Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy 30th Lora!

Bonnie's cousin, Lora, turned 30 on Friday, and her mom (Aunt Karen) threw her a surprise birthday party fiesta last night!

I prepared myself for said fiesta by purchasing a lovely sombrero headband from Party City!  

Festive right?  Bonnie found a much better deal - 8 plastic ones to share with others (I don't share well - haha) for the same price as my headband!

Lora thought she was coming over to her mom's to drop off Livi so she and her husband could go out to a movie, but when she got there 20 people shouted Surprise!  I think Livi was scared, and Lora might have been tipped off when she saw all of our cars parked outside! :)  Oops, we should have parked up the street!

She got a sombrero hair clip to wear when she came in!

Karen via Bonnie asked for favor ideas a few days before the party and I suggested something that people would actually use after the party - plastic maracas would be fun, but people just throw that stuff away when they get home unless they have a kids' toy box to throw them in :)  I sent her a few examples of Mexican recipes-in-a-jar, where the dry ingredients are stored in a Mason jar, and the recipe for adding the wet ingredients is attached to the jar.  She chose the Mexican Fiesta Dip and I can't wait to try it!

Karen served a wonderful dinner - tacos with all the fixins, rice, dips, and for dessert she whipped up some chocolate and nut covered bananas!  They were so tasty!

Bonnie picked up a birthday cake for Lora and we sang to her - I think Livi (Lora was holding her during the singing) thought it was her birthday...that's ok by me :)

After dessert Lora went to work smashing her pinata!

She had a few margaritas at this point, so cleaning up the candy was quite the task!  Haha!

We had a great time - thanks for the invite Karen!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Kuba Kuba

Dave and I finally made it to one of the Richmond restaurants on our to-try list last month - Kuba Kuba!

I was in love before I even walked into the restaurant because of the beautiful surrounding neighborhood!  This is one of the things I love about RVA:

How charming is this row of houses?  You can tell how long I've waited to write this because of the 'GO RAMS' sign in the beige house's window - this was during VCU's historic run in the NCAA tournament!  Better late than never, right?

As we got closer to the restaurant we saw this awesome mural on the side wall of the building

Love the outside - so the interior and food must be awesome, right?

I hear it was designed to look like a bodega inside, and that's exactly what it looks like.  Shelves line the walls, tables are scattered around like at a sidewalk cafe, and more murals and art are displayed all over the restaurant - very cool!  It is very casual and the wait staff and cook knew most of the people who came in while we were there - it just had an awesome neighborhood hangout vibe.

Dave used his awesome 'You Gotta See This!' app to get a panoramic view of the inside - so cute!

I ordered a Cuban sandwich - pork, ham, chorizo, swiss cheese, and mustard on Cuban bread, and it was served with a side of fried plantains!  Yes please!  The only other time I've ever had Cuban food is at Columbia Restaurant in St. Augustine, Fl.  Every year when we visit my parents in Florida, we always take a day trip to St. Augustine, which is only about 20 miles from where they live, and this restaurant is always on the to-do list when we're in town.  So good!

We'll definitely be back there :)

Why do I let this happen?

When I was in NYC, Dave had a honey-do list a mile long, and none of it got done because he had a family emergency while I was gone.  None of the things on the list were immediate needs (other than taking out the trash and doing some laundry) so we'll get to them one day.

Stuff started piling up that weekend, and only got worse once I got home, since I got sick the day after I got back.  I pretty much did nothing while I was sick other than work from home a little, watch TruTV (jury selection for the Casey Anthony trial was a laugh a minute), and be lazy.  Dave took a cue from me and didn't do much, and the result is this:
10 points if you can spot Dave; 20 if you can spot both him and the cat

Crazy right?  Laundry, dishes, stacks of mail, DVD's and library books we need to return, trash, blankets all over the place, etc.  I can't relax with the house looking like this - but it's gotten so bad that I started procrastinating because I thought it would take so long to clean it up.  Plus I'm lazy.  Catch-22 - can't live in it, don't want to clean it up.

Today I couldn't stand it any longer so I sent Dave upstairs to put his laundry away, and I started cleaning.  I decided to take a picture of the chaos - public humiliation is a big motivator for me.  If other people are holding me accountable for something, I'll do it.  If I'm left to my own devices, I'll procrastinate all day, all week, etc., especially when it comes to cleaning.  Organizing is a different story! :)

Dave wouldn't let me post it to Facebook, so I sent the picture to Bonnie asking her to time me.  Haha - I'm sure she got a good laugh out of seeing the picture.  I'm sure she's seen the house worse, but compared to her house which is always clean and orderly, mine currently looks like a natural disaster or the Tazmanian devil recently made a visit.

An hour later, it looked like this:

I"m sure there are still a ton of things I could do around the house, but for now I can relax in my living room and enjoy the long weekend (and some One Tree Hill reruns on Soapnet! :) )!

BTW, does anyone else think that the coffee table seems too big for the space now that I have the chaise attached to the couch instead of the chair?  Maybe I could put a smaller leather storage ottoman there instead?

In other household news, we finally have a blooming lily on the deck!  Wahoo!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jo's Pork Loin

I mentioned in the last post that Jo served us pork loin sammiches during the Berry, Berry Good class at Miller Farms.  I couldn't wait to share the recipe with Dave because I knew he'd love it!

After we took a trip to the grocery store for some supplies last night, I prepared the marinade for the pork - here's the recipe:

  • 1/4 cup each:
    • soy sauce
    • Worcestershire sauce
    • canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon each:
    • dried thyme
    • dried marjoram
    • dried sage
    • garlic powder
    • onion powder
    • ground ginger
    • salt
    • pepper 
Prepare the pork for marinating by poking holes all along the top, bottom, and sides - I'm sure this step is obvious to most normal people, but I've never done it before :)  I just throw the meat in with the marinade without poking it - not sure how I thought the marinade would penetrate the meat.  Haha.

Jo recommends baking it at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until its internal temperature is 160 degrees - although she cooked it at 400 degrees during the class on accident and it didn't seem overcooked.

We marinated the pork overnight and Dave grilled it tonight for dinner!  Jo served it at the strawberry class as sandwich meat on slices of French bread, dressed up with a little Bone Suckin' Mustard - a sweet yet spicy sauce that is the perfect complement to the meat!

 I sliced the bread a little too thick so we ended up with open-faced sandwiches!  Yum!

Berry, Berry Good


Last Saturday, my girls and I took a class at Miller Farms where we learned how to make some scrumptious things with strawberries!  I found this class more enjoyable than others I've taken since even though we are on the property of working farm/business, the class took place in someone's kitchen and she was the one teaching us.  Chefs are cool, and have a ton of classroom training, but there was just something charming about learning these tips from someone who is self-taught in her own kitchen...

She had a place setting for each of us with all the tools we'd need for the day: it was nice to be on a farm, outside of the hustle and bustle of town, just relaxing and learning about strawberries.  Talk about a stress reliever - and this sign mounted outside her kitchen is all too true!

First she whipped up a refreshing summer drink with very simple assembly!
Bonnie's photo

To make it:  she picked some fresh spearmint, bruised it with a rolling pin to extract some juice and flavor, and dropped into a huge pitcher...well really it was a big mason jar she used as a pitcher - so cute!  Then she sliced a lemon and lime and threw those in the jar and added some frozen strawberries - I'd imagine you can throw fresh ones in there for even more flavor, but the frozen ones were her choice of the day.  Once her flavorful goodies were ready she filled the jar with water and let it sit for a few minutes for the flavors to combine.  When she gave us each a glass of it, I was surprised at how much flavor it had after being assembled so recently!  It would be a great refreshment for any summer party or after a hard day's work outside!  Or at a party, as a companion to a pitcher of Sangria, for your dry friends?

She made a cheesecake, which I'm totally intimidated by and won't try for a while, along with a pork loin recipe that Dave and I will be having tonight for dinner!  More on that later...

My favorite recipe Jo whipped up (literally - ha!  I crack myself up!) was the french cream, which you can use as a fruit dip or pastry or cake frosting.  I've never whipped cream before so I probably asked some dumb questions during this part of Jo's presentation! :)  I've used heavy cream in recipes before but never whipped it - but now that I know how easy this recipe is I'll be making it often since you can use it with most fruits that are soft enough to be mashed with a hand mixer - I imagine peaches that have been soaked would be yummy!

Ok, back to the recipe - it is SO tasty, I whipped up my own batch last night!  All you need is heavy cream (or whipping cream), sugar, cream cheese, butter, and strawberries!

I whipped up 1 pint of heavy cream until it formed soft peaks - until I saw it up close I had no idea what that was supposed to look like, but when the cream got there, it was obvious:
No peaks


In another bowl I combined a stick of butter with 8 oz. cream cheese and then added 1/2 cup of sugar.  Once those were blended I added in 1 quart of strawberries (hulled and sliced) - isn't that little paring knife cute?  That was a gift to us from Miller Farms for taking the class :)

Once that mixture was blended I (with Dave's help) added the whipped cream in batches while still mixing it.  When it's all blended you get this pink lovely:

I put the mixture in the fridge to chill while I made some french bread to serve it with - another recipe we tried at the class and fodder for another post :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Happy Anniversary! Wow, 10 years!

I just realized today marks a special occasion!  Ten years ago today I brought my turtle home from Myrtle Beach!

I'd love to reminisce about the trip and share pictures to relive every moment, but those were the days before digital photography and I don't have any pictures on my computer!  Oh, the horror!  I had a film camera and had pictures developed, scrapbooked the ones I wanted to keep, and threw away the rest.  OMG it doesn't seem like that long ago we didn't rely on computers for everything!

I did scan one picture from that trip - this is Lance Bass.  At least we were all convinced it was him - he pulled up beside the car we were all riding in at a stoplight and asked if he could come ride with us.  Um, yes please!  Two minutes later, he (along with his buddies) was pulled over for driving like a maniac and we laughed our asses off!

During the trip we visited many franchises of Wings and Eagles looking for making fun of the craptastic souvenirs they sell, and we all fell in love with the tiny turtles that filled the aquarium by the register at each store.  We all made a pact that we would each get a turtle on our way home at the end of the trip, and nobody backed out!  It's not a big responsibility like getting a puppy (which we all know I can't handle :( miss you Beemer!), but I wasn't sure I would actually buy one.  I'm not usually impulsive like that, so I surprised even myself that I came home from the beach with a new pet.

I know that taking pictures of pictures is SO annoying, but because of the aforementioned lack of digital files dating back to 2001 this is the only picture that shows how tiny the turtle was when he first came home!

That glass bowl is about the diameter of a dinner plate, maybe a little bigger like a charger, and his shell was about the size of a poker chip?  He was SO cute!  They grow based on the size of their environment, so since we've upgraded his digs a few times, he's now the size of a hockey puck...

It has since become illegal to sell the turtles, so we got ours just in time.  But, I have some bad news.  Five of the six turtles purchased that day died within weeks (months) of buying them.

Moment of Silence...

Turtle and I have had our ups and downs, moved a couple times, experienced a traumatic incident involving a cat we were cat-sitting (he doesn't like to talk about it), and we both made it out alive with the help of Zoey and Dave!

Happy anniversary Turtle! :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New York City?!? Get a Rope! (Day 3)

After our looooong day in Brooklyn, I slept until 10am on Sunday morning!  I didn't hear anybody up and walking around since I wore ear plugs to bed, but instead of that meaning everyone else slept in it too (which is what I assumed), it meant that I was last to get up!  Carrie and Phil had already showered and ventured downtown to wait in line for theater tickets for that afternoon!  Maureen and I played Super Mario (which I still suck at, btw) for a while to kill time and then took our time getting ready for the day.

When Phil and Carrie got back with our 3pm matinee tickets for Avenue Q, we had a late breakfast where it was proposed we all speak in British accents.  Yeah, I don't know.  Phil and I sucked at it, and were lucky that Mo and Carrie allowed us to eat since we couldn't sufficiently indicate what we wanted.  We're goofy :)  The only sliver of a British accent I can muster is yelling "HELLO!" in a cockney accent, like that little girl in the "Just Go With It" trailer.  You know?  I haven't seen the movie, nor do I want to, but she's cute!   That's how Dave and I greet each other now. 

Anyways, after breakfast we hopped on the subway to go see the show!

View NYC Day 3 in a larger map

We walked through Times Square in an indirect route to the theater district.  I stopped in a touristy shop right off the subway to get Dave a souvenir, a sticker for my iPad case, and a pair of I<3NY socks for me!

Then we reached the chaos!  OMG sensory overload!  Remember when I said I've seen Times Square in the movies and on TV and thought it'd look exactly the same so I had no urge to see it in real life?  Well, I was kinda right - only no amount of movies or TV shows can prepare you for this.  It looked exactly as I expected, but it felt so much smaller and oppressive - there are people all around you (bumping into you, shoulder to shoulder crossing the street, coming right at you with no intention to yield the right of way), 200 inch plasma screens on the side of every building showing commercials and movie trailers, food vendors every 5 feet with the various foodie smells that come along with them, etc.  TOO MUCH!

AAAHHH!!  Ok, I'm better.  Times Square's saving grace?  Cute photo opportunity :)
Once we diverted from Broadway to a side street for the rest of our journey to New World Stages, I felt much better!  

Avenue Q was hilarious!!!  It's a pretty basic story of a college graduate moving out on his own, trying to find a place he can afford with limited job prospects and a good job to pay for a better place...but some of the characters were muppets - which I think was introduced to help us laugh our way through some of the controversial topics in the songs, like "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" and "The Internet is for Porn." There was a special muppet sex scene during the song "You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You're Makin' Love)."  My favorite was "Schadenfreude" - pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others - SO funny!  Sounds like good times right?  I thought so!  I haven't downloaded the soundtrack from iTunes yet, and I can't tell you why.  Off I go...

After the show we went down to Chelsea Market - the first floor is full of shops, groceries, and bakeries, and the rest of the building is the home of the Food Network!  

We walked down the long, main hallway through some of the shops like an authentic Italian grocery and then stopped for an afternoon snack from Eleni's.  

I got a mini red velvet cupcake, and we just sat around for a while talking about my dream to open River City Sweets.  I was looking around at the displays and paint and prices and just dreaming away....

...when I woke up we headed across the street to La Bottega Caffe for dinner.  The restaurant is in the Maritime Hotel, which I think looks like a big slice of swiss cheese!  Haha.  The food was awesome, as was the pitcher of Sangria we split :)  Then I started not feeling well due to that 3rd glass of Sangria (is that a lot?  I didn't think so but I went straight from buzz to ill) so we headed home for the night.  We finished that last 30 minutes of "White Christmas" since we hadn't finished it the night before and headed to bed...we had a 5am wakeup call the next day to get on the road, so we didn't mess around! 

Last and final day of the trip to come...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

New York City?!? Get a Rope! (Day 2)

After sleeping in Saturday morning while Carrie and Mo went for a jog, we walked down to the Inwood Hill Farmers' Market to get stuff for breakfast and snacks for the weekend.  So cool to see a farmer's market in the middle of the city, where a road is blocked off every Saturday morning to sell fresh and local produce, baked goods, honey, and seafood.  We picked up some crumb cake, apples, mussels, and made our way back to their apartment to dig in...

Once we finished our breakfast and were ready for the day, we strolled towards the subway.

View NYC Day 2 in a larger map

Our first stop was right next to the farmers' market - a memorial has been set up in the garden of the Catholic church to honor Inwood neighbors lost on 9/11.  Prominently in the garden stands a piece of steel pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center, in the shape of a cross:

It was so sad to see how many people from just one neighborhood were lost - can't even imagine how eye-opening it would be if every neighborhood had a physical reminder of the loss.

After our exciting subway ride, where some guys spontaneously started breakdancing...

...we arrived at our next destination:  Brooklyn!  Before our trip, I had asked Mo to take us to places real New Yorkers go on the weekends - no tourist traps like Times Square (where we ending up going anyways), 30 Rock, or FAO Schwartz.  I have seen those things on TV and in the movies, and had no desire to see them up close and personal.  

I wanted to see flower markets and street vendors, flea markets and hipsters, farmers' markets and local artists.  She knows I'm more into quirky things and places more than touristy - don't get me wrong, I love a historical site just as much as the next nerd, but in a city that has so much local culture, I'd rather soak in the culture than history or landmarks.  Make sense? 

Back to Brooklyn - first on our day's agenda was the Brooklyn Flea.  We got to building where we thought it was held, only there was no flea market.  Beautiful building, the oldest in Brooklyn - The Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower.

After admiring the building we got on our phones to find out where the flea market was actually being held that day, and found that it was just a few blocks away in the parking lot of a school. 

Here are some of my favorite vendors:
  • Sheepshead Design (check out their Etsy and website): all their designs are printed on linen and handstretched onto a wooden frame.  I got this 8x10 sklyine print looking into Manhattan from under the Brooklyn Bridge...
  • Wrecords by Monkey:  all products made from recycled records!  How cool!?!  I thought of Dave when I saw this booth and wanted to get something for his Beatles room.  I picked this light switch plate...
  • Foxy&Winston (check out their Etsy shop and website):  they make dish towels.  Need I say more?  .
We took a shade break and Mo found her coveted lobster roll! 

Once we were flea'd out we made our way to the Brooklyn Brewery, but we came upon Spritzenhaus on the way and decided to stop for some beer.  It had just opened that day and only had beer and liquor (no food or table service yet), but Mo and Phil said it had a similar vibe as the brewery.  Spritzenhaus has a very industrial feel to it - looked like the tables and chairs are all recycled from schools or factories, and all the exterior walls were like glass garage doors, which were all open so the place was all fresh air.  So cool!  

I got Hefeweizen, but I didn't really make a dent in the huge glass.  I hadn't had much to eat yet because I was saving room for pizza, so I didn't want to drink the whole thing...
Notice how intently Mo and Carrie are perusing the menu for beers and whiskey shots! :)

Next stop was Grimaldi's Pizzeria on the waterfront!  

Every time someone asks Mo for NYC recommendations this place makes the list, and now I know why!  the pizza was SO worth the ~30 minutes spent standing in line just to get in the door of the place!  We all shared 2 pizzas - one white with cherry tomatoes and basil, and one regular with ham, ground beef, and green peppers.  YUM!  Now I get the NYC pizza hype - it was so much better than any pizza I've had - Mary Angela's, Castiglia's, and Fratelli's are mighty close, though!

For dessert we walked down to the waterfront to Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.
photo from BICF website

We all got scoops and walked around the waterfront park...
 see Lady Liberty waaaaaaay off in the distance?

Manhattan skyline at dusk...

...and then caught a cab to go home.  I asked if we could do that instead of taking the subway because I was so tired from walking around all day!  Plus, riding in a cab was on my mental to-do list.  It wasn't any crazier than taking a cab in DC...

When we got back to the apartment we got ready for bed and watched 'White Christmas.'  I's May, not Christmas.  Back in January at my surprise college graduation party, I mentioned that I tried to watch that movie over Christmas break but that I couldn't get into it.  I must not have been paying attention or something because I just didn't get the point.  It wasn't Christmas, how do these people know each other, how is that guy so old but he's only a PFC?  I just didn't give it a chance, and both Mo and Carrie thought that was a travesty.  I agree.  It's a classic and there's no reason I shouldn't give it a chance, so we decided that we would watch it if/when Carrie and I went to NYC.  So here was our chance!  And we took it :)  

The verdict?  Much better when I paid attention to the plot, though there were several important scenes that I may have missed because I was checking my Facebook or emails :)  They caught me every time!  But they were kind enough to rewind for me so I wouldn't be lost.  Thanks ladies!  Haha.  We turned it off with 30 minutes left because we couldn't keep our eyes open, to be continued the next night...

I'll have to watch it again by myself to truly get it, but I understand why it's so loved now.

As I went to bed, I turned the channel and found 'When Harry Met Sally' was randomly on TV.  Since I was on the pull-out sofa in the lving room, I let Harry and Sally lull me to sleep with their perfect since Mo, Carrie, Cynthia (we missed you this weekend!), and I used to watch that movie all the time!  It's definitely an all-time fave of mine.  Perfect end to a great day!

End of day 2...more to come later :)