Funny stories... tales from the road... life with us.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cool New Toy!

Rob and I got a FlipCam for Xmas from my parents (thanks, Mom and Dad!), and we've had a lot of fun playing around with it already. This is Rob's first little edited ditty -- juggling in the dark with glow-in-the-dark flashing balls. Silly, but fun... enjoy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Recipe Sharing: Blue Sky Potatoes

This is a terrific Rachel Ray recipe that I made for an office potluck. Enjoy!

Blue Sky Potatoes
Yield: 24 servings

24 new red potatoes, halved lengthwise
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ c. sour cream
1 c. crumbled blue cheese
½ c. crumbled cooked bacon, plus more for garnish
⅓ c. chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
¼ red onion, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 400°. In a medium bowl, toss the potatoes with the olive oil. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake until the skins are crisp, 20 to 25 minutes; let cool.

Scoop out the center of each potato half and place in a medium bowl. Stir in the sour cream, blue cheese, bacon, parsley and onion. Fill each potato skin with the sour cream mixture and top with more crumbled bacon and parsley.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cake Classes

A few weeks ago, my friend Leann and I embarked on the first Wilton cake decorating classes, and boy did we have fun! My goal was just to learn the skills and techniques to make pretty birthday cakes, learn how to do a design with icing and, of course, perfect that delicious buttercream frosting. :)

Here are a few photos of my cake creations...


Cake #1: learning stars and zig-zags, plus learning how to write with the icing.

Cake #2: learning shell borders, figure-piping (aka creepy clowns), practicing roses and other flowers. A mish-mash!

Cake #3: roses and sweetpea flowers. The roses are a lot trickier than they look, but I'm getting the hang of it!

Next up, we are teaching ourselves how to do the basketweave design. Now I need an excuse to practice my skills!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snowstorm of 2009

We bundled up and headed out on a snowy walk. So far, we have 10-12 inches,
and it's supposed to keep snowing for another 8 hours!


Rob enjoying the falling snow!


The view of the snowy pines in our backyard.


Check out the stack of snow on the table.


Everybody loves a snowstorm!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Break Bread

I've seen this on several blogs today, so I'm passing it along. It's a Panera Bread ad from USA Today. Very clever!

An open letter to:

The Secret Service & The Party Crashers; Darth Vader & Luke Skywalker; Glee Club Singers & Football Players; Barack Obama & Joe Wilson; The Mac Guy & The PC Guy; Rosie O’Donnell & Tom Selleck; Brett Favre & Wisconsin; Wall Street Execs & Everyone Else; Martina Navratilova & Andre Agassi; Sons-In-Law & Mothers-In-Law; Introverts & Extroverts; Mike Tyson & Evander Holyfield; Itchy & Scratchy; Ohio State & Michigan; Yoko & The Remaining Beatles; Tori & Cand Spelling; Optimists & Pessimists; The Right & The Left; Lou Dobbs & CNN; People Who Are Always Right & People Who Are Never Wrong; Michael Lohan & Dina Lohan & Lindsay Lohan; Eric Mangini & Bill Belichick; Vampires & Werewolves; Kanye West & Anyone with a TV; Hallmark & Paris Hilton; Those Who Think It Tastes Great & Those Who Insist It’s Less Filling; Bart Simpson & Sideshow Bob; Insomniacs & The Inventor of the Car Alarm; Jessica Simpson & Perez Hilton; Red Sox Fans & Yankees Fans; Billy Corgan & The Smashing Pumpkins; Nerds & Dweebs; Rosie O’Donnell & Donald Trump; Prius Drivers & HUMMER Drivers; Batman & The Joker; Mariah Carey & Eminem; Guys Named Beau & Guys Named Bo; Joe Lieberman & Democrats; Popeye & Bluto; Bill Gates & Steve Jobs; Those Who Install Toilet Paper Over & Those Who Prefer it Under; Don Draper & Roger Sterling; Skiers & Snowboarders; Teenagers & Parents; Bud Selig & Pete Rose; The FiOS Guy & That Other Cable Guy; Indie Film Snobs & Summer Blockbuster Fans; Importers & Exporters; Iceman & Maverick; Conformists & Nonconformists; Freudians & Skinnerians; Housewives in Orange County & Housewives in NYC; Jan & Marcia; Mimes & Anyone With Eyes; TOS Trekkies & TNG Trekkies; People Who Are Going Back to Cali & People Who Don’t Think So; Michael Moore & George W. Bush; Early Birds & Night Owls; Sarah Palin & Tina Fey; Those That Need a Square & Those Who Haven’t Got a Square to Spare; Goth Girls & Homecoming Queens; Big Dog People & People Who Put Dogs in Handbags; Noel Gallagher & Liam Gallagher; Fashionists & People Who Wear White After Labor Day; Susan Boyle & Sharon Osbourne; Lord Voldemort & Muggles; “Pink Hats” & Real Sports Fans; Slobs & Their Roommates; Dick Cheney & Hunters; Financial Planners & Spendthrifts; Magic Johnson & Isiah Thomas; Rosie O’Donnell & Elizabeth Hasselbeck; and Benjamin Netanyahu & Mahmoud Abbas.

Break bread.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pledge 2.0

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Catching Up

I've been a bad blogger these last few weeks.... Christmas shopping, busy work and more have kept me too preoccupied, and I haven't made time to sit down and catch up in blogland.

I've started Wilton cake decorating classes with my friend Leann, and we are up to lesson 3 this week. It's really been fun, and I love having the tools and the (developing) skill to make pretty cakes! I don't want to be Duff, but I would like to know how to pull together an attractive cake. We did stars and zig zags last week; tomorrow we work on roses and figure piping.

The downside is that I now know what ingredients go into that delicious buttercream frosting we all love so much. Needless to say, anything with the words "butter" and "cream" in the title is just as bad for you as it sounds. I've been making two batches per week for my class and can feel my arteries hardening with each one. I wish it didn't taste so good!

Most of my Xmas shopping is finished, and the majority is wrapped. I'm waiting for one more thing to arrive. Our Xmas tree is faring okay... kitty still attacks it occasionally and probably continues to climb up and down the thing while we aren't watching. We didn't brave any ornaments this year. :)

Hope your holiday season is going well so far... I'll look forward to reading all about it!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Attack Kitty!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Tasty Pick-Me-Up

I just went into our kitchen at work, and there I found new k-cups of gingerbread coffee, vanilla roast and hot chocolate.

Oh, joy, of joys. Just what I needed to perk up my afternoon! I brewed me up a gingerbread and tossed in a vanilla creamer for good measure.

Sometimes it's the little things!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Last NaBloMo Post!

It's the last day of November, so I'm wrapping up my November challenge of posting something new every day. It's been fun, but a little exhausting. :)

Thanksgiving has ended, we are getting decorated for Christmas (this is our first time to put up a tree in many years, thanks to our rambunctious kitty!) and we are on the downhill slide toward Christmas. It will be here and gone before we know it.

Thanks for sticking with me, reading and commenting these last few weeks. I've really enjoyed your feedback!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Wrap Up

Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving! We headed up to my parents' house on Thursday morning, avoiding the Wednesday-night-before-Thanksgiving craziness, and got up there a little before lunchtime. We had a great meal with my family and spent the evening with Rob's family. It's nice when everyone is in the same place!

Friday morning, my Mom and I headed to the mall pretty early. We scored some good deals, although we didn't buy too much and we avoided Wal-Mart altogether. When we got home, everyone else was still asleep! Rob got up, we bundled up in layers (I had on long-johns, a sweater, a sweatshirt, jeans, jacket, hat, scarf, ear-wraps. gloves and hat!) and set out on the Allegany Highlands Trail, departing from the depot and walking toward Cumberland. It was snowing and c-o-l-d, but we had fun! We went about 1.5 miles out, found five geochaches, and walked the 1.5 miles back. Then we went for pancakes at a local diner - delicious!

We decided to head home on Saturday, instead of waiting until Sunday, to avoid the traffic. I decided that after five years, we should try putting up a Christmas tree again. We've not been putting one up, due to the high-level of crazy that emits from our kitty. It's sans-ornaments (that would be waaaaaaaay to much temptation!), but it looks pretty with just the lights. She's already climbed up it and I've chased her away more than a few times, but it's still standing!

Back to work tomorrow, but not before the last of the turkey leftovers for dinner tonight. Let the countdown toward Christmas begin!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Heated Rivalries

Newsweek did a feature on the top 10 rivalries of the decade. Personally, I think some of them are l-a-m-e, but I'm interested in your feedback, too.

Here's what Newsweek said:

10. Angelina Jolie vs. Jennifer Aniston
9. Facebook vs. MySpace
8. Sarah Palin vs. ‘SNL’
7. Federer vs. Nadal
6. Print vs. Digital
5. Google vs. Everyone Else
4. Pixar vs. DreamWorks
3. Red Sox vs. Yankees
2. Mac vs. PC
1. Hillary vs. Bill
Okay, I get Print vs. Digital, since it really has changed the way we receive news. Mac vs. PC has the pop-culture value. And Google definitely thwarts the competition.

But who cares about Jennifer and Angelina? I'm so sick of the Yankees I could scream, and I don't think Hillary and Bill have quite the polar distinction that Newsweek does. I personally think they make a pretty good team, and you can interpret that as positively or negatively as you'd like.

What about China vs. the United States, in a rivalry for development and money? Verizon vs. Comcast? For sports, the Patriots vs. Colts is a better discussion, in my book. Heck, the Democrat vs. Republican rivalry has drawn a lot of heat in the last two years -- where are they?

What do you think are the biggest rivalries of the past 10 years?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Recipe Sharing: Hash Brown Benedict

This recipe was in the most recent Williams-Sonoma catalog, and it looks delicious, so I'm sharing it with you. I'm looking forward to making it soon!

Hash Brown Benedict
Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and shredded
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 Tbs. minced fresh chives
  • 12 slices Canadian bacon, cooked until lightly browned and kept warm
  • 12 poached eggs
Directions
Rinse the potatoes, drain and pat dry. In a bowl, combine the potatoes, cornstarch, salt and black pepper. In 10-inch fry pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Working in batches, form the potato mixture into 1/4-cup patties and drop them into the oil. Cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and keep warm in a 250°F oven.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice and 2 tsp. water. Transfer to a double boiler set over medium-low heat, until the water is just simmering inside the double boiler. Whisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken, then remove from the heat and whisk for 1 minute more. Season with salt, black pepper and cayenne. Whisking constantly, slowly stream in the melted butter until incorporated, then whisk in the chives. Keep the hollandaise sauce warm.

Place 2 hash brown patties on each plate. Top each patty with 1 slice of Canadian bacon, 1 poached egg and a spoonful of the hollandaise sauce. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Thanksgiving Wish for You

May your stuffing be tasty;
May your turkey plump.
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.

May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Recipe Sharing: Maple Pecan Squares

Rob and I went to a technique class at Williams-Sonoma a few weeks ago, and the person leading the class shared this recipe (it's also on the WS Web site). I am planning to make these treats for Thanksgiving -- hope they are as delicious as they sound! (P.S. - hop over to Dallas' blog for a tasty Pumpkin Crumb Cake recipe.)

Maple Pecan Squares
Yield: 24 squares

Ingredients

For the Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
For the Filling:
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
Directions
Preheat an oven to 350°F. Carefully line a 9-inch square baking pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, letting the foil extend up the sides and over the edges of the pan. Butter the foil liner.

To make the crust by hand, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar and salt until blended. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until large, coarse crumbs the size of small peas form.

To make the crust with a food processor, in the bowl of the processor, combine the flour, brown sugar and salt and pulse 2 or 3 times to blend. Add the butter and pulse 8 to 10 times until large, coarse crumbs the size of small peas form.

Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust until the edges are lightly browned and the top feels firm when lightly touched, 12 to 17 minutes. Set aside.

To make the filling, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, maple syrup and brown sugar and stir together until the butter melts and the brown sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the cream. Then stir in the pecans. Pour the hot filling over the partially baked crust, spreading it evenly to the edges with an icing spatula.

Bake until the filling is set when you give the pan a gentle shake, 22 to 25 minutes. During baking, the filling will bubble vigorously, then the bubbles will subside and become smaller toward the end of baking. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool until the filling is firm, about 1 1/2 hours.

Using the ends of the foil liner, carefully lift the maple-pecan square in its liner from the baking pan. Run a small knife around the edges of the square to loosen it from the foil. Using a large, sharp knife, cut into 25 small squares. The squares will slide easily off the foil. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 25 squares.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday Top 10

Last Thankful Tuesday of November! Here is a rundown of the things I appreciate this week:

  1. Thanksgiving! Besides the turkey, stuffing and pie, it's always good to be with family and friends.
  2. Cooler weather. I'm ready for turtleneck sweaters, scarfs and fuzzy gloves. Now if only the rain would go away...
  3. Christmas carols -- one local station is playing them 24/7, and I love it! :)
  4. My very cool new pottery mug that I picked up at a craft show last weekend. It's the perfect size and oh, so pretty. Somehow that makes the coffee taste event better!
  5. A good start on my Christmas shopping. I have several things already for Rob and am gathering gifts for others as I go along in the next couple of weeks. I've already placed some orders online and am slowly making progress.
  6. Better 'N Peanut Butter -- a delicious PB substitute, much lower in fat and (almost) just as tasty. Only 100 calories and 2 g. of fat for 2 tbsp.
  7. Big decisions around our house that I'm not quite ready to talk about yet. We've been talking and planning and trying to figure out what's next for us. Stay tuned...
  8. Smart Wool socks. I got three pair at Gabriels in Morgantown at a BIG discount ($3/pair instead of $10/pair at LL Bean). Yay!
  9. My sweet AJ kitty who runs to great me at the door everyday when I come home. She always makes me feel loved. :)
  10. Trader Joe's strawberry cereal bars!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Recipe Sharing: Drunken Risotto with Sausage and Spinach

I made this dish Sunday night, and it's a keeper. Risotto and I don't have a good history together, but this one worked. Even I was surprised! :)

It's from the most recent issue of the Rachael Ray magazine.

Drunken Risotto with Sausage and Spinach
Yield: 4 servings (I think it serves more -- we both had a heaping portion, Rob had seconds, and there's a ton left over.)

Ingredients

  • 3 c. dry red wine
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 lb. bulk Italian sausage
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 c. arborio rice
  • Salt and peer
  • 1/2 lb. spinach leaves, stemmed and chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (I used a smaller portion from my spice cabinet)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 c. grated pecorino-romano cheese
Directions
In a large saucepan, combine the wine and chicken broth; keep warm over a low flame.

In a large, heavy pot, heat the EVOO over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, crumbling it and until browned, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the rice and season with salt and paper.

Add the warm wine stock mixture a couple of ladlefuls at a time (I used a 1/2 c.), stirring vigorously after each addition and letting the liquid evaporate before adding more, cooking the risotto for 18-20 minutes.

In the last 5 minutes of cooking, stir in the spinach by the handful, allowing it to wilt. Stir in the nutmeg. In the last minute, stir in the butter, and then the cheese.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Do You Yelp?

Yelp has become my new favorite site for reviews. I have an account and primarily do restaurant reviews, but you can find anything and everything on there -- from shopping to stuff-to-do to doctors and more. You can sort by city and find almost anything (at least in the D.C. area).

I wrote a review of our dinner at Founding Farmers on Friday night, pretty much giving them a glowing rating, but noting that it took a little longer than normal to get our check and get out the door. Nothing terrible, and we agreed that it was nice not to be rushed, but we just thought that with the big crowd waiting at the door, it would have been fine to turn our table over a little faster.

Anywho... today I got a message from the manager of FF, thanking me for our nice review. He even offered us a free dessert on our next visit. He asked us to share our server's name (I assume it's probably on the receipt??) so he can follow up and make sure that others don't have that delay in wrapping up their meals.

Impressive follow-up! If you don't Yelp, check it out and find info on the good, bad and ugly of your neck of the woods.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Date Night

Rob treated me to a night on the town on Friday. We headed down into D.C. after work, parked our car near the Kennedy Center, where we had show tickets for later.

As it turns out, we'd both forgotten to grab some change before we headed out, and we needed it for the parking meter. We were near George Washington University, so I stopped three co-eds and asked them if they knew of anyplace we could get change. They just started handing over their quarters and dimes! Rob gave them $2, we fed the meter and set out on foot to dinner. How generous of those girls!

We had a dinner reservation at a popular D.C. restaurant we hadn't tried, but we'd heard lots of good reviews from friends. Excellent! We shared appetizers of skillet corn bread and blue cheese/bacon wrapped dates. The dates were delicious -- sweet and tangy, and not anything I'd ever try to fix at home. Rob had the three-cheese ravioli with herb butter, and I had the rustic chicken pot pie. We were too stuffed for dessert.

After dinner, we set back out for the 10-block or so walk to the Kennedy Center to see A Streetcar Named Desire (the Tennessee Williams play). We'd gotten the tickets months ago, and I'm so glad we did because the play was terrific. Cate Blanchett played the lead role of Blanche DuBois, and the other actors all really stood out too. I really didn't know much about the story going in, so that made it really interesting.

Thanks to Rob for treating me to the show and dinner!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Am I Missing Something?

Are there Twilight fans out there?

Is there something I'm not getting about these books? Should I be reading them? Everyone I know is talking about them. I guess I have a pre-conceived idea that I won't enjoy them, since I don't really like science fiction or fantasy stuff.

Examples: Rob had to draaaaaag me to those Lord of the Rings movies, and I still don't understand The Matrix and think it's probably one of the dumbest movies ever made.

Like me, you are likely seeing stuff everywhere about the new movie coming out. (Or maybe it's already out? I told you I was out of the loop.)

Tell me -- am I missing something???

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'd Have to Disagree

Oh, People magazine. Really?

I'm not sure what you were thinking, naming Johnny Depp this year's classy title of "Sexiest Man Alive."

I guess he's just not my cup of tea, but I don't really see what qualities make him attractive. Maybe some people really do find that whole bad boy motif enticing. Personally, I do not. Everyone knows I love nerds.... Matthew Broderick, John Cusack, Noah Wylie. Oh - and my hubby, of course.

Next year, please, please, please encourage your search committee to expand beyond the Oceans 11 cast and Hollywoods stereotypical heart-throbs. There are tons of notables out there that are way more deserving. Or at least I think so.

**********

Note: this is my immediate reaction upon learning the Depp news. Who knows, maybe I'll change my mind after I read the article... but somehow I doubt it. If you love Johnny Depp, no judgment from me! :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Recipe Sharing: Beef Stew

This is my favorite recipe for beef stew, coming from Rob's America's Test Kitchen cookbook. It's perfect for a Sunday evening dinner, and there's always leftovers to enjoy for lunches or throw in the freezer for a quick dinner later.

Enjoy!

Beef Stew
Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 3 lb. boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 1 c. dry red wine
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 medium red potatoes, washed and cubed
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 c. frozen peas
Directions
  1. Put oven rack to the lower-middle position; pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Cube and season beef with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp. of oil in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown half of the meat, about 10 minutes, and then transfer to a plate. Return the pot to medium-high heat and repeat with 1 more tbsp. of oil and the remaining beef. Set browned beef aside.
  2. Add the last tbsp. of oil to the empty pot and return to medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stire in the tomato paste and garlic, cooking for 30 seconds. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Slowly stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the broth, thyme, bay leaves and browned beef (along with the accumulated juices). Bring to a simmer, cover and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook for one our.
  4. Stir in the potatoes and carrots. Cover and continue to cook in the oven until the beef and potatoes are tender, about 1 hour.
  5. Remove the pot from the oven and discard the bay leaves. Stir in the peas and let sit for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste before eating.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday Top 10

Happy Tuesday! Here are my top thanks for this week -- hope you are having a great day!

  1. Weekend visits with family and friends, as Rob and I traveled to West Virginia and to Ohio to spend time with some of the people we like the most. :)
  2. Sweet AJ kitty who is always so happy to see us! When we got home from our long weekend away, she was waiting by the door. She's been extra friendly and is glad to have us home!
  3. Our upcoming date night. We are going to see A Streetcar Named Desire and enjoying dinner out in D.C. Can't wait!
  4. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. I'm reading this book now and can't put it down. It's a heart wrenching story.
  5. The kind happy birthday wishes that filled my facebook and cards that filled my mailbox last week -- thoughtful friends!
  6. Spending 30-40 minutes on the treadmill daily. I've been a little flattened with my weight loss efforts (basically, I'm stuck), but I really enjoy getting in a workout and clearing my head or watching a show on the DVR.
  7. Burt's Bees Lip Balm and Dove Cream Oil Intensive Hand Cream -- my two must-haves for the cooler weather.
  8. My new Bublé CD -- love it! Thanks to Rob for a perfect birthday gift. :)
  9. Jolly Christmas carols that are starting to fill the airwaves. It might be a smidge early, but that doesn't keep me from humming along. :)
  10. Trader Joe's Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Boots Update

After last week's fruitless search for new boots, I'm happy to say that I found a pair! I happened by an Aerosoles store and saw a big variety of boots in the window, so I wandered in and found a jolly, very helpful sales gal who guaranteed me that she could get my ankle in any boot in the store.

I don't know how she did it, but she did!

I left with a new pair of black boots that not only fit, but are very comfy and stylish. I'm looking forward to wearing them next weekend when Rob and I venture out on our theater date (more on that coming soon).

Yay for me!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Big Cookie!

I was just thumbing through the new Williams-Sonoma catalog and came across this: Sandwich Cookie Cake Pan.

How cute is that???

I'm debating on whether I should spring for it now (I do have a $20 gift card I could cash in), or if I should hold off until December 26 and try to snag it at half-price.

I'll probably hold off, but I'm already planning the fun cakes I can make with this cute pan!


Kankles

When I broke my ankle last March, I kind of knew there would be shoes in my closet that I would probably not wear ever again. I had a feeling that I'd be bidding some of my cute, strappy heels farewell.

I did not expect that I'd be bidding my boots goodbye, too.

Turns out that I now have kankles.

Correction, I have a kankle.

My right ankle is wider and chunkier than my left ankle. It's very attractive, if I were a table.

I decided to order some new tall black boots from Zappos. I ordered two sizes (I feel like I can do that with free shipping and free returns), and they came last week. They are soft and stylish!

They do not fit.

I can zip up my left boot with no problem. My right boot won't zip up past the top of my foot.

They are going back and I will be bootless.

Goodbye, cute heels. Goodbye, comfy boots. Sigh.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Walken Gaga

Love me some Christopher Walken! He can make almost anything (including these wacky song lyrics) sound fascinating. Have a listen at him taking on Lady Gaga's "Pokerface"...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Recipe Sharing: Corn Chowder

Fall is an excellent time for hearty soups, chowders and stews. I made this recipe a few weeks ago and we really enjoyed it. Warning: it makes a TON, and the cookbook recommends against freezing it. Despite our best efforts to enjoy it for a couple of dinners and lunches, I still finally pitched out a ton. Next time, I'll probably half the recipe.

The recipe calls for 10 ears of fresh corn, but since that isn't available now (and shucking it even when it is would be a pain), I used the option to use frozen corn. I'll note the substitution in the recipe below.

I guess you could add chicken to this dish, but it isn't called for in the recipe. If you want a chicken corn chowder, I recommend this recipe.

Enjoy!

Corn Chowder
Yield: Six servings (sayeth the cookbook - I'd say eight or more is more accurate)

Ingredients

  • 10 ears fresh corn, husks and silk removed*
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 3 c. chicken broth
  • 2 c. milk
  • 2 medium red potatoes, washed and cubed small
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 c. heavy cream
* Two pounds of frozen corn can be substituted for the fresh corn ears. Puree one pound of the frozen corn (I used the blender) with all of the broth until smooth. Omit the flour from the recipe and use the pureed corn in place of the grated corn.

Directions
  1. If using fresh corn, cut corn off of four ears; set aside. Grate the remaining six ears (using a box grater) in a separate bowl. (If using frozen corn -- waaaay easier! -- skip this and see note above).
  2. Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, until crisp. Stir in the onion and cook until softened, about five minutes. Stire in teh garlie and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in the flour (omitted if using frozen corn) and cook for one minute. Slowly stir in the broth and milk, scraping up any browned bits.
  4. Stir in the potatoes, bay leaves, thyme and grated corn.
  5. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.
  6. Stir in the remaining corn kernels and cream. Continue to simmer until the corn kernels are tender, yet still slightly crunchy, about five minutes.
  7. Discard the bay leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Restaurant Tell Alls

Last year, New York City passed legislation that required all city chain restaurants to post calorie data on their menus. I think this is an excellent idea! As someone who (mostly) tries to keep track of the calories I consume, it is so helpful to be able to easily find nutrition information. Kudos to restaurants who aren't scared to actually share the good or bad news about the food they are serving!

Here are a few of the helpful nutrition Web sites for restaurants -- do you know of any others?

  • Red Robin -- Customize your burger by adding cheese, taking off the bun, enjoying fries.
  • Starbucks -- Test your latte knowledge or find out how many grams of fat are in your apple fritter.
  • Panera Bread -- Get the skinny on your "you pick two" combo.
  • Baja Fresh -- A nutritional table for entrees and their most popular side orders.
  • Chipotle -- This isn't an official Chipotle site, but it's an excellent calculator for finding out the bad news about your burrito.
DietFacts.com and CalorieCount.com are also two great sites, chock full of tons o' restaurants.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Xmas Wish List

What's on your holiday wish list? It's only 43 days until Christmas, and this is the time of year that people start asking for gift ideas... and I'm always stumped. I try to keep a running list of things I'd like to have to pass along as suggestions, although surprises can be fun, too! Here are a few items from my wish list so far....

  • A new food processor. Mine is small and old (a hand-me-down from my grandmother), and I've been eyeing up some of the new models.
  • Pastry Mat -- I saw one of these used at a technique class at Williams-Sonoma, and now I'm a fan.
  • 2qt. baking dish to match my 9x13, 8x8 and pie plate.
  • Gift cards to Starbucks or iTunes.
  • New black socks. All of mine are wearing thin!
What is Santa bringing you?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Top 10

It's week two of the resumed Tuesday Top 10, so here are the things I'm thankful for this week....

  1. A wonderful wedding celebration for my friends Kelly and Brian. Everything was perfect, and everyone is so happy that they are starting their life together!
  2. Spending lots of time with my parents and having dinner with my grandmother this weekend. Always fun to see everyone!
  3. Celebrating another birthday! It's much better than the alternative. :) I believe that 33 will be a good year!
  4. A short week at work... since I took off Monday, it'll make the week go even faster.
  5. Thoughtful birthday messages, cards and gifts from friends and family. It's nice to be remembered!
  6. A jillion loads of laundry, finally washed, dried, folded and put away. (Boo for the fact that the laundry basket is getting full.... again. How does that happen??)
  7. Finding a new pair of jeans that fit. I have the hardest time with this.... too long (even thought I'm tall, I have short legs); fit in the hips but gaps in the waist; etc. The same stuff every girl finds, I supposed. Banana Republic's Urban cut are my new faves.
  8. The accomplishments of not biting my nails for five weeks. It's been tough! I'm trying to stop doing it for a couple of reasons, including trying to avoid picking up any germs and getting them inadvertently in my mouth.
  9. One step closer to that dishwasher I've been wanting.... at least we've started to look in the stores. :)
  10. Trader Joe's mini gingerbread men cookies!
Hope you are having a great week!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Happy birthday to me!

Today is my 33rd birthday. Wow! I guess I should feel old, but 33 still sounds good to me and I don't feel old.... yet. I've never been the kind of gal to feel a crisis coming on about a birthday, so why start now?

I celebrated today by taking the day off from work, running a bunch of errands, having lunch out with my hubby and looking for a new dishwasher. Tonight we are going out to dinner and opening gifts. Love low-key celebrations!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Wedding and the Toast

Well, the big wedding weekend came off without a hitch. The bride was beautiful, the ceremony was perfect and my friend is married!

In case you are interested, here is the toast I offered at the reception:

Hello, my name is Kathryn, and it’s my honor to offer a toast this evening.

Kelly and I met a very long time ago, when her family moved into
a house up
th
e street from mine, and our families quickly became friends. Throughout the last 30 years, we’ve been each other’s shopping companion, traveling buddy, card playing nemesis and confidant for all things good and bad.

What stands out to me about Kelly is that she is as loyal and as sincere a friend as I’ve ever known. She’s always supportive. Always thoughtful. Always encouraging. Always t
here.

I know that Brian knows this, and I want each of you to know what kind of friend Brian is getting in his wife Kelly. His life – and their lives together – will be blessed with this closeness. I know everyone here today celebrates this joy!

The actress Nanette Newman once said, “A good marriage is 80 percent good luck in finding the right person at the right time. The rest is trust.”

Brian and Kelly couldn’t have chosen better people to hold that trust than one another.


So, please join me in celebrating Kelly and Brian – to love, laughter and happily ever after!

Here are a few photos from Saturday. Kelly and I had our makeup done, and I don't think I look quite like myself. :)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Love and Marriage

In honor of Kelly and Brian's wedding today, I'm sharing some fun quotes about marriage that I found as I was researching ideas for my toast. Enjoy!

To keep your marriage brimming, with love in the wedding cup, whenever you're wrong, admit it; whenever you're right, shut up.
-- Ogden Nash

Marriage is a great institution, but I'm not ready for an institution.
-- Mae West

Love is blind -- marriage is the eye-opener.
-- Pauline Thomason

A good marriage is like a casserole, only those responsible for it really know what goes in it.
-- Anonymous

Friday, November 06, 2009

Good Snackin'

Last week I went to the market on the way home from work, which typically turns into disaster since I'm usually hungry! I ran across a display of these bars at the end of the health food aisle, checked out the nutrition and tossed one in the cart. I'm so glad I did!

Luna Minis may be my new favorite snack. They are half the size of a normal Luna bar, but still packed with nutrients like calcium, folic acid, iron and protein. The minis come in these flavors: S’Mores, Nutz Over Chocolate and Caramel Nut Brownie.

As the Luna Web site says, bigger isn't always better. Sometimes a little bit is all we need!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Birthday Clubs

I am a big fan of signing up for restaurant birthday clubs and taking advantage of all of the free appreciation they throw my way every November. Here are a few of my favorites -- join them and celebrate your next birthday with these goodies! (Note: all of these coupons are good for the two weeks surrounding the big day.)

What are your favorite birthday freebies?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Glee and the SSB

Did you see the cast of Glee sing the Star Spangled Banner at game three of the World Series? They did an excellent job! Rob and I like to watch Glee, in part for the campiness of the whole show, but they also reflect a lot of diversity and overall wacky characters.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tuesday Top 10

It's back for November! Last year, the bloggy-thing to do was to share 10 reasons to be thankful that week. Seeing as how it's November and Thanksgiving and all that jazz, I thought I'd bring it back for the next four Tuesdays. Here goes nothin'.....

1. Celebrating good friends! We are really looking forward to this weekend's wedding celebration for Kelly and Brian. Besides my duties as MOH, we can't wait to spend time with their families and buggy on the dance floor. :)
2. Seven months healing on my broken ankle and a 99% return to normal mobility. For a while, I thought it would never heal. Yet here I am, running and jumping and sometimes completely forgetting that it ever hurt so badly. It still aches here and there, and the scars are slowly fading, but it's so, so much better than I would have thought just a few months ago.
3. Since today is the day we'll elect a new governor of Virginia, it also means that we will FINALLY have an end to the incessant phone calls we receive to vote for one party or the other. I bet we get 10 every day! I am more than thankful that those are coming to an end.
4. Fall weather, cooler temperatures, sweaters and the beauty of the season.
5. My funny husband who loves to tell me about his kills and successes on his Xbox shoot-'em-up games. I have no clue what he's usually talking about, but it's fun to hear the stories nonetheless.
6. Red Starbucks cups and the return of holiday drinks on November 3. Gingerbread latte, I'm coming for you.
7. The new dishwasher I've convinced myself that Rob is going to buy me for my birthday. It's the only thing I've asked for!
8. A job that I continue to really enjoy, even almost eight years after I started. Never a dull day in our office, and fun co-workers really make a difference.
9. Facebook and blogs that keep me in touch with so many friends I wouldn't be able to keep up with without them. Sometimes that are too time-consuming, but I really enjoy following your stories!
10. Jell-o Cinnamon Roll pudding snacks!

Monday, November 02, 2009

NaBloPoMo

Last year, I pledged to blog every day during the month of November as part of National Blog Posting Month. I have a couple of other friends doing it again this year, and since I blogged yesterday (unintentionally!) on November 1, I thought I'd give it a go.

Hopefully I won't run out of things to say. :)

This weekend was busy, but fun. I headed west on Saturday to spend the day with my dear friend Kelly who is getting married in LESS THAN ONE WEEK!! Her big day is next Saturday! We finished her seating assignments, figured out who is eating chicken and who is eating beef, tried on her dress, fooled with her hair and had lunch with the groom. I made it back home in time to make chocolate waffles for dinner and give candy to our handful of trick-or-treaters.

Sunday morning was a washout with buckets of rain coming down, but we headed out anyway after church to a picnic with Rob's geocaching people. I'd made a lemon pound cake and a pasta salad to take (I need some new potluck picnic ideas -- I'm pasta-saladed out. Ideas??), and we were crammed in the world's tiniest pavilion. About halfway through the event, though, the rain stopped and the sun came out. It was a good time and nice to be outside some, although I stayed out of the rain as much as possible as I'm trying to avoid getting sick before my MOH duties next weekend.

Overall, a fun weekend!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

To Whom It May Concern

Dear new thyroid doctor,

It was nice meeting you, and I feel like we'll make a great team to kick my thyroid back into gear. I'm optimistic!

Next time, please don't give me a blank prescription, and then let me know you'll call me with what dosage level to check off before taking it to the pharmacy. The nice ladies at Target didn't appreciate that and refused to give me my medicine until they talked to you.

On a positive note, I'm feeling much better!

Sincerely,
Me

*******

Dear Target pharmacy,

Please don't give me a hard time. I only did what the doctor told me to do. I guess I thought it might be a little odd (or, in your word, illegal), but I'm just the one who needs the medicine so I can stop dragging around. My husband will thank you!

Sincerely,
Me

*******

Dear insurance company,

Why, oh why, won't you pay for my new prescription? The generic drug you will cover just isn't doing the trick. Won't you please consider paying for it and saving me $55 every month?

My husband will thank you, too!

Sincerely,
Me

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Add this to my film list....

In addition to the Lovely Bones, this is another new film I'm adding to my "must see list":



My friend the rugby player passed this along. Hopefully, the film does history justice.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Today's Bust of a Halloween Show

I used to l-o-v-e the Today Show's annual Halloween show! They'd have creative costumes, all kept secret from one another to add to the buzz (except Matt and Al, who were usually a team). We've seen them as J.Lo and P-Diddy, and then as Simon and Garfunkel and Oprah and Paris Hilton. Katie flew in one year as Peter Pan (almost knocking an innocent bystander in head, but that's neither here nor there), and Anne made a lovely Audrey Hepburn. You can take a look back here.

In the past couple of years, though, I've been really disappointed in the costumes. It's like they are trying too hard to make everyone come together under on theme, which never works. This year, they all dressed up as characters from Star Wars. It was painful to watch, and the whole schtick was more about the authentic Star Wars items on loan from Lucas Films than it was about the hosts in costume.



My advice: Quit phoning it in. If you don't want to do the costumes anymore, don't do it. Find another way to celebrate, but please quit dragging out these lame attempts!

Halloween. Bah Humbug.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Some Closure, I Suppose

Back in 2002, the D.C. area was terrorized by two crazy people who were randomly killing people. At the time, it was thought that it was one killer, dubbed the "sniper", who was driving around in a white van targeting people for no reason. Victims were being shot as they pumped gas, walked along the roadway and sat on benches. It was really scary! It seemed like every night I'd turn on the TV and the sniper would have struck again. He was hitting his victims from a distance, so people had no clue if someone was watching them from afar, just waiting to shoot.

It turns out the white van was a myth, and one night we turned on the TV to find coverage of a backyard in Washington State being dug up as part of the investigation. A suspect was in mind, and now the job was to find him. Then, just as suddenly as it started, the sniper was caught by an observant truck driver who spotted the suspected vehicle in a rest area parking lot.

The sniper turned out to be a team of two -- one man, and a teenage boy he'd taken under his wing. They were tried and convicted in both Maryland and Virginia, ensuring that any legal loopholes that could get them off the hook were essentially closed.

I explain all of this to share the news that John Allen Muhammad -- the mastermind and adult male sniper -- is set to be put to death by lethal injection on November 10. When I first heard the news, it almost took my breath away.

To be honest, I don't know why. Maybe it's because every time I pumped gas, I held my breath. I'd be nervous walking out to my car at the mall, wondering if the sniper was nearby. My heart would beat faster when I'd turn on the news and see another shooting. I guess it was just natural that the news of his execution give me the same reaction.

For the families of the victims, November 10 will bring some closure. I guess it will bring some for me, too.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Happy Hikers

We headed out early this morning for a five-mile hike in a nature preserve near Alexandria. The weatherman was calling for "soaking rain" in the afternoon, so we got up and out so we'd beat the rain and enjoy the hike.

The first part of it was on a boardwalk-type walkway that ran for about 3/4 mile, right through the wetland/nature area of the park. We were surprised to pull in the parking lot and see so many cars that early, but quickly realized that this wetland area of the park was filled with photographers trying to capture the perfect shot.

This is what I've learned about these geocaching hikes with Rob -- even if he says we'll be on the trails, we won't be on the trails. I'm not sure why it's taken so long for this to sink in, but today it was hammered home. We bushwacked our way through quite a bit, including some waist-high growth that was pretty tough! We eventually made it back to the trails as we hiked back towards the car.

It did rain on us a little bit, but we were lucky to miss most of the down pour that came later this afternoon. We spent the rest of the day napping, watching football, eating pizza and trying the Ciao Bella Blackerry Cabernet Sorbet - yum!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Book Recommendations

I've been reading some good books lately, so I thought I'd pass some recommendations on to you....

Still Alice by Lisa Genova. This is the story of a woman with early onset Alzheimer's, and it's really a wonderfully written novel. It's sad and sweet and very, very touching. And now I've convinced myself that I probably have it too. ;)

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf. I seriously could not put down this tale of two missing girls, family secrets and tragedy. It wasn't a mystery novel, but it was a real page-turner.

Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies. This is an autobiography about a real woman who gives up her life to follow her husband's career.... up until the minute he decides he doesn't want to be married anymore. It's a fast read.
I'm on the waiting list at the library for The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and I have This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, although I haven't started it yet. Any other suggestions from you??

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I'm Back

I flew home yesterday from five days in Chicago for a work conference my association hosted. Those days are looooooong days -- down to the staff office or prepping for the breakfast sessions by 6 a.m., and not back to my room until 10 p.m. or later. It's really exhausting!

The conference went well, the sessions I was responsible for running went smoothly and we managed to have a little bit of fun -- and a lot of good food. :) Dinners at N9NE, Gibson's and Volare were good treats and enjoyable time away from the madness of the meeting.

Unfortunately, I didn't get out of the hotel much more, so I wasn't able to see as much in Chicago as I wanted. Plans to walk to Millennium Park were canceled due to rain, but I did manage to get down Michigan Ave for some window shopping on my first day in town.

It's pouring rain here, but Rob decided to head out to do some geocaching this morning. After pancakes, he took off and I hit the market, Costco and Home Depot. I started today on the guest bath upstairs -- peeled all of the wallpaper border and plan to paint it a soft cream color. I've already picked out a new shower curtain and am ready to get it finished, so we can put it to good use when I start our master bath renovation.

Tomorrow after church, we are going to brunch and then taking a fall baking class at Williams Sonoma. I'm looking forward to it!

Hope you are having a nice weekend. To come, the recipe for the yummy corn chowder I made for dinner tonight.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Happy 35th, People Magazine!

As an avid People magazine reader and a longtime subscriber, I'm happy to celebrate the 35th anniversary of my favorite magazine.

People has launched a cool interactive on their Web site: 1974 to Now: People's Biggest Stories.

You can see the layouts, see the photos and read the actual articles from the archives. Very cool way to look back at great pop history, mixed in with political news and famous faces.

Toast Tips?

I am the Matron of Honor (doesn't matron sound sooooooo old??) in a wedding this November, so I have the honor of making a toast to the bride and groom.

Do you have any tips? Any good dos or don'ts? Heard any good toasts I could poach? (kidding!)

At our wedding, Tessa's (the MoH) toast was sweet, and Dave's (the BM) toast was funny. Can I be a little entertaining??

Advice welcome!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Recipe Sharing: Zesty Crockpot Chicken

Not to be confused with Zesty Chicken Enchiladas or Zesty BBQ Chicken, here's yet another tasty and easy "zesty" recipe!

Zesty Crockpot Chicken

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts (thawed, not frozen)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 pkg Good Seasons zesty Italian salad dressing mix
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 tsp. parsley
  • 1 pkg cream cheese
Directions
Place chicken in crock pot. Blend soup, dressing mix, water and parsley, add to crock pot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. One hour before serving, add the package of cream cheese. Serve over cooked egg noodles.

Monday, October 05, 2009

All the Pieces Coming Together

Dear Kate,

I'll admit that when I first met you, I didn't like you. I thought you were snippy and a little mean to poor Jon. After all, you were both working hard to raise your slew of children, and he seemed to bear the brunt of your exhaustion. What did he do to deserve it?

Now, after all that we've seen on TV and read in People magazine, I get it.

You really were living with nine children.

Doesn't Jon realize that your children -- thanks to the wonders of the Internet -- will see and read every little sordid detail of your marriage's demise? They'll see him say that he "lost his twenties" to his kids, and they'll see him sucking face with every 22 year old who he meets on the street.

You still may be a nut, and your kids definitely need some counseling and time away from the cameras, but now I get it. Jon is an idiot.

Sincerely,
Me

P.S. - In case you haven't seen Nancy Grace put Jon in his place, you can see it here:

Basket Bonaza

I've been a bad blogger lately! Work has been crazy as we prepare for a conference, and it seems like every evening has been busy with one thing or another.

Last weekend, I boarded a bus with my mom and 34 other ladies for a road trip to the Longaberger Homestead. I hadn't been there in almost 10 years, and the trip was great! We'd not been on a bus trip before, and I think we both liked it (no driving, hotel and other arrangements made for us, etc.).

Longaberger has opened a Factory Outlet where they have extras from special baskets, heaps of liners and pottery, etc. They also had a "second quality" section, and I got a couple of baskets there at a great discount. Some of the baskets in that section are really screwy, but we dug through them and found some that have defects that are barely noticeable (example: I got a giant blanket basket that has a little bit of uneven stain on the a couple of the basket splints -- who'll notice that?).

Tonight I organized my new baskets and got everything put away. Thanks, Mom, for a very fun weekend!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Recipe Sharing: Sweet Potato Gratin

We are big fans of sweet potatoes, and I found this recipe in a recent issue of Wegman's magazine. We're having it tonight with seared scallops and salad. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Gratin
Yield: 8 servings (nutritional info below)

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 sweet potatoes (or yams) (2 1/2 lbs), peeled, sliced 1/8-inch thick
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup (1/2 pint) fresh heavy cream
Directions

Use a 2-quart shallow casserole dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Coat bottom of casserole dish with oil; sprinkle with garlic. Cover bottom of dish with single overlapping layer of sliced sweet potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat until all potatoes are used. Pour cream over potatoes. Bake, uncovered, 30-35 min, until potatoes are tender and top browned. Let rest 5 min before serving.

Nutrition Info: Each serving (1/ 3 cup) contains 220 calories, 24 g carbohydrate, (4 g fiber), 4 g protein, 13 g fat, (7 g saturated fat), 40 mg cholesterol, and 50 mg sodium.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Fave Shows

Lots of new TV shows have started in the last couple of weeks, so we've been sorting through them and figuring out what we want to add to our watching. I've been trying to cut back on how much time we spend in front of the TV, so this means we've dumped some shows in order to add others.

Here's what's on tap...

1. Glee - This show is great - the music is fun, the characters are likable and the stories are funny. My only beef is that it seems like most of the women on the show (the cheerleading coach, the wife of the Glee director, the cheerleader) are all schemers. Where are the nice girls??

2. The Perfect Wife - I'm a Julianna Margulies and Chris Noth fan, and I really liked the storyline of the first episode. She's balancing career with family and a screwed up marriage/husband.

3. Flash Forward - We haven't seen this yet (it airs tonight), but I'm holding out hoped since it's from the same guys who made Lost.

Of course there are the stand-by shows we'll continue to watch, like Survivor, Amazing Race and The Mentalist. I will miss ER this year!

What are you watching?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A little sarcasm never hurt

I'm not big on Hollywood celebrities sharing their political views, but I do enjoy some good sarcasm! A friend shared this, and I thought it was too funny not to pass along - enjoy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Catching Up

We've been pretty busy for the fast few days and I haven't taken the time to write a blog. Now I'm parked in front of the tee-vee watching the stars dance, so I'm finally getting to it.

We went on a big hike last Saturday -- 8+ miles! We were actually hunting for a few geocaches, and Rob mistakenly thought we'd be on trails the whole time. He couldn't have been more wrong! We did some major bushwacking and blazed our own path. We climbed down hills and scrambled up others. I only had a minor breakdown - I'm terrified that I can't do it with my ankle still on the mend - but we did great and had such a fun time.

I have some good recipes to share.... we've been trying out some new things, so I need to get a few in order and I'll post them here. Tomorrow night we are having sweet potato gnocchi from Whole Foods, which I'm very anxious to fix like this.

So many good TV shows starting/resuming! I'm going to have to be selective -- there's no way I can watch as much as I think I can. Thank goodness for "on demand" that allows me to catch up on shows that we don't DVR.

Off to bed!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Let 'em sing it for you

This is too funny. The radio station I listen to was talking about it this morning -- you basically type in text, and it pulls the words from songs, pieces them together and sings it for you.

I, of course, am wasting all sorts of time with this. :)

Let Them Sing it For You

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

First Five Minutes

Kick-back and see the first five minutes of the season Grey's Anatomy premiere...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Recipe Sharing: Baked Oatmeal

I ran across a similar recipe on another blog, made a few tweaks and served this for dinner last night with eggs and toast on the side. Super easy, and super yummy. Enjoy!

Baked Oatmeal
Yield: 6 small servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups oatmeal
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and mix with all other ingredients. Put in an 8x8 baking dish; bake for 30 minutes. Top with fresh berries and chopped pecans. Optional: could add dried cranberries/raisins into the mix before baking, or as an additional topping.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Charm City

Rob and I decided to head up to Baltimore yesterday for a little exploring and a fun dinner in the Little Italy part of town. Baltimore is about 50 minutes from us, so it's an easy drive.

We started at the Aquarium, which is cool, but not nearly as nice as the one in Atlanta. Of course it's a lot older, but it's a lot darker and the displays aren't as fun. Regardless, we had fun and saw lots of cool sea creatures.

We'd packed a lunch, so we sat by the Inner Harbor and ate our pb&j and other snacks, then set out on foot for some geocaching and looking around. All told, we walked 8 miles! My favorite stops on the walk were the park on Federal Hill and our cannoli after dinner at Vaccaro's. :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Oprah's Party

This is pretty cool...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight Years

I've seen lots of blog and Facebook posts today commemorating the eight years since September 11, 2001.

I can't believe it's been eight years. Where has the time gone?

I remember a lot about that day. I was working for a big Internet company, located near Dulles airport. My co-worker's husband was a lobbyist for the FAA, and she came down to my office to tell me a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. This was before it was online or on the news, so we headed into our office kitchen, where the TV was always on CNN. We flipped the channels until we saw something, finally landing on the Today Show.

There a bunch of us all stood, watching it happen. I remember seeing the plane crashing into the second tower and hearing Al Roker gasping. I remember another co-worker running into the kitchen, crying about the Pentagon and being so worried about her daughter who was in a daycare nearby.

I remember calling Tessa from my desk, and her telling me that the buildings were falling. I remember being evacuated (Being too close to Dulles and the hosting spot for the majority of Web transactions maybe made our giant building a target? Everyone thought they were a target that day). I remember calling my mom at school as I drove to a co-worker's house to wait out the afternoon, and mom telling me that a fourth plane had crashed in Pennsylvania.

I remember watching the coverage, seeing the posters of the missing and hearing their families' pleas to find them safely. I sat on the couch and cried.

Eight years. Wow. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

PT Graduation

I finished my last physical therapy session yesterday. Hooray! I have to say that my eight weeks there (probably 15 sessions or so) have been so, so helpful in my recovering the majority of mobility. When I started there in July, I walked with a gimp and was a total chicken to try anything that might remotely hurt.

Now I can run, balance on my bad leg and play catch, jump with two feet, walk at 4/miles per hour on the treadmill and do pretty much everything else I used to do. Jumping on the bad ankle (just on one foot) is still a little tricky, since I can't really push off solely on that foot yet, but I'm working on it.

What's next? Keeping up with the stretches and exercises recommended by my therapist. She said it can take up to a year to regain everything, and she feels confident that I'll regain 90-95% of my mobility. I'm thankful for that!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

New Favorite Snacks

I had about 30 minutes in Target the other day as I was waiting for my prescription to be filled. Dangerous! I was hungry, so I pursued the snack aisles and found some new goodies:


SmartFood Cranberry Almond Clusters. So good, and not bad for you at 120 cals and 2g of fat. Way overpriced, yes. But so good! I bought mine on sale, and I'll watch for the next sale. I think there are also several other flavors.







Hershey's Pumpkin Spice Kisses. If I can't have a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte (no sugar-free option), I'll have three Kisses instead. I'm not a fan of candy corn, but if you are, there's a Candy Corn Kiss, too.





Fiber One Strawberry Oat Bars. Again, not bad for you with 140 cals, 3g fat and 9g fiber (notice I did not offer nutrition for the Pumpkin Spice Kisses). I'm a fan of pretty much every Fiber One product, and this is no exception. My only pet peeve is that I'm pretty sure they used to come six to a box, and now there are only five. And the box is still the same price. Hmmmm.



What are you favorite snacks?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Long time, no blog

I've been a negligent blogger the last few weeks. It's not that I don't have anything to say. In fact, I think of things throughout the day that I plan to blog about, but somehow I never get to it.

So Labor Day is over, which means summer is grinding to a halt. Boo! We spent this weekend at the lake with Rob's family, and we saw my parents on Friday night for dinner. We had a relaxing few days of cook-outs, walks and sitting by the lake. Despite the clouds and chilly temps, it was a fun weekend.

Work has been getting busier and busier as we approach the fall conference season. We are headed to Chicago in a few weeks, and I'm looking forward to it.

We are having some friends over for dinner this week, so I tested out one of the side dish recipes I'm fixing: 5-Minute Individual Potato Gratins. Yum! It's a total winner, so easy and very good! I saw this on the Next Food Network Star and recommend you make them too.

I am in a vacation planning mood and might start looking around the Web for ideas and deals... who knows where we'll go next?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Recipe Sharing: Asian Chicken and Orzo Salad

I made this Paula Deen recipe today for a picnic, and it was a hit. My dish was empty at the end of the meal -- and there was a good amount of food there to choose from -- so I'd classify this one as a success and definitely make it again. The only difference I did from the recipe was leaving out the water chestnuts (not a fan). Enjoy!

Asian Chicken and Orzo Salad
Yield: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (9-ounce) package frozen sugar snap peas
  • 1 (16-ounce) package orzo, cooked and drained
  • 1 cup water chestnuts, drained and chopped
  • 3 cups diced cooked chicken
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 (2-ounce) package slivered almonds, toasted (1/2 cup)
Directions
Cook sugar snap peas according to package directions; drain well.

In a large bowl, combine sugar snap peas, orzo, water chestnuts, chicken, green onion, and red bell pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce. Pour over orzo mixture, tossing gently to coat. Stir in toasted almonds. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

$10 Dinners

The winner of this year's Next Food Network Star has launched a great new show that I really enjoy. Good tips, easy recipes and delicious food!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Vacation! Photos of our Southern Road Trip

Rob and Kathryn's Southern Vacation (July-August 2009)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Vacation! Part 3: (rest of) Savannah and Charleston

I have been too slow in getting the rest of our vacation blogged. I'm starting to forget!

Days 5-8: Savannah, Ga. -- We'd walked and seen a lot of Savannah, so we decided to head out of the city on our last full day there, which also happened to be our third anniversary! We decided to spend the day on the beach at Tybee Island, which is only about 25 minutes from Savannah. On the way out, we stopped at the world's smallest Wal-Mart and bought two cheap beach towels and two $10 chairs. We parked, scoped out a spot on the sand, swam in the very warm (but still cloudy, east coast) water, and just hung out. After a couple of hours, we decided to go walk around the little island, leaving our beach chairs on the sand so they could dry out before we packed them up.

Two hours and a long walk later (there is supposedly a lighthouse on Tybee Island that we never did find - we looked for it, followed the map and came up empty-handed), we were headed back to collect our chairs when the rain started pouring. So much for dry chairs! Rob rescued them from the beach, we wiped them off the best we could and threw them in the trunk with a neat sheet. Grabbed lunch at a random roadside stand (the fish tacos were excellent!) and headed back toward Savannah to clean up and walk around a little bit.

Dinner that night was AWESOME. We celebrated three years at The Olde Pink House and loved it! I think it was probably the best meal I've ever eaten and we went all out. I had the blue crab beignets, she-crab soup and bbq grouper with spinach and grits. Rob had a shrimp and fried grits appetizer, a wedge salad with fried green tomatoes, and striped bass with a coulis of potatoes, corn, black-eyed peas and blue crab. We were seated in the nicest room in the restaurant -- it only had five tables and looked out at the square -- that they use for anniversaries and special occasions. It was so nice and a great way to end our time in Savannah.

The next morning, we got up and stopped at a jewelry shop we'd been in earlier, and Rob bought me a pretty pendant designed by a local jeweler. We headed out towards Charleston!

Days 8-11: Charleston, S.C. -- On our drive, we realized that the car's front power outlet wasn't working. Turns out we blew a fuse when we plugged in the GPS up front and a cooler in the back (it was above the suggested combined wattage, which we never thought about when we plugged them in). So we stopped at an Auto Zone and bought a new fuse, which Rob replaced after trying forever to take out the old fuse - he couldn't get his big fingers in there to grab it. But it still didn't work, so we passed a Honda place and I made Rob pull over. The guy there was super nice -- apparently there are two fuses for that power outlet, so he swapped out the second one (he was much faster than Rob, but he had tools!) and we were on our way. By this time we were starving, so we stopped at another random roadside place for an excellent BLFGT (bacon, lettuce and fried green tomato) sandwich!

We checked in to our hotel and spent most of the day walking around the downtown area. Charleston is much more of a city than Savannah, with more traffic and people and distance. We trekked around and stopped for a Lady Baltimore cupcake -- one of my favorites that can't be found anywhere near home.

For dinner, we'd made a reservation at Hominy Grill -- shrimp and grits for Rob, and more grouper for me. Rob says this was his favorite meal of the trip! Our only miscalculation was that it was 2 miles from our hotel, and it was looking stormy when we left (to be honest, we thought it was closer and probably would have driven, but we didn't realize it until we were on our way). We made it to the restaurant before it poured, but the skies opened up while we were eating. The gal at the restaurant called us a cab to get back!

The next day we walked through the City Market, visited the Powder Magazine, ate some southern cookin' lunch at Jestine's Kitchen and headed toward the docks to do a riverboat cruise. We'd both been to Fort Sumpter before, so we opted not to do that and instead cruised down the coastline, under the Cooper Bridge and by the Yorktown. Then we walked a loooooong couple of miles down around the Battery and finally back to our hotel to crash. Dinner that night was lowcountry cuisine -- more shrimp and grits for me (are you seeing a pattern here??) and a seafood medley for Rob. Plus, the best biscuits and honey butter!

On our last day in Charleston, we headed out to Cypress Gardens for a blackwater swamp tour, alligator spotting and hiking. We arrived soon after they opened, so we were the only two on the first guided boat tour. Our guide took us in a smaller boat and we saw about five alligators! After the boat, we hiked around and spotted some other weird wildlife. Back to Charleston for our last walk of the city, visit to the Market to pick up some bene wafers (like sesame seed cookies) and dinner at Blossom.

Sunday we started north for our 8 hour drive. It actually went quickly and we were sorry to see our vacation end, but glad to be home.

Next up, photos!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sneak Preview

If you haven't read "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold, you might want to before December.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Vacation! Part 2: Atlanta and (part of) Savannah

Back to the vacation recap. I've been negligent in getting this finished!

Days 4-5: Atlanta, Ga. -- We arrived in Atlanta in the early afternoon, and we were happy to stay with and catch up with my college roomie Ashley and her fun hubby Anthony. Their house is so cute and comfortable, and Rob loved introducing them to geocaching (right, Ant??). We had a great breakfast-for-dinner at The Flying Biscuit Cafe. Mmmm. Wish we had one here!

Days 5-8: Savannah, Ga. -- After leaving Atlanta, we drove the four hours to Savannah. After we'd checked in, we set out on foot and did a walking tour from our guide book. A lot of the sites we saw were from the movie "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil", which I loved! We had lunch -- and more importantly, bread pudding -- at Express Cafe. We went down by the waterfront to check it out, then headed back to the hotel to cool off.

We'd researched some places to eat dinner and had chosen a bbq place, so we got directions and started our walk there. There had been some light rolling thunder, so we took our rain jackets along. That was the smartest thing we did the entire trip! Just as we got to the bbq joint -- which was closed on Mondays! -- the heavens opened up, lightning started flashing and the rain poured down. We were probably about a mile from the hotel at that point, so we just started walking toward our second dinner choice. But with the rain coming down, the streets flooding almost instantly (literally, it was up above our ankles at the street corners) and our clothes soaked, we decided to go back toward the hotel. I was terrified by all of the lightning! We grabbed some cheesesteak subs at a local place across from our hotel, took hot showers and ate our lovely dinner in the hotel room. Luckily, it cleared up and we ventured out after dinner for some awesome ice cream. Rob says this will probably be one of our strongest memories from the trip!

Tuesday after breakfast, I headed over to get in line at Lady and Sons, Paula Deen's Savannah restaurant. My friend Leann told me to be in line at 8 a.m. (they start giving out dinner reservation times at 9:30 a.m.), and she was right. I was the fourth in line, and by 8:30 a.m., the line was down the street and wrapped around the block. Crazy!

We'd decided to do one of the Trolley Tours during the heat of the day, but we saw a horse and carriage tour and decided to do it instead. Our carriage driver told us about all sorts of stuff and we rode around the historic district for almost an hour. We saw the park where the beginning of Forrest Gump was filmed, saw General Sherman's house, learned about the Live Oak trees and a bunch more. It was really interesting and fun.

That evening, we headed back to Paula Deen's for dinner. In my opinion, you go here more for the experience than the food, although it was all good. It was laden with butter, just as we'd expected.

Okay... this blog entry is long enough. Rest of Savannah and all of Charleston -- plus photos! -- coming soon...

Friday, August 07, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife

We interrupt these vacation updates with a book review.

I just finished reading The Time Traveler's Wife. I hated it. Every. Single. Page.

I really wanted to read it and thought I'd better do so before the movie came out in a few weeks. It took me several chapters to even get interested, and by then I felt I was too invested to just quit. I didn't like the story or Henry or the whole idea. The only person I really liked was Clare.

And to add insult to injury, I had to pay a late fine to the library because it was due while we were on vacation.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Vacation! Part One: Gatlinburg and Chattanooga

Rob and I embarked on an 11-day trip to the hot, humid south two weeks ago today. We had such a great time, and this was our first road trip together. We managed not to get too fed up with one another in the car. ;)

Both Rob and I were feeling pretty crummy when we left. I'd been diagnosed with bronchitis and had been on the z-pack for two days, and Rob had been given a diagnosis of a viral infection. We were a fit pair.

Here's a run down of our adventures. I'll post some photos later.

Day 1: Gatlinburg, Tenn. -- This was our first stop, about 7 1/2 hours from home. We'd thought about driving the whole way to Chattanooga, but Gatlinburg is fun so we decided to stop there, and then take the long way the next day on to Chattanooga. If you haven't been there, Gatlinburg is a pretty honky-tonk town. After we checked in to our hotel, we just meandered up and down the strip, going in shops and looking around. Rob even found about five geocaches, right in the heart of the town!

We had dinner at the Smoky Mountain Brewery, which turned out to be yummy. We'd planned to go to a pancake place that had been on the Food Network, but they weren't open for dinner. We shared an appetizer of fried mushrooms with spicy brown mustard and a pizza. Rob enjoyed a sampler of five different beers (his only of the trip, since he started antibiotics the next day), and I had my first few glasses of what was an uncountable number of sweet teas.

After dinner, we rode the Sky Lift to the top of the mountain and enjoyed the view, although it was a bit weird at the top with an ice skating rink, rides, etc. We then headed back to the hotel so we could get up early and move on out towards Chattanooga.

Days 2-4: Chattanooga, Tenn. -- We headed out from Gatlinburg around 8:30 a.m. on Friday and decided to go the long way through the Smoky Mountains. The drive was beautiful!

We arrived in Chattanooga, checked in to our hotel and decided to head out on foot to see some of the downtown area. We went to the Chattanooga Choo Choo and were walking around when Rob decided to blow-out his ear. He did like people do when they are trying to get their ear to pop (hold your breath and blow out), but his ear made this tire-leaking sound that I heard about 10 feet away. Yikes! After walking around for a bit more, we decided to call his doctor. She finally called us back and called in a prescription for him at a pharmacy we'd found. So, there goes the end of Rob's great southern beer adventure. ;)

We met my college girlfriend Stephanie, her husband Eric and their two sweet little girls for dinner at Sticky Fingers. Yum! I love good bbq, and good company makes it even better.

The next day (Saturday), we headed out to Signal Mountain, which is where my Mom grew up. We drove all over the mountain, saw my grandparents' house, the church, the elementary school, etc. Then we went for a visit with my Aunt Pauline, my grandmother's dear friend who is 90 and still just as I remembered her. We stayed about an hour and loved talking with her! We made plans to meet her at church on Sunday.

After coming down off of the mountain via the very curvy W Road, we headed to Lookout Mountain. We'd planned to ride the incline, and just as I bought the tickets, the guy hung up a sign that said "Wait: 1 hour". What?!? Rob and I were standing there, debating what to do, when a security guard walked up and told us to come back after 6 p.m. He said there's hardly ever a line then, and it's open until 8 p.m., so we'd be fine. Good tip!

So we headed on to Rock City Gardens, where I hadn't been in ages, and meandered through the rocks. We saw a bird show called "Save Our American Raptors" and had giant birds flying all over the place around us.

After Rock City, we headed back downtown and walked across the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge, then ate dinner in the Bluff View Arts District. It was so pretty up there, and we found a great restaurant to crash and enjoy dinner. We were wiped out!

We headed back to the incline, and the guard was right! The line was super short and we rode up and then back down. It was probably more fun when I was four, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. :)

Sunday, we went to church on Signal Mountain with Aunt Pauline and saw several other old family friends. After church, we headed out to Atlanta.

... more vacation posts coming soon!