Monday, March 31, 2008

I'm Terrible, and I Apologize

I know, I know, I promised a post on Sunday about the Cherry Blossom festival. Well, it looks like it's going to be tomorrow before I can get one up. We were just terribly busy and tired yesterday, and tonight my father-in-law is coming into town. We're having dinner with him, and I'm very busy at work. For now, I'll leave you with at least one photo. Tomorrow I'll post more, including one to compare this one to. I am having a tough time deciding which one I like better, so I'll let you give me some input. I may decide to print one of each, then mat and frame them and hang them next to each other.

In this photo, I chose to focus on a few blossoms with a background of a tree full of blossoms.

MSH enjoyed the festival, too. On the way home, he remarked that going to the festival was not high on his list of things to do before he died, but at least he could say that he had done it. Oh, and we met the most adorable octogenarian and shared our table with him at lunch, but more on him tomorrow, too. I HAVE TO GET TO WORK!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday Crafts: Cell Phone Pouch

I have a friend who is married to a man who works with MSH. Her husband & MSH share a mutual interest in football, and she and I share a mutual disinterest in the sport. So, when the two men wanted to hang out on Sundays, we decided to crochet together. Now, she only remembered the tiniest bit of the crochet lesson her grandmother had given her decades ago, so I taught her everything I know. Now, she is faster than I am!

As I mentioned last week, we are going to their house next weekend, so I made her a doily. She had also mentioned that she could never find her cell phone in her purse and needed a cell phone pouch, so I offered to make her one. Here is the pattern: Cell Phone Pouch, and here is the finished product:

I changed the pattern slightly making the flap a little smaller. Also, instead of making the side gussets as detailed in the pattern, I crocheted around the main body and flap once, the added two extra rows to the sides of the body and, with right sides together, sewed the sides together with a row of single crochet stitches. Next, I made the strap longer so she can wear it over her shoulder. Hopefully, she will get good use out of it.

We're headed out to the Cherry Blossom Festival today, so photos will be forthcoming.

'Til then,


Friday, March 28, 2008

Recipe Review: Crab Quesadillas

A new favorite for MSH and me is this Crab Quesadilla recipe with a few of our substitutions.

First, we don't really like sweet meats, and crab meat is sweet enough on its own, so instead of orange zest and OJ, I used lime juice and no zest. There's this really good, fast Mexican this Restaurant across the street called Baja Fresh, and they use lots of lime in their dishes, so that's where I got the idea. Also, due to the sweet factor, we prefer not to use red bell peppers, so I used green instead. The first time I made this I did use scallions, but since we were out this time, I used chives. There wasn't a huge difference.

Here's what it looks like when I make it.

This is absolutely the best homemade Mexican dish I've ever made. I've made tacos and burritos and quesadillas from a variety of recipes and kits, but none were ever as fresh and flavorful as this. Topped with his favorite salsa and served with a simple mixed green salad, this meal really makes MSH happy. I love the cream cheese in this recipe, but I love cream cheese in just about everything. Here it makes the filling irresistibly creamy.

Until I made this, I didn't realize how much I loved the fresh bite and flavor of cilantro. My new love for this spice has spurred my desire for this. I also accidentally discovered that MSH loves this double-stuffed when I burned one side of each of the 2nd batch of them while taking the photos for this post.

So, if you like seafood and cilantro, this is the recipe for you. And unlike some of the other recipes I love, this one is quick and easy.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


I'm just having a day. You know, one of THOSE days.

I forgot to turn on my alarm last night, so I didn't get out of bed until 5:50, so I didn't have time to do my hair (don't worry, I still have curlers in at least one purse). It's rainy, but warmer, but the rain always drains my energy. I just feel like I need a nap. I dribbled blackberry jelly on my best white T-shirt (it's Ann Taylor; and it's the only decent one I own), so I had to button the blouse I have on to cover it. Of course, I did this after I got to work, so there's no chance of changing it, and when I get hot, as I inevitably do in the afternoons, I will just have to suffer in my 3/4 sleeve blouse and t-shirt. The blouse cannot be worn alone because all the major retailers have stopped making shirts that have a button above boob level. I tried getting it out with water, then a Clorox wipe, then an alcohol prep pad, then kicked myself for not bringing that Clorox Bleach Pen to work, then kicked myself again for not owning any Shout! Wipes.

I think my bad day actually began last night when I burned one side of 2 Crab Quesadillas because I was too busy trying to take photos of the first 2 I finished for the blog I'm posting tomorrow, so the whole place stank like burned tortilla on top of the lovely aroma of crab meat. MSH asked me what, in the name of all that is holy, possessed me to take photos of FOOD, for goodness sake. Luckily, since only one side of each quesadilla was burned, I was able to salvage them by removing the burned tortilla and sandwiching the 2 unburned sides together, making a double-stuffed quesadilla that kept MSH quiet for a little while. I wasn't even going to post a blog, but now that I've started typing, I feel a little better. Maybe it's catharsis, maybe it's the thinking clearing out the cobwebs, maybe it's my coffee kicking in.

I'm off tomorrow, so I hope to get all my housework done so that we can go to the Cherry Blossom Festival on Saturday (not that having a messy house or laundry to do has ever stopped us from doing something). This weekend is supposed to be chilly, but also peak bloom days. I've also been told that we need to visit Kenwood Park in Bethesda before the trees stop blooming, where the you can walk blossom-canopied paths bordered with streams. The cherry trees only blossom for about 2 weeks, so I hope to get this done. MSH has also been wanting to go back to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History so we can spend more time on the exhibits there. I want to go back so that we can replace my vase that we owned for about 20 minutes before "we" decided that it would be the perfect birthday gift for his grandmother.

So, tomorrow I'll get the recipe review up. I've almost finished the cell phone pouch, so that'll be up Saturday--maybe. And, if we make it to the Festival, I'll post that on Sunday. I love making lists! And, I do feel better--like I accomplished something today.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New Specs

It's like some one went through my entire world and erased all those colors that bled outside the lines and sharpened all the edges and put the ground back where it was supposed to be. And, I got rid of the black rectangles that framed everything I've seen for the last few years, except for the few excrutiating months I tried contacts, but that's another story.

In short: I got my new glasses yesterday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Dinner Disaster

As I've mentioned, I love to cook. I believe that I'm pretty good at it and quickly becoming a foodie (or maybe I'm becoming a gourmet). Last night, however, my performance in the kitchen was less than stellar, less than lackluster even, and I'm quite upset about it.

I made Chicken with Sugar Snap Peas & Spring Herbs and roasted baby red potatoes with crushed rosemary. All of it was AWFUL. It was so bad, I almost cried. MSH was reluctant for me to make the chicken entree, believing, correctly, that the combination of the sauce, peas, and artichokes would not be good. The simple sauteed chicken and sauce were fine, but adding the peas and artichokes was not a good idea at all. The flavors did not compliment each other in the slightest nor did the textures harmonize.

To compound the problem, I did not roast the potatoes long enough, so they were crunchy. The flavor of the potato with olive oil and crushed rosemary was wonderful, and my entire home smelled so good, but the crunch of raw potato was impossible to ignore. MSH tried to make me feel better by complimenting my presentation and technique, and we did eat it. However, neither of us enjoyed it. I'm so ashamed.

Luckily, there was a little (OK, not so little, more like 1/4) of the Peach Crisp with Maple Cream Sauce left from Sunday for dessert to serve as my redemption for the evening. Even after finishing the dessert, I have left over Maple Cream Sauce. I could serve it over ice cream or put it in my coffee or eat it like dessert soup or pour it over pancakes or add it to oatmeal--I could keep going, but I'm getting a little light-headed. Maybe I should just pour it down the drain so I don't wind up weighing 500 pounds. Dear God, please lead me not into temptation.

I'll post another, hopefully positive, recipe review on Friday.

Monday, March 24, 2008

They Know I Exist

We live pretty far from our family, so we miss them a lot. We have a niece and two nephews who were born after we moved away; therefore we have only seen them a handful of times. I often feel like they don't know I exist, like some fabled aunt they've only seen in photos or heard their parents and grandparents talk about. This is the main reason I cry in the greeting card aisle at Wal-Mart.

Yesterday, I talked to my mother, and she relayed two tiny, seemingly insignificant events that made my heart sing. I would never have imagined how good something so miniscule would make me feel.

Last Monday, the 17th, was Ivey's 3rd birthday, so I mailed her a gift and a card. She received it on the Friday before and called to thank me. Actually, my brother Chip called, but he had given her the phone before I picked up. We talked for a minute, well, as much as you can talk to a 3 year old on the phone, before my brother and older niece took over. Well, she has been asking my parents about me for the last 2 weekends. On Sunday, the 16th, she asked my dad if I was at home when they came to visit her; then, yesterday, when they all went to my parents, she asked where I was. So, not only does she know I exist, she also knows to associate me with my parents. Of course, she thinks that I live with my parents because that's where she has seen me most, but still, she knows that I exist. Mom says that she knows who MSH and I are in photos as well. She will point to our photo and say our names.

Here she is with a blue monkey, what a cutie.

I also have a nephew who will be 2 next month. Last week I called my other brother Spence and left a message on their answering machine. For what ever reason, they haven't erased it, and while my mother was watching my nephew Richard this weekend, he kept playing the message and saying "Aunt Lawa, Lawa", his version of my name.

Here's Richard at the beach; he's so cool.

I know this photo is a year old, but it's one of my favorites!

Fortunately, one of our nieces, Betsy Kate, was born before we left. Due to the high amount of spoiling I subjected her to, she has not forgotten me. Whenever we see them she runs to me and hugs me and wants to spend all her time with me (It makes me feel great just thinking about it). On the phone, however, she would rather talk to MSH. MSH is her jungle gym and her constant tormentor; she is at that age where she loves to be "gotten". She asked me not to long ago why we lived in Virginia, and said "I don't know why y'all don't just move back to Alabama." I wonder where she heard that one.

She started Kindergarten this year, how fast they grow.

Not to be left out, MSH's brother also welcomed a new addition in April of 2006. Bryson will be two years old four days before Richard. He's a cute little guy who loves to act like a monkey, read books, mash buttons on the remote, and talk on the phone. His GiGi makes sure that he knows us by showing him our picture on her refrigerator and repeating our names over and over. He also recognizes MSH's car.

I told you he loves to talk on the phone, silly monkey:

These are my babies, and I love and miss them all. They are the most precious nieces and nephews I could hope for, and I hope for a few more, plus a cousin or two for them from me and MSH.

By the way, the trip to West Virginia was great. We enjoyed great food and Balderdash! MSH's Spinach dip and the Peach Crisp with Maple Cream Sauce were hits. Now I have to make another Peach Crisp so I don't wind up drinking the left over Maple Cream Sauce. Lord, give me strength.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

Just time for a few words before we go to bed.

Happy Easter!

I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Saturday Crafts: Pineapple Doily

Now you know I love to cook, but I have other interests as well. I also love to crochet. I just finished my most recent project, a pineaple doily. We're going to visit some friends in a couple of weeks, and I plan to give this to our hostess as a hostess gift. Before I send the doily to a new home, she wanted to see some of my place.

Here's the doily sitting in MSH's recliner.

MSH woke up from his nap, hungry for lunch, so I went to prepare something for him. The doily decided to accompany me to the kitchen. Here you can see her watching me cook from our strangely purple counter (what made the people who built our home think this was a good idea?).

Unfortunately, she was afraid of being splattered or hit by flying utensils, so she went to go sit on the couch.

Now she's packed lovingly in tissue paper in a nice box, ready to move on. I'll miss you little doily, but luckily MSH convinced me several months ago to keep your much larger sister for the coffee table. The pattern for this doily came from a book called Crocheting Tablecloths and Placemats edited by Florence Weinstein that my mother gave me a while back. It was published in the 70s, but the patterns are from the 40s. I made the larger version of the pineapple doily as my first fine thread crochet project. I was so eager to start, that I couldn't wait until I went to the store and bought the appropriate sized hook and thread; the pattern calls for a size 12 hook and 50 thread, but all I had was a 00 hook and 10 thread. So, the 17" doily I intended to make, turned out to be about 4 feet in diameter. Oops.

Please disregard the shoe under the table.

I almost gave it away because a lady I worked with mentioned that she would like to have something like it for her foyer table, but MSH said that we should keep it for the coffee table. So, that's where it lives. I plan to go back and make the whole set for us to use on the kitchen table, but since we don't have a kitchen or dining room table right now, this project is a little further down on my list.

Currently on my list:

Cell Phone pouch for the same friend I made the doily for

Cloth grocery bags

Cloth Napkins

Embroidered pillow cases for my mother

Finish the quilt I started 4 years ago--all I have left is to quilt the bottom and attach it to the already complete topper

Teach my self to knit so I can make the Glowing Colors Afghan from I have all the yarn and needles, but I just can't quite figure the knitting out. I keep trying to crochet when I should be knitting and purling and casting on and doing whatever else it is you're supposed to do with those chopstick looking things! Every time I start trying to learn, I can't stop crocheting, and I start craving Moo Goo Gai Pan.

Pineapple Doily Set

Teach myself to smock so I can make dresses for my nieces

Plus I have various repair projects also need my attention, but those just make me want to hide under the covers and suck my finger again.

Next week: The Cell Phone Pouch

Tomorrow we're visiting friends in West Virginia and I'm making the Peach Crisp with Maple Cream Sauce. Brace Yourself, People! from Pioneer Woman Cooks!, so if I don't get a blog in I want to wish you all (even if it's just the 3 readers I know about) Happy Easter.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Recipe Review: Chicken with Leeks & Shiitakes

MSH and I are trying to eat more healthily, so I've been trying out new recipes, mostly from I've decided that as I try new recipes, I'll publish a review on Fridays on my blog because it's my blog, and I can do what I want.

A couple of weeks ago, I made Chicken with Leeks & Shiitakes.

The actual recipe is called Chicken Thighs with Leeks & Shiitakes, but I always buy chicken breasts, so I used them instead. Also, because I'm too lazy to climb up the step ladder to get the all-purpose flour, so I used whole wheat flour, which I keep on a lower shelf and can get down by pulling the container toward me with a small saw we keep hanging on the wall in the laundry room (that's a different post for another day).

I really enjoyed this dish; MSH thought it was "okay". But, if it's not fried or doesn't contain bacon or bacon derivatives or massive quantities of butter, the best I get from the man is "Okay". I also discovered while making this dish that I really enjoy drinking Pinot Grigio. I'm usually not a white wine fan, preferring to stick with sweeter wines or mixed cocktails, but something about this wine, mmmmm. But, back to the dish, the flavor of the wine with the earthy mushrooms and nice thick sauce was perfect with the ever so slightly breaded, tender chicken. I think the whole wheat flour also added a slightly nutty flavor and a little extra crispiness. Despite the fact that I don't normally keep leeks and shiitakes on hand, this one just might become one of my regular dishes. I served it with wild rice and a simple mixed green salad with a nice vinaigrette dressing and, of course, a glass of Pinot Grigio.

As a side dish earlier this week, I made Creamy Green Beans. This was terrible. I think I was expecting a flavor similar to cream of mushroom soup, like green bean casserole, but this really tasted like mayonnaise and mustard on green beans. Also, the microwave rice cooker/vegetable steamer I have probably isn't the best tool to use for fresh green beans. They shriveled and had little blackened portions on them. It was just yuck. MSH fell asleep with a migraine before I could subject him to this concoction, so his opinion on this one will not be heard. I will NEVER make this again.

I don't know what I expect you to do with my opinions, but I've shared them with you to do as you please. One day, maybe I'll take some photos of the dishes so you can see how they turn out!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hope Springs or Spring Hopes

It is officially spring! And it's really spring and not meteorological spring, which I had never even heard of until last year. I think people make this stuff up to see if anyone will notice. But, I digress. It's spring!

I absolutely loathe winter and cold weather. Snow is a four-letter-word in our home. Growing up, we would hope for snow, pray for snow, perform snow dances in our pajamas while my youngest brother stood on his head eating peanut butter and reciting the alphabet backwards. But in Alabama, snow was a novelty, and it was pretty for a day, then gone. Here, it's an inconvenience, a hazard, an eyesore. Here, it doesn't melt away after a day or two, it lingers, piled up on the sides of the roads, dirty and dangerous. Here, it doesn't automatically mean that you have a day off work or school. Here, it causes our already lamentable commute to stretch into a 3 hour ordeal wrought with worries of sliding off the road or of developing the NEED TO PEE without the hope of a bathroom nearby. Here, it fills valuable parking spaces for weeks, teasing you at Wal-Mart, mocking you at home, laughing at you as you try to find a space at the grocery store. During our first winter in Virginia, My Sweet Husband (MSH) had to melt an entire 7-foot high mound of the stuff that had been inconsiderately scooped into our parking space by carrying down trashcan after trashcan filled with warm water using only one arm. Our rental office callously dismissed his request that the mound be removed from our only allotted parking space saying that the snow removal company had to put it somewhere.

But, that's all behind us now. I'll never have to worry that the car is frozen shut or wonder if I have enough layers on to survive. I'll never have to wear another scarf or don another coat or lament over another hairstyle destroyed by a hat. Spring brings out the eternal optimist in me. MSH and I can open all the windows and feel the lovely breeze flow through our home; I can tolerate being outside for extended periods. I'm even considering buying a cart so that I can walk to the grocery store. I just want to be outside. It's still a little too chilly for all of that right now, but I can feel the warmer weather coming; I can smell it in the air. The really cold days are occurring less frequently. I know that winter will come again, but right now, it seems that it will be spring forever. I can't wait to see the flowers bloom and everything turn green. The Cherry Blossom Festival is right around the corner, and I am determined to go this year and take pictures. I've even painted my nails a lovely melon color in honor of spring, and I would show you, but I can't hold the camera still enough with one hand to take a picture of my other hand. I tried and ended up with blurry messes on the camera that I had to delete before MSH saw them and learned what kind of woman he really married.

It's spring, and the world is beginning to right itself, and my office was filled with sunshine all day today. It's spring, and I'm thinking about what vegetables we'll plant and what foods we'll grill. It's spring, and I'm shaking off the winter and redecorating our home in my mind and planning a vacation. It's spring!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Tomboy No More

I used to be a Tomboy.

I grew up with brothers, no sisters, and most of my cousins were boys. My Pa-paw used to say that he had seven grandkids, and they were all girls except six. In order to be accepted by the boys, I couldn't be a girly-girl (I didn't really want to be one, anyway), so I was a tomboy. I wore the designation like a badge of honor. I loved it; I saw myself as a Rough-and-Tumble Girl(I don't know where I heard that phrase, but I adopted it as the perfect description of myself). I had smudges on my face and freckles and knocked around with the boys. I was strong. I refused to wear pink or "flowerdy" clothes, much to my mother's dismay. I didn't mind getting dirty or sweaty or playing with bugs and lizards and frogs or climbing trees and exploring in the woods. I had dolls and dresses, and they were fine, but they didn't define me, not in my mind. And even though I liked jewelry and sewing and babies, I always described myself as a tomboy, even into college. Sure, I wore makeup and would curl my hair sometimes, but my best friends were my brothers and cousins. I wanted nothing more than to be a part of their group.

I always felt like a tomboy despite the girlier aspects of my childhood that I'm beginning to realize were pretty prevalent. I played with my brothers and cousins, but would abandon them if a new girl moved in nearby, like the time the new family moved to my grandparent's road. I coveted Jessica's Barbie collection and Kylie's Cabbage Patch family and Dannette's long, thick, blond hair. I wanted to have a crush on some one, like Jessica had a crush on Elvis. I really enjoyed wearing dresses and looking pretty as long as I didn't have to wear pink or flowers to do so. I loved balet and flowers that weren't on clothes and pretty bedrooms. I relished in the attention I received as the ONLY girl. But, none of that seemed to conflict with my perception of myself as a tomboy.

Of course, now there is no way any one would think of me as a tomboy. I wear makeup almost everyday. My hair is usually styled and my nails (fingers and toes) are always done. I even wear pink and flowers. I'm still not afraid of dirt or bugs or amphibians or even rodents, but I dare not face the world without lip gloss. I wonder if the girl I was at age eight would be disappointed to know that I have four sets of curlers. I don't really feel like a tomboy anymore, either. I love being girly, but I believe that I still have a little of that Rough-and-Tumble Girl spirit. I still have freckles, and I am still strong.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Purse Full of Curlers

Yes, I honestly have curlers in my purse. On any given day there is a 75% chance that I have a purse filled with curlers in my car, in my home, or on my person. I'm not just some insane woman carrying around curlers for no good reason; the reason is I don't have enough room in the glove compartment.

Ok, maybe I should back up and explain so you don't all think I'm just wacko. See, I live in Northern Virginia and work for a large government agency in Maryland, just outside of DC. My Sweet Husband(MSH-I love abbreviations) works there, too. Actually, he worked there first, and I got a job there for stability, benefits, an increase in salary, and promotion potential(and so MSH could use the HOV lane, thus shortening his commute). At any rate, due to TRAFFIC, we commute in together, and MSH drives every day. We also come to work pretty early so that we avoid the worst of the TRAFFIC, and so that we can have every other Friday off. I use this time to put on my make up and finish my hair every morning so that I don't have to get out of bed even earlier than I already do. Some days, this routine leads to the removal of some type of curlers from my hair while in the car. I believe that it may cause MSH some considerable embarrassment to travel with me in curlers, but he has yet to complain, so I continue to do it. Heaven help me if I ever have to drive myself to work.

Since I remove the curlers in the car, and the glove box is filled with maps and owner's manuals and other things MSH insists should be kept in the glove box, it will not hold all the curlers. Now, I could bring a bag or box or other acceptable receptacle for the curlers, but due to the exceedingly early time we have to leave home to get to work on time, I cannot possibly be expected to remember details such as this. Therefore, the only place I have for my curlers is my already over-stuffed, quite large purse. Even if I do remember to bring something else to put the curlers in, it's generally another purse because I'm usually rummaging through the closet when I remember. And what is in my closet that can hold curlers? If you answered "Purses!", you would be correct.

The other half of the issue, the reason that the chance that I will have curlers in my purse is so high, stems from the fact that I am lucky enough to own two complete sets of hot rollers, one set of sponge curlers, and one set of velcro rollers (4 sets total; I know you're jealous). Therefore, I generally do not put the curlers away in order to use them the next day, because there are always more curlers! I will run out of purse space before I run out of curlers. I also have better things to do in the evenings and can't possibly be expected to remember to do such things.

I do fear that my purse strap will break, and the world will see curlers spilling out. In this vision, I see myself chasing them as the roll down the hallways I walk each day. Especially the one that slopes downward as I leave the office each day. It's my own personal nightmare, but, luckily, one that has yet to become real.

So this is my blog, and I can't quite tell you what it will be about, but I can tell you a little about me. I mentioned that I work for a large government agency outside of DC. I'm from Alabama, originally; so is MSH. Our families still live there. At this point, we've been married for just over 5 years, and we're each just over 30 years old, but not quite 31. We don't have any children, yet. At least none that I know of (MSH makes me say that). I do want children and absolutely adore our nieces and nephews. I cry in the greeting card aisle at Wal-Mart; my head is filled with random lines that might make decent poetry one day; and I have a purse full of curlers.