Sunday, January 30, 2011

In memory

It's been a tough week.  On Tuesday, I received word that a very close friend of mine lost her mother.  Nancy had been fighting Ovarian cancer for the better part of 9 years, and lost that battle very early Tuesday morning.  In attempt to find the light in this sad story, here are a few things to think about.  Her husband and children were around here, in her home, when it was time.  The family has had time over the last year to prepare themselves, and to say everything they felt that they needed to.  And finally, Nancy is no longer in pain or suffering, which she has been for months. 

The service is tomorrow, and while I would love to be there for my friend, the timing and cost is going to keep me here in DC.  I have been thinking of her and her family constantly this week.  I can only imagine what she is going through, especially having to make the plans and help take care of her family.

Life is so precious.  And fragile.  I can't help but think about my parents, and how close we are.  I am not ready to go through any of what my friend is going through.  I have been amazed by her every day over the last 2 years that I've known her.  She has handled this whole situation with strength, poise, and has been incredibly brave.  There have been so many times over the last 2 years when I've just thought about Nancy and gotten teary, or thought about my mom and what if...and just sat and cried - at work, in the car while running errands, or just sitting at home.  I hope I have been able to be a sounding board, or provided some comfort and friendship to Amy during this difficult's the only thing I know to do...

Remember to do what you love and love what you do, enjoy the small things and quiet moments, and hug your friends and family.  Enjoy the time you have with your loved ones, for it doesn't last forever.

The family has asked for donations rather than flowers...if you're interested, I've included the website below.  Please keep the family in your thoughts this week, and tell your friends and family that you love them.

I love you, Mom.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Just do it.

Are there things in your house (or office, for that matter) that you can't stand, and want to change, but you're just putting it off?  And for no good reason?

After reading this post on Young House Love, I decided it was time.  The brown had to go. 

The girl who lived in our house before us took very good care of the place, and it was decorated nicely.  But.  There have been several areas that we needed to change to make it feel a little more like ours.  For example....each of the closets were a different color.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Our coat closet, right at the front door, was royal blue.  My closet was this orangey-pink color, Matt's was lavendar, and the one in the guest bedroom was a lovely shade of what I've named poop-brown.  The office was this awful lime color, and the guest bathroom matched the closet.  There were also some stripes that had to immediately go.  (this picture was taken before we moved in)

After a few paint changes that happened before we even had the movers deliver our things, we've been sitting on lots of other changes, making them gradually over the years.  Cady, sweet Cady, made a decision that the wall paper in the powder room had to go (by helping me to rip it down when she was 2 mos old and had escaped her crate... I won't go into how husband forgot to latch it before leaving for the evening) it's now a lovely shimmery green/gold color.  We painted the bright green kitchen to a more calming blue/green (Homestead Green from Benjamin Moore), I added a red accent wall in the dining room, and painted the guest bathroom a much quieter and brighter tan, called Antique White.

I have been feeling lately like there's a lot of brown in this house, still, and when I saw the YHL post, I knew it was time.  The backs of the bookcases were brown, the walls are all tan, the couch is a dark was getting to me.  So Friday afternoon I stopped by Benjamin Moore and picked up the Dragonfly swatch (along with a couple other gray's to see where I might change some other colors).  Yesterday I went to Home Depot and got the color matched with their primer and paint in one, and went to work.

It's so different!  I'm pretty much loving it - it is definitely taking some getting used to.  I feel like everything stands out SO much more now that the background isn't such a dark color.  I think I might need to change out of a few of the display items, and minimize the number of colors on the wall, but otherwise I think it looks great!  It really only took one Saturday afternoon - I started around 2ish and had the entire wall put back together before dinner.  I'm ready to do some other projects that I've been putting off now - mostly painting my bathroom.  I'm having the hardest time selecting a color...but again, I think I just need to pick one and go for it.

What home improvement projects have you done lately?  Where do you get your inspiration?  How do you select paint colors?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


"What would we be without friends?  They're the mirrors we look into to find ourselves.  They accept the worst in us and bring out the best in us.  They add to our joys and diminish our sorrows.  They listen carefully to our words and understand our silences.  They give us the benefit of their wisdom and the gift of their humor.  They bring in the light when our world is dark.  What would we be without friends?"

Girlfriends are such an important part of a woman's life...and sometimes we get so wrapped up in our worlds of work/commuting/chores/workouts/cooking dinner/kids/husbands/dogs/life that we forget about them.  It's easy to say "I was busy, I'll call later" or "I can't do it this weekend" or whatever excuse we might come up with.  But it's really remarkable how when do you take the time, make the time, to spend a couple of hours either in person or on the phone with a girlfriend, how much more energized you are.  It makes you a better employee/mom/wife/daughter/friend.  

Last weekend, a group of girls here in the DC area decided that our week-night get togethers were too rushed and cut short because they were always right in the middle of the week - so we booked a Saturday night, brought the wine, a fun game called Things, lots of (healthy) snacks, and spent hours laughing, telling stories, and just being girlfriends.  This past Saturday, I made plans to go to lunch and do some shopping with another girlfriend who I haven't seen in weeks, since before the holidays.  We didn't do anything fancy, expensive (well, the shopping might have gotten kinda expensive!), or complicated - we just spent the afternoon together.  

I remember the saying "You don't go to college to find your husband, you go to find your bridesmaids" and I always have agreed with that statement.  I was lucky enough to find both during college (even though Husband didn't go to the same school).  My college girlfriends are so important to me, and we all have to work even harder to stay in each others lives.  My best friends from school are all over the world now - Florida, North and South Carolina, London, Dubai, Delaware, Richmond, Boston, and takes flights, phone calls, gchat, video g-chat, cards, emails, and planning.  But it's so worth it when you run through the airport into their laughing, smiling hugs, get a birthday card in the mail, or find a couple of quiet hours for a phone call.

I have also been lucky to make some great friends since college, while living in DC, as well as reconnect with old friends from home.  It is so energizing and refreshing to hear about their stories, and know that we're all in this together - we are all going through very similar challenges and triumphs.  

How do you spend time with your girlfriends, are there some fun traditions you have?  How do you stay in touch with your friends who are all over the world, living their lives?

"Best friends are the siblings God forgot to give us."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Practice plus dinner

Last weekend, I attended Eliot Cohen's Digital Camera class at the Smithsonian - it was a Christmas gift from husband.  It was an all day event, both inside the classroom along with some practice outside.  Although it was about 28 degrees, so I think our outside time was cut shorter than usual.  We learned about aperture, exposure, shutter speed, depth of field, and more.  It was completely overwhelming but I'm excited to practice and learn more about how to use the different features on my camera.  (I have a Nikon D5000)

So, while making dinner last night, I grabbed my camera and started taking photos.  I'm always envious of the blogs that I read and their beautiful dishes that they prepare and their clear photos.  Also, in an attempt to be a more exciting blogger, I thought I'd share my recipe with you - AND have photos to boot!

Last night I made this amazing Black Eyed Pea stew from one of my favorite "stranger" blogs, Eat, Live, Run.  I have "friend" blogs and "stranger" blogs - pretty self explanatory.  Anyway.  I have printed out several of her recipes (and need to print her recent chicken parm one) and was excited to try the first one.  It was delicious and totally easy to make.

Black Eyed Pea Stew
serves 8
2 cups cooked black eyed peas (prepared from dry or from fresh according to package directions)
    *I used canned.
1 12-oz bag chopped collard greens
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable stock
    *I didn't have enough veggie stock so I did 1/2 veggie and 1/2 chicken
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
12 oz chicken andouille sausage (or regular..whatever floats your boat!), chopped into 1/2 inch thick slices
1 T canola oil
1 T cider vinegar

Heat the canola oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. When hot, add the chopped onion and saute until soft and translucent—about six minutes. Add the garlic and saute thirty more seconds.

Add the chopped sausage and stir everything together. Cook for another five minutes, stirring often, so that the sausage can brown a bit. Then, add the veggie stock, black eyed peas, cayenne pepper, bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for fifteen minutes.

Add the tomatoes, collards and vinegar. Simmer for another ten minutes or so until the greens have wilted and cooked down a little. Serve with hot sauce and cornbread on the side.

Somehow I missed the "serve with cornbread" note at the bottom when putting together my grocery list, so we ate it with some Ritz crackers I found in the pantry - not quite as good as the cornbread, but still pretty good.  (I forget how yummy Ritz crackers are because I don't buy them often...but they're so good!)

Don't let the collards in the stew scare you.  Husband thought he didn't like collards but he loved the soup - and didn't even know they were collards until I told him :)  It was really good, healthy, just spicy enough, and very filling.  Served with a yummy glass of wine and this made for a great Friday night.  Put it on your list to try - you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I love it when Best Man KT comes to visit, because it always means a fun dinner out in DC!  KT is a lawyer in Alabama, but will soon be moving to Montgomery to work for the new Attorney General Luther Strange.  Anyway...last weekend he was in town to be sworn into the DC Bar, and dinner with us!  We first went to Brasserie Beck for drinks - the boys had beer and I enjoyed a couple of French whites.  We also ordered the charcuterie plate - it was huge, and wonderful!  Several different meats to try along with some yummy crostinis and different spreads. 

Then we walked the 2 blocks to dinner at Siroc, one of the newer restaurants in DC.  We must have good taste because also dining at the restaurant that evening were (separately) Chief Justice John Roberts and US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice.  There were secret service everywhere - they were a dead giveaway that someone important was in the room!  Dinner was fantastic.  It's a great northern Italian restaurant.  They have lots of delicious pastas, and you can order 2 half orders if you want to try a few.  The boys both did this, and I tried everything - they were all just wonderful.  I had a the pork tenderloin - it was good, but not as good as the pasta!  It was very reasonably priced and a had a good wine list.  We'll definitely go back, and you should put it on your DC list of restaurants!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pittsburgh, Part 2 - the game

The Winter Classic was certainly an amazing experience - one of the coolest sporting events I've ever been to.  The HBO 24/7 definitely helped get us all excited about the game, and provided a great view into both teams leading up to the game.  The pre-game fan area was packed with lots of activities.  Our favorite one was the tent with the players uniforms - it was exciting to try on Ovi's gloves, helmet and shorts...well...husband tried on the shorts...they were a liiittle snug...

When we got into the stadium, we walked straight to our seats to check out the view.  Pretty cool spot, we were in section 141.  The teams were doing their pregame warmups when we first got there.  Then we wanted to walk up to the top of the stadium, just to check it out and see the view from up there.  I think the first row of the upper level, center ice, would have probably been the best seats in the house.  You're high enough to see the entire ice, but not in the rafters. 

The intros were very cool, and the teams came out from right under where we were sitting.  Having the game under the lights, a change from the original schedule because of the weather, was so much better.  The atmosphere, fire at introductions, and fireworks would not have been the same with a 1pm puck drop. 

The fans, for the most part, were very nice.  Maybe about 2/3 of them were as nice as could be - almost southern hospitality nice.  Speaking to us, asking us about our trip and weekend so far, saying how great it was for us to be there, etc.  But...the other 1/3....were horrible.  Absolutely awful.  Cussing every other word...calling us names...and everything in between.

Overall the weekend was great.  Parts of Pittsburgh were awesome, and others...not so much.  (don't ever try to get a cab in's been known to take 2+ hours...)  I really enjoyed traveling for New Year's weekend!  It was something fun and different to do - and I enjoyed being at a 'normal' city - you don't need to go somewhere flashy to have a good time.  Especially when you're with good friends :)

Did I mention it rained?!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pittsburgh, Part 1 - everything but the game

New Year's Eve has never been one of my favorite holidays.  I attempted to go to NYC one year when husband (then boyfriend) lived in Connecticut....that ended with me on crutches and back on the couch in time for the ball to drop.  Most years we've just gotten together with friends and hunkered down for the night.  This year was different.  This year was the Winter Classic, Capitals vs. Penguins. 

Three of our closest friends went up to Pittsburgh, PA, with us to celebrate the end of 2010, beginning of 2011, and go to the annual outdoor NHL hockey game.  We drove up on New Year's Eve, stopping first at the original Primanti Bros.  "A Pittsburgh Tradition Since 1933" says the website.  Standing in line with dozens of other Capitals fans, we waited for about an hour...and it was totally worth it. 
Yes.  Those ARE certainly french fries on my cheese steak sandwich.  And cole slaw.

Then we did a little shopping to get Amy a Winter Classic hat (which was a promised yet unpurchased Christmas gift from bf Nick) and myself a cute Winter Classic long sleeved tshirt.  After that we split - Tommy and I went to a bar to watch the UGA bowl game and the other 3 headed to the science museum to see the Stanley Cup. 

Then we all raced back to the hotel, changed clothes in 1.5 minutes, and rushed to our dinner reservation.  Besides the game, dinner at Toast Kitchen was probably the best part of the weekend.  We had a big group of 12, including some other DC friends, so they split us into 2 tables.  It was very fun and the food was fantastic.  Their local spinach salad with a fried egg and bacon vinaigrette was amazing!!  The wine list was good and very reasonably priced.  I ordered a glass of champagne for everyone at both tables and they were very helpful with doing exactly what I asked.  Next time you're in Pittsburgh, you definitely need to check out Toast.  It's a tiny restaurant, so make reservations! 
To watch the ball drop, we went to Le Mardi Gras up in Shady Side...the bartenders at Toast suggested it.  They are known to pour the stiffest drinks in town, and that was sure the case for our group that night.  It was a fun place to ring in the New Year!  We even got in a little "C-A-P-S CAPS CAPS CAPS" cheer!

Saturday morning began a little slower for some than others...luckily they made the call for the game to be moved to 8pm (from 1pm) Friday evening, so we knew we had some extra time during the day.  Panera breakfast sandwiches and some Starbucks got us up and moving.  Dressed in head to toe red, we headed out into the city.  Three of us went to Fat Heads to get a big and late lunch before the game - the boys also wanted to try some of their fancy beers.  The burgers were enormous and full of some interesting combinations.  We met some nice DC folks and sat with them for lunch.  Definitely recommend this place, too - the food was really good.  The Wisco fans went down closer to the stadium to watch the Rose Bowl and try to cheer the Badgers to victory....unfortunately they didn't do so well. 

About mid-afternoon we started the trek across town to the stadium for the highly anticipated Winter Classic!  In my next post, I'll share more details and photos about the game, and the Caps victory!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


I ordered my first pair of shoes online today!  And...they're my first pair of boots that aren't just black hooker boots.  I'm quite excited!  They won't be shipped until the end of the month...which is a little disheartening...but it's going to be quite the surprise when they arrive and I've completely forgotten about them!  And, maybe by then I'll have lost my extra holiday weight and be able to fit into the skinny jeans I bought!  We'll see - I'll report back on how they (the boots) fit (well, and the jeans too) and if I'll order shoes online again! 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Favorite Ornaments

As the Christmas season comes to an end and we pack up all of our holiday directions, I wanted to take a few moments to share with you a few of my favorite ornaments.  My parents stopped putting up a tree years ago since I'm never in town for the holidays and it's so much work.  I'd love to go through the ornaments that Mom has a bring a few here, but that will probably not happen any time soon.  I do have several that I have collected myself over the years which I just love.  I'm sure we all have those few very special ones that we love to unpack each year.

 My mom, aunt and I all have the German pickle ornament to remember our German heritage

 This is the Home Alone turtle dove - see the box below?  One of my childhood friends gave it to me, and she has the other - this is the original box it came in :)

 These are my cousin's little kids at the boys' first Christmas.

 Anyone from Richmond will recognize this.  It's a beautiful pewter ornament that is about Bruce the Spruce and the Legendary Santa (the real one).  Both Matt and I used to go to visit the same Santa when we were kids.

 I was good friends with some guys in college and we played golf several Fridays a month - I gave them each one of these for Christmas my senior year.  Reminds me of all the laughs we shared.

When I was a little girl, I had an advent calendar that was an ornament a day to decorate a little tree.  This is one of the only ornaments that I still have.

These are my new new ones from this year.  The one on the left is a silver champagne glass - it has 2 others in the group, a champagne bottle and wine glass.  They fit well with our wine hobby!  Mom brought me the beautiful acorn.  My college's symbol is an acorn and I love being able to have a pretty acorn on my tree!

The holidays sure flew by for us this year.  They were very special as we were lucky to spend some great times with our family and friends.  I sure hope yours were as wonderful as ours were.

Happy New Year to you and yours - I'm very excited to see what 2011 will bring, and I look forward to sharing it with you!