Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Columbia | 12-14 October 2012

So many good things have been happening lately that it's been hard to keep up with writing about them. We have so many photos still not loaded on our computers, I don't even want to think about it! This is all good stuff, no complaints here.

A few weeks ago my good friend S. came up with her boy, B. (And yes, they have the same magical initials as the stars of GG! Lucky them.) There was a Jam Room Music Festival that caught their eye and they couldn't resist the allure of Cola. Friday night, after having a delicious dinner outside, we went to Incarnation Lutheran's Holy Schnitzel Oktoberfest. It was fun! Good beer, German polka, sugary desserts, face painting, and best of all -- bouncy house! I love those things, and it had probably been about six years (too long) since I had last bounced in one. Whew, what a good cardiovascular workout, haha.

Saturday morning after a yum-yum breakfast outside (beautiful weather!) we headed downtown for the opening weekend of the new location for Soda City All Local Farmers Market. We had samples of some good stuff, made notes on things to purchase later (like fresh pasta!), and then slowly walked our way over to The Flying Saucer. Just when S. & B. thought they were done with German-inspired food, we showed them some more tasty treats!

Afterward the music festival was starting up. The main act that S. was interested in was her all-time favorite band, The Hold Steady, and they would be head-lining at 8:30pm. We had six hours to enjoy local bands! It was fun! I think my favorite performance was by Can't Kids. J. and I realized the last show we had been to might have been in Chicago 2010. Sad!

Once our ears were throughoughly deafened and our legs were aching, we drove ourselves back to the good ole Forest Acres and stopped at Italian Pie for a few slices. (And also watched USC lose to LSU! Yup, we were the only ones secretly cheering for the other team. Awkwarddd.)

The next morning we shared another breakfast outside (again, just beautiful weather!) and said our sad goodbyes. S. & B. were headed for Florida, with some stops at Savannah and St. Augustine on the way! I'm jealous of their vacation! J. and I headed to church, and since a lot of our friends were away for the weekend, we ended up having our very first picnic lunch with Jasper. There is a small park not too far away from us (and actually, right across the street from our old rental) that my brother had always coined The Dog Park, even though it isn't an official dog park. When we got there, I understood why. There were so many people with their dogs enjoying the gorgeous day with us! J. and I had leftover pizza, veggies, and fruit, and basically took turns walking with Jasper while the other ate. I am sure this is a little window in to what it would be like with a fresh babe in our life. (:

Once the weekend was over, I wanted to scream -- this was the best weekend ever!! But then I realized we've been having good weekends all month! October, you may have upped your position on my "favorite month" list. (Yes, there is a list.) Enough of this chatter, here are some photos!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Weekly Yums | 15-21 October 2012

Moe's Monday

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese and Salad
and Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes for dessert with our TNG!

Corn and Chipotle Soup with Avocado-Radish Salsa and Salad

Potato-Leek Soup

Roasted Corn-Pepper-Tomato Chowder


Creamy Spinach Soup with Mozzarella Croutons

As you can see, this is a very soupy week! I have the week off and am taking advantage of it -- to tackle three new pumpkin recipes and then of course all of these soup recipes. I said mid-September that I would conquer both soups and pumpkins this season, so this is me following through on this promise! I have never been a huge pumpkin/soup fan, but honestly -- I have never really given either a try. Never being a big fan of autumn, I am now trying to warm myself up to it (especially now that we live in a state that actually experiences seasons!). Most of the unlinked recipes are from my October issue of Vegetarian Times Magazine, and if they turn out okay I will share them. Are you tackling any new recipes this Fall?

Five Favs: Kitchen Necessities

If I were stranded on a deserted island, these are the five favorite kitchen items I could not live without (assuming this hypothetical island had working electricity, sanitary water, and an abundance of food to cook!):

1) Black & Decker Toast-R-Oven
I cannot say enough great things about this toaster oven. Not growing up with one, I didn't realize how useful they were until much later in life...which led me to putting it on our wedding registry, of course! This thing works like a charm. You can bake/toast/broil, all without needing to use more energy that a conventional oven would produce -- keeping your kitchen cool and cooking a breeze (see what I did there?)!

2) Calphalon Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Saute Pan with Cover
This is the pan most often used out of the awesome set my mom gifted us with for our wedding (the set originally from Bed, Bath & Beyond, though the link is to Amazon). I read the reviews on Amazon, which stated that this pan warps -- I don't know if it's the incorrect pan, but we have been using this almost every single day for 2.5 years and have not experienced anything but pleasure when cooking with this saute pan.

3) Hamilton Beach Food Processor
This is a very basic food processor that I think was gifted to me when I moved into an apartment with my best friend, A., six years ago. Though it didn't get much use the first couple of years, ever since my plight into domesticity, it gets, on average, about 2-3 uses per week (depending on the recipe). Of course, J. and I have been coveting a Vitamix for years now, but we haven't yet made that intense financial plunge. In the meantime, this food processor works wonders.

4) Henckels Classic Stainless Steel 6-inch Utility Knife
What did we do with our Amazon wedding giftcards, you ask? Why, buy our first set of decent knives! Out of the three (utility,chef's, and paring -- a similar set to this, actually), the utility knife sees the most use. I don't know how I ever chopped fruits/veggies before this bad boy entered our home (actually I do, and those memories are outright nightmares!).

5) Silicone Flexible Cutting Boards
I had never heard of these until seeing J.'s aunt cook with them during a visit. It's fun because if you were worried about cross-contamination (something we don't have to worry about most of the time) you can keep poultry on one color, veggies on a different, and fish on a third (why you would be eating a chicken-asparagus-salmon meal is beyond me, but you know, all hypothetical chopping cases) and cook worry-free. I like them because they are flexible so I can simply bend the cutting board after I've chopped by bell peppers and let them slide right into the saute pan (or right into the composter bin for veg/fruit leftovers). They are thin so take up little space and are super easy to clean. I even use them as a "clean surface" (doesn't it ever weird you out to prepare food directly on a counter, even if you scrubbed it yourself?) to prepare sandwiches, burritos, etc. without having to waste a papertowel. The first six months of us living in our new home was stressful because I couldn't find these cutting boards that were packed away in a non-descript box. Imagine my pure joy when they found their place back in my kitchen!

There are many more gadgets/appliances that we use almost daily, but if I had to pick my top five, these would be it. What items do you use every day and couldn't live without?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Midlands Plant & Flower Festival | 29 September 2012

ER MER GOURD what I kept thinking when we headed into the SC State Farmers Market the morning of the Plant & Flower Festival. Boxes and boxes of interesting gourds! Look at these things!

When we were finally er-mer-gourded out, we perused the new fall blooms. I was in chrysanthemum heaven!

The other flowers were all right but paled in comparison... (:

I was totally vying for this piece of yard-art, hand-crafted from old license plates! Look at this beautiful upcycle:

And, finally, but definitely not least -- look at this gorgeous succulent creation! Love it!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Tale of the Bleeding Nose

Everyone has their opinion about my laugh. It is something I have heard all of my life -- either it is too loud and obnoxious or people, quote, "love it, it makes me laugh!" There is no grey area when it comes to my laugh. You all know exactly how you feel about it.

Freshman year of college I was watching Kung Fu Hustle with some friends in Gainesville. (Let me point out that this movie is a comedy.) During the opening fight scene, I remember the old lady landlord doing something funny, so I -- of course -- laughed! Out loud! A lot! Two of my three friends promptly stood up and sat three rows away from me. (And I promptly stoop up & walked into another theatre to watch The Ballad of Jack & Rose -- a movie I was much more interested in watching, by the way.) More recently, coworkers have coined me "Betty" (and my colleague, K. "Wilma") for our disturbing bouts of laughter. This type of attention to my guffaw is not new.

So earlier this week we were all lying in bed. By "we," I mean my husband, Jasper, and me (Gilly hasn't gotten down with this snuggle fest just yet, but cooler weather is around the corner and I see her changing her mind). Jasper is between us, going to town licking/biting himself, doing whatever it is he does, and out of his mouth (I think it was his mouth) escapes a loud fart-like noise. J. immediately accuses me of farting and tells me how gross I am. I told him it wasn't me, but, really our puppy's flatulence. My dear husband, my best friend and soul mate, accuses me of lying to him, and of course it was me not the dog who made this obscene noise in our pure virginal bed. I started laughing -- I mean really laughing -- so hard. I couldn't believe that J. wouldn't believe me! Laughing turned to snorting, and well, you get the picture. In response to these noises he had probably never heard before, Jasper got really excited, fumbled his way out of the in-between space of the covers, started panting like he does when he's overstimulated, hops toward me, and mid-snort, bites me in the face!

Like I said, there is no grey area when it comes to my laugh.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

And What is Lost Can Never Be Found

Longing for Florida favorites -- the beach, old friends, Tampa Theatre, my mom, Dunedin Brewery -- I left early in the morning (so early, in fact, that I forgot the entire camera bag, stock full of technological wonders!) on the eleventh of September. First destination: Gainesville. With my best friend, K., heading to Rome the following Saturday, I had limited time with her, so I spent time enjoying her teaching (while I also pilfered through her desk -- something you are never allowed to do as a student, but because she's my BFF I had free reign!). We later shared a Publix sub, tangelos, and Raisinets over the shortest lunch ever, and then I departed for Tampa.

A collection of friends were to meet at Fly Bar in downtown Tampa before a planned trip to the theatre. They came, we ate, we laughed -- it was such an enjoyable, light-hearted, and fun time. So fun, in fact, that we decided to skip the theatre, and instead stop by The Hub, and then later walk about UT's campus (M. and I feeling great bouts of nostalgia the entire time). The entire day was truly lovely -- from starting in my best friend's classroom, to ending in my other best friend's guest room -- and a perfect beginning to this short vacation.

The next morning, A. and I made our way south to Pass-A-Grille Beach in St. Petersburg. A. made reservations at the cutest little inn on the beach, and before the afternoon really started, we were on the beach, telling stories, sipping drinks, and playing in the clear, gorgeous water. We spent two full days in this beautiful place -- each day rotating between the sun and water (enjoying the rain showers, too), and each night washing the sand off our bodies to make our way to a waterside restaurant.(We tried conch fritters for the first time! A+!) Pass-A-Grille is quiet and peaceful. I like it here. (:

On Friday morning, A. and I headed back home and I met my mom for a mother-daughter day. We had lunch at Panera, and then headed to her favorite place for pedicures. With freshly painted toes, we then did something sort of unexpected. Apparently my mom and her childhood best friend sometimes spend their days together hanging out at the "Kitty Kabana," the local pet shelter for cats. My mom has termed this place the "Cat House" and was very excited for me to meet Chubby Hugs - a 25lb cat that literally gives you hugs. All these animals were so sweet and it actually was fun spending time there loving on them. Later that day, we headed back home to have dinner cooked by my mom's boyfriend, D. Yummy stir fry! My brother and his girlfriend hung out with us, too, and after stuffing my face with chocolate covered mint Oreos, I succumbed to the best night's rest on the most comfortable air mattress.

Saturday morning, after fresh NY-style Bagels, I left my family and headed toward the Orlando area to meet up with my close friend, S. We first ate at Ethos, a vegan restaurant. Afterward, we went to Enzian Theater, an independent theatre where you can order food and drinks while watching your independent film! S.'s beau, B. met us there before The Queen of Versailles started, so we grabbed a drink and got cozy. After the movie, there was some shoe shopping, and then we headed back to S.'s house for quality time (J. met us there, too!).

What I realized most about this trip is the lack of hugs in my life on a daily basis. Every person I met -- albeit, it may have been a while since our last visit -- greeted me with a comforting squeeze. In non-vacation life, this usually occurs only with my husband -- and those his hugs are great, it was wonderful getting multiple hugs like this each day. Anybody want to hug me more?

Oh yeah, this sunrise was pretty sweet on my drive back to South Carolina. (: