Wednesday, May 30, 2012

tucking in

Do you ever tuck in your shirt? I've been doing it a lot lately. Some of my tops have shrunk to the point where they look odd "loose," and I can still give them life by tucking them into high waisted skirts or shorts and jeans that are at least mid-rise.

-ignore the cords in the background-

For example, I paired this top from PacSun (don't judge... not everything in there is teeny-bopperish or has ROXY all over it) w/ some mid-rise jeans. I love how the colors in the top pop against the dark wash of the pants. 

another self portrait in the bathroom!

Monday, May 28, 2012

weekending v.12

Can't blame me for writing a weekending post on a Monday if it's part of a three day weekend, right?

Here's the weekend rundown: We were in Harrisonburg on Saturday/Sunday for a wedding and to attend our old church (and get Klines). Our time there flew by and the next thing we knew we were in Springfield having a crab feast with my parents and good family friends. Another drive and we were home in Maryland. I promptly collapsed in bed.

It felt good to take the day off after two days of catching up with friends and zipping from one place to next. I spent a good hour and a half sweating to near death on our deck because I am not in the mood to shock the beaches of Hawaii with my pale skin. Then, I took our equally hot-from-the-sun pup down to the creek for a swim. I waded in for a bit and eventually settled on the bank with my book and let Casey go fishing paw at the water and bite every stick and leaf that floated by. I relished every minute of the long afternoon.

Memorial Day dinner was unbelievably simple - bbq chicken cooked in the crock pot, macaroni salad from the deli section, corn on the cob and watermelon. And pie. :)

We just got back from playing Settlers of Catan w/ a couple I nanny for - our first couple friends in Frederick! I won, much to the chagrin of my husband. It felt gooood. Another perfect weekend.

how did a gal w/ such frizzy hair land such a hottie mchotterson?

Friday, May 25, 2012

how to make bangin' sliders

photo by Nick Solares

Yesterday I picked up two packages of pre-formed and seasoned sliders at the store - one has chunks of jalapeƱos in it and the other has chunks of cheese and bacon. Ohhhh yea. I looked around the web for suggestions on how to cook them b/c I've never cooked burgers in a skillet before and we're out of charcoal. I stumbled upon this thorough how-to that's based on the way a restaurant prepares their sliders.

You guys. You HAVE to try these. It makes an absolute mess in the pan (notice the author didn't include a pic of what the skillet looks like after adding the beef flavored water), but it's so worth it. My onions didn't flip with the patties, so I used tongs to lift the patties and a spatula to scooch the onions under. I thought the whole putting the buns on top to warm was absolutely *brilliant.* The burgers were juicy and cheesy and warm. If I had planned better I would have bought cream cheese for the jalapeƱo sliders, but alas! Andy tucked a pickle in his and I added a little mayo, but they shine on their own. Tonight we're having the cheesy bacon ones. I went a little nuts and served last night's dinner with chips, corn on the cob, potato salad, watermelon AND hot dogs, and we were too full from the meat to have every side. More for tonight!

p.s. mine looked just like the ones in the picture! I love when that happens.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Italian chicken and spaghetti squash

If you've never eaten or cooked spaghetti squash you are missing out!
It looks intimidating, but it's a cinch to cook.

from here

First, I have Andy cut the squash length-wise for me (I don't recommend microwaving it whole, but it can be done). I remove the squash seeds and the goop around it and then I put a little butter and salt and pepper in the well and pop one half of the squash into the microwave for 7-9 minutes, depending on how big it is. One half of a large spaghetti squash is plenty for the two of us. I put the other half into a baggie and stick it in the fridge for leftovers.

from here
Once the squash has been cooked, carefully take it out of the microwave with a towel or an oven mitt. It's going to be really hot! Unless you're rushing to get dinner on the table (like me), let it cool for a minute or two before you begin to shred it. Shredding is the fun part - I anchor the squash with one fork and use another fork to scrape at the edges and bottom of the squash. It's so satisfying to watch the little "spaghetti" form. Scrape until you can scrape no more. Serve the squash as a side OR as a base for this amazing and guilt-free meal my sister concocted:

I made a verrrry similar version to this on Tuesday. The flavor blew us away! I used three large chicken breasts and pounded them down a bit so they would cook faster. I didn't have chardonnay and didn't use any other liquid to replace it. I also used my Italian Herb grinder to season the dish instead of basil and oregano (though both of those herbs are in the grinder). Oh, and I used refrigerated parmesan. Other than that I stuck to the recipe, and I will definitely be making this again. I had enough chicken mixture left over so we used that to top the other half of the squash the next day. In case you're wondering, spaghetti squash doesn't taste at all like spaghetti - it just looks like it. You can put most anything on top of spaghetti squash that you would pasta and make it a much more healthful meal. The squash will have a slightly crunchy texture but a similar flavor to regular squash. 

Side note: We still had a few chicken pieces left over, so I stuck them in the fridge. They were fantastic cold. Perfect for a little bowl of chicken salad. :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

raindrops on roses

and whiskers on kittens

I don't do so well on rainy days. I feel drowsy and dreary and unmotivated. Normally a shower and a cup of coffee can help me shake the gloomies, but I abhor showering when it's wet outside. I refused to be lazy, as tempting as it was, and started off the morning baking strawberry sour cream scones. Ugh. It was the worst. The dough was too sticky and completely glued itself to my hands and the rolling pin. I managed to cut rounds but couldn't transfer them to a baking sheet, so I ended up dropping lumps of dough on the pan before slamming the oven door shut with a hearty "good riddance!"

they were supposed to look like this
but alas, they looked more like lumpy cookies

I took out my rage on the goo-covered dishes and managed to enjoy a scone with my coffee (I did eat three, but not all at once). It helped that they tasted good. And I had pink peonies from our yard to admire. So pretty!

I spent the rest of the day going back and forth between working on a column I'm writing about Uganda and snuggling the pup while singing along to some new favorite worship songs. I think I may have spent a little too much time snuggling/singing... the deadline is tomorrow and I'm still not quite done. :-/ I'd love your prayers over the column - my hope is that it will speak of God's love and also direct readers to check out ways they can help Zion Project.

kitty found here

Sunday, May 20, 2012

weekending v.11

How is May halfway over? How is it even May already? This year is flying by and I have a sinking feeling that if I blink I might miss the rest of it. I have so much to do many books to read!

I've been MIA all week because I was visiting my friend Laurel in Kentucky. We haven't had girl time in over a year and talking to one of your favorite people on the phone just isn't the same as seeing them in person. We purposefully didn't plan many activities and the trip was just perfect. We painted a piece of furniture, walked the dogs, went on a little hike, cooked and baked, watched movies, picked strawberries, poked around some shops and visited Laurel's work where she showed me some equestrian vaulting moves. 

my happy pup swimming in the Kentucky River
Laurel's pup Rocky saying his prayers

vaulting! eek!

I hated leaving... being with Laurel makes my heart happy. But I missed my husband and I had something pretty great planned for the day after I got back - babysitting this girl!

Madelyn is the daughter of our friends Justin and Carolyn in Harrisonburg. We snuggled Madelyn while they attended a wedding in Leesburg last night, and then they drove up to stay over and go to church with us this morning and treat us to breakfast. It was fun to have a baby in the house. Andy and I took turns bouncing Madelyn around and kissing her sweet cheeks. Casey was a little jealous and confused at first, but the baby's cuteness wore her down and she ended up giving Madelyn kisses too.

All that traveling and baby smooching wore me out! I recently took on two part-time nannying jobs, one of which I'll start on Tuesday. Tomorrow my only plans are to do laundry and make scones w/ the fresh berries I brought home.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

weekending v.10

This weekend and next are the busy bookends to an equally busy week. On Friday I scuttled about the house preparing for Sam, our first overnight guest. We were all looking forward to her visit - Grandma included.

On Saturday Sam and I explored the farmer's market and snuggled with two kittens that were free for the taking. They were hard to leave behind!

I managed to resist the yummy looking pastries offered at the market b/c I knew we were going to have a filling lunch. I took Sam to Cafe Nola, where I lunched w/ Holly during my first downtown experience.

Sam ordered the quinoa risotto topped with beets and roasted tomato and I ordered the eggplant tempura sandwich with sweet potato fries. Both of our meals were extremely rich. Delicious, but rich. After browsing some shops we pulled a Rennie date and got coffee, played games and walked along the creek.

Carroll Creek Park

buds :)
And then I got pooped on. I didn't really know what to do so I just laughed and asked Sam to help me get it out. She worked magic with a tissue and some hand sanitizer - she's a good friend all right! I was sad for her to leave. Come back soon, girlfran!

Today I'm back to scuttling - this time to prep for my trip to Kentucky tomorrow. I haven't gotten face to face girl time w/ my best friend in nearly a year and a half! I'll get back Friday evening and then on Saturday we get this little nugget all to ourselves while her parents are at a wedding.

I'm going to be too busy gabbing with Laurel and kissing baby cheeks to blog, so I'll see ya'll next Sunday for weekending v.11!

Friday, May 11, 2012

four years later

Time flies. Wasn't it yesterday that I was compiling our third anniversary post?

Our wedding day started off cloudy and wet - not the kind of weather a bride dreams of waking up to. Thankfully, the sun came out an hour or two before the ceremony began and by the the time our guests arrived at the church the day had turned bright and cheerful. In a way, the weather that day was a picture of what our marriage would be like.  

I "knew" marriage wasn't going to be easy, but of course I didn't really know. It was hard. It was work. It was choosing to love, forgive, obey, respect, honor, etc. 

Along with all the love and laughter and happiness in our marriage there was also human-ness. Sometimes we messed up. Sometimes we put ourselves first. We miscommunicated. We argued. We said hurtful things. Sometimes I felt more anger towards Andy than I felt love. A LOT of times I felt like whatever argument we were having was all his fault. 

It wasn't until two years into our marriage that I finally recognized and repented of my pride and selfishness. Instead of telling myself that I was such a great wife and Andy was lucky to have me (ha!), I began actively trying to be a more humble and respectful wife. In turn, Andy became a more humble and loving husband.

Those first two years were overcast with selfishness and spiritual immaturity. Then, in God's divine timing and grace, the sun came out. 

We have our drizzly moments now and then, as all marriages do, but we communicate better and forgive quicker. We see God's hand on us and we desire to please Him in the way we care for one another. Every day is an opportunity for us to live our vows, and I'm so happy to report that four years later we're doing a better job than when we began.

Andy, I have always loved you, but today I love you more deeply than ever before. Tomorrow I'll love you more, and the next day and the next day and so on! 

even when it breaks, my heart will beat for you
oh my love, you're all I want
I know that it's never gonna come easy
but I would never even dream of leavin'.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

what's cookin'

if my blog has been looking different, or you can't see more than one post on my home page, try refreshing.

Not working has given me more time to think about dinners and more time to make them. It feels SO good to be back in the kitchen! I've been switching back and forth between recipes I'm familiar with and ones I've never tried.

When we first moved Andy was craving wings, which I had never made before. I found some pre-seasoned ones at the co-op and grabbed a bag of salad and voila! I hardly had to do anything. I bought three different kinds of wings and we ate every single one. :-/

I think about the following when meal planning - what do I have on hand, do I want leftovers, how expensive will it be, how unhealthy will it be, have we had something similar recently, etc. I made potato soup when I was going out of town so that Andy could have lots of leftovers. I made black bean quesadillas b/c I had a lot of ingredients leftover from tacos, and then later that week I wanted to use up the cilantro so I made burritos with cilantro lime chicken (I added black beans and green chilies). Yes, in the course of a week and a half we had three "Mexican" style meals, but they were different enough for us to not feel like we were eating the same thing over and over. Tonight I'm using up our frozen tilapia to make fish sticks.

Last summer I raved to ya'll about chicken and zucchini casserole. I'm so excited for summer veggies and already whipped up one (without sour cream). We scarfed it down in two nights. It's been almost a month... I think it's time to make it again.

I've also made chili, grilled sandwiches, breakfast for dinner, broiled, what else? Thanks to leftovers and the occasional soup and sandwich night, I'm only making meals 3-4 times a week. 

Since we've been eating a lot of hearty dinners, I'm trying to be more aware of what I eat for breakfast and lunch. We leave for Hawaii in a month and I'm so not bikini ready! Please send suggestions my way - I'm especially in need of some fuss-free healthful lunches. 

I've been eating a lot of 0% Fage yogurt for breakfast. The plain stuff tastes exactly like sour cream, so I jazz it up - lately I've been doing about a 1/2 cup yogurt with a lil drizzle of honey and about 2 teaspoons of peanut butter, topped with 1/8 cup of Bear Naked plain granola. It's got healthy fats, natural sweetener, fiber, etc... and I loove it. I was adding banana too but I get sick of bananas fast. 

Now that I've hopefully given you a few dinner ideas, how about you tell me what you've been making for dinner?

Monday, May 7, 2012

weekending v.9

I'm so bad about writing weekending posts on Sunday! Ah well, can't win 'em all.

I wish I had pictures to share from this weekend, but I don't... so words and google images will have to do. I went to a birthday brunch on Saturday morning celebrating a woman in a life group (Bible study) that I attended. It was so sweet that the group invited me to join them and I had a great time chatting with everyone. Afterwards I picked up Fractured Prune and stuck them in the fridge to surprise my parents with them the next day. I managed to convince Andy to take me downtown for the afternoon and we had the best time (once we determined that Andy didn't want to go into any shops and therefore our only option was to walk around). We got iced coffees at the Frederick Coffee Company and played a bunch of the games that they keep there. Andy crushed me in Candyland, I crushed him in Sorry! and then we played a very stressful best out of 3 round of Rack-o. Andy won. :(

from here

After coffee we strolled along Carroll Creek and listened to a harpist. It was First Saturday (similar to First Fridays in Hburg), so downtown was packed with artists and musicians and kids and dogs and brides-to-be... you get the picture. Even though our anniversary isn't 'til Thursday, we decided to go ahead and have our anniversary dinner while we were downtown. We asked each other silly questions like, "what was your favorite meal from all of the vacations we took last year?" On Thursday we'll go see The Avengers and maybe I'll cook up something special for dinner.

I was in NOVA yesterday and today and saw several high school friends and got to spend some sweet time with my mom and dad. There was a new episode of Sherlock on last night and I think we got my friend hooked on it. :) Any tv show recommendations?

Andy's working in Philadelphia so it's just me and the pup tonight. Why can't there be a Jeopardy marathon on tonight? Guess that means I'll have to take a bath... poor me... and finish reading the Nanny Diaries for the SEVENTH time. (It's a quick and funny read and I hadn't read it in four years.)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

settling in

Many of you have asked how we've been since the move. It's crazy to me that we've been in Frederick for a whole month. We've been doing really well - this house is definitely home now and I've only gotten lost in Frederick once! (I refuse to rely on my GPS.) I have a lot to look forward to this month: the farmer's market, overnight guests, a visit from my mom, coffee dates with new friends... can't wait! This past month was good, too. I've unpacked almost everything, learned the many buttons on our fancy new washer, wrestled with shower curtains (like I did here), cooked new meals, taken an absurd amount of baths, explored the park that runs through our neighborhood, discovered new music AND (phew) made a few friends!

One of my favorite albums to listen to when I'm in a contemplative mood is The Living Room Sessions by Chris Rice. It's simply him playing old hymns on the piano, and it's gorgeous. I had a lot of the songs played at our wedding, actually. Today I was especially touched by "Be Still, My Soul." I looked up the lyrics b/c I'm really only familiar with the lines "Be Still, My Soul!" The whole hymn is beautiful, but the first part really stuck out:

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

gifts for mom

This Mother's Day you could purchase a massage or a gift certificate to a restaurant. But if you've gone that route in the past and need some new ideas, check out my picks (most are under $30) for your mom, your wife or the new mom in your life. Don't forget to include a note!

for your mom...

she can't display it on the fridge, but I doubt she'll complain!
homemade chocolate dipped biscotti -$cost of supplies
tuck the biscotti into a pretty mug and wrap with cellophane
these cranberry almond biscotti's and cinnamon spice biscotti's
cost just over ten cents each to make!
snuggly, lightweight blanket to keep her tootsies warm -$23
a tiny embroidered reminder of the big love you have for her -$17

for the mother of your children...

these pretty heart earrings (also in purple) will help her feel lovely
on those am I a frumpy mom? days -$29.95

roll-on perfume in a soft, feminine scent -$18

take the little ones out for breakfast (quietly)
so the love of your life can sleep in.
don't forget to bring her home a bagel or donut -$cost of breakfast
pic from here
for a close friend or relative who is a new mom...

cozy, modest robe is both helpful and thoughtful
(this one got great reviews) -$44.50
pretty nails go a long way in making a girl feel put together.
this Essie Spring collection includes four mini nail polishes -$10 
the beauty in gifting magazines is that you
can find one that fits the interests of the recipient.
my favorites are Real Simple, Good Housekeeping,
People and Elle. a new mom might appreciate a
parenting magazine or a fitness/health mag.

more gift ideas here