Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What I've been doing, Pt. 1

Hey there!  Wow, talk about an extended break.  May ended up being really hectic, from the event I had to plan at work for our graduating seniors to the road trip down to Tennessee to celebrate my grandmother's 80th birthday.  I can't complain; I love seeing my family, and I love having something at work to keep the time flying by.
Here are some of the smaller things I've done with my spare time:
Well, this speaks for itself.  New Tetris high score on my phone; woohoo!
It should be noted that, mere days after this feat, John Paul beat my score by an additional 40,000 points. Jeez, he's a beast.
I'm on a grant committee for the DC Public Library System, and had to read through 18 grants to decide who got money for specific projects.  We met on May 17; all of my favorites were chosen!
JP and I rearranged parts of our home; this nook off the kitchen used to have our dining table.  Now, it houses a small bar, and chair for reading.  It's really opened up the space, and it's nice to have a spot to enjoy a cocktail after work...or dusting.  Really, do we need an excuse?
We're registering for wedding gifts next week!  After a fact-finding mission, we figured out what we need and the best places to get it.  I'm really excited to put together our lists.
There was a pie day at work.  This is just one of three tables filled with pies and other goodies.  Oh, and there was singing and choreographed dancing.  Days like that make this whole job thing worthwhile.
Oh, and some sleeping.  How do you like these new pillows?  They're supersoft and fuzzy; I would have rugs like this in the bedroom if my man would let me.
Tomorrow I'll post some pictures of the people I've seen recently, including cousins, rapper/comedians, and a soul singer.  I think you'll like it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Grapefruit Margarita

Okay, so, apparently this recipe serves 8.  I must be a total lush, because I can't seem to get more than 5 out of a single batch!  You won't be able to either, though; this tart, refreshing drink is the perfect summer kick-off cocktail.  I got the recipe from Ina Garten, whose latest cookbook is quickly becoming my go-to for entertaining.  She can do no wrong in my book, and her brief appearance on this season's finale of 30 Rock didn't hurt my love for her.  She's my dream neighbor, too.

Cloud Atlas

Someone asked me recently about the last book I read and my response was, "Cloud Atlas, which was one of the most innovative, creative and fun books I've picked up in a long time."  David Mitchell has crafted six stories that seamlessly weave between each other, each more intriguing than the last.
The book begins with a journal from a South Pacific traveler, which is found decades later by an English musician, whose letters are read by a journalist in 1970s California.  Her story is submitted as a transcript to a vanity publisher, and his story is watched by a clone in a futuristic corporcratic society.  The last story in the book takes place in a post-apocalyptic Hawaii.  Each story is nested inside another: the South Pacific story starts and finishes the novel, with the others also being interrupted halfway through to begin the next.
With each new storyline, I would say, "Oh, this is my favorite yet."  They're each populated with sympathetic and well-drawn characters, and incredibly different from each other.  I will admit that the story I read quickest was about Somni-45, a clone who develops the ability to think freely in a totalitarian future; her worldview (corporations have taken over the government, and ads are flashed on the moon at night) seems like an ominous cautionary tale.  However, I also love the caddish English musician who carries on a love affair with his mentor's wife while lusting after her daughter, and was drawn to the journalist who is in investigating a nuclear reactor's false report on its environmental effects.
This is a great novel to beat the summer doldrums.  It came out a few years ago, so there shouldn't be a hold list for it at your library!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Soft stripes

Tank top and sweater: Anthropologie
Jeans: Levi's
Sandals: Michael Antonio
Earrings: Stella and Dot
Oh, this weekend was just what the doctor ordered.  Friday night, JP and I stayed in with an action movie and grapefruit margaritas (recipe to come!), and Saturday was our relax day.  We did venture out into the world for a lunch date with a good friend, followed by a showing of Thor.  Such a fun movie to start the summer!
This is the perfect outfit for that day, which was slightly breezy.  This is the softest sweater I've ever owned, and I love the big green buttons!  And, honestly, check out those earrings.  I went to a Stella and Dot party a few weekends ago (thanks, Catherine!) and picked out these stunners.  They're lightweight, but love those bright colors!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Dijon Fish Cakes

One of the best summer foods is crab cakes.  Although my absolute favorites are made by Paul at GINC's house in Wilmington (whatever he's doing is right on the money), I'll eat them pretty much anywhere.
Let's face it though: fresh crab is expensive!  When I saw this recipe in my Real Simple magazine, with wallet-friendly tilapia, I knew I'd have to try it out.  It's easy, supertasty, and pairs well with basically any vegetable side (we used steamed green beans with prosciutto and feta).  Really, it's hard to go wrong with flaky fish, tangy mustard, and crispy bread crumbs!
P.S. So sorry for the horrible lighting in these photos!  I promise they looked better than this in real life.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day to this Lady

I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by strong, amazing women, but my mom is always the inspiration to me.  She is the picture of how to enjoy life: daily cocktail hours, long walks outside when the weather is nice, movie marathons when it's not.  She's the best person to tell any type of news; she'll smile with you at the good stuff, and hug you through the not-so-good.  I love her so, so much and wish her (and all you wonderful moms!) the happiest Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Nobody's Perfect, or the story of how I messed up a cake

One day I'll have to post a story on here about a dessert I made that came out perfectly without having to put too much effort into.  In the meantime, here is a brief story of the pear and chocolate cake I baked on Saturday night:
As mentioned in Monday's post, John Paul made a superb dinner for us as a reward for the spring cleaning we accomplished over the weekend.  I thought it would be a great idea for me to make a cake that was light and easy, with perhaps some fruit in it.  Enter the bittersweet chocolate and pear cake.  I already had most of the ingredients, but was missing the springform pan it called for.  No big deal, I thought.  I'll just throw it into my round silicone baking pan and call it a day!
Thus I went about making the cake. I peeled and diced the pears, I browned the butter, I whipped the eggs for 10 minutes (well, the mixer did).  I put it into the pan and into the oven and was prepared for the glory that would come with baking a perfect dessert.
The picture above is the last picture I took of the cake.  The heat TOTALLY didn't distribute properly, and the middle of the cake wouldn't bake.  John Paul and I ended up having to eat it with spoons right out of the pan.
Some girlfriends came over on Tuesday night and helped finish it.
My friends are so considerate.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Zebra Girl

Shorts and sweater: Urban Outfitters
Tank: F21
Shoes: Tootsie's
While my mom and Haley visited DC, one of my missions was to take them to Mandu, a little Korean restaurant in Dupont Circle.  It has the tastiest bipimbap!  We went on the last night they were in town, so we got a little dressed up in celebration of surviving Wedding Summit 2011.  The whole night was lovely, and I was excited to debut these cute little high-waist shorts.  They're perfect with a silky tank top tucked in and my Golden Girls-esque Sweater on top.  We had a great time; it was the perfect end to a lovely visit!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Easy Beef Wellington

Oh my good gracious.  My man must love me to make steak wrapped in pate wrapped in prosciutto wrapped in puff pastry.  I certainly know that he does, but I'll also confess this: none of this is as difficult as it looks.  We had some friends over for dinner a couple months ago, and JP got it into his head that he would make beef wellington (he's an overachiever) the way Gordon Ramsay makes it.  He's got a couple of shortcuts in this video, and it really did come out wonderfully.
This time around we used mushroom pate instead of flat-out mushrooms (it's surprisingly cheap at Trader Joe's) and rib-eye instead of fillets.
Here's what you'll need:
2 nice pieces of steak (use ribeye or fillet, nothing with a bone)
6 pieces of prosciutto
Spreadable pate
Yellow mustard
Thawed puff pastry
2 egg yolks, beaten
First step is to sear the steaks.  Get the cast iron skillet super, super hot, then rub the steaks with coarse sea salt and cracked pepper.  Throw some olive oil into the skillet and heat until a crust forms on all sides of the meat.  Remove from the cast iron and let the steak rest.  In the meantime...
...unwrap a long piece of plastic wrap and lay three pieces of prosciutto on top.  Spread pate on top.
Cover steak in yellow mustard (just regular, no dijon or anything fancy), then place on top of pate.
Starting at the top, wrap everything up in the plastic wrap and seal thoroughly.  Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.  While waiting for the steak, preheat the oven to 385 degrees and place parchment paper on a baking sheet.
When the steaks are cool, unwrap and place meat on top of puff pastry.  Wrap like an envelope, and brush with egg yolks.  Cook in oven until puff pastry is browned.
Serve with roasted asparagus.  You'll be glad you did.
Thanks for the tasty meal, John Paul!  It was just what the doctor ordered on Saturday night.