Monday, September 29, 2008

Tapas Dinner Party

We had friends over this past weekend for an evening of tapas and wine. I spent the day cooking -- it was wonderful. I pulled out recipes from my many tapas books and I ended up making 8 different dishes:
shrimp with bousin, basil, and prosciutto
egg and potato omelet
lemon chicken (visually unappealing but tasted OK)
smoked salmon blinis
olive tapanade
prosciutto and manchego/Parmesan wrapped in phyllo dough
baked tomato nests (which sound much better than the name implies...)
blanched almonds (which I forgot to put out...)

Our friends brought wine and homemade nectarine pie and focchia bread. All very good. We ended up sitting at the table and lingering a little longer than anticipated so as to not get a chance to play our newly gifted version of Cranium, but another time.

The kitchen didn't fare too well, but after 2 loads in the dishwasher and many rounds of hand washing, it's finally looking back to normal.

My Aunt would have been proud. I pulled out the Polish dishes (even the Espresso cups) and used these at dinner.

All in all a wonderful night of visiting and enjoying a meal together. Can't wait to do it again - although I'll probably be a little less ambitious on the number of things I try and tackle....

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Re-arranging already

Moving is a great opportunity to cull one's possessions -- giving away usable clothes, dishes, linens, books, etc that are no longer wearable or needed. We'd planned to make our big move something this fall. However due to circumstances beyond our control, our timetable got moved up by several months. It all worked out in the end, as we found a house we truly love. The flip side, however, is that we packed in a short period of time and didn't have much of a chance to really clean out/give away items we didn't need anymore...Fast forward to the past few weeks. We have been going through our respective closets -- especially me who still have her favorite Benetton sweater from 9th grade. Ok, so maybe I can't wear it, but it is still so cool....about 20 years too late!

I took a deep dive and really gave away A LOT of clothes. 4 bags worth. Make that 4 large plastic bags worth. They all went to St. Vincent DePaul so that someone can get a second use out of them. Many of these pieces held lots of memories, which is perhaps why I was holding on to them. There was the rain jacket I wore all through Grad school. Ithaca had it's fair share of rain, but it was starting to look a little ragged and needed to go to the "give pile." I finally gave up (to the dust bin I'm afraid) my favorite pair of black sketcher type shoes. However, the while trim was now a dull brown and the soles were splitting from the rest of the shoes. I always tell myself I'm going to buy 2 pair of my favorite shoes and keep the 2nd in reserve. So far I haven't quite done it. Perhaps now I will.

E did his fair share of thinning out his stuff too. We also tackled the garage a couple of weekends ago. We finished unpacking the last of the boxes. I need to figure out how/what to do with all the childhood mementos, travel trinkets, and other assorted items (ribbons, charms, stamps, etc) that we've each compiled in separate boxes. Each is rather a mismash of things thrown haphazardly into a Rubbermaid bin and stored on the shelf. Perhaps one day when I have some down time I'll start to organize those.

We pulled out items to sell and need to get other items put up and away (hanging the bikes). I found a few more items I hadn't seen in several years, as they were packed up and squirreled away in our old house (less than 1/2 the size of our new place) and hadn't see the light of day since VA.

I've already started moving some of the pictures around the house. I think in our zeal to move in and make it feel like "home," we put things up on the walls perhaps a bit too soon. Now that we've had a bit of time to reflect, we've been playing musical walls. It's just a nice feeling to know that they are our walls. If we put a hole or two in them, it's not like we'll loose our deposit.

What a difference a little piece of paper like a deed makes.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Comfort Food....And anniversaries

I wasn't feeling so well on Sunday and decided to make a batch of Cowboy Casserole. Total comfort food. Reminds me of cooking as a little girl with my mom. I think this recipe came out of a compilation my elementary school put together and sold. One without any pictures, which for this recipe would actually be a good thing. It doesn't really have any visual appeal, but the stomach has a different story. Before I tell you what it is, I should preface the recipe with the following: don't knock it till you try it. I've made this for several friends, many of whom were skeptical at first. Once they tried it, they were sold.

Cowboy Casserole
2 large cans of baked beans (variety of your choosing)
1 lbs of ground beef
dash of onion powder
1-2 tbsp of worshishire (sp?) sauce
1-2 tbsp of BBQ sauce
~12 fresh biscuits (or canned if you're low on time)
2-3 c. of cheddar cheese

Brown the meat. Sprinkle in onion powder and a little salt and pepper to taste. Drain the meat. Pour meat into large casserole dish. Dish in BBQ and worshishire (sp?) sauce. Stir in the 2 cans of beans. Stir in about 1/2 of the cheese. Cover the dish and bake at 350 for about 30 min or so or until the mixture is hot and bubbly. Take out of the oven and place the biscuits on top. Place on half of the remaining half of cheese. Bake until biscuits are browned and cook through (~12-15 min). Take out of the oven and immediately sprinkle on the rest of the cheese.

Pure comfort food heaven.

It was fortunate that I made it on Sunday, as I started feeling crummier as the week went on -- nursing along a cold compounded by allergies. The sagebrush or something equally evil is blooming and taking aim at my head.

We post-poned our anniversary celebration until later this week. Thanks to all for the well wishes. Two years has just flown by!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Wii have succumbed....

We broke down and bought a Wii. After weeks of looking and coming up empty, we just happended to be at Target yesterday and found not only the Wii but also the Wii fit.

Two words...I hurt. Yes, as in I am sore. We played tennis, baseball, golf, boxing (we both got a little winded), and even bowling. What fun. It was especially fun playing one another. We had a blast. If only all exercise was this fun.

The Wii fit board lets you enter in fitness goals...I think I'll like the aerobics. Jury is still out on the yoga.

We'll let you know how it goes....

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sprinkler Woes

Today R and I noticed a problem with the sprinklers. We left for church this morning and I saw a strange sight. The sprinklers were running in the front yard. This was an odd sight, since we have the system programmed to water the front part of the lawn in the wee hours of the morning. By going off in the pre-dawn period, we do not have to water as heavily as if we watered during the late morning (evaporation is a BIG problem here our arid climate); and the water pressure is actually heavier during the early morning hours as opposed to the late morning hours.

By the time we returned, we noticed they were still on and most of the water had runoff to the sidewalk. YIPES! I started playing with the system and was completely flummoxed. I started out checking basic things: battery, fuse, and power source. All of which were snake eyes. I then tried playing with the program. I switched from one zone to another zone, but the water in the front would not desist.

Finally, my lovely wife called our lawn care service representative--who incidentally was also heading out for church--and he suggested shutting off the water main to the irrigation system until someone could show up to troubleshoot the problem.

Later that morning, I returned after washing the car and saw a car pull up to our place. Sure enough, the visitor was one of the guys from the company we have caring for our lawn. I described the situation to him and he diagnosed it right away: clogged filters. We went to the side of our house, and he lifted up two plastic covers from the side of the house, scooped out some thick, dusty residue off a water main filter. We then flicked the water back on and VOILA, it worked.

I thanked him for coming out on a Sunday and helping us. He probably thought we were king sized dweebs!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Our Cannon Beach Adventures

We spent the last four days driving up and down the north coast of Oregon. We stayed in Cannon Beach (highly recommend The Inn at Cannon Beach -- it was wonderful) and used that as our home base for the trip. The last time I was there I was an itty bitty (maybe 8 or so at the most) and E has never been, so it was nice adventure for us both to explore. We started out early on Saturday and made it there by 11 am or so. We did a little browsing in the shops, but were really eager for some good fish and chips and a little beach combing. The tide was coming in, so we figured we'd save Cannon Beach for the morning and headed out south of town for a little drive. We went to a couple of really nice parks -- Hug Point, Acadian, and Oswalt West Park. There were a few pretty view points as well along the way. The weather was cool, but sunny for the most part. He are few snap shots of our Saturday adventures.

Acadian State Park
Hug Point State Park
Hug Point State Park -- another self portrait
Viewpoint along road to Tillamook

On Sunday, we got up early to hit the low tide at Cannon Beach, while peaked at 7:30 am. The sky was a bit gray, but nothing too ominous. Of course, right was we trek down and walk down to the rock (we had a bit of a walk to go to reach it), it started to rain. Actually pour is a better word. We didn't do the best job of packing and somehow forgot our rain slickers. I attribute this to working pretty much right up until we left and I basically packed about 2 seconds before we left. Not my usual plan of attack, but since we didn't have any other option since we were out on the beach and quite a distance from shelter, we just put the cameras in the pack so they stayed dry and enjoyed the cool rain. We saw some blue sky in the distance and held out hope that it would come out way soon. About 15 min later we were blessed with about 5 min of sun before the rain started again. We walked through the tidepools at the base of Haystack rock in both rain and shine and enjoyed seeing various starfish and seastars on the rocks, as well as crabs, mussels, and the ever present barnacles.

Caught in the rain at Haystack Rock

What a difference 15 min makes!

We headed up to Ecola State Park in the afternoon. The scientist in me kept wanting to call it E. coli park. We couldn't decide if it was E-cola or Ec-ola so we settled on E. coli. There was a wedding going on when were there. The bride was gorgeous, but not sure how she managed to walk along the path in the shoes she was wearing.

The sun broke through a little and we were rewarded with a few minutes of calm weather for a walk along the beach. It was quite popular with the surfers. I think at one point we counted over a dozen.

Ecola State Park

We took a drive down south of Cannon Beach (again - but a little farther) past Tillamook to the "Three Capes Scenic Drive." Cape Lookout was by far the prettiest and came complete with a lighthouse tour. I sat that one out and E took the stairs to the top. Cape Mears was also quite pretty, with a long trail out to the ocean. The final cape was crowded and just not very scenic at all. We felt a little cheated out our third cape. Really overdeveloped and not too well preserved.

Cape Lookout State Park

E in the lighthouse at Cape Lookout State Park

Cannon Beach at Sunset

We spent our final full day heading north to Seaside and Astoria. We went to both Fort Clatsop/Lewis and Clark National Park and Fort Stevens. At Fort Stevens, we saw the point where the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean meet - quite amazing. The Lewis Clark Nat'l Park had the guides in period costume. We saw an interesting talk by one of the docents discussing the last few months of the trek there in Oregon until the final completion of the journey. We explored the park a bit before we headed back.

We slept in until 7:30 our final morning (believe or not a luxury to sleep that late) and wandered down one last time to Haystack Rock. Murphy's Law -- the last day you are somewhere and just about ready to leave -- the weather is amazing. We took a few final shots before we headed back home.

Our final morning in Cannon Beach

Not wanting to say goodbye....

We're already planning our next adventure....