Dec 29, 2012

{A Snowy Indiana Drive…}

We got the best snow last night and a supposed “blizzard” two days ago.  Last night, after dinner, it started snowing and the flakes were the size of silver dollars, and beautiful.  After a day of fort building, Justin took us on a snowy Indiana drive so I could photograph some of my favorite Indiana places to share with you all!  I hope you all enjoy the sights…










I even had my crew with me…


Be Well,

{Our Favorite “Not a Chain” Restaurants} Traders Point Creamery–The Loft

Indiana isn’t really known for its fine dining.  Actually, Indianapolis has a pretty strong reputation for being the chain restaurant capital of the country.  Anyone living here knows exactly what I’m talking about.  After moving from Chicago, it was quite an adjustment for the both of us.  But, if you dig a little deeper, we think you will find some pretty amazing places to eat.

Justin and I have lived in the suburbs of Indianapolis for about nine years, now.  Our current neighborhood is kind of out in the country, but close enough to the things you need on a regular basis like groceries and gas stations.  There are plenty of kids for “The Kid” to play with, and we have a neighborhood pool for summer swimming.  Our neighborhood has block parties for the Fourth of July, Halloween, and adult parties for Christmas, New Years, and St. Patrick’s day.  It’s a good place to be.  We often say that we’ve hit the lottery.

Recently, we’ve been on a mission to find restaurants that support local farmers, serve real and tasty food, and are not chain restaurants in Indianapolis.  We’ve found a few we would like to share with you.  Some that we’re sure you’ve frequented, but we’re hoping there a few here in this series that may open up a new experience for you.

To kick off our favorite “Not a Chain” restaurant in Indiana feature series is Traders Point Creamery’s The Loft Restaurant and Dairy Bar.  Located in Zionsville, Indiana, which is about 20 minutes from downtown, 10 minutes from Carmel, and 5 minutes from downtown Zionsville. 



The owners of TPC, Jane and Fritz, “started the farm to reconnect farmers and consumers by producing the most healthful products possible, educating the community about farming and nutrition, and by promoting a community of local food and sustainable farming.”


TPC offers delicious organic and grass-fed delights such as their divine cheese plates which include their creamy Framage Blanc, Herb, and Spicy, and their gouda/cheddar with crostini, grapes, and apple slices.


They offer a great lunch menu, and a Sunday brunch, as well as delicious dinner offerings.  Honestly, we love TPC for dinner when we want to be treated with something special.  The Loft Restaurant’s décor is rustic, with simple and casual touches such as Ball jar drinking glasses and glass milk jug flower vases. And at this time of year, they have a beautiful white pine Christmas tree decorated with white and colored lights, and red ribbons, which stands by the “Dairy Bar” overlooking their cheese room.





What did we have?

We of course started with the cheese plate.  I had a glass of Tiamo Pinot Grigio organic wine.  Justin had a glass of his favorite beer;Three Floyds Gumballhead from Munster, IN.

2011 Organic Pinot Grigio, Veneto, Italy

I had a grass-fed Filet Mignon cooked perfectly to medium with roasted brussel sprouts and broccoli.  Justin had the same, but his filets were split and then smothered in a whiskey peppercorn cream sauce and a béarnaise sauce, with sides of roasted root veggies. Both meals were simple, tasted like real food, and were delicious.  Sorry…we don’t have food pictures, we were too busy stuffing our faces!

We topped off our dinner with servings of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, while live music played in the background.  It was a perfect meal.

If you get a chance, and are ever near Zionsville, I would recommend The Loft.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. 

Tip: Wear your boots…it’s a real working farm, and real working farms are muddy.

Be Well,





Disclosure: We paid for our entire meal and got nothing from TPC for this review.  We are fans of the restaurant, and just want to share with our readers {A Charming Nest}’s opinion. 

Dec 21, 2012

{Happy Holidays}

We’re officially on vacation.  Two weeks of nothing besides family, fun, and festivities (F3).

happy holidays

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays and the healthiest of new years, and hoping you all have the time to enjoy the greatest gifts of all: each other.

Be Well,

Dec 16, 2012


As I sit here, tonight, I realize that it’s unlike any other Sunday I’ve experienced.  Although, I’ve done the usual stuff.  Made dinner for my family.  Graded papers.  Looked over the tests my students took on Friday.  Agonized over the ones that didn’t do so well.  How am I going to fit “re-teaching” in this week? I’ve got a few that need it, and we’re out on break on Friday.  I’ve graded my college students’ last papers and submitted their final grades.  Answered a few emails.   But I’ve realized, I’m just going through the motions.

Why is it so different tonight?  My heart is broken.  You see, for all you who aren’t educators, I want you to know what we (teachers) really do.  Yes, we grade papers.  And of course, we teach kids. But we also talk to them.  We laugh with them.  And mostly; we worry.  About the kid who is crying in the hall.  Who said what?  Who was mean?  About the kid who doesn’t turn in his work…ever.  Why?   Who is at home helping him?  All kids need help.  About the stories they tell us; the good and bad.  The list goes on and on.

We teachers share our lives. And it’s all consuming.  For most teachers, it’s not just what we do, it’s who we are. 

During my first year teaching, I had a rough day, and I wanted to go home and never come back.   Standing at the copy machine with my head in my hands, and tears in my eyes, a wise mentor teacher said to me, “Those kids who demand your attention the most, need your attention the most.”  She was right.  

So, tonight I’m reflecting.  And I’ve been very emotional.  I haven’t watched one news report.  We’ve kept the TV off and we’ve listened to Christmas music.  “The kid” has been reading, making books, coloring, and I’ve loved watching him.  He gets his little Ikea table and chair, brings it to the family room and pulls his workbooks out and says, “Teach me, mama.”  It makes me smile.

I don’t know how to handle things at times, and I just try to make good decisions and do the right thing.  Most of the time.  And with this, I’ve had a hard time wrapping my mind around it all.  Actually, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher.  Or because there isn’t a day that I don’t think about things like this.  I’m just not very strong, I think.  I keep telling myself, that this isn’t really about me.  It’s really about them.  The kids. 

So, I’ve got two goals for my school day, tomorrow:

1. To keep my shit together.
2. To make sure every kid knows I love and care about them. 

It won’t be unlike any other day, just a little more difficult than usual.  And with that, I do know this about my fellow colleagues.  We love your kids.  We think your kids are great.  We feel it is an honor to be their teacher, as we know we have become an extension of your family.  When they are with us, they are in our care and we take it very seriously.  We will protect them the best we can and try to keep them from danger.  Your child’s safety is our first priority and it trumps everything else.

We now have 26 angels.  And they, along with their families and the people of Newtown, are in my prayers.  

Love each other.  Hold each other.  Lift each other up.  Give your kids an extra squeeze.  I hope you all are finding peace.


Be Well,

Dec 9, 2012

{Beef Stew with Carrots and Parsnips}

I haven’t been eating potatoes.  Actually, I haven’t been eating anything white, lately.  No flour, no sugar, no potatoes.  It’s been okay, and I certainly feel better, and I’ve lost twenty pounds! 

Okay, vegetarians look away now.  Please do not send me hate mail.  I love you.

We also purchased 80lbs of meat (chicken, beef, and pork) from Honored Prairie which is a collection of family farms that have formed a co-op of sorts, and where people can order their products online.

Honored Prairie Header

What I like about it:

  • The animals are free range.
  • The cows are grass fed.
  • The animals are not pumped with chemicals – which I feel good about eating and feeding to my family. 
  • The cows are allowed to be cows and do cow things. 
  • The pigs are allowed to be pigs and do pig things. 
  • The chickens are allowed to be chickens and do chicken things. 
  • We ordered what we wanted online and went it picked it up at one of their pre-arranged pick up locations on the date specified. 
  • It was super easy and I promise we will do it again! 

We wrote a check and drove off with about 80lbs of meat to fill our deep freezer!

We’ve made lots of good things…

Egg and sausage muffin cups (with eggs from a local farm and our Honored Prairie ground breakfast sausage)
Round steak with sautéed mushrooms
Tacos with Jicama shells (I’ll post that recipe, soon!)
Classic Pot Roast with carrots and sweet potatoes

And this tasty recipe we put together with the extra hour we got on Daylight Savings Fall Back Day (not really a holiday, but when someone gives me the gift of time, it’s a holiday in my book!)…

Beef Stew with Carrots and Parsnips

1lb of chunked Stew Beef (mine was free range, grass fed, and delicious)
4 medium parsnips (peeled and chunked into 1/2 inch cubes)
4 medium carrots (peeled and chunked just like the parsnips)
1 sliced leek
1 1/2 cups of a mirepoix mixture (diced onion, celery, and carrots)
1/2 box of a gluten free chicken stock
1/2 gallon of vegetable juice
2 tbsp of olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Brown your chunked stew beef in 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a stock pot.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
2. While the meat is browning, you will need to peel and dice the turnips and carrots.
3. Once browned, remove the meat and place to the side (you will add this back in later).
4. Add the second tablespoon of the olive oil, and then add your mirepoix mix and leek.  (I used a half package  of frozen leeks from Trader Joes.)  Add salt and pepper to taste.
5.  Sweat the veggies until tender (but not browned) for about 7-10 minutes.
6.  Pour in half a container of the chicken stock and half of the gallon of vegetable juice.
7.  Add the meat back into the pot with the broth and veggies.
8.  Add the diced turnips and carrots.
9.  Bring to the boil and lower the temp to medium/low for about one and a half hours.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

When it’s done, the meat will be fall apart tender.  The carrots and parsnips will be tender to the touch of a fork.  And the mirepoix and leeks will dissolve into the soup making a very flavorful broth/sauce for the stew.

This all happened by accident.  We didn’t know what to expect.  I’ve never used parsnips…and I have to say I love them.  There is a hint of tangy zip, with a slight cinnamon undertone – which I think comes from the parsnips.  Delish.  All of this joy even without potatoes…that’s the best part!

And unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures…it all went too fast.  You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Next up…an experiment with grass fed and free range short ribs. 

Also, in the works…a focus on some of our favorite restaurants.  It’ll be so good.