Thursday, December 29, 2011

Viva, Las Vegas

This year was our first Christmas without my Mom. My sister and I were kind of at a loss as to what to do, since we usually spent the holiday at home. We were tossing around ideas and decided to do something completely different, so we went to Las Vegas.

We flew out on Christmas Day and had three hour layover in Milwaukee. We were really lucky that the weather was mild (we were worried that we would get stuck there with snow) and even more lucky that a friend of mine was able to come out the airport to meet us and let me monopolize her baby.

We got in very late on Sunday night and had Christmas with my sister and room service. We stayed at Treasure Island. She had been in Vegas for about 8 hours already and had done all kinds of reconnaissance for us. Then we crashed.

Monday morning, Jim and I went on a tour of Hoover Dam. This was really an amazing sight. The construction process and how they had to divert the Colorado River is just a marvel. We took the tour of the power plant and got to go 540 feet down into the dam. On the way back, we stopped at Ethel M Chocolates (the M is the Mars candy people). Unfortunately they weren't making candy because of the holiday, but we still got a sample and bought some chocolates.

Monday night, we had a fantastic dinner at StripSteak in the Mandalay Bay casino. Big thanks to whichever friend it was that mentioned the Black Friday deal on, because we never would have eaten there otherwise. They brought us an amuse of duck fat fried potatoes with matching dipping sauces and Sara ordered the bacon lobster fritters appetizer. Jim had the biggest slab of steak I've seen in a long time. I had the loup du mer (sea bass) and my sister had an absolutely divine waygu rib cap steak that melted in your mouth. We all shared a side of bacon creamed spinach and scalloped potatoes.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you about Tuesday.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Day #18

This is really the card for Sunday, but this weekend has been so messed up that we ended up doing it tonight. We love driving around and looking at holiday lights. My sister (wave hi, Sara) and family used to do this at home and she invented the term Christmas Craptactular to describe this particular type of holiday excess.

In the last week or so, we saw both of these houses on television and made it a mission to find them. The first one we saw on HGTV's Extreme Christmas: Bigger and Brighter. After the show, Jim somehow figured out who and where exactly this house was. We drove down there and there was a huge line of traffic, but so worth it. The lights were synced to music and if you tuned your car radio to the right channel, you could listen along to the show.

From there we went to the second house. This one we saw on the nightly news. Unfortunately, it was there because some teens were caught on home security vandalizing the display. The homeowner was out, handing out candy canes and talking to visitors. He said that whatever those kids were up to backfired, because he never had more support and help from the neighborhood in restoring the display. However, this will be the last year that they do the decorating, as it is just too much work. I'm really glad that we made it by.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Countdown

Do you remember those paper chains you made when you were a kid to count down the days til Christmas? This is a grown-up version of that. I saw this idea on Pinterest and I knew immediately that I wanted to do it for Jim. December ends up being so busy that sometimes we don't spend enough time appreciating each other in all the hustle and bustle. This countdown is just a daily reminder of how much I love my husband.

I took scrapbooking paper and made a card for December 1 through December 25. Then I took the calendar and and started planning my notes for the backs. Two-thirds of the cards have compliments on them. The remaining one third are either fun holiday activities or small things I can do for him. I made sure that I knew which days were weekend days, so that I could put activities on days when we could stay up later or when we had more time.

I can't show you any of the card backs, because he hasn't seen them yet, but I will give you some ideas that I didn't use. For compliments, you could say something like I love the way you look in that blue sweater. It really brings out the color of your eyes or I love that you always make time to have a tea party with our daughter/niece/godchild. Some examples of activities are a date to go ice skating or have an epic snowball fight. Making the dinner/dessert of his choice or doing a chore that he normally does would be great ideas, too.

The idea originally came from the blog The Dating Divas. The cards are hanging on the dining room wall and I think they add a cheerful decoration to an otherwise blank space. I hope Jim enjoys his Christmas countdown.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Turkey Rice Soup

My Mom always made turkey rice soup with the leftover turkey bones from Thanksgiving. I used to complain about this soup when I was growing up, but this year I decided I wanted it. I called my sister and asked her to look through Mom's recipe boxes and see if she could find it. No luck. Add this to the long list of little things that I wish I had asked Mom for or about.

I could remember that it started with the carcass and had tomatoes, rice, carrots and probably onion, because everything did, so I started with that and asked Google for some recipes. I found one that looked close, so I started there. I think I got pretty close.

Turkey Rice Soup

9-10 lbs turkey (bones and trimmings)
2 1/2 qts chicken stock
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground pepper (fresh)
1 cup converted rice (regular) - I used a bag of boil in the bag rice
3 carrots (thinly sliced)
1/2 medium onion (diced)
1 bay leaf
14 oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)

Break up turkey to fit in a 5 quart Dutch oven; add the water, salt and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove bones and meat from broth and cool until you can handle it, then remove the meat from the bones and cut it into bite-sized pieces.

Skim the fat from the broth, then add the meat, tomatoes, rice, carrots, onions and bay leaf to the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes or until the rice, carrots, and onions are tender.

Remove the bay leaf and serve.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Operation Christmas Child

This project has been my official kick-off to the holiday season for the last ten years or so and I really love it. Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan's Purse International Relief, an organization run by Franklin Graham, Billy Graham's son.

Here is how you pack a shoe box. First, decide if your box is for a boy or a girl and what age - 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. Next, get an empty shoe box. You can use a regular cardboard box, but I like to use a plastic one, because it can be used for something else later.

Then you fill the box with school supplies (I like to get these during back-to-school sales),

hygiene items, and

then the fun stuff (toys, small flashlights, batteries, hard candies)

I need pencil sharpeners, combs, maybe playing cards and some more candy, and then these boxes are ready to go. There are a few rules for what goes in a box. They don't want you to seen war toys because these kids see enough of that, so no army men, cowboy pistols or any of that stuff. They don't want you to send chocolate, liquids or breakable items (for obvious reasons).

Once your box is packed, label it and take it to a drop off location, along with a check for $7 to offset the cost of shipping them. This year OCC is doing something new. If you donate your fee on line, they send you a special label with a bar code that will let you track where you box goes. I'm very excited to try this out.

If you want to pack a box, you still have time. Drop off continues until Monday, November 21.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Hello, Cleveland!"*

Way back in September, my best friend (wave hi Christine) called me up and said, "If I buy tickets to see Duran Duran four days after your birthday, will you come visit me?" Um, hellz yeah, sign me up! [n.b. We saw them play twice in 1988/89 in Atlanta and I haven't seen them since.]

I flew out to Cleveland on Wednesday afternoon before the show that evening. It was my first time flying Southwest, which is a little interesting. It was my first time at BWI airport, too. I'm not a fan - it's very difficult to find a bathroom there. The flight itself was short and easy, even though we were delayed nearly an hour taking off. Not really a fan of Cleveland's airport either; I swear there is not an arrivals/departures board anywhere in the airport.

For dinner before the show, we went to Bricco, which is directly across the street from the theatre. We had an appetizer of goat cheese in spicy marinara with fried pita and the bartender recommend a great wheat beer (Weihenstephaner) to me. I had the risotto for my entree and my friend had the parmesan crusted tilapia. All of it was great. Then we headed across the street.

The band was playing at Playhouse Square, in the State Theatre. Playhouse Square is the largest performing arts complex outside of New York City, with eight stages, 1000+ performances a year and over 1,000,000 visitors. The State Theater was built in the 1920s as a movie house and is the largest of the theatres at Playhouse Square. We got to our seats just in time to catch the end of the opening act, a band I have never heard of and that wasn't really my style. Duran Duran, on the other hand, is just my style and they sounded exactly the same as they did in the 80s. They played a great mix of their older hits and newer songs.

The next day, we went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. after lunch at Great Lakes Brewing Company. There are a lot of microbreweries in Cleveland and I think I had more beer while I was there than have all year (I tried the Dortmunder Gold, to go with my bratwurst and pierogis. We were in the museum for about four hours and seriously could have spent another two hours. They have thousands and thousand of pieces of memorabilia from the roots of rock and roll in bluegrass, gospel, jazz and blues all the way through a stage costume worn by Lady Gaga last year. You could spend a hour or more just watching the multimedia production that tells about all of the inductees.

For dinner that night, we went to Lolita, which is a Michael Symon (of Iron Chef fame) restaurant. For me, the highlight of the meal was the Big Board, a selection of house cured meats. Holy cow, was it good. There was prosciutto, sopressata, a lamb pate, a chicken liver mousse, a shredded duck packed under duck fat and a cured sirloin. I also had a good beer here, called White Rascal, from Avery Brewing.

Even though it was gray and raining horizontally, I could tell that Cleveland is really a pretty cool place to live. Friday night, there was a great happy hour party at my friends' house, with homemade pumpkin beer. We will have to go back in the summer for baseball and to see the art museum, natural history museum, zoo and the Great Lakes Science Center as well as all the parks that we missed on this trip.

* Bonus if you know where I got the title for this post.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Crossing One Off the List

Today I did something awesome. I paid off the last of my credit cards and scratched that off of my 101 Goals list. Now, I have two that I can use for emergencies and one that I use and pay off every month. It feels great!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Adventures in Commuting

Left Work - 5:30 p.m.
Got Home - 8:15 p.m.
Total Commute - 2 hours, 45 minutes
Normal Commute - about 1 hour

It's been awhile since I've written a blog about interesting things that happen on my commute. Today's was a doozy. Shortly before 5:00 tonight, someone fell or jumped onto the tracks at the Clarendon Metro station and was struck by a train. [Update - Metro authorities are reporting that the person intentionally jumped in front of the train. He was rescued from the track and taken to the hospital.] As you would expect, this created havoc on the subway system. Trains were not running between Rosslyn and Ballston - this is the way I go home.

Trains were running to Rosslyn where Metro was shuttling riders to Ballston by bus. I got on an Orange Line train to Rosslyn, only we didn't stop at Rosslyn because the station was so crowded that they were not letting anyone else off. Instead we were diverted to the Blue Line to Arlington Cemetery (6:17 p.m.).

I catch a train back to Rosslyn and get off there and we are informed that due to overcrowding, Rosslyn Station is now closed. Furthermore, the escalators are all out, which looks like this, so I walked up the longest escalator in the metro system (6:29 p.m.). Many people were in serious distress by the time they reached the tops and several ambulances were called to the station.

I finally get outside, but every bus is jammed full and not picking up any passengers, either the shuttle buses or the buses that normally stop at the Rosslyn Station (6:42 p.m.). At 6:56 p.m., Metro employees said the station was reopened, so I headed back inside.

After nearly fainting and sitting down in the middle of the aisle of the train, someone got up and gave me a seat. I just got way too overheated and stressed out. At 7:41 p.m. I finally got a break when I got to Dunn -Loring and the bus pulled up right when I got outside. One bus ride and a short walk later and I was finally home at 8:15 p.m. You can read more news coverage here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Atlantic City

Yesterday, Jim and I took a charter bus up to Atlantic City. There were a few glitches in the trip, but on the whole, we had a great time.

We were told to that the bus would be leaving promptly at 8:00 a.m. from our favorite Mexican restaurant (who arranged the charter). Well, the bus didn't show up on time and then we had to load it up a ridiculous amount of liquor, so we finally left at about ten to 9:00. Which, if you ask me, is way too early in the morning for an open bar. The drive took about three and a half hours, but really wasn't too bad. I knitted the whole way up.

As soon as we got there, Jim and I headed to the Boardwalk so we could get lunch. Then we just walked up and down for a while. We were going to try to take pictures of all of the Monopoly streets and make our own game board, but they turned out to be hard to find, so we settled for this one. We also bought salt water taffy and fudge.

Then we went to Ripley's Believe It or Not, because I will not miss the chance to see some weird stuff and get a pressed penny for my collection.

We finally went to the casino around 3:00 and started off playing slot machines with the $20 credit that we got as part of the group. About an hour before we were scheduled to leave, we finally got an open seat at the $1 blackjack table which was excellent fun! I wish we had gotten on earlier. I kept a one dollar chip as a souvenir. We didn't win a lot but we didn't lose a lot either, so I was ok with that.

We headed back around 7:00 p.m. and got back to the car at about 10:30 and boy was I ready to be off the bus. About half the bus had been drinking way too long at that point and it was just obnoxious. Still, we had a good time and would love to go again some day.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Home on the Range

Some of you that know me in real life might be surprised to know that we have quite a large collection of firearms in our house - four handguns, three shotguns and a rifle. Jim got the shotguns a long time ago to use when he went hunting with his dad. He got the first of the handguns when someone tried to break into his first apartment, then added the others over time. I'm not sure how he came to have the rifle.

While I personally never wanted to own a gun, I don't care if others do as long as they are responsible with them. Therefore, since they are in my house, it's imperative that I know how to load, unload and shoot them. So off to the firing range we went.

We go to a firing range in Springfield called Sharp Shooters. This was actually my second trip there. We took three of the handguns with us today, the 9mm automatic, the .45 automatic and the .357 revolver.

They may have to revoke my membership card in the Democratic Party, because it turns out that I really enjoy shooting and shockingly I'm not that terrible at it. It's a shame that it's such an expensive hobby. I prefer the smaller caliber guns - the kick on the .45 is pretty hard, plus it has a tendency to shoot casings back onto my collarbone. Not painful, but irritating. The first time we went, Jim rented a .22 for me to shoot and I liked that one best of all. So he bought one. Yeah, that's right, he bought me my own gun.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Home Improvement

What is it about a holiday weekend that makes me want to tackle home improvement projects? And why does every home improvement project require a minimum of three trips to the Home Depot?

This weekend I decided that we (isn't it nice how I committed Jim to help me) would finally do the chair rail in the dining room. This is a project that would have been sooooo much easier with power tools, but you work with what you've got. In our case, a miter box. It's a good thing I had Jim's help because I never would have gotten these cut by myself.

First piece is up!

The walls in this condo are all bowed to some degree. Most of the time, it was fine and some nails in addition to the construction adhesive would do the trick. This is the worst of all and we ended up shimming the crap out of it. It's probably not the best fix, but I think it looks ok.

These little pieces to finish the exposed ends were a total pain in the butt.

All finished!

Lessons learned:

1. Get power tools.

2. The walls in this condo are ridiculously curved. Stupid old building.

3. Coping a chair rail is not as easy as it looks on You-Tube.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I'll Take Things That Don't Happen Here for $100, Alex.

This afternoon, we had an earthquake. An honest to goodness earthquake. In Washington, D.C.

From the USGS website, at 1:51 p.m. today we experienced a 5.9 magnitude earthquake, centered 9 miles SSW from Mineral, Virginia. According to my friends on the internet, it was felt as far south as Athens and as far north as Toronto. I didn't even know that Virginia was on a fault line.

This was my first earthquake and it's really hard to describe. It was exhilarating and terrifying all at once. I was in my office,when I heard a rumbling like someone was jack hammering on the floor above us. Then it got worse, and I could see the glass in the window wobbling. At that point, I got up and moved to the doorway. The tremors tapered off and the whole thing was over in about 40 seconds. So far, there haven't been any aftershocks but I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few more this evening.

Jim called about five minutes later to say they had evacuated the Kennedy Center (they weren't allowed back in for a hour) and many other buildings, including the Capitol, evacuated but I never left our office.

Everything seems to be ok. Metro is still running, but may have a few delays as they check out the tracks for damage. I'm sure Rex is all kinds of freaked out and I'm interested to see if anything fell down when I get home. If so, I'll come back and post a picture.

n.b. Rex seems to be unfazed and I couldn't find anything moved in the house.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

August 2011 Restaurant Week

Restaurant Week is wrapping up this weekend, so tonight we once again ventured out to try a restaurant that we normally would not be able to afford. If you haven't seen my past entries for Restaurant Week (here and here), twice a year restaurants in the area offer a three course prix-fixe menu for lunch ($20.11) and dinner ($35.11).

Tonight we went to Open Kitchen in Falls Church. The restaurant is very unassuming, tucked away on the first floor of a commercial office building. They have the bistro, but the restaurant actually started as a shared commercial kitchen for entrepreneurs who needed a licensed kitchen for their food businesses. Open Kitchen also offers cooking classes.

For our starters, we had the deviled eggs with summer salad and steamed mussels in garlic, white wine and tomatoes. The deviled eggs were a classic mayo and vinegar variety with chives on top. They were kind of interesting because the were halved in the middle, rather than the long way. The mussels were nicely steamed and tender, not chewy. Both were big enough to share.

For the main course, Jim had the Skirt Steak, New Mexico Green Chili, Purple Potatoes, Grilled Mushrooms & Onions. I don't eat beef, so I can't comment on it, but Jim reports that it was very tender and the sauce was delicious. I had the Pork Chop with Onion Mustard Sauce, Soft White VA Grits & Summer Vegetables. The grits were creamy and the onion mustard sauce was a little sweet with the caramelized onions. The pork chop was frenched, which is always a pretty presentation.

The final course was dessert. I ordered the Vanilla Brown Sugar Creme Brulee. I will never say to creme brulee. It was a delicious custard, but could have used a thicker brulee on the top. I didn't quite get the snap I like when I crack the top. Jim had the chocolate mousse, which was light, but very intensely chocolatey. I'm glad the mousse came with fruit and whipped cream.

We ate outside on the porch and the weather could not have been nicer. Open Kitchen was a delightful dining experience and we are looking forward to eating there again.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

You Like Me!

I logged in to my email this morning and found that I had been given my very first blogger award! My friend Val, who writes the blog Meal Planning Mayhem, passed The Versatile Blogger award on to me. Thank you so much, Val.

Anyone receiving The Versatile Blogger award must follow the rules and share the award with other versatile bloggers.

Rule 1 - Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in the post.
Rule 2 - Tell your readers seven things about yourself.
Rule 3 - Give this award to fifteen other Versatile Bloggers
Rule 4 - Contact those bloggers and let them know about the award

I've already done the first one, so on to Rule 2 This is going to be tough, since I use this blog to tell you every little thing about me anyway.

1) My favorite food in the whole world is tacos. I could eat them every single day and never get tired of them. The best place to get tacos is Taqueria La Parrilla in Athens, GA.

2) I absolutely despise doing the dishes. Fortunately for me, Jim doesn't mind. I don't think I've done dishes more than five times since I met him.

3) I live in the Washington D.C. metro area. I work for a non-profit advocacy organization in an intensive political environment. I care less than zero about politics.

4) I love to play all kinds of board games. I especially like trivia games, word games and dominoes.

5) I hate brussel sprouts and blue cheese. I keep trying them every few years just to make sure and so far, there has been no change.

6) When I was in preschool, I got left at the public park. There were two vans and each thought I was with the other. I just wasn't ready to go yet, so I stayed. Fortunately, another school group was there and looked out for me until someone came for me. I didn't understand why everyone was upset. I wasn't lost; I knew exactly where I was.

7) The ringtone on my cell phone is the McDonald's Filet-o-fish song (watch it here) for everyone except my husband. His ring tone is "You are my sunshine."

Now, to pass the award on to 15 fabulous bloggers. If you have already gotten this award, consider yourself twice loved!
[the bear naked truth]
A Boy, A Girl & A Cat
Birds in a Bush
Dates and Quinces
Fields and Fine Linen
Fun, Food and Foolishness
Lindsey and Eli in Cambodia
Made by Jenny
My Football Shaped Heart
Signed in Ink
Strawberry Swing and Other Things
The Domestic Princess
The Musings of a Simple Girl
Ventures Vicarious

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Remembering What Might Have Been

I thought long and hard about whether or not I wanted to write this post and I ultimately decided that it would be cathartic, so here it is.

Today is a sad day for me. I had a hard time getting out of bed. I sabotaged my diet by getting French toast for breakfast. I am currently holed up in my office with the door closed. Today, I am grieving what might have been. Today is the day that I should have become a Mom.

We had been trying for 14 months and had two rounds of IUI when we found out we were pregnant on December 1, 2010. We were ecstatic; we were going to be parents. August 9, 2011 was my due date. It took everything we had not to share our news with the world, but we knew that all too often, things go wrong.

I was happy to go to the doctor's office every two days to have blood drawn. I was happy when I went for my first ultrasound on December 15 at six weeks and we could see the tiny spot that would grow to be our child. We didn't see a heartbeat, but it was still early and I was only a little worried.

Jim went with me for the second ultrasound on December 23. I was 7 weeks along and we were leaving town that afternoon to go home for Christmas. I've never been so glad to have him that day. Deep down, I already knew that the news wouldn't be good. I wasn't exhausted by 2:00 any more. I wasn't queasy if I didn't eat every two hours any more. As soon as I saw the doctor's face, I just started to cry. There was no change from the week before and no heartbeat. We had lost our baby.

I cried the whole day. I called my best friend from the airport and just sobbed. I called my sister and sobbed. Worst of all, instead of going home for Christmas and telling my very sick Mom that she was going to be a grandmother, I had to tell her that I might have to spend Christmas at the hospital when I finally started to miscarry. But my stupid body couldn't even do that right and there was no sign that I was going to miscarry naturally. When we got home from Georgia, on January 3, 2011, I had to have a D&C.

As of today, we have been trying for 22 months, had seven IUI procedures and one loss. We are no closer to growing our family than we were when we started, but we haven't given up yet. We still have hope, but today I am grieving the child that we will never know.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Peach Cobbler

Every Thursday there is a farmers market just north of the White House and right next to my Metro station, so I usually stop in. The peaches had been calling me since I got to work this morning. They've had peaches for a few weeks now, but are just now getting free stone peaches and I wanted cobbler.

This recipe is from my Mom. I as is the case with most of her recipes, I have no idea where she got it. You can use pretty much any fruit in it; I frequently make it with blackberries.

Peach Cobbler

5 c. sliced peaches
1 c. sugar
2 T. corn starch
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 c. water
2 T. butter

1 1/2 c. Bisquick
4 T. sugar
2/3 c. cream

Combine sugar, corn starch, cinnamon and water in a large sauce pan. Heat over medium until sugar dissolves. Add peaches. Stir in butter until melted. Pour into a greased baking dish.

In a separate bowl, mix baking mix, 2 T. sugar and cream to make batter. Drop by spoonfuls on top of fruit. Sprinkle remaining sugar on top of the biscuits.

Bake at 450 degrees for 25 minutes or until biscuits are brown.

Monday, August 1, 2011

70. Make a loan through Kiva

Kiva is a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.

Kiva works like this:
1. You browse for a loan that speaks to you - all of the loans on Kiva are worthy of funding.
2. You make your loan of as little as $25 and pay through PayPal (don't worry, you can check out as a guest if you don't have a PayPal account).
3. When the borrower repays the loan, it is credited to your Kiva account.
4. You can use your Kiva credits to make more loans or donate the credit for a tax deduction.

I made my first loan though Kiva today. I helped fund a loan for Vida Y Esperanza in Nicaragua, who wanted to borrow $350 to stock their dairy business. Kiva doesn't take any cut of the amount donated, so all your loan goes to help the borrowers, and they don't charge interest to the field partners that administer the loans.

For the first time ever, Kiva is offering 4,000 free trials to let new lenders make a real Kiva loan, at no cost to them. If you want to join Kiva, you can click though my link here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Epic Garage Sale

Do you want to see what 70 years of accumlated stuff looks like?

I am in Athens this weekend because my sister and I are having a tag sale. There was just a ridiculous amount of stuff in the house. Because it was so much, we are having the sale in the church fellowship hall.

We have eight tables of stuff, plus a counter of holiday decorations and three counters of books. We have so much stuff that we rented a cargo van and a recent high school grad to carry it over there.

So, if you are in Athens tomorrow morning and are looking for pretty much anything, we probably have it. Come by and say hi.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Red, White and Blueberry Trifle

My sister-in-law and her husband host a family dinner every Sunday night, and because my mother would die of embarrassment if I showed up for dinner empty handed, I make dessert.

Jim and I are both trying to lose a little weight and strawberries and blueberries were on sale this week, so it was the perfect opportunity to make this Red, White and Blueberry trifle from Skinny Taste. I first found Gina's blog on a chat board on The Nest and I cook from it at least twice a week.

I love a trifle. They are so pretty and they look much more involved than the actually are. I had this whole dessert put together in a half an hour. I modified the recipe slightly, so my calories and points may be just a bit higher. My store didn't have the white chocolate pudding (boo) so I used regular vanilla sugar-free. Also, I prefer the lite Cool Whip over the fat-free, so I made that substitution.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Six Flags America

We redeemed a bunch of My Coke Rewards points and got two free tickets to Six Flags America that we used today. I love roller coasters and we rode all four of the steel coasters at the park. We could not have asked for a more beautiful day; it was sunny and not nearly as hot as it could have been here in July. Here's a look at the coasters that can be checked off of my master list.

Joker's Jinx

Superman: Ride of Steel: This is a point of view video of what it looks like to ride this in the front car.

It's important that you see that you are laying flat when you ride this.

The Mind Eraser
This is a classic suspended coaster
We rode several of the classic rides - the carousel, flying swings & tea cups. We also rode one water ride that is closing this weekend, Skull Island that is a combination of a roller coaster and log ride. It was really a great day, with the exception of one wicked sun burn.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Extreme Couponing

Have you watched this show on TLC? I alternate between being fascinated that these folks can leave the grocery story with $1000 of stuff that they only paid $10 for and thinking that they are totally insane. I mean, seriously, what are you going to do with 75 bottles of mustard? I use one, maybe two bottles of mustard a year.

Anyway, I can't stop watching and because I like to get stuff for free, I try to score a good deal. We get a lot of our drug store stuff at CVS. We like the CVS because it is one of the few places where your loyalty card actually gets you something. You earn 2% back on every purchase and $1 for every 2 prescriptions you fill and they give you a coupon at the end of each quarter that you can use on anything in the store.

Second quarter Extra Care bucks came out on July 1 and I earned $4.50. I took this to the store on Saturday, the last day of that week's sale paper. For last week, you could get a box of tampons on sale for $6.79 and they would print a coupon for $6.79 in Extra Care bucks on your receipt. I also had a $1.00 coupon for these tampons. This sale was $6.79 - $1 coupon - $4.50 in second quarter Extra Care bucks = $1.29, plus I got another $6.79 in Extra Care bucks.

For my second purchase, I bought toothpaste. I could get three tubes of Crest on sale for $9.00. I had a coupon for $1 off of two. On that sale, I got three toothpastes for $9.00 - $1.00 coupon - $6.79 in Extra Care bucks = $1.21.

My total was $2.50 for a box of tampons and three tubes of toothpaste. I say that was a successful shopping trip!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Brewfest

Today we went Leesburg to attend the Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest. We had $10 tickets (half price on Living Social) which got us a 5 oz. souvenir tasting glass and four tasting tickets each. There were 57 breweries in attendance and each one brought two or three beers to taste. There were also food and craft vendors and live music. The weather was great - sunny and not very humid.

We used all eight of our tickets, but after we got home we could only remember six of the ones we tried. Here's my reviews of what we had. Mind you that I am not a real fan of beer, but we tried a lot of summer seasonal beers. This is what we look like after a lot of beer in the June sun. Toasty.

Brooklyn Brewery - Summer Ale: I really liked this one. It was a light, crisp beer with a touch of citrus. Very summery. Available April - July.

Flying Dog Brewery
- Woody Creek Belgian Style Wit Beer: A traditional Belgian Wit beer with orange peel and coriander. Great with Asian flavors, light cheese and shellfish.

Smuttynose Brewery - Summer Weizen: This is a summer wheat beer brewed with Belgian wit yeast. Good for barbecues and picnics. Available May - August.

Red Hook Ale Brewery - Pilsner: A crisp, golden lager that is a Czech-style beer. A great all day drinking beer.

Magic Hat Brewing Company - Wacko: This was my favorite of the day. This beer is a beautiful red color, which it gets from beets, of all things. I thought it was cherries when I first tried it and had to go back and ask. It's slightly sweet and all around delicious.

Long Trail Brewing Company
- Double Bag: This was one of Jim's favorites. A dark amber beer with a 7.2% alcohol content, so it packs a punch. Similar to a German strong ale and great with grilled and smoked meat.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sampler Scarf

I am learning to knit. I have tried to learn several times in the past, but I think I finally have the hang of it now. It took some of the ladies at church actually showing me what to do before I figured it out. I am spatially challenged and trying to figure it out from just pictures wasn't going to cut it.

This is my third project, a scarf for Jim. My first two were a hat and a neck warmer, but the were just one stitch (garter stitch). This is the first thing I've done with a pattern. I managed to switch sides a couple of times in the pattern, but overall I'm pleased with how it turned out.

Now I'm ready to start working on Christmas presents!