Saturday, December 31, 2011

An End of the Year Top Ten (or three).

We already did a year in review post for the house on our house-iversary in October (here) so for the end of the 2011, I give you an end of the year top ten. Well. Three. Because that's how I roll.

Top Ten things I'm loving about this house as we are in our third year here:
10) having two bathrooms
9) adding recessed can lighting in the living room (as to see you better)
8) two living spaces (a living room and den, as opposed to one at our old place)
7) a sectional couch (paid for by craig's-listing our old cabinets)
6) the neighborhood it is in (close to the smaller green line and more)
5) my new dressing area
4) laundry closet (with doors to close when it is messy)
3) fenced back yard to throw dogs out in when they are being wild
2) lots of closet and storage space
1) my new kitchen!

and, of course, the fact that Jake is living there with me.

And next, a list of Top Tens for our life this year:
10) I still have a job. And it is rewarding. And it pays. And I'm doing well (per my evaluations)
9) Jake's doing well in medical school - surviving, studying, maintaining sanity
8) getting to do a lot of crafting, a great outlet for me, like these wreaths (here, here, and here)
7) having a great camp season, where we increased enrollment and had a budget in the black/green
6) cooked a lot (here's a few of the recipes) with my main man, one of our hobbies
5) enjoyed doing lots of fun projects on the house, like finishing our kitchen
4) adding a fourth animal to our house (crazy, right?), the cutest puppy, our Harley
3) being featured as a Reader Redesign on Young House Love for my kitchen (!!!)
2) one of my best friends, Brie, got married and other friends, Heather and Rachel, had babies
1) spending tons of time with my family, like our trip to Sewanee, lots of yummy dinners, and a beach trip

and, of course, again, the one that trumps it all was spending time with Jake!

And the last top ten - the top ten most viewed blog posts this year:

1) Kitchen Renovation: The Reveal
2) Kitchen Renovation: Step by Step (ooh baby)
3) Dappled Daschunds and Harlequin Danes
4) Kitchen Renovation: Source List
5) Kitchen Flooring?
6) House Tour: Laundry Closet
7) Dinner for Two
8) The saga and resolution of the Bee's Wax
9) Happy Two Year Anniversary, House!
10) Buffalo Chicken Dip

and a few notes on those -
   1) I figured the kitchen would be the top hit, for obvious reasons, and four of the posts are about the kitchen
   2) how random that a really really really old post about what kind of dog I want got so many hits? must be the pictures I took off google images
  3) that kitchen flooring post is pretty lame and doesn't even feature our floor choice
  4) the dinner for two post only has so many hits because it was what was up when we made YHL - getting Carraba's to go isn't that revolutionary
  5) I still don't know whether Bee's Wax or Beeswax is the right color after three years
  6) now I want that buffalo chicken dip again

In numbered lists,
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Friday, December 30, 2011

Make this: Pastrami Wrapped Pickles.

Two years ago I blogged about making Prosciutto Wrapped Pickles, a recipe I got from one of Jake's mom's neighbors. At the time I was frustrated because they didn't look good (though they tasted awesome) and were very hard to make. So this Christmas when Jake's mom made them for our Christmas Eve gathering, I asked her how she did hers - turns out she used pastrami instead of prosciutto. And so I set out to try it again.

The other night my bff Elise and her bf Nate (get those abbrevs?) came over for a civilized, grown-up, home cooked dinner. She's home for Christmas from Yale where the smarty-pants is in a Master's program. And since I'm bragging, her boyfriend Nate's band Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors (remember, I blogged about them here) were featured on the NBA's Christmas montage this year. Here's the Youtube and here's an article about it.

Well so they came over for a Christmas dinner  - we made the Southwestern Skillet Chili that I blogged about a few weeks ago and a simple salad with almonds, gorgonzola cheese, and a olive oil/vinaigrette dressing. Elise brought rolls (from Buntyn's recipe, now sold in Germantown at a ready-made food store - ridiculously good) and we also picked up a bottle of wine. So civilized.

(And I used my Christmas dishes!! Thanks, Mom!!)

So back to the pickles. Elise and I share a love of pickles so I knew that I should make them for our dinner since I've been wanting to re-try my hand at them. And this time? Much easier than last and just as yummy. While I love the taste that the prosciutto gives, the pastrami holds up better and is just as good-tasting.

What you'll need:
Whole pickles (I recommend Claussen or Boar's Head)
Cream Cheese (I'd recommend the block, even though it is a pain to mix, it stays on the pickle better)
Worcestershire sauce
Garlic Salt
Thickly sliced pastrami (several slices, depending on how many pickles you're making)

What you'll do:
1) make your cream cheese mixture. blend the cheese with about a tablespoon of worcestershire sauce (add more to taste) and some shakes of the garlic salt (again, to taste). if you can, let this sit for a bit to "mull"

2) take a pickle out of the jar - dry it with a towel (this is actually sort of important). cut the ends off
3) slab on the cream cheese mixture on the pickle (I use a butter knife)
4) roll up the pickle into the pastrami

5) slice up the pastrami into about inch thick pieces (a serrated knife is best)

Repeat this process until you have as many as you want!

In my two favorite foods - pickles and cheese - being together,
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Thursday, December 29, 2011

On the Fourth Day of Christmas..

If I was a good Episcopalian, I'd leave my tree up until Epiphany, as that is when the wise men reached Jesus and is the end of the 12 days of Christmas. But alas, fire codes and trash pick-ups dictate otherwise and so tonight we cleaned up from Christmas. The tree was stripped of its decoration and all the red and green and glitter were stored away for another year.

I'm feeling a bit old and official because this year we purchased two large tubs and two ornament holder boxes so instead of hauling our our ratty u-haul boxes, we'll be pulling out nice looking boxes like real people. Check them out:

 Also: 1) how is it that we have this much Christmas decor? and 2) isn't this ornament holder ridiculously awesome? $6 at Big Lots!

Now that the house is all cleared and cleaned up, I like the simplistic look that the New Year brings as I strip all the holiday decor.

Now to keep it that way..

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Make this: Beer Cheese Dip.

The other day I needed to make a dip that was able to be served cold, as I was dropping it off at a friend's house for a gathering later in the day for her family. I knew I wanted to do a cheese based dip and so I was browsing the Kraft website for cream cheese recipes. I decided to do this recipe for a beer cheese dip.

We followed it pretty much to the recipe but doubled it. I've got some recommendations that I'll add at the end as well.

You'll need:
2 packages cream cheese
1/2 cup ranch dressing
2 cups shredded cheese*
1/2 cup beer **
4 green onions, chopped ***

1) Beat the cream cheese and dressing in a medium bowl until blended
2) add in the remaining ingredients
3) refrigerate several hours until chilled

And a few notes:
*I really recommend getting a block of cheddar cheese and shredding that. It would make a huge difference in consistency.
**we used a golden ale for this recipe. I think you should really use something that has a bit of flavor to it but not overwhelming (for example, an IPA or a dark ale might sway it too much but a Bud Light wouldn't have any flavor)
***the recipe calls for the green end of the onions but I've found that the white bulb end gives off better flavor so we chopped that end instead

Also, we added cajun seasoning and a bit more beer at the end to give it more flavor. I would taste and go from there once you've mixed.

We served with frito's but Ritz crackers are recommended.

In loving dips,
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Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas!

The last few days have been blissfully busy. It started on the 23rd with a family expedition to see Annie at Playhouse on the Square and the meeting of Harley's new bff Boston, Brie's chocolate lab puppy. Then Christmas Eve was spent with family, taking Santa pictures, eating lots of food, and going to midnight Christmas Eve service at church. Christmas morning brought lots of presents, a bout of car trouble, and an evening at Jake's Gran's house, and then just like that, it was done.

Christmas is an easy time to lose sight of what you're doing and I love that our Christmas traditions are very methodical and specific in spending time with family and going to church.

And now, for a bit of pictures,

Christmas cheer in the form of old school bows -

 Here's Brie's new puppy, Boston, that we met on the 23rd! So cute. He's a 7 week old chocolate lab.
Every year, Jake's family takes a picture with Santa. They have done it since Jake was a baby and his mom has all the pictures that she displays every Christmas. This year we went while Santa was on an hour and a half break (I mean really? on Christmas Eve?) so we just took a picture without Santa.
Jake's mom made lots of yummy food to eat on Christmas Eve, including these amazing pastrami wrapped pickles. I'll surely be making these soon!

Christmas Eve night , Jake and I spent some time at our house just enjoying the tree and each other. 
On Christmas morning, we spent some time opening presents but first had to make sure to put baby Jesus in the manger - look, he showed up!

New ballet flat shoes from Land's End from my parentals - much needed (also got two sweaters and a dress from Land's End. Love it).

 Much needed casual jacket for rain - my old one was shedding the lining all over everything.
 My brother got me a new phone case, also a necessary thing since my other one was broken - so cute!
Also I got two Pyrex pieces, this small mixing bowl and a matching pie plate. 
 After opening presents at my parents' house, we made breakfast. Here's Ez with our dog Daisy:

 Then it was off to Jake's parents for Christmas presents. Jake got a snuggie from his sister for Christmas! I told him he should wear it to the med school:)

We finished the day with dinner at Jake's Gran's house - but didn't quite make it there after running over something on the road and busting a tire. With no spare, we had to get the car towed to the shop and get Jake's dad to pick us up...

 But then we were back in business and on the road. After dinner at Gran's, we finally went home. And just in case you thought the pets were left out, I wanted to share this picture of Harley with her new favorite toy that Beth got her, her pig: She loves it.

 When we got home, it was time to admire our gifts and think about the people that gave them to us... I got this fab trench from Jake's siblings:
 And Jake got me Toms so I can finally join the "cool club"!

And while we love our presents, the best part of this week has been spending time with everyone and enjoying each other's company. After all, that is what is important.

In savoring the days left in Winter Break,
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Make this: Dad's Meatballs.

A few weeks ago, we stopped by my parents before going out to a Christmas party. My dad was trying out a new meatball recipe and I stole a few to taste test....ever since I've been craving them. I decided to try them out for this new, fun wine club I went to Wednesday night. These meatballs can be served on their own like I did or in a pasta dish like my dad did.

I took the recipe and tried to approximate how much of everything I'd need because the original recipe was per meatball and I wanted to just mix everything together at once.

To make these, you'll need:
2/3rds lb ground chuck
2/3rds lb ground pork
large tub Greek yogurt
garlic, minced
basil, minced
parmesan cheese, grated
bread crumbs
salt, pepper

1) mince your garlic and basil (we used about 8 basil leaves and 5 garlic cloves)

2) put your meat in a large mixing bowl, add in about 1/2 cup of greek yogurt (you may add some later if the consistency isn't right), 1/2 cup bread crumbs (again, add more if you want for consistency), parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup or more), basil and garlic, and salt/pepper (we also added Cavender's Greek Seasoning). Mix together with hands.

3) create mini-meat balls out of the mixture

4) cook in a skillet with heated olive oil

(It helps if you have a cute helper)

And serve!

Makes about 30 meatballs.

In pork AND beef,
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