24 June 2012

Let's go to the mall.

What do you do when you have a new corporate job and for the past five years you've worked from home, only wearing jeans and tshirts from Old Navy? You go to the mall!

When we told people we were moving to St. Joe, they were like, "where will you eat? where will you shop?" And once we got here we heard a lot of, "There's no mall here! There's no where to shop!" To which we both said, "Thank goodness!"

Well, there's only so far Old Navy can take you when it comes to work clothes. Khakis make me look dumpy and I don't think I can swing tshirts. So, off to beautiful (ha!) Indiana we went, to visit the mall in Mishawaka (waka! waka!). And, considering neither of us have been in a real mall in at least two years, we were giggling like schoolgirls when we pulled up and saw all the retail opportunities. Not to mention... Bar Louie! Tots!

These tots sat in my gut ALL day. But it was worth it.

Brad and I were like kids in a candy store, running around Banana Republic and the Gap and (for me) The Limited. Brad, this isn't so surprising - he LOVES clothes (and shoes!). But I'm not historically much of a shopper. And three years of wondering where my next paycheck may come from certainly has messed with my psyche and my wallet, so I'm kind of discovering the art of actually wearing decent clothes for the first time in my life. It really is about time I dressed like a (gulp) mid-30s professional. As long as stuff is comfortable (who knew it CAN be?!), I kinda like looking fancy....

I seem to be big on navy, and stripes...

I also discovered Victoria's Secret. Not in a I-live-in-a-hole-and-never-heard-of-it way, but I've never shopped there. But, I'll tell ya, there's something to be said for stuff that FITS. And, because I live at the beach, darn it, I got a new bathing suit because, again, who knew how much better non-Old Navy bathing suits fit?! Brad is a true shopper, fully tolerating me dragging him through the store (I don't think it's as "alluring" as it's made out to be for men). 

Maybe Kevin Smith was on to something back in 1995... Like Brodie said, "I love the smell of commerce in the morning." Maybe Brad and I ARE mall people! Or... at least, every-two-years mall people.

20 June 2012

A well-laid plan.

I love when things just fall right into place. All it takes is a little bit of planning, and you've got four nights of original meals, followed by one big "leftover" meal, which makes enough for leftover leftovers another night (and a few lunches in between). That's six nights of home-cooked meals, and six nights with nothing to think about when I get home from work. Here's how things played out -

Saturday - shrimp and mussel broil. Leftover: white wine
Sunday - Father's Day quesadillas. Leftover: corn, zucchini, tomatoes, onions
Monday - "Burger" night, with a premade pub burger for Brad and a portobello burger for me
Tuesday - Homemade margherita pizza. Leftover: corn and black olives

And tonight it all culminated into one giant, delicious pot of kitchen sink pasta primavera! 

I sauteed onions, yellow and orange peppers, green beans, corn (off the husk), and black olives in oil and white wine. I mixed the veggies with the pasta, leftover cooked zucchini, and tomatoes, then made a sauce with milk, butter, white wine, and Parmesan (all in the same pot). Added basil, of course. This is so easy, and so good, but I forget to make it all winter. Silly, silly me.

*Almost every meal included fresh basil from my garden, too! Now that I've learned how to prune it properly, I am certain I will have more than enough basil throughout the entire summer. Hooray!

17 June 2012

Whipped for his pleasure.

As far as I'm concerned, any day is a good day for making breakfast. I love breakfast and I love making it. Brad, less so. But if I maintain enough enthusiasm about making a big breakfast, he will usually go along with it for me (it must be such torture to be force-fed yummy breakfast... ha!). Because today is Father's Day, and because Brad is such a fantastic puppy daddy, I included Brad's favorite... whipped cream! Without further adieu, strawberry banana pancakes!

Pretty maids, all in a row.

Voila! Who could resist that?

I make my pancakes from scratch because the box mixes include pig hooves (or some other variety of animal leftover byproducts), and I have mixed results (usually a little too dense). I used this recipe today and the consistency was much better. I used half whole wheat flour and half regular, and dropped in a handful of flax seeds - gotta have some extra fiber for good health! These should keep our bellies in check until early dinner, save for a snack somewhere in between.

Of course, Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there! (Though I would be surprised if any men, let alone fathers, are keeping up with my posts....)

A small aside... Heidi thinks today is puppy Mother's Day because she is giving me all sorts of (uncomfortable, but I'll take it) love this morning. She hasn't loved on me like this in ages. Swoon.

16 June 2012

Saturday shrimp broil.

After a week of takeout and quick dinners (an excuse for quickie homemade mac and cheese is always ok, though), I decided to do a big grocery shop, stock the fridge for the coming week (have dinner plans for every night through Thursday!), and make a special dinner for us tonight. In the latest issue of Food Network mag, they have a little pullout on things to make in foil pouches on the grill - we didn't do the jalapeno poppers this time (jalapenos stuffed with muenster and drizzled in oil and spices, yum!), but I've been dying to try a mini shrimp broil, so we went with that. And because I realized recently that our store does usually have mussels (which I've never bought or made before), we did those, too. And some zucchini I've had in the fridge since last week's farmer's market.

I won't detail the "recipes" because they need some tweaking (i.e., lots more seasoning, salted butter, longer steaming time), but we had two pouches of shrimp and a pouch of mussels - high for 8 minutes for the shrimp, medium-high for 10 minutes for the mussels. Some butter, wine, and fennel with the mussels. Some butter, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes for the shrimp. And, of course, some fresh basil from my "garden" for the zucchini.


This time around, it was all about the process. Wrapping stuff up in foil. Grilling it up (well, watching Brad grill it up). Melting the butter. Eagerly opening the foil packages. Making a big ole mess eating with our fingers. Definitely makes me even more eager to do a full-on clambake this summer with all our neighborhood peeps!!! (Yes, proper clambake attire WILL be strongly encouraged. [I'm looking at you, Brad's straw hat and yellow shorts.])

You can't have special dinner without dessert, so, per Brad's request, strawberry shortcake. Well, as I told Hillary, it was more strawberry shortcake-ish. I don't do the full-on business - I like to keep it simple. In hindsight, I would have made some cornbread from scratch, but we had premade shortcake cups with some vanilla bean ice cream, strawberries, and a little whipped cream. Works just fine for me!

I go easy on the whipped cream. Brad had lots more.

Tomorrow, grilled quesadilla Father's Day dinner! Then... back to work. You mean... I have to go back!? :)

12 June 2012

Lunch lady land.

I woke up at 6:45 am today... and I didn't barf! Day Two of Back to Work Week required my attendance at an 8 am meeting. Nothing like breaking me right in, right? (I did sleep/get ready in my trusty SeaBands, so maybe they helped...) So I am two days in. I've survived waking up early, wearing heels, various meetings, corporate buzz words, and I'm still smiling.

Plus, I have my own cube. That I don't share with my boss. That no one steals my stuff from. Not a single pen has a pink post with my name on it. It's the little things, right?

I also have a snack drawer. Or, a drawer with minimal snacks that will eventually become a full-on snack drawer. Significant because I couldn't keep food at my desk overnight before. Because of the mice (that peed all over our desks).

AND! I am steps away from our cafeteria! I have never worked anywhere with a cafeteria! I know, cafeteria food... Big deal. But this really feels like the big time. (There is even a "eat healthy, eat local" display table outside the kitchen!) If I forget my oatmeal one morning? Cafeteria! If I run out of coffee and decide I want a cup of Starbucks? $1. Forgot my lunch (or too lazy to make one)? A salad bar, with great topping options (hard boiled eggs, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries). A hot sandwich line (veggie burger, black bean burger, grilled cheese)... Fries! Pizza. Soups. And a rotating entree. A fountain soda machine, should I REALLY need a Coke one day. Snacks. Fruit. Not to mention the super fancy, healthy/organic-type vending machine down the hall.

Yesterday, being my first day, and I was alone and intimidated, I didn't want to look like I didn't know what I was doing, so I just went right to the salad. Which worked out just fine because it was delicious and $3.

A little snack splurge for a (diet, I know, ew) peach Snapple.
And what's better than salad... topped with pasta salad?!

This morning, after a meeting with my boss (in the cafeteria), I snuck over to the food to scope things out while no one was looking. That's when I discovered all the veggie sandwich options. Yeah!! I was starving by 11:30, so I went and grabbed a veggie burger with pepperjack cheese. The sandwich maker guy was SUPER jolly. (He was no Farley, though...)

Couldn't resist the baked Doritos.

So, with a great food situation, everything else has to fine right in line behind awesome, right???

PS I made this cake last weekend - which Hillary previously made - and it is delicious. You should make it, too.

PSS I am really happy to have my new job, but I must confess I really miss my afternoon adventures with Hillary and the girls. Sniff!

06 June 2012

Laissez les bons temps rouler.

It is likely that you've heard me wax nostalgic about New Orleans over the years. Brad and I visited Nola eight (eight!!) years ago and fell madly in love, a love that hasn't waned despite visits to Paris, London, Germany, mountains, oceans, and deserts. Finally, finally, we booked a return visit, and I am happy to report that despite being a little bit older, a little bit finickier (and less douchey-tolerant), we still heart our New Orleans.

We landed around 4:30, quick trip to the hotel. Checked in, regrouped, freshened ourselves up, and headed out for the night around 6 (dinner reservations were scheduled for 8). We made a quick stop at our rooftop pool bar for a drink - Nola Punch for Brad, Moscow Mojito for me. Then into the Quarter. I could not stop smiling. You could blame the booze, but it was like seeing an old friend again (and a little booze always helps Bourbon Street seem that much more charming...). Everything was as I remembered it and I just loved it. I loved everyone. I was talking to strange people, petting random dogs, taking a million pictures, gushing nonstop to Brad. Add to that $5 Hurricanes that you can drink on the street as you stroll? Bliss.

Now... don't get me wrong. Bliss on Bourbon Street doesn't always last. And it's not for everyone. For more than an hour, it's not for me. But it is certainly something to see and experience now and again. And, lucky for New Orleans, there is so much more to see besides Bourbon Street. Nonetheless, that first re-immersion into the madness remains my top moment of our trip. 

 Drink. Drank.


Saying too much almost feels like kissing and telling... If there's anything to take away it's that you must go and see for yourself. But I will certainly share a few highlights!

What happens when you spend eight years fantasizing about a sandwich? You wait in line to get not one, but two, and, despite how morally torn you feel about it, you take TWO WHOLE BITES of said sandwich BEFORE yanking off all the meat. Now that's love.



Note: I fell ill later that night - so much so that we had to push our reservation out an hour. I don't think it was actually related, but I don't think I'll be taking any more chances like that again!

Other must-do-because-we've-been-thinking-about-it-for-years was breakfast at Cafe du Monde. Not because we necessarily wanted to experience the place but because beignets (re: French donuts with oodles of powdered sugar, hot from the oven) are SO GOOD. We waited in another line (well, a first line because chronologically beignets were before muffalettas), were stuck with a horrendous waiter who kept setting his tray on our table (if you don't know, I have a very weak stomach about very weird things, including in-sight-garbage while I eat, and any sort of wet paper/trash), and were surrounded by a general not-nice smell. So advice to the would-be traveler - just go to the carryout line!! But these are so good we (well, I - Brad couldn't have been less interested) went back (to the carryout line!) Sunday night for a final helping.

Apparently, our table was very attractive to trays.

Otherwise, for food we had a little bit of everything. Trendy creole, local oysters, classy dinner, a jazz brunch. All delicious, all swoon-worthy. Most notable would likely be our "jazz brunch" at Commander's Palace, which is a Nola institution. I couldn't stop smiling the entire time we were there. It was just so HAPPY. Friendly faces, sunny rooms, a roving Dixieland jazz trio with banjo - even balloons!

Brunch was a three-course meal, so it was a lot of food for 11 am... But we somehow managed, wink! The staff was cheerful and helpful, and our waiter, a young local, offered up an off-menu entree item for veggies like me, which I happily ordered - a super fancy and beautiful omelet with veggies and cheese and prosecco-poached crab. But first, shrimp remoulade in a lettuce cup with heart of palm (and later a praline sundae). And then, with my omelet, world's MOST delicious buttermilk biscuits. So delicious, in fact, I had them wrap up my 2nd biscuit... which returned to me in swan form.

Brad's entree was pork shoulder with eggs and mushroom fricassee and other stuff I'm sure, but nothing as catchy sounding as fricassee... Me: How is it? Brad: It's pretty f-ing good.

Behold the beautiful omelet and to-die-for biscuits...

This really was just such a fun experience. I loved every second of it. I told Brad when we go back, we should definitely make this a tradition - although perhaps we will eat at 12 instead of 11... More time in the am to prepare for all that food!
Otherwise, there was pool lounging. Frozen drink drinking. Crazy person people watching. Neighborhood strolling (our favorite thing to do - besides eat, of course. We could spend all day just walking around, looking at all the houses and balconies, meeting all the local dogs we can find).

And, of course, a cemetery. Or two.

A fitting family photo.

Seriously. Will you just go there already!? (...and take me with you?)