Monday, July 25, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars

With less than a month before Becky and I move into our new dorms, Mommy Mode has officially begun. She's always loved baking us elaborate desserts, but now homemade treats have become an every-weekend occurrence.  Add on the fact that Becky was returning from England, and it should come as no surprise that we spent yesterday afternoon pouring over The Goodhousekeeping Illustrated Cookbook and Mark Ballard's The Four Seasons searching for scrumptious desserts.  After much deliberation, we decided to try chocolate chip cheesecake bars.  If you'd like to try this super simple sweet treat for yourself, here's the directions:  

What You'll Need-
3 (16-oz) packages of refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
2 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
2 cups of sugar
3 eggs

On a well-greased 15x10x1-inch jellyroll pan, take 1 1/2 packages of your cookie dough and roll it out into a thin crust.  If your bottom layer's a little fine in some areas and a few holes remain, don't worry.  Set aside the pan.  To make the filling, beat cream cheese at high speed of an electric mixer until light and fluffy; gradually add sugar and mix well.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Then, pour the mixture onto our bottom cookie layer.  Then, arrange the remaining cookie dough over the cream cheese mixture.  Word to the wise, this is definitely the messiest part, but the results are sweet.  Bake at 350ยบ for 45 minutes.  Be sure to  let the cheesecake bars cool before you cut them into squares.  
Now, if you really want to take your dessert to the next level (or if you have a little bit more time on your hands), making the cookie dough from scratch could be an added adventure.  I'd suggest you'd make a double batch to sufficiently cover both layers.  Here's the recipe that we used to make each layer:

What You'll Need-
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
16-ounce package semisweet-chocolate

In a large bow, measure all ingredients except the chocolate pieces.  With you electric mixer at medium speed, beet the ingredients until they're well blended.  Next, add the chocolate pieces and stir well.  

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ladies Who Lunch

With only a few weeks left until I head back to New York, my mom and I spent our Saturday revisiting my childhood.  One of my favorite activities as a little girls was hosting tea parties.  I'd spend hours indulging in pretend refreshments, gossiping with my dollies about the trials of my many stuffed animals.  And although I no longer use pint-sized place settings and talk to plush ponies, I still think nothing beats a good ol' mother-daughter tea party.

So this weekend we drove to Haddock, GA to try tea for two at Trish Ann's Antiques and Tea Room.  With their large assortment of teas and scrumptious pinwheels served on mismatched china, it seems like the perfect place to have a quiet lunch with close friends or family.  I'd also like to suggest their delicious baked potato soup.  Every time we visit the sleepy restaurant, I always exchange my fruit for this hearty side.  Although I've never actually tried their pasta salad, it too looked quite tasty sitting beside my mom's main dish.  According to one newspaper article I found, visitors say Trish Ann's desert reminds them of their grandmother's recipe, but I've always found myself too full after the entree to give them a try. A word to the wise, the service is usually a bit overwhelmed, but they offer a complimentary while-you-wait snack of sweet potato tots.  Many times we've visited this little tea room out in the country, and repeatedly it's been transformed into the perfect bridal luncheon spot.  With its flavorsome food and Southern charm, I couldn't think of a more relaxing spot for your extra special Saturday afternoon.
The Prices Are Reasonable; Most Entrees  Served with Two Sides only cost $9

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

From the same author who brought us The Time Traveler's Wife, comes a twisted tale of heartbreak, love, and death.  With her new novel set around London's Highgate Cemetery, Niffenegger proves that death is only the beginning.  The novel opens with a letter that alters the fate of every character.  The letter informs Valentina and Julia Pool that their English aunt, Elspeth Noblin, has died of leukemia and left them her London flat.  There are, however, two conditions to this inheritance:  that they live in it for a year before selling it and that their parents not enter it.  The two American girls never met their English aunt; they only knew that their mother, Edie,  (who was Elspeth's twin) had not spoken to her sister in over 20 years.  Julia and Valentina are seemingly normal but have an abnormally intense attachment to one another.  Upon reaching their 21st birthday, the girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders the famous graveyard.  While there, they come to meet the building's other residents.  There's Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword puzzle setter suffering from a crippling case of OCD.  Because of the disease, he hasn't left his apartment in years, and he ultimately forces his devoted wife, Marjike, to leave because she feels trapped.  Robert, a scholar of the cemetery and Elspeth's elusive lover, lives downstairs.  As the girls become entangled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including their aunt, who can't seem to leave her old apartment and life behind.
London's Highgate Cemetery 
Niffenegger's long-awaited second novel is an enchanting, ghostly entertainment.  It's a concoction of twins, sisters, and lost loves, along with some delightfully quirky neighbors.  Although it's a little on the  long side (400+ pages or 12 disc  if you listen to it on tape), the chapters are short--perfect if you're busy with only a few minutes of wondrous reading to spare.  My mom and I got the book on tape last week when we were driving to Savannah.  As soon we'd get in the car,  neither of us wanted to talk; we just wanted to listen.  I absolutely loved The Time Traveler's Wife, so I had high expectations for a new time-twisted tale.  All of them were met; it was a truly delightful read (well actually listen), and I'd suggest it to anyone who's craving a little paranormal activity in their life.  Plus, it was a nice change to all the usual love story books I tend to read; don't get me wrong romance runs rampant, but it also involves ghosts, a cemetery, and all sorts of interesting plots.  

My Rating:*****

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What I'm Pinterested In

Thanks to my fellow News Central intern, Katie Grissom, I've discovered the most amazing new website, Pinterest.  I'm a little embarrased to say I spent most of my day pinning my interest.  

So, you may be asking, "What even is Pinterest?"  Essentially, it's a virtual pinboard.  Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.  Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.  

Want to give the website a try?  You can request an invite from Pintrest, and once they get back to you with a confirmation link, start pinning. There's an endless amount of types of things you can pin.  Here are a few of my boards:  

1) Just Me-Like the Sound of Music song "My Favorite Things," this pinboard is dedicated to items that describe me best.  It includes ballet tutus, dachshund scarves, strawberry cupcakes, newspaper dresses, and Paula Deen recipes just to name a few.  This hodgepodge of sorts may seem unorganized to anyone else, but to me it all seems to match just perfectly.  

2)Dream Home-I love the idea of sticking all the decoration pictures I like in one place.  Here, I've included Christmas wreaths, retro tupperware, a patchwork chaise, and Marie Antoinette plates.  I'm just hoping that one day (after all my student loans are paid off) my house will be as eclectic as my pinboard.  

 3)Worth Reading-I'm the biggest book nerd ever.  For me, the most perfect afternoon would be spend lounging on the coach reading a paperback.  Here, I've pinned the best works of literature.

4)Favorite Places and Spaces-Although I haven't actually visited all these locations, I will.  Regardless of  whether they're a cozy fort or four story library, each are must sees (or must sees again).

5)Creative Ideas-Although I'm no Martha Stewart, I do consider myself a Queen of Craft for the twenty-something crowd.  For this board, I looked through tons of projects and picked the ones I'd like to make. When the next boring, rainy day comes along, it looks as though the glue gun will be plugged in and one of these features will be attempted.

6)Someday I'll Get Married-One day in the way distant future I'll meet my very own Prince Charming.  Why not be prepared?  My favorite TLC program is Say Yes to the Dress; obviously I had to take a peek at a few of Kleinfeld's gowns.  I even found newspaper invitations that announced the "merger" of one in love couple. Add in beautiful flowers, table settings, a pair of TOMS, individual cupcakes for guests and you have my ideal wedding day.

One of the great things about Pintrest is you can be as creative as you'd like to be when deciding on you boards.  If Alice in Wonderland is your thing, make a board devoted to its whimsy design. Of if you find your collections to be a little more conventional (like teapots, shot glasses, or silver spoons) there's sure to be pretty pictures there too.  

And if you're already Pintrest, come find me... click here.  Happy Pinning!  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Girls Only Getaway

The Epitome of Savannah
With my little sisters spending a few days across the pond, my mom and I took the opportunity to have a girls only getaway.  We spent the weekend in Savannah, GA wandering antique shops, checking touristy spots and sampling Southern cuisine.

Saturday-After our three hour car ride, our first stop was to River Street.  We looked in all the junky shops, littered with I Heart Savannah t-shirts and shot glasses, and visited each store whose sign spoke of free sample.  As we roamed about the cobblestoned street, the smell of freshly made treats wafted from the Savannah Candy Kitchen.  The Willy Wonka wannabes threw delicious taffy in the air and chopped up pieces of warm pralines.  Quite a good marketing ploy; we left with a pound and a half of confectionary sweets.

Making Taffy
After a few hours of countless antique stores filled with Gone With the Wind memorabilia and copies of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, we left the waterfront and headed to one of our favorite lunch spots.  The Gryphon Tea Room has high ceilings adorned with wall paper, classic dark wood decorations, and enormous shelves displaying antique books.  Housed in an adapted turn-of-the-century pharmacy, the food nicely pairs a pot of tea.  To any library lover visiting Savannah, I'd definitely suggest it.  The prices are reasonable and the waiters are adorable.

Next was the famous Lucas Theatre.  Beside the playhouse was a bakery.  In the window, wedding cakes were decorated with edible lace, polka-dots, and flowers.

Our last stop of the day was Forsyth Park.  My mom said, "Before we moved to Macon, I used to sometimes bring you here after church.  I told you that I'd bring you back to play at the fountain when you got a little older.  Who knew it'd take this long."  Goodness, the green grounds were absolutely beautiful, and the fountain looked like one I'd seen in Italy.  After an hour-long drive around Georgia's oldest city, we stopped at Cold Stone for dinner.  We grabbed cake batter ice cream and headed back to the hotel where we immediately went to bed.

Added Bonus of the Day:  Finding Justin Bieber.
Who knew he'd be here for the weekend too?
Mom in Front of The Lady and Sons
Sunday-With Paula Deen's restaurant taking reservations at 9:30, again we had an early day.  We got to the Lady and Sons early, to insure we'd be included in their first sitting.  There really are no words to describe how tasty our brunch was.  Every bite was dripping with flavor, covered in Southernly love, and filled with fat.  I've watched Paula's Home Cooking before, and used to marvel at the excessive amounts of butter she'd use.  But after sampling her entrees, I'll never agin question her ingredients.  I even found myself going back for seconds on dishes I usually don't even like.  After eating there, I actually wished I'd gone to college in Savannah, only so I'd be able to work for her restaurant and eat the daily leftovers.

Our last attraction of the trip was the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the church I was baptized in.  With it beautiful stained glass windows and breathtaking Stations of the Cross, it'd be a must see for us regardless of our personal connection.  Plus, Paula Deen listed it as one of her top spots in Savannah, so with her stamp of approval it's notoriety amplified in my mind.

Friday, July 15, 2011


He Was Such a Good Date-He Even
 Bought Our Tickets, Rachel
Sure Is a Lucky Girl
Last night I went on an awesome date...with my baby brother.  For those of you who've read my blog postings before, you may have come to realize I'm creepily obsessed with all things related to Harry Potter.  With the first showing of the final movie scheduled for 11:59 last night, Joseph and I made sure we had tickets.  We left the house at about 10:30, and already the line completely wrapped around Amstar.

Longest Line Ever
At the biggest midnight premiere the theatre's ever seen, over 2000 people participated in the Pottermania.  Many fans dressed up like the famous trio, rocking plaid skirts and black cloaks despite the Georgia heat.  My little brother even made the comment:  "Who knew wearing glasses could be so cool."  Unfortunately, staff workers weren't quite prepared for the enormous crowd, so the show's start time was pushed back to 12:41.  Despite the late start, I must say staying out until 3am was well worth it.  EPIC is the only word that even comes close enough to describing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two.

Since being first introduced to Harry in 3rd grade, I've been absolutely mesmerized with the wizarding world.  So when the final credits rolled, it really seemed like the end of an era.  I know this sounds silly, but I kind of feel like I lost one of my really good friends.  At least the epilogue revealed a happy ending for Hogwarts:  Harry and Jenny were married with 3 children (including one little boy named Albus Severus who's worried about where the Sorting Hat will place him), Ron and Hermione also tied the knot and had a few red headed babies of their own, and Neville Longbottom's the new herbology teacher at our hero's alma mater.  I just wish J. K. Rowling would start a new magical series.  I'm sure it couldn't trump Harry Potter, but at least we'd have a new villain to hate along with Lord Voldemort.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What does the Civil War and Food Trucks Have in Common?

For an upcoming story, I spent yesterday in Atlanta, touring the Cyclorama and sampling a few food trucks.  Adjacent to Zoo Atlanta, the main attraction in the Historic Grant Park is the breathtaking four-story oil panting and 30 foot diorama.  After a 14 minute video, narrated by James Earl Jones, guests are ushered into a sweeping panorama of the Battle of Atlanta, fought on July 22, 1864, during Sherman's March to the Sea.  When we asked one student group why they were touring the museum, they said "Gone With the Wind is our summer project, and the Cyclorama really brings her words to life."  Complete with one image looking strikingly familiar to Captain Rhett Butler, the panoramic painting shows fierce fighting and certainly puts Margaret Mitchell's descriptions to fruition.  We also got footage of artifacts displayed in the building's Civil War Museum and shot stand-ups in front of the Texas, a veteran of the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862.  
After visiting the Cyclorama, Clark Gable said the only thing needed to
make it better was a representation of him.
However, I'm not so sure  this is what he had in mind. 
Then, we made our way to Inman Park at Stove Works for a tasty tale about street food on wheels.  Yumbii is Atlanta's first and finest food truck, offering an authentic, gourmet fusion of world flavors with a street food twist.  Dubbed "Far Out Food" for its scrumptious blend of Korean, Mexican, and Southern flavors, the hospitable food truck manager gave us awesome soundbites and delicious, free samples of their top dishes.  I had a generous helping of sesame fries with salad, and I must say the would-have-been $3 price tag is well worth it.  Paired with a freezing bottled water and salad, it was the tastiest grub off a food truck I've ever had.  
Our next vendor was The King of Pops.  

Move over ice-cream truck, there's a new sweet treat in town.  And with its handmade popsicles, unconventional flavors, and cute cart guys, all I'm saying is that if I lived in ATL, I'd certainly be stopping by their stand quite often.  

Lastly, we interviewed the WOW! Food Truck owner and sampled her famous arepas and tomato pie.  I especially enjoyed her truck, for she had the most vegetarian-friendly meals around.  

We came hungry, and certainly left happy.   If you find yourself in Atlanta for lunch or dinner and happen to be pinching the pennies, check out the Atlanta Street Food Coalition's website to find out where my favorite trucks will be making a pit stop.  And who knows, as food truck popularity increases in Atlanta, perhaps they'll soon be rolling into Macon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My Mom's In a Magazine

One of the many benefits of working for Good Housekeeping last semester was I gave my family the opportunity to answer surveys with the possibility of having their answers printed in the magazine.  I'd almost forgotten that my mom's clutter-clearing advice was due to appear in the August edition, but lo and behold, Christi Schien's mentioned on page 96 of the feature piece, You've Got (Too Much) Mail.

Under the Move Household Business Online heading, it reads:  Christi Schien, 49, a mom of three in Macon, GA, pays all her bills online.  "We no longer receive monthly bank statements or bills for insurance, utilities, and credit cards," Schien says.  "All the account information we need is stored electronically, which always makes it easier to find."

And following Chuck Junk With Confidence, GH points out: One New York teacher sorts her mail standing up, right next to the recycling can, but Schien does her one better by not letting junk get past the front door.  "I stop by the outside trash can on the way back from getting the mail.  Any obvious junk is never brought into the house," Schien said.

I'm quite proud of my magazine momma.  She's always labeled me as the writer, but her words are what's printed in our favorite monthly while I was just the intern who sat behind the desk.  At least she knows that if accounting gets a little too boring, she can always move to NYC and write for GH.

For more decluttering tips, be sure to check out the latest Good Housekeeping, on stands now.  And remember, the number one mail tip is empty that box!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Review: The Little Women Letters

Book Review:  The Little Women Letters
 by Gabrielle Donnelly

With a new generation of sisters, it explores the imagined lives of Jo March's descendants-three sisters who are thoroughly modern and thoroughly March.  With her older sister planning a wedding and her younger sister launching a career on the London stage, Lulu can't help but feel like the failure of the family.  She wants nothing but the best for her sisters, but finds herself in a rut, wandering from one dead-end job to another, with no romantic prospects in sight. However, when her mother sends her on an errand to the attic, Lulu stumbles upon a collection of letters written by her great-great grandmother, Josephine March.  Jo's letters revisit the Louisa May Alcott's classic, telling of Meg's marriage, Amy's many boyfriends, and  Beth's illness.  Lulu finds guidance by reading the words written so long ago, despite her world being so different from the one that Jo knew.

I absolutely loved this new take on an old classic.  The dialogue really makes the book fantastic-it's sparkling, funny, sweet, and honest.  And like Little Women, the enormous cast of characters are relatable to every reader.  I'd especially suggest it to anyone with a sister; I'm sure the squabbles you'll read will resemble some you've had yourself.  Now that I've finished reading it, I think I'll hand over my worn copy to Becky.  

Unfortunately, I've never finished reading Little Women, so I found myself "forced" to watch the 1949 movie to understand exactly what was going on with the letter flashbacks.  Of course, it really wasn't much of a struggle; with the 1860s period clothing and Elizabeth Taylor as its star it was definitely one I'd wanted to check off my list anyway.  It's Louisa May Alcott's autobiographical account of her life, growing up with her three sisters in Concord, Mass. With their father fighting in the Civil War, Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth are at home with their mother.  The story is of how the sisters grow up, find love and find their place in the world.  Regardless of whether you read the book, if you have a Sunday afternoon to spare, I'd suggest you spend it watching this heartfelt film.

My Rating:  ****

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Saturday at Stone Mountain

I'm sure my super-liberal, ultra-northern professors would cringe if they knew were I spent my Saturday...Stone Mountain, only the most pro-Confederate, Southern celebratory, Robert E. Lee loving location there is.

After a two hour car ride in the pouring rain (complete with my mom's embarrassing car dancing), our
The Family at our "Campsite"
family of five, plus Dalton, paid our entrance into the park and drove down Robert E. Lee Boulevard.  We set up "camp" and spent about an hour roaming the tiny town, Crossroads.  After looking at mountain memorabilia and watching a glass blowing demonstration, Joseph and I decided the funnel cake stand was a must-see and sample attraction.  Then, we walked back to our picnicing place to eat our dinner of cracked pepper turkey sandwiches (or cheese and tomato for me), popcorn, salad, and brownies.  Not too shabby of a meal for coming out of two coolers and a basket.

With a few hours left until the main attraction, Becky and Dalton walked the grounds, while the rest of us cards until the wind blew a few away.  The children "camped" beside us danced to the music blaring over the load speaker and threw a few frisbees.

When 9:30 hit, it was finally dark enough for the Stone Mountain Lasershow Spectacular to begin.  In a matter of moments, thousands of people lounging on the lawn were silenced.  Complete with fireworks and mountainvision images , from start to finish the 45 minute show honored the Georgia way of life.  While music swelled with  "Sweet Southern Comfort," brightly colored images showed good ol' country boys in pickup trucks and belles bellow the Mason-Dixon line drinking Coca-Cola.  Although the show was updated this year for the first time since its opening in 1983, fan favorites like "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," and "Georgia on my Mind" are still included.  I'd say the only downfall to the day was the long line of cars after the show ended (we were stuck in traffic for quite some time) and not getting home until well after midnight.

Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, andJefferson Davis in Laser Form

As I sat beside my mom during the show, she said, "If this doesn't make you proud to be Southern, I don't know what is."  Since I've been back in Middle-Georgia, I've noticed a few more aspects of my mom's life that just exude Southern charm:
1) She never leaves the house unless her clothes are freshly ironed, including when we were going to Stone Mountain to sit outside for seven hours
2) Every room in our house is covered with floral wallpaper (minus Joseph's room)
3) She's forced to abide by the rule "you can put on as much jewelry as you want, but you must take off two pieces before going to work"
4) She uses fancy, decorative napkins every morning for her cup of coffee
5) Her new favorite hobby is making homemade ice-cream every Sunday afternoon, using Paula Deen's recipe of course

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July!

As I'm sure many people realize, July 4th isn't just a day for hot dog eating contests and fireworks.  It's a celebration of freedom; it reminds us of our independence from Great Britain and commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

And, for me, it also brings about family festivities.  This past weekend, my dad and I made the five-hour drive to St. Augustine for my cousin's graduation cookout.  After a spectacular fireworks show on Friday night, my cousins and I spent Saturday grilling chicken, sitting poolside, and listening to stories from our parents' glory days.  I got back to Macon late last night, and my mom and I spent today in the kitchen.

 With our 3 containers of Strawberries, 8 Tomatoes, 2 bags
of grapes,Blackberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, and
Watermelon,  there's no doubting our love
for Fruits and Vegetables.
Since my return to the South, each time I ask my mom for some fruits or veggies from our grocery store, she reluctantly purchases them.  She says July 4th marks the point of perfection on the ripeness scale, so I've been counting down the days until I could have a decent tomato.  So, our first stop on our shopping trip today was to a roadside stand.  For only $8 we bought peaches, blackberry jam and my favorite summer vegetable.  They were the starting ingredient in our dinner dish.  Paired with heavy whipping cream, eggs, swiss cheese, and pie crust, they made the most delicious tomato quiche.  Our Independence Day Dinner also consisted of fruit salad, fried chicken, corn and muffins.  For dessert, I helped Momma make delicious homemade strawberry ice cream, served in red bowls to increase our festivities factor.
Delicious Dinner 
Notice our Patriotic Muffins
I'm a little sad that my long weekend's up, and I'm forced to begrudgingly return to work tomorrow.  I just hope there's something newsworthy to report.  But, for now I think I'll go fix myself another helping of dessert, snuggle with my puppies and finish reading my new book, The Little Women Letters.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Georgia's Gone With the Wind Museum

In preparation for next week's sweeps and in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Gone With the Wind, I spent yesterday in Atlanta touring all things Tara related.  Our first stop was the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife Museum in Fayatteville, GA.  Margaret Mitchell’s grandmother attended the Fayetteville Academy and stayed in the Holliday-Dorsey Fife House when it was used as a dormitory for the students.  In the 1936 book, it alludes to Scarlett attending the school for a year, but quickly returned to Tara because of her flirtatious ways. 

One room was completely related to Scarlett's fashion-Truly Spectacular!  Of course, I've seen the Hollywood classic more times than I can count, and I've repeatedly noticed Vivien Leigh's miniscule waist, but seeing her dress' waistband was crazy.  The true treat was the green curtain dress.  Even though the sign said "Do Not Touch," I couldn't resist running my hand over the velvety sleeves. 

Other memorabilia included an exact replica of the first flag made in Fayette County for the War Between the States as well as movie posters, a Tara model, a beautiful Scarlett O'Hara Madame Alexander doll, and behind the scenes footage from the film-just to name a few.  With admission just costing $5, I'd definitely suggest it to any GWTW fan.   

Newscentral also made the 30 minute car ride to the Margaret Mitchell house.  We shot a standup in front of the gates, but unfortunately the guards wouldn't let us film inside.