Monday, December 29, 2008

Clean

My apartment feels extremely super much nicer.  Still a little work to do in the dining room & kitchen, but in general things are all neat and tidy, and New Year's Resolution #1 is to keep it that way. NYRs #2-4 are, of course, to be more active, eat less, and lose weight. It sure would be nice to fit into my jeans from last year, and to fit into my capri pants by summer so I have something to wear at Family Camp.

Time for a quick shower, real clothing, and then out to dinner and a movie with Keith and Mindy.  Our usual Monday night crowd is otherwise occupied, so it's just the four of us and we decided to change things up.  I'm looking forward to lots of movie popcorn with plenty of cancer-causing butter flavoring, and then seeing if I hate Benjamin Button as much as Katy did.

Tomorrow I'm really looking forward to a relaxing day with my Mom, lounging around at her house knitting and crocheting all day. Also hopefully I'll stop by Salvation Army to drop off a few sweaters and some votive holders someone gave me that I've never taken out of the box, and JC Penny to see if they'll exchange the pants I've only worn a few times that have a broken side zipper. If not, then maybe my Mom will try to sew in a new zipper for me, which could also work and might even be easier.

Wednesday we head down to Cary, North Carolina with Kelly and Reed for New Year's Eve with Rachel, Kelly, and Luke. I'm super excited for that, it should be a fun little trip. And by "little" I mean "14 hours round-trip and less than 20 hours in NC." But this is the kind of crazy thing we need to do in these last couple of years before we have babies!

Thursday we'll have brunch with Rachel, Kelly, and Luke before heading home.

Friday will hopefully be relaxing again, with maybe a little more cleaning and hopefully more knitting and crocheting.

Saturday Paul works, so maybe I'll be able to go hang out with my Mom some more.

Sunday afteroon I'm hoping for a hike, or at least a long walk.

Then I guess I have to go back to work. Ah, well. It's been a great vacation.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Craft for Christmas in Lebanon

Hey family,

I think on Saturday when we're done unwrapping presents we should keep the wrapping paper fairly smooth, cut it into strips, and make these cool stars! They're so easy - it takes less than a couple minutes per star. We could string them onto a garland, or put them in a box to use for filler for next year's presents, or string them individually to make ornaments! Let me know what you think.



Love,
Mer

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mondays are good days

A month or so ago, a few husbands including mine decided they were going to get together to watch Monday Night Football every week. It only took a week for Kelly and me to realize that we could get in on the fun by having our own separate gathering; two weeks after that, Mindy joined us too. So now every Sunday instead of feeling bummed that I have to go to work the next day, I instead am looking forward to a relaxing evening with some girlfriends. The difference this makes to the entire week is pretty amazing - we were talking about it last night. Sunday evening feels completely different now, and Monday is so much less bleak; in fact, it's actually one of the highlights of the week!

Next Monday is Kelly and Reed's first wedding anniversary, but Mindy and I decided that we don't want to give up our new little Monday ray of sunshine, so we're planning to get together anyway. I'm not sure what will happen after January when football season is over and the husbands stop meeting, but I'm thinking we might just keep going with the dinner rotation. It's seriously the best idea ever for a Monday night.

From the start the wives were cooking dinner at rotating apartments, and after about 4 weeks of going to a bar the men decided it would be cheaper and easier to just pick a different apartment from the women and order pizza or something. Last night was the best dinner yet - Mindy made this amazing tomato bisque, plus grilled turkey and brie sandwiches to go with it. Pretty amazing. The only downer of the entire evening was when I got home and realized we forgot to eat the caramel apple pie she had made for dessert!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

CC Update

*update*

Got Christmas cards, better than I hoped for: 8.5 x 11 paper pre-creased and with stickers to seal it. I wrote a (not-so-short) letter, imbedded a few pictures from the past year (or so), and all I have to do now is type everyone's addresses into the Word doc I formatted to print everything on the outside of the letter. So then you print all the addresses on one side, turn them over and print all the letters on the other, fold them all into thirds, and apply the snowflake sticker. Bam! Christmas cards! I love it. They're even pretty cute. I really feel like I've saved myself a bunch of time and money, and still turned out a pretty darn nice mailing for Christmas. Ten points to Staples for carrying these cool mailers, and another twenty points to my nice, new 3-in-1 wireless HP printer!

Tonight: looking forward to some quality knitting time at Cornerstone before Choir practice and a new small-ensemble song to practice, then home for Lamb Khorma (my fav Indian dish from Masala Bistro), picked up by Paul to be waiting for me when I get home at 10:00, by which point I'll be quite hungry so that I enjoy it all the more.

PS: Everyone should read this blog post and link to it from their own sites to increase its audience.

90 more minutes at work...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas cards

I have claimed a shortened url for peacelovemath-dom forever:

http://bit.ly/plm

Points to this blog, but it's super short! I would have used http://is.gd/ but it doesn't allow you to customize the hash, so I had to go with a total character count of 17 instead of 16. Oh well.

Tonight I'm stopping at Staples for envelopes and a pack of festive printer paper, and my Christmas cards this year are going to be a short typed letter and a picture or two printed at home. I think it'll save money; also, with the new printer it will be super easy to print everyone's address (and return address!) right on each envelope, so no sticking of anything. I might even see about paying online for printed postage...we'll see.

Compare this plan to my good friend Kelly, who spent the evening at my house on Monday using the leftover supplies from her hand-made wedding invitations to make sixty hand-made Christmas cards. More power to her. She also had all her thank-you cards done within a couple months of the wedding, so obviously she has that segment of personal discipline way up on me.

My excuse: two of my relatives-in-law have already spelled my name incorrectly (a typical "Merideth" on one, but the baffling "Merrith" on the other), and all of them have addressed the envelopes to "Mr. and Mrs. A____," thus obliterating my name completely, so that hardly merits hand-made cards on my part. I will have two things on Kelly's lovely cards: photos and a short letter. Should count for something.

What are your Christmas card plans or non-plans for this year? I'm interested to hear what everyone does, especially those my age. Usually I just see a card with a signature, and maybe my name written as an address before the pre-printed message; occasionally a short note, and also frequently those photo greeting cards, but I'm not springing for those until I have a baby to put on there with me, haha.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The floodgates open!

VERY busy weekend ahead, packed with lots and lots of fun Christmasy goodness:

Friday evening is the fast-becoming-traditional annual night out with my MIL for dinner and the Hershey Symphony, for which she gets free tickets from her co-worker who plays in the all-volunteer orchestra. This year there is a choir, and we're going to dinner a The Chocolate Avenue Grill, which is Hershey's equivalent of Café Magnolia, a great little restaurant. I plan on having the sesame-encrusted Tuna with risotto. Plus the Hershey location has a liquor license, so I'm also going to take advantage of that...yum!!

Saturday morning I will bake an apple pie to take down to Leesburg, VA for my good friend former co-worker's annual Christmas party! We'll stay late, but drive back Saturday night, because I am playing carillon again on Sunday.

Sunday afternoon from 4 until 5:45 I will be plinking out melodies on the piano for Trinity's two children's choirs, and then right after that Paul and I will book it down to Gettysburg for dinner with various camp people at the Berkebiles'! I'm excited to see them and where they live. Should be a fun time. Not sure who all will be there, but I know it will be good people!

Sometimes I think we're just way too wholesome for our own good. Seriously, when did we develop such a rich social life?? I love it, but it still amazes me. And sometimes it gets a little tiring, but around the holidays I'm OK with that!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Who?

As I left my office building last night, I heard something I wasn't expecting:

Hoo-HOOO HOOO hoo-hoo!
hooo hoo-hoo...

There was not one, but TWO big owls sitting on the roof of the building!! At first I thought it was just one owl doing a louder hoot and than a few extra softer hoots each time, but then they hooted simultaneously. It was so cool!

I could only see one, and only dimly - I could see a white patch that I assume was his upper chest, and I could tell he was turning his head sometimes because the white patch would kind of blink in and out of sight.

It's the talk of the office this morning, so apparently everyone who left after dark heard them. They were hooting frequently when I heard them. I'm hoping they're there again tonight!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Debt

I just paid off my credit cards. 100%.

My internet and Netflix automatically come out of my one credit card every month, so I have an automatic payment set up to pay that off every month now, so I will never get any more finance charges. I won't even have to worry about paying the bill, because it will always be $0 by the time I get it.

And we have enough in the savings account for Paul to pay off his student loan, so he's going to do that this week too!

I feel so awesome right now. This means our only debt is the car, which is still way more than we can pay off, but we're way ahead on payments so it shouldn't be a bad mark on our credit when we go to get a home loan

I am officially free of my credit cards. YAY! I feel so...light!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Made for TV, but not for DVD

I'm bummed because The Christmas Toy was only released on DVD without Kermit's narration, and even that isn't available on Netflix. The original made-for-TV movie released in 1986 is only available on VHS, so if I want to watch it this Christmas I will have to spend an hour in my basement. Maybe my dad still has it in the basement, and then I can watch it while I do the stationary bike.

Had a nice second Thanksgiving this evening, even though Paul and I fell a bit behind our planned schedule...everything was still very yummy!

Lots of fun plans between now and New Year's...

Friday dinner & Hershey Symphony with Linda
Saturday Christmas par-tay at Jeneane's with the VA SAIC crew
The next weekend Trinity choir concert followed by the choir Christmas Party, which last year had more top-shelf liquor than I have ever seen outside a liquor store
The weekend after that KFC Christmas party (yes, that's one Christmas party every weekend from now until Christmas!)
Then 1.5 more days of work, followed by 12.5 days off from the afternoon of Tuesday 12/23 through Sunday 1/4/2009. Hey, I had 3.5 days of use-it-or-lose-it vaca at my new job, plus designated holidays on 12/24, 12/25, 12/31, 1/1, and 1/2. Can't beat that!!
I'm planning on 12/23 Cookie Fest 2008 with Han, baking all afternoon
Christmas Eve with my family followed by the usual late service with the choir at church
Christmas Day with Paul's family, officially upholding our new one-location-per-day rule of Holiday travel
Saturday after Christmas in Lebanon with my Mom's family
Some quality time the next week hanging out and crocheting with my mom
and for New Year's Eve hopefully driving down to NC with Kelly and Reed to party with the other two PREPs!!

And somewhere in there, decorating our apartment and going to get a real tree with Kelly and Reed! Yay for that piney smell every day when I come home...we should probably do that this week sometime...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

iPhone, bitch!

I am having lots and lots of fun with Kelly and Rachel (and Paul, Reed, and Matt). Also, as I believe I mentioned on twitter, I am drunk. Furthermore, I wish Kelly P. could also be here!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

I heart Rachel's iPhone...

The end.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

This post is NOT about Twilight.

Which I haven't quite finished yet. I'm not talking about it.

Tonight: using 10% off coupon at Giant, which I MUST use because I missed using my last $0.40/gallon gas discount from Giant, which means I am giving them free money. I am still going to be disappointed that my shopping trip wasn't bigger, but I just don't need that much stuff from Giant right now. I am going to go make a list of stuff I can buy anyway.

I need to go do laundry. And us my avocados and tomatoes. And make the grocery list. And finish reading...but I'm not talking about it...besides, tonight is House, which I will be watching for the first time with the digital converter, which hopefully means it will be clear! It will still suck, but I will still enjoy it.

EDS had a fire drill today 3 minutes before my phone call for my first-ever RFI assignment. The alarm made the most awful, head-exploding sound I have ever heard, including when the alarm in my dorm went off every 15 minutes from 2AM through 4AM at Juniata. Worst. sound. ever. I held my ears all the way down the stairs, which was only 5 flights as opposed to the 11 flights I had to go down at SAIC in Virginia, so I guess it's a trade-off.

Other than that, work is going quite well...I might even get to do some programming! And traveling for fun training things!

Ok. Laundry. And avocado slicing. And grocery list making. And House. And reading...that book. You know, that one.

Friday, November 21, 2008

How ironic

Today I successfully donated blood for the first time in a while...I got a really no-nonsense woman who took about 90 seconds start to finish to find a vein, smear iodine all over my arm, and poke a needle in there. It only took her the one try, and I proceeded to fill the bag quicker than I've ever done it before! The needle did hurt this time though, which is unusual for me, so she wasn't perfect.

Ironically, I was reading the 4th Twilight book as I bled. Pretty funny.

Tonight Paul is going to donate at Holy Spirit's center, and then we are going to treat ourselves to dinner out - I think donating blood must take a lot of calories to recover from, so we're justified, right?

I think I'll definitely have Twilight finished in time to discuss it in depth with Katy and Hannah again over Thanksgiving. Oh, and with Kelly on Friday at Herby's - that's probably the most important part. Haha.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Twilight Gripes

I'm about 3/4ths through the 3rd book in the Twilight series. I only really started to hate Bella in the 2nd book after way, way, way too many pages of her angsty, self-centered, masturbatory whining. I'm enjoying the 3rd book much more with Edward back in the picture, but last night I read a sentence that really made me cringe, and my inner feminist just about jumped out of my head and burned the book on the spot.

The scene is Bella wanting to go visit someone, and she knows that Edward wouldn't want her to go because he would consider it unsafe. No spoilers, I promise.

"I just stared at him, trying to understand what he wanted, and trying to put out of my mind the yearning I felt to go to La Push so that I wouldn't be swayed by my own wishes."

The thing that infuriates me is that she is mad at herself for not being able to completely push aside her own desires in order to completely understand what Edward wants so that she can do what he wants despite the fact that it is the opposite of what she wants. Not only that, but she feels it's necessary to not even tell Edward how she feels, because it's not OK to discuss her desires with him, she feels that she should just think about it until she convinces herself that he is right to begin with, and her desires were wrong and don't matter at all.

Now, in the reality of the book, she does get what she wants, but the way it plays out casts Edward in the role of benevolent patriarch who is giving Bella what she wants in order to prove to her (and himself) that he can be "reasonable." Bella is still worried that he is hiding his disapproval of the plan, and seems like she is STILL considering not going just to give him what she thinks he wants. It's ridiculous!! Gah. I hate Bella so much.

Also, I hate that Edward keeps taking Bella's face in his hands and making her look at him. I think it happened 3 or 4 times just in the few chapters I read last night. It's so condescending, or patronizing, or something. I hate it.

That said, I am enjoying the books on the whole. The story is fun. The writing is definitely mediocre, or worse, but the plot is good. The relationship between Bella and Edward is definitely the most compelling part of the entire series, but I'm even getting a little weary of that - how many different iterations of proving to themselves that the other really does love them unconditionally can they go through?? Seriously.

OK I'm done now.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Let's Get Digital

Our government coupon for the digital converter box for backwards people such as ourselves who get our TV for free over the air. So we stopped at Best Buy this afternoon and got the box, and first impression is great - the signal is WAY clearer, as good as if we were paying for these channels, and no fuzzyness! Plus, now we have 11 channels! BUT when we do anything but sit still on the couch, like if I'm walking around the living room picking up clutter, we get the new digital version of snow: pixilation. Plus the sound sometimes cuts out as well. But the problem isn't bad, and I think the extra channels and clearer signal in general totally make up for it. With the coupon, the converter box was only like $25. Only other down is that now we have FOUR remotes: TV, stereo, DVD, and now the converter box. Ick.

Then I walked into the kitchen to make myself a hot drink in the microwave, and Paul went "WOAH!" I peeked out, and the TV screen was a colorful mess of little squares, with the sound wiped out as well. Interesting discovery. So I guess if I don't like what Paul is watching, now I know what to do! *evil grin*

In other news, we left the Hershey Bears game early to avoid the traffic once the Bears scored their 6th goal, putting them up 3 with 8 minutes left. They scored again as we were walking out. So I think they won. They scored first, then the Philly Phantoms scored 2; Bears tied it up, then the Phantoms pulled ahead again 4-3. But in the 3rd period, the Bears tied it up again, and soon pulled ahead. It was a fun little evening.

Earlier in the day, Paul and I headed down to York to pick up his re-sized wedding band at the closest Zales, and on our way to Best Buy for the digital converter box, he spotted a sign pointing us to a Greek Church Festival. So we changed our dinner plans on the spot, and detoured for some yummy Greek food. I had a delicious Gyro, and Paul had a really yummy potato/noodle/ground beef layered thing, all washed down with our favorite Greek coffee. The ham loaf is now waiting in the fridge to cook tomorrow for use as a yummy lunch sandwich ingredient for next week's lunches.

As for dinner at the YCI student restaurant last night: really amazing! It was all super fancy, artfully plated, and perfectly cooked. One of the fanciest and unique meals we've had, and all for way less than we've paid for other nice dinners. I would definitely go back there again!! Plus of course it was WAY less since we had our actual dinners for free a la the gift certificates Paul's family got us for our anniversary. I highly recommend it to anyone for a budget date night of the highest quality. Just don't expect matching gourmet service - the waiters are just the same students in a rotation, so they'd all rather be back in the kitchen, but the girl who served us was very nice anyway. We waited a while for our waters at the beginning, but that was OK since we brought our own wine to tide us over! Oh, also, all the courses were perfectly sized, so I was pleasantly full but not stuffed even after 4 courses.

Tomorrow: singing at church at the early service, then headed to the grocery store and home to tidy up a bit before Crystal arrives. Hopefully she's in the mood for some grilled sandwiches for lunch. Afternoon of socializing with Crys followed by some veggie pot pie a la Hannah at my parent's house for Mom's birthday! Another fun-filled weekend with Mer and Paul.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Date Night!

This is what I'll be having for dinner tonight:

Current four-course prix-fixe menu:
Louisiana Cuisine

Course One
Chicken and Andouille Étouffée
a classic blend of chicken and smoked andouille sausage in a rich, dark bodied sauce - served over red beans and rice

Course Two
Crab Cheesecake with Pecan Crust
a savory blend of blue crab, cream cheese and spices baked in a pecan crust and smothered with sauce meunière

Course Three
Beef Wellington
spice-rubbed tenderloin topped with mushroom duxelles and wrapped in flakey pastry - served with red wine demi-glace

Course Four
Apple beignets with Creole cream cheese and bourbon caramel sauce

Paul will pick from the 3-course menu and we'll share the dessert. I'm headed to the liquor store on my way home for a bottle of wine!

(I originally typed "I'm headed to the liquor store for a bottle of wine on my way home," which is a very good example of a misplaced modifier! Happy grammar lesson of the day.)

PS: after dinner, we are going to see the new Bond movie, Quantum of Solace! Fun fun. I wonder if I'll have room left in my belly for some popcorn...probably not...darn.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cooking

I miss posting recipes like I got to do with the whole Whip It Up thing this summer, so I started another blog for the rare occasion that I make something new and yummy for dinner and feel like sharing.

Tonight that very scenario happened for the first time! I give you Salmon & Rice Casserole. Enjoy!

Shaping up to be a busy week...yesterday Paul and I had a lovely evening at Herby's drinking way too much for a Monday night, and hanging out with some wonderful Nawakwa people: Kelly, Reed, Tom, Gerry, Mindy, Keith, Marilyn, John, and Jack. We almost had the restaurant to ourselves, which is good, because at times we were rather loud. It was really really fun.

Tomorrow we're going to attempt making pasta from scratch, so maybe I'll actually take photos and post again. Paul tried to do this on his own on Sunday afternoon, but because he does not have a knack for dough, it didn't go too well. I eventually figured out that most of his problem was using semolina that was not ground finely enough - it was like corn meal. We managed to get a bit of misshapen fettuccini anyway, and boiled it and ate it, and it was OK. Tomorrow we're going to use regular all-purpose flour and see what happens.

Friday we have a date at the York Culinary Institute's student-run restaurant, for which we have a gift certificate from Paul's family that should get us both our meals for free. I plan on bringing a bottle of wine, so that will be an extra $0.50, not bad for a 4-course meal.

Saturday evening we have tickets to the Hershey Bears game with 40 other Juniata folk, yay!

Sunday I should hopefully get to finally see Crystal, and then Sunday night is birthday dinner for my Mom.

Whew!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tainted victory?

Not cool, people. Not cool.

I can only hope that a more tolerant culture fostered by the Obama presidency will lead to change on this issue - like at least a nation-wide institution of civil unions for same-sex couples.

On an unrelated topic, and I know at least two of my friends agree with me on this, what the heck was Michelle Obama wearing last night? Yuck.

President Elect BARACK OBAMA

I am so happy right now.

I voted at around 7:50 AM beside my wonderful husband, and spent this evening with him as we watched history unfold. What an awesome experience.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

What I did this week

My main achievement, aside from sitting around on my tushie, was to finally get a whole lot of pictures printed. I spent about $90 at Giant and got 321 prints, mostly 4x6, and including plenty of duplicates. I finally got a few important 5x7's to people who were owed them, and for myself I filled an entire 200-photo 4x6 album with a bunch of fun stuff from the last few years of my life. I plan to take it with me down to York tonight to show off.

I also read the first book in the ever-controversial Twilight Saga and have started in on the second, which I will try to avoid letting consume me over the next two weeks as I go through training for my new job.

And finally, I bought stuff online:
a new Juniata hat in Vegas Gold (not the blue hat shown),
a really nice, heavy rugby shirt for Paul in Burgundy,
and an awesome 24 oz. Thermos that has already demonstrated its awesomeness by keeping my tea piping hot for hours today, and as an added bonus it even pours without taking the lid completely off! I love it. It's so efficient, it doesn't even feel warm on the outside. Love it!

Finally I want to direct you all to two new blogs:
iReadtooMuch, Hannah's blog which is already funny and amusing after only 1 1/2 posts; and
Craft Day, my hopeful soon-to-be business venture. Read my introductory post! Tell your friends! E-mail me with suggestions, or even better, business!
Both blogs are also linked to the right.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halfway through my week off

Monday I mainly loafed around and shopped online.

Tuesday I compiled the raw wedding photo files for Jen so she can hopefully finally make us a wedding album, which will most definitely be even better than the one stupid TS would have done if he wasn't a complete loser.

Tuesday evening I made baked enchiladas out of our leftover fajita stuff for our dinner, and I made myself a very yummy margarita to have with that dinner.

Today, Wednesday, I did my hair and makeup after spending the morning compiling non-wedding photography, then I met Hannah for lunch at Cornerstone Coffeehouse.
After lunch I went to PennDOT to get my driver's license updated with the right name (it had a weird hyphenated thing going on with my maiden and married names in the wrong order), plus the added benefit of getting my motorcycle designation added to the license. While I was there I also got a Juniata license plate for the Malibu, the car I drove while I was a student.
Also today the Juniata cap I ordered Monday (see above) came from FedEx, so I'm all Juniata'd up for the year! Yay. And I have a decent driver's license photo where I don't look like I'm bald and wearing goggles, my name is correct, and I don't have to carry around an extra piece of paper to show that I can ride a motorcycle. Yay.
After PennDOT it was about 4:00, and I headed with my memory card full of pictures to Giant, where I spent the next 90 minutes or so going through everything and ordering prints. After a few regrettable mistakes, I cropped and enhanced and re-sized everything I wanted to, and ordered 321 prints (that number includes duplicates of some photos). After all that work, I also got a picture CD so that it saved all the edits I had made, so if I want more of any of these prints it will be easy to go back and get them. I had to pay for two CD's to fit all the pictures. BUT tomorrow I will pick them all up, and I will finally be able to fill some of these crazy photo albums!

Tomorrow I will start the day by walking the short distance to the car garage to pick up the Matrix from its oil change. Then I will go pick up my pictures from Giant, and come home to make myself some albums and sort everything by who is getting the photos. I will frame the few I have to give away, and then I will drive Beckie's long-overdue pictures to her house so they will be waiting for her when she gets home from school. Then I'll head down to Lebanon to spend Trick-or-treat night with my aunt and cousins, and I can deliver to Gommy her also long-overdue framed 5x7 wedding picture of me and Paul to display on top of her TV next to the 5x7 of Katy and Corey.

Friday perhaps I'll finally do a bit of the cleaning I have been planning to do all week. I suck at cleaning. At least I've been watering my plants.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The weekend

I had a full weekend for sure!

Friday evening Paul and I had dinner at The Pizza Grille to use his $5 birthday coupon, and we saw Dennis Owens with his wife a adorable daughter.

Bright and early Saturday morning my Mom picked me up, and we did the Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk. This was my kind of walk - no pomp and circumstance, just meeting up with some friends, making a donation, and munching on a free Panera Bread Pink Ribbon bagel while we chatted and walked around City Island, across the Walnut Street bridge, up Front Street, down Front Street, along the river, and back across the bridge. I was home by 10:00 AM with plenty of time for some relaxing and housework before lunch. Here we all are after the walk:


Then at 2:00 on Saturday Paul and I headed to Hershey for Hershey Park in the Dark, in our opinion the best time to go: it's under $25 to ride all afternoon (plus $6 for parking), we get to ride all our favorite coasters without waiting in ridiculous lines, the weather is gorgeous and cool, and we can do as much in 4 hours as we'd be able to do all day during the summer. It's so much nicer. Then we came home and popped the Turkey Loaf I'd made earlier into the oven, along with a few baked potatoes, and had a nice hearty fall dinner. I then went to bed very early because I had a headache, but it was still an awesome day.

Here's the best pic I took, Paul behind me on the Swings with the Comet in the background:

Our favorite coaster is still Stormrunner, with the super-acceleration at the beginning. Fahrenheit was cool, but no where near as awesome as Stormrunner. The feeling you get when it shoots you off at the beginning just can't be matched by anything else. The initial up-and-down of Fahrenheit was really cool though, and it was also amazingly smooth.

This afternoon at 4:00 I attended the two kids' choirs at Trinity to play piano for them, which was a lot of fun. I liked the younger kids better, they are so cute...but mostly I'm in awe of Amy's ability to keep them all going and not even get impatient the entire time! She seriously has a gift. I couldn't be that calm and creative and happy all at the same time for 2 hours straight even if I was on Valium or had a lobotomy or something. She has them marching and doing motions to help them remember the words and to stay engaged, and it's pretty amazing.

Paul and I were hoping to go to the Greek Food Festival for dinner, but we were sad to see that we missed it! It was only Friday and Saturday for their Fall mini-festival. So we missed that, darn. Now we'll have to wait until next Summer for all the yumminess. Ah, well - luckily we have lots of leftover beef stew that Paul made last week. Really really really delicious beef stew.

Looking ahead, this is my LAST WEEK working at SAIC! Then I get a week off, and I start with EDS on November 3. On October 25 I'm having some SAIC people over for a fall picnic and drinks, and I'm going to use the neat mini-pumpkins silicon muffin tray I got at JoAnn Fabric's going out of business sale. Still thinking what to make in them, but whatever it is, it will be cool. Maybe a few different things that I can have a whole variety tray full of when they arrive! Also plenty of alcohol, of course, and I have a packet to make spiced hot apple cider as well. Should be a good time. Incidentally, what liquor could I add to spiced apple cider? Rum? Brandy? Hmm...

Oh, and my indoor bike trainer came to convert my regular bike into a stationary bike! I got the same one Hannah has, and she's been using it every day with great results. So that's my exercise regimen for the winter, since Paul and I weren't using our YMCA membership. I quit that, and we're going to use the money we're saving to split off my family's cell phone plan and get our own. And I am totally getting a texting plan so I can text with Han, Sarah, Jeneane, and Twitter. I have to see who else has texting plans too. I haven't decided yet whether I'll keep my current phone, the Cherry Chocolate which I still really like, or get a new one with the new plan to have a full keyboard. We'll see. I really might just keep the same phone, especially if it will save me some money. I actually would really love a blackberry pearl and a full data plan, but I'm totally not willing to shell out the cash for that yet...we'll see.

And then on November 7 I'm heading out to Pittsburgh with Hannah and her best friend Susan to stay with our cousin Katy and go to the Handmade Arcade craft festival on Saturday! I am super excited to take a road trip with my sister, and to finally see Katy and Corey's house! We paid for the early bird tickets even though entry is free later on, because this way we can go in the morning, beat the crowds, and we also get a cool bag to boot! Then we will have the afternoon and evening free for other Pittsburgh fun. Paul has some motorcycle thing that weekend, so he won't even miss me.

Time for dinner, bed, and getting started on my last week at my first real job! I am so excited I can hardly stand it.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Work

So I got my job at EDS, I passed the drug test, and I officially start on November 3. My last day at SAIC is October 24. I am trying to work hard for my friend and coworker Sarah because it is going to suck the most for her when I leave - she is going to have more than 2 persons worth of work to do. I thought with the prospect of my brand-new job (which I am very excited about!) and some free time off between jobs during gorgeous late October that I'd be extra-super-motivated to work hard these last few weeks at SAIC...but in reality, I am feeling more frustrated and bored and lazy than ever! It's all I can do to focus on anything for ten minutes!! And now I have more to do this evening, and more tomorrow, and I just feel stressed and frustrated. I don't know why I can't feel excited and motivated when I only have 2 more weeks to go and I'm working to help one of my closest friends! Why don't I want to help her more? I need a swift kick or something. Sheesh.

In other news, come hear me sing on Sunday at Trinity's 11:00 service! We are going to sound really great. I really like the song we're singing, and it's in the best range possible for me, so as long as I can stay loud enough it's going to be lovely. Yes, despite my incredibly loud speaking voice I have a fairly soft singing voice. It's true.

OK. Now I have to do more work. At 11 pm. *sigh* ...Theoretically, this kind of thing will stop happening once I work at EDS. I can't wait...!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Exciting news update!

I got a new job!! Tomorrow I take a drug test, and next week once they've done my background check and confirmed my offer, I will fomally resign from my current job and set an official last day, although I told my supervisor today.

That was the part I was most nervous about, but she was totally cool with it and happy for me, and said I could call her any time and she'd have a spot for me! So I am totally psyched out that I am going to get to start all over, do something totally different, make more money, and I haven't even burned any bridges! How awesome is that. I don't even know how I got to be so lucky.

As an added perk, I am now working for a company that you might have actually heard of, EDS (Electronic Data Systems, founded by Ross Perot), that was recently bought by a company you've almost definitely heard of, HP (Hewlett-Packard, maker of many computers and printers)! Even better, I am now able to explain to you in a fairly simple and clear manner what it is that I actually DO for a living!

I am a Data Analyst: I will be doing statistical analysis on Medicare data to look for fraud indicators. I will be spending lots of time with databases, Excel spreadsheets, and pivot tables, which I love. Sound boring? Go stuff it in your ear, because I'm excited about it. I love spreadsheets and pivot tables, and I get to leave behind all the stress from my old job and start fresh. I'm sure I'll eventually have just as much stress at the new job, but at least it will be new stress and I'll get to start from zero again. I am seriously seriously excited. Yay for newness!

If everything goes well, then 3 years down the road when I'm starting to get bored with this job, by then we'll have bought a house and Paul will be mostly finished with his Engineering degree, and I'll start looking into becoming a teacher. Also, I kind of want to have a baby by 3 years from now, so we'll see. Life could be pretty different. In a good way.

What with that, and going to California with Paul in two days, and having television again, I'd say it's been an exciting and productive week! Paul's favorite part of the day was realizing that he can now watch Jeopardy every night and Nova on Tuesdays. Unfortunately for me, Nova is on at the same time as House, but I don't mind watching House online if watching Nova makes Paul that happy.

Right now Paul is doing his math homework. I've helped him a tiny bit with a few problems, and it's so much fun! For me, that is. I don't think Paul's minding it too much either, though.

And now...good night.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Another exciting week...

Paul and I leave for California very early this Thursday morning! Yay.

Also, some hopefully exciting news coming tomorrow morning...more about that later. Probably not until at least next week. No, I'm not pregnant; nothing like that.

Tonight: listening to "This American Life," dishes, laundry, crocheting, and helping Paul make Moroccan Cous cous for dinner - yum. Also, chicken.

Oh! Also, Paul got an antennae for our TV, so now we have PBS and NBC and Fox and CBS. I can watch House this Tuesday! And the debates on NBC! Yay. And all for only $25, once. Sweet.

Have a good week, everyone!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Good Year

I need to get in bed with my hubby since I'm going to be away for the next three nights, but I was inspired to do a quick post.

First order of business: Allow me to be slightly inappropriate and blow my own horn for a minute here to tell you that I'm singing the Alto part with two men in a trio at the 11:00 AM service at Trinity on October 12. Afterwards, we're having a little birthday picnic for Paul at our place. Linda is bringing Paul's favorite, Pineapple Upside-down Cake, and the rest of the menu is TBD but will probably involve some grilled food and pasta salad. YOU are invited!! If you want to come to the picnic but can't make it to church, you should get here around 1:00 PM. Please let me know if you're coming by, let's say, Thursday, October 9.

Anyway...

So one of Paul's relatives sent us an anniversary card to 204 North 11th Street, which I'm pretty sure doesn't even exist (the house number OR the "North" bit), but after it was returned to her she sent it to Paul's parents' house, so we just got it tonight when we went out to dinner for Linda's birthday. It was a nice card, with a nice note inside, and now I'm feeling mushy and would like to reflect on my first year of marriage.

It's been awesome.

We talk, and tease, and poke fun, and fight, and yell, and cry, and make up, and hold hands, and kiss, and say "I love you" a lot.
We have lots of great conversations, and sometimes we just sit and stare off into space.
Paul gets mad at me for not doing dishes enough (he always does them), and I get mad at Paul for not turning off the basement light. Ever.
We still have boxes that have never been unpacked, but we've painted two rooms and installed a very nice kitchen where before we had next to nothing.
We cook a lot, and eat out sometimes, and joined the YMCA but don't use it enough; sometimes we take walks, and sometimes we go on hikes, and we still don't have TV and even so we rarely watch our Netflix movies.
I always clutter up the couch and Paul always balls up his socks or takes them off inside-out.
We can't keep the living room clean.
Even though we own a washer and dryer, I still don't do laundry often enough, and we both run out of underwear.
I'm singing in choir and playing in bell choir, and Paul is working on improving the church's computer room and starts his first HACC math class this Tuesday.
I love hearing the stories Paul has to tell about working at Killian Fireplace Centre.
Whenever we drive anywhere, I scratch Paul's head or rub his arm, and we're both calm and happy.
We drag each other to stuff the other doesn't want to do, and end up both having a good time anyway.
We have fun hanging out with Paul's friend, and with my friends, so now they're all just OUR friends.
We snuggle in bed every night.

October will be the first month of our second year in this apartment; we plan to buy a house in time to move out before next October. (Make checks payable to "Paul and Meredith A____" and write "House fund" in the subject line! Haha.)

It has been the best year of my life, and next year is going to be even better.

I am going to go snuggle right now, since I'll be sleeping alone the next three nights!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Too much work

New big contract got a new big task order awarded today. I submitted my timecard today with 90 hours even for a 2-week period, but if I need to work later than 4pm tomorrow as I suspect I will, I will end up with even a bit more than 90 hours. Sheesh.

So to sum up, I've been too lazy to blog. Or exercise. Two things, at least one of which is probably more important than what I have been doing with my evenings, namely posting things on facebook and watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on comedycentral.com.

But it has been wonderful to see both those shows again. I especially loved the musical interlude on the 9/17 Daily Show, incorporating all the correspondents, and John himself doing beatbox for rap. Amazing. Colbert's Word of the Day for 9/17 was also wonderful.

Next week: leaving Monday at 6 to drive down to McLean, VA again for more training. Fun, and I'm excited to meet the woman I trained over the phone on my old contracts, and am also looking forward to trying out the whirlpool and sauna at the Ritz Carlton where I am staying, but also not thrilled about sleeping by myself for 3 more nights and driving down there for the 3rd time in 5 weeks. This should be the last time for the foreseeable future, at least. Oh, also not thrilled about spending 2 hours in the car with a woman I barely know, but this is probably the only time I'll ever be traveling with anyone, so I can deal. I just hope she lets me listen to NPR the whole way down, or I will be cranky.

OK time for bed. Good night.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Politics

I have some ranting to do about Giuliani's speech from last night, one part in particular (can you say "blatant fear mongering"?), but since it's much more fresh in my mind I'm going to gripe about one part of McCain's speech (and the entire Republican convention in general).

I hate special interest stories.

McCain, about 10 minutes ago, talked about a few specific families and their specific problems. Then he said that they needed someone in the white house who would care about them, and that he was that person. The implication is, apparently, that Obama wouldn't care about them? So what, Obama wants them to have these problems?? Of course not! Obama wants to help those people and everyone else just as much as McCain does, he just has different ideas about how to do it. McCain telling those stories tells us NOTHING about himself, his opponent, or the differences between them; it is purely rhetoric and propaganda, meant only to manipulate people's feelings, and is nothing more than a slightly more subtle form of the fear mongering Giuliani employed during his speech last night.

At least McCain didn't also employ the ridiculous level of immature name-calling, but I'm sorry to say his speech had only slightly more substantial content than Giuliani's.

Also: after all the ridicule he's taken from his over-use of the topic of 9/11, I found it hilarious as well as infuriating that Giuliani felt the need to point out, as if it were a bad thing, that the Democrats didn't talk about 9/11 enough at their convention. REALLY?? The Republicans have mentioned terrorism a lot (A LOT a lot), but I think Giuliani is the only one who's made much mention of 9/11. What an idiot.

And finally, do you think they could possibly fit in one more detailed description of McCain's torture as a POW? I haven't heard a speaker yet who hasn't at least summarized that story. It's admirable, and it shows some important things about his character, but it has NOTHING to do with his ability to be a good president in terms of policy.

Unfortunately I think the republicans have a reasonable shot at winning. I certainly hope not, but I have to admit it. So please, please please please, vote for Obama. Don't be sucked in by the empty propaganda and emotional manipulation of the Republicans.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Whip It Up week 8: Shaker Pineapple Cake

First of all can I just say, OMG I LOVE BARACK OBAMA. Please vote for him. Thank you.

OK so I know, I know, I promised Key Lime Pie. But Paul tried it on Saturday, which was too soon, and we're going to make another one on Sunday, which is too late (but, luckily, just on time for my dad). Thus, Shaker Pineapple Cake.

In need of a recipe, today at work I said aloud to the general cubicle population, "Does anyone have any good dessert recipes?" and lo and behold, my fellow Project Controller and next-door cubicle neighbor Michelle said her sister had recently e-mailed her some favorite dessert recipes. She printed them out for me, and here we are. The other two are banana-y, but the one that sounded great to me is this one:

Shaker Pineapple Cake

2 eggs, beaten
1 20 oz can crushed pineapple in juice (not syrup - mine has no sugar added)
2 c flour
2 c sugar (this is where the sugar is added, haha)
2 tsp baking soda
1 c chopped walnuts

Mix ingredients. Pour into a 9x13 pan. Bake 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool.

Cream Cheese Icing (this is where the fat comes in)

1/2 C (1 stick) butter, softened
1 1/2 C confectioner's sugar
1 8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix. Beat until smooth. Ice cake.

I made my cake in two round cake pans and did a layer of frosting in the middle as well as around the outside. It was delish. And best of all, it looked nice in my cake carrier, which I plan to use to take it to work with me tomorrow (after Paul and I have each had a piece tonight).

Actually, the icing was rather runny - not sure why, plus I kept adding confectioner's sugar to try to thicken it up, but with no luck. Still delish, though, so no real complaints.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Uh, yup. And since I scraped out the batter bowl into the cake pans, I just re-used it for the icing, so there were minimal dishes for a typical baking episode.

Did it taste good?
Yup. Quite rich, but I think I'll be more in the mood tomorrow at work when I haven't just had a big dinner. The cake was nice and moist, and the icing was super tasty (despite the runny-ness).

Would you make it again?
Yes. I might even play around with some flavors, like I thought of adding some shredded coconut to the frosting, or maybe even to the cake. Mainly to the frosting though - I think that would be very tasty, and would add some fun texture to the frosting.

Additional tip:
I went to the trouble, for the first time, of cutting out circles of parchment paper to go on the bottom of the cake pans. Worked like a charm - just ran a table knife around the edge of each pan, the cake popped right out, and then the parchment paper peeled right off. Very nice.

Fresh out of the oven:


Cake disguised as The Blob:


Inside:


Well, it's been fun. Hope everyone enjoyed Whip It Up as much as I did. More later on why my life is going to get very busy in the immediate future (has to do with job, not personal life - no babies, so don't freak out), so I'm relieved this is the last week. But yay for my first communal blogosphere experience.

VOTE FOR OBAMA!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Whip It Up weeks 6 and 7: Steak Salad and Red Potato Oven Fries



Steak Salad base recipe here

My recipe:

Dressing:
In your big salad bowl, whisk together...
1/4 c Olive Oil
1/8 c Red Wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp Honey
Salt & Pepper to taste
Place sliced leftover steak in dressing to marinade while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Salad:
1 bag of your fav mixed greens (I used baby romaine)
Thin-sliced red onion
1 tomato, cubed
Pimento-stuffed olives
1/4 c crumbled bacon
1/4 c crumbled blue cheese

Remove steak from dressing, add prepared salad ingredients except bacon and cheese, toss salad together until coated, top with steak, bacon, and cheese.

Red Potato Oven Fries recipe here

I pretty much followed that recipe exactly. Only change: I find EVOO burns too quickly for high temps, so I used light olive oil, which has a higher smoke point. I used salt, pepper, and the herbes de provence that I got while I was visiting my lovely sister Hannah IN FRANCE, so you know they're good. We also added some garlic powder.

The Results:

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Yes on both counts, very easy. No issues.

Did it taste good?
Oh yes, both were DELICIOUS.
The fries were rather dumb in that they stuck to the pan and didn't crisp up evenly, but I was excited to use my new mandolin again, and despite appearances, they tasted great.
The salad was even better than I expected, and was just super awesomely yummy! I have a theory I'm developing that lime juice makes everything taste better...I seriously love it lately. Started with guacamole, and have graduated all the way to salad dressing, and I must say it is the most amazingly wonderful citrus flavor I have ever tasted. I am in love. In addition to the lime, the olives added a nice tartness, the blue cheese added a nice sharpness, and the bacon added a wonderful crunch. Red onion is my other newfound love of the summer, and it worked very well in this salad too. Oh, and another important note is that soaking the leftover steak (so it was already cooked) in the citrus/vinegary dressing really made it tender and yummy, so definitely don't skip that part. And I did the whole drizzle-the-oil-while-whisking-vigorously thing, and successfully emulsified the oil I think, because it didn't separate, which was pretty cool too.

Would you make it again?
Yes to both, especially the salad, which was so amazing and would probably also work with other leftover meats. The potatoes I would probably go back to just cubing them instead of the fries, but I will most definitely use the herbes de provence again, that was really delish. And I thought the light olive oil did a good job giving some of that yummy olive oil flavor but without burning in the really hot oven.

Some pictures for your viewing pleasure:

The meal (I trust you can tell which is which):


The pics I owe you of the black bean burgers:



That's Paul's hand in the background, and just for fun, here's all of Paul after dinner tonight:

He loved the steak salad as much as I did. However, he thinks I'm a huge weirdo for randomly taking his picture at 10:30 PM. I just wanted to show you my dining room, and you can also see the awesomely retro wallpaper in the kitchen, which I think I nicely minimized by painting the dining room that nice deep yellow color.

For WIU Week 8: Key Lime Pie! I hope there's some left over for my dad, or he might never speak to us again.

Today I will...

1. Pick two recipes to make for dinner to cover last week and this week's "Whip It Up," make both for dinner, take pictures, and post the results here.

2. Find my driver's license, lost somewhere in the bowels of my laundry, so that I can get free foot at Isaac's on Monday evening.

3. In the process of looking for my DL, I will fold and put away all laundry, and put in a new load of darks.

4. Organize and put away all the stuff I got at JoAnn Fabric's closing sale in Harrisburg yesterday (magnetic purse clasps!)

5. Get a shower and go to bed by 11:30 at the latest.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Whip It Up week 5: Black Bean Veggie Burgers

More coming soon, but in the mean time here is the recipe I used (and actually followed pretty closely this time!):

Black Bean Veggie Burgers

We ate them open-faced, sitting on a whole-wheat pita with lettuce, guacamole (also home-made: recipe below), lettuce, and salsa. It was pretty darn tasty! My hubby, sister, and friend all enjoyed them.

My fav way to make guacamole:
(doesn't count as an official recipe because I have definitely done this many time before)
- 2 ripe avocados, pitted and cubed
- juice of 1 lime
- kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste
Put it in a bowl. Toss it together. Eat it with a fork or a tortilla chip. If you're using it as a topping (like for a burger), it might be more manageable if you mash it up, but when I just eating it with chips (or a fork, like I said), I like it in about 1 cm cubes.

Pics and additional details coming, but I wanted to get this posted so I could send the permalink.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Whip It Up week 4: Whiskey Sours, Cornish Hens with Cornbread Stuffing, and Chocolate Sorbet

Three things! My hubby and I were planning to cook today anyway, and this is what we ended up with. However, I'm not sure if something he helped to make counts for the contest, but never fear: the Chocolate Sorbet was made completely by me, and is completely new to me.

Whiskey Sours I've also made before, trying a few different recipes and various combinations of store-bought mixes and fresh lemons. This is the first time I've used all fresh fruit, included limes as well as lemons, and thought ahead enough to make simple syrup in time to cool it down in the fridge.

Paul and I have made Cornish Hens before, but have never mad Cornbread Stuffing.

And as I said before, the Chocolate Sorbet is completely new!

All three recipes came from Barefoot Contessa At Home, which we got as a wedding gift in a cool basket of kitchen gadgets from our pastor's wife. I guess it was from both of them, but she obviously thought of it all.

So anyway, here we go:

Whiskey Sours (makes 4):
- 3/4 cup Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 limes)
- 2/3 cup simple syrup (2/3 c water + 2/3 cup sugar over low heat just until dissolved, then refrigerate)
- Maraschino cherries

Combine whiskey, juices, and syrup. Filla cocktail shaker halfway with ice and fill two-thirds with cocktail mix. Shake for 30 seconds and pour into glasses. Add a maraschino cherry and serve ice cold.

Notes: I used 3 lemons and 4 limes and got a total of 1 2/3 cups of juice, so it was lucky I had made more simple syrup. So be prepared. We also used Knob Creek bourbon, which is extra yummy. And finally, I prefer my whiskey sours on the rocks, so I skipped the shaker and just poured it all over ice in a tall glass. Yum.

Cornish Hens with Cornbread Stuffing (serves 6):
For the stuffing
- 1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1 1/2 cup medium-diced celery (3 stalks)
- 3 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 5 cups (13 oz) coarsely crumbled cornbread (say that 5 times fast!)
- 1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
For the hens
- 6 fresh cornish hens (1.25-1.5 lbs)
- 2 cups sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
- kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 2 T unsalted butter, melted

Preheat over to 400 degrees.
For stuffing, melt butter in medium saute pan, add onion, and cook over medium-low heat for 8 minutes, until onion is translucent. Off the heat, add celery, parsley, cornbread, and chicken stock and mix well. Set aside.
For hens, rinse them inside and out, removing any pin feathers, and pat outsides dry. In a roasting pan that's just large enough to hold the hens loosely, first toss in the onions, then place hens on top, breast side up. Sprinkle the insides of the hens with salt and pepper and loosely fill the cavities with stuffing. (Bake leftover stuffing in a pan until heated through.) Tie the legs of each hen together and tuck wings under the bodies. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 50 to 60 minutes, until skin is browned and juices run clear when you cut between a let and thigh. Remove from oven, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Serve a whole hen per person.

Notes: There's only 2 of us and we didn't have dinner guests, so we just made 2 hens. Since we like stuffing, we made the whole recipe and just baked the rest in a casserole dish - there's a lot left over! I made cornbread earlier in the day, using the recipe off the Quaker Yellow Cornmeal canister, which was super easy. A few other tweaks we made: we're ambivalent about parsley, and we have fresh sage growing in a box on our porch, so we scrapped the parsley and added 4 finely chopped sage leaves. We also both like some sausage (the breakfast kind that comes in a plastic tube so it's easy to crumble) in our regular stuffing, so since we were just using regular store-bought chicken broth and not home-made chicken stock (which would have much more fat), we cooked a little bit of sausage and added that. It was yummy, plus then there was some grease left in the pan, which we used to fry some of the remaining corn bread, and that was really delish.


Chocolate Sorbet (makes about 2 quarts, serves 6):
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup very good cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup brewed espresso (2 shots)
- 1 T coffee liqueur

In a large saucepan, mix sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in 4 cups water and espresso. Cook over low heat until ingredients are dissolved. Off heat, stir in coffee liquer. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until very cold.
Freeze mixture in 2 batches in an ince cream freezer according to manufacturer's directions. The sorbet will still be soft; place it back in the container and freeze for an hour or overnight, until firm enough to scoop.

Notes: I just used plain old Hershey's cocoa powder, and it was delicious, so no need to shell out a bundle for the expensive stuff from Williams-Sonoma like Ina tells you to. But what do I know, maybe if I tried the expensive stuff I'd never go back to plain old Hershey's. Ina also suggests buying a double-shot of espresso from Starbucks (can you say "product placement"??), but I made Turkish coffee, because I knew it would be very strong and I have the stuff to make it. If I didn't have any fresh Turkish-ground coffee on hand, I would have gone to the nearest coffee shop and gotten the espresso from them. Also, I counted the espresso as part of the water measure, because I felt like the recipe was calling for too much water, and no one wants runny sorbet. And finally, I didn't feel like messing around with 2 batches, so I halved the recipe.


Was the recipe easy to follow?
A resounding YES on all three counts - nothing tricky here!

Did it taste good?
Another resounding YES! The Whiskey Sours were a little too sour, and I had run out of simple syrup, but they were still delish. The Cornish Hens were great, and especially the Cornbread Stuffing. And the Chocolate Sorbet was to die for - there's no milk in it, if you didn't notice, so it's just pure chocolatey goodness in every bite! So yummy. It would make for a good Gelato sometime too, if I ever wanted to try making vanilla custard. Or I could just buy some.

Would you make it again?
Once more, yes for all three! Whiskey Sours are one of my fav drinks, plus I bet I could use the same recipe for Amaretto Sours. Next time I'll use fewer lemons & limes, and I'll use a higher ratio of simple syrup. The Cornish Hens were so delish that Paul and I were talking about making them for guests this fall before we'd even eaten them (we could tell they were going to be yummy, and they weren't that difficult to make for how nice they look!! So who wants to be our fall guests?). And the chocolate sorbet, well, who wouldn't make that again? Pure chocolate! Rich and concentrated! Frozen and spoonable! YUM!!

All in all, a successful evening, if I do say so myself. And I finally got a presentable picture of one of my recipe results - can you almost taste that chocolate sorbet?? I know you're jealous.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wok

I got a wok at The Restaurant Store like I said in the last post!

Paul and I made a trip there on Saturday. We got two half sheet pans, one quarter sheet pan, and one grate of each size. The quarter sheet pan fits perfectly in our toaster oven, which is great because we frequently use that instead of the big oven when we're only cooking for the two of us, because it doesn't heat up the kitchen as much and it uses less energy. Of course, now that it's summer we also use the grill outside for the same reason.

Anyway, the wok. We wanted a smaller one (since we have a smaller kitchen), and one with handles on both sides. We didn't want a non-stick one, and the pre-seasoned steel woks only had one long handle. So we got a shiny steel one that has short handles on two sides, and we'll get to use it until it turns all black on its own. Yum! And since we have a gas stove it will work with the little ring stand (the wok isn't flat on the bottom so it can't sit up on its own). I'm quite excited to try the lo mein recipe again with a real wok, which means I'll have enough room to actually toss the noodles around a bit instead of just stirring them carefully in a pot that's too small.

So yay for a wok! And brand-new shiny sheet pans! And grates for cooling cookies and baking bacon (the only way to do it - all the crispy deliciousness and so much less grease)! But for Whip It Up week 4, I need to find a new fun recipe, and it probably won't use the wok. Plus I have my Motorcycle Safety Course for the next two weeks on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening, so I won't be doing too much complicated cooking. I'll aim for my next WIU post on Tuesday, cuz otherwise I'll be doing it really late in the evening and I'll be all tired out from the motorcycle class!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Whip It Up week 3: Lo Mein

I think this qualifies as an "old favorite" to go with the theme, although I didn't learn to like (ahem - I mean LOVE) lo mein until late High School. So for people like my sister who have loved it their whole lives, it qualifies.

I used this recipe to figure out what to do, since I've never made lo mein before (otherwise it wouldn't qualify for Whip It Up, duh!):

Ingredients
2 quarts water
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon granules
1 (16 ounce) package thin spaghetti
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon reduced sodium teriyaki sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
1 cup fresh snow peas
1/2 cup chopped green onions

Directions

Bring* water and bouillon to a boil. Add spaghetti. Return to a boil; cook, uncovered, for 6 minutes or until almost tender. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Add soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, five-spice powder and pepper to reserved liquid; set aside. Set spaghetti aside.

In a large nonstick skillet or wok, heat oil until hot. Add onion and saute for 2 minutes. Add peas; saute 2 minutes longer. Stir in reserved spaghetti. Add reserved soy sauce mixture to pan. Simmer, uncovered, for 3-4 minutes or until liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle with green onions.

Tweaks Major Changes

I made stir-fry last night, a dish I have made many times, and we had (a) lots of leftover veggies from that, and (b) lots of leftover chicken from our delicious grilling experience last week. So I skipped all the parts above where you cook the veggies, added some chicken (also left over) to the hot oil first (it had been in the fridge for a few days so I wanted to get it nice and hot first), then added the leftover veggies right before adding the noodles to the pan because the veggies were already cooked and just needed to be heated.

The other major tweak was that Paul got rice noodles so we wouldn't have such a heavy meal. I really want to try it again with semolina, but it was also delish with the rice noodles! Plus even quicker because you only need to soak the rice noodles in water for a bit, no actual 6 minutes of boiling required.

I also added some corn starch (1 Tablespoon) to the reserve water/soy sauce mix because I was worried it wouldn't be thick enough. The rice noodles, though, soaked up everything immediately, so I ended up adding more soy sauce (honestly, the lower sodium Kikkoman tastes NO DIFFERENT AT ALL, and it has the exact same ingredients just with less salt, so I have no idea why anyone would buy anything else) just to give things a better color and a bit more moisture. I think a pound of rice noodles has more surface area and soaking-up capacity than (and thus needs more sauce than) spaghetti would.

And lastly, I augmented the canola oil with some sesame oil (a Tablespoon or so) to add some extra Asian flavor because I didn't have the five spice thing - Sesame oil is a really delicious thing to have in your cupboard, I highly recommend it. Adds lots of really great flavor! Kind of expensive, but you don't use much, so I've had the same bottle for over a year. It is getting pretty low, I will need more soon.



So was the recipe easy to follow?
Yes, very. Not only was it easy to follow, but it was all much simpler than I expected it to be. I had no issues whatsoever.

Did it taste good?
VERY good, and it was much less greasy than restaurant lo mein usually is! It was seriously delicious. And every few bites I'd get a burst of sesame flavor, or some other flavor, and it would be even better.

Would you make this again?
Yes, definitely. Stir fry (with tons of veggies and occasionally some leftover meat) has been a part of our repertoire for a few years, and we both love it so much that we get into kicks where we make it every week or more,so this will be a nice variation to add to our regular rotation. Next time I would like to try it more closely to the recipe above, specifically try using semolina pasta, but I think we'll also definitely do it with the rice noodles again, and most definitely as a way to use up leftover veggies and meat again - no microwaving them to reheat, just toss it all in a pot with some fresh noodles! By using the leftovers, this honestly took me less than 20 minutes start to finish, including prep and cooking time. It would have been a teensy bit longer if I'd needed to cook spaghetti from the box, and with fresh veggies (I'd almost definitely always use more kinds of veggies than the recipe calls for) it would take longer, but if you wanted to make it fast and didn't have leftovers in the fridge you could get a frozen Asian veggie mix - my grocery store always has a variety or two of stir-fry veggies, some with water chestnuts right in there (we looooove water chestnuts), so that would eliminate the time spent chopping veggies.

In case you hadn't noticed, I rarely follow a recipe exactly when it comes to dinner foods. I meant to find something even more brand-new to me for this week and actually try to be faithful to the recipe, but maybe next week! There's just always something that I think, no, that doesn't sound as good as doing it this way; or something that I want to add more or less of or substitute for something else.

And in case you were curious and haven't done stir fry yourself before:
Veggies we like to use for stir fry, in various permutations depending on what we're in the mood for and what we have on hand
Cabbage, carrots, snow peas, broccoli, onion, garlic, mushrooms, bell pepper, water chestnuts.
In my leftovers I had some corn, so I even threw that in, altho I've never included corn in stir fry before.
For meat we use leftover chicken mostly, and occasionally leftover pork; if we don't have leftover meat to use, then we just do the veggies.
Saute everything in a little bit of oil until they're tender (or whatever doneness you prefer your veggies), add some pepper and whatever other seasoning you enjoy, and serve over rice with soy sauce (low sodium!). Sometimes I add some soy sauce and/or worcestershire sauce to the veggies. If I had a bigger pan, I'd add the cooked rice to the veggies, but I usually end up making too many veggies to fit the rice in, so we usually just put the plain rice in our bowls and top with the veggies. It was quite a squeeze to fit the noodles and the veggies all in the saute pan for the lo mein! I need to get myself a wok at The Restaurant Store.

Hope you enjoy!

PS: Here is a pic from last week's recipe, the leftover chicken macaroni & cheese casserole:


My pictures are so plebeian compared so some of the other participants. I can take nice photos, I'm just too busy cooking and subsequently eating my dinner, which I am usually extremely hungry for by the time I finish making it, that I never feel like taking time to set up a good photo. Plus it's always dark outside by the time I'm done, so I don't get to use natural light, which of course would look much better. Hopefully next week when I try a recipe from one of my many cookbooks, I will also find time to take a more deliberate and high-quality photo.

* I have no earthly idea why, but the original recipe says to use a Dutch oven for this step. Just use a regular old pot, for crying out loud. I have one of those pasta pots with the built-in sieve - best. invention. ever.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Reminiscing & Resolutions

I had quite a nice weekend at Nawakwa with a few other 90's staffers. Paul's first year on staff was '98 and mine '99, making us the oddballs of the group - no one else there was a regular staffer after '99, except Dream, but he also started earlier than we did. So we had a lot of fun hearing about some legendary stuff right from the mouths of those who lived it, and just had a great time reminiscing in general.

It really made me realize how much camp changes over the years, and also how much more I should have appreciated my time there. Paul and I are going to start planning now so that we can go to Family Camp next year.

It was really neat to hang out with people who were once our counselors and talk about things as adults, and it was also good for me to get to spend time with everyone else's babies and spend time with other healthy young families. Unfortunately since I had the luxury of playing with them while they smiled and laughed, and handing them back to be changed, fed, and comforted, it gives me a rather inaccurate picture of parenthood...so it didn't really cure my baby cravings...but it was still really nice.

So anyway, I have decided that:
- I will be in bed by 10:00 PM with the goal of being asleep by 11:00 most Sunday thru Thursday nights
- I will go to the YMCA 2 to 4 times per week, and exercise (mostly lap swimming but occasionally elliptical) for 60 minutes while I am there.
- On days I don't go to the YMCA, I will take an hour-long walk in the evening, unless I rode my bike to work that day.
- I will eat more veggies and fruits, even if I don't eat less overall.
- I will look into other career paths such as teaching or starting a small business, and begin research into what I need to do to switch to a different career.
- I will start researching what we need to do to buy a house in 2009.

I think this is mostly precipitated by all the reminiscing this weekend, and seeing where everyone else is with there lives. So I decided that it's pretty important to get back in shape and figure out a more satisfying career now so that I can be a happy, healthy, laid-back young parent in a few years like most of the former staffers were. Motivation = good.

Towards goal # 1, I am now headed to bed - after not having tried it since 2002, I didn't find sleeping in a cabin in a camp bed to be the most restful experience, so I'm pretty sleepy. Good night, all.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Whip It Up week 2: Leftover chicken macaroni & cheese casserole

Ingredients:
8 oz macaroni
2 T butter
2 T flour
2 C milk
12 oz cheese of choice (I used sharp cheddar), chopped into smallish bits (saves time over shredding IMHO)
2 T ground mustard and/or deli-style mustard
1 t garlic powder
tabasco
pepper
1 C cooked chicken, cut up
2 T breadcrumbs

Prepare half (8 oz) of a 16-oz (1 lb) package of macaroni, cooking it al dente to the lower end of the cooking estimate (so it doesn't get too soggy once you boil it later)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In the mean time:
- melt 2 T butter in a saucepan over low heat
- once butter is completely melted, add 2 T flour
- stir constantly until rue (butter/flour mix) is smooth & bubbly all over, then continue to stir for another minute to get flour completely cooked
- gradually add 1 C milk, stirring constantly
- once the 1 C milk is added successfully and sauce is smooth and thick-ish, you can add the remaining 1 C milk all at once because you're no longer at risk for lumps
- once all the milk is added and is hot and steamy (it doesn't have to be bubbly, just plenty hot enough to melt the cheese), add in the 12 oz of chopped cheese and stir until it's all melted
- immediately remove from heat to avoid scalding anything - the melted cheese should have made your sauce thick again
- add 2 T ground mustard and 2 T deli-style mustard
- add a dash of tabasco and a few grinds of pepper, to taste
- put your cooked pasta, leftover chicken, and sauce into a buttered (or Pam'd, or however you prefer to non-stick-ify your casseroles) casserole dish, stir it all together, smooth out the top, and sprinkle on 2 T bread crumbs
- cover with aluminum foil (unless your casserole dish has a lid) and pop it in your 350 degree oven
- cook for 30 minutes or so, and then cook uncovered an additional 15 minutes or until the top is browned. If you didn't cover with bread crumbs or anything, you shouldn't cook it uncovered for too long or your noodles might get crusty.

Since everything is cooked to begin with, all you really need to do is get everything nice and hot and bubbly. If you did the sauce right, it'll already be nice and thick, so to save time you could probably bake it less and barely notice a difference.

Using cheddar makes it a little grainy, but I love cheddar so that's OK with me...if you wanted smoother, you could use another cheese.

You could also easily add other veggies, especially some fresh garlic and onion at the beginning: just cook it with the butter until the veggies are soft, and then add the flour and proceed the exact same way. If you've never tried your own white sauce before, it's easy! Don't be nervous. You just need a pan with a bottom that's not too thin, low heat, and equal parts fat (butter in this case) and flour, and then add your milk (preferably not skim, but anything at least 1% works just fine) very gradually, stirring constantly, and be patient. White sauce is a basic recipe that I used as the base for the cheese sauce, plus additional ingredients which I adapted from a few online mac & cheese recipes to use up some leftover chicken. I was lazy and didn't feel like chopping onions or I would have added that at the beginning with some fresh garlic.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
I didn't think about it enough ahead of time, so no, but if I did it again it would be better.

Did it taste good?
Pretty basic and nothing special, but yes, it was yummy comfort food.

Would you make this again?
I'm sure I'll do something similar in the future, but probably not the exact same thing. But it was a good way to use up my leftovers, so it worked.

I've been too lazy to pick out a real recipe from one of my many wonderful cookbooks, plan ahead and go to the grocery store, and make something more impressive to post about. Hopefully next week, maybe Wednesday. I made a really delish potato salad with lots of veggies like green beans, red pepper, red onion, and corn, with oil & balsamic vinegar dressing, but I didn't take pictures. It was really delish, though, so maybe I'll get the real recipe from my sis and post that & my variation of it anyway as a bonus. It was seriously delish.

OK bed time...I have a doctor's appointment at 7:00 AM tomorrow, ugh.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Good Reads

I recently spotted a neat-looking widget on a few friends' blogs: it displayed books they've read, with links to their rating and reviews of each book. I followed the links to Good Reads and signed myself up! It's a pretty neat site, and I've added a lot of the books I've read over the last few years, plus all the books on my to-do list. I haven't added any reviews yet, but I will. As it turns out, it's also a facebook app, so I added that as well, and deleted my old bookshelf app because it wasn't at all user-friendly.

So I think all my librophile friends and family out there should join too. You can get these pretty widgets in your blog! So fun.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Whip It Up week 1: Tuna melt with sprouts & avocado

For 2 people:

Your favorite bread or roll (ciabatta, or in this case I used sourdough bread)
Your favorite cheese (I used white extra-sharp cheddar; provolone or swiss would also be delightful)
2 cans of solid white albacore tuna (the normal size - about 6 oz each)
2 spoonfuls of sour cream
1 spoonful of mayo
squirt of deli-style mustard (the grainy-looking kind, not boring plain yellow)
pepper to taste
sprouts (I used a mixed container of broccoli, clover, and mustard sprouts)
1 avocado

Make tuna salad:
- Drain tuna and empty into a bowl
- Add sour cream, mayo, and mustard, just enough to coat everything - you can always add more, so be frugal to start!
- Mix & mash until tuna is all shredded and coated (add more sour cream/mayo/mustard if you like)
- Add pepper to taste; stir it in

Make tuna melt:
- Turn on your toaster oven (or regular oven if you don't have a toaster oven) and set it to "broil"

- Lightly toast your bread (if using a toaster oven, do this by popping the bread in there while the toaster oven heats up; if this is the method you use, it will be more toasted on the top, so put that side down before adding the tuna)

- Spread tuna salad on bread, pressing it down so you have a flat-ish top
- Place a slice or three of cheese on top of the tuna
- Put the whole shebang into your oven (I used my toaster oven, much smaller, quicker, and easier)
- Keep it in there for a few minutes until the cheese is all melted

- Pop it out and let cool for a few minutes
- Pile sprouts and sliced avocado on top
- Take a huge bite and enjoy!
(Depending on your preference and how sturdy your bread is, you might need to use a knife & fork to eat. The ciabatta at the cafe let me pick it up to eat it, but the sourdough I used at home was too brittle so I had to use a fork!)

From Whip It Up! ...


This recipe was easy for me to follow because I was making it up...I had roughly the same thing in a little cafe a couple weeks ago, and had been thinking to myself how I could duplicate it, so it was all well-formed inside my head. I wrote it down here after I made it, pretty much exactly as I did it!

Some tweaks to make to suit your own taste, style, and timeframe: You could use store-bought tuna salad, or a different ratio of sour cream to mayo to mustard (low-fat, anyone?), or add some onion or other veggies to the tuna; use a different type of cheese if you prefer, say, swiss or provolone to cheddar; and definitely just use your fav bread on the bottom. The restaurant used ciabatta, which was also great, but I happened to get some fresh sourdough from the farmer's market this week, so I used that.

When I make this again, I won't go overboard on the cheese - my slices of cheddar were rather thick, and you can see it melted all the way down over the sides so you can't even see the tuna and bread! Still delicious, but it would be nice to taste the tuna a bit more, plus less cheese would mean less fat.

The nice thing about this recipe was that it was very simple and quick - and it could have been even quicker if I had made the tuna salad the day before, or bought pre-made tuna salad, and if I had pre-sliced cheese and bread. Melting the cheese in the toaster oven took no more than 10 minutes, and all that's left after that is to pile the sprouts and avocado on top! Super fast and easy.

We discovered from making this that my hubby doesn't particularly care for sprouts, so while I would definitely make this meal again, I might do it for company when he wasn't around, or as part of a few options at a picnic, or else just put some lettuce and avocado on his and only use the sprouts on mine! I am newly in love with sprouts, so more sprouts for me would be peachy.

Please comment if you have questions, or if you try it out!! Now I'm all hungry from typing this up...


Whip It Up blog
My Whip It Up pictures
My Whip It Up goal: to publish a new recipe every Monday, starting with this one. Luckily blogger has an auto-publish feature, so I can type this all up ahead of time and set it to publish on Monday - how nice. Oops, now I've given away my secret.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Herbs are Growing!



Look at that basil grow! I hope I can eat it by the end of the summer...I also hope it doesn't attract the masses of japanese beetles that my mom's did a couple summers ago - that was so gross.

I'm not growing anything as exciting as my cousin Katy is, but we do also have a pepper plant out back that is getting flowers. We have TONS of bumblebees, so hopefully they'll visit the pepper plant so that I don't have to help the flowers have flower sex like Katy did.

Next post: Whip It Up Week 1! Coming Monday, 7 July (not June, thanks Mom!). Yes, I have discovered blogger's auto-publish feature.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dichotomy

Yesterday afternoon, I was getting a shower in preparation for my evening with Kelly M, after having spent the afternoon planting herbs in a long planter box Paul installed on the side of our porch. As I shampooed my hair, I realized that I had just finished reading Dune that morning, and that evening I would be going with Kelly and Natalie to see Sex and the City the movie. The height of sci-fi/fantasy nerdiness in the morning, the height of domestic suburban whiteness in the afternoon, and the height of uber-girliness in the evening. Yes, I enjoyed Sex and the City. Yes, I enjoyed Dune. Is there something wrong with me?

Wait, don't answer that.

Here's our new herb box:

From the left: oregano, sage, rosemary, blank space that will hopefully become basil, chives, and spearmint.

I got basil seeds months ago and never got around to planting them. It's a little late now, but we'll see. I planted some in the box, and the rest in another extra pot that's out back in the sun with the habanero plant Paul got. It's supposed to take 7-14 days to germinate, so in 2 weeks I'll know if I was successful.

Now I'm going to go plan a few sunflower seeds (also late) and sort thru these huge clothing boxes so we can finally get them out of our living room. Then the only boxes left will be in the basement, where at least I don't have to see them every day. And then, if I have a bit of time left, I might clean the kitchen.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Jamie's wedding & 99 luftballoons (minus 87)

Had lots of fun at Jamie's wedding:


Even bought a nice new black dress at Target, where Nicole, Paul, and I passed the 2 hours between the wedding and the reception. I'll see all these guys again in two weeks at Steph's wedding, where I'll get to spend more time with Jamie and less with Steph, since that's how weddings go!

For Father's Day, Paul and I went down to York and took the Askeys out to the Texas Roadhouse, Dad Askey's pick. Had delicious ribs, and saw this amazing sight on the way home:

Started out seeing just one and then four as we were getting gas, then Paul took a creative way home hoping to bring us closer, and the view opened up into what you see here. We drove around to the other side of the mountain and got another view of the seven still high enough to see from there, but this is by far the best picture I got. There are 12, but one is below the horizon and harder to see: it's down and to the right of the 4th balloon in low on the right. Cool, huh? I've never seen that many balloons up in the air before, except in pictures, so it was really neat to see in real life. I have to get a ride in a hot air balloon at some point in my life. So cool.

Friday, June 13, 2008

New toys!

I got two new toys yesterday:

First, my Kitchen Aid juicer attachment came from amazon, which I got for just $0.52 more than I would have paid if I had waited 2-3 weeks for Linens 'n Things to order it in for me, and it was delivered right to my door in just 4 days! This is why I love amazon.

I also rode my bike to Holmes Bike Shop in Camp Hill (it took less than 20 minutes!) and they installed clipless pedals and the matching cleats for my shoes (also as in the picture) so that now I will pedal more efficiently and I can pull up as well as push down! I practiced a little bit in their parking lot before riding around the block to wait for Paul to pick me up at the Cornerstone Coffee House, and I even got my first fall out of the way: going up a sidewalk bump that proved too high, caught my back wheel, and fell into the low grassy bank to my right. I couldn't have picked a better place to fall - it was soft and slanted up to my right, so I wasn't even scratched. I made it the next 20 feet to Cornerstone with no more problems, and treated myself to a Caramel Lovers Frappe thing that was at least as delicious as the same thing at Starbucks would have been (altho probably not any cheaper).

When we got home, I wanted to practice my clipping and un-clipping more, so I didn't get to play with my juicer. I think the limes will wait a little longer to be juiced.

Paul has been playing with his new toy, our refurbished Weber gas grill, almost every meal other than leftovers since we got it, which is great - no extra heat source in the house other than him going in and out of the back door to get to the grill. The air conditioner is starting to not cool down the bedroom enough (it was too hot to go back to sleep this morning, which is why I'm up so early), so hopefully Sunday Paul can install our "new" free air conditioner in the bedroom. Then we'll be set for the summer.

Other fun news of the week: I opted out of vision care insurance, but when Paul went to a new eye doctor this week and mentioned his super-itchy allergy eyes, the doctor managed to get the whole visit covered by our regular medical insurance. What a nice person! He went out of his way to save Paul some money. Of course, Paul's new glasses (his previous pair, just a year old, broke last week) cost 4 times more than the appointment, but that's OK - I'll clean out the rest of my health savings account to cover those. I might go and get myself a pair of prescription sunglasses too.

Almost forgot my other fun news: got my hair all chopped off. It's uber-short. I will post pictures soon.

Happy Friday the 13th! Paul is taking me to dinner at an undisclosed location, and then we are going to go see the new M. Night Shayamalan movie The Happening. Our first movie date was Shayamalan's Unbreakable, so he's our favorite. We're also going out to lunch at work today for my belated birthday, so I guess it will be a high-calorie day!

::edit:: 6:00 PM
I forgot my other new toy, motorcycle boots! They are a requirement for taking the PA Motorcycle Safety class, which I am officially registered for to take at the end of July! PA subsidized the course, so it's free, and they provide rather small bikes for everyone so it's not too scary for first-timers like me. I now have everything I'm required to have for the course, including my new boots (used for $25 on craigslist, from a nice woman right here in New Cumberland), helmet, and Paul's old gloves. So exciting!

Also, I juiced all my limes this afternoon, got exactly 1 cup of lime juice, so I added a cup of tequila, 1/2 c cointreau, and 1/2 c simple syrup, and now Paul and I can start off the evening right with fresh home-made margaritas!

All ready for my date night with Paul!

PS: This is hilarious if you are a member of facebook
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