Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Weekend in Highlands and Cashiers

Back in August, Mr. Handy and I took a trip to Highlands, NC with his company.  I love taking trips when it's just Mr. Handy and I as it is always a wonderful way to reconnect with each other.  And after 14 years of marriage, I am always reminded after trips like these, why I married that man.  We talk as friends, not as parents.  We laugh like we did when we were dating.  We go places and see things that are just not fun to do towing kids around.  This was another one of those times where there just wasn't anything I would have changed about the trip other than I wish it had lasted longer.

Right outside of Highlands, there is a little town called Cashiers.  I took a trip with some of the wives, while Mr. Handy and the other husbands played a round of golf, to this little town that turns out is a home decor lovers DREAM COME TRUE!

This is a place where every store has a mountain detail.  The food is as delectable as it comes, the air is crisp and cool and the architectural design is so consistent that you feel like you have stepped into another world.  There are so many different types of shops to choose, from high end fashion, to outdoor mountain gear.  For the golfer there are several courses that are nestled between the mountains with views for miles.  For the sightseers there are so many photo ops.  There is something for everyone in both of these towns. 

Here are some of the highlights from our trip:

One of the churches in the town - it was all so beautifully designed

I took this for my daughter and her boyfriend - both big AU Fans!!

Home Decor in Cashiers

Home Decor in Cashiers

Home Decor in Cashiers

We were so excited to see Sinclair Gas signs.
These are really popular around Lake Sinclair and they are hard to find.
Cashiers Farmers Market

More Sinclair Gasoline Signs - Cashiers Farmers Market

A Burmese Mountain Dog in the North Carolina Mountains - Reclamations

Home Decor in Cashiers - Reclamations

Mr. Handy and I at his company dinner 

There is so much to do in these two little towns.  If you find yourself in Highlands or Cashiers here are some places you absolutely have to check out!!

(be sure to ask how much the spa services are in pedicure was $80.00 - whoops)

For more information about Highlands and Cashiers:

Until Next Time...


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Atlanta Ghost Hunters Part 1

Investigating The Windsor Hotel in Americus, GA
Many of you may not know this about me, but I am a ghost hunter.  That's right...I hunt ghosts for a hobby!  My brother, Andy is the founder of the Atlanta Ghost Hunters and we have been doing this for many, many years now.

The Atlanta Ghost Hunters has a group of investigators that are truly some of the coolest folks you could ever know.  We have investigated some really awesome places, and have gone into some spaces where some really gruesome things have happened.  And while some people think that ghost hunting is a farce, what I can say is there are so many more people, that a some point in time, have had some sort of experience with the spirits. What is so interesting is that most people are more than willing to share their experiences with us, regardless of their spiritual beliefs.  And why not?? I know in my faith as a Christian, I more than believe in the spirits. And when you have done as many investigations as I have with this group, you know that there are some serious spooking going on.  And for me, I believe what ever it is that is trying to communicate with us is trying to communicate with us all the time.  They are everywhere.  They are around you right now as you read this blog post.

We have had experiences from disembodied voices, EVP's, knocks, foot steps, whispers, growls, grabs, bumps and kicks.  And sometimes, when we are investigating nothing at all happens.  I have been scared and thoroughly spooked out.  And I have been totally fine during an investigation.  It is really interesting, fascinating thing to do, and if you are ever given the opportunity to try something like won't be the same.  

Over the years, the Atlanta Ghost Hunters has partnered The Bert Show, a syndicated morning radio show that is based in Atlanta.  And for years they have shared clips from the many ghost hunts that The Atlanta Ghost Hunters has done.  The DJ's have even participated in the hunts with us and have experienced it for themselves,  The Atlanta Ghost Hunter and The Bert Show Halloweens have become a tradition and partnership in Atlanta.  

This weekend we are at it again!  In partnership with The Bert Show, The Atlanta Ghost Hunters are heading to a BIG location!!  This location (Pictured below) has had a reported 10,000 deaths inside the building!  More to come on Part 2!!  

It housed the very first female serial killer,  Lavinia_Fisher.  The jail was operational from 1803 - 1939.   Some of the last 19th-century high-sea pirates were jailed here in 1822 while they awaited hanging. The jail was active after the discovery of Denmark Vesey's planned slave revolt. In addition to several hundreds of free blacks and slaves jailed for their involvement, four white men convicted of supporting the 1822 plot were imprisoned here. Vesey spent his last days in the tower before being hanged. During the Civil War, Confederate and Federal prisoners of war were incarcerated here. It is one of more than 1400 historically significant buildings within the Old and Historic District.

Scared yet??  I'm not!  Nor is the rest of The Atlanta Ghost Hunter Team!  We head to our location this weeked and will start our investigation late in the evening Saturday going into the early morning on Sunday.  And the result of the hunt will be aired on The Bert Show, on October 31st.  

So now you know a little bit more about me...The Sunshine Toker...I am a ghost hunter!!

To hear some really compelling EVP's check out the website for The Atlanta Ghost Hunters and listen for yourself.  Tune in on Halloween to The Bert Show, or listen on-line for the results of our hunt.  And I will share a "Part 2" of this post to let you know what we found!  

Have you ever had an experience with a spirit?? Where you scared?  Is your home haunted?  What is your experience?  Please share!  I would love to know YOUR story!!

Until Next Time...


Sunday, October 19, 2014

New York Wine & Culinary Center - what a culinary experience!

I was in Rochester, NY this week for work.  What a beautiful place to be in the fall!  The leaves are already beginning to show their color and the views from every angle in that city were just stunning. It was that sweet reminder that you get in the fall, that there is always a new beginning and a chance to change, revive and evolve from the space that you are currently in.  It was really beautiful.

While I was there, I had the opportunity to participate in a really fun experience.  One of the ladies that set up the training that I attended had a wonderful idea to host a group event at the New York Wine & Culinary Center.

This organization is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3, founded in 2006 to educate visitors while showcasing New York's dynamic agriculture, wine and food industries.  They feature state-of-the-art facilities overlooking Canandaigua Lake.  

I got to participate in a Hands-On Kitchen experience where we did a formal wine tasting of five different wines that were the Best of the New York Wine & Food Classic.  These included:

Millbrook Vineyards & Winery, Tocai Friulano 2013 ~ Best Other White Vinifera

Chateau Layfayette Reneau Semi-Dry Riesling 2013 (this was my favorite - one of the smoothest, and very light white wine I have ever tasted) ~ Best White Wine

Lucas Vinyards Cayua White, Fulkerson ~ Best Cayuga 

Fulkerson Winery  Zwiegelt, 2013 ~ Best Other Red Vinifera

Marcari Vineyard & Winery, Cabernet Franc 2010 (this was the favorite of the bulk of the group - very hearty red wine) ~ Best Red Wine

All five featured wines!

This was my favorite wine that I tasted

Chateau Lafayette Reneau - my favorite - Peach nose & honeysuckle with delicate fruit flavors with a spicy pear finish.  YUM!
Our host Taylor sharing the method of tasting and details on each wine.  She was fantastic!

In addition to the wine tasting, we also had some culinary instruction from Executive Chef, and New York native, Andrew E. Chambers.  In this class, Chef Andrew taught us how to make a tasty Basic Vinaigrette, the perfect Risotto, an Apple Tarte Tatin.  He was very engaging, and WOW the food was awesome!!

Chef Andrew sharing with us the basics of a vinaigrette dressing

A really nifty method for peeling a clove of garlic - two metal bowls and you just SHAKE IT!

Our prepared salmon and sirloin with the risotto recipe he shared with us

Chef Andrew preparing the apples for the Apple Tart Tatin

The finished product - Apple Tart Tatin
What is even more exciting is that not only did I get to participate in this wonderful culinary experience, but I have two of the recipes to share with YOU so you can try this at home!  Please enjoy these wonderful dishes and know that they were created by an executive chef that really knows his stuff! Thank you Chef Andrew for sharing your knowledge and skills with my work team and for my readers as well!

Basic Vinaigrette Recipe

1 oz desired vinegar
1 oz desired mustard (he used a Dijon mustard)
1 oz desired aromatics - these can be shallots, garlic, fresh herbs (he used shallots, sage, garlic & rosemary)
2 oz canola or vegetable oil (he used grape seed oil)
1 oz extra virgin olive oil

In a small mixing bowl add mustard, vinegar and aromatics and whisk together and mix well.
After all is mixed slowly drizzle the canola oil while whisking (it's best to drizzle the oil into the path of the whisk) then finish with extra olive oil and season to taste with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Apple Tarte Tatin (serves 8)

For the Tarte Tatin:
1 cup of sugar
4-7 apples - cut 1/4 inch thick with the skins still on the apples 
(you can use Granny Smith Apples, McIntosh - he used Empires)
4 tbs butter
1 sheet of puff pastry (Pepperidge Farms works well for this)
Ground Cinnamon to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Place 2 tablespoons of butter in a 10 inch round saute pan (one that can go in the oven as well)
Place apples and sugar in pan and saute until they become tender
Cover the pan with a rolled out 10 inch round piece of puff pastry and bake until the dough is golden brown.
Take out of the oven and let it cool, once cooled, heat on a burner until the sugar releases from the pan.  Invert the tart onto a plate and cut into 8 pieces.

For the Apple Syrup:
1 part water
1 part sugar
Cores from the tart tatin

Over medium heat simmer all ingredients together
Once the mixture has become viscous (sticky or thick) remove from the heat.  Use this syrup to garnish the dish.

I do hope you try these recipes at home.  I know I will be using them to impress my family with my new culinary knowledge and show them that I learned a thing or two from my week in Rochester, NY!

And a sincere thank you to my leadership team at work for lining up such an awesome experience!  It is really nice working for a company that would provide such a wonderful team building experience for their employees!  

My team at myStaffingPro all gathered around the state-of-the-art kitchen 

Have you ever taken a cooking class or participated in a formal wine tasting?  What did you take away from that experience?  Would you do it again?  I know I would!  I learned so much from my evening at the New York Wine & Culinary Center.  For more information check out their website at  

~Until Next Time...

Friday, October 17, 2014

What I Wore Wednesday (even though it's Friday)

So I am a little late this week posting my "What I Wore Wednesday" with The Pleated Poppy.  However, I have been traveling with work and spent three days this week in Rochester, NY.  Having said that though, you will notice that I actually donned some suits for the first time in several months.  That felt nice to be back in the corporate world for a couple of days.  I'm not gonna lie though, it was really nice to be back in jeans yesterday!  So to keep it short and sweet, here is what I wore last week:

Shirt - American Eagle (Thrifted), Jeans - Abercrombie & Fitch (Gifted), Scarf - Kroger Grocery Store (I'm serious), Shoes - TOMS, Watch - Casio
Jacket - Banana Republc - (Thrifted), Pants - Worthington (Ebay), Shirt - Cato (Thrifted), Necklace - Estate Sale
Shirt - Ann Taylor (ebay), Suit - Limited (Thrifted), Necklace - Tiffany & Co.
Pants - Limited (Thrifted), Shirt - Limited (ebay), Scarf - unknown (Thrifted)
Suit -  Limited (Thrifted), Shirt - Limited (ebay), Necklace - Tiffany & Co.

Cardigan - GAP (Thrifted), Shirt - JCrew, Jeans - Lucky, Shoes - TOMS, Necklace - Fake Tiffany & Co (Chinatown, NYC)
My Bling - 1st Bracelet - Fake Tiffany & Co. (Chinatown, NYC), 2nd Bracelet - handmade - has my kids names on it

Shirt - Banana Republic (Thrifted), Jeans - Hollister (Thrifted), Cardigan - Lily Pulitzer - (Thrifted), Shoes - Converse, Necklace - Tiffany & Co, Watch - Casio

These outfits are not in order, not that it matters, but as you can see, I wear A LOT of thrifted items.  I am happy to say that it is really fun way to build your wardrobe in an inexpensive manner.  And when I get tired of my clothes, I just donate them back!  I hope you have had a wonderful week!!  Hop on over to The Pleated Poppy to see the other What I Wore Wednesdays from other super talented bloggers! 
I have a couple more posts coming today from my week in Rochester, NY.  Stay tuned!!
Until Next Time...


Thursday, October 9, 2014

My Family Hates Crockpot Meals

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Yes it's family hates Crockpot meals.  They can deal with some cheese dip, and some little smokies and meatballs.  But a full-on, made from a recipe, slow-cooker meal, they have never enjoyed.  And the good lord knows that I have tried so many times to make the magic Crockpot meal that will make them smile.  I have tried the recipes on Pinterest, where you plan out the ingredients for a week in advance, and even I have to say they were YUCK.  I have searched high and low for a meal that they would rave about that came out of my super duper Crockpot.  I had yet to succeed, until last night.

You see, I did a sneak attack on them.  What they didn't realize is that 75% of the meal was actually made in a slow-cooker.  I found a recipe on Pinterest that linked me back over to Jo Cooks where I found a really EASY recipe for Salsa Chicken.  It's a recipe that starts in the slow cooker and ends in the oven.  And if you time it just right, your family will have no idea that you DIDN'T cook over a hot stove all day long!  Remember sneak attack...

Salsa Chicken
1 Jar of Salsa (HOT if preferred)
1 lb of Chicken Breast Cleaned
3/4 cups Shredded Cheese
1/2 cup of Velveeta White Cheese w/ Jalapenos (cut into small squares)
Pickled Jalapenos for flavor 

In a large Crockpot, mix in the Salsa and Chicken Breast, cook on high for 2 hours.  

After the chicken is done, place the chicken in an 8x8 pan, and spoon the liquid back over the chicken.  Add the velveeta cheese, shredded cheese and jalapenos.

Bake in the oven at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is completely melted and browned just a little bit.

And here is what you get...

I served it up with Vigo Yellow Rice and tortilla chips and dip!

My family had no idea I had hoodwinked them into eating a Crockpot meal!  It was festive, yummy, cheesy, spicy and tasted like we were at a Mexican Restaurant!  Thank you Jo Cooks for the great recipe!  If your family is picky too, this is a great meal for them to enjoy!

~Until Next Time...