Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day Trippin'

Last night we just made a spur of the moment decision that we would wake up and go to the mountains today. We don't have any kids here and we may as well take advantage of that, right?

We hardly ever do anything really spontaneous like that because we always seem to have so much going on here at home, but I'm glad we got to go today. We woke up really early and got on the road so we could have as much time there as possible.

One of the best parts of the whole trip was just riding in the car together! We had our sun roof open and we listened to all our favorite music and just talked the whole way. It seemed like we got up there so fast!

I love the mountains for lots of reasons. First of all, my grandparents lived in the mountains in Franklin, North Carolina. I grew up spending lots of time and many summers there so the mountains just remind me of my childhood. Plus I went to Ridgecrest Baptist Convention Center so many summers growing up. It is in Black Mountain, NC and it was always so much fun spending time there with all my friends from church.

When our kids were really little, we started taking them to Boone and Blowing Rock every year on a family trip in the fall. From there it grew into a yearly trip with two of our neighbors and all their kids. I think we've been going to Boone and Blowing Rock for almost 20 years now. So, needless to say, it holds a special place in our hearts. But really, just getting away from the hustle and bustle of our life here and being somewhere where there is lots of peace and quiet is enough reason to love it!

I have to say that it was a little weird being up there without Laura! She goes to Appalachian State University in Boone so we always see her when we go. We missed her today!

We did some hiking this morning at Linville Falls. It is so pretty with its waterfalls.

Then we hiked up another trail that we love. It overlooks the Blue Ridge Mountains and there is a big rock you can sit on and just enjoy the sunshine and the mountain air.

After that we headed to Blowing Rock for some Woodlands Barbeque! That is a must if you are ever in that area.

And on weekends, they have live music. Today it was bluegrass and we really enjoyed it. These guys were really good!

We walked around the town of Blowing Rock after lunch. It has so many quaint little stores and restaurants that we love. Steve had to stop by Kilwin's Fudge Shop for a little something sweet!

We had planned on staying longer, but a storm was coming. The sky was getting really dark and we were afraid we would get stuck in the rain, so we went ahead and headed back home around 2:30. It's a good thing we did, because on our way home, it poured.

It was such a nice day. I am looking forward to going back this fall when the leaves change and Laura is back!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Collage Saturday's Saturday after a crazy week at our house. So much has been going on and I have been taking lots of pictures, but I am calling today "Collage Saturday" just so this won't turn into picture overload!

Here are the highlights of our past week or so...

*My parents' air conditioner broke down last Sunday night. It has literally been close to 100 degrees here every day so there was no way they could stay in their house. So, they came and stayed with us most of the week. That was unexpected, but at least we had some fun time to catch up!

*One day this week when it was so hot, I took my float and my magazines and my iPod to the pool and spent 3 hours there all by myself. That may be my funnest summer day yet! I'm pretty easy to please. I loved it.

*A week or so ago was "Dress Up Like A Cow" day at Chick Fil A, so Ashley and I took David. I don't think I have EVER seen a child love a cow that much! He was on Cloud 9 and it was the cutest thing you've ever seen! He was so excited.

*David has been my little helper lately. He loves to play in the water and has helped me water my flowers. We just love spending time outside together...even when it's hot.

*Mark got an internship in Washington, DC yesterday! He is going to be working for the House Sub-Committee on Europe and Eurasia. He will be starting around mid-August so I am really excited for him. Now he just has to figure out where he's going to live and how he's going to make money since it's not paid. But I think it will be great experience and hopefully help him when he applies to law school.

*Ashley went to see some friends this weekend, so I kept David. I think you can you tell what he likes to do at my house! I had to take more pictures because, hey, I'm a grandma!

*Have you been watching NY Med? It's my new favorite show. If you haven't seen it, you need to. It's so good!

*I took two of my former students out to lunch and to see the movie Brave last week. They are two of the sweetest little girls and I love them. We had so much fun.

One of the little girls had just gotten new shoes from Samaritan's Feet and she was so excited about her new shoes and told me all about how they washed her feet and told her the story of Jesus washing the disciples' feet. She wanted me to take a picture of her shoes. So sweet.

*The other night we had a cookout at Steve's mom's house and she introduced us to these...

Ohmiword! They are de-lish! They are a little sweet and whole lot spicy, which I LOVE. I will be getting these from now on.

*It has literally thunderstormed every. single. afternoon this week. I am now DONE with thunderstorms since Rocky loses his mind every time. Help meeee!!!

I better go now since I hear thunder. Time for the thundershirt and some sedatives! (Maybe I should pop a few of Rocky's myself!)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Southern Living

Today I'm going to share a little bit of my southern pride. Even though I have lived in the south my whole life, I never really think much about where I'm from and where I live. It's just my life and who I am! But today I just thought I would share what I love about living here. I hope you understand I'm not trying to brag, I'm just thankful! :)

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. From there I moved to Waco, Texas. Then it was on to Nashville, Tennessee. After that, I moved to Columbia, Tennessee and then to Charlotte, North Carolina. All those places and people have shaped me and even though I may travel all over the world, I will always be so glad I grew up in what is, in my opinion, the best area in the world!

Let me share with you a few reasons why I love where I live.

1-The food!
We have some of the BEST food in the world here. There are the usuals like fried chicken, sweet tea, and barbeque. But we also have so many other yummy things like fried green tomatoes, okra, cornbread and beans, deviled eggs, catfish, Louisiana gumbo, country ham, grits, South Carolina peaches, vidalia onions, and hushpuppies. I have shelves full of church cookbooks with some of the best recipes you've ever put in your mouth. And, hey...we have Paula Deen! haha In the summer growing up, I remember lots of Sunday nights after church having a homemade ice cream social or a watermelon bust. And potluck dinners on the grounds were some of my favorite memories, too. If anybody has a baby, gets sick, or dies, you can count on some of the best food ever to show up at the door. And lots of it! Good southern cooking just makes anybody feel better!

2-The people
Here in the south, for the most part, people are just friendly and polite! Everybody waves when they drive by, you hear a lot of yes ma'am's and no sir's, pleases and thank yous. You wouldn't think twice about being called "honey" or "sweetie" by a total stranger! When you stop by a friend's house, they invite you in and offer you something to eat. We love to hang out with our neighbors and family is everything. I'm sure that's true in many areas of the country, but it's still a huge part of the way we live here.

If you grew up in the south, chances are you grew up knowing and loving the Lord. You were probably active in your local church and were taught to live your life according to the way God would want you to live. I love how there are churches on every corner and in small towns you can hear church bells ring on Sunday mornings.
In the south, you probably brought your babies to church from the time they were three weeks old and you grew up going to church camp, VBS, and singing in the church choir.

Some of my favorite preachers in the world are from the south. Billy Graham, Chuck Swindoll, and Charles Stanley are all great men of faith whose roots go deep here. In the south, you probably grew up having a big Sunday lunch at your grandmother's house after church and the blessing was said before every meal.

I love how diverse the south is. We have beautiful beaches and the Appalachian mountains. We have gigantic live oaks

and magnolia trees.

We have dogwoods and palmetto trees. We have the rolling hills of Tennessee and the muddy Mississippi River. There is lots of sunshine here and just the right amount of rain. And since snow is pretty rare, we close everything down and really enjoy it for a few days before it all melts and we go back to normal.

I was just thinking about my favorite movies the other day when I was trying to find something to watch. And I never realized it before, but probably my three favorite movies in the world were set in the south!

1-Places In The Heart-my favorite movie of all time. (This one is set in Texas and reminds me so much of where I lived and my grandparents' lives!)

2-Forrest Gump (set in Alabama, although the real set was in Savannah, GA.) I never get tired of this movie.

3-Walk The Line (set in Nashville). Of course I would love this movie. It has Reese Witherspoon in it and it took place right where I grew up. If you lived in Nashville, you listened to Johnny Cash!

These are also some of my very favorite movies set in the south. I can so relate to all of them:

The Blind Side
Steel Magnolias
Driving Miss Daisy
Sweet Home Alabama
A Time To Kill
The Help
Coal Miner's Daughter

5-Country Music
I love lots of different kinds of music, but I have a special place in my heart for country music. I love me some Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, Zac Brown Band, and Keith Urban!

Country music is the soundtrack of the south. Their songs tell the stories of our lives and many times we feel like they are singing about us.

6-SEC Football, ACC Basketball, and The Braves
We have some of the best college football and basketball around. And a summer night spent at a Braves game is the best! It is so much fun having lots to cheer about no matter what season it is!

So....that's a little bit about why I love where I live. Thank you for indulging me. I love to hear all about the places other people live, too, so anytime you do a post like that, let me know!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Peach Cobbler and Summer Reading

For some reason, this summer has seemed to last longer than usual. I guess because I got out of school way earlier than I ever have before. I am definitely not complaining. I just can't believe it is only the second week of July and I still have a whole month of summer left! Yay!

We had a good July fourth, but it was very low key. We just hung out at the BLAZING HOT pool for the day, then we went to Steve's mom's for ribs and chicken. Steve and I came home afterwards and watched the fireworks on TV because Rocky literally goes ballistic whenever he hears fireworks, so we felt like we needed to be home to keep him calm. We gave him a sedative AND had him in his thundershirt and he was still freaking out. Oh my goodness....I don't know what else to do with that dog!!

Ashley and I took David to the Farmer's Market last Saturday.

I love going there. I bought some homegrown tomatoes and some South Carolina peaches.

I took all my peaches and made a peach cobbler with them and it was so easy and delicious. It's called Lazy Day Cobbler and I thought I would share the recipe with you. There are so many good berries and fruits out in the summer and this recipe is super easy to make. It takes about 5 minutes total. No kidding.

Lazy Day Cobbler

1 stick butter or margarine (place in the oven in the bottom of a deep dish to melt)
Beat togerher 1 cup sugar, 1 cup self-rising flour, and 3/4 c. milk. Pour over melted butter but don't stir.

Empty 2 cups fresh fruit or 1 can of fruit over batter.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar over top. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.

I finished my book The Paris Wife while we were in Europe. It was very interesting, but a little dark. Now I am reading Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. It is about the life of architect Frank Lloyd Wright and was written from the perspective of the woman that was in love with him. I didn't know much about Frank Lloyd Wright but I am enjoying learning about his life. (I love biographies. They are my favorite!) I had some Barnes and Noble gift cards, so I went over there the other day and got three more books that I am looking forward to reading. I got Hoda's autobiography just because I love her.

And since I have kind of a Paris theme going this summer, I also got Paris I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down. This one was written by a guy from Chapel Hill, North Carolina who moved to Paris because he had always dreamed of living there. It is supposed to be a funny look at what living in Paris is really like.

Then I had to get some fun, easy, pool-side material so I got Sophie Kinsella's Mini Shopaholic. I love her British humor and her books are perfect for light summer reading!

In between all that, I have been reading some professional development type books about teaching that I heard were good. So I am pretty excited that I have done so much better this year with making time to read! That was a goal of mine for 2012 and I think I've done a pretty good job so far. Have you read anything good? I'd love to hear about it!

I kept David today for Ashley since she is working at Mother's Morning Out. We had fun playing outside and going to Target. Mark is home, so he took some time to read books with him.

My two sweet boys....

It is looking pretty cloudy right now, so I'm thinking we may get another good thunderstorm this afternoon. I TiVo'd NY Med last night so maybe I will watch that. I loved Boston Med a few years ago, so I think I will like it. I would also love to take a nap, but I doubt Rocky will go for that. Haha! Maybe I should call The Dog Whisperer??!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

European Vacation

So...we're back! As much fun as traveling around the world is...there is no place like the USA (and your own bed!) We have been unpacking suitcases, doing laundry, grocery shopping, and trying to get over our jet lag for the past couple of days but we are glad to be home.

I think I told you about how Steve wanted to take his mom to Europe ever since his dad passed away. He just wanted to make a fun memory with her and not regret anything. (He had been planning a trip to Israel with his dad when he died and he never got to do it, so this time he wanted to make sure it happened.) Then it kind of grew from there to all of his brothers and sisters and their spouses going along. So it was kind of a "Maddox Family European Vacation"! Haha!

In an effort not to drag the whole trip out and tell you every little detail, I will just hit the highlights!

Where we stayed: Near the Tower Bridge. It was so pretty, especially at night with the Tower Bridge lit up. The Olympic Rings were on it, ready to be lowered as the kick off to the Olympic festivities.

Fun things we did: We went to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, Big Ben, the British Museum, and Trafalgar Square. We also rode in one of those red double-decker tour buses and got to see lots of the sights of London. My favorite was going into Westminster Abbey and seeing where William and Kate were married. Plus, there are so many famous people buried there. Wow. So much history! I love that. And Big Ben all lit up at night is just beautiful!

What we ate: We had the classic fish and chips and mushy peas.

And Steve and I ate at Garfunkel's one night. It is just a chain there, but we've eaten at it several times and it is pretty good.

We stayed in London for two days, then it was off to Paris!

Where we stayed: We stayed in a little hotel not too far from the Eiffel Tower. It was very modest, but it was fine for what we needed. Plus it was close to everything we wanted to do.

Fun things we did: Visited the Eiffel Tower at night, toured The Louvre, went to Napolean's Tomb, shopped on the Champs Elysees (unfortunately, my hair straightener blew up and I had to go in search of a European straightener!), saw the Arc de Triumph, went inside Notre Dame, and took a river cruise on the Sienne River at night. We also took another tour bus around the city to see the sights. Mark was in Paris with friends, so we met him for dinner one night, which was fun! What I love about Paris is all the gorgeous architecture and how everything is so romantic and beautiful. Plus I love all the history that is there. And the Louvre is amazing. Seriously, you could be in there all. day. long. There is so much to see, we barely scratched the surface!

What We Ate: Lots of pastries! was carb overload! It was hard to find fresh fruit or even something with eggs or sausage or anything but croissants and cinnamon rolls for breakfast. We ate crepes one day that were really good. And we did have a wonderful little restaurant across the street from our hotel called Chez Pierrot.

Our waitress was adorable and so cute and friendly (even though she hardly spoke a word of English!) One night I had a steak there that was delish. And another night we liked it so much we went back again. Steve had salmon and I got their pork tenderloin. Yummmm!!! I recommend that place if you are ever in Paris!

Where we stayed: The Marriott. Yay for Americanized hotels! We loved it!

Fun Things We Did: I think the most memorable thing we did was go to the Anne Frank House. That was so moving and interesting. It is so hard to believe what went on in Amsterdam and all over Europe during World War II. It felt very real to be in her house and imagine how scary it must have been to be hiding from the Nazis in fear for your life. We also visited the beautiful Flower Market which was so pretty.

Marijuana is legal in Amsterdam, so it was crazy that they sold "Cannabis Starter Kits" at the flower market. If you're like me, I didn't even know what cannabis was. (Ashley asked me if I've been living under a rock or something!) Apparently it's another name for marijuana. Who knew? Haha! We took a river cruise on all the canals throughout Amsterdam and Steve and I rented bicycles and went bike riding through the park one afternoon. Bikes are EVERYWHERE!

One of the things about Amsterdam is that you have to watch out for cars, trams, and bikes. They will all run you over if you're not careful!

Amsterdam is beautiful and is much smaller than London or Paris. And I love how well everyone spoke English there. It was so easy to communicate with people. Amsterdam has a more laid back feel, but it is very open and "free". It is one of the most liberal places I have ever been to. I really didn't see that many families there. It seemed to be mostly singles and college-age students. And the bar scene is alive and well. People are out partying hard till all hours. That is not really my kind of thing, so I didn't like Amsterdam as much as some of the other places we went. There is some history there, but not as much as other European cities I have visited, so I felt like there wasn't as much to learn about.

What we ate: The first night we were there, we ate at a Dutch restaurant and had traditional Dutch food at a restaurant called The Pantry.

I had something kind of like a beef stew with pink cabbage and mashed potatoes. I really liked it!

Another thing they have there is little mini-pancakes called potterfjes. They are served with powdered sugar and syrup and are so good!! I loved them!

We also stopped briefly in Brussels, Belgium on our way back to London. It was absolutely beautiful. The plaza or square that we went to was probably the prettiest one I have ever seen in Europe. The buildings were amazing and so ornate. We didn't stay long, but I'm glad we got to see it!

Our trip back was very long. We traveled by car, train, escalator, stairs, tram, metro, and pretty much any other way you can think of carrying all our luggage. It was an adventure. The flight home was nine hours long, so we watched lots of movies, read, and took naps. We needed that time to recover from our vacation! Haha!

Now we are back home and back to reality. Tomorrow is the fourth of July and I, for one, am so glad I live in the USA! I love visiting Europe, but it makes me thankful for all my blessing here! :)