Monday, September 28, 2015

2015 Books to Read: Update!

Welp, this is embarrassing. We are 75% through the year and I've read a total of 2 books! TWO.

Can I read 12 more in the remaining 3 months, which happen to be the busiest 3 months of the year? There are so many pumpkin- and holiday-related things happening, how will I find the free time? Haha.

I had good intentions. I started several books and then life just happened and I haven't picked them up. We even went on a cross-country vacation that meant 6+ hours on an airplane twice plus waiting in airport lounges, and I never once picked up a book. I took several with me so I had the opportunity, but never chose to spend my time reading. It's really sad.

Here are the ones I read so far:
  • Silver Screen Fiend by Patton Oswalt: This book covers a 4 year period where Oswalt was doing stand-up gigs, writing on a tv show, and becoming addicted to seeing old movies in the theater. It's a good combo of comedy, reflection, name-dropping (you'll recognize just about every one of his peers who were also struggling comics at the time), and great anecdote about Van Gogh's Night Cafe that made me think about experiences in my life where nothing afterward was the same.
  • Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer: This book is everything that Rolling Stone article published about UVA wanted to be, only it has truth, reliable witnesses, and facts/science on its side.

In progress:
  • Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery: I've been reading a chapter a night, only on nights I feel like reading, so this may take a while. I can't believe I've never read this series and don't feel a bit too old for it. I'm quite in touch with my inner 13 year old. :) Just ask Dave how I acted when both Chris Hardwick and Joseph Gordon Levitt were on the Tonight Show the other night - my heart almost exploded! Haha.
  • The First Bad Man by Miranda July: I am going into this blind plot-wise, other than the hint that it's maybeMAYBE about a bad man, and am excited to read it. So many people recommended it I bought it. I'm approximately 3 pages in, so still have no idea what it's about.
  • Black Mass by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill: We saw the movie already so do I need to finish?
  • Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee: meh. It's good but not great. Scout Finch is just as precocious at 25 as she was at 5, but there's really no story there. The flashbacks to Jem/Scout/Dill play sessions have been my favorite part so far!

Admitting you have a problem is the first step in fixing it, right? We'll see. My friend is in the process of reading 100+ classic books - he's reading the first 10% of each first just to jump start the project and will then go back to the beginning of the list and finish each. That lit a fire under me to finish a freaking book! 

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Charlottesville road trip!

We decided to take a road trip on the first day of our 3 day Fourth of July weekend. Whenever I say Dave and I are taking a road trip for just a day, you can probably assume that we are going to either Charlottesville (an hour west) or Williamsburg (an hour east) because we love them both so much! We have our favorite places but always try at least one new thing on each trip so we don't get too formulaic.

Let me know your favorite day trips from RVA - we need to branch out! :)

Anyway, this time we chose Charlottesville! We were going on Friday to beat the major holiday crowds, and it was hot but not humid, cloudy but not gloomy. Not perfect but the rain held off for most of the day and we squeezed in a bunch of stops!

Our first stop in Charlottesville is usually Carter Mountain Orchard. Whether peaches or apples are in season, and sometimes when nothing is in season, it's nice to take in the views and fresh air.

They have a wine shop onsite where they sell Virginia wines including their own brand. They also have peach bellinis in the summer, which neither of us can resist. YUM. There were a ton of apples on the trees that will be ready to pick soon - fall is coming! We looked around their gift shop and bought some peach preserves and apple cider donut. We did not  buy T.O.E. (tangerine, orange, elderberry) jam. Don't care how it tastes, the name ruins it. Pun gone wrong.

Next we headed downtown to get some lunch at Revolutionary Soup. It's been on the short list for a while but this is the first time we've made it there - so tasty! We both got the 90's club, which had avocado, chicken, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayo.  The bread was soft and fresh and the chicken was juicy and so flavorful!

The AC was out in the restaurant, plus it was lunchtime on a workday so it was packed, so we walked down the hill to the Downtown Mall to find a seat and eat our sammiches. There was a street vendor right next to us who had sooo many pretty scarves that I wanted to buy, but it was cash only. Bummer. I never have cash. What I do have is too many scarves, so it was probably a good thing she didn't take debit. ;)

We sat for a while people watching and just enjoying the breeze before moving on to our next stop: Ash Lawn-Highland, James Monroe's "cabin cottage" just down the hill from Monticello. Before I realized this was not his main home, I was judging TJ super hard for how opulent Monticello is compared to this place. It was a simple house about the size of a basic colonial you'd see in any neighborhood in RVA, plus some outbuildings.

Even the road in to the property was great! Reminded me of the road to Boone Hall Plantation, where they filmed North and South. Love that place.

Particularly proud of this shot:
{although the green space is begging for some type of inappropriate quote, like 'when all else fails, make a dick joke' a la robin williams}

Don't tell the lady at the front desk (I think she already knows) but we didn't actually take the house tour we paid for. I was much more interested in the grounds and outbuildings and kitchen. I don't know why, but that part of old plantations/estates fascinates me much more than seeing where the rich dude slept. I feel like we got our money's worth, though:
{plantation office}

Next we went to the crap store by Michie Tavern. They had crap. I don't recommend it.

Then we went back downtown for dinner at Mas Tapas. OH MY GOD this place is amazing! We got 5 small plates to share and it was just the right amount of food to satisfy us both. Here's what we got:
{clockwise, from top left:Amish chicken and red Yukon gold potato salad, shrimp with garlic aioli, carne asada, apricot marmalade and brie on brioche (OMG), and bacon-wrapped dates}

Even though we were happily full, but not stuffed, our last stop before heading back to Richmond was Sweethaus. This is a required stop even if we aren't eating the cupcakes until the next day.

Long day but good day! :)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Why didn't I think of that?

That was my first reaction when I walked into Sharon's house one day and saw this on the wall:

I immediately recognized it as a Penzey's tea towel, and asked her where she found it on a canvas. She made it! DUH.

Light bulb.

I've had this Nickel Creek t-shirt for years but never really wore it. I know it's weird, but I didn't want to ruin it. That's a terrible and illogical reason for buying a shirt at a concert with no intention of ever wearing it. I know. But isn't it cute?

I picked up an 11x14 canvas, dusted off the old staple gun, and got to work!

Now I have some beautiful artwork and can stare at this t-shirt every time I walk in the room!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Oh my damn, this is my jam

I went a little overboard with the omgstrawberries at the farmers' markets, and ended up with way too many. Not wanting to waste them but not particularly interested in going shopping for pectin, I perused the internet for a pectin-free strawberry jam recipe.
Spot the leaf I missed?

I was in luck. In the age of Pinterest and fad diets that eliminate random ingredients for vague reasons, you can find substitutes for pretty much anything. All the recipes were very similar, but I went with this one because it was short and sweet.

It's as easy as this:
  • Cut up your strawberries (aim for 4 cups)
  • Blend them as much or little as you like - I like sorta chunky jam and over-blended mine
  • In a pot, combine them with 3 cups sugar (yes, I know that's a lot of sugar) and 1/2 cup of lime juice (recipe called for lemon but I didn't have any)
  • I added some chiffonaded basil for flavor and then fished them out at the end
  • Warm to a boil and boil for 10ish minutes
Yes, we still have Christmas m&m's

It will thicken as it cools - this didn't get as firm as store bought stuff but it firmed up enough to spread on bread, which is really all we need from jam, right?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Small bathroom cabinet - organized!

Messy bathroom cabinet coming at you!

This is the under sink cabinet in our guest bathroom upstairs. Nobody ever uses it unless we have a lot of people over, so why is there so much crap in there? And why is it in such disarray? I don't know.

One day I went in there to add *another* bottle of soap to my stash (we all know I'm a hoarder), and I couldn't stand it anymore. I had purchased this 2 tier sliding basket organizer with this project in mind, and had been waiting for inspiration to strike to actually get it done. That's how I operate most of the time. 

I hadn't measured the cabinet to see if the thing would even fit, so imagine my surprise when I loaded it up and put it in the cabinet to find there were mere millimeters to spare between the top of that lotion bottle and the cabinet frame! WIN.

I purged a bunch of expired stuff that was in Bonnie's basket. We used to sleep at each other's houses all the time if we had an early event the next day or something, so we each had our own dedicated basket in the other's bathroom cabinet with some basic comfort items we may forget when we are visiting. However, once we reached or 30's, we have started just getting up earlier to get where we need to go (ugh I hate it) instead of sleeping over. This meant many expired items were in her basket! 

Exhibit A: contacts that expired in 2011! 

Once all the trash was out, I organized the 2 drawers. In the top I put some of Bonnie's items that were still current, and added some lotion, a toothbrush and toothpaste, floss, and some contact solution:

I decided to use the bottom drawer for random bathroom stuff like toilet scrubbers (these Scrubbing Bubbles disposable brushes are my favorite!), shower curtain liners, and backup hand soap:

On the other side of the cabinet we just have some cleaners and paper towels. Am I the only lazy one who keeps cleaning products in each bathroom so I don't have to lug them around? I'm much more likely to clean the bathroom (still not very likely) if I have everything I need there ready to go.

Much better!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Clean your headlights with toothpaste. Maybe.

All over Pinterest there are photos of drastic before and after shots of car headlights that have been cleaned with toothpaste. I can't remember which ones I actually read because they probably all say the same thing, so if you search for toothpaste headlights on Pinterest you will find approximately 1 million results:

My headlights are very cloudy so I thought I'd give it a try. All you need is water, toothpaste (basic paste without beads or gel), and a towel:

10 points awarded to anyone who noticed that I tried to use a microfiber cloth at first because that's what I found at the dollar store. I later switched to a plain old hand towel and had better, but still unsuccessful, results.

I squirted the toothpaste onto the headlight and then spread it out with the towel to make sure the whole surface was covered:

Let it sit for a few minutes, spray water on it, and wipe it clean with a different towel.

Wipe it clean? Not so much. I can maybe sorta see a little bit of improvement here, but my headlights don't look anything like the perfectly clean shiny ones on Pinterest! #storyofmylife

Here's the before and after:

Maybe white toothpaste would work better? Maybe toothpaste with a specific ingredient like baking soda? Even though I bought the toothpaste at the dollar store, I intentionally didn't buy the knockoff brand because I assumed Crest would work better.

Good news: I'm only out $3 and my headlights are marginally cleaner. Win?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Date Night!

Deep Groove records advertised a sidewalk sale on their Facebook page a few weeks ago, so I asked Dave if he wanted to check it out. He has been collecting Beatles albums and (I think) has all that he wants, but I supposed there's always the chance there's a nicer copy out there? He's also starting to collect DMB albums, which are gradually being released on vinyl.

We have been to Deep Groove once before on a random Saturday - Dave was looking for a specific DMB new release, which he found. I love this shop! Protected under a layer of glass, the counter is covered with concert tickets through the years:

For the sidewalk sale, they had several tables full of boxes containing albums in a seemingly random order. Thrill of the hunt, I suppose? There was a pretty good crowd there and Dave perused all the boxes to find some goodies.

I bought an album! We do not own a record player, but when I saw the cover art of the new Decemberists album, I had to have it. Now we need to buy a record player and I can't wait to listen to this!

We headed across the street to Boka Tako Bar, which evolved from a food truck business, for dinner. We shared some honey truffle tator tots (YUM), shrimp and grits tacos (YUM), and 3 pig and fig empanadas (YUM). There were some college kids there having a little too much fun at the bar. Scream-talking to each other, and when the bartender turned up the music to drown them out, they just scream-talked even louder. UGH I am old.

Last stop of the night was Byrd Park. We drive by it every time we leave downtown, but I've never stopped to check it out. People talk about paddle boats and feeding ducks there, and both sound fun! We were there after hours so there were no boats, and the ducks were sorta pissed off, so we took some selfies (we both have crazy eyes in them so I'm not posting) and were on our way ;)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Exploring RVA: Southbound

Finally, Southside has a hipster eatery - Southbound RVA!

All the good places (except Brick House Diner, YUM) are downtown, and while we can get there within 20 minutes on a good night, it's nice to have dinner in your own neighborhood occasionally. Right?

We didn't plan this out very well and just thought this brand new place from the chefs behind The Roosevelt and Heritage (2 Richmond institutions) would have room on a Saturday night. Nope. We were offered a table at 8pm or a cozy table in the bar, so we chose the latter.

They have since changed their menu, but we got the Thai chicken wings which had just enough spice for my palette. One was underdone, and they were very nice about it. I got the lamb bolognese with their house made pasta and it was fantastic!

We will definitely be back once the hype dies down and we can get a spontaneous table. Next time I'm trying a Bayside Tiger (if they still have it)!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Pecan Pie

A couple years ago, Nate's mom gave Bonnie and I each a huge bag of pecans that she picked from a friend's tree. What to do with all those pecans?

One of Bonnie's co-workers was willing to share a family pecan pie recipe with us, so I tried it out. You know how you think something must be really time consuming and then when you find out how easy it is, you feel really dumb for not trying it before? Yep, that happened here.

Here's what you'll need - I'm sure this is not how anyone's grandmother would make this, but I ain't got time for any nonsense:
  • Frozen pie crust (sure, you can make your own, but I figure Marie Callender has a pretty good routine down, and why mess with perfection?)
    • I recommend the deep dish pie crust because this expands while cooking and it may make a mess of your oven
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup corn syrup (I've used light and dark and it only affects the final color of the filling)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
And the very detailed assembly steps:
  • Thaw the pie crust for 15-ish minutes and put on a baking sheet
  • Chop the pecans
  • Mix all that other stuff together in a bowl and throw in the pecans
  • Stir to combine
    • I thought it was weird to mix in the pecans with the rest because then they wouldn't all be at the top. They rise to the top while baking, so don't worry about that. #science
  • Pour all that into the crust
  • Bake at 350* for 45 minutes
  • When it comes out, it's ok if it jiggles a little bit in the middle - it will firm up as it cools
    • Too much jiggle is not ok - that will mean your pie will still taste fantastic but the filling will be soupy
  • Let it cool - it will deflate and become very dense and stiff
  • Refrigerate overnight

We've made this many times since I got the recipe and it is soooo good! I have messed it up a couple of times by being impatient (too much jiggle), not measuring pecans (overflowing pie), and using a regular pie crust (overflowing pie).

It takes like 5 minutes to put together, so give it a try!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Eleanora turns 2!

Our littlest friend turned 2 last weekend, so we celebrated her with a Curious George party! She is *obsessed* with him!

Her mom is very creative and executed this even though Curious George stuff is very hard to find in stores. She found some great licensed stuff and supplemented with lots of bright colors and monkey-themed things.  Let's start with the food:

Dave and I provided monkey bread and banana bread, as well as little No Yo Mama's banana pudding, served in itty bitty Mason jars. Ashley also put out banana chips for the little monkeys and provided the non-sugar food - BBQ chicken, baked beans, roll-ups, etc. There was no shortage of food!

The little ones played with bubbles and colored in Curious George coloring books, while the adults sat around and wished we had their energy. The man in the yellow hat (AKA Grandpa Tom) even showed up! Eleanora could not be fooled - when we asked her who it was, thinking she'd say 'mannnnninahaaat' (that's my best impression), she didn't miss a beat and called him Grandpa. Also looked at us like 'shouldn't you know him?' Haha.

We all crowded around to watch her eat her smash cake like a champ!

Happy 2nd birthday, sweet girl!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Central Virginia Food Truck Rodeo

RVA has an obsession with food trucks! There are food truck nights at churches, there are always several at all special events around town, and Capital One even invited some to the campus during the summer months to add a local dining option to our choices for lunch!

Last fall, Dave and I went to the first Central Virginia Food Truck Rodeo with my brother and SIL - they took over part of the parking lot at Chesterfield Town Center with ~30 trucks and live bands, and it was a great time! Very hot, very sunny, a lot of lines, but it was a good fall activity to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and try some new dishes.

This spring, they decided to have another one so I took my Bonnie so she could see what the fuss was about :)

Well, she tried some new dishes. I got exactly the same things I got last time. ;) I'm sneaky like that.

*all photos are Bonnie's because I was too busy eating to take pictures. #fatkid

First stop was Goatocado for a mountain tropp. Yum - quinoa, avocado, corn, black beans, arugula, apple, and a mango lime sauce. Oh my this thing is so good - and good for you! I'm sure the sauce has some naughty stuff in it, but this is way healthy!

Then we went to Happy Empanada for some deep fried goodness. Not healthy. We shared some fried plantains, Bonnie got a beef empanada, and I got a spinach/feta/mushroom empanada. We had to wait about 25 minutes for our order, which was annoying since we were first in line, but it was worth the wait. I suppose? Very tasty.

Last stop was Gelati Celesti for some dessert. This place is right next door to our grocery store, so you would think we go there all the time, but I had never tried it until my brother and SIL introduced us to it at the last rodeo. Bonnie got a cone of chocolate decadence, which I think is their most popular flavor. I got a cup of just ask - they line the tub of white chocolate ice cream with peanut butter and mix in some oreos. I mean, why would you get anything else?

I think there was one more place Bonnie wanted to try, but after these 3 stops we were both stuffed. I didn't even finish my ice cream, which is *so* unlike me. :) We were in and out in under an hour and before the crowds really showed up, and then headed across the river to spend some time with Ashley and Ellie-belly!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Exploring RVA: Proper Pie

Now that it's not 15 degrees out, some of these Exploring RVA posts should probably include non-food places ;) Where should we go?

Last fall, we finally went to Proper Pie! I feel like we were the last people in RVA to try it out, and I'm not sure why we waited so long. Church Hill is a part of town we don't visit much, so we need to change that because the views of the city from the top of the hill are amazing!

I love the design of the space - concrete floors, exposed duct work that is so popular around here, and industrial style decorating that I think is timeless. I think I remember some of the floor was left unpainted so you could see some logos from previous tenants of the building - but I could be wrong.

They post the available flavors every day on Facebook, so check out their page before you head out to make sure they have something you'll like. There are some flavors that are always there, but they also love to try new things.

The savory pies come in these adorable bags - no plate necessary because they recommend you eat them with your hands like an empanada. I didn't do that because Idon'tknowwhy so I asked for a fork. They obliged.

I chose the savory mince and cheese. It tasted like homemade pot roast, but the sauce was really thick so it wasn't soupy. Sooooooo tasty! The meat was not in bug chunks so the texture was consistent throughout, and the crust was buttery and flaky and so, so delicious.
Nehi orange was a bonus!

For dessert I chose a Dutch apple pie. I think I had this once before when Bonnie and Ashley went there for lunch and brought me a treat when I met up with them later in the day. The crumb topping was crunchy and the apples were still in tact - I hate when you bite into apple pie and the apples have turned to mush. Ew. This was perfect!

After we finished our lunch we took a drive around Church Hill - so pretty in the fall!

My only complaint about this place, and this is really stretching it, is that there wasn't much seating. We went on a Sunday at lunchtime, so it was understandably busy, but there are only a few tables in the space. There is a also bar with stools where you can see the kitchen, and another bar along the front window which is where we sat. I was right next to the door and felt like I was in the way every time someone came in. There isn't much space for them to add more seating, so this isn't feedback they can act on, and I feel like they've made good use of the space they have at the front of the house.