Sunday, December 28, 2008

Merry Paintmas

You know how most people have Visions of Sugarplums dancing in their heads around Christmastime? I have visions of paint rollers and stir sticks.

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In case you ever happen to buy a house that is painted ORANGE and PINK on the weekend before Christmas, let me explain precisely what you will be doing on your day off, from dawn till dusk:

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Yep. We picked colors on Christmas Eve, bought a shopping-cart full of paint cans, and spent the entire holiday painting like crazy.

This is only about 1/3 of the paint.

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Two things have occurred as a result of this experience. First, I am officially Queen of the Painter's Tape. Second (and resultingly), I have Painter's Shoulder and cannot lift my right arm over my head anymore.

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I'm saving the big reveal for later, to surprise you (and also because we aren't quite finished yet), but suffice to say, its looking more like a home every day we are here.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go ice my shoulder. (Appliances get delivered tomorrow!)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twas the Night Before Christmas

(If you are a lawyer or know a lawyer, this is hilarious.)

'Twas the Night Before a Lawyer's Christmas

Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter "the House") a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse. A variety of foot apparel, e.g. stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a/k/a/ St. Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter "Claus") would arrive at sometime thereafter.

The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House, were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.

Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as "I"), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the parts of the second part (hereinafter "Mamma"), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep. (At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g. kerchief and cap.)

Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtent to said House, i.e. the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance.

At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter the "Vehicle") being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer. The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the previously referenced Claus.

Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically identified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen (hereinafter the "Deer"). (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional co-conspirator named Rudolph may have been involved.)

The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature. Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney.

Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items. He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations.

Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute "gifts" to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.) Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as "lookouts." Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination.

However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim: "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!" Or words to that effect.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Distracting You With Disney

In reviewing my overloaded Flickr account, I realized that I never finished telling you people about our Florida trip.

And given that my palms are too sweaty with nerves to say anything else about the house or the move or dear-God-closing-is-less-than-48-hours-away-and-the-settlement-sheet-has-really-big-numbers-on-it...

Let's just reminisce, shall we?

Have fun storming the castle! Disney was already decorated for Christmas in early November.

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It was a pirate's life for Steve(n). Get it? (It rhymes with the real lyric. Sort of.)

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We rode Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Space Mountain (twice!). We only ride roller coasters that end in -Mountain.

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We did not, unfortunately, get to see the Hall of Presidents. (Steven says its because they are putting in the new Obama animatron. I have my doubts, given that we went to Disney like 4 days after the election. Still, Disney is pretty efficient in other areas, so why not?)

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But one of the highlights of the Disney venture was definitely the Tomorrowland Speedway.

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Nothing is more thrilling than whizzing around a racetrack in a car attached to a metal rail, at speeds up to 7 or even 8 mph. We may have broken the sound barrier, I'm not quite sure.

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Steven McQueen especially enjoyed the turns. (Much like Zoolander, Steven does not turn left...)

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And guess who was tailgating us! That's right, Mario Andretti himself -- Daniel Jay. You can't really tell from the picture, but the Steeles were totally trying to race us. (I refrained from telling them that both cars were attached to the same railing, one in front of the other. Also, we totally won the race.)

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And now I think I'll go back to biting all my fingernails in excited anticipation. Closing, closing, CLOSING! Woot!

Also, I have not packed nearly enough dishes yet. Rats.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Party + Blogiversary

On December 15, 2007, our humble little blog had its first little post. Hard to believe I've had that camera for a whole year now. I'd say I've put it to good use.

This weekend, I dragged Steven to the firm's Christmas Brunch at Lansdowne Resort. He had a blast. (Tell them how much fun you had, dear.)

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See? He loved it.

It was actually quite fun to see all the decor and to watch the kids lining up for Santa. I thought about putting in a few of my own requests, but I had a shady experience last year with an overzealous Santa, so I declined. (Awkward!)

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(For the record, I would have asked him for stainless steel appliances. A little elf tells me they might be coming down the chimney on December 29, care of a Best Buy delivery truck.)

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The brunch spread at Lansdowne is not to be missed. They had all manner of delicious desserts, including a martini-glass butter pecan mousse that was glorious.

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This photo was probably taken after my third or fourth cup of coffee, combined with several sugary desserts. Woo! Christmas!

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They also had tiny little creme brulees in individual espresso cups. (I might have had two. Don't tell anyone.)

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I didn't try the mince pies, but they looked lovely.

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The view of the tree from the top of the staircase was my favorite part.

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No, wait. I lied. The tiny gingerbread village was my absolute number one favorite part.

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It was just so perfect and wee. Look at the little pretzles as the bridge railings.

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And the thatched roof is painfully cute. And jellybean bricks! Oh little candy houses of heaven.

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Happy one year blogiversary to me, and Merry Christmas to all of you. Here's to another year of filling your computer screens with cooking, knitting, ranting about work, and various other sundry ramblings.

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Now back to packing.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pack It Up

Closing is Friday.

Let me repeat that. We are closing on the house this Friday.

OMG I HAVE PACKED NOTHING.

The realization of how soon we will need to move has hit me full force this weekend.

My first official packing task was to frantically file all our loose paperwork. Steven found it amusing that I was sitting cross-legged on the floor with a ring of papers spread around me, and he grabbed the camera.

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After a full two days' worth of packing, I am beginning to realize that we really just don't own very much stuff.

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I've packed all the books, I've packed everything but our clothes in the closet, and I've packed everything in the kitchen but our dishes and the various other breakable items. (I meant to buy a few newspapers this weekend to pack the dishes, but I kept forgetting. Blah. I'll get them later.)

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Once we get the keys on Friday, we'll start taking boxes over to the new place so the movers won't have much left to move once they get here.

I can tell you that someone was not being very helpful with the whole packing thing. (He kept jumping into the boxes.)

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Who me? Hey, did you pack the kibble yet?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Just Like Mom Used to Make

You know those meals that remind you of your childhood? This is mine.

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We called it "Poppyseed Chicken," although I rarely remember the dish actually having poppyseeds in it. (We were rather picky eaters as kids, and there was probably some protest over the "weird black bits" in the food.)

The recipe is extremely simple. I have no idea where Mom found it, but it was a staple in our household, and often requested for birthday dinners and the like. And given that it is a quick recipe with very few ingredients, I added it into our weekly meal rotation last week.

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It is my never ending quest to try to cook dinner at home instead of dining out every single weeknight, but (as I've previously complained), it is really tough to whip a dinner together when you walk in the door at 7 PM. I literally drop my bag on the kitchen table and turn on the burners.

So to have a meal that comes together in about twenty-five minutes, I'm totally thrilled. And with that, I give you a brief glimpse into the Steele kitchen. This is my little culinary workspace, replete with spice rack, stand mixer, and my cutting board that I put over the sink to give me more counter space. Also, please note the time on the microwave clock. That's right -- its 7:26 PM and I am plating up the dinner. Sweet.

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Poppyseed chicken is a definite keeper. I ended up boiling the chicken per the recipe instructions, but I think an equally delicious version could be made with roasted chicken pulled from one of those store-bought rotisserie birds. Mmm.

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Thanks for the recipe, Mom. Twenty-something years later, its still delicious.

Poppyseed Chicken Casserole
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 chicken boullion cubes
small container of sour cream
1 can of cream of chicken soup
Ritz crackers
butter and poppyseeds (optional)

Boil chicken until cooked through and place in casserole dish. Microwave 1/4 c. water with boullion cubes for 1 minute. Mix with sour cream and cream of chicken soup. Pour mixture over chicken cubes and top with crumbled Ritz crackers. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 2-3 minutes to crisp topping. (To add poppyseeds, mix poppyseeds with small dab of melted butter, then mix crumbled crackers with butter mixture before topping casserole.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

First Snow

It feels strange to tell you about our first snow, given that it was a freakish 65 degrees out today. But last weekend, we had our first real snowfall of the season.

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It wasn't much, and its certainly gone now, but to this southern-born girl, any accumulation whatsoever is cause for celebration.

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Pringles and Carlie weren't cold; they were just intrigued by the thin layer of white fluff.

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Its a nostalgic thing, the idea of snow and winter and Christmas. Just tonight, we drove through our soon-to-be new neighborhood and looked at all the lights on everyone's houses. It was beautiful, and I am still in shock that its nearly mid-December already.

We've just booked a flight home to see my family, and I'm very much looking forward to hugging each and every one of them. Sometimes the holiday season can be a trying time, but we'll circle the wagons and carry on.

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Happy December to all, and especially to one of my brothers who happens to love winter and tiny snow accumulations just as much as I do. This one's for you, Matt.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Shilla Bakery

Near our house, a new bakery just opened, and I've been dying to try it out. It just so happens to be next-door to our local Five Guys Burgers & Fries, and since we go there fairly often, I asked Steven if we could pop into the bakery on our way to the Burger Mecca.

We bought a couple of little desserts to try, including what looked like a tiny layered cake with an icing flower piped onto the top.

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It tasted like tiramisu and it was delish, if altogether a bit dry.

We also bought a tiny chocolate cake, mostly because it was so wee that I had to have it.

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It, also, was delicious.

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And then, because the bakery is still trying to get the word out about its grand opening, the owners gave us a third dessert to try.

This one was a Boston Creme Pie with teeny sprinkles around the edges. So cute.

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And to top off the cuteness factor, the bakery packaged up all of our little one-person cakes in a little origami fold-up box.

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I especially appreciated the nod to Van Gogh. Classic. The place also serves lunch wraps and frozen yogurt, and those bubble tea drinks with the enormous straws. I am not a fan (it is extremely horrific to sip your drink and have some huge awful thing come up the straw), but if its your cup of tea (pun intended), they have a bunch of different flavors.

Overall, I'd give them a B+ for the pastries. We'll probably go back, if only to get another cute little carrying box.

Shilla Bakery
3250 Old Lee Hwy
Fairfax, VA 22030
(703) 352-1446

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pigs In A Blanket

For all of you who are planning to throw holiday parties requiring the ubiquitous "finger foods," may I present one of my favorite appetizer recipes?

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It isn't even a recipe, per se -- its just sort of "put together instructions."

Step One: Purchase mini crescent rolls and Lil' Smokies. (You can also get regular size crescent rolls and just cut the triangles in half down the middle.)

Step Two: Roll the Lil' Smokies up into the crescent roll dough.

Step Three: Place them on a cookie sheet, heat up that oven, and bake according to crescent roll instructions.

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Step Four: Devour.

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If you take these to your next holiday event, don't expect to bring any back home with you. In a table full of sugary cookies and fruit-and-cheese trays, these little guys get grabbed up pretty quick.

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These are so simple and they always manage to get the "wow" from people. If you make these for a party, you should totally tell everyone that you slaved over them for hours. I won't tell, I promise. It can be our little secret.

(And for all of you keeping track on the home-buying front -- the home inspection went fabulously! Of course, our garage door opener doesn't work, but that's really the worst of it. Hallelujah.)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Last Day of NaNoWriMo ...

And I MADE IT!

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Fifty thousand words. (50,421 words in 90 single spaced pages, to be precise.)

It is not, by any means, in publishable form. And my characters are petty and childish sometimes, and the dialogue drags, and the story itself isn't even finished. (The main characters still have to make up at the firm's Christmas Party, and then everyone can live happily ever after. Yes, it is that cliche.)

But STILL! Fifty thousand words in one month! I didn't think it was possible.

Steven's already told me what my "next book" should be about. He even picked character names and everything. I told him he ought to write it. He shook his head.

"I'm the big-picture person. You get to write the details."

And that's how we do things, folks. :)

Next up? National Novel Editing-and-Rewriting Month...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Turkey Pot Pie

After the classic Thanksgiving spread (and you'd better not forget the cranberry sauce shaped like a can... it is essential to Thanksgiving)...

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(Mr. and Mrs. Pilgrim are also essential.)

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And after the ubiquitous open-face hot turkey sandwich with various reheated side dishes, your humble correspondent began to wonder if there were any other possibilities for that enormous Tupperware dish full of roasted turkey. (Is it just me or does it seem to multiply in there overnight?)

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This morning, as I pondered a frugal way to use up the leftover turkey, I remembered a recipe for chicken pot pie that I'd printed out a while back but never managed to make. I'd been planning to buy a rotisserie chicken to skip the "roast the chicken" part, but hey, I have roasted turkey RIGHT HERE!

With a bit of tweaking... (okay, who am I kidding. I subbed roasted turkey for the roasted chicken in the recipe and halved the whole thing. Other than that, its identical. I do not have the skill set to tweak recipes) ... I am happy to report that Turkey Pot Pie was a total hit in our house.

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In fact, it smelled so good coming out of the oven, I couldn't even get a picture before we'd already dug in.

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Steven even asked for seconds. That is the hallmark of a good recipe.

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(I might have had seconds, too.)

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We've got enough for one more meal, which pleases the budget-checker in me, but its disappearing fast.

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Turkey Pot Pie (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
For the dough:
1.5 cups of flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick of cold unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

For the filling:
3 cups roasted turkey, cubed
1 chicken boullion cube
2.5 cups chicken stock (I actually used 2 cups (one can) plus 1/2 cup of water)
3/4 stick of unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup flour
1/8 cup heavy cream
1 cup frozen carrots
1 cup frozen peas and pearl onions (you can omit the pearl onions if you want)
1 teaspoon dried parsley

To make the pasty, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder together in your blender. Add the diced butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse until the butter globs are the size of peas. Add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. (This can also be made a day or more in advance -- I made the dough this morning before we went out for breakfast, and it sat in the fridge for about 8 hours. No problemo.)

To make the filling, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan and dissolve the bouillon cube in the stock. In a large stockpot, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and the heavy cream. Add the cubed turkey, frozen carrots, frozen peas and onions, and the dried parsley. Mix well and remove from heat.

Roll out your dough to roughly the size of the baking dish you plan to use. (Make sure your dish isn't too huge, or your dough will sink in the middle. You might try two smaller dishes instead of one larger dish.) Brush the outside edges of the baking dish with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the dough to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the baking dish. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

And then grin as your household taste-tester (read: Steven) asks for seconds.