Tuesday, January 31, 2012

happy things

It's only Tuesday and I'm already having one of those week's where I feel like the water is rising and threatening to pull me under. But I think that's just me allowing myself to be overwhelmed, and I don't want to do that anymore. So how 'bout a little fun up in herr?

these goodies oughta do the trick:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

weekending v.2

facing east
Gorgeous weekend, right? What a nice break from all the rain. I had been looking forward to my mini vacation to northern VA all week long, and it was such a blessing to have nice weather to drive in. It took a lot of restraint to not snap pictures while making my way up I-81.

<3 my momma
I left Andy and the pup behind (my agenda of seeing friends and going shopping didn't really interest them) and enjoyed having my parents (and a bed) all to myself. My friend Becca was in town, so naturally we had to share a meal together. We headed to Los Tios in Del Ray, a sprawling Mexican/Salvadorean restaurant on Mount Vernon Ave. We split a mixed pupusa, the fried plantains and the chicken and steak fajitas. The restaurant was insanely loud, but the food was so good that we didn't care. My friend Zebib (both B&Z are friends from high school) came over later Friday evening to watch "The Ides of March," a political thriller that we both found fascinating. There was a lot of couch slapping going on. DON'T watch the trailer - it gives too much away. 

My parents and I spent literally all day Saturday at Tysons. We lunched at Coastal Flats and marveled at how packed the mall was (blerg). I came home with three dresses, three sweaters, two pairs of earrings and a white ceramic turtle.

dress up anyone?
Today was church, lunch at Moby Dick's, a lil shopping at Home Goods and driving home to a waggy tail and a snuggly husband.

Feels good to be home.

I couldn't walk away from this wire rack that I found
at Home Goods. I can't get over how ME it is!
I was planning on putting it in the bathroom but it may
end up here, just up on the wall. and no, my walls
aren't really that bright.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

spicy honey-brushed chicken

Andy and I have been on a spicy foods kick lately, so last night I made spicy honey-brushed chicken with green bean casserole (recipe on the back of fried onions) and spicy diced potatoes. This meal would serve four comfortably, and was super easy to prep but involved a lot of attention while cooking.

I used breasts instead of thighs and diced potatoes instead of homestyle slices, but other than that I followed both recipes to a T.
okay, maybe that's not true. I used a pretty heavy hand with the chili powder and ground red pepper. 

Since green bean casserole is easy peasy, I had that cooking in the oven while I prepped the chicken and potatoes. I turned the broiler on once the casserole was almost done (it still needed the fried onion topping). I pulled the casserole out, covered it, then focused all my attention on cooking the chicken and potatoes. I was really nervous about broiling the chicken, but I cut each breast into smaller pieces and used a thermometer to check the internal temperatures of each piece (some were thicker than others). Once the chicken was done I turned the oven back to 350 and added the onions to the top of the casserole. 

The chicken was deliciously spicy with a hint of sweetness from the honey glaze. The potatoes were so spicy that I coughed every time I lifted the lid to stir them, but they were still incredible. I put a dollop of sour cream on my plate and it was the perfect "dip" for both the potatoes and the chicken. The creaminess of the casserole also helped tone down the spice. 

If you're not into spicy foods but your spouse is, try my sour cream trick. OR don't double the amount of chili powder and ground red pepper. :)

one last thing - if you aren't a fan of microwaved leftovers, try lowering the power setting. It'll take longer to cook, but it will cook more evenly and thoroughly. (thanks to my big sister, I can now stomach - and enjoy - leftover chicken!)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

side reads

got a few minutes? I promise you'll enjoy these:

This short story about a husband and wife and a creative writing class gave me chills. Even though Maya is a fictional character, I can't stop thinking about the second story she wrote.

Do you salivate or cringe when you see commercials for the KFC bowl? I salivate. Comedian Patton Oswald shares his thoughts on the bowl here (so well-written!) for example:
"It [the bowl] sat on the passenger seat next to me like a sullen runaway I'd picked up on the interstate..." "The Famous Bowl hit my mouth like warm soda, slouched down my throat, and splayed itself across my stomach like a sun-stroked wino."

Have you ever had a really bad day and you wished there was a self-help book that would address your specific problems? This girl had the same dilemma. Prepare to LOL. (the third from the bottom is the one I relate to the most)

I was crushed when Laskas discontinued writing a column for the Washington Post Magazine. I've been slowly picking my way through her column archives, and this one stood out to me. If you've ever had a dear friend move away (I've had too many to list here), or if YOU'VE been the one to move, you'll relate to this bittersweet story.

for more snippets from around the web, click here

Sunday, January 22, 2012

weekending v.1

Ahhh the weekend.

After work on Friday I met a friend for coffee at Target and bought the perfect oversized sweater. Then Andy and I cleaned up the office and upstairs guest room and I made some progress on my veryscarycloset while mentally smacking myself and vowing to never let it get this messy again. Andy spent the evening with friends and I contentedly curled up with a book I've read at least five times now.

before - 9:30 p.m. Friday

after - 9:30 a.m. Saturday (clearly a huge difference)
Saturday afternoon Andy and I made pretzels from my birthday Auntie Anne's pretzel-making kit. I love it when my man works in the kitchen. He scored even more points when he took me to Kyoto for dinner.
Thanks babe! :)

We don't do "home church" very often anymore, but it was nice to sleep in this morning and spend the morning cozied up on the couch with cups of coffee. We listened to a sermon on marriage by Mark Driscoll and had a sweet time in prayer. Carolyn came by with her precious baby girl, who cooed and smiled and stared at Andy. And then there was football and blogging and snuggles and puppy yawns. Perfect weekend.

half time snack - including my new favorite cracker

"We brought a possum into your house and it got out and it may have laid eggs in your bed. And it went it your kitchen and your bathroom and it touched all your bras." - Leslie Knope, Parks and Rec.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I made quiche this morning and added two tbsp sour cream, two tbsp salsa and one tsp of hot sauce (next time I'm doing more). It's so nice when I realize I have either all or most of the ingredients to make something I'm craving. All I had to pick up was a pie crust.

Starter quiche
1 9-inch refrigerated pie crust (I use Pillsbury)
4 eggs
1.5 cup milk or cream (I use skim milk)
1.75 cup shredded cheese (I use cheddar or a Mexican cheese blend, but swiss works too)
2 TBSP flour
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of salt

Optional add-ins
crumbled bacon or sausage
chopped spinach, bell peppers or mushrooms
sour cream
hot sauce
ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix eggs and milk in one bowl and flour, cheese and cayenne pepper in another (mix any add-ins in this bowl as well). Combine.

Pour quiche mixture over pie crust and bake for 50-60 min. I move mine to the lower rack after 30 minutes so the crust doesn't burn. Prick with a fork to make sure the eggs are set, and then move the quiche to a cooling rack and let it sit for an hour or two before refrigerating. 

I've been keeping on track for trying a new recipe once a week, but I'm a little embarrassed to tell you what I made last. The recipe doesn't involve any cooking skills whatsoever, but I had Simply Potatoes and almost all the other ingredients, so I thought why not? I've had it at a friend's and it was delicious. If you don't have cornflakes, don't bother. I tried using crushed saltines and it wasn't horrible, but the original recipe is much, much better!

Any recipe suggestions?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

game night

I'm hosting game night for my Bible study girls on Monday, and I'm curious - what are your favorite group games?

Mine are:

(if you can't see me, I'm Balderdash and I'm awesome)

yeah I like games. my friend Annie reminded me of the crazy fun game of Kemps, which I haven't played in years. My brother and I have the best agreeing signal everrr. I also enjoy a good game of pinochle - the game that I avoided for sixteen or so years of my life. My family played practically every Sunday when I was growing up. I read books on the couch and they played pinochle. Now I'm the pinochle master. :) Not really. (But yea.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

girl's night

Yesterday afternoon I slid my mix CD of The Format songs into my car's player and headed down the highway to Waynesboro. The days before held the excited, almost desperate e-mails and texts of girls ready to share victories, admit mistakes and simply be real with one another.

Kelly surprised me with some adorable handmade stationary and *gasp* the blue vintage earrings I had spotted at The Lady Jane the last time the two of us hung out. I left the shop without them, and Kelly drove back later that evening and bought them for me! Another perfect example of good gifting.

Confession - there is no way I deserve the awesome girls that I call my friends. they're way too amazing.

We had the best of intentions to do our nails, hit up a store or two and watch "Sabrina" with our friend Amber, but as always, we had too much to chat about to do anything else for five and a half hours (except eat lots of bread and chocolate, of course). We finally turned the movie on and snuggled together under a blanket, giggling about bad breath and rumbly stomachs - the perfect end to the perfect evening.

if you haven't seen "Sabrina" (the 1995 version), I'd be more than happy to loan it to you. just don't tell me if you don't like it, because then I'll have to shake some sense into you.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

self portrait

I had a lisp when I was a kid and it comes out every now and then when I'm exhausted. In the fourth grade I began mimicking Stacey's handwriting (from "The Babysitter's Club") and got in trouble for dotting my I's with hearts. I always request the window seat on airplanes.  I love the smell of cinnamon gum. "I Need Love" is my favorite NSync song. I struggle with road rage. I'm always appalled when people don't keep tissues in their house. Cheese and bread are my favorite foods.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

it's the small things

like watching big snowflakes falling outside your office window. getting a coffee at starbucks instead of 7-11. chasing the dog around the house until you're both panting with exhaustion. seeing good friends for the first time in weeks. pinching off pieces of brownie until your teeth hurt. hearing your husband sing "skinamarinkydinkydink skinamarinkadoo, I love you" out of the blue. holding hands on the couch with your love. curling up in a chair with a book that you know inside and out, but want to read again anyway.

there were a few times yesterday that I almost lost my mind. these moments kept me sane.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

our quesadilla

"cheese." now rub my belly, please.
Andy and I joke that Casey has a daily agenda. It goes something like this:

Wake up
Look cute
Stretch and yawn loudly
Look cute
Race down the stairs
Check outside for kitties
Look cute
Go back upstairs for a morning nap
Look cute
Etc., etc.

Casey stinks to high heaven after she's been in the sun. It goes away after 20 or so minutes, but it's horrible for those 20 minutes. She barks at men, she practically stalks some of my friends when they come over, she gets out of our fence and she has gotten on furniture that she's not allowed to get on.

But we put up with all of this because... well, she's cute. She loves us. Every time we walk through the door she acts likes she hasn't seen us for days, even if we've only been gone a few minutes. Her whole body shakes when she's happy. She almost always refuses to play fetch unless she's swimming, and then she'll spend hours paddling towards sticks and biting the occasional leaf that gets in her way. She watches YouTube videos of cats with intense concentration and curiosity. Sometimes mid-video she'll start searching for the cat behind the couch or out the window. Just yesterday she sat down in front of the television and watched the entire trailer of Beauty and the Beast. I think she saw the beast and thought it was her.

A few days ago I walked across the street to borrow honey and I shut the door, except I didn't shut it so it would click. I was at my friend's house for about five, maybe ten minutes, and when I opened his front door to go home, Casey was standing there, wiggling her body with expectation. Found you!

She lives for belly rubs, compliments, kitties, squirrels, popcorn, cheese and empty tuna cans. She nips at our wrists when we do P90x. She sits on the passenger seat when we drive around town, but she jumps down as soon as we get on the highway. I don't know how she knows the difference, but she does. She loves stuffed animals. If it doesn't have a squeaker, she's not interested. She annihilates them instantly. Must find and destroy squeaker. She has a method for getting it out - she tears the toy open with her teeth and then pulls the stuffing out, darting her tongue to the side to get the fluff out of her mouth. It's very impressive. She also has an ongoing love affair with her Kong, which she uses to get our attention when she's bored. LOOK MOM I BOUNCED THE KONG AND IT ALMOST HIT THE TV. NOW WILL YOU PLAY?

Casey will only wait about two minutes after being punished before she sits in front of us and wags her tail slightly, pleading us with her eyes to forgive her. She knows we're really mad when we don't give in and pet her, and then she'll slump to the floor with a sigh and peer back up at us, still hoping.

Andy was hesitant to get a dog three months after we got married. He worried it was too soon and that the dog would be too much of a responsibility. Then he saw Casey and instantly fell in love with her. He later told me, "Having Casey has made me realized that I can be a dad, because I know that if I can love a dog this much then I can love my kids even more."

it's so fluffy I'm gonna die!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

a cabin christmas

sesame chicken, tomato cream sauce and julia child's mushrooms

Don't worry - that wasn't one meal.

Instead of doing New Year's resolutions I'm going to have monthly goals that I (hopefully) will write about each month. For January, my goal is to try at least one new recipe a week. I rarely cooked for myself for the five months that we lived apart, and I think it's time to get back into the swing of things. 

Last night I decided to try a recipe for Lighter Sesame Chicken. Oy. I wish the recipe had been more clear. Make it so a third grader can understand it! When it came time to cook the chicken, I figured I was supposed to dredge it in the cornstarch mixture first, and then into the sauce, and then into the skillet (even though it never says to do this). That made a gooey mess, so in an act of insanity I combined both of the liquids. Whoops... clearly I was wrong. I looked at other similar recipes and realized I was supposed to dredge the chicken in the cornstarch mixture and cook it, THEN pour the sauce on. Reading the recipe again, I can see where I was mistaken, but at the time I imagined the cornstarch mixture to be the glue that would keep the sauce on the chicken. 

I cooked the chicken in three batches, then put all of the cooked chicken and broccoli into the pan and stirred in more sauce and sesame seeds. It was a frustrating and messy experience, but Andy seemed impressed and complimented the dish throughout the meal. I'm sure I'll make it again - the flavor was great  - but I'll do it right the next time!

(I think my dish looks more appetizing than the one on the website)

Tonight I jazzed up an Italian sausage and peppers dish by preparing it with a different sauce. This tomato cream sauce sounded yummy, so I gave it a shot. I've been dying to try Julia Child's mushrooms, so I figured they could be a random side dish.

I was a little overwhelmed because I cooked the sausage in one pan, the pasta in another, the sauce in another, and the mushrooms in yet another. Pictures were out of the question. The sausage dish was creamy and slightly spicy, and the mushrooms were crusty and buttery and heavenly.

Tomorrow I'm taking a break from cooking.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 year in review

check out "2010 year in review" here

What a crazy year 2011 has been! New jobs for both of us, lots of traveling, a broken bone, a near move... but we made it! Here are some highlights from the year:

January: I got a new job, and then almost got shot on my first day (not really)

February: I shared my thoughts on love and daydreamed about our upcoming beach trip

March: I recorded 93 things about myself and almost lost my husband while skiing at Snowshoe

April: I shared design ideas for boy's nursery and girl's nursery, had a hard week and had a misunderstanding with my husband

May: We celebrated three years of marriage, came up with a new anniversary tradition, and then spent a week apart (foreshadowing, I wonder?)

June: I came up with a way to give to others (still loving this) and Andy faced a stinky challenge after returning home from our beach trip

July: Andy broke his collarbone, I divulged more than you wanted to know, Andy got a new job, I met Sky (my brother's fiancĂ©) and, following the death of my grandma, wrote a tribute to share at her memorial picnic

August: I shared secrets on a happy marriage, more thoughts on love, some tips on fashion and shopping, and the incredible, compelling, fascinating stories of StoryCorps

September: Went to a grocery store for a date, flew to Boston, and realized Andy and I would be living apart longer than we expected.

October: I put together a guide to Harrisonburg, wrote about our trip to Chicago, posted pics from Chicago, found out we needed to move and quit my job!

November: We snuggled a baby in sunny Tampa, I took my job back, and compiled a 2011 gift guide

December: In case you missed these, I turned 25, learned a hard lesson on compassion, had a birthday that never ended, practiced taking pics with different cameras and listed the books I read this year

by the way, friends, have I shared with you that Andy FINALLY got the position closer to Harrisonburg? Wahoo! He started today, which means we get to LIVE TOGETHER again!!!!!

what a great way to start the new year!