Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

As you know, nearly two feet of snow fell here in the DC area last weekend.


And although it wasn't quite this deep by the time Christmas Day rolled around, everything was still pretty snow-covered. It even garnered us an extra day off of work on Monday.

As things go, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Get a day off work? Congratulations, now your car won't start. We got in Steven's car to go to the gas station, and turned the key. The engine revved and revved, but never turned over. So, we had his poor little car towed to the local Nissan dealership that night. I followed the tow truck there in my Mazda. One thing led to another, and we ended up driving home two entirely different cars that night.


I know, crazy, right? We are now the proud owners of a new Xterra and a little Nissan Sentra. I promise I will post pictures, but given all the snow and the nasty roads, the cars aren't in prime form right now. They both need a good scrub and a sunny day in order to be really photogenic. :)

Meanwhile, all the snow made for a lovely white Christmas. We slept in and relaxed the whole day, and then zipped over to a friend's house for dessert. Pringles and I posed by the tree, right before I tore into the presents! (I got a fabulous Cuisinart Food Processor -- the kind with two stackable bowls! It can do everything. I have already made bread crumbs, pie dough, shredded cheese, diced onions, sliced potatoes, and I'm just getting started.)


I realized after we put up the tree that this is actually our very first Christmas tree as a married couple. This is a very sad fact, since we've been married for five years already. We'd always been in one-bedroom apartments before this, and I guess we just figured a tree would take up too much of our precious tiny space. I am thrilled to have a tree this year, and it makes me smile everytime I walk by.

As part of our relaxing Christmas day, I finished knitting one of my planned presents for certain preggo friends/family. I know three pregnant ladies right now, and clearly their babies will need handknit sweaters. Clearly.

The intended giftee will depend on which friends have which gender baby. This is probably going to have to be a girl baby's sweater, so hopefully at least one of them will have a girl. :)


Tulip Sweater, made in several colors of Dream In Color yarn. I bought a kit from Coldwater Collaborative, and I love this little sweater so much, I might go buy about 30 more kits.


I also really love that there are no snaps, buttons, or other little sew-on pieces. Just i-cord to tie the top together. Its a perfectly soft baby sweater.


My schedule is all thrown off, and I don't really feel like Christmas is over yet, because my family is coming to town on Monday, so I'm ready to do MORE Christmas!! I've got presents under the tree for family to open, and I'm putting the final touches on our menu for the week! Bring on Christmas, Part Deux! :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

On Wool Socks And Making-Do

To anyone who might have thought that hand-knit wool socks were somewhat pointless, I give you:

Shoveling The Driveway, 2009


(Um, yeah. That's what it looked like when we opened the garage door...)

Steven managed to cut a sidewalk-sized swath in the snow before I came out to help, and I grabbed the rake (Why do we not own two snow shovels?) and helped get a car-sized lane dug through about 2/3 of the driveway.


And then we gave up and started taking pictures of the massive snowdrifts. I need to illustrate the ridiculousness of this snow for you by giving you something to compare it to. So here's what it looked like LAST time it snowed. This was maybe 3 inches of snow.


And here's what it looked like tonight:


See how we used to have steps in front of our door? Yeah, they're buried under 19 inches of snow. The fire hydrant was buried, too, but Steven dug it out, just in case there was an emergency or something.


In case you aren't convinced yet, here's a car parked on the street. (At least, I think there's a car under there.)


This is about as far as we got with shoveling the driveway. Although my wool-sock-adorned feet were nice and toasty, the snow was up to our knees, so the rest of me was starting to get a bit chilled.


And I learned something else tonight. You can't just shovel 19 inches of snow in one scoop. You've got to shovel the same spot in 6-inch layers, so it takes three scoops to shovel one tiny spot.

Needless to say, we were hungry and tired by the time we gave up on the driveway. Normally when a snow hits, we have ZERO food in our house, and we have to make-do eating cereal all day because I never manage to get to the grocery before we get snowed in.

But lately I've been trying to keep our freezer and pantry well-stocked with the basics (for such a time as this), and as it turns out, my stock-the-pantry plan worked! I had some chicken thighs and frozen snap peas in the freezer, and a box of rice pilaf in the pantry. The result? A surprisingly good impromptu meal for a snow day.


And as a result of this meal, I have now discovered an incredibly delicious and fast way to cook chicken, which I will now share with you.


Honey-Mustard Chicken (adapted from Mark Bittman's Deviled Chicken Thighs)

(This recipe was originally supposed to be spicy. The ingredients included cayenne pepper and tabasco sauce. We, however, are not really spicy-food people. So instead of the hot stuff, I added about 1/3 cup of pure honey. This was a really delicious twist, if I do say so myself, and I am normally quite skeptical of my "flourishes" with recipes.)

8 chicken thighs or a mixture of thighs and drumsticks, about 2 pounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup minced shallot or onion
1/3 cup of pure honey, or to taste (Keep adding honey and tasting until the spiciness of the dijon doesn't make you wince.)

1. Preheat the broiler to its maximum and set the rack about 4 inches from the heat. Season the chicken on both sides and place it in a pan, skin side up. Broil, watching carefully, until the skin is golden brown, about 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, combine the mustard, onion, and honey. (I put the ingredients in my blender to chop the onion more finely.)

3. When the chicken has browned, remove it from the oven and turn it. Spread just a teaspoon or so of the mustard mixture on the underside of the chicken and broil for about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken and spread the remaining mixture on the skin side. Broil until the mustard begins to brown, about 5 minutes.

4. If your chicken is not done at this point, turn off the broiler and turn your oven to 350 degrees, and let the chicken bake for 10-15 minutes until cooked through and juices run clear.

DELICIOUS and so cheap! I love that I was able to whip this up using just the random staples we had on hand. I feel so ... resourceful!

(Ask me how I feel about being snowed in after a few more days of this. I might not be quite so chipper...)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Lot to Live Up To . . .

The firm took all of the attorneys and their spouses out to dinner last Saturday at Morton's in Georgetown. It was a very classy event (and I was very much looking forward to wearing a nice wool sheath dress that I'd just bought from Ann Taylor the day before), so I was on my best and classiest behavior. Minding my P's and Q's, engaging in polite and mildly witty conversation, mostly drawn from my best dinner-party-conversation-source, All Things Considered on NPR.

After we'd all mingled during a standing appetizer course, we all took our seats. Each place setting was bestowed with a thick leather menu that said "Morton's" on the front in gold lettering. Uber-fancy.

I was studiously turning the pages of the menu when one of the partners leaned over suddenly and said to me, "You'd better check the first PAGE of the MENU to make sure that you've SEEN everything!" He was nearly shouting the words.

I looked at him for a second in surprised confusion, and then flipped back to the appetizers page. I scanned the list. Everything looked normal. A long list of normal appetizers -- iceberg lettuce wedge with blue cheese dressing, heirloom tomato salad, crab cakes -- all the usual suspects. He nodded toward the menu again, and I nodded back. "Everything looks delicious!" I smiled.

He grinned and glanced at another partner, who chimed in and said excitedly, "Yes, did you get a good LOOK at the MENU yet??"

I looked at her, then back down at the menu again. I was starting to feel a bit like a crazy person. I stared at the appetizer items again, then flipped back to the main course items, not really sure what I was looking for. I felt my hands getting clammy with nerves. Was this some sort of crazy pop quiz that they give the new associates? "Find the legal issue in the menu"? Did Morton's accidentally leave out the warning about undercooked meats? What am I missing??

Luckily, Steven (the bastion of common sense) was sitting beside me during this entire back-and-forth. I shot him a glance in desperation, and he must have realized I was a bit troubled, because he leaned over and subtly pointed to the inside cover page of the menu.

Here's what it looked like:


"Oh!" (Thank God, its not some insane bar exam question hidden between the mashed potatoes and the creamed spinach after all.) "Thank you!"

The partners all grinned, despite the fact that it took me a solid ten minutes to notice MY OWN FIRST NAME in the menu. Clearly I have set a low bar for their expectations based on this interaction. (Which must mean I can only improve from here on out, right?)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Big Picture

Steven's dad, Dan, has always had a thing for baseball collectibles. One of Dan's prized baseball collectible possessions was an item affectionately called "The Big Picture." It is a picture of the "500 Home Run Club," with signatures from each hitter next to his picture.

The Big Picture includes such greats as: (top row, left to right) Harmon Killebrew, Willie McCovey, Reggie Jackson, Eddie Matthews, Mike Schmidt, Ernie Banks, (bottom row, left to right) Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams.


When Steven was about 12 years old, he and Dan were playing a computer game called "Old Time Baseball." Steven was losing 10-0 in the 8th inning.

Never one to give up hope even in the face of impossible odds, Steven told his dad, "If I come back and win, I want The Big Picture." Dan looked at the score of the game and figured it was a pretty safe bet to make. So they shook on it.

Twelve-year-old Steven then proceeded to come back and win the game, 11-10. For the next sixteen years, Steven and Dan would joke about the fact that Steven was the rightful owner of The Big Picture -- he won it, fair and square -- but The Big Picture remained at his parents' house (mostly because we didn't have a place to put it!)

But now, I am pleased to report that, sixteen years later, Dan has finally made good on his bet. When they visited for Thanksgiving, Dan officially gave us The Big Picture.


Steven immediately went out and bought a stud finder so we could hang up The Big Picture in a place of honor.


He had to get it perfectly level, of course. Nothing less than perfect for The Big Picture, you know.


The Big Picture is now hanging in the hallway right outside of our bedroom. (I think Steven might even reverently touch the frame each morning as he walks out the door to work, in Notre-Dame-Play-Like-A-Champion-Today fashion).


Ahh, there we go. Sluggers to greet us each morning as we wake.


So, a big thank you to twelve-year-old Steven Steele for his youthful perseverance, and another big thank you to Dan Steele for carefully preserving The Big Picture for us for almost two decades. I think Steven really, really likes it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Oh, The Weather Outside Is Frightful

This is what it looked like when I woke up yesterday.


And this is what it looked like by lunch time.




I love it. We stayed in all day yesterday, hunkered down in sweatshirts and thick socks. It was delicious.

Steven did manage to sneak out of the house yesterday evening to snap a picture of the house.


I love the lights. To me, they say: "Welcome! Come and visit us!"


And, since the weather was making everything feel so Christmassy, we decided to go ahead and put up the tree.


(Its plastic.)

(But we did get a real wreath for the door.)


Someone also got to wear one of his Christmas t-shirts. The title was quite appropriate today, as he was trying to bite each ornament as I hung them on the tree.


Kyle Orton even came over to our house this afternoon, just to hang out with the dog.


The stockings were hung by the chimney with care . . . in hopes that they won't spontaneously combust when we actually turn the fireplace on.


It was a very relaxing weekend with much lollygagging around.


Just what we needed. Merry early Christmas, everybody!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Second Annual Arlington Turkey Trot 5K

Last year, Steven and I ran the "First Annual" Arlington Turkey Trot. (It was our first time running this race. I think the race itself has been going on for three or four years now.)

We've decided to make it a tradition (although you can clearly see I have not bought myself any new running clothes in the past year. Yes. I am very cheap.)

Steven had to sit out this year's race because of a sports injury, so Jenny and I represented the family in the "Second Annual" Turkey Trot this year!


We trained dutifully, and as the race started, we got ourselves into a good pace. It was really fun to have our photog-husbands on the sidelines to capture the action.


Guess who else was running the race? That's right, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, along with various elves, and I think I even saw a Gingerbread Man.


It was really foggy that morning, but it wasn't as cold as last year's race. I think there were about 2,000 participants this year.


I think this was around Mile One. Jenny and I grinned like this through the whole race.


Here's the finish line, and you can see the timing clock.


And here's the guy that won. I think his time was somewhere around 15:30, which is just obscenely fast.


And here we come, down the final hill to the big finish! We spotted Steven and Josh in the crowd and picked up our pace even faster.


Our goal was to finish in under 40 minutes. "Jenny! Look at the clock! We did it!"


Kicking in to the finish line....!


I think I am screaming "Yaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" right here.


Um, we pretty much rule. Girl power!


The race gives out these neat timing chips that you tie onto your shoe, so that it can track your exact time. (We got started about a minute after the first runners, so our actual time was even faster than the clock showed at the finish line. Our official time? 35:27. We ROCKED it.


After the race, we took our obligatory photo with Santa.


(Jenny read his info at the bottom of his race number, and it said "Male, 29, Arlington." Now we know where Santa lives. And he's surprisingly younger than I thought he was...)

To reward ourselves for such a successful race, we hit the bagels-and-bananas table.


We had a total blast running it. I have a feeling we'll be doing this again some day.


After all, Jenny is officially a certified road-race runner now. :) 10K, anyone?

And Then There Was Turkey...

There is, quite possibly, nothing in this world that makes me happier than the careful planning and production of a gigantic meal on an important occasion. I love the preparation, I love the meticulous timing of it all, and I especially love when nothing goes terribly, terribly wrong.


(Also, I love Reynolds Oven Turkey Bags.)

Steven's family made the long trek out to our house for Thanksgiving this year, and we were so very pleased to have them. It was also the third official use of the dining room table. (We should eat meals in there more often, but I sort of feel like a weird old British couple when we sit in there alone, just Steven and I.)


We did all of the dishes buffet-style, and I just left them on the countertop for folks to fill their plates and bring them back to the table. It gave us a bit more elbow room at the table that way.


So here's the menu we had: Roast Turkey, Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes, Stove Top Stuffing (classy, I know), Sweet Potato Casserole, Green Bean Casserole, Cranberry-Sauce-Shaped-Like-A-Can, and homemade dinner rolls, from this recipe. The dinner rolls didn't come out the way I'd imagined, and I think it was for lack of a decent amount of rise time (I stuck the dough in the fridge after about an hour of rising. Big mistake.)


Over on Table number Two, we had the "assorted snacks and desserts," including my mom's famous Spiced Pecans recipe, a Pumpkin Pie, and a Nutella Cake, a la Nigella Lawson. It was SO rich but also very good (and a little droopy in the center, but who's really looking?)


We also made an Apple Pie that really was more of an apple pizza, from this recipe. It was my favorite dessert of the three, by far. I like it because you could make it on a cookie sheet and it didn't really matter if you couldn't roll the dough out into a perfect circle (which I totally can't).


Here's Steven's Thanksgiving plate. (Now I know where all the gravy went...)


And here's the happy family, ready to dig in. Another Thanksgiving meal, successfully completed, with no unmitigated disasters whatsoever. (Hallelujah.)


After the meal, there were groans of "Oh, I'm soooooo stuffed..."

Music to my ears, people. That's the best thing a Thanksgiving cook can ever hope to hear.