Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Ruby Anniversary

My parents are such a great example of a happy, successful marriage. They always put the other first, and are constantly laughing together. FORTY years is a big freakin' deal. You go, Mom and Dad.

I guess that the 40th Anniversary is the Ruby Anniversary. I thought about getting you both a giant shiny ruby from the jewelry store worth thousands of dollars, but then thought, HEY, who wants some expensive gemstone? I'll dedicate a blog post to you instead. You're welcome.

Seriously though, I love you both and hope that Nate and I are as happy as you two are in 40 years! (Well, 39 years, but you get the picture).


This picture was a little faded from being in a frame, obviously, but it's one of my favorites. Well, besides this next one.

My favorite picture of my parents to date:

Happy Anniversary lovebirds!!!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dear Spider, sorry you're dead. No...wait, I'm not sorry.

So you know how some people are a magnet for getting hit in the face with a ball whether it's a soccer game, indoor volleyball, basketball, beach volleyball, etc.? (I'm one of those people btw). You'll be at a sporting event and everyone is laughing and having a great time, but there is one person that is dodging balls no matter how far away they are landing. Everyone else takes note and starts laughing at this person. "What is wrong with you? They aren't going to hit you! The ball is WAY over there!"....."No, you don't understand, no matter where I'm at I ALWAYS get hit in the face with a ball."....."Hahaha, oh you, you are just paranoid, that won't happen, don't worry!"....."Ya, you're probably right, I guess I AM just being paranoid, I mean it hasn't happened in a really long ti..."


"Oh my gosh, are you okay?"....."Yep. I'm fine."

I just realized while typing this that maybe I'm the only person this happens to? All this time I figured there had to be other people out there that this always happens to...but, maybe there aren't? Either way, my point is that I'm a magnet for getting hit in the face at sporting events and one other awful thing that no one should have to experience.

Exhibit A. About 5 or 6 years ago, I was getting home from a bon fire, and went to pull my sweatshirt over my head to change for bed. I'm not sure what made me do it, but I opened my eyes right when the sweatshirt was at the mid-way point of coming off. Basically, the pocket part was in my face. Guess what likes pocket parts of sweatshirts? Oh, just really big, black spiders. One had nestled his way into my sweatshirt pocket and had chosen that exact moment to appear, and then proceeded to crawl down my sweatshirt aka up towards my face. Awesome. I'm trapped inside my sweatshirt with a huge spider. The only escape is to pull my head through, risking getting the spider into my hair, which is basically my worst nightmare. Anyway, somehow I punched myself in the face, screamed, and threw off my sweatshirt all at once. One of my finer moments.

Exhibit B. Three years ago, I was driving home from a friend's house late at night, when I felt a creepy, crawly feeling inside the front of my shirt. Oh great. I refused to open my shirt, look down and risk a bug running up my chest onto my face while I was driving. I'm pretty sure that would have caused an accident. Anyway, my solution: pound my chest repeatedly, really hard, until I didn't feel creepy, crawlies anymore. Then when I got into the safety of my garage, I ripped my shirt off and jumped around like an idiot so I wouldn't have to see the spider carcass on my body. There it was...dead and mangled to pieces on the garage floor.

Exhibit C. Today. 4:30pm. Walking in the door from church and a family gathering. I decide to forget changing my clothes into pajamas and just went directly to my bed. I cuddled up under the comforter and began messing with my phone. Nate came into the room a couple minutes later and lays down next to me. I felt that familiar creepy, crawly thing I'd felt a couple years ago under my knee. Part of me thought, "Oh, I'm sure it's just a hair or something tickling my leg". So I mention the tickly feeling to Nate who then mid-laugh about my paranoia, flings the blanket back. It only took me about a second the register the look on Nate's face. There was a spider on my leg. You would think I would do the logical thing and hold still while he killed it, but I immediately leap out of the bed thrashing my legs and arms and hair around like I'm possessed. Then I think I ran into the other room while ripping my skirt off and shaking my hair all over the place??....oh, and I'm hysterically screaming and crying through all of this. Every couple of seconds I look at Nate to tell me, "Oh it's okay, I see him...he's dead". That didn't happen. About a minute later, I'm still crying hysterically, almost completely undressed and flipping my hair all over the place. Really. I did this. ***Long story short, after about thirty minutes of looking for the spider we found remnants of his little legs all over the bed sheets. RIP Mr. Spider. I'm glad Nate didn't tell me what actually happened until after I calmed down. He said when he lifted the blanket back, he watched a HUGE spider crawl QUICKLY all the way up my leg into my skirt. At which point, I had seen the look on his face and re-enacted my own version of the Exorcist.

Take away message: I guess I make a nice home for spiders. I've always liked to think I was a good hostess, but spiders, you are not welcome here.

***For the record, if we hadn't found his body, I would not be sleeping in that bed tonight. Or ever again. For the sake of my sanity, I'm so glad we found that body.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A few delicious recipes

So for Nate's birthday we were in Hawaii and ate dinner at Tommy Bahama with friends and family, which was great, but I wanted to celebrate again when we got home so I would have an excuse to cook something. I haven't been able to cook as much lately because we have been moving around a lot, so when I get the chance I get really excited. In the beginning, this dinner started off being really complicated. I was going to make everything from scratch and go all out. Chicken lettuce wraps, cream cheese wontons, combination chow mein (with chicken and shrimp), and coconut cake from scratch. Sounded so delicious, but the closer his "birthday" got, the more I procrastinated going to the store to purchase all of the items to make this feast. Oops. So, Saturday night rolled around, (this dinner was planned for Sunday) and my laziness set in. Quick sidenote: Nate only really requested the chow mein part, so I didn't feel THAT guilty for giving up on all the other items. So basically, what I ended up making was some chow mein and I found a really simple strawberry pie recipe on The Pioneer Woman. Strawberries are so fresh (and CHEAP) right now, it seemed like the perfect dessert.

For the chow mein, you just cut up some chicken into bite-size pieces and then marinate it for a few hours in teriyaki sauce (You can buy one from the store, or make your own---mix soy sauce and brown sugar to start and add stuff like sesame seeds, garlic and ginger to make it taste a little better). Then you boil some udon noodles. I was going to do Chinese egg noodles, but the udon noodles had a really good texture and tasted great so either way. The boiling process for udon noodles takes about 15-20 minutes, so part way through that you can start sauteeing the chicken in a wok. Season with salt, pepper, onion powder (Nate hates onions, but I like the taste so we compromise with the onion powder), garlic powder and ground ginger. Once, the chicken is no longer pink on the outside you can add the vegetables (napa cabbage, bok choy, shitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, sugar snap peas). Sprinkle with salt and add more sauce if you want. Saute the vegetables just until the cabbage is slightly wilted. Add the shrimp until just cooked through. It's really easy to overcook shrimp so be careful. Mine actually overcooked a little bit because I was distracted by "Three Men and a Little Lady". Don't judge me. I love that movie. Anyway, then at the end you just toss the cooked noodles in with everything and serve it.

This turned out really delicious and we were really happy that I hadn't made all that other stuff to go with it. We were stuffed from just this, and the strawberry pie was the perfect dessert. Light and tart with a little whipped cream on top.

Strawberry Pie recipe:

1 whole Pre-baked Regular Pie Crust
1 cup Granulated Sugar
¼ cups Cornstarch
¼ cups Strawberry Gelatin, Dry (jello)
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
½ teaspoons Strawberry Extract
1-½ cup Water
1-½ pound Fresh Strawberries, Hulled And Cut In Half
Whipped Cream For Garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of your pie shell with parchment paper or foil. Place pie weights or dry beans on the paper. Pre-bake the pie crust until golden brown, approximately 15-20 minutes. When done, remove pie weights, beans and parchment paper. Let the pie crust cool completely on a wire rack.

While your pie crust is cooling, prepare the strawberry filling. Combine the sugar, cornstarch, gelatin, lemon juice, strawberry extract and water in a medium size pot. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook until the mixture thickens, whisking often. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Arrange the strawberries in the baked pie shell. Pour the filling over the strawberries, coating them completely. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

**Next time I make this pie, I want to try my own pie crust. The store bought crust was good, but it was a little on the DRY side instead of being flaky and buttery...maybe it has something to do with the brand I got. Who knows. Hopefully, I'll have better luck next time.

Ok, one more recipe that is completely unrelated to the others, but was so good that I have to share. It was originally a Bobby Flay recipe and then was adapted and posted by Two Peas and Their Pod. You know those delicious pretzel bites you get at the mall? These are exactly like them, but you can make them at home! They taste almost the same, and they are really easy to make...

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil
3 quarts water
3/4 cup baking soda
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Coarse salt (sea salt or Kosher)

Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Add the salt and flour and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.
Oil a bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Bring the water to a boil in a small roasting pan over high heat and add the baking soda.
Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, about 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 ounces each. Roll each piece into a long rope measuring 22 inches and shape. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make the pretzel bites. Boil the pretzel bites in the water solution in batches. We did about 15 bites at a time. Boil for about 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon. Place pretzel bites on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Make sure they are not touching. Brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with the salt. Place into the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.
Remove to a baking rack and let rest 5 minutes before eating. Serve with cheese sauce.

Cheddar cheese sauce:
½ Tablespoon unsalted butter
½ Tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ cup milk
8 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the Cheddar cheese until smooth and all of the cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

I didn't take a picture when I made them so this pretty picture was borrowed from the same blog. Make these. Now. They are that good.