Wednesday, December 30, 2009

my closet beckons

and it's saying "cleeeean meee...." "ooorganiiize meee...." "loooveee meee."
My closet was drop.dead.gorgeous. in the summer, somewhat tidy in the fall and a complete disaster when I brought my sweaters and boots out. The biggest issue was that I kept having to pack for different occasions and I wouldn't want to unpack for...weeks. Then, while reaching up high to get down a pair of shoes, I bumped the light in my closet and it went out. I don't know how I've survived the last few weeks. Basically, I reach into the black hole and pull something out, and if I don't like it then I throw it on the closet floor. It's a very mature situation.

I have been begging my husband to fix the light for quite some time *ahem* and he finally got around to it yesterday. Hallelujah! I now know what I will be doing next Sunday when I'm back in town. I'm both scared and excited to see what I will discover in there.

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Year's resolutions

1. complete a 40 day mission titled "the Maker's Diet." it's miserable at first, but it's how I lost 9 lbs for my wedding. sadly this means I will not be joining Julie in her $2500/year budget plan, but I promise to start spending $48 a week (2500/52) as soon as the diet is over. It would be too stressful to try to hit $48 a week when having to buy all organic!

2. read a book every two weeks

3. walk 3 miles a day (edited from 10,000 steps four days a week). This one keeps changing because I'm still figuring out what makes sense/what I can handle for my lifestyle.

4. get published in a nationally read magazine

5. take a vacation with *just* andy

What are your goals for 2010? Please share!

I made my mom's killer meatball chowder for dinner. You place 2 Tbsp flour, one beef bouillon cube or one Tbsp beef bouillon, 3/4 Tbsp salt and 2 Tsp pepper in a 5qt pot and turn to high heat. Add 3 cups of water and stir ingredients until boiling. Add 1 lb of red potatoes (chopped into bite sized pieces) and 1.5 lbs of meatballs (if frozen, heat in microwave or oven before adding to soup). Let simmer for 25 minutes. Add 2 cups of half and half (or 1 1/4 cup heavy cream and 3/4 cup skim milk) as well as one bag of frozen peas. Continue simmering for an additional five minutes, then serve.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas meltdown

I had a meltdown last night that measured about a 6.7 on the richter scale. See chart for details.
I was beginning to feel the effect of an upcoming monthly cycle and had received about 5 hours of sleep in the last 48 hours, yet I was surprisingly chipper and pleasant for Christmas day.  
Then the clock struck 11pm and I LOST IT.  

Andy had just put in his new video game and was getting ready to start playing when I decided that I wanted us to go to bed NOW and while I understood his desire to play he had better get his butt upstairs!  My poor husband. One minute I'm snuggly and flirty and cute in my new Christmas nightgown and the next minute I'm half screaming/half sobbing in a crumple on the bathroom floor.  I said a few things and he said he wasn't going to put up with that and I said I'm sorry can you please just hold me I haven't gotten any sleep and I'm cramping and I just need you to be supportive and he said BUT I DONT KNOW WHO YOU ARE RIGHT NOW and I said THIS IS THE WORST CHRISTMAS EVER and we sat on the couch and listened to my tears until his arms reached over and pulled me towards him and he kissed my soaking wet face.  It ended up being a lovely Christmas, just as it had been all along minus that pitiful half an hour of absurdity.  

I slept until 10 and had big plans to start the day with a shopping trip to Kohls, but then a huge dollop of Dove shampoo landed in my eye during my shower and the screaming and sobbing started all over again.  I really thought I had gone blind in my right eye and there was no one around to help me.  Somehow I managed to finish my shower and I ran straight back to bed and held a washcloth over my eye and went back to sleep until noon.  

Good news: not blind.  I got my contacts in with minor pain and bought soft black pajama pants and a decorative pillow that I have no use for now but hope to someday.  If you scroll down it's the round one, and isn't it adorable?  

Christmas was wonderful.  On Christmas Eve we saw "Up in the Air," which was fabulous, though rather disconcerting.  Andy and I exchanged our stockings and gifts on Christmas morning and then went to his mom's for the afternoon.  Andy did a great job getting me what I had asked for, as well as one surprise gift: he noticed I had put a book in my Amazon.com cart and hadn't bought it yet, so he got that for me.  Sly one! My favorite gift was 3 bird hooks from UO that I had asked for.  I now own seven "bird things" and my friends think I'm becoming a scary bird lady.  It's not an obsession, I swear!  I like to call it an "interest."  I don't own real birds, so I can't be that creepy...or can I?  One of these days I'll take pics of my bird things and then you can judge me.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I'm in love with a woman. and her family. and her dogs.

Dooce.com.  'nuff said.

but I can't really stop there, so here it is:

a few months ago Andy and I were dreaming aloud about our future and I said, "one of these days this bed is going to have little kids in it and we're going to look at each other and smile and think, wow, we made this."  and then I read the following in Heather's blog, which just about killed me because it's so exactly what I picture.

This morning I looked over at Jon and said, well, this is our life. Our Every Day Starts At 6AM Life, our Hit The Ground Running At 6AM Life, and as Leta made faces to make Marlo giggle, and Coco whined longingly in her crate to be let out,please let me out, you're having all that fun without me, we both laughed at the ridiculousness of it. Because as bad as it might sound, it's just so incredibly awesome.

I love everything about dooce.com, but what I like most is that Heather is completely herself.  She writes the way she thinks and feels and speaks.  I like that she writes BIG LETTERS, because I'm afraid of using them (some people get annoyed easily by the shouting that THIS suggests).  You know what?  I'm not going to be afraid to write the way I feel anymore. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

last dinner party of the year!

What could possibly be better than homemade whipped cream?  Homemade whipped cream with instant coffee added to it.  OMG I can't stop thinking about how good it is.

Tonight Andy and I had two of our neighbors over for dinner.  I made garlic parmesan chicken with sour cream and chive mashed potatoes and my fav. green beans (see recipe in previous post).  I was so pleased with how everything turned out and enjoyed wowing them with my dessert: rich chocolate cake with french vanilla whipped cream.  I made two round cakes and layered the whipped cream in between and on top.  It was out of control.

Homemade whipped cream is super easy. I whipped a pint of heavy whipping cream with 2 1/2 tablespoons of sugar. You can stop there and it's fabulous, but I wanted to try a coffee flavor.  I boiled 4 tablespoons of water, added 4 tablespoons of instant french vanilla coffee, stirred and let it cool.  Then I whipped it into the cream until it was evenly distributed.  Absolutely amazing. 

BIG NEWS: Andy's sister Melissa is having a baby!  She is three months pregnant and has kept it a secret all this time.  I can't wait to see her on Christmas and hear all about it!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Meal planning

A meal/menu planner makes a great bridal shower gift and is SO useful.  If you're the kind of person that over-buys at the grocery store, planning exactly what you're going to make for the upcoming week makes sticking to a list much easier.  I'll admit I haven't used my meal planner in a while, but I'm ready to get back into it!  

My method:  I go through a stack of recipes and write down any ingredients that I don't already have.  One thing you have to be careful about is using more than recipe that uses the same at-home ingredient- like milk or eggs. Make sure you have enough before hitting the store.  Every now and then when I'm feeling extra organized I will re-write my list so it goes "produce, aisle products, meat, dairy" and on the side of each ingredient I might note which recipe I'm using it for.  This print-out meal planner/grocery list would work just as easily!

In the future I plan to have a specific day where I blog about my meal plans for the week.  This month has been very different than most because we've been eating out of our pantry and freezer more than we usually do.  I have about $25 left to spend on groceries for December.  The budget challenge is much harder than I thought because while we are not exactly running out of food, I'm a little sick of soup, tuna and spaghetti noodles.  It's worth it, though!  There is a lot of pride in saving money.

I just found this website and I'm excited to try out some of the recipes listed, especially the recipe for Pizza Hut Breadsticks!  You can find it using the search bar.  

a few recipes I adore

Taco Salad
1 lb. ground beef, 1 pkg. taco seasoning mix, 2 tomatoes (I omit these), 1 head lettuce, 1 small onion chopped, 4 oz. grated cheddar cheese, 1 large bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos, 1 1/2 bottles Catalina salad dressing

Brown ground beef, drain and add taco seasoning mix. In a large bowl mix lettuce, tomatoes, onion and grated cheese. Add meat and chips and mix thoroughly. Mix in dressing right before serving.

Cornflake Chicken
this dish is popular with everyone, and it pairs perfectly with whipped cream potatoes!
4 boneless chicken breasts, 1 cup crushed cornflakes, 1 pkg dry ranch dressing, 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, 1/2 stick melted butter.

Place cornflakes, ranch and cheese in a shallow bowl and melted butter in another. Coat chicken in butter first, then in cornflake mixture. Bake at 325 for 1 hour. I've put the above potatoes in for the same time and temp.


Whipped Cream Potatoes
4 boiled and grated potatoes or 2 bags of "Simply Potatoes" from refrigerator section, 3/4 stick of butter, 1/2 pint of half and half or whipping cream, salt and pepper.

Place 2 shredded potatoes or 1 bag of pre-shredded into a large casserole dish. Melt butter and pour over. Salt and pepper generously. Layer remaining potatoes, salt and pepper again and pour half and half or whipping cream over casserole. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. 

Poultry Popovers 
1 pkg. refrigerated crescent rolls, 2-3 boiled chicken breasts, 3 oz. cream cheese, 2 Tbsp softened butter, 2 Tbsp milk, 1/4 tsp pepper

Break boiled chicken into bite-size pieces. Mix last four ingredients together with a beater until smooth. Stir in chicken. Divide crescent rolls into rectangles rather than triangles and press gently on the diagonal seam to keep together.  Place equal amounts of chicken filling on each rectangle, pull up 4 corners and pinch together. Make sure filling is covered by dough.  They will look like little square bundles. Make at 350 for 20-25 minutes (until brown on top). serves 4.

poultry popovers

Sunday, December 20, 2009

To do or not to do

It's 3pm and this is what I've done so far today:  got out of bed at 10am, read the first half of my Self magazine, finished wrapping Christmas presents, searched for the perfect adornment to my sister's birthday gift in my odds and ends drawer-  found it, and had a difficult time parting with it - listened to the Vince Guaraldi trio on my laptop, gave my extremely dirty kitchen the evil eye as I microwaved a plate of leftover ground turkey meat, black beans and cornbread, and curled up under a blanket to watch "Julie and Julia."  While watching, I looked up Julie Powell's latest achievement, a book about her marriage troubles and decision to learn how to butcher meat.  I admire Powell's ability to undertake immense projects for her own self-help, but I'm not sure if I want to read about her infidelity after falling in love with her husband in her last book.  We shall see.

I've paused the film because I cannot for the life of me stop feeling guilty over what I should be doing right now. I should wash the dishes. I should wash myself. I should wash the kitchen floor. I should tidy up and take out the trash and vacuum and do laundry.  I should read a book or write a letter or organize a closet.  I should really do all of these things.  

But it's Christmas, and I think I've been good this year.  I'm going to get to these tasks eventually (hopefully as soon as the movie ends) and right now I'm going to enjoy watching Julia Child reunite with her sister in Paris, which might be my favorite part of the movie. 

Saturday, December 19, 2009

go to sleep and dream of snow

The cast from White Christmas could have just waited until December 2009 and come to Virginia if they were wanting snow that they could wash their hands/face/hair in.  We probably have a good 2 feet of snow here in the Shenandoah Valley.  When we went to bed last night there was already snow covering the ground and it snowed all night.  Weirdly enough, Andy and I both dreamt that we woke up to the snow having disappeared.  So glad that was not the case!!  Though, I do feel sorry for everyone whose Christmas will be affected by the snow.

Casey is always delighted by the sight of snow and took off leaping and diving in our backyard this morning.  I Skyped with my parents and stood at our back door with the camera pointed towards the dog.  I hope none of my neighbors saw me do this.  

We had a nice, lazy snow day.  I watched "Teen Mom" on MTV while Andy played video games upstairs and then after a delicious lunch of steak burgers (pre-stuffed with bacon and cheese) we watched Valkyrie.  Casey and I convinced Andy to go outside with us and we had a great time despite the freezing snow that constantly flew in our faces.  I wrapped all of the presents for my family and Andy's at the dining room table while Casey took a nice nap underneath it.  We went to Lisa and Josh's for dinner and games-- thanks guys!

It is wild outside.  This is what I would like my husband to have for tomorrow morning when he scrapes off our cars (while I'm still in our warm bed).  In a manly color of course.  I've been wanting this ever since I saw it in Good Housekeeping.  I should start a magazine called "Decent Housekeeping" or "Good If You Don't Open the Closet Housekeeping."  Oh well.  Have a wonderful snow day!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

a little bit of this and a little bit of that

Breaking news:  I received a part time job yesterday as the new studio manager for Open Air Photography. Katie Stoops, who owns the business, did our wedding photography back in May 2008.

Today was a good day.  I used $23 worth of ECB and coupons at CVS + free eyeliner with BOGO.  My favorite deal of the day: $9.99 contact solution with $9.99 in ECB.  They call that "getting it for free," but it really means you get $9.99 off your next purchase.  After being super successful with my home/beauty shopping, Whitney and I hit up the going-out-of-business sale at Blockbuster and then headed to the Green Valley Book Fair.  

Andy came home yesterday with $15 worth of groceries.  I freaked out a little because I thought we were on the same page with the December budget challenge, but according to him I never said we were spending $16 a week. Oh well.  I still want our goal to be $50 for the last four weeks of December, so we'll just have to spend less next week.

I gotta hand it to him though.  For only $15 he picked up bananas, the most delicious strawberries (which sadly were $4.99), and some extremely discounted meat:  2 packages of turkey meatballs, steak burgers and 2 steaks.  
Yum.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

playing mom is not a game

This whole week I'm playing mom (and dad) to the 2 kids I nanny for while their parents are away on business. The kids are usually in daycare/preschool during the day, but both got sent home yesterday afternoon for potentially having rotavirus. And, they aren't allowed to come back until tomorrow. Lovely.
I've been in my pajamas for the last 24 hours, including when I went to CVS for some Pedialyte. I've served countless pieces of toast, endlessly checked toilets and diapers, comforted their mother over multiple phone calls and I am OH so ready for my two-week Christmas vacation.

I can't wait for nap time. Couch, I'll be with you soon..

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ode to CVS

I just have to throw this out there:  I love CVS.
I love how you can return makeup.  I love that there are always a ton of BOGO items.  
I love love LOVE EasyCare bucks.
The other night I bought two different foundations by Revlon.  They were BOGO and I had a $2 manufacturer's coupon.  I also bought a bag of razors for 4.99 and received $4 in ECB.  Then I took an online quiz about the Medicare Part D plan and received a $3 coupon towards anything I want.  I aced the quiz btw.  *brushing off shoulders*
THEN I received a $4 off any purchase of $30 for my birthday.  So really, the next time I spent $30, I can get $11 off my purchase.  I think I'm going to search for some manufacturer's coupons before I go and try to get some great deals on TP, detergent and other household items.

The December budget challenge is going well.  So far we've bought a gallon of milk and a package of Saltine crackers, coming in to just over $4.  We had grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch yesterday and Andy had a frozen pizza for dinner.  I ate fish sticks and veggies and couscous with the kids I nanny for.  Today's lunch was mac 'n cheese.  We haven't exactly been healthy eaters, but we're doing what we can with what we have.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Let's take that road before us and sing a chorus or two


Andy and I had an incredible time with my parents yesterday.  I received the rest of my gifts-- everything I wanted and more-- and we played a few games of progressive rummy before heading out to dinner.  We split the calamari for starters (they have the best calamari ever) and for my meal I had the rockfish with a mushroom risotto, asparagus spears and creamy parmesan potatoes.  You can't go to the Carlyle for dinner and not get dessert, so we had my favorite: the banana pudding.  The waiter brought it out with a candle and the words "Happy Birthday" written on the plate in chocolate.  Everything was perfect, as always. 

The Holiday Pops concert at the Kennedy Center was such a fun experience.  We picked up a little ornament for our tree at the gift shop and reminisced about when we both performed at the Kennedy Center when we were younger.  Andy played in "A Tuba Christmas" in middle school and I performed a scene from "Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat" with my fellow thespians in high school.  Good times!



In support of our December budget challenge, my mom insisted that I take home a bag full of apples and potatoes.  Andy will be buying milk tonight- our first purchase in the challenge! 

Now I shall take a nap next to Casey, who is already fast asleep and dreaming puppy dreams.

Friday, December 11, 2009

a blessed birthday!

year 23 started out with a very happy day.

I woke up next to my favorite person who sweetly got up early to have a cup of coffee with me before I left for work. I opened two of my presents and was super excited about my new CD and gorgeous watch.

After work the the family I nanny for took me to see The Princess and the Frog, which was a lot of fun. I also received a nice birthday bonus-- always appreciated.

Andy worked 1-11pm today, so my friend Lisa generously offered to have me for dinner and cake-tasting. I had previously told her that I was craving some cake, but I never expected that she'd go so all out for me! Her table was beautifully decorated-- charger plates and all-- and she had even set different cakes out on a platter with a birthday card and a birthday banner! Thanks Lisa! Pictures will be posted soon.

Had fun hanging out with Lisa and Josh and their friends Avery, Kevin and Ivy. Ivy, you better be reading this!! :) They are such a kind group of people and I'm looking forward to introducing Andy to everyone.

Thank you to everyone who contributed in making my birthday such a special one. The cards, phone calls and facebook posts were greatly appreciated!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

December budget challenge

I was inspired yesterday by my friend Julie's decision to budget only $2500 in 2010 for groceries, pet needs, baby needs and health and beauty needs. Check out her blog here.

I want to join Julie in her 2010 challenge, but I'm a little intimidated by the idea of jumping right in. I've decided that with 3 weeks left in December, I'm going to spend only $50 on groceries for the rest of the month. That gives me a little over $15 a week to work with. So far I've spent $115 on groceries this month and that shopping trip should provide us with another five days of meals. Plus, I'm going to be a mom for a week for the two kids I nanny, which means I can eat breakfast and dinner at their house if I want.

While $50 for three weeks sounds scary to me at first, I'm confident we can make it.
For the last week and a half of November we spent $0 on groceries, surviving on what I like to call "eating out of the kitchen." I contributed a post about this concept on my friend Amber's blog.

If I can do this challenge, then I should definitely be able to handle Julie's $2500 in 2010 challenge. That would give me $52 a week for groceries, health and beauty, and stuff for our pup. I won't be making any purchases on baby needs...as far as I know! :) Wish me luck on the December $50/3 week challenge!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Stop whatever you're doing and look at this!


How cute is this print?  Check out the artist's other work on Etsy.  Already picturing this in my future nursery.

for chili lovers: a quick and easy recipe

I made chili past Sunday and was shocked by how such a simple recipe yielded such great results.  My mom sent me a basic run through of ingredients and her guess on how much of each item I should use.  This is what I came up with:

Brown 2 pounds of ground beef (I used turkey) with 4 or 5 stalks of celery, chopped, and one small onion, chopped.  When the celery is tender, drain the meat.  Add two 15 oz. cans of tomato sauce and one can of water. 
Add:  2 Tbsp of chili powder, garlic salt and pepper to taste, and one large can (or two small cans) of black beans.  Bring chili to a boil and then simmer for one hour, or boil for 1/2 hour.

The recipe did not call for pepper, but Andy and I are huge pepper fans and use it on everything.  If you don't want black beans in every bite, use one small can.  Personally, I think black beans are manna from heaven. 

We topped each bowl with shredded cheese, crumbled cornbread and a dollop of sour cream.  Oh. my. goodness.

This recipe made 8 servings and was accompanied by cornbread and salad.  Cheap meal considering it lasted two dinners and one lunch!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dear Santa

Packages have been arriving at our door and in our mailbox non-stop for the past week, and guess what? They're ALL for me. This is what happens when your husband buys everything online. Not complaining- it's exciting to know there is a closet full of presents to be opened soon!

My 23rd birthday is on Friday. Sadly, Andy is working from 1-11pm, but we're celebrating on Saturday with my parents in northern Va. I'm already salivating at the thought of calamari at The Carlyle in Shirlington. After dinner we're heading to the Kennedy Center to hear the National Symphony Orchestra play holiday music. Marvin Hamlisch is performing- remember him playing Carly Simon on the piano in "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days?"

This weekend last year Andy and I were heading to Florida to board a cruise to the Bahamas. That was one amazing vacation, but I have to admit dinner and a show sounds great this year. Sunday I'll be chowing down on pizza and watching "White Christmas" with some of my old housemates, so really I get 2 dinners and shows!

Here's what I'm asking for this Christmas:
(if you read Good Housekeeping you'll see I received some inspiration from their gift guide)

We'll see what Santa brings!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Why I will never own a Kindle

The only reason anyone should buy a Kindle is if they are jet-setting around the globe and can't bear the weight of multiple books in their luggage.  All of us normal people who only fly once or twice a year have no excuse.  Why purchase a device that costs a couple of hundred dollars if it forces you to spend around ten bucks for every book you want to read?  

I cherish each book in my house.  I find immense satisfaction in placing a book on a shelf as if I'm tucking away an old friend.  I read books over and over until the characters and places are so real to me that I dream about them.

This blog is inspired by the heavenly children's bookshop in the film "You've Got Mail," a remake of the 1940's Jimmy Stewart film.  The movie celebrates life, love and of course, books.  The following is my favorite quote from the script:

"When you read a book as a child it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your life does." -- Kathleen, played by Meg Ryan.

Really, each book I own is a part of my identity.  
I'm currently reading The Aquariums of Pyongyang by Chol-hwan Yang and Pierre Rigoulot.