December 31, 2012

Let's Review

Don't look now, but we seem to be sliding rather fast into a bright and shiny brand new year, ladies and gentlemen. I am, as usual for this time of year, full of hopes and dreams and dogged determination to stick to my resolutions for the next 365 days. No time like the present, right?
This weekend was a lovely one, thanks to kind neighbors and sweet friends. Dan and I will be celebrating the last minutes of 2012 tonight with a dinner date, followed by what will surely be a struggle (for me) to stay awake for that first kiss of the new year. I'm pretty excited to share a quiet night with our four-legged family members and a bottle of champagne from the vineyard where we spent a pretty special day back in September. I will be celebrating January 1st in style with a clean-all-the-things rampage... I know, it really bodes well for the rest of the year. On another note: if you happen upon that tornado that blew through our house last week, please send her my way -- I have a few choice words I'd like to share.
For nostalgia's sake, I'm tying a nice big bow on 2012 by sharing a few of my favorite snapshots today. This year brought a(nother) wedding, a new job, a move, a honeymoon, a new puppy, and lots of time with wonderful friends and family... quite a lot of excitement packed into what felt like such a short time. Here's what it looked like in the rearview:

we spent a fantastic long weekend wine-tasting, eating delicious food, and laughing with some of our wonderful friends.

Dan and I celebrated a sweet Valentine's Day with cute mugs and an amazing dinner, and we enjoyed a picturesque snow day.

 we enjoyed time with friends at a weekend redeployment event, I fell in love with Cookout, we cooked several great dinners (pictured: salmon, french bread pizzas, and pasta and artichokes), I started using the Nike+ app to track my runs... and Toby slept.

I went for a few great runs and ran an 8k race, we celebrated a sweet little girl's first birthday and our 1st wedding anniversary, I made a cake that resembled the wrong end of a rabbit, there were cupcakes... and Toby slept.

we dressed up for a family wedding, I pampered my toes and discovered a love for iced chai, we met Gary Sinise, spent a weekend at the lake with Dan's grandparents... and Toby slept.

I sweat a lot, Dan and I had a date night, my mom and I had a date night, and we fell in love with some sweet, fluffy puppies (just a little foreshadowing here...).

my handsome guy had a birthday, we spend a fantastic evening taking engagement shots, and one of my very best friends got married!

(pictures were few and far between because our life was in boxes), we ate yummy pasta and indulged in some fro-yo, our wedding invitations hit the mail... and Toby slept.

my life was a bit too preoccupied with planning a wedding to take many pictures, so here it is, folks: the very first wedding picture on the blog! this was taken before the ceremony, when we came together to open a gift from each other, hold hands around that corner, and do everything except lay eyes on one another. more to come!

Dan and I dressed up for a gala and caught a college soccer game, the Dalai Lama spoke at my alma mater, we went to meet the litter of puppies from which we would soon adopt, we admired our shiny new grill, I got to spend some time with our friends' adorable daughter and just weeks later held her newborn sister... and Toby slept.

the month of the puppy: we added a fluffy new member to our family.

we started off warm with a fantastic honeymoon, ended the year with a chilly but wonderful holiday season, and fit in a great concert in the middle... and finally, Toby slept.

What a year!
It might be tough... but here's to an even better 2013.


December 26, 2012

A Very Merry (Instagrammed) Christmas

[egg nog + Mount Gay "Punch Kuba" straight from Barbados... perfection. also, homemade pompoms around the stems of the world's most persistent tulips -- still looking beautiful a week later]
[stunning sunset on Friday evening]
[this guy loves to sleep near the tree]
[snow flurries on Christmas Eve]
[puppy's first snow... he wasn't thrilled]
[Christmas hors d'ouevres... devoured]
[two furballs hoping for their own bite of Christmas dinner]
My Christmas was lovely, if hectic. I was lucky enough to get Friday and Monday off from work, so my extended weekend looked like a long wonderful holiday break from the front, and a quick wonderful holiday split-second from the back. We spent lots of time with family, a little time battling the last minute crowds, and entirely too much time in the kitchen (which is saying something for this baking-loving girl... I think it was the 12th batch of cheeseballs that did it). The best moments, hands down, were those that my little family spent snuggled up together -- a few late nights with egg nog and classic Christmas movies, making breakfast together early on Christmas morning, and even running those last minute errands, warm together in the car despite the frosty chill outside. I was spoiled by my sweet hubby with not just several amazing kitchen tools and a beautiful apron, but also a clean kitchen, a cup of coffee waiting for me, and later in the day a delicious Christmas dinner. My mom also spoiled us with lots of Crate & Barrel boxes full of more wonderful kitchen things. Can't wait to clean out my cabinets a bit and host a party with all my gorgeous new stuff!
December 20, 2012

The Ultimate Wish List

Every year, I have the hardest time putting together a Christmas list. My father had perfected the threat, "If you don't send me a list you won't be getting any gifts," which was usually enough to light a fire and get me browsing Amazon for at least few books that looked interesting. But my husband begs every year for even just a glimpse of an idea, and now his poor younger brother, who drew my name in the family exchange, has been texting me asking for tips too. 
Sadly, my excuse is not terribly altruistic -- it's not that I don't want anything, not that I don't see things practically every day that I would be thrilled to find under my tree. I'm simply terrible at keeping track of these items when I do find them, so when this season rolls around, I have only vague memories: "it seems like there was a pair of shoes I wanted about two months ago....." When you ask me today, I simply can't remember what I'd like.
So, to any of you who may be reading this post with great anticipation, expecting a wealth of previously untold ideas for the perfect gift (hi, hubby!)....... sorry to disappoint. I did, however, do a little brainstorming recently on what I might include on my ultimate Christmas list...

nail polish that doesn't chip
This is the current sad state of my nails. They looked great for about two hours a few days ago, between the moment that all the excess polish finally wore off my skin and the time they started to chip. Expensive manicures sometimes last as much as a day or two before I scrape my hand against something and ruin them. Is moron-proof nail polish too much to hope for? (Or while we're wishing, should I perhaps just skip the small potatoes and ask for a little bit more coordination and grace?)

someone to pack my clothes for me every night
Every evening, I trudge upstairs half asleep, dying to crawl straight into bed and shut my tired eyes. Every morning, I drag myself out of bed and curse my night-before-self for only tossing a pair of socks and a sports bra in the general direction of my gym bag, thus landing me in crisis mode, standing in my closet bleary-eyed and grouchy trying to figure out what on earth I can pack for work that matches doesn't clash too badly. It's brutal.

a lifetime supply of straws
I have a thing for straws. I bought some of these adorable paper straws in our wedding colors for our cocktail hour. I keep a stash of the regular plastic ones in pretty colors and use them 90% of the time around the house and at work (coffee and wine being the two big exceptions to that rule). 
... it's okay, my husband thinks I'm weird, too.

a puppy who will stay a puppy
While I'm not going to miss the sharp puppy teeth and the accidents around the house, I'm pretty sad that my little boy is growing up so fast. The tiny furball who I could scoop up in one hand and hold while he slept is now looking more and more like a big dog every single day (and does he ever sleep anymore??). He isn't even three months old and I'm already ready to get him a little brother...

more time with this guy
I'm including a little something for the hubby in this wish list: better work hours. I miss him on the evenings that he works late! And the whole working-on-Saturdays thing has gotten pretty old for both of us. I wish like crazy he could find a job he loves with normal person hours.
a year of pain-free running
While my shin splints are mostly better, it seems like there's always a twinge, an ache, or a cramp somewhere. I could definitely use a fresh set of legs each morning, mine to run down (literally) as I please. If they could also be long and tan like the ones above, well, I guess I wouldn't say no to that either...
a serving of whatever my coworkers eat for lunch every day
Around noon every day my office begins to smell like the house on Thanksgiving morning. Some days it's chinese, some days it's leftover pasta, and some days I can't even tell what it is, but it always. smells. incredible. and I just cry into my salad bowl. 

the ability to function on less sleep
I have become an old lady in my mid-twenties. I start yawning around 9:30, and by 11 I can barely keep my eyes open. If for some crazy reason I am still among the living post-midnight, you can guarantee I won't be good for anything except keeping the couch on the ground the next day. I would get so much more done if I could stay awake a little longer each day, but I've heard it's not a good idea to fall asleep while vacuuming your house.

the ability to un-read things I've read on facebook
This doesn't really requires an explanation, does it?

So there you have it -- a few ultimate wishes. What are you wishing for this holiday season?


December 17, 2012

Decking Those Halls

Whew. The rush of the holidays is certainly upon us... and yet I feel surprisingly un-panicked so far. My shopping is almost finished despite the fact that I never really started, thanks to a couple early purchases, an agreement that a certain furball:
... was Dan's and my gift to each other, some plans for homemade treats, and a rather full amazon cart. Done and done.
Most of the stress has been decorating-related... it seems that making the jump from apartment to house takes that standard to a whole new level. I have been hard at work on a few DIY projects that I hope to share soon (ie when I finally get around to taking a few pictures), and the hubby did an incredible job with tasteful and cheery outside lights. We have a smallish but lovely tree that is Toby-approved for snacking... and if I have to clean up another pile of hacked up pine needles I just might scream (too much information for a Monday morning?). Lots of work, but I think it's finally coming together. If only I could also find time to tackle some of the lingering piles of "things that desperately need a permanent home," I'd be getting somewhere.
Other than finishing up the decorating, our weekend was busy, although a bit bittersweet. Friday was certainly a difficult day, filled less with work and more watching the news in horror. Filled with questions. Filled with heartache for everyone who lost loved ones to such a senseless act. Filled with a sadness that followed us all weekend and remains still.
That evening, we headed out to see one of our very favorite artists in concert:
mediocre pictures, great show
I love the skeptical face on the guy behind us -- I am terribly unphotogenic, so I took about 8 pictures in rapid succession, hoping at least one would turn out decent. In the next one I snapped, he is totally grinning like he was meant to be in the picture!
Our common love for Dave Matthews was one of the very first things that connected Dan and I when we were first getting to know each other, and I've been a huge fan as long as I can remember. It has been years since either of us saw him live, but we are incredibly lucky that our hometown is also the place that Dave and many of his bandmates call home. The band's drummer and violinist actually went to school with my parents! They played a fantastic concert and we had an absolutely wonderful time.
Saturday I got a ton of stuff done around the house while the hubs was at work, and spent a little time being productive over coffee and a bagel at Panera. That evening we took the pup for a long walk and worked on the tree and decorations before staying up entirely too late watching Miracle on 34th Street -- such a classic and a nice change of pace from the news.
our attempt at Christmas light pictures... tough with a wiggly puppy
even Toby gets ticked festive!
Yesterday we got a couple of errands out of the way, hit up Starbucks for a free peppermint mocha, and then went to see Lincoln at our town's brand new theater. What an excellent movie -- fantastic acting, music, and so much unexpected humor made it even better than I had expected. Definitely recommended! Yesterday evening, we made one of my favorites: breakfast for dinner.
eggs with cheese, onions, and dill, blueberry muffins, potatoes, and (purposely) burnt bacon... yum
Tonight, we are lucky enough to get another fun date night. We are heading out for dinner and then a performance of the Nutcracker by the Moscow Ballet. It comes to town every Christmas, and we have been wanting to go for years!
The rest of the week promises to be full of crafting, baking, and wrapping, but luckily I am able to take Friday and Monday off from work, so I am pretty excited about a five day weekend. Lots of time to finish all the last-minute projects on my list... and maybe even relax and enjoy all the decorations, snacks, and the holiday goodness that we've been working so hard to put together!
The Christmas-hating twins. Poor guy, life is just a series of torture scenes...


December 12, 2012

Ho Ho Ho and... Stuff...


I keep starting to write, getting frustrated, and deleting it all, only to start the cycle over. That's how the past few days have been: at times I've been super-productive, getting things done that have been wasting away on my to-do list for weeks, but then suddenly a fog bank moves in and I'm sleepy, unmotivated, and crabby. I haven't slept well at night, but I'm pretty sure if I lay down to take a nap I might snooze for days. I've accomplished so much in little short spurts, but then I show up at the gym and after 10 minutes on the treadmill I'm ready to call it a day. I'm trying to indulge myself a little, reasoning that it's better to have an off week this week instead of the week before Christmas, but I'm also eager to snap out of it. In the meantime, here are a few non-life-altering tidbits:

For the first time in forever, I have now skipped two morning workouts in a row. I used to have such a tough time getting up and getting my butt to the gym in the mornings, but lately I've been so good about getting there pretty much every morning. Occasionally (once or maybe twice a month) I'll skip a day, so I wasn't overly concerned when I woke up not feeling great yesterday and decided to roll over and go back to sleep. I didn't even feel too terribly guilty during the day yesterday... and that's clearly where I made a mistake. This morning, all I could think was "skipping one day didn't kill me... skipping two wouldn't be so bad... maybe I'll just stay in bed again... I could just declare it a stepback week... Zzzzzz......" I actually did feel guilty and get up at one point, but when I looked at the time I knew that I'd never have time to get there for a decent workout before I'd have to get ready for work... so of course I went back to sleep. Tonight I'm planning to wear my mizunos to bed.

(another terrible food picture for your pleasure)
 It only took me two tries to figure out the easiest and most delicious cookie ever. My first batch was an awful mess, but with a little bit of tweaking (which made the simple recipe even easier), the second try worked like a charm. Try this on for size:
    1. melt one bag of chocolate chips in a double boiler (or the microwave, if you're brave)
    2. stir in a can of chow mein noodles
    3. as best you can, transfer in clumps onto a piece of parchment paper
    4. let sit for an hour or two (or pop in the fridge) to cool and harden... legitimately the hardest part of the whole process
(I can't for the life of me remember where I found this recipe first, but there are so many different versions all over the internet. Most include shortening, peanuts, butterscotch chips, etc., but after the first disaster I decided to try it with just these two ingredients and was pretty darn happy with how it turned out.)

Someone must have heard my cries when Panera made the terrible decision to serve their lemon chicken orzo soup only seasonally. Thanks, Progresso!

In one of my bursts of energy last night, I busted out a fork and tried this tutorial that has been floating around the internet. Even though my sweet husband said he kind of liked the result, I wasn't thrilled -- the finished product was not quite round/symmetrical and just didn't look like the pictures. I may string them on a garland, but wouldn't tie them to a gift or display them where someone could take a good hard look at one.

Although I'm rocking (and loving) the seasonal Pandora stations, I can't make the jump to all Christmas music all the time, because I'd miss this guy too much. Time for a holiday album, Peter?

There are so many books on my bedside table, movies in my netflix queue, and tv shows that I'd like to catch up on. How does one work full time, squeeze in a workout, cook meals, maintain a clean house, keep two furry creatures alive, and still find time to stay up to date with these things? I'm a little concerned that when I add a college class to the mix in January, I'll have to give up sleeping at night completely...

And what's a blog post without a picture of one of the furballs that we love so much?


December 10, 2012

Honeymoon Eats

I had planned to share this with you on Friday (since Friday and Food have this handy first-letter-in-common thing), but what with all the decking the halls and cleaning out the refrigerator and preparing for a rather large spruce to invade our cozy home and chasing after a puppy that went on this weekend, here we are at Monday. Try to look past the fact that "Monday Food" just doesn't have quite the same ring.
We ate such amazing meals on our honeymoon that I'll be blaming them for the drool on my pillow for months. Sadly the pictures don't always do the meals justice, but trust me when I say that just about everything I put into my mouth in Barbados was absolutely heavenly.

This meal (in all its fuzzy glory) wasn't consumed on the honeymoon, but was actually my birthday dinner. We didn't have set plans for the evening, but ended up downtown and decided to try this new burger place that serves mostly local/organic eats. I toasted 25 with a "Citizen 75" (sparkling wine, gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice -- so good and only half a century off... ha!), we started off with way too many truffle fries, and my burger started with local grass-fed beef and included onion, sauteed mushrooms, and rosemary aioli. The whole meal was excellent and I'm happy to add this restaurant to our date night rotation.

This lunch happened twice in our time on the island -- crab salad wrap, fries, and frozen drink, all served poolside. Quick and reasonably priced at the resort's little bar & grill, but so good!

Dinner at the best restaurant in Barbados, which happened to be right at our resort: Dan (left) had teriyaki beef and chicken from the Japanese menu, and I had beef tenderloin, onion, and mushrooms in an oyster sauce (right) from the Thai menu.

Dinner at Mullins Restaurant on the west coast... sadly the only picture I got was of our bread and the yummy olive tapenade they served. After that, I was too busy eating: we started with beer-battered shrimp served over creamed leeks, corn, and chorizo, and my entree was a bouillabaisse-like dish with mahi mahi, shrimp, mussels, oysters, and squid. Everything was delicious except the calamari, which was super over-cooked and terribly chewy :(

Two of the best drinks we had all week (at Mullins before the above dinner). Mine had Malibu, melon and banana liqueurs, and lime and pineapple juice -- although you can't tell from the picture, it was a pretty bright green. The resort had a long list of mixed drinks served at all of their restaurants, bars, and even right to your room, and we tried so many great combinations. Bajans are particularly proud of their rum -- we visited their Mount Gay factory, which is the oldest rum in the world, and brought some home with us. I was also pretty impressed by their wine selections and had a few great reds with dinners. I drank more in a week than I do most months, but never felt sick or regretted anything the next morning -- definitely a sign of a successful vacation!

The best okra I've ever tasted. We Dan cooked dinner in our little kitchen on Wednesday, and this was definitely the highlight for me -- fresh and super cheap at the grocery store.

Not exactly a meal, but how cute is this??

Dessert one night: a chocolate milkshake that was, according to my chocolate-milkshake-connoisseur hubby, one of the best ever, and an absolutely incredible "mud pie" tart.

Our last night on the island, we headed out to a Mexican spot and enjoyed huge margaritas, amazing nachos, and a cilantro/dill sour cream to die for. I had a burrito that beat any I've had in the states, and Dan will be talking about their cheese sauce for years, I think.

Notable meals that escaped my camera:
 -- Two excellent breakfasts at the resort with eggs, blueberry muffins, banana bread, and the best hash browns I've ever eaten.
 -- Our first dinner on the island at the resort's Italian restaurant: Tuscan pizza that might have been Dan's favorite meal of the whole trip, and an incredible wild mushroom risotto for me.
 -- Wednesday's lunch was served on the catamaran and included chicken, flying fish (a Bajan specialty), pasta salad, au gratin potatoes, and lots of rum.
 -- After leaving Barbados, we stopped for an overnight layover in New York City. Although I had plans for a fancy dinner in the city, we were both exhausted and it was late, so we opted for a few slices of New York style pizza and an early bedtime. Still delicious!

Several times over the week, I groaned to Dan "I'm not eating a single thing from now until Christmas." Of course, I broke that promise on the way home from the airport when we stopped at Wawa...



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