Thursday, March 28, 2013

Getting closer......

Just over 50 days until our EUROPEAN ADVENTURE!!! I was excited before but I get more giddy about it each day. And my French lessons are coming along swimmingly so I'm feeling much more confident with that, even though everyone says I won't have any trouble finding English speakers. Might be nice to put those years of schooling to use.

-London hotel
-Paris hotel
-Eurostar tickets

Need to Book
-Eiffel Tour tickets
-Tickets to a show in London?
-River cruise tickets

Need to Finish

Need to Buy
-Good maps of metro/tube for London & Paris
-Good walking shoes that don't look ultra touristy
-New sleep mask for the plane

There's still a lot of planning to be done but the Paris hotel was the last big piece of the puzzle. Those rooms were getting snapped up fast and since I am trying to keep to a modest budget as much as possible, I was really behind the game on booking that. Luckily, I think I found a good location and it gets good reviews. Just have to keep filling in the gaps.

In the meantime......we've got a lot of busy weekends coming up and some out of town overnights. Life in full swing!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon came out to much acclaim and popularity back in 2004 but I had never read it. Must have been too busy hitting the text books because I was still in college.


Good Reads' Synopsis: "Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.
This improbable story of Christopher's quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years."
What I Thought: There were parts of this that I really enjoyed and others that I skimmed through very quickly. I was endeared to Christopher's character and plight as a teenage boy with Asperger's (although Haddon never comes out and says that directly). However, there were lots of tangents and detailed descriptions that lost my attention. It was a relatively quick read but there are much better options out there.

Rating: * *

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Beer Me: Blueberry

I recently tried two different blueberry beers that I must share with you. Blueberry and beer not a natural pairing, you say? Well, I would have said so too but I'm always looking for something new and different in my glass so here they are!

This is Bumbleberry, a Honey Blueberry Ale from Fat Head's Brewery. Up until now I was unfamiliar with them but I am a new fan! They are located in Ohio about 20 minutes from my hometown. How I didn't know they existed up there, I don't know. But, I am for sure making a visit there...possibly this coming weekend!

From the site: "Brewed with fresh harvested spring honey stolen from some very angry bees (we have the welts to prove it) and infused with fresh blueberries. Creating a light, refreshing ale with a nice blueberry aroma, crackery malt flavors, a hint of sweetness and a refreshing blueberry finish. Get yo buzz on!"

I thought this was great and super refreshing, like they claimed it to be. Not overpowering on the blueberry but you must like blueberry to enjoy this beer because the flavor is definitely there. Only a 13 on the bitterness scale and 5.3% ABV makes for a good summertime brew. I hope it's a year rounder so I can enjoy one on the patio in June! Give this a try. $10.99/6 pack.


The other is the Blueberry Lager from Rivertown Brewing Co. I only had a sample of this at the store so that's not my picture above but I would definitely look at buying it in the future.

From the site: "this light, crisp clean lager beer is brewed with fresh blueberry aroma and flavor."

Short on words but big on taste. I liked this a lot more than I expected to. I tried it a few weeks before the Fat Head's one. Good blueberry flavor and smooth drinking at 5.3 % as well. Blueberry Lager is one of their year-round offerings so hopefully it'll still be readily available as spring actually springs.

Maybe these blueberry beers are the cure for my winter blues?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Thunder Dog

This one came across as a suggestion on my Kindle when another book about dogs that I want to read wasn't available. I was intrigued so I downloaded it right away.

Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust as Ground Zero by Michael Hingson is the story of a blind man and his seeing-eye dog. That in itself is interesting but their tale also includes an escape from the World Trade Center on September 11th.

Good Reads' Synopsis: "First came the boom―the loud, deep, unapologetic bellow that seemed to erupt from the very core of the earth. Eerily, the majestic high-rise slowly leaned to the south. On the seventy-eighth floor of the World Trade Center's north tower, no alarms sounded, and no one had information about what had happened at 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001―what should have been a normal workday for thousands of people. All that was known to the people inside was what they could see out the windows: smoke and fire and millions of pieces of burning paper and other debris falling through the air.

Blind since birth, Michael couldn't see a thing, but he could hear the sounds of shattering glass, falling debris, and terrified people flooding around him and his guide dog, Roselle. However, Roselle sat calmly beside him. In that moment, Michael chose to trust Roselle's judgment and not to panic. They are a team.

"Thunder Dog" allows you entry into the isolated, fume-filled chamber of stairwell B to experience survival through the eyes of a blind man and his beloved guide dog. Live each moment from the second a Boeing 767 hits the north tower, to the harrowing stairwell escape, to dodging death a second time as both towers fold into the earth.

It's the 9/11 story that will forever change your spirit and your perspective. "Thunder Dog "illumiates Hingson's lifelong determination to achieve parity in a sighted world, and how the rare trust between a man and his guide dog can inspire an unshakable faith in each one of us."
What I Thought: I liked this one a lot. Hingson and Roselle's story offers a different perspective on the event of that historical day. I also learned much about growing up blind and striving for independence in a busy world. Fast and easy-reading, give this one a try!

Rating: * * *

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Recipe Reblog: Five Spice Burgers

I made these a few weeks back and forgot to tell you about them. That's sad because it's a good one!

Five Spice Chicken Burger: I know, I know. Ground chicken in a burger is so not the same as a burger made with ground beef. This is true. But, it's healthier and cheaper than beef so quit whining. If you've never cooked with Chinese Five Spice before, don't be alarmed. I am a hot food wuss and this isn't hot at all. It's just a mixture of five different spices that give great flavor. You should be able to find it easily at your local market with the other spices. These burgers were delicious! They were juicy and had a great taste. I didn't make the slaw part of the recipe because I didn't have all the ingredients but I'm definitely going to give it a try in the future. I did mix some chili garlic sauce with mayo for a zesty sauce. Don't let the ground chicken or the spices turn you off of this one. Cook it up!

T-minus two weeks until the big 3-0......

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Recipe Reblog: Potato Gratin with Gruyere

At a recent French wine night, I wanted to serve a French-y potato side dish. A little Googling and this is what I came up with!

Potato Gratin with Gruyere: This recipe comes from Country Living and it was an easy one with a lot of flavor. Gruyere is a nice complement to the potatoes and melts well. I used fat free half and half to keep it lighter. If you're looking for a different take on au gratin potatoes, give this one a try!

Happy St. Patty's Day! 

A potato post on an Irish holiday? Totally unintentional. Promise.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Beer Me: Baba & Nugget

Sorry about the boozy week here at Ashley Sees, Ashley Does. Full disclosure, the martini I posted yesterday and both of these beers were consumed in previous weeks. I only just now got around to telling you about them. Back to our regularly scheduled programming next week!

This is Baba Black Lager from Uinta Brewing Co. out of Salt Lake City. I had never had anything from them before because they just recently started distributing in Ohio. Mostly, I bought this bottle because of the cute name.

From their site: "Robust and smooth, this full-flavored lager is exceptionally drinkable and pitch black in color."

Yep, that pretty much covers it. Only a 32 on the bitterness scale and while I don't have much of a frame of reference for comparison on black lagers, I liked this one for its ease of drinkability. Plus, a clever name wins every day in my book. I think I paid $2.09 for one bottle. I believe the 6 packs are around $10.99.


I've been waiting since last year for this one! Nugget Nectar from Troeg's Brewing Company is about the only bitter beer I can stand at 93 IBU's.

From the site: "Squeeze those hops for all they’re worth and prepare to pucker up! Nugget Nectar Ale will take hopheads to nirvana with a heady collection of Nugget, Warrior and Tomahawk hops. Starting with the same base ingredients of our flagship HopBack Amber Ale, Nugget Nectar intensifies the malt and hop flavors to create an explosive hop experience."

I still liked this one but it's better on draught which is how I first came across it. This is their February/March 

seasonal release. It is hoppy though, to be sure. But, even if you don't like a super hopped beer, you might still like this. Higher price point, not surprisingly. One bottle was $2.79, I think. 

Happy almost weekend to you!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dirty Girl Scout Martini

Have you eaten your fill of girl scout cookies yet? John and I nursed along a box of thin mints and tagalongs for a whole week and were quite proud of ourselves. Then my parents shipped us 4 more boxes! Guess I'll be skipping that weigh in this week.

In case cookies aren't your thing, or you just can't find a girl scout's something for you to sip instead. You're welcome!

This drink, despite its off color name, is too delicious not to pass on. I saw the recipe on Pinterest. Hopefully that link worked. One shot each of Bailey's, Kahlua and white Creme de Menthe plus 1 1/2 shots of vodka (or 2 if you're feeling sassy). I used what I had already but you don't have to use the coffee flavored Kahlua. You can also use green creme de menthe but your drink will be an interesting color then. Shake it over ice and strain into a glass. Thin mint on the rim optional but adds a little flair.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

It's All Relative


It's All Relative: Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays, and 50 Boxes of Wine (A Memoir) by Wade Rouse popped up as a suggested book to read on my Kindle. Who am I to decline? The books I want to borrow for my Kindle never seem to be available when I want them so when one that seems interesting enough is ready for me, I snap it up!

Good Reads' Synopsis: "Wade Rouse attempts to answer that question in his blisteringly funny new memoir by looking at the yearly celebrations that unite us all and bring out the very best and worst in our nearest and dearest.
   Family is truly the only gift that keeps on giving—namely, the gifts of dysfunction and eccentricity—
and Wade Rouse’s family has been especially charitable: His chatty yet loving mother dresses her son
as a Ubangi tribesman, in blackface, for Halloween in the rural Ozarks; his unconventional engineer of
a father buries his children’s Easter eggs; his marvelously
Martha Stewart–esque partner believes Barbie is his baby; his garage-sale obsessed set of in-laws are
convinced they can earn more than Warren Buffett by selling their broken lamps and Nehru jackets; his
mutt Marge speaks her own language; and his oddball collection of relatives includes a tipsy Santa Claus
with an affinity for showing off his jingle balls. In the end, though, the Rouse House gifted Wade with love,
laughter, understanding, superb comic timing, and a humbling appreciation for humiliation. 
   Whether Wade dates a mime on his birthday to overcome his phobia of clowns or outruns a chubchasing boss on Secretary’s Day, he captures our holidays with his trademark self-deprecating humor and acerbic wit. He paints a funny, sad, poignant, and
outlandish portrait of an an all-too-typical family that will have you appreciating—or bemoaning—your
own and shrieking in laughter"

What I Thought: I am always looking for humorists and Rouse is one to add to my list. He has a couple other memoirs I'd like to pick as well. While not quite on the same level as David Sedaris, I did find myself chuckling out loud several times through this fast read. He offers a glimpse into his crazy family and their holiday celebrations that I appreciated. I wouldn't go out of my way to read this but if the Kindle library says it's available, then by all means!

Rating: * * 1/2

Monday, March 11, 2013

Vin du Francais

This past weekend we hosted a French wine night with some good friends. I know very little about French wines and wanted to try a few before we go to Paris (in about 60 days!!)

We tried several different varieties including chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, bordeaux, vouvray and cotes du rhone. I really liked the unoaked Macon Villages Chardonnay by Louis Jadot. I was also really pleasantly surprised by the bordeaux we tried from Chateau Puynard. Dry and delicious! I had never had bordeaux before but I'll definitely be trying it again. Hence the whole point of wine explore new to you wines!

For dinner, we were a little adventurous. Luckily, our friends are good sports and don't mind being guinea pigs for us. A couple years ago we were gifted a roasting clay from Williams-Sonoma. You envelope a whole chicken that you've buttered and herbed throughout and bake it in the clay. After about 90 minutes, the chicken is cooked, you crack the clay and voila! Juicy, tender chicken. At least that's what we hoped would happen.

Here is John wrapping it up.

It doesn't look much different but here it is after it was cooked but before we cracked the clay off.

During the cheese course, we were explaining the clay and how it works. Then, right on cue as we were preparing our guests for the possibility that we might end up having to order pizza, there was a loud noise from the oven. The clay shattered in a few places spreading clay all over the oven. Oops! The chicken turned out tasty but it was a lot of work for one meal. I would link to it but it doesn't look like W-S sells it anymore.

Une bonne nuit pour tout!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Recipe Reblog: Gorgonzola Popovers

I printed this recipe from Williams-Sonoma's website several years ago. It was literally one of the very first recipes in the "to be made" pocket of my recipe binder. Recently, I cleaned out said pocket and pitched the recipes I knew I would never make. Luckily, this one made the cut. Wonder of wonders, I happened to have some gorgonzola on hand so I baked these up on a whim to accompany Sunday dinner.

Gorgonzola Popovers: The link is to How Sweet Eats because I can't find the recipe on W-S anymore. You likely have all ingredients on hand as long as you have the cheese. Popovers can be finicky. You can't open the oven. You're supposed to use room temperature eggs and milk. You're looking for the perfect golden brown POP. These are made in a mini muffin tin and I cut the recipe in half. I didn't let my dairy come to room temp (who has time for that) so I don't know if that made a difference or not. Regardless, these babies were gooooooooood. Like, holy yum, good. The cheese adds a delightful saltiness to the popover dough. I didn't have fresh parsley but dried sufficed. I followed the heating directions exactly and did not open the oven like a good little chef. If you're a smelly blue cheese fan, you will DIE for these.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Father Time is Ticking

Well, this is it. The last month of my twenties. Time to go out and do something really crazy that is completely unacceptable for a 30 year old to do. I don't really know what that might be but I'll find something. Even if it's staying up past 10:00 pm on a weeknight. That would be really nutty. I'm not gonna lie. This birthday has got me down. I usually love my birthday. Everyone says 'age is just a number' and 'you're only as young as you feel.' The truth is, I feel old. Physically, my body is in better shape now than it ever has before so that's not the problem. I see teenagers or people in their early 20's and think, 'my God, they look young.' Then I do the mental math and figure out how much older than them I am. You should never do this. It only sets you up for sadness. Then you look in the mirror and wonder where those lines on your face came from and how did they get there if I didn't invite them?!

I told John I wanted to go away for my birthday. Then I told him we don't need to take a trip since Europe is  only 70 some-odd days away. Then I changed my mind again and said that I NEEDED to get away that weekend. Maybe your thirties are all about being fickle? I'd really like to go lie on a beach somewhere. Unfortunately, driving is more budget friendly than flying and beaches within driving distance in April aren't always so temperate.

I can't help but feel like I'm closing a huge chapter of my life. In the last 10 years I: graduated college, moved to a new city where I knew no one (and still don't know that many people), got married, took a bunch of amazing vacations, got in shape, bought a dog, bought a house, bought two cars, started this blog that hardly anyone reads, dyed my hair brown, went back to blonde again, read a lot, shopped a lot, lived a lot. What happens if your twenties are all about finding yourself and becoming comfortable in adulthood and maybe you haven't done that yet? What if there are parts of your life that don't make sense or don't make you happy? It's not too late to change them, right? Please say no.

If you didn't understand this stream of consciousness, don't mind me. I'm just an old lady rambling.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Beer Me: Raison d'Etre

Because I can now buy single bottles at my gourmet grocery store, the beer selection around here has gotten a bit messy. That's okay, right? Let's just allow ourselves to be square pegs today. I also only have one variety to share today.

This is Raison d'Etre by Dogfish Head. If you're following along in French, that's reason to be. I've seen this several times in stores but never read what it was. A "deep mahogany Belgian-style brown ale brewed with beet sugar, raisins and Belgian-style yeast."

I like brown ales and this one is low on the bitterness scale at only 25 IBU's, 8% ABV. All the richness of a brown ale with a sweet, smooth finish. This was a winner for me so definitely give it a try if you see it. However, John tried 2 separate bottles of this with no luck. The first had a flavor so metallic that it went straight down the sink. He tried again and that bottle was a little better but still not nearly as good as the one I'd had. These were clearly from different batches which just goes to show you, if something tastes totally off, it probably is. Don't discount skunked beer before trying it again A little pricey but all Dogfish Heads are. My single bottle was $2.09. I don't know what a 6 pack goes for, or more likely a 4 pack.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I hate to tell you about two amazing things I learned on Pinterest. You may have already known about them but if not, listen up and thank me later!

The first one has to do with cleaning. I want to tell you how amazing vinegar and baking soda are as cleaning implements. 1) They're cheap, 2) You probably already own them, 3) They do a better job than a lot of those expensive, fancy cleaners out there, 4) They are environmentally friendly.

Here is the single most awesome tip I have found out there: keep a dish scrubbing wand in your shower filled with a mixture of half vinegar and half dish soap. Can we all agree cleaning the shower is the worst? Well now, you already have the tools at the ready and could wash it down every day if you wanted! Isn't that the coolest? It is to me. I hate having to get in the shower during a weekly cleaning session but this combines the cleaning with something you already do on a daily basis (I hope.) You can use baking soda to clean the rings out of your toilet, your stainless steel sinks, gunk from the inside of your oven, stubborn stains on your stove burners, etc. and so on. More ingenious cleaning tips can be found here. Now you'll want to clean forever and ever!

Today's second tip has to do with your nails. If you aren't a regular polisher, you won't care about this. Just keepin' it real. After painting your nails and finishing with a top coat, dip your fingers in a bowl of ice water for a couple minutes. It will set the polish lickety-split and then you won't risk ruining your manicure if you bump your nails into something accidentally. Yes, ice water is cold but you get used to it. Anything for beauty, right?

Monday, March 4, 2013

February Running Round-Up

I survived my two least favorite months of the year. While I fully expect there to be more snow ahead, I can at least start thinking spring. This means, thinking about outside runs and the sun on my face. Unfortunately, all of February's runs took place in my basement. No sun but an endless supply of Netflix to watch. Is that a good trade off? My pasty skin doesn't think so.

Feb 3: 3.2 mi in 29:31, slow/lazy
Feb 5: 4 mi in 33:06, 8:28/8:28/8:15/7:57, woo!
Feb 10: 7 mi in 1:03:35, 9:05 avg pace
Feb 12: 4 mi in 34:25 , 9:00/8:46/8:32/8:07
Feb 16: 3.25 in 28:35, slow
Feb 17: 6.2 in 59:54, rough
Feb 19: 4.2 in 35:41, 8:30 pace
Feb 21: 4 in 35:44, hill intervals, 8:56 avg pace 

Feb 24: 6 mi in 55:09, 9:12 avg pace

Feb 26: 4 mi in 34:14, 8:33 avg pace

Feb 28: 3.15 mi in 29:42, sore, leg pain

45 total miles

I didn't hit 50 miles again but that's okay. I need to cut myself some slack every once in awhile. February was a short month and I did skip a few runs and cut a couple long runs down to not so long runs. The good news is I feel like I'm getting faster and seeing lots of improvements in time/pace. I know that will all go out the window when I get outside but you have to start somewhere.

John said the other day that he's most looking forward to spring running so we can start signing up for races. Speaking of races, I've got to register for the Air Force Half Marathon before it sells out. Off to do that now!