Puerto Rico

As I've mentioned a couple times, Doc and I recently traveled to Puerto Rico to celebrate my thirtieth birthday.  It was SO nice!!  We have also been to St. Lucia and Jamaica and I'd say between the three of them, Puerto Rico is the one I'd come back to over and over again.  We were lucky enough to have beautiful weather the whole time we were there. I decided not to pack my big, bulky camera so this vacation recap is coming from iPhone photos.  We got our vacation started off right with margaritas on the plane!

Our room wasn't quite ready when we first arrived, so we headed out to explore the grounds.  We stayed at the Ritz in San Juan and it was right on the beach.  This was our first peak at the beach; we were so excited to be there!

We spent the first afternoon scoping out the place and grabbing some food.  We hung out at the pool (which was huge and gorgeous but I didn't get a picture of it) until it was time for dinner.  In the lobby of our hotel was also a [smoke free] casino which we visited every night after dinner.  Doc likes to play craps and I like to sit at the black jack table.  Thankfully, we made money over the weekend instead of losing it all!

Our first full day (my actual birthday) was spent camped out on the beach, which was good and bad.  Good because the weather was beautiful and it was so nice to just relax, read, and enjoy the beautiful view.  Bad because we are apparently not very good at applying our sunscreen very evenly and we ended up with some nice splotchy sunburns.  I spent about 48 hours thinking the right sides of my legs might burst into flames at any given moment.

There was a grill right off the beach where we were able to grab lunch each day.  This was the view from our table one day.

For my official birthday dinner, we dined at Il Mulino New York, an Italian restaurant that was located in our hotel.  It was delicious!

Since we were nice and crispy, we opted to skip the beach on day two and head into the old town of San Juan to do some exploring.  I took a selfie in the elevator on our way out.

We only had one thing on the agenda for the whole trip and it was to go eat at Cafeteria Mallorca.  So many of Doc's coworkers had told us we had to go there and luckily we were able to find it as soon as the cab dropped us off in the city.

The restaurant was packed but we were able to quickly claim a two-seater table.

I may have panicked a little when I realized most of the menu was in Spanish.  Good thing we already knew what we were supposed to eat there.

This little place is famous for their mallorca with ham and cheese so we ordered up two of them.  Oh my gosh...deeeelisious!!!  It's ham and cheese on a bread that's very light and kinda sweet in flavor and topped with powdered sugar.  I thought it might be similar to a Monte Cristo sandwich but it tastes very different.  It's not heavy and filling at all; it's the perfect amount.  We also ordered two fresh frozen lemonades which were equally as tasty.  Not too frozen, not too liquid.  Not too tart, not too sweet.  Just perfect.

We spent the bulk of the afternoon wandering around the town.  San Juan is sorta like New Orleans, except much more squished together.  Lots of rows of stores laid out on a grid, but you couldn't really tell what was in each store until you were right in front of the door.  Not much window shopping.

These two pictures were taken when we came up to an intersection.  I took one looking right and one looking left.  Straight ahead looked similar too so it was hard to decide which way to go!

You can kinda see in the picture above that at the end of that street was the ocean.  We walked there to enjoy the view.

We didn't have reservations at any of the restaurants for that night, so we ate dinner at the bar in the lobby of the Ritz.  There were a few items from several of the restaurants that you could order from there so it was pretty good.

The next day - our last one there - was spent just like the first one, only instead of sunbathing we huddled under the umbrella.  I was still nursing my sunburns and did not want to make them worse!

We had dinner that evening at BLT Steak, which is another New York restaurant I think.  It's a good thing we ate there last because I probably would've wanted to go back every single night.  It was so good!

And that was about the extent of our vacation.  We had to check out at 11:00 the next morning so we slept in and then packed up and got ready to go.  I already told you about our awful trip home, so we'll just skip that now and leave this vacation on a good note.  It really was an excellent vacation and I can't wait to go back!  Maybe for my birthday again next year, hubby?  Anyone wanna come with us?

Happy Valentine's Day!

A guest post by Doc. [Quick note from Lucy: I apologize for the poor quality pictures in this post.  I keep telling Doc it's time to upgrade his phone.  Maybe seeing these on the computer will finally convince him.  :) ]

I am a pretty lucky guy.  Here you get updated on all of the things going on with our family, our home, our projects, etc.  But, what you don’t see is that on a regular basis I get to do whatever I want.  This Valentine’s Day was one of those days.

My life is generally pretty busy – work (and travel), caring for a family, work around the house, etc.  One of my favorite things to do, and to help me unwind, is to cook.  I don’t mind cooking quick & easy stuff – I do that on a regular basis.  But what I find really rewarding is to prepare a very nice meal.  So, on Valentine’s Day (even though she didn’t know it), Lucy let me take to the kitchen and (try to) work some magic.  Ultimately, this is what we ended up with, but the journey is the fun part – so let me rewind and take you back to the beginning.

I think it is very important to have a clean kitchen before you start and having some pretty things around is a plus.  I gave these to Lucy for Valentine’s Day, and she gave me this advance Father’s Day present in September.


So, here are the things that we started with.  Delta Grind Grits + Half & Half + Chicken Stock + Cheddar Cheese = Awesome Cheese Grits.   4 Colossal Sea Scallops + 1 Prime Filet + 2 Slices of Bacon + Cast Iron Skillet = Awesomeness!


Here is how I made the magic work – and If I say so myself, it was actually a very easy meal to make.  First the cheese grits.  The recipe calls for 2 cups Chicken Stock, 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of water (BOIL THIS TOGETHER) then add 1 cup of Grits and a touch of pepper.  I modified the recipe slightly, and used 2 cups HALF & HALF in lieu of the milk/water, and I added a touch of garlic salt  with the grits as well.  Simmer over low heat for 25 minutes while whisking every couple of minutes.  When fully cooked, add 12oz of cheddar cheese and stir until smooth and the cheese is melted.



As for the proteins – this was actually easier than the grits.  First, I cut the filet in half to get the portions in line for our meal.  I seasoned with a touch of sea salt.  Then, I washed and patted dry the scallops.  Also, it is important to remove the small “foot” on the side (it is very tough after cooked).  I also seasoned with a touch of sea salt.  I cut the pieces of bacon into small strips.



I browned the bacon a touch, then pushed it to the side of the cast iron skillet (don’t want to burn the bacon) and added the filets.  After 4+ minutes I turned the filets and added the scallops.  2.5 minutes on one-side, then I flipped the scallops.



Then, it is just a matter of plating the food.  I put a bed of cheese grits on the plate, set the filet on one side and the scallops on the other.  Then I decorated the grits with some of the bacon.  I served it with a nice drink.  And then we were in heaven.


This little girl is ready to try Dad’s cooking.  See how excited she gets about Rice Cereal.  Can you imagine the smile on her face when she gets to eat Prime Beef Tenderloin and Seared Sea Scallops with Cheese Grits and a Bacon garnish?

[Another note from Lucy: It was aaaaahhhhh-maaaaaa-zing!!!  I'm a lucky, lucky girl.]

Flowerbed Makeover: Phase One

Sorry for the delay in sharing this project - this week has turned into the busiest week ever!  I've finally gotten a chance to sit down tonight and since our cable is currently on the fritz, might as well blog, right? The big project that we knocked out over the past two weekends is a complete flowerbed makeover.  The chosen flowerbed is one I've mentioned on the blog before.  It's in our courtyard and had five large arborvitaes lining the wall of our neighbor's house.  (In our 'hood, each house has windows on only one side.  The other side of the house backs up to the neighbor's "yard" so it's a big blank wall.)  When we moved in, the trees were big and full. The winter of 2010/2011 was harsh on our trees and 2 of them ended up dying a slow death.

This picture isn't the best.  The 3 green trees on the right are the ones that were still healthy.  You can see one shrimpy dead tree on the left of the picture and there's another one on the other side of it.

In April of last year, we dug up the two dead trees and bid them farewell.  At the same time, we did a little rearranging with the two tall trees.  The middle healthy one was dug up and replanted in the far left spot.  The updated flower bed now went tall tree - empty space - tall tree - empty space - tall tree.

Three months later, in July, with the help of Doc's dad Bill, we finally planted two new baby arborvitaes in the empty spaces.  Sure, they were teeny tiny, but we hoped they would take hold and catch up quickly to the adult trees.

Fast forward almost a year later and not only had they not grown an inch, but one of them had gone in the complete opposite direction.

Our flowerbed was starting to look like a hot mess...three tall trees (one of which - the transplanted one - had a bit of a leaning problem), one tiny green tree, and one brown dead-as-a-doornail tree.

Two weeks ago I decided I'd had enough.  I couldn't stand to look at the pathetic trees anymore and wanted them gone.  The only problem was figuring out to do with the flowerbed if we got rid of them all.  The good thing about the tall trees is that they broke up the large expanse of blank wall from our neighbor's house and made our courtyard feel a bit homier.  After a bit of brainstorming, I decided that a tall trellis with vines growing up it would be the perfect replacement.

I pitched my idea to Doc and seemed on board as long as I could come up with plans for it.  I didn't know exactly what I wanted it to look like but I did know one thing for sure - no diagonal lattice!  I did not want something that looked like it belonged in a Country Chapel of Love.

I spent a few minutes on Google searching for trellis designs and eventually found one that I liked and that seemed like it would be easy to build.

So now that you know the backstory and how we got to this point, we'll call Phase One of the Flowerbed Makeover the Planning and Preparing phase.

Step one was to draw out my plans and create a supply list.  I figured our trellis was going to be wider than the one found online (pictured above) so I had to make some slight modifications.

With supply list in hand, we loaded up the kids and headed to Home Depot.

Anna was the official list-checker-offer.

Most people would take their pickup truck to lug home a pile of lumber, but since we don't have a pickup truck, we had to improvise.

In case you've been wondering, yes, you can fit a 16 foot 2x6 in an Audi A6.  Well, most of it anyway.  We added a bright flag to the end that hung out of the trunk.

Anna and I were the lucky ones that got to follow behind the "pickup truck."  We stayed a safe distance back and were ready to swerve at any moment.

We took the pile-o-lumber to my parents' house so we could do all the prep work.  We probably could've done it at our house, but they have more yard pace and the tools live there.

The prep work actually went fairly quickly.  We cut all the boards down to the correct sizes and added pocket holes where necessary.  We only had one angled cut to make.  I just eyeballed it and drew the line where I thought looked best.


Doc was able to cut through both 2x6 boards at the same time so the cuts would match.

With cuts made, there was only one thing left to do in the Planning and Preparing phase and that was to stain the boards.  We bought an outdoor stain that is water resistant so hopefully it will last.  We had to buy a full gallon of it and now have enough left over to stain about 25 decks...let us know if you need some stain!

Since the stain wasn't VOC free, I couldn't participate.  I owe Doc and HUGE thank you for tackling this task.  It was hot, hot, hot outside when he was staining.  We did two coats on all four sides of every board.  There are 25 boards total.  So 25 boards times 4 sides each times 2 coats of stain equals 200 sides that Doc painted.  Thanks, dear!

Believe it or not, this is the only picture I took of the staining process and there's a good chance this one was taken on accident since it's so far away.  You can kinda see the already stained boards leaning up against the fence and others are on the saw horses.

Doc was able to get the first coat done late Saturday afternoon right before the rain came in.  Sunday afternoon he knocked out the second coat and that wrapped up Phase One!

It took two more phases to complete the project.  I'll have the details and pics for you soon.

Merry Christmas!

Isaiah 9:6 - For to us, a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

(Our Christmas card above.)

Merry, merry! Love, Lucy, Doc, Wyatt, and Anna

A Happy Halloween

Raise your hand if you can't believe it's already November.  Mine is up high!  I had a mini freakout when I started receiving emails last week about what I want for Christmas.  It's time for that already?!  Suddenly I feel behind - I haven't even started my shopping yet!  Deep breaths.  We haven't even had Thanksgiving yet. Another successful halloween is in the books.  First, let's start with our kids.  I didn't get to see them in costumes in person, so Doc had to send me a picture.  Wyatt is a dementor (from Harry Potter but I have no idea what that really means) and Anna is a greek goddess, maybe Athena?  I asked Anna who Athena is but I don't think she really even knows...I'm pretty sure the costume was chosen for its cuteness.  Nothing wrong with that!

I have to confess that I was the Halloween scrooge Monday night.  I didn't think I would be at home during our neighborhood's trick-or-treating hours, so I didn't buy any candy.  Then I found myself at home alone with still an hour and a half left to go.  I turned off all the lights and hid in the bedroom.  Lolli barked her head off every time the doorbell rang.  I hate that I missed all the cute trick-or-treaters, but I didn't have anything to give them!

Our church had its annual Trunk or Treat event on Sunday night, so we were able to go see the niece and nephews all dressed up.  Just like on his birthday, Parker dressed up as Spiderman.  I asked him to give me a smile but this is the best I could get.  His lopsided spider eyes cracked me up all night.  I have no idea how he saw anything because they were never lined up with his eyes!

By the time I made it to the church, little Bren had already made the rounds filling up her bag, and parked it in her Mom's trunk to eat all her candy.  I tried every way possible to coax her out to play with me, but she was too busy.  I can't compete with a bag full of candy!  After changing her mind 1,284 times, she ended up as Pinkalicious.

It took me a while to find Jett.  He was off running from trunk to trunk, getting more candy and playing all the games.  Of course, the fact that he was camouflaged didn't make it any easier for me to spot him.

Speaking of games, here's Parker trying to play basketball like the bigger boys.

Ramer made an appearance at Trunk-or-Treat too.

I just now realized I never got a full shot of him in his monster get-up.  Darn.  It was really sunny that day, so most of my pictures look pretty bad.

Go figure that as soon as Ramer arrived, Bren finally hopped out of the car.  I'm not sure that she loved the idea of her Mom holding another baby.

Quick family photo of my brother Ben's family.  There may be more closed eyes than open ones, I can't really tell.

My parents with the youngest grandchildren.  And look, Ramer's waving to the camera!

The other two kids jumped in for a picture, too.

Doc was standing with my two brothers, so I told them to get together for a picture.  Typical guys, they stood about three feet away from each other.  I asked them to get closer - it was even ok if they touched - so I could fit them all in the frame.  So, of course, they gave me this.  I feel like it should be on some kind of awkward family photo website.

I let them have a re-do.  Cause I'm nice like that.

Got one of the girls too!  Except that I look like I need a nap.

And that wraps up our halloween!  How was yours?