Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Two whirlwinds so to speak. The first one, dear old Irene. She came, she rained, and she left. Not so bad, pretty uneventful. We only lost power from about 2 a.m. to 9 a.m. Hardly noticeable. The most eventful part was prepping the balcony for her arrival. Trying to grow a garden by the hot water heater and sharing your living space with your grill can make for interesting visuals so you can see out Irene prep below.

As well as some Irene aftermath. As you can see just a lot of mud and some fences and construction supplies blow around. Isn't our construction neighbor fabulous? She's come a long way, but I'm pretty much over it. I will not be sad when it's finished.

The second whirlwind...work week. This week before school starts always goes far too fast. There's so much to get done and so many other things going on that it flies by. I can't believe we are already at the beginning of the school year. I can't believe it will be my fourth year. Pictures of this whirlwind week are soon to come as well!

PS: I know my pictures are sideways. I'm so annoyed I can't turn them!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Recipe of the Week!

Everything Salad
This is one of my new favorite dinners. I got the idea from Dinner: A Love Story. She called it two bowls. Two bowls because she had one bowl of stuff she and her husband would like and another bowl of stuff that her kids would like. She let the kids choose what they wanted first and then mixed together everything else for her and her husband. She says she just took all the random leftover stuff she had for a salad out of her fridge. I, on the other hand, intentionally went shopping for ingredients...for the most part anyway.

Here is what is in this one:
Shredded Kale
Sugar snap peas
Chopped tomatoes
Corn on the cob, but off the cob
Chopped Red Onion
Turkey Bacon
Poached Chicken
Juice from one Lemon
Feta Cheese
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar

Some other ideas:
Chick Peas
Pineapple chunks
Green Beans
Anything you like

I have made this a couple times and mixed and matched all this stuff. It's seriously soooo good. Definitely something I will make regularly.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Week is Whack

Let me begin by saying...I was in an earthquake. I'm sure you all already know this, but I'm still trying to make sense of the fact there was an earthquake in Virginia. Whack. I was babysitting. Obviously an adventure to begin with, but add an earthquake to the mix. Extra adventurous. And apparently there's going to be a hurricane this weekend? Ummm, seriously? Where do I live? These events combined with my last week of babysitting and the beginning of the school year coming have caused a little chaos in my life. Oh, and Matt is starting grad school. Things need to slow down. I can't believe how quickly this week crept up on me. The good news is I took the kids to school on Monday and they were fabulous (or as fabulous as you can be) and we got a lot of stuff done so I have more done than I thought I would at this point. I have officially decided to not go into work tomorrow and to try to enjoy a day to sleep in before the real madness begins on Monday. It seems like I will have quite a bit to report about the weekend. Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Facing the Facts.

Summer is almost over. It's sad, but true. The good thing is the heavy blow of having to go back to work also comes with more pleasurable fall temperatures and football season. It always makes things a little easier. Things will get a little more real tomorrow. I am planning to take the girls I babysit to Bennett to get started on setting up my room and to get a few things done (hopefully). The activity level of these three may prove to be difficult, but I'm going to try my best. Hopefully they keep themselves out of trouble and me out of embarrasment.

Last week was quite the week with my little friends. When explaining to them (after they accused me of being so unfair for not letting them watch TV and play Wii alllllll day and having them read each day) that I went to the pool and played with my friends in my neighborhood everyday. I was asked by the eight year old (and she was completely serious) if they really had pools when I was little. She thought that we only had lakes to swim in when I was little "back in the day". I was like the 80s and 90s was not "back in the day." She looked at me completely dumbfounded. This experience could only be topped by going to the back on Friday afternoon and while I'm talking to the teller I overhear my little gems debating over whether the person after us was a girl or boy. I was so caught off guard it almost got ugly, but I ended up with a controlled reprimanding.

I can't believe how quickly this summer has passed by. It has been a good one, even with no sleep-ins, and no real days off. I think I made the right choice in not going to Boulder for my usual summer job. Being able to stay here and have nights and weekends off has been fun and much less stressful. The question is what will I do next summer?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Recipe of the Week!

Whole Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones

I can't believe I haven't posted all week! I have some babysitting and end of summer updates for everyone (hopefully tomorrow). But as for today...these lovely whole wheat raspberry scones. I'm not much of a baker, but I do LOVE raspberries, so when I say these on Smitten Kitchen I had to try them. Here is the recipe:

1 cup (120 grams) whole wheat flour
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) cold unsalted butter
1 cup (136 grams or 4 3/4 ounces) fresh raspberries
3/4 cup (189 grams) whole milk ricotta
1/3 cup (79 ml) heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bottom of a large, wide-ish bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, sugar and salt together.

With a pastry blender: Add the butter (no need to chop it first) and use the blender to both cut the butter into the flour mixture until the biggest pieces are the size of small peas. Toss in raspberries and use the blender again to break them into halves and quarter berry sized chunks.

Without a pastry blender: Cut the butter into small pieces with a knife and work the butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Roughly chop the raspberries on a cutting board and stir them into the butter-flour mixture.

Both methods: Add the ricotta and heavy cream together and stir them in to form a dough with a flexible spatula.Using your hands, gently knead dough into an even mass, right in the bottom of the bowl. Don’t fret if the raspberries get muddled and smudge up the dough. This is a pretty thing.
With as few movements as possible, transfer the dough to a well-floured counter, flour the top of the dough and pat it into a 7-inch square about 1-inch tall. With a large knife, divide the dough into 9 even squares. Transfer the scones to prepared baking sheet with a spatula. Bake the scones for about 15 minutes, until lightly golden at the edges. Cool in pan for a minute, then transfer to a cooling rack

Just FYI from me: I cut them into 9 squares like she says, but I thought they were really big, so I cut the squares diagonally into triangles and they were a much better size plus you get double! Now I have to figure out what to do with the large amount of wheat flour I have left over. Ideas?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Blog Revamp

Do you like my new design blog design? I guess it's more like a makeover than a revamp. I still don't love it so its not technically vamped, but I needed a change of scenery. Now here is the million dollar question...what do you think the background is supposed to look like? I asked Matt this before I made it official. He said our hardwood floor in the living room. Exactly what I was dreading it might be misconstrued as. When asked to try again...he says a basketball court. Ugh. I almost aborted the revamping process at this point. It's supposed to be a cutting board. Geez. Can you see it?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Recipe of the Week!

Cedar Plank Salmon, Broccoli, and Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Remember those little lemon cupcakes I posted last week? Well this was the birthday dinner that went along with them. I'm going to be honest. That cedar plank salmon is not my doing. It was going to be and then I couldn't find cedar planks, but I also didn't try very hard. I didn't try very hard because I knew my BFF Wegman's sells ready to grill (pretty much) CPS...so I saved myself some time and probably some money and bought that. It was AMAZING. When I try to make it myself I will let you know how that goes. 

So for this recipe of the week I will tell you about the broccoli and mashed potatoes. We eat broccoli a lot in 709. A LOT. I personally like mine boiled. After I strain it I add the juice of about half a lemon, some garlic salt, and some pepper. It something we eat a few times a week. Try it. As for the potatoes. I only eat red skin mashed potatoes. They're the only ones I like. I buy about 2 potatoes for each person then I boil them until soft. After draining them I mash them with a ton of garlic and some light sour cream. I also add salt and pepper to taste and a little skim milk. These only make an occasional appearance in 709, but they are still delicious! I guess these are just some new ideas for old favorites :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

New England

My First Lobster
So I'm finally getting to my long awaited vacation post. I hope you haven't been sitting on the edges of your seats all this time. Matt and I had a wonderful week last week visiting Maine and Massachusetts and a little bit of New Hampshire and Rhode Island. We spent most of our time in Maine at Matt's family's cottage. We enjoyed the beach and the pool, and of course the Wells Historical Center. The weather was great. So much cooler than Northern Virginia. We visited a lot of towns along the Southern Coast of Maine. The picture below is from our walk on the Marginal Way. Its about a mile long path on the ocean. It was really pretty. I also had the pleasure of eating my first lobster...see the picture above.

Sailboat on the Marginal Way
We also celebrated a lot of birthdays last week. Matt and his sister were first followed by his dad later in the week. Matt's mom planned a very big surprise party for him. A lot of family came from out of town to celebrate. We went out on a boat on Friday night and had a cookout on Saturday. It was a lot of fun. I would recommend Maine. It has nice beaches and it's not a million degrees like the Carolinas. I'm also thrilled because I got to add some states to my "visit all 50 states" life goal. Look for more vacation and celebration photos on Facebook.

Boat Ride for 60 years!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Payback's A...

You know the saying. I'll leave it at that. Today I reaped the benefits of a payback that's been coming to me for about 21 years. When I was going into first grade my parents built a new house in the neighboring town to where we lived. One day shortly after the move into the new house my seven year old self and my six year old sidekick decided it would be a fabulous idea to get out our nail polish while we were supposed to be taking baths and getting ready for bed. I proceeded to paint both my sister and the bathtub with the nail polish. I think I was purposely painting my sister and it inadvertently got on the bathtub. Whatever. My mom walked in on this mess and we were banned from nail polish until about high school I think.

Fast forward to today. I was back to babysitting after a wonderful week's vacation (vacation post soon to come). Things were going great. Then at about 4 o'clock all hell broke loose. I was tipped off when the five year old was sent downstairs to get paper towels by her older sisters. I asked why she needed them and she wouldn't tell me. I said I think I will come upstairs with you. She ran ahead and said "Erin's coming" and then I heard from the oldest say "please don't yell." There was blue nail polish on the bathroom tiles and the bathroom sink and poor Barbie had hot pink nail polish highlights. The sink was also highlighted in hot pink. After I trained them in cleaning up nail polish and assisted in the clean, we went downstairs and I found dog poop all over the dining room. Thank goodness the oldest is 100% responsible for that dog and has to clean up after it. She finished that up and then the other dog puked in the family room and the kitchen. Awesome. All this in the 45 minutes just before the mom came home. After I was begged not to tell on them to their mother...we came to the compromise that the oldest would come clean, but I had to stay while she told her mom so she wouldn't yell too much since I was there.

I'm curious to see what the punishment is tomorrow. Probably no nail polish until high school.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Recipe of the Week!

Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing
These were delicious. I found the recipe that I used on My Baking Addiction. Matt said he wanted a lemon cake for his birthday, but I couldn't find a recipe I liked so I asked if cupcakes would be OK. Then mid-cupcake making I actually used my full brain and figured out that I could have made this recipe into a cake...duh. Oh well this worked out and we had little desserts for a week. I had raspberries on hand for another recipe I made that weekend so I used those as some extra flair and flavor along with some sugary sprinkles instead of what her recipe calls for. Next I will turn this recipe into a cake...even though I vowed to never bake a cake again.

*Just another note. I found this made A LOT of icing. I still have quite a bit left over in my freezer, and the cake batter made 24 small cupcakes. Next time I would probably make slightly bigger cupcakes and cut the icing recipe in half. 

For the Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
lemon zest from two lemons
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cupcake tins by using liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray
To Make The Cake: Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and, working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extracts, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Place the batter into the cupcake tins.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean.
Cool on wire rack.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 (8) ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
2 lbs. confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
juice of one lemon

Using a mixer, blend the butter and cream cheese together until well combined. Gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar until fully incorporated. Finally mix in vanilla and lemon juice.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Birthday Week

Happy Birthday Grandma!
I have sadly just realized that I forgot my camera cord to upload pictures while I am here. I'm sure that you will all be on the edge of your seat waiting for pictures from Maine until I return next week. In the mean time...a brief update. This week there are a lot of important birthdays. Yesterday was Matt and his sister's 28th birthday and we celebrated with a day at the pool and a lobster and steak dinner. It was my first lobster ever. I liked it more than I thought I would. Today is my grandma's 80th birthday. The above is a picture that I took for her and made into a book of our whole family wishing her a happy birthday. And Wednesday we will end with Matt's dad's 60th birthday. There is going to be a major surprise party on Friday and Saturday for his birthday. We are going on a boat Friday...if you know me and boats you should start crossing your fingers for me now. In honor of birthday week, this week's recipe will be a very delicious birthday cupcake recipe I made in honor of dear Matthew.