Monday, April 20, 2015

Cookbook Challenge: What's In Your Liquor Cabinet?

After a little bit of a break, I'm back to working on the cookbook challenge. I'm probably not going to finish by the end of 2015 now unless I fo' real hustle, but I needed to cut myself some slack on something, and well, sometimes I'd rather put priority on other adventures. Or, you know, real life. (We had a lot of episodes of The Voice and Amazing Race to watch.) Anyway.

One of my favorite parts of the Bride and Groom First and Forever Cookbook is cocktail recipes! I'm going to have to buy a good amount of hooch to try all the booze-y recipes (and some other recipes that also use liquor as an ingredient), because it turns out a bottle of vodka, two half-empty bottles of triple-sec, a mostly-empty handle of rum from our undergrad days and some mini bottles of German schnapps does not a "liquor cabinet" make.

Sauza Margaritas
As you can see, I did not purchase Sauza tequila. Because I don't like tequila and Sauza only came in large bottles, so I bought whatever non-off-brand I could get in a flask-sized bottle, which happened to be Jose Cuervo. (I suppose whatever is left of it can be donated to a good cause, like my sister's wedding. She is having a dry wedding, kind of against her will, and is already talking about us bridesmaids carrying flasks.) I am typically very "meh" about margaritas, and I felt approximately the same about this one. However, Matt actually does like margaritas, and he said these tasted good. P.S. You should listen to this song while you drink Cuervo margaritas.

Daddy's Oatmeal Cookies
I'll admit, I'm not the biggest oatmeal cookie fan. And I have been wrong all my life for not liking them. These were the most delicious oatmeal cookies I've ever had, and I ate a lot of them, because it made a humongous batch. Also, I cheated a little and didn't actually make these myself. Matt made them. For himself. On his birthday. Because I'm a bad wife.

Lemony Tarragon Crab Dip
I used imitation crab, because that was all I could find at Kroger. I made this dip for a book club potluck, and it was super fast to assemble, and pretty tasty to boot. Only downside is the cookbook said to serve it with salt and vinegar chips, which I don't particularly care for, and apparently none of the people at my book club do either, so now I'm stuck with a big bag of gross chips.

It doesn't look like it, but I did make the layers pretty even. It was just hard to get to the edges.

1-2-3 Mexican Dip
Another day, another potluck. This one was a Mexican-food-themed church potluck, though, so I went to town making this cookbook's version of a seven-layer dip. (It only had three layers, though: beans, sour cream and salsa, with various spices and onions and peppers mixed into the main components of each layer.) It got many compliments, and then Matt was disappointed when I took all the leftovers to work with me and left him with none.

Bow Tie Pasta With Asparagus, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Boursin
I love asparagus, and so I am glad it is spring because the asparagus is fresh and fat and relatively cheap. This pasta dish was good — both Matt and I liked it — but as I was eating it, I thought, "This is not a pasta dish that I will remember a week from now." It's not anything spectacular, but if you're looking to get more veggies in, it's hard to beat the ease of asparagus in pasta. Just boil your pasta and throw the asparagus into the pot for the last two minutes.

Mary's Bloody Marys
I don't like celery, so I didn't garnish these. (The book said you could also garnish with a dill pickle or pickled asparagus, but by the time I got around to making these cocktails, we had just gotten back into town from a weekend away and it was just too-bad-so-sad.) Even so, the celery salt on the rim was tasty, and the drink itself was pretty good, tomato-y with a little bit of a spicy kick at the end. Matt made pancakes and eggs for brenner, and it was lovely. Though I didn't finish my cocktail, and Matt didn't like them at all.

Completed: 75 of 147 recipes.

What's in your liquor cabinet? Do you like salt-and-vinegar chips? What's on your DVR/in your Hulu queue/on your Netflix list?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Life List: I Don't Know Why I Keep Agreeing to This Stuff

Note: I added a new section to my Life List, of things we want to do and see while we're living in Virginia. Check it out! Anything I should add that's a must-see or do or eat? :)

This weekend, we went hiking. I'd been looking forward to trying to hike McAfee Knob on Catawba Mountain, which is a really popular hiking spot around here, and Matt had a friend from grad school that was going to be in town with a church group, so we decided to meet at the base of the mountain and spend the afternoon walking up it together. I was informed that it was a relatively easy hike, about three miles each way, and I thought that it would be okay since I was fine on the four-mile-round-trip hike up the Cascades last summer.

I had a goal: to finally break 10,000 steps. Because I've been wearing this pedometer for two months and still only maxed out around 6,000 steps on a good day. I figured six miles would put me around 12,000 steps or so, and that seemed good. I was excited to start.

We started walking. It was a beautiful day, if not a little muddy from all the rain we'd gotten the week before, but the trail was well-kept and it was quite nice. I was only moderately out of breath.

And we walked and walked and walked, and I thought that surely we should have reached the top by now. Things were getting steeper, and we'd been hiking for a very long time. And then we saw a sign that said "McAfee Knob - 1.9 miles" — which, by the way, was the first trail marker we'd seen other than the ones for shelters and campsites.

That's about the time I realized that this a) was not an easy-for-novices hike, and b) it was not the advertised three miles. It was about four and a half miles each way, which I know because a) my pedometer was tracking the distance, and b) I broke 11,000 steps on the way to the top. And I was in pain. I am not a great hiker. This was my third-ever time hiking. I started asking the people walking down how much further as we passed them. And they'd say, still a ways to go, or you're so close! At one point, someone said that it was only about four minutes to the top.


Now, I have to interject a quick story from earlier in the week here. About a week ago, I went to the doctor because my allergies were driving me crazy. I wasn't allergic to anything in Texas, but apparently I am allergic to all the plants in Virginia. The doctor told me to take an over-the-counter non-D allergy pill, and told me to call her in two weeks if they weren't working. Well, they worked great and I could breathe fine, but they were keeping me awake at night. So after a week of only getting two hours of sleep per night, I ended up sobbing on Matt about something entirely stupid, and he was like, maybe you shouldn't take those anymore. So the night before this hike was the first decent night of sleep I'd gotten in a week, because I'd chosen to skip the allergy pill.


So we're "four minutes" from the top, and at that point I was breathing hard and my sinuses were driving me nuts, and I was tired and way behind the rest of the group, and I didn't believe we were actually near the top because I had been LIED TO about many things on this trip, so I started crying and I sat down on a rock while the gnats tried to eat my face until Matt said he could literally see the crest from the place he was standing 50 feet away from me.

So I dragged myself up the last fifty feet, and then sat in the shade and refused to talk to Matt.

These people look happy.

After I was done crying, and done wishing I could pitch myself off the cliff instead of walking down, and done debating whether I should eat my banana or throw it at Matt, we wandered around the top of the rock face for a bit. The views were spectacular; I could see why it was so popular. If only I had been prepared for how long and difficult it actually was!

We took an "easier" route on the way down, aka the fire-escape route, but it was still a long way back to the parking lot. By the time we got to the truck, I had gotten to 23,000 steps, but my legs and knees and ankles and the arches of my feet were in so much pain that I wasn't even excited to have broken my record so spectacularly.

And I told Matt — again — that I never want to go hiking again. I think I've given it a legitimate chance, but I think hiking just isn't for me. There are plenty of other kinds of exercise I enjoy, and I'd rather spend my time on those. (I mean, I love walking! How can hiking be so terrible?!)

Do you enjoy hiking? Have you found yourself utterly unprepared for anything lately?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Here, Let Me Show You Some Pictures of Dirt

Beets on the left, carrots on the right.

Look here at this tub-o'-dirt. This thing is going to feed us. For like, at least a couple days. If all goes as planned.

Zucchini in the flower bed.

This dirt too.

Basil on the left, tomatoes on the right. Attempting to grow starts.

What's that? Not everyone keeps dirt in their guest bedroom? Well that's too bad. Because it's the only room we can reasonably keep Elliott out of, and she likes to destroy every project I try to do. Like remember how we're composting? We keep a container on the counter of scraps and we empty it into the big composter/can every few days. But she keeps eating scraps out of the counter container and then throwing them up, so we covered it with a rag and that didn't stop her. We covered it with a piece of cardboard and put a three-pound dumbbell on the top of it and THAT DIDN'T STOP HER. This cat is way smarter than we are, I'm pretty sure. Now we've got it wrapped in a plastic bag with the cardboard and the dumbbell on top. I fully expect her to figure out a way to get to it anyway.

Banana pepper on the left, tomato plant on the right.

All that to say, I planted my spring garden last weekend. This year, I am attempting to grow various things from seeds, including basil, sweet-100 tomatoes, beets, baby carrots and zucchini. I also have two starter plants of hot banana peppers and cherry tomatoes. I will be ridiculously happy if any of the seeds grow at all. I have very low expectations for my ability to grow things, but I figure I've got to learn somehow, so might as well start now.

(I originally wrote this post on Sunday night. Since then, my starter seeds in the guest bedroom looked like they were starting to grow a fuzzy white mold, but then last night I saw some teeny tiny green saplings sprouting up out of the basil pods! PLEASE STAY ALIVE, LITTLE BASILS.)

Are you planting a spring garden? What's in yours? What's your favorite spring/summer fruit/veggie?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Life List: Speaking Of Other Languages...

Matt and I got us some culture. We went to the opera last weekend!

Even though our wedding anniversary is only two months away, we wanted to do something to celebrate our 10th dating anniversary, so we've got a mini-break planned for next month, and I found tickets on Groupon to go to Rossini's "La Cenerentola" (Cinderella), which was put on by Opera Roanoke.

It was a great show; lovely singing, some light comedy, and thankfully, subtitles! They sang a lot of notes/words for every line that showed up on the screen. (The whole thing is in Italian. If you're so inclined, there are several places on YouTube where you can watch the entire opera.) Matt said that this was not a very efficient way to tell a story. :) But I think he enjoyed it too. It was something totally different for us.

I'm glad that we experienced it, but I think maybe we're just not fancy enough to be regular opera-people? But we also went to see Insurgent on Saturday and determined that we're not really movie-going people either, so I don't know what kind of people we are.

Have you ever been to an opera? If you had to define yourself by one "thing" you love, what kind of person would you be?

Monday, March 30, 2015

On This, The Tenth Year

On our one-month dating anniversary, we went to prom together. I wore my hair up and a pink princess dress. We rode in a black limo with glowing lights on the ceiling, and we held hands and imagined they were stars.

On our two-year dating anniversary, we got all dressed up and went to dinner. Our waiter gave us a lily from one of their floral arrangements, and then we drove out to the lake like we used to in high school. Just to lay in the back of the truck bed and eat peppermint patties and gummi bears, and look at the real stars.

On our third dating anniversary, you bought me a huge bouquet of pink and yellow lilies. I took them back to Oklahoma with me, and they lived on my dresser for weeks, and looking at them made me smile and miss you at the same time. It feels like some other lifetime that we spent so long so far apart.

A few months before our fifth dating anniversary, you dropped to one knee in the middle of my living room. We decided to savor that moment for ourselves for a few hours, before we called everyone we loved. Elliott kept trying to eat my engagement flowers.

Just after our sixth dating anniversary, I peeked. I held your hand around the wall of the church, but I needed to see you before I walked down the aisle, and so I peeked and didn't say anything. You got choked up when you said your vows, but I couldn't stop smiling at you as you held my hands in yours.

On our second wedding anniversary, we got cupcakes from the bakery that made our wedding cakes, and went back to the bed and breakfast we went to after our wedding. We sat on the floor with our plates resting on the cooler we'd brought from home, and cut those enormous cupcakes in half so we could share both flavors as French music twinkled in the background.

And as our fourth wedding anniversary comes closer, I think about this: that today, I've been yours for 10 years. That I hope for ten … no, fifty … no, A HUNDRED more years of laughing with you, being silly with you, holding you and having the most wonderful life with you.

To many more!