Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christmas season has officially started in our house!

I consider Christmas to be the day after Thanksgiving through New Year's...but since we were traveling home yesterday, we delayed the first day of the season to today!

After running some errands this morning, I put some chili in the crock pot for dinner and we cleared a spot in the living room for the Christmas tree. I thought it would be too big for the little front window we have, but it looks good there! We added the lights and ornaments and it's so pretty! I love Christmas!

Kitty is plotting - 'how soon can i climb the tree without them noticing?'

Once the tree was up, it was time for dinner! YUM:

And pumpkin muffins for dessert!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Day 2 in Dallas: Trip down memory lane....

The plan for our second day in Dallas was to visit places where Dave and his family used to live, work, and eat long ago.

We took the scenic route across town from Rich's place to their old stomping grounds. We drove around White Rock Lake to see the "McMansions" - seems like a great place to live if you can afford it. First stop was Robindale Drive, which is the first house Dave lived in. Then off to Buckingham Road, which is now called something else and has lost half of its front yard to the man. They had a great time telling stories about things that happened in both places, good and bad. It was cool to see where Dave comes from, and to know that we're lucky Richard didn't get snatched away that day in the toy store....close call, that one!



After seeing the houses, we walked around the campus of Southern Methodist University - I've mentioned before that I love all college campuses, and this one was no different. I love that they are all (well, most) designed the same way with the quad anchored by the main building and flanked by academic buildings or dorms. Here's the anchor, Dallas Hall:

After a late lunch at Dickey's BBQ, we went back to Rich's to kill some time before the hockey game. Rich scored awesome seats at a Dallas Stars game - what none of us knew is that the Stanley Cup is on tour and happened to be in Dallas that night, and that former Stars player, Brett Hull, was being inducted into the Hall of Fame. He's kinda cute. Old, but cute.


The game was awesome and tied up at the end, so it went to overtime. No one scored during the 5 minute OT period, so the game came down to a shoot-out. Unfortch, the St. Louis Blues won :(

Good day!

Thursday was spent eating turkey, watching the Cowboys and Texas win, and watching Eli lose. Boo...

We're home now! It was an awesome trip - we even splurged for business class seats on the flight home. It was much more comfortable, and I might never fly coach again!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving in Dallas

Dave's brother is hosting Thanksgiving this year, so we made the trip to Dallas yesterday. We (read: I) thought it would be good to save a vacation day and leave after work Monday. That was not a good idea. It makes for a very long day...lesson learned. We arrived last night around midnight and went straight to bed after touring this humongous, beautiful house! :)

This morning, we took our time getting ready, and then explored Dallas a little. Rich drove us around downtown and uptown, showed us some hot spots, and then we met up with the in-laws who had just arrived in town. Once they got settled, we walked to lunch at the Village Burger Bar. I had an awesome chicken pesto panini! YUM! Then we drove back downtown to do the tourist thing.

All the Anderls used to live here and have undoubtedly seen the grassy knoll before, but they humored me when I asked to go. When we got to Dealey Plaza, it was just what I expected, but at the same time it was kind of surreal to be there. It's nothing extravagant or commercial, so you can just stand there and take it all in. We met some nice people there, including the proverbial conspiracy theorist and the pushy commemorative newspaper guy ($5 donation suggested, but it's free, take one for the family, TAKE IT! 5 DOLLARS!). Here's the guy who's never been here but knows everything about it and will contradict anything you say about it with a conspiracy theory, talking to Rich and Marv:


'Which window is it? That one, no that one. Oh, the corner? No?' Everyone around us was having the exact same conversation.

There is a white 'X' painted on the road at the spot where JFK was shot. This is a main road through the city, highly traveled, and you can tell which drivers are locals because they all swerved around the X. Some cars drove right over it, but it was cool to witness a local tradition. If it's not a tradition, and just a coincidence, don't tell me, k? Side note: you could tell who the tourists are, because they're the ones who run out to the X to have their picture taken while the cars at the top of the hill are waiting at the red light. It's like playing chicken...

We toured the Sixth Floor Museum, which guides you through Kennedy's life and career, and has evidence and artifacts from the investigation into the assassination. Very cool museum. They have the area of the warehouse where Oswald shot POTUS and where he hid his rifle afterwards. That was the surreal part - being in that room, with the window open and the book boxes stacked all around the area like a fort, including ones in front of the window that were used to steady his rifle.

After a short break, we headed to Lakewood to eat dinner at Matt's Rancho Martinez. When I told people at work I was going to Dallas for Thanksgiving, this place was recommended by just about anyone who had been here before. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint! I'm sure Mexican food can get more authentic, but this was exponentially better than Richmond's version. Sorry Mexico! I forced my party to eat the house specialty, Bob Armstrong Dip:

House Specialty! Seasoned 100%
ground chuck, zesty chile con
queso, fresh guacamole & sour

MMMMMM!!!! I got beef and guacamole enchiladas for dinner and they were awesome too!

Tomorrow's agenda is pretty open, except for a hockey game tomorrow night! Not sure what the day will hold, but I'm sure it'll be fun! :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I finally decided on a recipe for the holiday bake-off at work! It is below.

Hopefully the finished product will look something like this, with mashed up candy canes on top:

Chocolate cupcakes with peppermint butter-cream frosting:

1-1/4 cups flour3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder1/2 teaspoon salt1 cup unsalted butter, softened1-1/2 cups sugar2 eggs1/2 cup whole1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peppermint Butter-cream:
1 package powdered sugar (16 ounces)1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)3 tablespoons milk2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon peppermint extract2-3 drops green food coloring (optional)

Cooking Steps:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a separate mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until sugar is fully dissolved. Add eggs, one at a time, and stir until completely mixed.
4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until all clumps of flour have been dissolved.
5. Add milk and vanilla, and stir until batter is smooth and velvety. Pour into greased or lined muffin tins and bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from heat.
6. Let cool for 15 minutes in tins, then remove and let cool outside of tins for at least 1 hour.
7. For butter-cream, beat sugar, butter, milk and vanilla with electric mixer at low speed until well blended and smooth. If frosting becomes too thick, beat in additional milk by teaspoonfuls until the frosting is of spreading consistency. Makes about 2 1/2 cups frosting. Refrigerate until ready to use.
8. Once cupcakes are fully cooled, add Peppermint butter-cream. Optional: serve with coffee or milk.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Striped Delight

I stole an idea from Bonnie's blog and made Striped Delight this afternoon. It's a layered dish of deliciousness.

Mine didn't turn out very stripey (there's chocolate pudding in there, I promise), but I'm sure it will taste good! It's in the fridge, hopefully firming up - and yes, I'm bringing some to work tomorrow!

The best thing about this dessert is that other than the crust and chocolate chips, it's fat free!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I should apologize to the Barefoot Contessa...

A while ago I dragged Dave with me to Sur La Table, the most awesome store ever, to look for a cake decorating tool. He found some Barefoot Contessa lemon bar mix and shoved it at me with a look that said "Please?" So we bought it and I finally made them last night.

When I first took the box out of the pantry, I read the directions and wanted to cuss this lady out. It goes something like this:

-open this bag
-mix contents with butter
-chill for 20 minutes
-bake for 20 minutes
-wait an hour for it to cool
-open this other bag
-mix contents with eggs and stuff
-pour on first thing and bake for 30 minutes - but it'll actually take 45
-wait another hour for it to cool again

Really? Who has that kind of time? Oh yeah, the Barefoot Contessa who doesn't have a job! Yes, I know she technically has a job - she has a tv show that records her spending hours in the kitchen baking wonderful things, but somehow never washes a dish or has other things to do around the house. Well, good for you lady. And you better count your lucky stars you have a husband like Jeffrey who will go to work all day while you're in the kitchen baking him scones. Or whatever. My husband is different from Jeffrey in that he doesn't make enough money for us to live in the Hamptons and me not to have a job.

I digress...

So during the steps above where I was waiting for something, I was fuming over the amount of time this baking project was taking away from my tv time. This is very important time in my day. Especially Mondays, when One Tree Hill, Big Bang Theory, Lie to Me, and the now defunct Jon and Kate Plus 8. I barely have the time to toggle between them all, much less adding another element of baking! Gosh, what a tough life I have!

Once they were done, I decided they were worth the wait. We tested them while they were still a little warm, so I'm about to do another taste test now that they've been chilling for a while, and see just how worth it this was! :)

Here's a pic of the finished product:


Saturday, November 7, 2009

4th Anniversary

For our 4th wedding anniversary, we wanted to do something cheap, relaxed, and fun. No presents, no flowers, no cards, just a good time. So we took the day off work and took a road trip to Colonial Williamsburg!

First stop on our road trip was the Brick House Diner. It's our favorite spot for breakfast because the food is awesome and it's not a chain restaurant that you can find anywhere you go!

After breakfast we headed to Williamsburg. Now I know what you're thinking: Once you've been to Williamsburg once, you've seen it, and don't need to see it again. Right? I don't feel that way - at all. I love everything about it. Sure, there's the outlet mall, the antiques, the pottery, which used to be the place to go...but my favorite part is Duke of Gloucester Street. I could go there every weekend and never get bored. Everything about it feels good to me. The cobblestone sidewalks, the colonial smell, the 17th century hustle and bustle, the volunteers walking around in costume and in character, the smoke from the cannons and muskets. Love it!

This time I decided I wanted to take some pictures that are different than what I normally do. I've been trying to learn how to use my camera. I know how to point and shoot, but didn't, until recently, know how to change the settings from 'idiot mode' to take the best picture in certain circumstances. I'm still learning, but I think I have the basics down.

I'll let you be the judge. Here are my favorite shots from the day:

By far my favorite one - Bruton Parish:

Once we were finished walking DoG Street, we went to Paul's Deli. This place is a dive, for sure, but every time we're in the Burg (well, almost every time), we eat there. It's a place that both of us had visited before we met, and when we took our first trip to Williamsburg together, we both suggested it without knowing the other had been there. So now it's a tradition, I suppose.

The food is good, but Paul's has tons of memorabilia from William and Mary, like Spanky's and Ruby Tuesday used to have. Makes you feel at home, in my opinion. I hope this place doesn't lose out to the man. You can have The Cheese Shop, but don't take my Paul's!

Here are a couple examples of the charm of this place:

Good hair day, no?

Once our bellies were full we left Colonial W'burg and headed home. But I couldn't get on 64 without visiting the outlet mall. We only went in 3 stores, and Dave spent more than I did!

Great day with great company! Here's to many more anniversaries!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I'm ready for the New Moon premiere!

I got my ticket a few days ago, and now I have the perfect shirt!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The things we do for Brunswick Stew...

Last night we had our peeps over for a Halloween party. By party, I mean eat pizza, play Rock Band, and laugh constantly at the hilarity that is Dave, Nate, and Eddie.

The day started in Frog Level, a little pod in Caroline County. Every year, we go to their fall festival and pick up some Brunswick Stew. They start cooking these huge vats of the stew in the wee hours of the morning...and we appreciate it. It was raining pretty hard and we parked about a quarter mile away from the event because of traffic. Once we got there, we had wet ankles and shoes, so we picked up our stew and didn't hang around to visit the sand art and alpaca tents. Too bad...but there's always next year :)

Then Bonnie and I ran a few errands and ended up back at my house to relax a little before the party started. Ashley came over after work already in her costume, Dave and Nate went to Goodwill to get an impromptu costume for Nate, and I got dressed up too!

Here we are in our costumes:

Dave, er, I mean, Dale Jr:

Ashley, as the female version of Freddy Kreuger:

Me, as Abby from NCIS:

Close-up of tattoo Dave drew on me:

In case you've never heard of or seen Abby, here she is:

And here's Nate, as "awkward social moment guy":

After we ate dinner, cupcakes, and other treats Ashley brought, we played Beatles Rock Band, which was awesome! A lot of the songs were kind of boring to play compared to regular Rock Band, but they're more fun to sing. Good times.

Here are Eddie, Dave, and Nate rocking out with their proverbial c**ks out:

And the whole band (Bonnie played the part of the screaming groupie:

It was a fun night, but around 10:30 we decided we were all pooped from the day and we shut it down. In bed by midnight! I know, we're getting old :)