Monthly Archives: August 2015

Happy Birthday Nick!

28th August 2015

Today is a special day in the Dillman household! It’s Nick’s birthday! Although he prefers not to make it a big deal, I always love to celebrate a birthday! Either way, it’s important for him to know just how important he is to me and that every year I’m always grateful to know that I get to spend one more year with him as my best friend, travel partner, and husband. Our life so far has been an amazing journey, as we’ve been together since I was 21, so every milestone we check off together is truly amazing. I love you Nick and I’m so glad we get to do birthdays together forever!

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Our Brother Gets Married!

28th August 2015

Amanda’s brother, Tyler, recently married his long time girlfriend in a very intimate ceremony in Wilmington, NC. It was a beautiful day although the rain kept creeping on and off all day. We had beautiful flowers and wonderful homemade crepes to celebrate! It was a sweet day and we’re so happy for Tyler & Erica! Amanda also acted as photographer for the day. It’s not professional quality but she enjoyed it none the less! We wish them all the best and are so happy we were able to be there to celebrate at this beautiful home of their friends!


DSCN0746 DSCN0801DSCN0795 DSCN0832DSCN0843 DSCN0849 Congratulations again to Tyler & Erica! We’re so excited for what the future holds for you two!

Aimlessly wandering in summer 2015

26th August 2015

Summer 2015 has been pretty successful. It always seems like when summer hits, your life just flashes by exponentially. Even though we have longer days they seem to escape you with drinks and dinners outside, trips to the beach and spending time with family. I enjoy all the activities that are at your finger tips but I’m also getting pretty excited for the fall. Here are some glimpses of this summer so far..

Kiawah Island for July 4th weekend:

IMG_0549IMG_1570IMG_1569 IMG_1563 IMG_1562IMG_1560IMG_1561IMG_1550IMG_1537Summer weddings in the country, congratulations again Matt & Melinda!

IMG_1627Spontaneous trips to the Angus Barn with friends on a random Sunday night, including ordering two bottles of red wine and great conversation..

IMG_1636Visiting the beach I spent every summer growing up on.. I still enjoy visiting Topsail Island:

IMG_1650Leisurely brunches spent outside in the sunshine at Joule Coffee in downtown Raleigh:

IMG_1670Visiting Nick’s mom at the lake with our aunts, cousins and grandparents at “Camp Gigi”:

IMG_1771Concerts in downtown Raleigh on a decently cool evening in August:


Nick was able to go out to Washington to work the 2015 US Open (for golf) and rumor has it, it is very beautiful out there and we must travel back and visit Seattle:

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Summer days spent playing golf too at Lonnie Poole:


How’s your summer looked so far? Any fun things that have happened? That you want to still do before it comes to an end? Let us know!

Julia Child’s Chocolate Mousse

24th August 2015

I love sweets. I have a terrible sweet tooth. Nick on the other hand, does not. So normally if I want sweets, it’s just for me and that’s no fun! The other night we had friends over for dinner so it was the perfect opportunity for me to explore dessert options. I settled on chocolate mousse because I love chocolate mousse and it seemed relatively easy.

I used the David Lebovitz instructions to make my mousse. Make sure you do have a little time ahead of any occasion to make this mousse as it needs to sit at least four hours and will hold for around 4 days.


As with any recipe you make that may call for chocolate, wine, rum, etc. it’s always in your best interest to go with a nicer quality product. If you wouldn’t buy it to drink or eat it, don’t use it in your cooking. So even though the nicer chocolate is more expensive, it’ll be worth it in the end. David recommended chocolate by Green & Black, so I did as told!


It’s a magical site to see that beautiful chocolate melt, especially once you add the stick and a half of butter.. yes a stick and a half.



Is it weird that I love how beautiful beaten egg whites look? Just like a fluffy cloud, and they taste that way too. MMMmmm!


After I finished the recipe I poured the batter into individual ramekins and went ahead and plated it so that I could just pull them out of the fridge and serve! It definitely takes a step out of the process while you’re entertaining. Not to mention, fresh blackberries go fantastic with chocolate!

Bon appetit!


Chocolate Mousse via David Lebovitz
Six to eight servings

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Knopf) by Julia Child.

  • 6 ounces (170g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 ounces (170g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) dark-brewed coffee
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cup (170g), plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) dark rum
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat a saucepan one-third full with hot water, and in a bowl set on top, melt together the chocolate, butter and coffee, stirring over the barely simmering water, until smooth. Remove from heat.

2. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.

3. In a bowl large enough to nest securely on the saucepan of simmering water, whisk the yolks of the eggs with the 2/3 cup of sugar, rum, and water for about 3 minutes until the mixture is thick, like runny mayonnaise. (You can also use a handheld electric mixer.)

3. Remove from heat and place the bowl of whipped egg yolks within the bowl of ice water and beat until cool and thick, as shown in the photo above. Then fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks.

4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until frothy. Continue to beat until they start to hold their shape. Whip in the tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat until thick and shiny, but not completely stiff, then the vanilla.

5. Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder of the whites just until incorporated, but don’t overdo it or the mousse will lose volume.

6. Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl or divide into serving dishes, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm. (And up to 4 days.)



18th August 2015

Some exciting this happened this past week in the life of the Dillmans. We traded in Nick’s car for a 2016 Subaru Forester and we are so excited to see where this Subaru life takes us! With only 100 miles on the odometer we have quiet the life ahead with our Forester.

Before we had a 2003 Nissan Xterra and it was high time to say goodbye. Although we have two car payments for a couple of months with my Honda Accord, we needed to make the change.

We feel SO excited about this change and want to thank Johnson Subaru of Cary for helping us find the perfect car for our family, for now and for the future!





Super happy to be part of the #subarufamily


Summer 2k15 – Chicago Part 4

17th August 2015

Our final day was a quick one as our flight out of Chicago was at 3:00. We decided to take advantage of having a few hours though, and using our final Explorer Pass admission and headed towards the Chicago History Museum near Lincoln Park. The museum was really great. We took a docent tour and learned some neat facts about the history of Chicago.  They also had a Lincoln exhibit but we were unable to wander around due to an event. I definitely recommend checking out the museum at least once. It was quite informative!

One of the other great parts of visiting the museum was the walk to the museum where Chicago’s Brownstone game was seriously on point. I mean look at these two houses, can I just move right in?! Chicago is definitely a city I’d love to live in, and every time I’m there I’m reminded why!



After visiting the museum we headed for our last meal in Chicago. I’m not a huge fan of deep dish pizza but I knew mom had to try some before she left so that we covered all the bases on Chicago staple food. There was a Lou Malnati’s on the way back to the hotel so we stopped in and order two personal deep dish pizzas! I really can’t think of any better ways to end our trip to Chicago. I think mom was impressed as I tried to show her some of the best of Chicago, but there’s always more to explore and that’s why I love going back!


Cheers y’all!

Summer 2k15 – Chicago Part 3

13th August 2015

Day 3 in Chicago was pretty laid back. We wandered around the Mag Mile again and were able to stumble upon Eataly, Mario Batali’s venture to unite the world over amazing Italian food, products and cooking through our love for food. In Chicago, it’s a two story mega-store with cafes, cooking classes, wine, gadgets and amazing cheeses and meats of course! We didn’t spend too much time because you can spend too much time! I do wish we had one in our city because it’s a great opportunity to get products you might night be able to find elsewhere and to snag some really great meats and cheeses for all the wine nights you have!


After shopping we headed to The Purple Pig to grab some lunch with my aunt. The Purple Pig is described as “Adventurous small plates plus house-cured meats & a lengthy wine list in small, lively quarters.” It accurately lives up to this description for sure! We dined on beets with goat cheese, meatballs, the “JLT” with pork jowl, octopus with green beans and many other yummy small plates. As it states, cheese, swine and wine, and it is just that. It’s a great place to go any time of day but you’ll be sitting at communal tables so make sure you’re ok with that.


Photo via The Purple Pig Facebook Page

The Purple Pig is conveniently located off the Mag Mile and just a skip from the river making it the perfect lunch spot for visiting Chicago. So naturally after lunch we used our Explorer Pass again and took the iconic Chicago Architecture Tour. The architecture tour is one of my favorites in Chicago. I always love learning about history and what makes up the Chicago skyline. Plus you may notice a lot of buildings from certain movies, such as Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon where they completely destroy Chicago.. shame! The tour really allows you some beautiful views of Chicago, and there are even cocktails on board. What’s not to like?! I’ll let you be the judge by the photos below!





The Sears (Willis) Tower - where Hubby & I were engaged!

The Sears (Willis) Tower – where Hubby & I were engaged!





The Architecture tour is so fun and the views are just incredible. I simply love Chicago if you cannot tell. It’s even better in the summertime when you have gorgeous blue skies and no snow!

After our tour we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and take an Uber to Wickerpark/Bucktown area to grab some delish tacos at BigStar! BigStar is one of the places you HAVE to visit and since it’s still super hip there is always a wait, and it’s always busy. It’s located in one of the most fun neighborhoods in Chicago (I think) and it has great shopping, restaurants and bars to visit and just a few miles outside of Chicago. But back to talking about tacos from BigStar… The guac! The margs! Taco de Panza! It’s all so yummy and they’re even open late night. They have great outdoor seating and just a great vibe all together. I HIGHLY recommend visiting!


Post dinner, it was time for some drinks. If there is one place to go on your last night in Chicago (without having already visited the Signature Room) it’s Three Dots and a Dash. A totally unique bar, with equally unique drinks. One walk down the alley and you’ll think you’ve taken a wrong turn and once you head down stairs, you’ve definitely taken a turn to the South Pacific. Three Dots and a Dash is named after Morse code giving homage to their Polynesian past and contains epic rum drinks in unique tiki glasses. If you’re visiting with a group, go for the Treasure Chest No. 3 complete with a bottle of Dom Perignon and serves 6-8. Otherwise, any of their cocktails are great! This is such a fun spot and I definitely recommend it to visitors of Chicago.



After Three dots, it was time to hit the hay. We had our last full day in Chicago, and tomorrow we were heading home, but not without one more stop with our Explorer Pass!

Summer 2k15 – Chicago Part 2

11th August 2015

Day 2 in Chicago has a forecast that didn’t look too promising. Possibly rain, so we decided this was the perfect day to visit the Art Institute and get a Chicago dog. We took a leisurely stroll down the Mag Mile (popping into shops that interested us) and headed to Portillo’s for lunch. Portillo’s is famous for the Italian Beef’s and Chicago dogs, so naturally we ordered one of each so mom could try them out. She almost ordered a hot dog with chili and IMMEDIATELY had to stop her! We were in CHICAGO after all!! The Chicago dog, did not disappoint. I recommend Portillo’s because it’s a cheap and easy lunch and you get to try some Chicago icons. I wouldn’t claim it’s the “best” of anything because I don’t have much to compare it to, but a tasty lunch that’s inexpensive and fast is always a good thing!


After lunch we headed downtown towards the Art Institute. We had heard great things about the recently opened, Chicago Athletic Association, and since it was located across from the Art Institute we decided to check it out. The Chicago Athletic Association is actually the old Athletic Association that used to be men’s only. It was used for swimming and working out among being a place for men to gather and let off some steam. Now it has been renovated into a hotel with a vintage yet modern vibe. It pays homage to the past of the building, with pummel horses as foot stools, bocce ball in the bar, and staff dressed like a blast from the past. The bars are all open to the public. The 2nd story bar has indoor games, a beautiful fire place, and a great bar and area to relax. Apparently it has great food too! However, one of the best places in the hotel is the rooftop bar, Cindy’s. It’s beautifully decorated, has amazing cocktails but has a killer view of lake Michigan, the Art Institute and Millennium park. You can even see the Shedd Aquarium and Soldier field! It’s a great place to gather with friends, and the environment of the hotel is quite spectacular so I HIGHLY recommend you check out the hotel if you have a chance!










Post Chicago Athletic Association we headed over to one of the best art museums in the country! I love this museum as it has wonderful artists, sculptures and amazing views too! It even has a fantastic restaurant (I’ve visited previously). If you’re in need of only ONE museum to visit in Chicago, stop at the Art Institute, you won’t regret it.


The Art Institute is also conveniently located next to Millennium Park and has amazing views of the park and also an incredible bridge connecting them both. After the museum closed (at 5pm) we wandered around Millennium Park, taking selfies in the Bean and walking through the gorgeous landscaping! I’ve always wanted to see a concert in Millennium Park, so I’ll add that to my bucket list for future visits to Chicago!






Walking around the city is exhausting but wonderful at the same time. Whenever I visit a city I try not to pack TOO much into the day because you’re going to get tired and need to relax. So after our day out and about we headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner at a hip and new spot near our hotel. It’s called Nico Osteria, and is managed by One Off Hospitality Group (who manage some of the BEST of Chicago, ie: Big Star, The Publican, Avec…) So naturally it had to be good! Nico is an Italian-inspired seafood restaurant with amazing fresh pastas, crudos, and of course seafood. They’re open for breakfast, lunch and dinner so I highly recommend visiting for any of these occasions.  We went for dinner and had the crudo sampler, roast chicken and the rigantoni. It was delish!! The atmosphere is outstanding and on a beautiful day I recommend nabbing a table outside. This is a definite must visit on your trip to Chicago!



Do you have any must visits to eat at when you visit Chicago?!

Summer 2k15 – Chicago, Part 1

7th August 2015

When your hotel in Chicago is on the Magnificent Mile and your flight is arriving at night, there’s only one thing to do for a first timer visiting Chicago, take them to the Signature Room and visit the Lounge for drinks! The Signature Lounge is on the 96th floor of the Hancock building with the most amazing views of Chicago (the best, being from the ladies room). Our hotel, the Whitehall, was a three minute walk across the block and we were there. We arrived around 9pm on Saturday night and had a small wait but scored a table for two next to the window. We couldn’t have been more giddy to end up with this spot. Although the drinks are anywhere from $10-$16 for wines and cocktails, the price is worth it for the view that is so iconic. I recommend anyone stop by, day or night, as you will be guaranteed a great view, and a drink is just an added perk!

IMG_1410The next day it was time to explore Chicago! It was a Sunday so we decided to take a Divvy bike down the lake shore and headed to Seven Lions for brunch. The ride was pretty hot and humid. We were pretty sweaty by the end but it is such a beautiful ride down the shore and around Millennium Park. Divvy bikes are great from getting from point A to point B but they are not for leisurely strolls as you have to check your bike in every 30 minutes. But I do recommend them for getting to locations quickly and using a different form of transportation that many cities aren’t as lucky to institute.

(P.S. both of these photos were taken while biking, and is not as easy as it would seem! Use extreme caution!)



Once we got to Seven Lions we cooled down with cocktails before noon (take THAT North Carolina!) and it was a basic brunch spot with all your classics and conveniently located across the Art Institute. Although there are SO many good brunch spots in Chicago, my mom isn’t the most adventurous so we chose Seven Lions (I highly recommend The Publican!). We did have a gorgeous “green eggs and ham” and a delicious bacon eclair!



Post brunch it was time to explore the city. Before we left we purchased the Chicago “Choose 4” Explorer pass through Costco because they had the best price. For $70 you had access to four major attractions in Chicago. One of these included the Art Institute and a Architecture Cruise, two MUST do’s upon visiting Chicago. Together these two attractions cost around $60 for ONE adult, so it was a no-brainer to get the pass and have access to two more attractions.

Since we were graced with a beautiful day we looked for something outside that we could do. We decided to save the Architecture tour for another day, and settled on trying the Tall Windy Ship, with an hour sail on Lake Michigan. Setting sail from Navy Pier makes you think it could be really cheesy and the pirate dressed crew lends to this a bit but honestly, the ship is beautiful and to sail on the lake with the skyline in the background is so relaxing and it’s such a fun experience on a beautiful day. The pirate clad crew even gave lessons on important maritime facts of Lake Michigan, like the fact that there were REAL pirates on the lake! Who knew?! I’d definitely recommend a trip on Tall Ship Windy, she’s a beautiful ship and it was a nice way to view Chicago.



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After our tour we headed back to the hotel to change and get ready to meet our family for some pizza at Parlor Pizza Bar, and enjoy our first day in Chicago. It was a great first day with beautiful views and tired feet! Stay tuned for more!

Summer 2k15 – Chicago, the details

5th August 2015

“Eventually, I think Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world.”
Frank Lloyd Wright
Nick and I have a supreme love for Chicago. Nick’s family is from outside of Chicago and he has an Aunt and an Uncle that currently reside in the great city, so we have a family connection. But we also have a culinary love, architectural appreciation and a shopping addiction.
We even got engaged atop the Sears (Willis) Tower in the summer of 2011, so naturally we will always be attached to the city, but it is truly magical! It is relaxed paced city considering it’s so large, but the river and the lake make it so beautiful. It feels like you’re next to an ocean and you can even swim on the shores with the Hancock shadowing your body as you tan.
This summer I decided to show my mom finally what Chicago was all about! #girlstrip
Chicago is an easy trip from Raleigh and this summer, it has been a CHEAP trip! Between $100-$200 round trip! Unheard of really, but I love my weekly emails from Airfare Watchdog and Travelzoo (I recommend you sign up for both, usually my weapon for scoring awesome deals!) We paid $132 R/T on American Airlines (my personal favorite, so I don’t mind racking up miles!) But numerous airlines fly into the two Chicago airports, O’hare and Midway, normally non-stop but some with a connection. I’ve flown into both airports and O’hare is definitely a giant! It does have great food options though if your flight is delayed. Midway has been recently renovated and I’ve had great experiences there. The one thing that definitely sets them apart is the Blue Line that goes directly into O’hare making it cheap and easy to get to and from the city. You could also take a cab or an Uber. We took an Uber from the city to the airport and it was about an hour travel time, and around a $35 trip. Not too shabby!
Hotels are plenty, but finding a good price has been a little more difficult this summer. We booked one of the original boutique hotels, The Whitehall, for around $170 per night for a king bed. We had a very large room with an amazing view of the Water Tower and Hancock, right off the Magnificent Mile. We stayed on the North side of the Mile, which is a great location. I’ve stayed here before and next time I’d like to consider being closer to the loop, but as far as selecting a hotel in Chicago for location, we’d highly recommend the Whitehall hotel! (Plus I trust my fellow traveler reviews on TripAdvisor).
The ease of accessing Chicago with two great airports, super easy public transportation, great food, culture and shopping make this city an excellent choice for a quick weekend getaway or even a longer trip. It’s great for couples, families and friends! Depending on what you like to do, there are plenty of options. Stay tuned for how I showed my mom one of my favorite cities in four days!