Flowers for the office

How was everyone’s Valentine’s Day?

Yesterday, it was flower central at work.  A lot of the women had flowers on their desks from their significant others.  At one point I was walking around the office and I thought, “man, I totally understand why single girls HATE this holiday.”

But I did love my flowers.  Ben didn’t go for roses.  Too cliché.  He always gets my favorite flowers, star-gazer lilies.

stargazer lillies

This beautiful arrangement arrives at my desk yesterday.  I really wasn’t expecting flowers.  No really, I wasn’t.  But I can’t say I wasn’t happy when they were dropped off at my desk! Right now, all the bulbs are closed, but my mid-week, this baby will be in full bloom.

Dinner

Dinner last night continued along my “must go from table to belly in 30 minutes” theme.

This was a super easy dinner.

Gnocchi and Veggies

1 package potato gnocchi from Trader Joes (it comes in a red package and doesn’t need to be refrigerated)

1 package Archer Farms Harvest Blend Vegetables (Broccoli, carrots, onions, baby cob corn, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, water chesnuts, & red peppers)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

salt, pepper and olive oil to taste

  1. Cook the gnocchi in salted boiling water until it floats
  2. Steam the veggies in the bag per instructions (7.5-8.5 minutes)
  3. Saute veggies in garlic
  4. Combine everything in a large bowl, add salt, pepper and olive oil to taste and enjoy!

I sprinkled a bit of Trader Joe’s low fat cheese on it as well.  Fantastic topper.  Although, really, when isn’t cheese a fantastic topper.  This could easily be made a bit healthier by leaving out the olive oil, but we needed some healthy fats in our diet tonight.

Run

Yesterday was beautiful in D.C.  It even hit the high 60’s.  Perfect outdoor running weather, right? Well by the time I got home for work, there was so much wind it felt like a hurricane was traveling through our nation’s capital.  So up to the treadmill I went with my new shoes.

Verdict: overall, I like them.  I can feel how they help my stride a bit (I run on the insides of my feet), and they provide a lot of support on my arch.  The backs are a bit more snug then I’m used to, so I’ve got a tiny blister.  But I’m gonna just chalk that up to wearing in a new pair of shoes.  I’ve had work flats do more damage on the first day.

Valentine’s Day

Ben and I decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day over the weekend.  How did we do it?

Started off with a 4+ mile run around D.C.   We started down on Ohio Drive (near where we ran the 10K on my birthday), ran down Ohio Drive, by the Lincoln Memorial, over Memorial Drive bridge into Arlington, down onto the Mt. Vernon trail to Teddy Roosevelt Park.  I took a break while Ben ran the trails through the park.  Afterward, we reversed the route and went back to the car.

It was terrible.  Terrible.  I could never get into the groove.  It was my first run outside in a while.  I’ve gotten used to running on the treadmill – where you can’t really stop.  Running outside, you could stop whenever you want.  Also, the wind was so bad that it kept knocking my earphones out.  Also, I kinda need to sneakers, so there was that too…

After the run, we had our Valentine’s Day dinner.  We decided to make dinner instead of going out.  On our menu:

Soup

Butternut squash soup

Salad

Baby lettuce with candied pecans and cheese

Dinner

London broil

Roasted sweet potatoes

Sautéed asparagus

Italian bread

Dessert

Hand rolled truffle

chocolate peanutbutter “bomb”

Dinner worked out well; Ben handled the meat, asparagus and salad and I handled the soup and sweet potatoes. We cheated and bought the dessert at Harris Teeter.  They have a rather extensive fancy dessert section.  We always assumed it wasn’t that great.  But after 4+ miles, we decided to give it a shot opposed to making something from scratch. 

I was totally fine that we didn’t go out somewhere.  Sometimes, its nice to just have a big fancy dinner at home.

 

What did you do for Valentine’s Day?

Like a Chesapeak Bay Native

Tonight’s dinner consisted of crab cakes and sweet potato french fries.  I wish I could say I made any of it from scratch.  But alas, we’re having my good friend Trader Joe to dinner tonight.

Trader Joe’s pre-made frozen crab cakes come in vacuum sealed packs of two.  They are a little thin, but they were great for crab cake sandwiches.  It’s not lump crab meat, but it’s definitely more crab than “filler.”  Directions said to defrost the crab cakes before cooking, but I threw them right from the freezer into a pan on low.

As for a side, I had Trader Joe’s sweet potato fries.  By themselves, they are a little bland.  I spiced them up with a dash of salt and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice.  The spice was an excellent addition to the fries.

All in all – it was dinner success.

Although, lately for me successful dinner is anything that can be passed off as an actual dinner (aka not handfuls of pita chips) and can be fridge to table in under 30 minutes.  I just don’t always have the time and energy to spend an hour making everything from scratch.

Now, Ben and I are enjoying a nice glass of wine, some chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, and some White Collar.

Picture of Neal Caffrey White Collar

The weekend of the Groupon…

Happy Sunday!  I hope everyone is enjoying the Sunday football game.  Ben and I are sitting watching the Bears/Packers game.  I think I’m rooting for the Packers, cause then at least my Eagles lost to the team that went on to the Super Bowl.

On Thursday, Ben and I realized that we had two LivingSocial coupons for The Madhatter that expired in early February.  We decided to use one Thursday night.  We ordered some of their happy hour specials (I stuck with Bud Light, whereas Ben enjoyed some Bud Light and some Jack and Diets).  We also ordered a TON of food:

  • goat cheese pizzette
  • fried calamari
  • Madhatter Classic – burger with applewood-smoked bacon and cheddar (me)
  • Ribeye Steak Sandwich- Caramelized onion, melted provolone, pesto aioli,
    and horseradish mayo (Ben)

The calamari was only so-so.  It came out kinda cold and a bit tough.  I’ve had it there before, and it was fantastic, so I’m going to just chalk it up on one bad dish.  My burger was really good, and Ben enjoyed his sandwich as well.

On Friday, Ben’s mom flew into town.  We had dinner at Kora – a great restaurant in Crystal City.  We each got a flight of wine (Riesling, Merlot and Chardonnay) and we all split the prosciutto and shrimp pizza and the BBQ short-ribs pizza.  Two VERY different flavors, but both were fantastic.

Saturday, we woke up and used a Groupon to go to the Newseum.  I’ve been before, but Ben and his mom had never been.  Being in PR, I’m really fascinated in how they show (1) how the media has changed through the years and (2) how media has portrayed various events in history.  I think they have a really well done video about media and 9-11.

Piece of the Berlin Wall from Newseum DCBerlin Wall at the Newseum


US Capitol from Newseum DC

U.S. Capitol from the Newseum deck

We then hopped in a cab and headed BACK to the Madhatter to use LivingSocial deal number two.  We watched the Duke game while enjoying dinner.  Again, we got the fried calamari (much better this time).  I got the same burger again – very good. We had the same waiter from Thursday, which was nice.  I wish I knew his name so I could give him a shout out, because he was great.

After dinner, Mrs. B and I walked from Dupont to Georgetown to use yet ANOTHER Groupon.  Last year, Ben bought his mom and I a massage from M3.  The Groupon was for a Swedish or a Sports massage.  We both went with the Swedish.  I would definitely recommend M3 to anyone looking for an affordable massage in D.C.

The spa is on the second and third level of a townhouse right on M street.  You go one flight of stairs and check in at a very calming, clean-looking lobby.  They offer water and tea to customers, and have lots of space to sit and wait.  They also sell some skincare products.  It wasn’t a brand I recognized.  My masseuse came and picked me up from the waiting area and took me to a small room on the third floor.  He brought out a Tupperware container that I could keep my clothes in, which I liked.  Overall, he did a great job with the massage.  At points, I thought he could have used a bit more lotion, but  think that’s just because I like to drown my skin in lotion.  When I asked for more pressure, he adjusted appropriately and went out of his way to make sure I was relaxed and enjoying my experience.

M3 Massage roomphoto credit

In case you’re curious, M3 generally charges $80 for an hour massage.  I think that’s a pretty good price, especially here in D.C.  I usually think an hour massage will be at least $100.

This morning, we woke up, had breakfast, and sat and chatted for a bit about wedding stuff.  The three of us then headed to the gym.  Today’s run wasn’t terrible when you look at time and distance.  However, it felt really tough.  Its crazy how much of running in mental.  When I’m having a great day, my runs tend to feel better than days when I’m frustrated.

But all in all, two and a half miles in 25 minutes isn’t bad (and that includes a two-minute warm-up and a two-minute cool down).  I then did 5-10 minutes of yoga and one set of arm weights.  We came back, showered, and sent Mrs. B on her way back to South Carolina.

So we had quite a busy weekend.  But when as was said and done, we used six Groupons/LivingSocial deals.  We were actually supposed to use a 7th today for lunch, but we ran out of time.

YAY for Groupons!

Stew Time!

On Monday, Ben and I FINALLY got rid of our Christmas tree.  As sad as I am to see it go, it certainly makes our apartment feel a lot bigger without it!

But the most exciting part was my first attempt at home-made stew!  Somehow, I am 25 years old, and I had never made stew from scratch.

Beef Stew adopted from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook.  AKA my cooking bible

makes 4-6 servings

  • slightly more than one pound of stew meat (I just put the whole package in.  It’s not an exact science)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cups carrots, chopped
  • two stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 small-to-medium potatoes, quartered
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped/minced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • vegetable oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • basil
  • one can of 99 percent fat-free beef broth
  1. In a medium size stew pot (I used my new cherry red Le Cruset), add enough vegetable oil to clearly cover the bottom of the pan.  Bring the oil to a simmer.
  2. Brown all of the meat in the oil (if you need to add more oil as you work, that’s fine.  I just kept it so there was constantly oil covered the bottom of the pan).  Depending how wide your pan is, you may not be able to brown all of your meat at once, that’s fine as well.
  3. Remove all the meat once browned and put aside.  In the oil, add the garlic and onions and allow them to cook in the oil.  Cook until the onions are translucent – I think it took about 10 minutes for mine to cook.
  4. Add flour to mixture.
  5. Add the meat back into the pot, as well as the can of beef broth and 1/2 cup of water.  Add salt, pepper and basil per your liking.  (sorry, I didn’t measure).  Bring the mixture to a boil, then bring it down to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 2 1/2 hours.
  6. Taste broth, consider adding any more seasoning as necessary.
  7. Add potatoes, celery, carrots.  Bring mixture to a boil, then bring it back down to a “high simmer”.  Cover and let it cook for another 30 minutes.

ENJOY!  Sorry I was a bit of a failure and didn’t take any pictures, but trust me it was great.  And it was just as good the next day!  The stew was very hearty – if you prefer to have your stew last more than 4-6 servings or like more gravy in your stew, I would recommend adding two cans of beef brother and a cup of water.

 

I’m debating taking a bath right now while Benjamin watches the Duke game.  Last night at the gym, I was having such a great run that I decided it would be a wonderful idea to push my limits.  Lately, I’ve been sticking with 25-30 minute runs, which usually come out to be somewhere in the 2.5 mile range.  Last night, I pushed myself on distance (3.3 miles), time  (35 minutes), and speed (I actually had a 9:35 mile in there.  That’s fast for me).  Not so smart, and my legs are a bit tight now.  Considering I pushed all three, I guess I shouldn’t complain that I’m only a little sore.  Note to self: pushing all three limits is how people get hurt.  Chillax.  Although secretly I just want to go back to the gym and see if I can do it again!

Weekend Update

This weekend, Ben’s brother and his wife we in town.  I hadn’t seen each other in a really long time, so it was great to just hang out.

They arrived Friday night, and we enjoyed some fancy beer, snacks and exchanged Christmas presents.  I got a cheese baking dish.  Additionally, they got us the Kodak Playsport video camera.  Its super small, about the size of a cell phone, and it has EXCELLENT quality.  We took a quick video and was about to put it on our 60 inch tv and the quality looked fantastic.  It also can record in HD.  And the best part – its waterproof!  They bought it so we can take it on our honeymoon and capture the whole trip!  Thanks Will & Debbie!!!

Kodak Playsport Camera

Saturday, we woke up and I made french toast casserole.  The recipe is below.  We then went and gave them the tour, showing the various monuments and hot spots around town.  We also showed them the collection of where we have lived during our time in D.C.  We had lunch at Good Stuff, which has quickly become our go-to place to take out of towners during the D.C. tour.  Afterwards, we hung out a bit before heading to Maggie’s improv show.  She did a great job – the girl is a natural at improv!  We came home, ordered wings and watched SNL before going to bed.

Now, I’m waiting for Ben to get home from a run so we can go to CCSP to watch the Eagles game with some friends.

French Toast Casserole

based on Planet Green recipe

  • Butter for greasing the pan
  • 1 loaf Challah bread
  • 3 cups skim milk (the recipe says only 2 cups is necessary if you aren’t letting it sit overnight, but I was)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbspn splenda (or regular sugar – I used splenda because we were out of sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp liquer of your choice (optional – I didn’t add, but that was because we didn’t have anything on hand)
  • 1/4 cup raisins or almonds (optional – I didn’t add, again because I didn’t have any on hand)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 – 2 tbsp butter
  1. Generously grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with butter.
  2. Rip bread apart and arrange bread in two tightly-packed layers in the pan.  If you use raisins or almonds, you can add these to the bread mixture.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk milk, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla and liqueur (if you are using) until well combined.  Pour mixture over bread and sprinkle with cinnamon. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  4. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden.
  5. Serve!

I don’t have any pictures, unfortunately, but it was really good.  I had some of the leftovers today for lunch, and it reheated quite well.

New Year’s Eve Weekend

Did everyone have a good New Year’s Eve? 

Ben and I decided to head out to Richmond for the holiday.  We didn’t get to spend Christmas or Thanksgiving together, so we decided this could be our holiday time.  Plus, it was kinda a special anniversary for us.  We found a great deal at the Omni Richmond and off we went!

We arrived mid-afternoon on Friday and hung out in our room a bit.  We exchanged our Christmas presents (I got a beautiful red electric tea kettle and Ben got Toy Story 3).  At 6:15 6:45, the hotel brought us a bottle of champaign and four chocolate covered strawberries.  I gotta say – the strawberries were fantastic!  Perhaps the best part of the hotel. 

Around 8 we headed out to the Capital Alehouse.  It’s a great restaurant/brew house that serves TONS of beer on draught and has a very large microbrewerly selection.  Ben started with an Avery Maharaja and I tried a Delirium Noel.  The Delirium was very good – a great winter brew.  The bar had a cool strip of ice that went down its length to help keep your beverage cold. 

Capital Alehouse - beer taps

Delirium Noel

We had 10:15 dinner reservations at Julip’s, a great southern place in town.  Dinner was fantastic!  We started with the shrimp and grits.  It was made with white cheddar, grilled andouille sausage and a lobster stock emulsion.  It was a fancy restaurant version of what Ben’s mom makes.  Then Ben ordered the osso bucco and I had the mac and cheese with spinach and butternut squash.  For dessert we ordered bananas foster, which they make tableside.  Our waiter seemed a bit fake, but he did a decent job.  All in all, it was a great experience.  The portions were huge – both of us brought leftovers home. 

I had made the late reservation with hopes that we would be at the restaurant for midnight, but we had paid the bill by 11:37, so we walked very quickly to a little plaza right next to our hotel to celebrate the new year.

Saturday, we woke up and walked around Richmond for a bit.  Nothing was open, due to the holiday, so we just walked around and took in the sights.  At night, we headed back to the Alehouse.  The night before we purchased tickets for a vintage beer tasting.  Included in the tasting was:

  • 2009 Vintage Harvest Ale
  • 2008 Vintage Harvest Lagavulin Whiskey Cask Aged
  • 2007 Vintage Harvest Port Cask Aged
  • 2006 Vintage Harvest Calvados Cask Aged
  • 2005 Vintage Harvest Sherry Cask Aged

My favorite was the Lagavulin Whiskey Cask Aged.  Obvi it was Ben’s as well.  We split a bavarian pretzel and each ordered a salad to accompany the tasting.  Again, everything was fantastic and very reasonably priced.  After the tasting, we went back to the hotel and just hung out and relaxed for the evening. 

Despite some hiccups in the weekend, we had a great time.  We had a blast and it was a fantastic way to ring in the new year!

How did you ring in the new year? 

Five goals for 2011

2011.  Its a big year.  I’ll be a quarter century years old.  I’ll change last names.  And as expected, I’m working on a list of goals for 2011.  Here is what I have so far. 

 

1. Maintain a workout regimen: get at least 2.5 hours of exercise per week.  Since most of my exercise tends to be on the active opposed to moderate style, that puts me above what the government recommends for a healthy lifestyle
 
2. Cook more: Cook at least one new meal per week, and to have a dinner that does not focus around pasta at least 2 other days of the week. I can not eat pasta forever.  Ok, I probably can, but it wouldn’t be a good idea.  Maybe I’ll find a cook book to cook my way through (a la Julie and Julia!)

3.  Get married with as little stress as possible:  I try and make my goals measurable and concrete.  Not sure stress level is really measurable.  But I think this is an important one. I will do as much planning and organizing up to the wedding as possible to make things move smoothly during the weekend’s festivities.  Any idea how I can make this goal more measurble?

4. Blog Blog Blog: Keep on blogging.  Every day isn’t realistic right now for me.  But I will find a schedule that works for me and stick to it. 

5. Excel at work: Again, I don’t get too specific about work things on here, so lets just leave this here and ya’ll can trust me that I have a plan.  Cool?

Are you developing a list of goals for 2011?  What goals have you set for yourself?  Any ideas how I can make my stress free wedding goal measurable?

Happy Holidays!

What a weekend.

Thursday night was the office Holiday party at Panache in the Golden Triangle.  The company rented out the whole restaurant and we had apps and cocktails.  It was a lot of fun to be able to mingle and meet everyone’s significant others. 

Friday night we went to Shiro, a Japanese habichi steakhouse, with Tal and Geoff.  The place had amazing fried rice.  I went with Chicken Teriyaki and Ben had Filet Mignon – both were excellent choices.  Afterwards Tal and Geoff came back to our place to hang for a bit.

Since we are spending Christmas with our respective families, Saturday night we made a special steak “Christmas dinner.”  Then this morning we woke up early and opened the presents under the Christmas tree.  Both of our parents were nice enough to mail us some presents to have under our Christmas tree.  Mrs. B got us a pasta maker and a bunch of Le Creuset cast iron cookware.  My mom got us some fancy tea cups, lots of tea and an indoor golf putting range that spits the ball back out at you. 

I’m working on my computer, which is holding on by a thread and not letting me upload pictures to the blog (its barely registering all the letters that I type….).  Hopefully pictures can be put up later. 

Roomie Visit!

After a long week, I slept in until 9:30 when I woke up to go meet this girl for brunch

I met Molly at my favorite brunch spot – Founding Farmers.  I got the Belgium waffle with a side of  pepper maple bacon, and Molly got the Farmers Breakfast (eggs, toast, bacon, hashbrowns).  As always, it was fantastic.  What I was most shocked about was that we had NO wait.  I’ve always just done breakfast there on Sundays – when you need reservations weeks in advance or you need to wait at least 45 minutes.  Today, we had no wait whatsoever.

Afterwards, we decided to continue catching up (walk off the calories-hello, bacon!) and we walked down through Georgetown.  During our walk I came across this adorable item:

It’s a silicon cupcake liner that is shaped like a teacup and comes with a little saucer.  It was adorable!  While slightly unpractical, its still combines two of my favorite things!

After the walk, I took a brief (20 minute, max) nap and Ben and I went for a quick 15 minute run around the neighborhood.  It was such a tough run.  My thighs felt super heavy like they were weighing me down.  My Endomondo running app didn’t work AGAIN (it also failed during last week’s 10K), so I’m not quite sure how far we went. 

On the way back, we picked up some chicken parm from Cafe Italia on Restaurant Row.  It’s a cute restaurant with a lot of character.  The chicken parm was pretty good.  Not the best I’ve ever had (although not sure anything beats the parm from The Palm), but I would get it again when the craving hits.  We’ve only gotten takeout from this place, but I’m hoping we can dine-in sometime soon. 

Now we are curled on the couch watching Lie to Me on Netflix.  Cool cats on a Saturday night.