Friday, July 31, 2009


I've never been a sporty girl. I was in the marching band, not on the soccer team. I was in the girl scouts, not playing softball. And so on. So I feel a little behind when it comes to playing even casual games with friends. I usually suck, which is where everyone starts out, right? But most other people have gotten past the sucking stage by this point in life. It's very discouraging.

Darren and some of his coworkers having started playing tennis after work once a week. He's been telling me every week that I should give it a try, so I finally decided why not? First, I needed a tennis racket. We went to Walmart, and he was trying to tell me all about how to pick one that was the right size for me and everything else. But I saw this and I decided based purely on the fact that it was pink and "cute" that this was my new tennis racket. What can I say, sometimes cuteness is more important than random facts that I don't understand. :)

Playing was actually pretty fun. I did suck. Definitely sucked. But that was ok. I had the most fun when we were just hitting it around, practicing, with no real rules. But playing an actual game was ok too, although it seems like 90% of the time that I hit the ball it went out of bounds. But I had some good moments, too, and that might be enough to get me back again next time. It was definitely a good workout - lots of quick sprints back and forth on the court, but time to relax in between too, especially since we were playing doubles. I think I'll take this over going to the gym, even if I am terrible at it. I can only get better, right?

Friday, July 24, 2009

I'm not the only reader in the house

I caught it on film (can you really say that if it's digital?) My husband, reading. Isn't he cute? Really he's just reading the guide book for Alaska, trying to make some plans for our trip, but he's still cute. (We really need to change the color on the walls, stat.)

Below: I'm learning what "aperture" means. Definitely having fun with it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dinner a la francaise

I am a recipe googler. I have a cabinet full of cookbooks, but 95% of the time I pull out the laptop to find my next menu. I think it has to do with finding multiple versions of the same thing and tweaking them to what sounds good to me. Or maybe I'm just the byproduct of a generation that doesn't know what the printed word actually looks likes and can only function with a mouse and keyboard. (Naw, can't be that... right?) Anyway, what's a girl to do when she has to cook dinner for a large group of peolpe and the internet has been down for several days??

Pull out the cookbook, I suppose. *gasp* I decided to find my meal in the pages of one of the first cookbooks I ever owned - Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten. Really, I shoud do this more often, because the food was sooo good. But who am I kidding, with so many excellent recipe sites and food blogs at my fingertips, I could never give that up completely.

Dinner was Croque Monsieur sandwiches - a true french staple, basically a fancy grilled cheese. (put an egg on top and it's called a Croque Madame.) Sides were a potato gratin (the recipe was for zuchinni, but I had to make some changes, right?) and haricots verts (green beans). The real star of this meal was the Gruyere cheese. It has a real rich yummy flavor and really takes me back to my summer in Provence. The family I lived with used this cheese all the time. It's kind of expensive; I've found (at Publix at least) that getting it from the deli counter is cheaper than buying it from the fancy cheese case. I just had them cut of a half pound chunk rather than slicing it, and then I grated it at home. I also only used about half the gruyere the recipe called for, 1. because that's all I could afford, and 2. because it does have such a powerful flavor. I substitued mozzarella for the other half of the cheese only because I happened to already have some at home.

Croque Monsieur


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups) (I substituted mozzarella for half the gruyere)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices white sandwich bread
Dijon mustard 8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.

Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.

Zucchini (Potato) Gratin
(I made mine with potatoes, but I'm including Ina's original recipe with my changes.)


6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for topping
1 pound yellow onions, cut in 1/2 and sliced (3 large)
2 pounds zucchini, sliced 1/4-inch thick (4 zucchini) (substitute 2 pounds potatoes)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup hot milk
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
3/4 cup grated Gruyere (again, I substituted mozzarella for half the cheese)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

(First, I boiled the whole potatoes for approzimately 20 minutes, then sliced them.)

Melt the butter in a very large (12-inch) saute pan and cook the onions over low heat for 20 minutes, or until tender but not browned. Add the zucchini (potatoes) and cook, covered, for 10 minutes, or until tender. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg and cook uncovered for 5 more minutes. Stir in the flour. Add the hot milk and cook over low heat for a few minutes, until it makes a sauce. Pour the mixture into an 8 by 10-inch baking dish.

Combine the bread crumbs and Gruyere and sprinkle on top of the zucchini mixture. Dot with 1 tablespoon of butter cut into small bits and bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbly and browned.

Haricots Verts (French String Beans)


1 pound French string beans, both ends removed
Kosher salt
1 red onion, large-diced
1/2 red pepper, large-diced
1/2 yellow pepper, large-diced
Good olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Blanch the string beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for just 4 minutes. Drain immediately and immerse in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When they are cool, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl toss the onion and bell peppers together with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes, tossing with a spatula from time to time to be sure the vegetables roast evenly.

Just before serving, reheat the string beans in a large saute pan drizzled with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and arrange on a platter. Spoon the roasted vegetables over the string beans and serve hot or at room temperature.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

50 Books

I love to read. Loooooove it. When I was a kid I read all the time, sometimes I'd even get into trouble for reading too much. As I got older, I got busier, and the reading slowed down. By the time I got to college, I pretty much had to eliminate reading for fun. Mostly because when I get hooked on a book, I won't do anything else until I'm done. This proved to be not very compatible with my classload. Now, I'm not in school anymore, I have a little more free time on my hands, and I'm rediscovering my love for books.

One of my 101 in 1001 goals is to read 50 books in that time. I have no idea if this is a reasonable goal, if it will be really easy, or unattainable. But it sounded like a good fun number, so there ya go! I will keep track of everything I have read since June 11, 09 here.

1. Taking Lottie Home by Terry Kay
2. High Five by Janet Evanovich
3. Hot Six by Janet Evanovich
4. One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
5. A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
6. The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
7. The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve
8. Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund

Friday, July 10, 2009

101 in 1001

I've seen this idea floating around for a while now: 101 Things to do in 1001 Days. About a month ago, during a boring day-long meeting with no internet access, I decided to make my own list. And put in a decent effort at completing it. Some of the goals are a little silly, some quite serious. There are 1 or 2 that you might even say I have no control over. A few have random durations assigned to them, not because that's all I want to accomplish, but rather to define a measurable goal that can lead to habit changes.

The list was started on June 11, 2009, so I'm going to count that as my starting point. A few items have been tweaked since then, and I reserve the right to do a little more tweaking in the future. It's my list so I can do whatever I want :) Anyway, my 1001 days end March 8, 2012.

First, some basic info about the idea, then my list.

The Mission:Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.

The Criteria:Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on my part).

Why 1001 Days? Many people have created lists in the past - frequently simple goals such as New Year's resolutions. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organising and timing some tasks such as overseas trips or outdoor activities.

Finished (2 of 101)
In Progress
Not started

1. Create a website for spachulas
2. Be hired for an event by someone we don’t know
3. Create a wedding album
4. Renovate the bathrooms
5. ‘finish’ unpacking
6. Go to Africa
7. Start volunteering somewhere
8. Read a nonfiction historical book
9. Eat dinner at home every day for 2 weeks
10. Tell my grandparents I love them
11. Write a letter and mail it each month. (0 of 33)
12. Weigh less than my husband
13. Finish crocheting my blanket
14. Knit gifts for everyone at Christmas
15. Learn to knit in the round
16. Learn how to shoot in manual mode on my camera
17. Take a romantic weekend trip with my husband
18. Repaint the living room
19. Make a lease for our renters
20. Run in another 5k
21. Sign up for a class at a community college
22. Take a bubble bath with wine
23. Go on a backpacking trip
24. Move the piano to our house
25. Go to church every weekend in a month
26. Plant a garden
27. Make salsa solely from the garden
28. Start TTC, or at least have a plan
29. Relearn Rachmaninoff
30. Get a business license
31. Get employee of the month
32. Finish the FAS model project
33. Lead an ERB
34. Buy a suit
35. Learn 5 new crock pot recipes
36. Go on a 20 mile bike ride
37. Track food in sparkpeople for 1 month
38. Finish a new cross stitch
39. Go on a US vacation each year
40. Go swimming in the ocean
41. Buy disability insurance
42. Sneak into a movie
43. Read 50 books (8 of 50)
44. Blog more regularly – 50 new posts (4 of 50)
45. Write a comment to every friend on facebook
46. Apply for something
47. Have a board game night
48. Host a mystery dinner
49. Help someone else move
50. Give away something that I could’ve sold
51. Get my car windows tinted
52. Learn to make a roux
53. Use coupons every week for a month
54. Pick 5 charities to donate to each year
55. Sing in the shower
56. Make my own cheese fries
57. Go to the gym twice a week for 2 months
58. Take a walk in the rain
59. Build a snowman
60. Hike on a glacier
61. Pray in 15 different churches
62. Read 5 books of the bible
63. Reassess the market and selling my house
64. Whiten my teeth
65. Visit 2 friends out of state
66. Go to the everglades
67. Go to lakeridge winery
68. Sing Christmas carols
69. Get money back for Portugal tiles
70. Take new pictures in my wedding dress
71. Learn to sew
72. Make a scrapbook from old pictures
73. Learn 5 ways to cook fish
74. Try 5 new restaurants around our house
75. Blow up and frame wedding photos
76. Watch my husband’s top 5 favorite movies
77. Take my brother to the movies
78. Go on vacation with in-laws
79. Make cookies from scratch
80. Take a road trip
81. Get up early to go garage sale-ing
82. Have matching aprons made
83. Assemble 24 cookbook
84. Teach Penny to use litter box in garage
85. Make cute baby gift for friend’s new baby
86. Go to a UF football game
87. Renovate the florida room
88. Get 6 new stamps in my passport
89. Get 2 more astronaut signatures (1 of 2)
90. Try 5 foods I’ve never tried before
91. Listen to a book on tape
92. Go 2 weeks without tv
93. Spend a whole day in pj’s watching tv
94. Develop a mail filing system
95. Treat our parents to dinner
96. Go one month without fried food
97. Go one month without alcohol
98. Create a will
99. Hike 100 miles
100. Create a family budget
101. Write a new 101 in 1001 list

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I bought a plane ticket today

And then I cancelled it. And then I bought another one. Super exciting story huh? I've been trying to get up to Baltimore one weekend this month and the flights keep changing on me. One minute there will be nothing available, then the next everything is on sale, then by the time I go to buy it it's not there anymore. sooooo frustrating!

So this morning I stupidly just bought the first thing that looked decent, without checking the other airlines first. Luckily, it was with southwest so it was easy to cancel. Props to Southwest for having a friendly cancellation policy.

I bought my new ticket on airtran. In addition to the better price and better flight times, I had recently seen this promotion which gives you $25 off any flight to or from Florida. Check it out if you're looking for something like that.

Why am I going to Baltimore you ask? To visit my friend Laura of course, who currently has a little peanut growing in her belly. I am so super excited for her!!! woohoo for new babies :) Here's a picture of her helping me set up for the wedding.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Coca Cola, oh how I love thee...
There is nothing I love more about my mornings than the soft pop of a new can being opened, and that beautiful cool refreshing first sip. mmm......

not pepsi, not diet coke, none of those imposters.

But, I think I'm going to give it up, at least for a little while. I know, this is like the terror of terrors. But I have plans, big plans, like this:

We will be camping and hiking in the beautiful Alaksa wilderness for several days. And I won't have access to any of my precious cokes. I'm terrified of withdrawal, of the headaches that I know will come. But as much as it sucks to go through that, I don't want to go through that while I'm here:

I have no idea how I'm going to do this. I have no idea if I even can do this. But I'm going to try. Wish me luck.

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