Monday, June 29, 2009

Weekend Celebration

This weekend, we celebrated two birthdays, my mother’s and Evan’s. Both are this week, but with all the 4th holiday festivities we wanted to do something special with just family.

For the special event, we brought out the turkey fryer to do chicken wings in mom’s backyard. (Nothing like a 10 gallon pot of oil to get a party started.) Evan and I went to 5 different places looking for peanut oil, but had no luck and finally settled for corn oil from the grocery store. They must only sell peanut oil in bulk during the holiday season. I was on prep duty and Evan on the fryer execution. I did a quick prep, just rinse and dry the chicken wings, dip in egg and roll in flour with seasoning. Then 5 minutes in the oil, 1 minute drip on a paper towel and serve. The wings were a total hit and one of our guests (4 year old Elena) almost fell asleep in her seat with a wing in her mouth. They were so good that even though she was exhausted, she couldn’t put it down. That’s how you know your dinner is a hit!

After dinner the mosquitoes had a feast on me, so we walked down to the beach hoping the wind would save me from more bites. Some neighbors were having a get together with a group of Danish friends. They were having a classic Danish midsummer celebration including a bonfire and a traditional burning of a witch. When I asked what the burning of the witch symbolized, one of the guests said simply, “witches are bad and need to be burned.” Although this was a perfectly suited response, I did a little googling and found this little snippet from a flikr stream from Mace2000.

In Denmark the people celebrate Midsummer´s Eve with large bonfires, it´s called Sankt Hans aften ("St. John's Eve") and takes place on the evening of June 23. The celebration of Midsummer's Eve was from ancient times linked to the summer solstice. People believed that at midsummer plants had miraculous and healing powers and they therefore picked them on this night. Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southwards again. In the 1920s a tradition of putting a witch made of straw and cloth on the bonfire emerged as a remembrance of the church's witchburnings from 1540 to 1693. This burning sends the witch to Bloksbjerg, the mountain 'Brocken' in the Harz region of Germany where the great witch gathering was thought to be held on this day.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Life Coach

Recently, I had done some research in to the whole concept of Life Coaching. A listserv I follow posted a bunch of Life Coach contacts in my area and I was curious to see what they were all about. I went through the website links and came across this site belonging to a woman who is a Life Coach in the DC area. From what I gather, she specializes in professional women who want to have it all. That would be me, I guess. On the site there is a free assessment to evaluate your effectiveness. I took the assessment and it automatically emailed me my score of 5 of 15. Bummer. The next day, the Life Coach sent me an email to make me feel better about myself saying that the score isn’t always what it seems and that I’m doing great. In her email she attached a list of 10 Tips to Improve Effectiveness. I won’t list them all here because I’m sure she would like you to visit her website to get this information. I did want to share three of the ones that really struck me.

SLEEP – She is absolutely right on this one. How often do you get a full 8 hours? I actually do this one pretty well, but I often feel guilty that I sleep too much. It is funny to me that sleeping a full night is something that most people wish they could do, but I feel like I’m being lazy because I do.

IMPLEMENT ONE NEW HEALTH HABIT – This one speaks to me very loud, especially after my recent Dentist debacle. I admit that I do not take as good care of my teeth as I should. As a result I will be going in for three procedures all of which require a needle in my gums. This is my penance for not flossing and I accept it. A good health habit for me to implement would be to floss every day.

HIRE A COACH – I don’t know what kind of investment this is, but I’m going to find out. I work as a District Manager and most of my days consist of helping other Manager’s identify goals, focus areas and ways to make their business stronger. We bounce ideas back and forth and then come up with an action plan. It would be great to do that with someone about my life.

I feel like most of the concepts, such as sleep more and take care of your health are things we know we are supposed to do. I think of a Life Coach as someone who helps you get a plan together to make sure you can do them. I guess I’ll find out if I’m right.

I hope everyone has a great weekend. I am off to Florida to visit my family!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

I wanted to put up this quick post to remind everyone how incredibly easy it is to make chocolate covered strawberries. I whipped these up in less than 10 minutes. All you need is 1 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips and a handful of strawberries. I washed and dried the strawberries, put the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and put them in for 1 minute, stirred, and 30 more seconds. Then I dipped each strawberry, stuck them on my cutting board covered with parchment paper and stuck the cutting board in the freezer for 5 minutes. That’s it! They don’t look perfect, but who really cares. Now that strawberries are in season, I have to remember to make these more often.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hair Tutorials

I have never been creative when it comes to things like hair and make-up. I always rely on my fabulous stylist, Jamie at Bubbles Annapolis, to give me a great style and then I don’t mess with it. Lately, I have been getting bored of my every day look. Don’t get me wrong, the color and cut are fabulous and I get compliments all the time. It is just that my big round brush and blow dryer are just not doing it for me.

The past few weeks, I have been totally inspired by Jenn Mapp of CIBU and her “Do of the Day” videos on youtube. Jenn is an awesome girl anyways, but these videos are really motivating to me because not only does she have short hair and rocks it, but she also works like a slave and I know she gets up early just to make these. If she can get up, do her hair, make a video, drive in Northern Virginia traffic and slave away spreading CIBU love until all hours of the evening, the least I can do is try a different hair style once in a while.

Below is one of my favorite videos. I just got a new set of hot rollers and have been trying to master a voluminous style. She has a ton of other great videos on her youtube channel, Lot’s of fun!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cheese Sampling

One of my favorite things to order in a nice restaurant is the cheese sampling. I even order a cheese plate in not-so-fancy places, like the VFW. (I recommend the first option, but the second makes for good laughs.) Two nights ago, Evan and I went to the new Whole Foods store in Annapolis and I decided to get the advice of the expert to pick out cheeses to make my own cheese platter. I really don’t know a lot about different types of cheeses and am still learning the difference between pasteurized and unpasteurized, which cheeses should be served at room temp and which should be chilled, or what is different about cheeses from different regions. I can’t say that I learned all of that at the cheese counter (I probably could if I was there longer), but I did get some great recommendations to start experimenting.

I told the cheese advisor (not sure what is her official title) that I know that I like brie cheeses and I also have a fancy for a hard salty cheeses. Evan is a big fan of blue cheese, so that gave her a great place to start to make some suggestions. We ended up taking home 5 different cheeses to try. For Evan, a super moldy blue cheese from France and a Pecorino pasteurized sheep’s milk cheese. For me an Aged Mimolette, pasteurized cow’s milk cheese and a Murcia Curado Raw Goat Cheese. And for both of us she chose, Fromager d’Affinois, double-cream specialty brie from France. I never knew that Brie is named after where it is made much like Champagne. I almost found that hard to swallow (pun intended) because you can buy Brie in almost every grocery store in America.

The only cheese we didn’t care for out of the 5 was the blue cheese. I’m not a big fan of blue cheese in general and the one we got was particularly pungent. We decided to replace that cheese with a dollop of port wine cheese we had in the refrigerator. The other four were all cheeses I would buy again. The Pecorino had a stronger scent and a really nice flavor. I would say that it almost tasted like a goat cheese, but a little saltier. The Aged Mimolette was two thumbs up for me and one thumb up for Evan. It was a really salty cheese almost like cheddar that I would imagine would be really good with beer and pretzels. The Murcia Curado, goat’s milk cheese, was a light version of goat cheese. Not too strong, but definitely flavorful. The favorite by far was the Fromager d’Affinois. It was a buttery brie, that melted deliciously over a cracker or right off the knife. I would definitely recommending seeking this one out in your local stores’ if they carry a cheese selection.

It was a lot of fun to have our own sampling with a glass of Cabernet on a Tuesday night. Next time maybe we will have to add a sampling of meats, like prociutto and salami, or add in some olives for Evan. This could turn in to a decadent weekly tradition.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Black Box Wine

I know it isn’t Friday yet, but I am longing for it. My Friday night ritual (after all the emails are done and my phone stops ringing) is to have 1-2 glasses of wine to let go of the week’s stress. I am no wine snob, but I usually go for the $12-$15 bottle of wine from the liquor store down the street that has a pretty large selection so-so dusty bottles of wine. This really is a waste since I usually only make it through two glasses of wine before I pass out on the couch. I end up dumping the rest of the bottle the following Friday and starting all over. A couple weekends ago, Evan went to the liquor store and came home with the best thing ever, Black Box wine. I know, I know, box wine doesn’t have the greatest of reputations, but this stuff is as least as good as the $10-$12 bottle of wine if not better than some of the more expensive bottles I’ve had lately. I was introduced to Black Box in Arkansas during our Bunko nights. It stays fresh, unlike my bottles that I dump every Friday and it tastes good. Plus, he picked this up for $20. It is equivalent to 4 bottles of wine. That’s a deal if I ever heard one. If you are like me and need your bottle to last a little longer than a day, I definitely recommend trying out the Black Box. I am working on the Cabernet at the moment, but the white wines are pretty good, too. These are great for upcoming summer entertaining and I am so looking forward to having my glass tomorrow after work.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Summer Reading

I don’t know how this happened, but I just realized that I am in the middle of reading three books. I bought a bunch of books on a buy 2 get one free at Barnes and Nobles. I couldn’t wait to read them all and the end result, I’m reading too many at once. The first book I started isn’t quite holding my attention, so I’ll probably go back to that one last. That book, A Death in Vienna by Frank Tallis, is a murder mystery, but for some reason I can’t get in to it. The second book, Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon, seems like it is going to be really good. The last book I started is Stori Telling by Tori Spelling. I know it’s a little off the wall, but I watched a marathon of the Tori and Dean show on Oxygen and I just had to get it. I’ve only ready the first few pages, but it is absolutely fascinating and written well. I wonder if she wrote it herself or had a ghost writer. I just can’t tell. I hope to get through them all and more this summer. I have a whole summer reading list that I’ll share once it is finished. I keep hearing about all these interesting books coming out this summer, so it is still a work in progress. And speaking of books…I am excited to announce that my brother’s book, Fierce Style: How To Be Your Most Fabulous Self, is coming out this October! It is available for preorder on Amazon and I hear that there is some great content about Christian’s lovely and beautiful big sister, ME! I haven’t actually seen it yet, but it is all so exciting!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Weekend Visit

This past Saturday, we went to see the Baltimore Orioles play the Detroit Tigers with some friends that were visiting from Richmond. It was a beautiful afternoon, so we went to dinner at Tir Na Nog overlooking the Baltimore Inner Harbor. Dinner wasn’t great (as Irish Food isn’t always too impressive), but the restaurant had Hoegaarden on tap and a great view of the Harbor. It was nice to spend time catching up after years of being away.

The game started at 7:35pm and we arrived just a little late. Our seats were great for $27. We were down on the first level not far behind third base. Right as we were sitting down, a kid a few seats over caught a foul ball. I don’t have very good reflexes, especially after a few beers, so I was afraid of getting hit by a ball for the rest of the game. That didn’t stop me from having a great time. The game was entertaining, the Tigers won and I ate tons of peanuts. All in all, it was a great night.

It was really strange to realize that we haven’t lived in Richmond for 2 ½ years. I know it is cliché, but time sure has flown by. It was nice to reconnect and get the gossip of what is going on with the group we used to hang with in Virginia. Two couples are getting married this summer and people have bought houses, a few have gone back to school for a Masters and people’s lives are moving in to the next stage of life. Next thing you know we’ll be getting Christmas cards with baby pictures on them.