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Weekend Recap

Monday, October 31, 2011
Recap is a little late due to the fact that I'm still recovering from a fabulous weekend in Lynchburg.  Yeah, the drive back was a bit of a challenge, but the weekend was well worth it.  We arrived in Lynchburg just in time to freshen up and head to the rehearsal dinner.

And that was just the rehearsal dinner.  On Saturday, we took the bride's advice to go to the Cavalier for some football and seasoned fries (with ranch!).

While the locals weren't too happy that we were there and taking over the bar, we sure were.  Blair wasn't kidding about the fries with seasoning and ranch-- just what we needed.

The skies cleared on Saturday and it was the perfect fall day to celebrate Luke and Blair!  They were married in the backyard of her childhood home which was gorgeous and so meaningful for them!

After the ceremony, we were off to the party tent to celebrate and we didn't take that task lightly.

Congratulations Blair & Luke and thank you for including us in your wedding weekend!!!

Get Moving

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Pop music and cute workout gear motivate me to workout, and working out is an excuse to buy cheesy music and get new clothes.  Seems like a win-win situation for me! Here are my current faves.

American Apparel Woman's Track Tee // Lululemon Ta Ta Tamer // Lululemon Wunder Under Crop

Want Some Polenta with That?

Oops!  Realized I didn't include in the previous post my recipe for polenta.  Not that you really need a recipe but for documentation purposes, here's what we did.

Creamy Polenta

3 cups reduced fat milk + more as needed
3 cups chicken broth + more as needed
Kosher salt
1½ cup yellow stone-ground cornmeal 
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano + more for sprinkling
4 Tbs butter

In a large saucepan or deep skillet with a cover, bring milk and chicken broth to a boil.  Add 2 teaspoons of salt and then slowly whisk in cornmeal.  Continue to whisk until all the cornmeal is incorporated. Reduce the heat so that the polenta is just slightly bubbling and cover.  Continue to stir periodically and add more liquid if necessary (I feel like I always add more).  You want it to keep a creamy consistency, not firm or dry.

After it's fully cooked which takes about 30-40 minutes, stir in the butter and Parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper.

Fall Supper and Cocktail

Tuesday, October 25, 2011
If I do say so myself, I think this is the perfect fall dinner party menu-- Pork Ragu over Creamy Polenta,  Granny Smith Apple & Blue Cheese Salad and Andy's Spicy Ginger Cocktail. While this might be the perfect menu, I still have plenty of room to improve with my food photography but who likes a recipe with no picture?  Not this girl.

Pork Ragu
Adapted from Dinner a Love Story

3 pound boneless pork shoulder roast
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small pat butter
1 large can whole tomatoes with juice
1 small can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup red wine
7 sprigs fresh thyme
7 sprigs fresh oregano
Small handful of fennel seeds
1 tablespoon hot sauce

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Alternatively, you can do this in the crockpot.  It works wonderfully that way as well.

Generously season the pork with salt and pepper. In a dutch oven (we LOVE our Le Creuset 5qt Oval French Oven), combine butter and olive oil and heat over medium high heat.  Sear pork on all sides until brown.  Add tomatoes, wine, thyme, oregano, fennel and hot sauce and bring to a boil.  Cover and place in the pre-heated oven.  Cook for 3-4 hours, turning every hour or so, until it's literally falling apart.  The liquid should be about 1/3 of the way up the pork so adjust accordingly.

If you're using the crock pot, after you sear the pork, deglaze the pan and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

When the pork is done, remove it from the pot and shred it with a fork.  I strained the sauce so that the liquid was in a bowl and the tomatoes and herbs were in the strainer.  Then I removed the thyme and oregano stems from the tomato mixture and skimmed the fat off the liquid.  I added the tomato mixture back to the pork and poured the liquid until I had just as much as I needed.  Ours had a lot of liquid so this was necessary, but it might not be for you.

Granny Smith Apple and Blue Cheese Salad
Adapted from Creating a Stir in the Bluegrass and Beyond

1 head green leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
1 or 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
4 oz blue cheese, crumbled

Poppy Seed Dressing
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1½ tsp minced onion
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs poppy seeds

Place lettuce in a large bowl; add apple and cheese. Whisk or blend together all dressing ingredients, except the poppy seeds, until combined. Whisk in poppy seeds. Add dressing to salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Andy's Spicy Ginger Cocktail (nominations are being accepted for an official name)

3 cups water
2 cups sugar
¼ lb+ ginger, peeled and chopped
20 all spice berries, cracked
16 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Simmer until it has reduced and is syrupy (technical word), about 30 minutes.  Cool mixture and then strain.

Fill a double old fashioned with ice.  Add 2 oz of bourbon, 1 oz syrup and top with club soda, about 2 oz.

Recipe updated November 26, 2011

Weekend Recap

Monday, October 24, 2011
It's fall and I love it. If you see me anytime during this season (and I have a tendency to stretch it as long as possible, because really, who wants winter to begin?), I will most likely be wearing my fall uniform: pixie pants, cowboy boots, some cream blousy top and my hair on top of my head in a top knot.  I will refrain from including a picture just for the sake of showing off this look as I'm sure there will be many to come.

This weekend was wonderful.  Mom and Dad are in town visiting which is always fun, plus I had the bonus of a quick visit from Meredith who was in town for another friend's bachelorette party.  We squeezed in lunch and a good visit after I picked her up from Union Station.

Saturday evening we went to Elizabeth's house for chili.  Her parents were in town visiting and they were having people over to eat chili and watch football!  How could we not stop by?!

Well, not only did we stop by, we didn't leave.  Two glasses of wine later and a taste of the delicious chili, we were hooked for the night. Oh and there was a baby so of course Mom was smitten!

Mom, Dad and I went Sunday Driving on, yep, Sunday.  It was a little more intense than the usual Sunday driving as we went in several open houses in the neighborhoods where Andy and I hope to move some day. I will say, for now, our current apartment is the place to be!  House hunting is exhausting!

Andy's parents joined my parents at our apartment and we all had dinner last night.  Andy made a great pork ragu that we served over polenta and we shared his signature fall cocktail.  Perfect Sunday meal. Recipes tomorrow!

Hope everyone had a great weekend.

Facing Reality - 30 Days Until I'm 30

Friday, October 21, 2011
I was trying to think of anything else to write about today in an attempt to deny the fact that my 30th birthday is in 30 days.  Am I having issues with turning 30?  No! Bring it!  But I'm a little embarrassed by the complete lack of progress that I've made on my 30 before 30.  Maybe I can just add one more and make it 31 before 31?  But I guess that would be a complete violation of #14- Stop Procrastinating.  Oh well, here's my update.

  1. Photo Albums - Catch up on old photo albums.  I haven't printed pictures since college.  I want to get my photos organized and into albums... think I'm going to do digital photo books (probably on as opposed to printing pictures and putting them in a book.  More compact this way. --> Hmmm... no progress made.  Maybe a good winter project?
  2. Flossing - I need to become a flosser-- apparently this is important. --> Failure.  Why can't I be a flosser?
  3. Herb Garden - Start an herb garden and keep it alive! --> I'm going to go ahead and scratch this off the list and consider it accomplished!  "Planted" about 2 months ago and still alive and thriving.  So that was my July update and to be completely honest, they're all dead now.  Ha!
  4. Marine Parade - Try to go see the Marine Parade.  Think this one is going to have to be replaced as there are no more reservations for 2011!  This one is being replaced as there are no more 2011 reservations.  I'm replacing it with a matter of business which is Completing My Name Change.  While I am official according to the DC Courts, Social Security & DMV, I still need to have everyone else (credit cards, bank accounts, frequent flier accounts which I hear is the worst!) process my new name. --> I'm doing a pretty good job with this one as most all of the important accounts except for one bank account are DONE!  
  5. Pizza - Perfect pizza at home from scratch (this is not going to be a fun process...) --> How have we not made pizza at all???  Andy, get ready for pizza overload.
  6. Tallulah & Vidalia - Get T&V up and running. I think starting the blog helps with this one! --> I'm pretty satisfied with this.  So let's say DONE!  I've had a steady stream of work and I continue to learn something new every day.  Definitely room for improvement but with my other commitments right now, I'd say I'm happy with how this has evolved.
  7. 5 a Day - Easily incorporate 5 fruits and veggies into my daily diet.  This is probably easy for most but considering I could live off of any combo of cheese and carbs, not so easy for me.  --> Hmmm... Does it count that I add frozen peas to whatever I can?  See this, this and this.
  8. Random Acts of Thoughtfulness - I used to be much better about this.  Now I just think of things and never follow through.  Time to change. --> Always room for improvement.
  9. Get (and stay!) Organized - Financially, craft supplies, kitchen, closet.  I definitely believe that everything should have a place and everything should be in that place, so I need to find a place for everything (or get rid of it). --> Work still in progress although I'm feeling pretty good (I hear Andy laughing now).  Besides my closet, things are pretty much in their proper place and not just stashed.
  10. Time Capsules - Start a tradition of a yearly time capsule with mementos from the year. --> Blog = Time Capsule = Done.
  11. (private) Making progress!
  12. Photography - Practice, practice, practice --> Practicing yes, but still need lots of work.
  13. Baked Alaska - Make a baked Alaska!  Why?  No real reason... I just want to. --> Never did this. Are Baked Alaskas seasonal?  Maybe I should have a Pizza and Baked Alaska party.
  14. Stop Procrastinating - Self explanatory.
  15. Wines - Start and maintain a like and dislikes list. --> Done.  See my preferred tracking app here.
  16. (private)
  17. Hair Stylist - Find a hair stylist in DC that I love.  It's hard when the bar is set so high by Stephanie in Dallas, but I think it's time to find someone to supplement in DC. --> I'm overdue for a haircut but do think I've found a lady I like.  Too bad she's in Fairfax... although that is closer than Dallas (just a bit).
  18. Segways - Finally do that segway tour of DC! --> Still open... Thinking maybe this Sunday but maybe not as other plans seems to have taken over!
  19. Accessorize - Clean out my closet and organize so I can easily accessorize each day .--> Clean out closet, check! Organization still needs to happen.  
  20. Bike to Mt. Vernon - Going to have to work up to this one.  Andy, this involves you too! --> Bikes are in a storage unit (and had about an inch of dust and flat tires when we finally moved them), so I'm going to go ahead and declare this one a failure.
  21. New Recipes - Make a new recipe from one of my cookbooks each week. --> While I don't cook a new recipe each week, I'd say I probably average that considering some weeks I cook lots of new recipes.  So I'm happy with this progress.
  22. Sewing - Take a class or read a book and practice. --> Definitely open.  Don't think I've taken out my sewing machine in 6+ months.  Maybe I have too many hobbies...
  23. Birthdays - SEND BIRTHDAY CARDS!!! --> "August... august it is!"  That's what I said in July.  If you have an August birthday and didn't receive a card, don't take it personally.  It never happened.  Maybe November?  
  24. Reach out to family more frequently --> Hi family!
  25. CPA - Get licensed!!! --> Well, I'm officially licensed in Delaware.  Unfortunately, I only go to Delaware to see family and spend too much money at the JCrew outlet.  So, that's not doing me much good.
  26. House Hunting - Start checking off the tasks of what must get done before we can start actually looking at houses and buy one! --> I think we're moving in the right direction. This has definitely been placed on the back burner as neither of us have the urge to move out of our wonderful apartment building.  Hi neighbors!
  27. Constantly Question Myself - "Is this really what I want to be doing?"  If the answer is no, then CHANGE IT!  (this applies to a lot of things... daily activities like when I'm sucked into Facebook and don't want to be and more life long ones) --> I've definitely been doing this which has saved countless wasted time on Facebook.
  28. A Thought a Day Journal - Start and maintain.  --> I think this blog is serving as my Thought a Day... I bought the journal but didn't keep it up, at all.  So let's mark this as accomplished.  Blogging is my thought every few days journal.
  29. Scan Pics - Finish scanning pictures.  --> Still open for some lingering pics, especially the really old ones which aren't necessary to complete #1.
  30. Develop skin care routine --> Still open on this one as well although I have consistently been using Olay ProX and like it.

iPhone Pics Recap

Thursday, October 20, 2011
What in the world did we do before iPhones?  Yep, I'm that addicted. Granted, I've always loved a personal digital assistant (is the term PDA even around any more?).  I was that dork that got my first Palm PDA as a high school graduation present and loved it.  Had a Treo as my phone when people were only using them for business, not personal, and then got the iPhone as soon as they were released thanks to sweet Andy.  But for real, it's amazing how the pictures in my iPhone photo library capture what I've been up to.

I bought the Pixie Pants and I love them.   Hands down, I could wear them every day.  Here's a pic in the dressing room.  Thank goodness our JCrew carried the short length as baggie ankles aren't cute.

We got an AppleTV and it's amazing.  With our photos mostly digital these days, I rarely go back and look through them.  Well, not any more!  I use our TV now to play music when I'm hanging out in the apartment and the screen saver is a random slide show.  It's quite distracting especially when precious little baby pics pop up!

For a few weeks there, I was getting to work pretty early.  Kind of depressing when you leave for work and it's still dark outside, but the amazing sunrises that I saw made it a bit more tolerable.

And while I hate my long commute to and from work, there are a few redeeming aspects... it gives me time to chat on the phone (hands free, of course) and if I need it, it gives me time to decompress in old-school fashion-- driving, left foot up, windows down and blaring the Gourds Gin & Juice on repeat.  Takes me right back to 1998.

Andy is in a pool for season tickets for the Caps which I get the benefit of as well!  Our first game was quite an exciting one... overtime, then a shoot-out and the Caps won!

Also exciting was the celebrity fan... Pat Sajak.  See him front row, second from the left?  Can't miss that hair!

And then there's the random photo of toilet cleaning brushes that I took to send to Sara Jane.  I tell you, these things make cleaning the toilet painless.  And now I'm spreading the love to the blog world.

Lastly, something that made me smile and tear up (in a good way!).  The most thoughtful thank you gift...

I am the one that should be thanking Joanna & Glenn for letting us have Penny's full attention for a few hours!  Sweet Joanna heard me say that I missed the Missoni madness at Target because I worked too late the night before to get there early the next morning.  All I wanted was the Missoni hair clips and guess what I have now?  Now all I need is a deep freeze for some of the yummy recipes from the Best Make-Ahead cookbook.

And there you have it, a walk through the last couple of weeks.  I need to remember to do this more often as I take random pics on the iPhone but rarely look back at them.

The Not-Paella Paella

I love the Everyday Food app for my iPhone. The recipe shuffle turns the "what are we going to have for dinner" question into a little game.  Much more enjoyable than wandering around the grocery trying to be inspired.  Well, yesterday the Easy Paella recipe popped up and it sounded appealing.

But we don't eat shrimp so that had to go which left us with sausage and rice (the recipe doesn't even call for saffron... guess that's not "easy").  Don't think you can call that paella any more!  Regardless, dinner was delicious, pretty healthy and hands-off after the initial 20 minutes of prep.  Pretty good start to trying to cook dinner again.

So yeah, promise this isn't becoming a food blog!  As I try to get back into the swing of things, cooking comes first.

The Not Quite Paella Paella
Adapted from Everyday Food's Easy Paella

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined - if using
1 (12 ounces) chicken sausage, sliced in 1/2-inch rounds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes - don't drain
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup frozen green peas

I skipped this step but just in case you're a shrimp lover, I've included Martha's directions if you're including shrimp.  In a heavy bottom, large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Cook shrimp until just pink on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes (do not overcook). Transfer to a plate.

Add remaining tablespoon of oil and sausage to pan that's preheated over medium-high heat.  Cook until brown and crispy. Add the onion and cook until translucent and soft. Add garlic and rice to the pan and stir until the rice is coated and starts to look translucent.

Add chicken broth, tomatoes in their juices, paprika and turmeric. Turn heat up to high and stir, making sure to get the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.  Season with salt and pepper.

After the mixture has come to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer until rice has cooked through and absorbed the liquid. Stir in the frozen peas which will quickly heat through. Add cooked shrimp if you wish and serve immediately.

Hasselback Potatoes

Wednesday, October 19, 2011
The other week (it truly has been weeks since I've cooked dinner for us... maybe tonight!), we needed a side to accompany the steaks Andy was making for dinner.  Potatoes were on my mind but mashed potatoes or baked potatoes weren't doing it for me.  I love scalloped potatoes but didn't have the time or patience to do that. Then I remembered a picture from my friend Joanna's pinterest board of Hasselback Potatoes.

Not quite a baked potato, not quite roasted potatoes but perfectly delicious.  These were tasty, different, easy and hands off.  Would be perfect for a dinner party as they are quite pretty.  Don't skip the garlic. That was key to making these have a little edge.

Steaks Weren't Ready for Their Photo Op Just Yet

Hasselback Potatoes
Adapted from Sea Salt with Food
Found via Joanna's Pinterest

2 Potatoes
2 Cloves of Garlic, very thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 425.  Slice the potatoes into thin slices but not all the way through.  You want the potato to stay in one piece.  Stick slices of garlic in between the potato slices and smear a little butter in there as well.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until the potatoes are brown and crispy on the outside but soft and tender in the middle.  It took me closer to an hour and I think it could have cooked longer.

Weekend Recap - Getting Back into the Swing of Things

Monday, October 17, 2011
Well, it's been way too long since my last post!  I took an unplanned blogging break when work got a bit too busy, but after this weekend, I feel like I'm back in the swing of things.

We had a great weekend in DC-- perfect fall weather, cocktails with friends, anniversary celebration and, of course, football and chili!

Stacy's parents were in town for a visit, and she had us over for cocktails and to catch up.

Then Andy and I went to celebrate our first anniversary!  I cannot believe it's been a year.  It's been a great year, but here's to many more even better years!

We had dinner at Central which is where we ate before we got engaged.  Appropriate and delicious. After dinner, we met up with more friends for post-dinner drinks.  Tom and Catherine were in the City for the night for a black tie function.  It worked out perfectly for us to meet up after dinner for drinks.  Guess 8:45 is a good reservation time-- you can have pre-dinner and post-dinner cocktails!

The rest of the weekend was filled with cooking, organizing (um, can't you tell in that photo above that I needed to do some organizing!!), catching up and resting.  Andy made his chili which was perfect for football watching and the crisp weather.  We also made a new seasonal cocktail.  It's fall's answer to summer's backporch lemonade.  Recipes to come!

Blue Plate Oysterette & Tim Clarke Design

Wednesday, October 5, 2011
While we were in California, we took one of the bride's suggestions and dined at the Blue Plate Oysterette right on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica.  It was delightful!  So delightful that Mom and Dad ate there twice.  The food was quite fresh and delicious, but what really won me over was the interior.

Photos via Blue Plate Oysterette's Website
Unfortunately, there aren't many pictures of the interior on their website (says pictures coming soon), but I did read on their menu who did the interior: Tim Clarke Interior Design. Upon coming home (did I ever mention that we didn't have internet on the flight there or back?! How archaic!), I googled up Mr. Clarke and fell in love with his work.  Check out some of my favorites below and much much more in his portfolio.