Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Swore He'd Never Drive One Again...

When we first moved to Northern Virginia, we rented a 10-foot Uhaul truck, packed up all our meager belongings (we had been married for a week, so we had our wedding presents and the clothes on our backs, essentially...) and drove to Arlington, me in my old Isuzu Rodeo (back before it got impounded, which is a whole other story...) and Steven behind the wheel of the U-Haul truck.

And right as we hit 66 East, it started to rain. And RAIN. Steven called me on my cell phone as he drove behind me. His voice was frantic and urgent.

"The wipers! They... they won't wipe fast enough! I can't see anything!" He hung up before I could even offer any comfort. Apparently he couldn't afford to let go of the wheel long enough to hold the phone to his ear.

Somehow, by the grace of God, we pulled into the tiny crowded parking lot, right in front of our first little one-bedroom, 400 sq. ft. apartment. Steven's first words, upon jumping down from the truck in the pouring rain? Not we made it, not hi honey, but instead:

"I am never. Never. NEVER DRIVING ONE OF THOSE TRUCKS EVER AGAIN."

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I am here to report that this past Saturday, at 9 AM, our dear Steven had to eat his words.

(I made sure to document the entire experience, of course.)

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We picked up the U-Haul and headed to our planned destination. Per our obscure Mapquest directions, we got a nice little tour of D.C. on the way there. Here, you can see we drove through the parking lot of the Pentagon... (who knew it had a daycare on site?!)

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And then we saw the Washington Monument (through a dirty windshield) ...

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And then we arrived at our destination: a townhouse in Alexandria that had listed a WHITE CIRCLE TABLE for sale! (A hearty thank you to the blogless friend of my sister-in-law, Jenny, who recommended perusing Craigslist for a white circle table. Steven found a perfect one, and we snatched it right up.)

And then we had to figure out how to get it home. On Friday afternoon, we measured my trunk, glanced disdainfully at Steven's two-seater (lovely car but useless for hauling furniture around), and rang up U-Haul.

"Hello, could we rent a Cargo Van?"

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Almost immediately after leaving the seller's house, I heard a terrible crunching sound next to us, and turned my head just in time to see the end of a car accident. (Nobody hit our Cargo Van, don't worry. Although we did get the insurance...) Not wanting to stop up traffic, we handed them our name and number and zipped on out of there (as fast as a Cargo Van can zip, anyway). (They have not called me yet. I assume they worked it out amongst themselves.)

I spent the rest of the drive home fretting that the table might not fit in our kitchen. But all of my worrying was for naught. It fits beautifully.

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I love it muchly, and I am now demanding politely requesting that we eat all of our dinners sitting at the table, instead of parked in front of the TV.

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(I will eventually wean him from the computer as well. Give him time. It is almost baseball season, after all. A man's got to keep up with the latest trades, acquisitions, and Twins commercials, right? ("Hi, we're here to paint the corners...")

Monday, February 23, 2009

Helping

You know that old children's book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?

Well, if you give a dog a laundry basket...

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They are going to want to sleep in it.

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And they are going to be so cute that you won't want to disturb them to wash the laundry.

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And you will, resultingly, have very cute pictures and zero clean underwear. (Adorable little laundry monsters, aren't they?)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Video Blog (VLOG) From our Kitchen

Hello folks - Steven here. 

Thought we would post a video from my new MacBook, straight to you from our Kitchen.

Enjoy!


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Banana Bread and Twitter

Does anyone other than me start to get excited when bananas start to look a bit less than, well, fresh? Is that an odd thing to get excited about?

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Because I don't see nearly spoiled bananas here, folks. I see hopes, dreams, possibilities. I see a delicious loaf of banana bread, ripe for the baking. (Terrible pun. I know. Forgive me.)

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This is one of the amazing recipes I swiped from my Mom's recipe cabinet last time we were in Georgia.

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And I officially adore this recipe, although I would adjust the cooking time to about twice the length. (Especially if you are like me and too impatient to bake the loaves separately.)

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Even with a doubly-long baking time, the loaves didn't dry out -- they just got this fantastically delicious crunchy crust around the sides and top.

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Steven doesn't particularly like banana bread (I think that's rather Communist of him, but he's been insisting on chocolate chip cookies and nothing else will do...), so I had a big slice and took the rest to work, where it was devoured.

(Oh, who am I kidding. I brought one of the loaves back home with me and ate the whole thing myself. Every last crumb.)

Mmmmm.

Mom's Banana Nut Bread
1/2 cup butter (I used margarine. It was all we had.)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour milk (regular milk - skim - with 1 tsp. vinegar)
1 tsp. vanilla (I got to use my Penzey's Mexican Vanilla!!)
1 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1.5 cup flour
3 bananas, ripe as they can be
1 cup chopped walnuts

Cream together butter and sugar. Add vanilla and eggs. Beat well. Stir baking soda into milk. Add alternately with flour. Add bananas and walnuts. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes (I baked the two loaves for closer to 45 min to 1 hour).

As a random aside, I signed up for Twitter today (mostly because we started talking about it at work and I was intrigued), so you can "follow" our activities via the little updates in the side bar. There's no telling whether I'll keep up with the posting on a regular basis, but it seems like a fun idea.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Impressed with Ikea

While I love my kitchen, there was still a sense that something was missing. I never had enough space to chop things or put food on a plate, and if I wanted to get something from the fridge, it was quite a trek to find a spot to put it down on the counter.

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Steven and I agreed that we definitely want a white circle table with four chairs right under that hanging light, but we went to Ikea and didn't particularly like the white tables they had. They looked sort of plasticky, like they belonged in a preschool with kids coloring right onto the tops of them.

However, Steven spotted an absolute gold mine that I was not expecting from Ikea. When you hear the word Ikea, you automatically think particle-board bookshelves that fall apart if they are ever moved.

So you can imagine my surprise to see a freestanding kitchen island with a butcher-block top at Ikea.

It totally came home with us. In a big flat box. (Actually it was 4 big flat boxes. We bought chairs, too.)

Three hours, two screwdrivers, one drill, and a few choice bruises later, I am pleased to present my new favorite thing.

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It still needs to be sanded and treated with mineral oil, but I bought the wrong stuff at Home Depot (I bought something called "pre-stain wood conditioner." The outside of the can says it could spontaneously combust. I am returning it, post-haste.), so I still need to go get some proper, non-toxic, food-safe mineral oil.

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I had a case of purchase anxiety right at the register and almost didn't buy the chairs. Chairs are always so expensive. I hate that, and I wondered whether I could find a cheaper version at Target.

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But once we got them home, I am so incredibly glad we got them. They are designed to fit perfectly with this island, and I think if I'd tried to get a different type of chair from somewhere else, it would have looked mis-matchy.

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I think there's still space for our white circle table. We've seen one at Target, but its online-only, so I'm hesitant to order it. Does Target let you return online-only stuff?

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For now, this is my new favorite little thinking spot in the house. I sat here this past weekend and plotted out my grocery trip. I intend to eat breakfast every morning sitting right there.

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Its just so nice to finally have a place to sit and eat that isn't my couch and coffee table. I had no idea what I was missing, but I seriously love it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

All week, I'd been telling Steven that I had a surprise Valentines gift planned for him on Saturday.* It drove him crazy trying to figure out what I'd planned, and I was so excited to actually have caught the holiday before it passed that I didn't even consider that Steven would have planned a surprise of his own.

I arrived home from work Friday night to this:

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(He told me later that he wrapped it in "whatever was in the mail." And that utter practicality, my friends, is why I love him so.)

I nearly squished Pringles with the excitement of it all.

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So what was inside?

First, a very sweet card. It has become a tradition that Steven always writes me a fabulous little message in a card for every birthday, Christmas, and other celebrations. I keep them all. I love nothing more than a little handwritten note from him. (I think his secret goal is to get me to shed a tear reading the message. The one inside this card got me misty eyed. Yep, he's good.)

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Remember all my big lasagna garden plans? Well, now I have a gardening journal to plot out the perfect vegetable garden.

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I am such a sucker for Moleskine.

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And, just to prove he really was listening to all of my incessant chatter, he found exactly the right book for me. :)

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I have been reading it voraciously. I bought some newspaper this weekend, and I moved around all of the garden stones to block off a little portion. The dirt looks good, and there are HUGE earthworms in it already. I think I'll get it all laid out next weekend, seeing as how I don't have tomorrow off (O, Cruel Injustice of the World), but its alright, because I really only have enough compost for a single layer right now.

Work in progress, right?

*You're dying to know what my Saturday surprise was, eh? I got a coupon in the mail (Val-Pak rules!) for an hour-long massage for the two of us. It was supposed to be us in the same room, but the place was overbooked, so we had to do two separate rooms. It was still quite luxurious. Afterwards, as we were driving home, Steven looked out the window thoughtfully and said, "We really should do that more often."

I second that motion.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An Outing and Penzeeeeeys!

I always manage to unwittingly learn a lesson when I least expect it. This weekend's lesson? It comes in three parts:

Part one: I am slowly learning that I am terribly, and perhaps even incorrigibly, un-punctual. I was half an hour late to Jaimy's brunch date, and its not like I had anything keeping me from leaving on time. I just somehow manage to stuff too many events into too small a timeslot, and it results in my being late to everything.

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Part two: I always forget to factor in my fantastic ability to get lost. Which, as one might imagine, negatively reacts with #1 above, and suddenly I've left you sitting at a table alone, drinking your fourth cup of coffee, wondering if I stood you up, when really, I missed the turn because there was a Big Sign! And it read Free Mulch! And it distracted me from the course at hand and then I started thinking about how badly I need to get my garden started and how on earth am I going to get someone to build me a raised garden bed, and then all of a sudden I'm in Clarendon instead of Shirlington.

Oops.

But then comes Part Three of the lesson, in which I learn that I really ought to spend more time hanging out with friends, because I have such a delightful time when I finally get out of my house and find them, wherever they've hidden themselves.

Look! Its Jaimy! I actually made it! (And we are color-coordinated!)

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Jaimy's back after a jaunt in Colorado, where she managed to learn much more about tax law than I will ever, ever know, and now she's even scored a sweet side gig as a restaurant reviewer. To bide the time before her food critic career skyrockets, Jaimy intends to land a sweet tax gig around these here parts, too, so for all of you tax lawyers reading this, hire this girl up because she is fabulous.

No, seriously. Do it now. Don't make us come after you. We are fierce.

After brunch at Luna Grill (wherein I had a version of Eggs Benedict, only with spinach instead of ham, and after too much coffee, I frightened the waiter into taking the above picture of us... ("Hi,areyoubusyOkgreattakethispicturerealquick")), I coerced Jaimy into driving all over the countryside -- first to her apartment, so that I could get the grand tour (since I flaked out on the housewarming party), and then to Penzey's Spices in Falls Church!

And Oh.

Oh. My.

It was a mecca. A haven.

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Walls and walls of fantastic spices and mixes and stocks.

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I wanted one of everything. But I especially wanted one of their pepper grinders. (Don't worry, I have notified Steven accordingly. I like to keep him advised of birthday present ideas as they occur to me. Sporadic, yes, but I think he finds it helpful.)

(PS - Dear? Here's a picture, for your reference. Only I want the darker wood one.)

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They have these huge gift boxes of different spice combinations, which I loved. This one was a "Baker's Box," and it had things like Dutch Process Cocoa, Mulling Spices, Vanilla Sugar, and Pure Almond Extract.

Clearly, I need to own this.

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You will be impressed with my level of purchase restraint. I think it all goes back to wanting a nice dining room table before a 20 oz. jar of Star Anise.

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Here's what I got:

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Tuscan Sunset sounded like something Steven would enjoy -- and I figured it wasn't too risky of a purchase. We're always having pasta, pizza, or some other random Italian food, so it seemed like a good fit.

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I used the pepper in our potato soup for dinner tonight. Delish, although only slightly different than what I've previously used. A bit stronger bite to it, maybe.

And I also got:

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I first saw this stuff in my cousin Becky's house, and it resulted in a batch of extremely delicious chocolate chip cookies. Cookie making around this place will be commencing, post-haste.

I must go back to that place. I must.

Jaimy? You game? I swear to show up at least within the hour we planned to meet. . . .

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Call Me An Electrician

("Hey, you're an electrician!")

Well, not quite, but today (against my better judgment), Steven and I tackled changing out a few light fixtures. Turns out, its not as difficult (or scary) as I thought. (But it does make your arms tired to hold them over your head for that long.)

Why? Why would we risk life and limb to install our fixtures when we'd never done anything like that before?

Listen closely, dear readers, and I will tell you why. It is because Steven said the magic words. The magic Marty-Mc-Fly-Hates-Being-Called-A-Coward words. The words that will prompt me to try just about anything (within reason and within the confines of the law).

"I bet you can't do that."

Them's fighting words, ya'll. I was up on that ladder before he could even blink. (Sometimes I think he does it on purpose. For example, the time he said "I bet you can't cook me a batch of coconut macaroons before 8 PM," or the other time when he said "I bet you can't finish that laundry AND do the dishes." Hmm. Maybe he's onto something...)

Anyway, here's Before-And-After, Part Deux:

The dining room, WAY before:

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Looking better with some paint (and no more purple curtains), but that fixture was still bothering us.

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Shut off the power, climb the ladder, say a little prayer, and VOILA!

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The upstairs fixtures used to drive me crazy with the weird shadows they cast on the walls.

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With a little precarious balancing, we changed both of them out, and I LOVE the new ones.

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The fixture in our foyer was rather outdated, not to mention DIRT-AY, and how on earth would we get up there to clean it?

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If you are thinking we somehow managed to climb all the way up there to change that fixture, you are mistaken. We totally hired somebody.

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(And it was totally worth it.)

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Here's the carnage from today. I'm thinking of putting them on E-bay.

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(Would it be worth my trouble? Are these worth anything?)

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Today was a big day, and I've got more to show you (including an outing with Jaimy and our trip to Penzeys (!), but I've still got to finish documenting what I bought there.)

It was very empowering to figure out how to install the new fixtures. I feel very accomplishment-y. Anybody need me to come install their light fixtures? Will install for coffee/yarn/Penzeys spices...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Proof That No One Really Reads Their Email Anymore

These are all from last week.

Example Email 1:

From: Steven
To: Coworker
Subject: The File You Requested

Coworker,

Here is the file you requested. It is password protected. Please use this password: jtle%$435

Thanks,

Steven

----------------------

From: Coworker
To: Steven
Subject: RE: The File You Requested

Steven,

I can't open this file -- there is a password. Can you send me the password?

Thanks,

Coworker

-------------------------------------

Example 2:


Friday, 3:52 PM


From: Heather
To: Coworker
Subject: Next Week

Dear Coworker,

On Monday of next week, let's discuss that issue with the Pruitt file. Maybe around 10 AM?

Thanks,

Heather

-----------------------------
Friday, 3:53 PM
[Coworker, arriving in doorway of Heather's office:] "Hey, got your email. You wanted to see me about the Pruitt file?"

--------------------------------------
Example 3:

From: Heather
To: Coworker
Subject: Margo Case
Attachment: File.doc

I've completed my review of the file for the Margo Case. Here it is for your review. Let me know when you want to discuss.

Thanks,

Heather

--------------------

From: Coworker
To: Heather
Subject: RE: Margo Case

Heather,

Can you please send me the file to look at?

Thanks.

-------------------------------

(And my personal favorite:)
Example 4:

From: Steven
To: Coworker
Subject: Paperwork

Dear Coworker,

I have completed the paperwork you needed. I can have it ready for you next week. What day would you like to come pick it up?

Sincerely,

Steven

-------------------------

From: Coworker
To: Steven
Subject: RE: Paperwork

Cool.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Yep, 6 More Weeks of Winter

I'm writing this from Steven's new computer.  It is not like mine.  This has resulted in my realization that I don't like change all that much.  

Last weekend, the temperatures here hit the low 60s, and I frantically googled the instructions for a lasagna garden, with hopes that I could get at least some spinach into the ground before it got cold again.

And then this happened.

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And me and Pringles, well, we've decided we aren't leaving the house again until it stops being all cold and frosty white outside.  Carlie and Steven remain unfazed.  I think Carlie might actually be Canadian.  She is impervious to cold.

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This is Steven's perception of what I look like every night, determinedly trying to figure out where and how I will plant a garden in the backyard.  All this planning - its tough work, I tell you.

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Luckily, the return of Jack Frost has granted me a few more weeks to plot and ploy my raised beds.  I also need a good amount of compost to make this whole lasagna garden thing happen, and I can't figure out how or where to get any.  And not one single place in this whole huge metropolitan area is selling a compost bin right now.  Not a single place.  

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So, as I write this, there may or may not be a big black garbage bag in my backyard with about 30 lbs of wet leaves, hopefully composting away.  Under the snow, that is.

Maybe I'll start my vegetable garden in 2010.  I think I'm going to need this first year to just get my bearings.