Tuesday, June 29, 2010

You know what goes really great with coffee?

BLUEBERRY MUFFINS! Man, we raced through a dozen of these in just a couple of days!
I used the classic recipe from Better Homes and Gardens:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter (no substitutes)
  • 1 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed
  • Coarse sugar (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease twelve 2-1/2-inch muffin pan cups. Set aside.

2. Stir together flour, the 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of dry mixture; set aside.

3. Combine eggs, milk, butter, and orange peel; add all at once to the dry mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in blueberries.

4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each almost full. If desired, sprinkle tops with coarse sugar. Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes or until golden. Cool in muffin cups on wire rack 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups. Makes 12.

My favorite part is the muffin top...

As in the actual top of the muffin... not having a muffin top myself. No thanks on that.

Hard Day

I have had trouble sleeping lately. Probably has a little something to do with this little thing I struggle with (I inherited this from my wonderful, overachieving mother!) called STRESS. When I'm stressed... and I'm waking up all night, then get out of bed exhausted... it seems no amount of coffee does the trick, I'll drink some at home before my commute (you can't eat or drink on the metro)...Then... just steps from the metro when I arrive in DC, I usually hit up the STBX...
But some days... stuff like this still ends up happening. My makeup spills in its bag and looks like Escape from Pompeii or something...
I wear the wrong shoes to the Rose Garden. (heels sink into the grass, oy.)
And I stand in the wrong place to see the President... like right behind the teleprompter. (oh... THAT'S why no one else is standing here) Not that there are many choices for good locations to actually SEE the President when you're only 5 feet tall.
But... thankfully I have one of these if I need to make another coffee run...
And... to quote a phrase that actually drives me nuts... "at the end of the day" my man will meet me with these little guys, not far from the bus stop. And, suddenly, all is right in the world.

Pool Days

I love summer. LOVE it. Like I dream about it all Winter, I get nervous when it first comes... butterflies in my stomach and the whole bit. We write love letters.... la dee da. LOVE ME SOME SUMMER!

I really, really miss living at the beach. But, I have gotten used to doing my Sun-worshipping by the pool. I'm actually fine with it. And I am now officially old enough to enjoy "adult swim."
It looks like someone is ready for a pedicure!! (hope to get another one SOON, we'll see if there is funding for that...)
I totally covet this girl's (I'm assuming it's a girl... but maybe I shouldn't!) porch. Look at all of that glorious plant life, and it's thriving! I want to have a porch like this one day!

Grocery Getter

Remember those "grocery getter" station wagons? If your mom didn't have one (my mother would never have been caught dead in one, she had an SUV when no one did yet!) surely you rode in one that belonged to a friend's mother.

That's what comes to mind when I hear the term, "grocery getter." You know, something like this:
Oh... no!!! Get ready for a new mental image! I introduce to you... the new, improved Grocery Getter!!:
Hahahaha... again, I had to take a second picture of Michael and say "smile, like you like it!" We did some MAJOR grocery shopping Friday night and clearly we are committed to not making multiple trips to and from the car when we get home! I have to tell you this, too - we saved a grand total of almost $85 shopping Friday because Harris Teeter was doing SuperDoubles (doubling coupons up to $1.98!) and we went in with a bunch of coupons and a list. I am just starting to get good at this couponing stuff!

We filled up the laundry basket and the granny cart. And my little "grocery getter" sure did come in handy!

Hey Y'all!

Okay, so I'm a busy girl. You understand this. I've been watching the Confirmation Hearings for Elena Kagan, but they're on a break... so I'm going to try to blog a bunch of fun times/pics. Cool?

First, a little bit of random background about today. So, I was running late again this morning (we start our mornings ridiculously early and I refuse to back that alarm up even MORE so it just is what it is) so I didn't have a shower (don't worry, I'm not nasty!) so I ended up fixing my hair when I got to work at the White House. I'm not trying to boast, but I do think it's pretty cool that one day I'll be able to tell my grandkid that I blow dryed my hair at the White House, haha!

I tend to wear a lot of black and white. It's easy, right? Today's outfit includes black pants, a black and white sleeveless shirt, and a white jacket. I always feel like a doctor when I wear a white jacket. I don't know why I continue to do this to myself.

The last time I wore this white jacket, I dribbled my coffee all over myself as I walked down the street. So... this morning, I chilled at Starbucks before I went to the office to drink my coffee down so I wouldn't have to buy another Tide pen.

My morning routine:
I never really thought I'd be one of those leaves-lipstick-on-coffee-cups kind of girls! I used to work at a coffee shop and I had to wipe all the lipstick off the mugs before putting them in the dishwasher and I was really grossed out by it. Oh well, not going to let that go down as a regret, the fact that I no longer wipe my cup off after every sip. Just don't have time for that anymore.

By the way - another random thought... I am eating gumbo today that I made in February. We pulled it down from the freezer and thawed it. I admit... it makes me feel a little nervous. But it is tasty, so far!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Easy, Delicious Cake

A couple of weeks ago, I had the craving for some sort of homemade baked good. But I was short on time, so I glanced through a cookbook and ran across a recipe for "Hot Milk Sponge Cake." Doesn't that sound disgusting? It's actually delicious, and SUPER EASY.

(Yes, in the pic, that's the cake... being served up for breakfast... we're big on dessert for breakfast around here!)

Recipe:
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons butter
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup bleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and 1 tablespoon of butter, over medium heat. Put the eggs and 2 cups of sugar in a large mixing bowl, and with an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale yellow, thick, and has tripled in volume, about 8 minutes, using the mixer. With the machine on low, beat in the warm milk mixture. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in another large mixing bowl. Add the egg mixture and vanilla, fold to mix thoroughly so the mixture is smooth. Grease 12 by 17-inch baking sheet pan with the remaining butter. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Pour the cake batter evenly into the pan and bake until the cakes spring back when touched, about 15 minutes. Let cool for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle a piece of parchment paper with powdered sugar. Using a thin spatula or knife, loosen the edges of the cakes, then flip onto the paper. Cool completely

Plant Life Update


So... this red thing isn't doing so well. I don't know what it is. Any tips on bringing it back are appreciated. My mom floated the idea that just the buds are gone and they will come back? I dunno.

I am clearly no expert in Botany... but I do believe we have some serious Cilantro growing in our Herb Garden, and some Basil, I'm happy to say. I even used the Cilantro to make a homemade marinade for Tuna last weekend!
Recipe:
Mix together:
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1 tsp. salt
2 cups chicken stock

Let your chicken or tuna marinate in a bag with all of that goodness... and you will be happy!
By the way -- did you notice those awesome grill marks!?!?!

Oh yeah, baby! Check these suckers out:
Here's our new Outdoor (Apartment Friendly) George Foreman Grill:
I definitely recommend it! It's quick and easy to cook on, and most importantly - easy to clean!!

The Painful (Naked) Truth

I don’t usually get very personal here. The truth is, I’m a pretty private person, especially when it comes to my pain.

I’m going to peel back the curtain a little now, though. Let me be straight with you. I’ve been struggling these past few months with situational depression. It has come and gone, some days are better than others. One moment, I’m the happiest little homemaker on the block, the next I feel like some kind of Cinderella/slave who is the scum of the earth. Talk about a roller coaster!

I’m learning a lot about myself and my God through this. Let me tell you – I am learning how NOT perfect I am, and how perfect HIS peace is. I’m learning how to trust God, how to cry out to Him and accept His grace. Who knew it would be so hard to accept a gift that is being given to you, right?

Here’s the thing. For months, the weight of Michael’s disability was just closing in on me. Like this giant, heavy, rough edged boulder on top of me all the time. I felt mad, sad, sorry for him, sorry for myself, jealous every time I saw a couple walking together hand in hand, or saw a guy pull up to the apartment building next to ours in a car to pick his girlfriend up, frustrated that there are so many responsibilities that fall on me (ridiculous things would make me cry, like taking out the trash), worried about our future, wondering if things were ever going to get better, wondering if I was ever going to stop feeling like my very existence was getting in the way.

Oy. Right?

I knew my emotions were out of control. I was concerned. Michael was concerned. I kept the issue pretty guarded, though, so not many others knew what I was going through (major mistake).

I started journaling my thoughts, fears, frustrations. Then… I realized something. I needed so badly just to figure out how I was feeling. I knew I was crying all the time, and I was overreacting to almost everything, but I couldn’t figure out why.

Then… it dawned on me. This disability feels like a 3rd person in our marriage. Me, Mike, and this wheelchair and everything associated with it. This 3rd person was not cool. He (I’m making it a boy for story’s sake) was seriously cramping our style! He’s slows us down, ruins our plans, and must be the center of attention. He’s heavy, and clunky, and doesn’t go with the natural flow. And he’s so demanding. And he’s always around. He has to be the first thing I deal with in the morning, the last thing I deal with before going to bed, and he never understands when we’re tired, or busy, or we just don’t want to deal with him. And he’s very particular. He must have things a certain way, so we always have to make sure the environment is acceptable to him before making plans. How annoying, right?

Before you send me e-mails about this rant: Yes, I knew what I was getting myself into. Duh. Michael was very open with me about his disability and his life and what all it entails. He was wise in letting me in on this stuff slowly, and believe me – I knew what I was getting into. And I was completely okay with it. Even viewed it as a sort of “blessing,” believe it or not. (I am actually almost back to that point now.)

Okay, back to that “3rd person. “ I tried to reason with him, that didn’t work. Tried to bargain, again, not negotiable. The thing about toting a 3rd person around that’s not really a 3rd person is…. You can’t relate to him, because he’s not really a him, he’s an it. So, I couldn’t sit him down and have a conversation with him, confess that I was getting jealous of him, and that I needed him to move aside every now and then, you know. But, sadly, the disability didn’t understand things from my perspective.

And, Mr. 3rd person was not going to change. I was going to have to change. Because the “3 of us” have to make this work. We’re all in this for life!

I needed a new perspective.

And not the kind of “well, at least we’re still alive” kind of “perspective.” Ask my husband, I hate “perspective.” I cringe when I hear someone compare themselves to someone else who is in a different situation and be like, “Well, look at them – it could be so much worse. At least we still have…. Blah, blah, blah… fill in the blank.”

I hate that kind of compare-yourself-to-someone-else “perspective.” Probably because I sleep next to perspective every night, and I wake up next to it every morning. Playing that game sucks for me. Because no matter how bad of a day it’s been for me, no matter how busy I’ve been, or how badly my feet hurt, or whatever, I’m still sleeping next to a guy who is paralyzed. And my paralyzed guy likely is going to bed with a smile on his face. And he’ll wake up with one. (Well, not really, that’s a stretch – Michael is a Mr. Positive/glass is half full kind of guy, but he is definitely not a morning person!) So, if I compare myself to that, I’m dead. I’ll never be able to compete with quadriplegia. No matter how many times I sneeze or wheeze, or I’m “exhausted” or I think I’ve just endured so much one day, or I’m facing so much the next day. That whole comparative perspective thing just doesn’t bode well for me, so I decided to quit that.

I’ve decided to just stick with finding “perspective” on my own. I’ll compare yesterday to today, or whatever. But I’m not going to make myself feel better or worse depending on somebody else’s situation. Not anymore. No thank you.

This month, though, I’ve felt a shift. I feel like I’ve turned a corner. Like I’m a slightly more in control of my emotions. I don’t feel nearly as invisible, or like I’m some kind of 2nd class citizen, or like I’m the most horrible person in the world if my husband wakes me up in the middle of the night because he needs to roll over. (I still do it, duh!) I’m not perfect. I’m not some kind of saint. I’m not an inspiration, or a “really strong person,” or whatever. I’m a complete mess, just like you. So, I’m “normal,” yay.

But, I’m coming clean about this. This has been PART of my reality over the last 6 months. It’s not everything (though at times it has felt that way). I haven’t been completely fake with you. There have been lots of excellent home made meals, super fun family trips, and my love for my husband still multiplies daily. I love my life, my job, my church, my family and my friends. I’m proud of so much. But, this is what it’s been like in the background.

So, there you go.

Oh – I wanted to share with you some of the things that have helped me come from darkness into light in all of this (so to speak).

1. From Garden to City. I’ve shared with you before that we are reading through the Bible this year with our church. We haven’t been perfect in following along. But we generally do read the Word together over breakfast each morning, and it has a tremendous impact. God’s Word is like that. It never fails.

2. Book – “Get Out of that Pit,” by Beth Moore. This book helped me to see that I could get out of this “pit” I was in. It didn’t matter how I got there, whether I put myself there, or I was thrown in, or what. That God’s deliverance is there for me to call on, and He is faithful and just!

3. Book – “When the Man you Love is Ill,” by Dr. Dorree Lynn and Florence Isaacs. I am reading this again for the 2nd time. The first time I read it like a novel, I couldn’t put it down! I was so encouraged to know that so many women feel what I feel in situations like this (not that my husband is “ill,” he’s not – he’s very well, in fact!) where you have to juggle being wife and caregiver. Some very practical tips too!

4. Song- “Your Hands,” by JJ Feller. This one really hits home for me right now. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried driving or in the shower, or whatever, listening to this song.



Now that I’ve completely spilled my guts to you – it’s only fitting to sign off with a picture of myself, sans makeup… just to make it official. So, there you go. Nothing left to hide. Cheers.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Growth


I have great news... check it out!! Three of our four herbs are sprouting!! One is strugglin'...
Don't ask me what this stuff is... I wasn't wise enough to label it... so, I don't know. Guess I'll be able to tell soon enough, though!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Your Taste Buds Will Love this Salad

(iPhone photos don't do food justice)
This week, I was feeling like we needed to eat some salad! Too much pasta and bread, you know? That stuff weighs you down if you eat too much! So, I threw together a salad and I have to say I was impressed with myself freestyling with no recipe!

The salad had:

Romaine lettuce
Baby Spinach
Cucumber
Onion
Chicken (just cooked in a skillet with some olive oil, S&P)
Feta Cheese
Roasted Red Peppers (cooked in the oven doused in olive oil, herbs *I use Wegman's Basting Oil because it's already ready to go*)
Feta Cheese
Pecans (I did mix these with a little butter and brown sugar and chopped 'em up...)
Crasins

I tossed all that together just with the oil from cooking and some Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing and viola!

YUMMY!! We are definitely re-doing this one again, hopefully soon! Note: We had leftovers in the fridge the next day and the taste was even better!


Grocery Store Cheater


I have been a FAITHFUL Wegmans girl since moving out here to Fairfax. Before, I was semi-faithful at Harris Teeter when I lived in Arlington (they're just so expensive!) But.... HT sent me some $10 off coupons for a $50 grocery purchase... so I am game for cheating for the couple of weeks that these coupons run. The key to shopping at Harris Teeter is watching the sales! I only buy what is Buy One, Get One Free. You can't do much better than that when it comes to a sale, right? Yesterday, even though I was out of sale grocery store practice (I still use coupons at Wegmans, but they don't have "sales" per se) I managed to spend only $50 and rack up $35 in coupon savings! I am awesome.

And... for the second week in a row I actually remembered the reusable grocery bags! This is the only two times in my life I have ever remembered to actually take them inside and everything. This is progress, people! I'm pretty sure I deserve some sort of environmental award or something!

Note: I'm not a horrible plastic bag polluter. I promise I don't go and throw them in the river or anything. We use them in the bathroom trash cans and occasionally to pick up doggy waste.

Night Night Snacks

Typically, Michael walks the dogs and lets them go potty one last time before we go to bed. They know the routine. Leashes on, out the door, go potty, and come back in to get a "cookie!" They are so eager when they get in from that walk. They'll trot right on over to the end of the kitchen like, "okay, I'm ready for my cookie now." Last week, I baked some chocolate chip cookies, so the humans could have a little night night snack too :)


Friday, June 4, 2010

Porch Makeover

Checkout our new and improved porch! Welcome SUMMER TIME!!
The little bowls of dirt will (hopefully, Lord willing) be our Herb garden in a couple of weeks! I'm SO excited to cook with fresh herbs!
Please don't ask me what any of these flowers are called! The guy at Home Depot told me they are all "hard to kill," we'll see. I don't have the best track record with plants! I do manage to keep three (four if you count the husband) animals well fed and hydrated, though! But then again... they let you know when they need anything!
I'm hoping to grow a green thumb... we'll see....

Sew.... what's new?

Did you even know that one of my New Year's Resolutions was to learn to sew? Don't ask me why. I really never set out to be the little Betty Crocker/Donna Reed happy homemaker I appear to be turning into, I swear! I never really learned to sew. I mean, I took a "Home Ec" class in 7th grade and we technically had to sew a pillow from a pattern... but I think I kind of had someone else sew mine for me or something... because I have no recollection of anything to do with sewing. I do remember that the only part of the pillow (which was a cupcake!) that I was supposed to do was to sew up the bottom after putting the stuffing in. And I do remember that I never did it! I held that open part in my hand as I showed my project to my teacher! What a little slacker, right? Haha... so classic Dana. I probably got like a B. So me!

Anyway... I really, really want to learn to sew so I can have fun being creative and you know, creating things. A friend gave me a sewing machine earlier this year, but here we are, June, and I finally busted it out.
This sucker is an antique! It got some serious miles put on it making clothes, drapes, etc. back in the 60s! But.... upon advice I received from the, very well informed I do believe, women at Jo-Ann Fabrics... I ended up buying the equivalent of an Easy-Bake Oven of sewing machines. It's seriously a little, tiny sewing machine for kids! I brought that sucker home over the weekend and threaded it and made my very first sewing project, a coaster! Check it out!
I was so proud!! I have dreams of making lots and lots of stuff, so stay tuned... and Etsy, you better watch out!

Refreshing Change

We had a great Memorial Day weekend. Man, were we ready for a three day weekend! Nothing like working for a whole week after being on vacation, right? Doesn't it just drain you?

We fit so much into last weekend. We cleaned our apartment, went to the pool (yeah, baby! hope to be back there this weekend!), went grocery shopping, went back to church for the first time in a month!! (man, was it good to be back with our church family!). It was all around, a great weekend.

We ate steak, too. Yum! Wish I had a pic of that for you!

Some of my favorite things we did this weekend were the productive, creative things!!! For example.... These pictures in our dining room. Okay, so we thought it would be cute for Christmas if we printed out a bunch of Christmas pictures and frame them for the Holiday Season, right?
Yeah.... they were cute, alright? Real cute to have these Christmas pictures hanging on the wall.... until Memorial Day Weekend!!! It's like the yuppy apartment version of having Christmas lights on your trailer in the middle of the summer.

But, alas.... we FINALLY replaced them and man, is it refreshing!!!! Such awesome memories are tied to each of these pictures of us!
We printed out other pictures too and finally hung frames and wall art that we've been meaning to do for months! It's so nice to feel a little more settled in. Feels a lot more like home when there are things hanging on the walls, right?

4th row seat

Last week (was it last week? I can't remember), whenever the President held his little press conference about the oil spill, I had a crazy close seat.

4TH ROW, PEOPLE! I am not usually afraid of being called on because I am usually in the very back row, even in the briefing room. But for some reason, this day, I was suuuuper close. Like I could see the sweat beading on POTUS's forehead close. Most reporters know if they're going to be called on at these things, but there's always the off chance some random news organization will get called on, so I was totally scrambling together questions when I realized I was so close.

I'm glad I didn't get called on because I'm sure I would have looked like Fire Marshal Bill asking the question. I felt like cheerleading tryouts in high school. There was seriously no saliva in my mouth, I was so nervous!

VACATION, BABY!!!

The absolute HIGHLIGHT of May, was, hands down, our vacation!!! We spent an entire week away. Other than the wedding/honeymoon, I have never taken a full week of work off! I know, workaholic, right?

This trip was SO. WORTH. IT. First we road tripped it down to Myrtle Beach, SC to hang out with Michael's family. It was a super long drive, but it was fun. We made it fun. Always helps to have some Poppy Cock :) Then, on the way back to VA from there, we drove up the coast and hung with my mom and Dave for a couple of nights in Nags Head, NC. Love that place, hello!!!

For me, this vacation will go down in history as the week that we...
sat in the sand together...
swam in the pool together...
and rode on the boat together.

These are no small feats for us, people! These are all three things that I hold dear to my heart and feared we wouldn't really ever be able to fully enjoy together!! So... this vacation was OFF THE CHARTS as far as fulfilling and rewarding and relaxing and encouraging!

Major kudos to Michael's "little" brother, Jarred, who literally picked him up and carried him onto the beach for our family pictures, and carried him (nicely) into the pool so we could swim. No matter how strong I get, I won't be able to carry my husband like that, so it means the world to me that his brother did so we could enjoy these special moments together.
We had a blast with Jarred and Crystal and Brody and Grey in Myrtle Beach. They are a rock star family!
Would you look at Greyson???? He is so big and so cute and cuddly!! I loved holding him. Too bad it totally made my ovaries hurt and I do not have time for that right now! :) I think I'm at that age where I should really stop holding babies!
We enjoyed a night out at the Crocodile Rocks dueling piano bar. Those are so fun! You have to go, if you haven't ever been. Those guys are so talented, and it's so entertaining!
It was also so sweet hanging out with Michael's parents - just laughing, and eating, and relaxing, and eating, and watching them bank some quality grandparent time!!
Check out all the Mrs. Ritters!
Then... it was off to Nags Head to see my crazy family... a.k.a party time!!!
Michael encountered his first soft shell crab...
And... conquered it.
My mama liked that! We are a seafood loving family! Glad to welcome this Arkansas boy to the bunch! :)
The next day, we took their boat, "Go With the Flo 2" cruising on the Sound. Dave and I just slid Michael right on the boat, wheelchair and all! It was super liberating for my mother. I totally understand the feeling.
My annual picture of my mom and Dave on the boat:
And, my annual picture of Dave driving the boat. (You can almost hear my mother in the background, "Dave, Dave! Do you see that boat? Dave, Dave, do you see that crabpot?"
Dave made us an awesome dinner, of course. My mom "helped cook," always a sight to see! :)
And I got 47 mosquito bites. Thanks to my hunny for covering me up.
Oh, the joys of vacation! It was an incredible trip, y'all!!!! I so want to go back, RIGHT NOW.

Contact Form

Name

Email *

Message *