leah, who happened to be in town when we were. I haven't seen her in two years so it was really great to squeeze in a coffee and meet-and-greet with Bill and her significant other, Jacob. 

Leah and I at a college costume party as Wayne and Garth. 


The trip back on Monday was a relief- which was extremely helpful after staying the night at a Days Inn that had seen better, and probably cleaner, days. We had sun and clear skies for most of the drive, making it possible for me to take the wheel for a good 6 or 7 hours. We also were able to shave 2 hours off our drive which made us happy, though weary, campers. 

I'm really glad to have had the chance to go home for the holidays. It had honestly been way too long. It will be impossible to make that trip every year but until I can convince/brainwash my parents into believing they need to move out here, its a trip I need to make with great frequency -despite the 886 miles. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend - Part I

This Thanksgiving was the first in several years that I made it back home. And Bill came with!

Its impossible to grab a flight for the holiday so we had to brave the long, LONG (16 hours to be exact) drive out west.

The way out was a little painful. Bill was still recuperating from his oral surgery and the whole drive brought nothing but torrential downpours- which made the already slow drive even slower. We did, however, get well acquainted with unbelievably cheap diner food....

Our first stop was in Somerset, PA- about 5 hours into the drive. We kept joking about trying to find a "finer diner" like our beloved Sam's Morning Glory back home. And this is what we stumbled across...

Apparently Sam's wasn't the only one to figure out "finer" rhymes with "diner".

The Summit Diner was an all-out trucker stop with nothing but Western PA's finest. But they claimed that they had stellar pancakes.... and they did! I don't even like pancakes and I really liked these. They tasted as if they had a little graham cracker in them somewhere.

After several more hours of driving in the icky rain, we finally stopped for the night in Indianapolis. Before hitting the sack at the lux Comfort Inn, we stopped at an old favorite- Steak n' Shake. I used to frequent one by my house throughout high school but apparently this was Bill's first time. We both grabbed a really-bad-for-you Frisco Melt and were floored when this was slipped onto our table...

$10!!?!! For dinner?!?!?! I couldn't buy half a bag of potato chips in Philly for $10. Such is the wonderful life of road tripping to the Midwest.

Our Monday morning breakfast was no less exciting. Popping into "The Breakfast Factory"- a hole in the wall, strip mall find near the Indy Airport- was like coming into a front for drugs. It was this oddly spacious establishment that looked like they used to sell tires but picked up a few booths they found on the side of the road and an avocado refrigerator and decided to turn the space into an eatery. Not sure if they were up to health codes, but the food was just as yummy and cheap.

But then again, how could a plate of biscuits smothered with sausage gravy be bad?....


The next morning we finally made it to the house. Actually, we grabbed some Olive Garden with my mom for lunch and showed Bill off to everyone at her work and THEN made it to the house. 

The night before we arrived, my poor dad came down with the flu. The man never gets sick but the first time in history that we are all together for several days around a holiday, he has to get sick. So the first night didn't include much entertainment except me gearing up with some Zyrtec for the cat-induced allergy fest that  was coming. (My parents have like 15 cats- probably not an exaggeration- and I'm deathly allergic)

The next day was the Big Day and with three chefs in the kitchen we were able to pump through the food prep with a great deal of ease. My mom made pumpkin pies the night before and added this cute extra touch with William-Sonoma dough cutters I had bought for her last Christmas. 

Then we made the usual- a tasty oven-baked turkey with gravy, stuffing, mashed red potatoes, baked sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, and cranberries. Only this year we made our cranberries fresh- you know, no can lines- with simple syrup, golden raisins, pumpkin pie spice and orange zest. Yum! 

(Yes, I realize this looks like chili with cheese but it is, in fact, cranberries with orange zest) 

With one man down, Bill had to do the carving honors this year. And might I say, he received a standing ovation.

And here's our table - a nice mash-up of the golden Chilewich placemats I chose for my City Paper Thanksgiving table issue, my mom's pink cherry Depression glassware, my harvest napkins, and several pumpkins and gourds. Turned out pretty nice, especially by firelight.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Table Decor

The Great Indoors piece I've been looking forward to is finally up! Ashley Hannan and Naomi Stein each contributed a separate table and they both did an awesome job.

Here are a few images of their tables but check out the full post here!

Ashley's table decor

Naomi's table decor 

Our weekend in pictures

Bill and I had kind of a three day weekend on account of his oral surgery Friday. After years of putting it off, the man finally had to get his wisdom teeth removed. After some funny antics in getting him out of the hospital and back home, we spent 99% of our weekend in the house (so its a good thing we like our home so much!).

Luckily, we did go out Thursday night to do a review on a burlesque show at the Walking Fish Theater in Fishtown. It was actually really, really fun. Here's my review.

Below are a few images describing the rest of our weekend.

A fun 'stashed smiley next to the Walking Fish Theater

A few select images from the show

Bill and I head outside for the first time in 24 hours and he wears this: a Go-Ruck hat, a MMA t-shirt, his black "adventure pants" and orange running shoes. I think he was trying to look as tough as possible to balance out his swollen chipmunk cheeks. 

Speaking of chipmunk cheeks...

The poor man has to ice his face for long periods at a time so we had to devise this chin strap. 
(He'll probably hate that I put this picture up here...) 

And this was what Megan was doing. I devised a yummy drink of mulled strawberries, grenadine syrup, dragonberry rum and raspberry seltzer. Red fruit goodness. 

I also failed at making a living room fort, which made me quite sad, but we did go see Take Shelter  which I thought was really good and would recommend it to someone who has two and a half hours they want to kill. But I would not recommend it to anyone who has elaborate 2012 fantasies as this movie will just make it worse. 

Finally, I'm SOOOO looking forward to driving home tomorrow! It's been too long since I've been home and several years since I've been home for a holiday, so needless to say, I'm dying with anticipation. In the mean time, my mother is already sending me little bits of joy...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Our Musical Household

I realized in our house tour I really didn't take many pictures of our den/Bill's playroom. Its a narrow room that is often hard to photograph. Yet, its where we do a lot of our work and Bill does most of his play. It's filled with all of his "toys": bike parts, computers and tech gear, hiking and climbing gear and numerous musical instruments... yeah, he's kind of a Renaissance man.

The space was an addition and still utilizes the old back door of the house so its more or less sound proof when the door is shut, making it even more like a music studio. Bill has two guitars, a piano, a microphone, a few harmonicas and his wonderful voice. I'm just here for moral support and to clap.

So here are a few images in honor of our music household.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sneak Peek

I'm pretty excited about next Monday's post of The Great Indoors, my Philadelphia City Paper weekly interior design post. Next Monday I'm coordinating several different Thanksgiving tables between myself and two amateur decorators (well, one is a professional). I'm doing two tables, the first of which I did this weekend.

And here's a sneak peek....

What do you think?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekend Update with Jane Curtain

Ok, not really, it's just a weekend update with the MegEwans.

Saturday night Bill and I had over a couple acquaintances from his work who both happen to be from St. Louis- which made me ecstatic, needless to say. While they both hailed from North Country and I'm over the river and through the woods to Southern IL, it was nice to have someone know where Edwardsville is.

While I didn't take pics of the dinner I snapped a few pics before of some of the nightly decor.

Then today we woke up around 4 a.m. to go to the Tough Mudder in NJ. For those of you not in the know on this one, the Tough Mudder is a obstacle course challenge spread over 10+ muddy miles. For the most part the challenges are climbing over stuff, carrying stuff or running and slipping on stuff but they throw in ridiculous obstacles like "try breathing in a pound of smoke for three minutes" and "try not dying while we shock your muddy body from 13 different directions". Yea.... 

So Bill made it through... again. This being his third Tough Mudder. He's qualified for a Tough Mudder mega-race in December that is a 24-hour race in the freezing cold with more water obstacles. Silly Billy. 
Here's a few captured images and video from today's race. 

Bill running after the first water obstacle and at the finish line. 

At the beginning of the race they start by chasing a monster truck. To "Eye of the Tiger". Yep.

I couldn't get a video of Bill doing this one up close but if you look closely you can see camo shorts over black tights in the background. That's him. Oh, and he kicked ass at this one. 

A few extra images another team member's girlfriend took...