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31 January, 2011

Steps to Disney: Resolution 5k

As most of you know, I am on running restriction due to my sprained ankle.  This has really put a damper on my goal to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  While the girls are still hard core training to run the half marathon, I just got cleared to start walking 1-2 miles a day (not 13.1).  Boo.  Last weekend the girls participated in their first Atlanta Track Club race, the Resolution 5k.  It was a good break for them, since most Saturdays have been upwards of 6-8 miles this month.  Also, it's fun to get out and race, especially on a cold hilly course when you've only been training on a treadmill.

At the start line


And off they went!  I sat in the car for a few minutes to stay warm, but before I knew it the "really fast guys" were finishing.  Ever since my day on the taping of Biggest Loser, I've fallen in love with cheering at the finish line.  So, off I went to the finish line.  It was awesome to cheer for little kids finishing their first race, men and women beating their personal bests, resolutioners running for the first time in ages, and of course, seeing my girls cross the line faster than they expected!

 Keep in mind that their real times are even faster than pictured.

After their run, we went to the Original Chick-fil-A, because you can't go to South Atlanta without going there.  And because their chicken is the original recipe.  You probably can't remember how it tastes, but think back to your childhood trips to the mall with your mom.... back when there wasn't a food court and Chick-fil-A was it's own "store" in the mall.  Is it coming back to you?  No? Then come visit and I'll happily take you...

They have "real" food too. Check out that pool of butter on the grits. Mmmm!

Runners entering through the Dwarf Door

Photog peaking in

The girls are already talking about their next Atlanta Track Club run in February.  I believe they're due for a 10k race.  They pounded out 8 miles this weekend.  Getting close. Disney is just a few weeks away.

PS:  There is some video footage of this trip, but it's being saved for a Steps to Disney montage. Oh, yes.

30 January, 2011

Baking with Betty: Oreo Cheesecakes

As promised, one of our new feature segments is going to feature a most requested recipe, or perhaps a custom recipe debut.  This segment will be posted around the beginning and middle of each month.

My first recipe to share is one I found on a blog back in December.  I wanted something fun to make for a baby shower dessert instead of cake or cupcakes (sooo over done).  That same weekend I also needed a dessert to share for my staff Christmas potluck.  This recipe was the perfect match - something i could make ahead in bulk and plate up as needed for the two parties.  Unfortunately, I did not record where I found the recipe and when I tried to look it up again, I couldn't find it.  So take note - this recipe isn't mine. I will, however, share some tips and variation at the bottom are are my own creation.

Oreo Cheesecake Bites
Makes: 30

42 Oreo, cream-fill chocolate sandwich cookies (30 left whole, 12 coarsely chopped)
2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
pinch of salt

  1. Preheat oven to 275° F.  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.  Place 1 whole Oreo cookie in the bottom of each lined muffin cup.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed.  Gradually add the sugar, and beat until combined.  Beat in the vanilla.
  3. Drizzle in eggs, a little at a time, beating to combine and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add in sour cream and salt, beat to combine.  Using a large spatula, fold in the chopped Oreo cookies.
  4. Divide batter evenly among the cookie-filled muffin cups, fill each cup almost to the top.  
  5. Bake, rotating muffin tins halfway through, until the filling is set, about 22 to 28 minutes.  Transfer the muffins tins to a wire rack to cool completely.  Refrigerate (in the muffin tins) at least 4 hours (or overnight). Remove from tins just before serving.
This is my ONLY photo of these!

Okay, so I thought I had more photos of these.... Oh well.

Anyway, here are some tips/variations:
  • substituted 1/3 fat cream cheese for full fat
  • substitue reduced fat sour cream for full fat
  • I don't recommend using fat free dairy in baking - it's just weird

  • As pictured, I bought a package of mini oreos (in the lunch snack aisle) and used my mini muffin pan to make a truly "bite" size cheesecake. These were a hit at the lunch time baby shower. 

  • Originally I wanted to use the red Christmas  Holiday Winter Oreos for our "Georgia" themed shower / Christmas, but Publix sold out of them the week of Thanksgiving.  

  • You can use any seasonally colored oreo to make your cheesecakes festive (orange for Halloween, pastel for Easter, etc) 

  • I also wanted to try making these using Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe Joe's for a mint oreo cheesecake taste...again sold out before I thought of it! 

28 January, 2011

1 Question Fridays - Affording Organics, Fair Trade, Grassfed

Over the last year or so Eric and I have been learning more about the food industry.  It's overwhelming.  A few friends have been writing about their shift to whole foods, organics, fair trade, and grass fed.  No doubt it's pricier than buying just anything at the grocery.  But when you do a cost/value analysis it makes it obvious that eating more naturally is the affordable way to go.

So, today's question to answer is "How do you afford whole foods?"

First let me tell you that before we started eating healthier, I was at the doctor about every six to eight weeks.  Time that by a $25 co-pay and often a $10 or $20 prescription or OTC medicine on top of that.  I also suffered from severe headaches (add cost of advil here) and bad acne (add cost of several skin care products here).  We are easily talking $300-500 a year on just my health alone! I was also nearing needing cholesterol and blood pressure medicine. Yes, at 28.

Now, knowing that it would take a while to reap the health benefits, jumping in to a whole foods life style was a little costly at first.  But with gradual changes in diet, we saw gradual changes in health.  Our budget eventually evened out as far as money spent at the doctor and extra money spent on food.  And once we really understood what we were doing with food, that bill has even gone down significantly as well.

First, we started by cutting out fast food.  A friend once told me "if it comes out of a window, it's not food".  Watch Food, Inc. and you'll totally agree.  Cutting out fast food and sodas means saving $6-8 a meal.  Think of all the produce you can buy a week for that much!

Next, we started shopping at Whole Foods to purchase things to make our own granola bars, pasta, etc.  And to buy our meats, veggies, eggs, and breads.  Our bill was THROUGH THE ROOF!  What we didn't know, is that even though they sell organics, they don't necessarily sell locally grown food.  So you're still getting food that isn't in season in your region and you're paying ridiculous prices for them to ship the foods.

So what we started doing is researching farmers markets.  Once we found the local markets, that's when we really found this lifestyle affordable.  So, here's what we do now:

  • Order meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and goat) through farmers we met at the Farmer's Market.  In the winter we have to pre-order and schedule a pick up. Spring, Summer, and Fall we can meet them at the Farmers Market and have a wide variety of cuts to choose from. This includes our bacon and sausage for breakfast, not just our dinner meats!
  • Eventually we ordered a quarter cow.  This gave us new cuts to try and the bulk price reduced our per pound weight.  All the cuts were labeled and sealed for the freezer.  We store some of it at a friends.
  • Our chicken farmer does a "package deal" if you order a whole chicken and dozen egg combo.  We do this about every other week.
  • To keep our cost of produce regular, as well as eat local and seasonal, we've joined a CSA.  We order a sack of groceries from them each week (unless we know we'll be super busy that week). This has forced us to try new foods as well.
  • I make most of our sweets, pastas and breads from scratch on the weekends or my days off.  I'm still learning how to find quality ingredients for these, but just making them from scratch reduces a lot of filler and artificial whatevers.
  • I buy my "junk food" like pretzels, cereal and popcorn from the bulk health-food store.  But I still read the labels: the fewer ingredients the better. I've learned, just because it's at a health-food store, doesn't make it good for you! I buy the biggest bag I can to get the most bang for my buck, or only buy the snacks on sale.
Other ways we've kept cost down:
  • Stretch dinners when we can to make a double batch and freeze one for later in the month
  • Use small portions of left overs for lunches (especially those that don't freeze well)
  • Learn what's in season and only buy that produce.  In season grapes = less than $3 Out of season grapes = $7+
  • Buy frozen out of season produce (make sure it doesn't have a syrup!)
  • Cut out all drinks except milk and water
  • Homebrew beer (definitely not a hobby for everyone!)
  • Order my organic, fair trade, carbon free coffee online and bulk up when it's on sale

(Admittedly, I eat frozen entrees from Trader Joe's for lunch. I eat a lot of prepackaged salads at work (eek!).  And I love an occasional Capri Sun and bag of Doritos. And we eat out for dinner at least once, sometimes twice a week. )

Not sure where to start?  These are a few things we did early on that made a big difference:

  • Cut out fast food
  • Don't drink your calories, eat them! It's cheaper and better for your waist line
  • Trade fancy, flavored coffee creamer for a splash of milk and pinch of sugar
  • Shop the perimeter of the grocery, skip the middle
  • Trade up to cage-free eggs
  • Switch to organic milk
  • Watch the sodium on your food labels
  • Check for code words for sugars and salts in your packaged food (yes, Fiber One has aspartame in it!)
  • Buy cheese in blocks and shred it yourself. Pre-shredded cheese has styrofoam on it to keep it from sticking.

If you're in Atlanta and want to try our CSA, check out:

What are you doing to cut food costs?  Eat locally?  Eat sustainably?  We'd love to get food tips!
What are some of your book or web resources for leaning about whole foods?

PS:  As requested by Eric, next weeks question will not be about money!  What do you want to know about us?

25 January, 2011

Babies are a Blessing

I had an entirely different post ready to write today, but I read my friend Caitlin's post about the surprise conception of her nephew and the death of her mother. By no means am I attempting to "one up" her. She honestly inspired me to tell my family's story that is very similar.  And it all began...

In January.  I remember it like it was last week.  I was at Saint Brigid, leading the youth group in a closing prayer and made the announcement that the next week were starting our Pro-Life service project and Life Night, and that we'd be going to the March for Life at the Georgia Capital in downtown Atlanta.

That night I walked in the door of my parents' house, where I was living at the time.  Two of my siblings, Alex and Katie, were still home on college break.  There was a weird, almost eerie quiet in the house.  I went straight up to my room and was on Google chat with some friends.  Suddenly, both Alex and Katie appeared in my room.

Alex asked if we could talk.  He asked me how I felt about his girlfriend, Deirdre. My brain instantly flashed back to David asking me how I felt about Paige. Who then told me he was going to propose.  I thought, that Alex and Dee were a little young to get married, but when you know you know.  However, the next question wasn't "Do you want her as a sister-in-law?" it was "How do you feel about being an aunt?"

That week was one of the most intense weeks of our lives.  Family meetings. Intense conversations.  Difficult realities.  They were living the college frat life, and suddenly found themselves responsible for a new life.  Given that they were 18 and barely 21, they had discussed, and strongly considered, putting the baby up for adoption.  My heart broke.

I knew Eric and I weren't married yet, and that there was no way we could afford a child, but I wanted so badly to offer to raise him/her.

And that's when my Dad stepped in.  He said "We are family.  This child, planned or not, is part of our family.  And if it takes all of us to raise him, we will raise him.  But I am not letting strangers raise my grandchild. I'd miss him even knowing he was well taken care of."  Ultimately, he left the decision to Alex and Deirdre.  And after a few more days of discussion, decided that they would keep the child.

Alex and I shared an incredible moment a week or so later when I was preparing to take the teens to the March for Life, Alex said to me, "You know, I can sympathize with mothers who feel like they have no choice and choose to abort their child.  It even crossed our minds.  But then I remembered all the years of the youth group going to the March for Life and all the talks and reasons Allen gave us for choosing life and I knew that we had to keep this baby, even if we decided to give him up for adoption."

Alex and Connor - July 24 2008

Just like my Dad promised, the whole family is raising Connor.  Alex and Deirdre are no longer a couple, but they work well as a team to provide the best they can for him. And our families have helped raise him, as promised. My mom takes him to school with her a few days a week where he attends the school's day care.  My dad and her dad watch him the other days during the week while Alex works and Dee has classes or works. He's back and forth for dinners and bedtimes.  And they work week by week to figure out his schedule for the weekends.  I've done my part to babysit him a few times over the years.  Despite the shuffling around, there is one thing that remains true:  Connor is the most loved baby I've ever met.  And he knows it.

Connor going to school with Nana

Deacon Dennis baptizing Connor

When we first found out that Alex and Deirdre were pregnant I told my former boss, Deacon Dennis, about the situation. And he said, "babies are always a blessing regardless of circumstance. remember that."  I shared this with my family.  A few months after Connor was born, both of my paternal grandparents' health took a turn for the worse. And by eight months after he was born, both of my Dad's parents died (within four months of each other).  During this time, my dad learned the reality of what Deacon Dennis said.  It finally hit him.  If nothing else, Connor was born when he was so that my Dad could have a new life to celebrate, and bring joy to his life, as he suffered the loss of his parents and mourned their death.  Babies are always a blessing.

We love you little man!!!

21 January, 2011

1 Question Fridays: Our Apartment / Steps to DEBT FREE

First I want to say that Eric and I have nothing but the greatest respect for those working through more difficult financial and housing situations than we are.  We know we are very blessed.

Eric and I have been married for over a year now.  Surprisingly, the question we get more often than when are you having kids? is when are you buying a house?  Many assume that just because it's a buyers market, and that we're married we should be house hunting.  Well, here's our situation, and we why have chosen the apartment life.  But really it's a bit of our financial story and our steps to become DEBT FREE!

This story begins a few years back.  When Eric and I first met neither of us owned our cars, in fact I totalled my car and had to replace in early in our dating years.  We both lived at home.  Because I lived at home I felt like I didn't need to have a "budget".  Boy was I wrong.  Budgets are for everyone! I did not keep track of my money and long story short racked up some significant debt.  I also owed the government for one year of my private Catholic university education (an agreement worked out with my parents).  Add it all up.  We found ourselves getting engaged with nearly $50,000 of debt (cars, student loans, credit cards).  Help!

Sadly, we didn't think anything of it. Everyone has a car payment.  Everyone pays student loans for years!  Everyone floats a little credit card debt.  We're normal.  And, we thought we could afford a house.  We even went to look at two different houses "in our price range" whatever that meant!

Well, thank you to Dave Ramsey, we are no longer NORMAL!

After we looked at the second house my dad pulled us aside.  He asked us if we'd thought through property taxes, a new roof, cost of a lawn mower, furniture to fill the house, etc.  And that was the moment we realized we needed to save for a house, not just rush into it because "everyone was doing it" and "it's a good time to buy."

This conversation made us realize we needed to get a grip on our finances.  Me more than him.  We talked through little tips and tricks, but nothing was really helping me.  One day in January 2009 I found myself wandering the finance section of a bookstore where I stumbled across this New Year's Resolutioners gem, a finance book in normal people language:
America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money: Your Guide to Living Better, Spending Less, and Cashing in on Your Dreams

I quickly read through it.  Yes, it had a lot of value, but I wasn't buying a new car. I wasn't doing the family grocery shopping.  I wasn't buying a house. I needed to get out of debt.

What I didn't realize, is that this book laid the foundation for me to be ready to listen to Dave Ramsey.  This book taught me to at least STOP my over spending, and to track my debts and payments.  In doing that I learned how much interest was KILLING ME from ever paying down my debts.

Just a few weeks later, my parents were offered the opportunity to take Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University: 91 Days to Beat Debt and Build Wealth, Complete Participant KitThey started sharing the system with us. They also told us how manageable it was.  And how our money belongs to God and we're just stewards of it.  It hit me.  It hit me hard.  I was a squandering fool and I needed help.  Badly.

My parents decided as part of their "Give Like No One Else" they'd gift us a copy of the audio CDs and the opportunity to look through their workbooks.  So in May of 2009 as we drove to and from Orlando for Eric's Ironman 70.3, we listend to the first have of the CDs.  We stopped between each one and took notes on what we needed to do.

When we got home from our trip we started our first "Budget Committee Meeting". We set the timer for an hour, his nerd and my free spirit united, and we got started with the debt snowball and building our $500 emergency fund.  Within weeks we were crossing off stupid little debts.  And now 20 months later we own both cars, have no credit card debt and are down to the last 5-6 months of paying my student loan.  BOOYA.

And this is where the apartment comes into play.  Obviously we couldn't dig ourselves into more debt by living in a house.  Eric did a ton of research to find us a cheap apartment.  But in order for it to actually be cheap, it needed to allow us a short commute to work, other wise we would waste the saved rent money on gas.  My little mathematician did some number crunching and negotiating and scored us a deal on our first apartment.  Which, has an ideal location too!  The super cheap rent gave us extra money to throw at our debt snowball.  Last December we filed for a two-bed room apartment.  The extra room cost less than our storage unit, so that was a no brainer!  Good bye storage unit.

And we are proud to say, we just re-signed our lease for only a 10% cost increase, when most units were going for 30-60% more than what we pay.  Thank you negotiating skills from Dave Ramsey and Clark Howard.

So here we are, 5-6 months from being debt free.  Another year (at least) in our apartment.  And we couldn't be happier.

Here are some other reasons we really love our apartment life, and why it fits our super busy life:

  • pool
  • gym
  • movie & book library
  • small space to clean
  • small space to decorate
  • big enough kitchen for the two of us
  • no lawn or house maintenance
  • call one number for light bulbs, drain-o, heat, AC, etc
  • lock the door and leave for the weekend, or week
  • gated community
  • friendly staff
  • safe
  • maintenance guys are not creepy and they're constantly walking the property / cleaning /being awesome
  • location, location, location

In addition to Dave Ramsey and America's Cheapest Family, we also listen to Clark Howard and read The Simple Dollar, a blogger who mostly follows DR, but give some other alternatives. 

18 January, 2011

This is the story of your red right ankle

After the Snowcation 2011 fiasco last week, the weekend was pretty status quo.  I went to my parents, Eric went backpacking.  I think he should post about it, but will he? Probably not.

Anyway.  My ankle.  The story is REALLY uneventful, but everyone's been asking...

About two months ago I was in Jazzercise and landed some hip hop jumpy maneuver perfectly normal, as well as you can a hip hop jump maneuver. However, a sharp shooting pain radiated throughout my foot.  It felt funky, but I finished class and the pain went away.

A few weeks later a nagging ache was still there.

A few more weeks late the ache was still there.

I talked to a friend who had the same type of pain, and she ended up needing surgery on a tendon. Yikes!

My pain wasn't THAT bad.  So I kept working out and the ankle kept hurting.

With the Disney Princess Half Marathon just 8 weeks away I thought it was time to have the doctor take a look at it.  Fortunately, it's just a sprain!  A few month old sprain, but nonetheless, enough to keep me from running for a few weeks.  The doctor prescribed a few weeks of physical therapy.

My first appointment was delayed 5 days due to snow.  So that set me back a few pounds and a few days of working out.  My first appointment went really well.  She gave me a list of benchmarks I need to meet before I can start running again.  To give you a clue, one of the exercises I have to do to "pass" is balance on one foot with my eyes closed for 30 seconds.  When I was first diagnosed I could barely do 9 seconds with my eyes open.  Time to kick it in high gear!  She did say I was free to weight lift, bike, walk, elliptical as long as it didn't hurt.  

My second appointment we talked about the half marathon.  She frowned - a lot - when we talked about it. She thinks, at best, I'll be able to walk the race.  I really want that Princess Crown finishers medal, and not to be captain of Team Sidelines with Caitlin's grandma (no offense to grannies, I just want to RUUNNN).

So here's to ice packs, cardio Pilates, and power walking.  *Cheers*

Baking with Betty

I grew up in a house where food = love.  Both of my parents cook.  My paternal grandfather was an incredible Italian cook, and even owned two restaurants. My maternal grandfather is also an incredible cook specializing in Mid-Western fare, family favorites, and Southern Living delights.  Everything I know about cooking I've learned from my grandparents and by helping my parents.  With four kids, my mom always utilized us to help cook and bake.

For my 4th grade birthday I received my most prized possession: A cookie scoop.  My grandfather gave it to me because he said my cookies were the best.  He even labeled it "Elizabeth's Fabulously Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies"  One of the chefs at the family restaurant bought me a restaurant grade cookie sheet when I was in junior high, with the agreement I'd have to make him an occasional double batch. And for my 21st birthday I wanted nothing more than a quality blender and a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer.

I don't really have a speciality niche yet, but I am working on it.  Lately I've been focused on desserts and baking.  Really, just learning the science and chemistry behind ingredients.  The more I broaden my horizons the more I learn.  My dad has been critical in passing on his dad's recipes as well as many of his own tricks of the trade.  Eric and I have also been learning how to cook healthy and whole foods.   Sometimes I turn to cookbooks and cooking websites to help me expand my knowledge of how to prepare them and how to add a little more pizazz.

Homemade Week Personal Challenge, April 2010: Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4

Baking with Betty is a blog segment for me to share my latest favorites or my most requested recipes.  We hope you enjoy them just as much as we do. 

17 January, 2011

Announcement: Two New Blog Segments

In reflecting on this blog about Eric and I's (awesome) life, I've met my goal to "report" on all the big happenings in our lives.  However, that doesn't help you get to know us much past what we've DONE.  I typically don't like to write too much about the future because I had a stalker for a few months and writing about where I will BE is still frightening.  Stalkers aside, there are still things we can write about for you to get to know us better.

I've decided to add two new segments to this blog.

Before I give the new bits away, I promise I will continue to do a regular weekly update on Tuesdays that includes pictures and videos of our past week or major events.

New Weekly Segment:   Your Questions Answered  Many of our friends ask the same questions about our life style, so I want to write about them! Some of the starting questions will be:

  • How/Why do you buy organic? Isn't that expensive?
  • How do you plan your weekly meals?
  • Why are you living in an apartment? Aren't married people supposed to have a house?
  • Why does Eric bike to work, that's CRAZY!
  • Elizabeth, do you have a real job?
This segment will be updated on Fridays in keeping with many bloggers traditional "Five Question Fridays".  We'll just start with "One Question Fridays" and see how it goes.

New Bi-monthly Segment: Our Most Requested Recipes  With the disbanning of my joint blog Sara & Betty, I've been looking for an outlet for some of my favorite recipes.  I find it stressful to keep a whole blog dedicated to cooking, and besides there are tons of those out there.  This will simply be a place for me to send my friends to find our favorite recipes!  Some of the starting recipes will be:
  • Oreo Cheesecake
  • French Press Coffee
  • Mint Chocolate Chip Brownies
  • "Dunwoody" Dip
  • Gnocchi and veggies
This segment will be updated twice a month on the 1st and 15th, but moving by a few days if it's on a Tuesday or Friday.  Most of my recipes are based on books, blogs, or family, so do expect anything TOO inventive.  I just want to have a place to send my friends to get my party favorites so they can share the yumminess! Of course, I'll include pictures and my own variations or tips.

With the outline of my new segments listed, what are some of YOUR questions for Eric and I?  What recipes are you dying to get more info on?

Post some goodies that only ERIC can answer so we can get him posting! :)

14 January, 2011

My thoughts exactly

I'm not exactly sure where this originated.  It's been passed around via email all day.


12 January, 2011

Snowcation, Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon, Snowmygosh 2011

Call it what you will.

Its awful out there.  For three days.

Here's how Snowcation 2011 has gone down for the Buerglers.


The forecast for the 4-11 inches of snow called for the weather to turn around 9pm.  However, running a youth group that ends at 8 pm, could potentially be dangerous.  Around 1pm we decided to cancel youth group incase the snow came early, especially for our parishioners that live far away.

So a good percentage of the adult volunteers went to Taco Mac for beers and queso!  It's always fun to bond with them, especially when the teens aren't around :)

We all left around 9pm, when the roads were still dry as a bone.  By 10, however, we'd had over an inch of snow.

I went to be around 1 am.  I'd earned my super duper and epic swarm badge on for checking into Snowcation Hothlanta 2011.  The nerd in me was satisfied (it was like geeky Christmas!) and the ground had a good 4 inches of snow.


We woke up to probably close to 5 or 6 inches. Which, excuse me, is the most I've seen since it snowed in my pool during graduation week at UD, FIVE YEARS AGO.

 Eric and I promptly did chores, cleaned the house, made a French Toast bar (with homemade honey-wheat bread!)

We had no idea how long we'd be cooped up, so it was nice to catch up on projects.  We started to hang our new IKEA curtains in the living room, but got a call from Katie, who was stuck at Sam's house, to bring her some clean clothes and a sled. So we suited up and carefully drove over to Sam's house.

Once we arrived, we had a blast playing in the snow.  However, the sheet of ice forming on top of the snow was a little crunchy / annoying.

After our "sledding", "snow angels" and "snow men" (yes, I used quotes for a reason...because they weren't quality situations), we went inside for some ridiculously delicious grilled cheese, soup, cards, and cleaning out Sam's pantry.

Yes.  I found S.E.V.E.N bags of Tostitos Scoops.

And as The Economist will tell you, "Please, Not Again"

Eric and I made it home, leaving Katie and Sam stuck for another day.  That night Eric and I made it to Taco Mac Crabapple for the BCS Bowl and a few beers.  It was nice to get out of the house while we could.  Thank God for four-wheel drive.


We made a promise to get the curtains hung, so we took our first day trip to Home Depot.  The roads were in worst shape, but again, thanks for four-wheel drive Jeep we made it okay.  The only work being done on the road was from the "rent me" bobcat at Home Depot.  It was cute.  And not really doing anything helpful to the roads. Ha.

 I'm still playing with exactly how I want them.  Side sweep/traditional, or tied up as pictured, or other? Any ideas?  I want to decide before I cut the extra food off the bottom of the sheers.

Anyway.  Eric and I watched most of Dexter Season 1 (aaah!) before we went over to Sean's house for beers and games with Chance.  I have a new love for Rummikub, by the way.

It was clear that the roads were going to be worse on the way home (and the next day) than they were on the way to Sean's house because we slid down the sidewalks on the way out to the car.  The roads were worse, and predictions for an even worse Wednesday was a reality.


This morning Eric went to work.  Not so much to actually get things done, but to get out of the house. I decided to make the most of the day, and since it's likely we'll be iced in until Saturday, made a bit of a schedule for myself.  I took a shower, cleaned up, and went on like most days...unlike the last two days of PJs until 7pm.  

I met Eric and his co-worker for lunch at Twisted Taco.  The side roads are HORRIBLE.  I slid several times and swerved a little going into the parking lot.

After lunch I went to Publix to stock up on a few more meals.  The stores are more than half empty.  Everything from chicken to fruit to toilet paper. Gone.

The drive home from Publix was the worst of all our outings. I tried to go home the back way. Mistake.  I got about a quarter of the way.  That's when I saw the tow trucks turning around and the pick up truck with the broken axel abandon on the side of the road.  Yikes!  I had to slowly turn around and find another way out to the main roads.  It was slow going, but I finally made it.

The rest of the day has been pretty uneventful. 

Until... we got noticed that we could renew our lease for another year.  We were expecting a 30-50% rate increase, but it was only.... drumroll..... $65.  Oh thank God.  We can rearrange the budget for that. But 30%?  50%? We'd have to get a roommate (weird.) or move home (also weird.)

So cheers!  Here's to another day of school closings and icey roads.

And maybe a little more sunshine :)

04 January, 2011

Fox News Clip on Monsignor

I know this is a bit late, but I saw it today for the first time and wanted to share with those of you who are out of town or maybe missed it on the news too.

03 January, 2011

Christmas 2010: Buergler Edition / Vieques Vacation

Our two week Christmas story left off with the first week with the Corsetti's and picks up with the second week of Christmas with the Buergler's in Vieques.

Let me start by saying that ever since Eric was in junior high, his family has gone somewhere tropical for Christmas.  I believe that their tradition was to alternate Caribbean with Hawaii.  The last trip they went on was the first year Eric and I were dating.  After that there were two weddings to plan. This was the first year both spouses were invited.

We had the choice to apply birthday and Christmas money to the trip, which we did.  And then had all year to supplement the trip with our own savings.  It was a way to feel both spoiled, but also ownership of the trip.

Anyway, on to the fun stuff.  Also, let me say that I took all the beach pictures from various websites.  They are not my photos.

Day One - Sun, Dec 26

Eric and I left snowy Atlanta and flew to San Juan.  Our plane got in after the last flight to Vieques, so we had to stay in San Juan for the night.  We had a tiny hotel room (with cable! whoo!) and walked a few blocks for our first Puerto Rican dinner: mofongo, a mashed plantain dish.  We also had a fried pork dish covered in pickles and onion.  Odd, but delicious

Day Two - Mon, Dec 27

We drove to the tiny little airport (think the old TV show WINGS) to catch our 10 person plane to Vieques. Eric sat in the co-pilot's seat, and prayed he didn't have to actually co-pilot.  After our arrival in Vieques Tim and Irene picked us up in one of our two Jeeps for the week.  We stopped at our "hotel" Hacienda Tamarindo just long enough to change and hit the beaches.  

All of the beaches were a few minutes away, and most of the time included an awesome Jeep adventure to find them.  The dirt roads to the beaches included hanging vines, pot holes, mud pits the size of swimming pools, wild horses, and pedestrians. 

Our first beach stop was Media Luna.  The water was shallow for several yards, making it great for frisbee and foxtail.  Eric and Dan spent most of the afternoon playing catch.  We even saw wild horses come drink water here.  After the beach we took naps by the pool.  The Buerglers taught me how to play Hearts.  We had a terrible dinner at the resort restaurant next door.  The night finished with more card games.

Day Three -  Tues, Dec 28

It rained.  And rained.  And rained.  

We played hearts.  They taught me euchre (much to my chagrin).  We ate dinner at another restaurant next door where we tried arepas for the first time.  I loved them so much that I had fajitas in arepas for dinner. That night we were supposed to go on the bio-bay tour, but Tim got sick and the rain never stopped, so we postponed for another night.

Day Four - Wed, Dec 29

After our daily breakfast and coffee at Hacienda Tamarindo, we went to Navio Beach, which the next beach past Media Luna.  The jeep trails to get there were the craziest we'd seen yet, and they were especially muddy from all the rain the day before.  Eric and Dan were in hog heaven (no pun intended) driving the Jeeps through the puddles (more like pools) of mud.

Navio was a great beach and known for it's waves.  It was fun to swim out a bit and enjoy the crashing, and trying to swim against them.  The water closet to shore was a little sandy because of the hard crash of the waves.  Regardless, the was probably the most desserted beach.

We went to Isabella Segundo for dinner that night.  Isabella II is the town on the other side of the island, it housed the church, government buildings, clothing store, and the "local" scene.  We had dinner at El Patio (guess what? it had a patio!).  Leeann and I shared the steak and onions and the shrimp chimicurri with sweat potato fries.  It was my favorite "local" meal so far of the trip.

Day Five- Thurs, Dec 30 aka TACO THURSDAY

We braved the almost 40 minute Jeep ride up the tallest mountain in Vieques to the other side of the island [Green Beach was the west most beach, Isabelle II was the north most city, and Esperanza (and Media Luna & Navio beaches) were the southern most beaches].  The view from Green beach was specacular, but the sand was horribly rough.  The beach was narrow.  Green beach used to be owned by the US Navy, so it is relatively new to the public.  The boys snorkeled a bit, as the fish made homes in the debris left behind by the Navy.

Dinner was at a little place in Esperanza called Belly Buttons.  We'd seen their advertisements for Taco Thursday on the town map.  Good choice.  Grilled corn tortillas choice of meat and then a toppings bar.  Beer buckets of Medalla (the local beer, it only comes in light).  And a great view of the sunset!

And then.... drum roll. 

We went on our Bio-Bay Tour.  The moment we were all waiting for, and the real reason we went to Vieques.

The Bio Bay tour began we a sketchy van ride down those muddy roads we rode getting to Navio beach, but ended in the Bio Bay.  We were partnered off and quickly paddled to the center of the bay in a two-man sea kayak.  Eric and I dominated.  

It was 10pm. Dark. Stars from horizon to horizon.

As we paddled to the middle of the bay, we started to see glowing bubbles trailing behind the other kayaks.  And soon with every paddle stroke.  We could dip our hands in and see glowing bubbles and even "throw" them on each other.  The kayak group met in the middle of the bay and the guide gave us the scientific explanation of how the organisms recharge in the sunlight and really only exist in a few bays around the world due to a "perfect storm" of conditions. After he was done....

We could jump in and SWIM!  Amazing.  It was like we were all glowing. 

This Google Image is the best I could find to really show what it looked like.  Most pictures on the internet are exaggerated or photoshopped.

After about 20 minutes of swimming we paddled back and enjoyed endured the sketchy ride home.

Day Six  Thurs, Dec 31  NEW YEARS EVE

Our last day Tim, Irene, Dan and Leeann went straight out to Orchid Beach. Eric and I took the other Jeep and toured Red Beach, Blue Beach, Pirates Cove, and Secret Beach.  We wish we could have had a day at Red Beach, but the rest of the crew did that before we'd arrived.  Blue was crowded and the other two weren't anything spectactular.  We caught up with the family at Orchid.  There were few people and excellent powdery sand.  Tim and Leeann called it quits early.  Dan, Eric, Irene and I hit up the "Sol Food" food truck for a late lunch.  We had sun tea and greasy treats.

After showers the crew hit up Duffys "sports bar" (meaning they had TWO tvs) in Esperanza for beers and french fries to watch the Notre Dame bowl game.  We actually won.  Whoo!  I wandered town a bit a took pictures of the sunset.

Then it was time to get ready for our big night out in Esperanza.  Dan made 8:45 dinner reservations at a nice restaurant (read: it had table cloths) for us to have our last meal of 2010.  Dinner was rather eclectic, but delicious.  

We went back to our Casita Linda to ring in the new year by watching fire works over the town.

Day Seven  Friday, Jan 1  NEW YEARS DAY

Our 7:30 flight to San Juan came a bit too early.  Once we arrive in SJ, we taxied over to the bigger airport to check in for our flights to Atlanta.  Our flights were not until late afternoon so we thought we could hang out in San Juan for part of the day...until we realized it was a holiday and everything was closed.  Fortunately we all made the standby list and flew out on the 9:30 am flight back to Atlanta.  We were home in time for lunch, naps and laundry before a little NYD dinner with my sister.

Here's a little video showing more of our trip... enjoy!

You can check out the rest of the pictures on my Facebook :)