Thursday, January 31, 2013

Beer Me: Orange & Pils

Two beers for you today that don't have anything to do with each other.

This is Blue Moon's spring seasonal offering, Valencia Grove Amber. Sorry about the grainy picture. 

From their site: "A deep copper amber in color, and it pours with a rich, creamy head. Surround your nose with the aroma of roasted caramel malts and a touch of orange peel."

This was easy-drinking and refreshing, even if it is still January. I liked the combination of citrus and amber. Not at all bitter (only 14 IBU's). Give it a try!

Also, on their site you can vote for one of three special beers to be included in the next winter variety pack. Vote for your favorite (Chocolate Mint, Gingerbread, or Cranberry Tart) and you get two Blue Moon glasses (for $5 shipping). I voted for Chocolate Mint because I've never had anything like that. I already know I like cranberry and gingerbread beers. Exercise your right to the beer vote!

OK, let's be honest. I only bought this beer because the name was funny and the label has pink on it. Eurotrash Pilz is the latest from Southern Tier Brewing Co. (one of my all-time faves). If you are looking for a smooth pilsner, this one is for you.

From the site: "Our mid-winter seasonal beer has the best characteristics of a traditional Pilsner Lager. The bready maltiness and lower (5.2%) abv make it a brilliant session ale, perfect for après-ski or while kicking back watching playoff football."

This paired perfectly with the fish & chips John and I had on Saturday night. And what do you know, the site says it pairs well with seafood. We are so smart. It's a little pricey for a plain ol' pilsner at $10.99/six pack. But, we didn't buy six. See below!

And one of the most exciting things to happen to the beer cooler at the local gourmet grocer? Individually sold bottles! You don't even have to make a full six pack. There are so many varieties that I'd love to try but don't want to commit to 6 bottles if it's no good. Now, for a couple bucks, I can try one, two, or 10! Don't get crazy. I'm not buying 10.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January Sewing

First month of 2013 Sewing Resolution: COMPLETE!

My projects this month were not particularly involved or difficult but I sewed them all the same so it counts. In fact, I had pretty much made both of them before. But, I accomplished another goal here, using fabric from my stash. That's right. I avoided JoAnn's for the entire month of January. No small feat!

I stitched up the kid version of these slippers for my nephew back in 2011. I had some fleece leftover from Sadie's Halloween costume and I had enough of the sherpa lined suede for the bottoms that I thought I could make some for me too.

I didn't take a picture of them on my feet because they look pretty wonky. Not for public consumption. I like them because I can leave them on while laying on the couch. The nice thing about the pattern (linked in the original post above) is that the dimensions are easily converted for a larger foot.

I also made a sleeve for my brand new Kindle. I used this pattern last year to make one for my mother-in-law's Kindle. As luck would have it, I had enough fabric from that one leftover to make one for me. Twinsies!

Now my Kindle is safe and warm. I'm already on my second book for it. Kindle's help you read lickety-split!

Also in January, I re-purposed one of John's sweater into one of my own. I didn't take any pictures because it was a pretty boring project. But, now I have a new-to-me black sweater with incredibly long arms and that comes well past the waistband on my jeans. Hot dog!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sweet Tooth

Sweet Tooth is the latest offering from Ian McEwan, best known for Atonement (later turned into a critically acclaimed movie). I put myself on the list for it as soon as I could knowing the wait might be a bit long. Of course, this was available for me right when I got my new Kindle so I frantically read it.

Good Reads' Synopsis: "Cambridge student Serena Frome’s beauty and intelligence make her the ideal recruit for MI5. The year is 1972. The Cold War is far from over. England’s legendary intelligence agency is determined to manipulate the cultural conversation by funding writers whose politics align with those of the government. The operation is code named “Sweet Tooth.”

Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, is the perfect candidate to infiltrate the literary circle of a promising young writer named Tom Haley. At first, she loves his stories. Then she begins to love the man. How long can she conceal her undercover life? To answer that question, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage: trust no one.

Once again, Ian McEwan’s mastery dazzles us in this superbly deft and witty story of betrayal and intrigue, love and the invented self."

What I Thought: This one took a little while to get into. It was slow and while I liked Serena and the other characters, I didn't find them relatable. The story was interesting but didn't really give me a good twist until the end. The whole book was a lot quieter than I expected it to be. When you think of a spy novel, you're expecting at least a little thrill. I got no thrill. If you've never read anything by McEwan, try Atonement. This one isn't the best.

Rating: * *

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Things

-A new studio offering ballet strength/cardio classes near my recently opened and I am really excited to try it out. That probably won’t happen any time soon, however, as the classes are $21.00, each. TWENTY-ONE DOLLARS! I don’t care what kind of magic happens during that hour, it ain’t worth that kind of coin.
-Flooring decisions are tough. Our house contains carpet and linoleum and we are having a never-ending debate about what to replace it with. Sadie’s nails on any kind of hardwood or laminate concern me. I like the coziness of carpet but the appearance of hardwood. The only thing for certain is that all linoleum will eventually be tiled. I’m thinking flooring will be the big house project this year. Stay tuned.
-John is on a crusade against sugar and we’ve stopped having our nightly dessert which was only low fat ice cream anyway. Truthfully, I’ve been sneaking chocolate chips from the pantry just for a touch of sweetness. I don’t know what I’ll do when that bag runs out as I’m not the grocery shopper and buying a bag for myself is too shameful.
-Listening to the Indie Pop station on Pandora makes me feel like I am super plugged into the pulse of the music industry. I am fully aware that any 20 year-old would laugh at this statement and then rattle off about 15 bands I’ve never heard of but I don’t care.
-Do you think other drivers can see me passionately belting out the soundtrack to Les Miserables in my car? OK, good. I didn’t think so.
-Have I given you my PSA on cleaning your cell phone before? Well, it’s time to hear it again. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE clean your phone on a regular basis. For reasons I think we can all surmise, this is especially important if you play with your phone in the bathroom. The easiest and most effective way to clean your phone is with rubbing alcohol. Swab it on and it evaporates without damaging any part of the equipment. Clean as a whistle. You’re welcome.
-I know I just posted about my super exciting upcoming European vacation but I am seriously jonesing for some beach time. I’m thinking Mexico sounds pretty good right about now. Anybody else?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Recipe Reblog: Butternut Squash & Breakfast

In our house, we rotate the same few side dishes for our dinners and we don't get very inventive. Rice, oven-baked sweet potato fries, oven baked regular fries, broccoli, peas. Yep, that about covers it. In an effort to branch out, we tried this alongside some delicious steaks last weekend.

Spice Roasted Butternut Squash: This recipe comes from Food & Wine and cooks up easily with minimal ingredients. Prepping butternut squash is kind of labor intensive. I have yet to find a good way to peel it. I used a peeler. Is that the correct cooking implement? It worked. I liked the spices in this but would have preferred the squash to get a bit crispier. Perhaps a quick pan fry and then baking would do it but that defeats the purpose of an easy side dish, right? If you're looking for a simple squash recipe with ingredients from your pantry, cook this one up.

Scrambled Eggs with Spinach and Parmesan Cheese: Last Sunday I tried to talk John into going out for breakfast and then we both talked ourselves out of it citing money and calories saved. Instead, I handed him this recipe from the latest edition of Bon Appetit and said, 'get busy.' Don't worry, I wasn't just sitting around drinking coffee. I made scones. We are equal opportunity chefs around here. These eggs were tasty but could have used a bit more salt and pepper than what is recommended. I appreciated the addition of spinach. Always a good idea to start out the day with some vitamin A! I'm just now realizing he skipped the red pepper flakes. That probably would have helped kick up the flavor.........

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Beer Me: Bourbon Barrel Stout

This Bourbon Barrel Stout from the Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. has been calling to us from the shelves for a couple months now. With all the wonderful Christmas beers, we repeatedly passed it by. That and the $12.99/4 pack price tag were deterrents. Last week, we broke down and purchased it. We had built this up in our minds quite a bit so we were excited.

From the site: "Barrels that once contained world-famous Kentucky Bourbon lend a sweet hint of caramel and vanilla to dark-roasted malts and finish with the essence of a lightly roasted coffee. The barrel-aged flavors native to Kentucky compliment this complex stout brewed and aged with Haitian coffee to create the bourbon country’s own Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout."

I'm sad to say this did not live up to our exceedingly high expectations. We love LOVE love their regular Bourbon Barrel Ale and the stout didn't hold a candle to that. Too much coffee and barely any bourbon flavor whatsoever. It was a decent stout but for $12.99 when you are hoping for at least a smidgen of bourbon in the background, it was a big disappointment. Skip it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

En Vacances......soon

I have been remiss in telling you about some big excitement in my life lately. In less than 4 months, John and I are going on vacation to……..wait for it…….EUROPE!!! We’ll be celebrating our fifth anniversary for a week in London and Paris and could not be more stoked. We’ve been planning this trip, well, I’ve been planning this trip in my mind for years. Neither of us has ever been to Europe before so this will be quite an adventure. I stalked airline prices for months. Honestly, months. We finally booked our tickets on Thanksgiving (a great day to buy flights, by the way) for about $150 less than I had been seeing them. Some may say I could have held out and I’ve read several articles stating the best time to purchase international flights is about 38 days out. However, I’m not really a gambling woman. I like to have things squared away well in advance. The key is to not look at the current prices. If they’ve gone up, yes, you will feel validated. But, if they’ve dropped, you’ll feel swindled.
Anyway! It’s onto booking lodging, hammering out sightseeing itineraries, seeking good restaurants, thinking about what clothes to pack and all of the Type A goodness that comes with planning a vacation. All tips on international travel or these destinations are appreciated. We’ll be packing a lot in a short amount of time.  I suppose that’s probably pretty typical of your first trip abroad though. You want to see it all! In the meantime, I’ll be brushing up on my French. Despite having studied it throughout high school and in college, too much has escaped me, regrettably. I know English is spoken nearly everywhere in Paris but I’d still like to be a bit independent and understand menus without cheating. John speaks no French so we will be relying on me. I’m also trying to find the best possible shoes for miles and miles of walking. I’ve got a lot on my plate with this one but it will be a fun challenge!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dayton Beer Co.

Last weekend John and I hit up a local watering hole we’ve been meaning to get to for awhile. It’s not just a watering hole but a brewery, the Dayton Beer Company to be exact. They’ve been open for less than a year but seem to show a lot of promise. All beer is brewed on site. We got there about 2 minutes after they opened on Saturday and (no surprise) were the first ones there. Pulling up a couple stools at the bar, we asked for the rundown and were told what they had on tap and the pricing for flights, pints, etc. by the friendly bartender and also the owner.

They regularly have 8 different beers on tap from light to dark and everything in between. As usual, I liked just about everything except for the two IPA’s. I cannot get into IPA’s and people who love them talk about it like I don’t know what I’m missing. Oh believe me, I know I’m not missing anything. But, when they’re part of a flight, I’ll always try them. John deemed those IPA’s “not too hateful” which is a high estimation in his book.

It was $5.00 for 4, four oz. tastes so we got all 8 on two paddles and went down the line, sharing. The Coffee Porter was one of my favorites and I also liked their stout, Blonde and Amber ales. All varieties had fun, Dayton-centric names that have completely escaped me. I was disappointed that they’d just run out of milk stout, my new fave. Guess we’ll have to go back.
It’s a pretty small place with about 5 tables in addition to a small-ish bar. They don’t serve food but they do sell chips. Salt and pepper potato chips? Don’t mind if I do! While we were there, several groups came and went. They have a membership for $20 that gets you discounts on all beer and your 10th beer is free. If we lived closer, that would be a good deal. However, it took us a good 25 minutes to get there so I can’t see us going that frequently.
It was a fun afternoon and we supported a local business. If in the area, we’ll definitely return!

Monday, January 21, 2013

I love gooooooold

After I’ve taken down and put away all the Christmas decorations I am a mixed bag of emotions. On one hand, I am happy to have survived another crazy and often stressful holiday season and I’m usually ready to move onto the next big thing. On the other hand, I’m left with an undecorated house that feels lonely and cold. No lights to greet me as I pull in the driveway. No warm glow from the tree in the living room. Stark. Bare. Sad.

I don’t have much winter décor so I put out the few pieces I have and hunker down for another January. Luckily, there is one area of the house that still sparkles this year. Thanks to the magic of a glue gun and the plethora of crafty ideas on Pinterest, I have a new wreath for the front door.

Hitting up Target’s Christmas aisles at a 50% discount won me 10 sparkly gold snowflake ornaments. 

Fortunately, I saw this tutorial well before Christmas so I knew what to look for as soon as I could get there. I wanted silver but those were quite popular and nowhere to be found. Gold would have to do.

I laid out my pretties in a circle and plugged in the glue gun for a rocking good crafternoon. Not many minutes later, I had myself a new wreath! 

This was the quickest wreath to make and only cost me $2.50. Look how she sparkles against the black door. 

This gal will greet our non-existent guests straight on through to spring and a much happier season.

Just so you don’t mistake me for a crafting guru, I will share with you my failed wreath, two years in the making. Just about the time we moved into our house in 2010, I deemed we had collected enough wine corks to make a cork wreath. You’ve seen these, yes? Corks glued on a wreath form. Easy as pie. Except not so easy when I had glued all the corks in my possession and the wreath looked funny and unfinished. Into the basement with it until I could drink enough wine to fill her out.

Two years later and I figured we were there. Let the record show that not all of these corks came from bottles consumed by me. Some were from other wine-loving acquaintances, thank you very much. I glued them all on and stood back. Boy, that looks really junky, I thought. This called for a vote by the council (John). 2 nay’s, 0 yea’s. Despite my hard work and years of waiting, the cork wreath was not meant to be and so into the trash it went. It’s okay. I was starting to sweat thinking about how dusty it would get hanging on the wall considering corks going every which way would hardly be easy to clean.

Onto the next crafting adventure!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Recipe Reblog: Kale Chips

Confession. I have never had kale before. I love spinach but have been scared of kale for a long time. Actually, years ago I asked John if he would try kale and was met with a horrified look. Knowing it has super food qualities and it's always good to add in more greens when possible, I started looking for recipes to use said leafy green. Enter kale chips. I found two different recipes that seemed easy enough so I made them both yesterday afternoon.

Smoky Paprika Kale Chips: This recipe was in John's Men's Health magazine but the only place I could find it online was Runner's World. (?) The kale gets washed, ribs removed, and ripped into chip size pieces. It's then tossed with olive oil and smoky paprika and baked. I don't really know how these turned out because I burned them. The burned ones tasted nasty. I do not recommend eating them. Clearly, 30 minutes at 400 degrees was far too long and far too hot. I would maybe try these again paying closer attention to temp and time but, they were inedible this round.

Baked Parmesan Kale Chips: These fared much better. Lower temp, less time. They were pretty tasty too with the addition of parmesan cheese. The recipe calls for shredded but I only had the shake on kind and it tasted fine. The flavor was good but I'm not sure I can get behind the kale texture. Once baked, they kind of crumble in your mouth. I'll give it another try but not right away. If you like kale chips already, you'll probably like this recipe. Yes, you can taste the fact that it's kale and not a potato but they are healthier for you which is the whole point, right?

What other kale recipes can you recommend? I have a main dish to make up tonight so stay tuned next week for how that turns out.......

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Beer Me: Sneak Attack

From the creative brewing geniuses at 21st Amendment brewery comes a special release this January. If you’re familiar, 21st puts out one of my fave summer beers, Hell or High Watermelon, and also a delightfully warming winter ale, Fireside Chat. But, this, my friends, is Sneak Attack!

According to them: "Sneak Attack is 21st Amendment’s newest seasonal offering, a Belgian-style Saison, dry hopped with whole, organic cardamom pods lending it a very dry, but not overly bitter finish. It features aromas of pepper, cardamom, lemon rind and freshly cut grassy fields. Its refreshing flavor is derived from pilsner malt, Belgian Light Candi Sugar and a traditional spicy Belgian Saison yeast."

I always forget how much I like Belgian styles. They’re pale without being bitter and there’s always usually interesting in the mix. I especially liked the slogan on the box of this one. “In Your Face, Winter.” I have adopted it as my own and now use it quite frequently. In your face, Monday! In your face, red light! If you like lightly spiced beers, I think you’ll enjoy this one. Comes in a 6 pack of cans for about $8.99.

P.S. Best wishes for the happiest birthday ever go out to my awesome sister! She is the best. But she's mine. You can't have her.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Beauty Product Bonanza


Can I please tell you about my new beauty find? I got it as a freebie from Sephora but I am for sure buying the full size bottle when this one runs out. It’s called Bamboo Smooth Kendi Oil Dry Oil Mist from ALTERNA and it is Amazefest, USA (John hates when I say that but he’s not reading this.) You spray it on damp or dry hair prior to styling and it de-frizzes and tames flyaways like a boss. It’s also a heat protectant so it pulls double duty for the $24 price tag. I intended to use it only when straightening (with my extra HOT new straightener – thanks Mom!) but now I also use it when curling or blowing dry. 

Slightly fuzzy picture but I promise the hair isn't frizzy. My little bottle is still going strong so I think the full size would last quite some time as you don’t need to spray on that much. It doesn’t feel oily (and I have thin hair), just light and sleek, and you don't need that much. The noticeable difference is immediate even when you’re just combing it through. Incredible! If you’re looking for a new product of this nature, give this a try!

In other beauty news, I’d like to encourage you to step up your lipstick game. For years, I’ve been wearing a rum raisin shade from various cosmetic companies. I have a bright red that I love but I only wear that when I want to be noticed. The rum raisin is my every day color. Until now. My sister purchased a pink shade that she didn’t like on her and gifted to me. Growing up, I often got her cast-offs so I’m used to this now. It’s kind of like how she used to convince me to trade things with her, belongings, bedrooms, etc. and make it seem like I got the better deal. Isn’t that what older sisters are for? Anyway, my coloring is slightly lighter (read: PALER) than hers and she thought it might be better suited to my skin. She was right!

But my point here is this, don’t be afraid to try a completely different shade than you’ve been using your whole life. If you don’t like it, give it to someone else you think it might work on, or buy it at one of those stores with a really lax cosmetic return policy. I feel awesome when I wear this new pink lipstick because it brightens up my whole face. It’s fresh and young. I’m still young, right? Well, I am when I wear this lipstick. I’ll also showcase the brand here because it’s the Blast Flipstick duo from Covergirl.


It is long lasting without going funky on your lips. A total win in my book. You put the matte side on first and then top it with the shimmery end. You can also wear just one end or the other if you want. I don’t know how much it was because my sister was nice enough not to make me pay her for it but I’ll guess somewhere around $7 at your local drugstore. Pucker up!

What new products have you been trying lately?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Becoming Sister Wives


I have been on the hold list for this book since it came out. Pretty sure my library only acquired one copy and the handful of readers ahead of me were S.L.O.W. and incurred many fines. Regardless, here is my second read of the new year, Becoming Sister Wives: The Story of an Unconventional Marriage, by Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn Brown.
Good Reads Synopsis: "In many ways, the Browns are like any other middle-American family. They eat, play, and pray together, squabble and hug, striving to raise happy, well-adjusted children while keeping their relationship loving and strong. The difference is, there are five adults in the openly polygamous Brown marriage—Kody and his four wives—who among them have seventeen children. Since TLC first launched its popular reality program Sister Wives, the Browns have become one of the most famous families in the country. Now Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn reveal in their own words exactly how their special relationship works—the love and faith that drew them together, the plusses and pitfalls of having sister wives, and the practical and emotional complications of a lifestyle viewed by many with distrust, prejudice, even fear. With the candor and frankness that have drawn millions to their show, they talk about what makes their fascinating family work, addressing the topics that intrigue outsiders: How do the four relationships differ? What effect does a polygamous upbringing have on their children? What are the challenges—emotional, social, or financial—involved in living this lifestyle? Is it possible for all four sister wives to feel special when sharing a husband—and what happens when jealousy arises? How has being on camera changed their lives? And what’s it like to add a new wife to the family—or to be that new wife?

Filled with humor, warmth, surprising insights, and remarkable honesty, this is a singular story of plural marriage and all the struggles and joys that go with it. At heart, it’s a love story—unconventional but immediately recognizable in the daily moments of trust, acceptance, forgiveness, passion, and commitment that go into making one big, happy, extraordinary family."

What I Thought: For some reason (while I don’t agree with it), I finding stories about polygamy fascinating. I have watched Sister Wives on TLC since it premiered to gain a little more insight into this community that, intrinsically, I don’t understand. This autobiography of sorts answered a few more questions, which I appreciated. The writing isn’t particularly great and there is a lot of repetition as each wife recants similar stories just from a different point of view. Additionally, if you’ve never watched the show, this book probably isn’t for you. If you have no idea who these people or their kids are, a lot of it probably won’t make much sense to you in context. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll probably enjoy this one.
Rating: * * 1/2

Monday, January 14, 2013

2013 Sewing Challenge

Sometimes I feel as though I must state self challenges aloud on this blog to make them so. If my readers know of them, perhaps they’ll hold me to it? I suppose it’s just my way of cementing the challenge in writing and not just in my mind where failure is all too easy to come by. So here it is, my friends, a sewing challenge!

I know some of you probably think I sew all the time. I wish that were the case. I do go in spurts when I sew like the dickens. Then I just go in spurts where all I want to do is buy fabric and have no care to sew it. Sometimes others request my sewing skills and I’m happy to oblige. And then, there are sewing draughts. These happen more than I’d like to admit. Sure, when I was knitting up all the cowls in the world I had nary a moment to spare for my machine. I think that’s why I hurried to make my Christmas dress. My foot ached for the sewing pedal and maybe my heart ached for the joy of a finished project that works out just the way you hoped. So in this, the year of two-thousand and thirteen, I vow to sew at least one project every month. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can be patterned or created out of my mind. But, sew, I must. And not just mending clothing either. That hardly counts.

While I did receive a gift card to Joann’s for Christmas, I have promised not to use it until I sew some of my stash first. Call it a reward for making it through the first few months of the challenge. I have the perfect first project for these cold winter nights to bust through some of my stash and it won’t cost me a red cent. Await with breathe abated!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Winter Beers 2013

OK, my thirsty ones, we have entered the dark hole of beer. From now until about mid-spring, there's not much that excites me on the shelves or in the cooler. This year, I'd like to challenge us all to find some go-to winter warmers and bust up the beer sadness.

This is one from Breckenridge Brewery that I hadn't tried. I'm not sure how that happened since Breckenridge can do no wrong in my book. I was looking for something dark and smooth and that is just what I found. 

From the website: "It's a bold, smooth-bodied concoction that oozes dark-roasted coffee aromas and flavors of espresso and semi-sweet chocolate. We round out these heady pleasures with a dose of flaked oatmeal for a creamy body and a semi-dry finish. Unforgettable."

The bottle says Dark & Dreamy and I'd have to agree. A perfectly good stout if I do say so myself. Went down easy, no bitter after-taste despite its 36 IBU's (International Bitterness Units). If you are a stout-lover, you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Recipe Reblog: Appetizer City

Hosting a New Year's Eve party, while exhausting, allows you to explore loads of new appetizer recipes. Something you wouldn't normally get the opportunity to do! I'm a bit behind on my recipe posting, hence the mid-week recipe post.

Buffalo Chicken Casserole: This isn't an appetizer but I wanted a large amount of food so this 9x13 pan full of goodness fit the bill. This came together really quickly but was a little lacking in flavor, I thought. Next time, I'd do a lesser amount of potatoes and maybe blue cheese instead of ranch.

Sparkling Cranberry Brie Bites: I wanted an appetizer that wasn't meaty and had a little sweetness to it. This one comes from Annie's Eats and it couldn't be easier. The most labor intensive part is making the simple syrup. These were sweet, tart and creamy at the same time. They look fancy too! Also, leftover sugared cranberries can be used in your champagne cocktails. Winner winner chicken dinner!

Hanky Panky Squares: These are called different things in different parts of the country but what it boils down to is sausage, cheese and seasonings on mini toasts. I changed up this recipe quite a bit but I posted it because it was my starting point. I didn't use any beef or Velveeta. Just sausage and good old shredded cheese. Because of the lesser amount of meat, I cut the spices in half. It turned out pretty tasty.

Carmelized Onion Greek Yogurt Dip: I always forget that I love dip just as much as I love chips. I printed this recipe from How Sweet It Is back in April but didn't make it up until now. WHY?! Don't look for any dehydrated onion soup mix in crap here. No sir. I carmelized these onions myself for a good 45 minutes. This was delicious! I bit time consuming but totally worth it. Much healthier with the use of greek yogurt over sour cream too. Want a dip to impress? Look no further.

Snowballs: And for some mother-in-law had these little balls of goodness at Christmas and I knew I had to make them for this party too. They do have rum but it's only 2 tablespoons. You can also substitute bourbon or I suppose, leave it out all together. Oh are these ever good! White chocolate, ground almonds, coconut? Come on.

I also made Chicken Meatballs in Peanut Sauce, Three Cheese Mini Macs, another veggie dip, and hamburger sliders but I've posted all those recipes here before. Search for them if needed!

Now you have to throw a party to make all of these yummy bites. It's okay. Tell your mom I gave you permission.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Twelve

First read of the new year! I started this last year but just now finished it. Still counts for this year's list.


Good Reads' Synopsis: "At the end of The Passage, the great viral plague had left a small group of survivors clinging to life amidst a world transformed into a nightmare. In the second volume of this epic trilogy, this same group of survivors, led by the mysterious, charismatic Amy, go on the attack, leading an insurrection against the virals: the first offensives of the Second Viral War.

To do this, they must infiltrate a dozen hives, each presided over by one of the original Twelve. Their secret weapon: Alicia, transformed at the end of book one into a half human, half viral—but whose side, in the end, is she really on?"

What I Thought: I really liked The Passage and The Twelve did not disappoint. It's the continuation of a post-apocalyptic world but also goes back to pick up some storylines we did not follow in the first book. My only complaint was the difficulty I had keeping all the characters and how they were connected straight. It seems nearly everyone has a connection to a character who may or may not still be around from the first book. Cronin weaves quite a character-driven web. I liked this but I'm sure some of that went over my head because I was reading so quickly. This was a faster read (and shorter in length) than The Passage and I've just learned it is a trilogy! Starting this series takes a little dedication, especially if this genre isn't something you normally go for. But, the reward is great if you stick with it. Start with The Passage and move directly onto The Twelve!

Rating: * * * *

Monday, January 7, 2013

Books I Read in 2012

In previous years, I set a goal of 50 reads. I met those goals but I didn't want to put a number on it this year. I kept selecting large, long books from the library and those just take a lot longer to get through than the fluffy, smaller books. But, I still did a bunch of reading.

Check it Out!

 1) The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides -- * *
 2) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling -- * * * *
 3) Stories I Only Tell My Friends, Rob Lowe -- * * *
 4) The Litigators, John Grisham -- * * 1/2
 5) The Lover's Dictionary, David Levithan -- * * * *
 6) Cane River, Lalita Tademy -- * * * 1/2
 7) Three Cups of Deceit, Jon Krakauer -- * * * 1/2
 8) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J. K. Rowling -- * * * *
 9) Explosive Eighteen, Janet Evanovich -- * 1/2
10) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith -- * * 1/2
11) RUN!, Dean Karnazes -- * * * 1/2
12) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling -- * * * *
13) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling -- * * * *
14) American Sniper, Chris Kyle -- * *
15) The Bronze Horseman, Paullina Simon -- * * * *
16) Food Matters, Mark Bittman -- * * *
17) Your Best Body Now, Tosca Reno -- * *
18) One Day, David Nicholls -- * * *
19) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy Kaling -- * * * 1/2
20) My Jesus Year, Benyamin Cohen -- * * 1/2
21) I Hate Everyone....Starting With Me, Joan Rivers -- * 1/2
22) In One Person, John Irving -- * * * *
23) This Is How, Augusten Burroughs -- * * * 1/2
24) The Skinny Rules, Bob Harper -- * * *
25) Most Talkative, Andy Cohen -- * * 1/2
26) Still Missing, Chevy Stevens -- * * * 1/2
27) American Heiress, Daisy Goodwin -- * * * 1/2
28) Ultramarathon Man, Dean Karnazes -- * * * 1/2
29) Bloom, Kelle Hampton -- * * * 1/2
30) The Maze Runner, James Dashner -- * * * *
31) Tatiana and Alexander, Paullina Simons -- * * * 1/2
32) Let's Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson -- * * 1/2
33) Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn -- * * * *
34) The Scorch Trials, James Dashner -- * * * *
35) The Death Cure, James Dashner -- * * * 1/2
36) Kiss the Girls, James Patterson -- * * *
37) The Passage, Justin Cronin -- * * * *
38) The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling -- * * 1/2
39) Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed -- * * * *

Looking for something to read? Start with the 4 star books and work your way down. That should keep you busy for awhile.

I read a couple others that I never reviewed so my total for the year was actually 43. Not too shabby. I also changed the format of my reviews halfway through the year. I thought it was more succinct to give you the Good Reads' synopsis and then my opinion. More succinct and easier on me anyway. Hopefully you like it that way. If you aren't on Good Reads, get to it! Lots of good book suggestions on there.

You know what the most exciting thing about reading in 2013 is?

A brand new KINDLE FIRE!!!

It was a tablet kind of Christmas at Household de G. John got me the Kindle and I got him an ipad. Pretty exciting stuff! I've already downloaded books onto it and wouldn't you know it, I finally made it to the top of the hold list for 3 actual books that I've been waiting for several months to read. I haven't even gotten to read anything on the Kindle yet! Don't worry, I'll remedy that as soon as possible.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Recipe Reblog: Breakfast & Dinner

New year, new recipes to try. These were all from last year but I ran out of time to post them.

Chicken Roasted on Sweet Potatoes and Garlic: Need a dinner with minimal ingredients that comes together with minimal prep work? Never fear, chicken and sweet potatoes are here! The potatoes are roasted. Chicken gets browned in a pan and then put in the oven on the potatoes. The only change I made here was 1 Tbsp. of dried oregano for the fresh that I didn't have on hand. It was December, people. This was satisfying and healthy. Give it a try!

Breakfast Casserole: Need to feed an army in the morning? I've got you covered here too! Press Pillsbury crescent rolls into a 9x13 pan. Layer in some crumbled, browned sausage. Pour on 6 beaten eggs and top with cheese. Easy peasy lemon squeezey. The link isn't the exact recipe I used as I added salt and pepper to the eggs and this doesn't include that. I did about 1/2 tsp. of each. Everyone really liked this on our post-Christmas Christmas celebration that John and I hosted at our house. It was a nice change from your typical strata. No bread filler. All protein. My kinda breakfast.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Make It: Festive Frock

It seems every year in the days leading up to Christmas, even though I already have several outfit possibilities in my closet, I get the urge to create a new, festive frock for the occasion. Stress of presents, baking, packing, traveling be damned. Time to saddle up the sewing machine!

Originally, I had visions of making a peplum top as peplum is all the rage these days. Vogue Pattern 8815 and a yard and a half of red ponte knit, I was off. Or was I? As I sat down to cut out my pattern last week I noticed something amiss. I had purchased the wrong size pattern. Since I don’t fall anywhere between the sizes of 16 and 22 and not wanting to spend any more pre-Christmas time at Joann’s, I moved onto Plan B.

Rifling through my pattern stash, I happened upon a Simplicity Cynthia Rowley 2443 that I purchased a few years ago and had never sewed. The dress called for 1 7/8 yards but after spending a good chunk of time with some fancy layout skills, I deemed my scant yard and a half sufficient and set to work.

I had never sewed with ponte before and I quite enjoyed it. I opted not to use a stretch stitch and I hope I won’t regret that decision down the line. In dresses, I normally wear a 10, sometimes an 8 in this style, so I cut a 12 to be on the safe side. The top is fitted but the skirt is forgiving. For the next 4 hours, I cut and stitched to my heart’s content. Pandora Christmas tunes droning on in the background.

The pattern instructions were written at an intermediate level, I’d say. There were a few sections that I had to read over and over, out loud, not quite understanding but forging ahead all the same. In the end, the trickiest part was the neckline. The curves were difficult, as I knew they would be, and gave me some trouble. You’re stitching through several layers here. Outer fabric, facing and fusible interfacing. They don’t lay as flat as I’d like but I think it’s still wearable, especially when covered by a cardigan.

What do you think?

 The fit is quite snug but not uncomfortable. I think perhaps I could have skipped the zipper even. Ponte doesn’t stretch quite as much as jersey but it has enough give that I think I could slip it on overhead sans zipping.

I really like the racer back detail for a twist and the empire waist and gathered skirt is very flattering.

Ignore that puckering -- I promise it lays flat

I bet you can’t guess my favorite feature.

Why, it’s the pockets, of course! The perfect place for a camera or your phone on Christmas day to ensure all the best shots. I also love that I’ll be able to wear it through several seasons. I see it with a blazer, tights and boots over the next few months. Then, lose the sweater and I’ve got a great spring and summer dress.
Would I use this pattern again? Yes, definitely! I’d like to take another stab at that neckline, possibly hand basting first to perfect the appropriate curve. Next time I’d also try it without the zipper and save myself quite a bit of time.
FYI – this Cynthia Rowley style is available for purchase in several retail locations. I saw it for LOTS ($330, what?!) And for as little as $35. I paid $1.00 for the pattern, $12.00 for the fabric, $2.00 for the zipper and $2.00 for the thread. $17 in total. Quite a savings!

**Linking up this week to Tatertots & Jello**

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

December Running Round Up and.......Meeting my Goal!

I DID IT!!!! Way back in January 2012, I proclaimed that I wanted to run 500 miles in 2012. Even with several low mileage months in the beginning, I pulled it out in the end!

First, here's what happened on the treadmill in December:

Dec 2: 6 mi TM in 58:41, rough
Dec 4: 3.6 mi TM in 29:58, 8:31/8:23/8:16/4:48, speedy!
Dec 8: 2.4 mi TM in 21:10, cut short due to heartburn 
Dec 9: 6 mi TM in 54:18, 9:03 avg pace 
Dec 11: 3.6 mi TM in 30:01, 8:27 avg pace. & 500th 
Dec 16: 4.3 in 40:00, back pain
Dec 18: 3.5 mi TM in 29:28, 8:36/8:22/8:19
Dec 26: 3 mi TM in 26:56, ROUGH post Xmas run
Dec 30: 3.5 mi TM in 29:48, 8:55/8:08/8:08

Total: 35.9 miles

Blame the holidays and preparing for said holidays for my low mileage this month. Back at it in January! New running goals this year include: doing more races, getting speedier, and running my 2nd half marathon.

Here are the monthly totals:

Jan: 48.54

Feb: 33.75

Mar: 45.6

Apr: 46

May: 26.6

Jun: 45.9

Jul: 36.3

Aug: 53.4

Sept: 65.6

Oct: 50.65

Nov: 28.2

Dec: 35.9


In other running news, I got a new ipod shuffle (pink!) and a Garmin Forerunner (also pink!) for Christmas. I cannot wait for these two pieces of equipment to revolutionize my workouts. I am terrible at pacing outside and I know these will help me become a better, faster runner. Races in 2013? Better start registering.....

In other fitness/non-running news, I also got a special sticky towel for my mat to use during hot yoga. I cannot wait to get back to class and use it. Thanks, B!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Welcome, 2013

Did you party hard last night, everyone? I know I did. But, really, I HAD to. I had to ring in the Year of Ashley. Yes, my friends, I have dubbed 2013 the Year of Ashley. My reasons are plentiful. Call me arrogant but I think it's perfectly acceptable to devote a year to yourself. This year, I turn 30. OK, I can say it out loud. Thirty. I'm turning 30. No longer in my twenties. And so, for the next 4 months, I'm going to live it up and do things I would normally shy away from because that's what you do in your twenties. But, the Year of Ashley doesn't stop on April 7th (my birthday - for those of you playing along at home). After all, thirty is just a number.

My adventures and growth shall continue well beyond April and hopefully all the way until the end of 2013. I've already planned outings and events for John and me and started looking for things that scare the crap out of me that I must do anyway to prove to myself that I can. It's also an opportunity to force myself to be an adult and pay closer attention to the things adults are supposed to do, like filing their papers and bills on a regular basis instead of shoving them in a folder. Things like making sure we are getting good rates on our gas and electric bills (ugh, I know, right?) ORGANIZATION! I've come to realize that chaos kind of stresses me out. I'm a planner and there are parts of my life that need more planning attention.

So, while I can't put my finger on a phrase of a resolution as simply as: lose weight, watch less TV, go on a trip, I feel really good about this resolution and the YEAR OF ASHLEY!

Stay tuned. I think it'll be a grand time.

What are your resolutions this year?