Friday, July 29, 2011

Weekend in the low country

It had been too long since I'd seen some of my college girlfriends, so we decided to meet in South Carolina for a fun weekend this summer.  After lots of back and forth over email, a date was picked and flights booked.  I was off to Bluffton, SC!  It was a great, fun, relaxing weekend catching up with old friends!

I flew down Friday afternoon, and Cara picked me up in her new ride.  After a 20 minute drive to Lindsay's from the airport with a crazy puppy in a crazy van (see below), we headed straight for Mexican and margaritas!

Mi Tierra in "downtown" Bluffton was perfect - we seem to always have Mexican when we're together - it was our go-to in college, and still is today!  Once we were full of chips, cheese dip and tacos, we wandered over to Corks, the local wine bar.  Very cute with a great wine list!  The atmosphere was very comfortable and chic - we sat at a table for a while and enjoyed a drink before we were tired and ready for bed.  It had been a long travel day for Cara and me, so we headed back to get to bed early. 

Saturday was a nice, warm sweltering hot day.  We lounged around for a few hours in the morning, talking, drinking iced coffee, looking at friends' pictures on Facebook and reading blogs.  We finally got moving and headed to the pool.  Lindsay's neighborhood has a wonderful pool and lazy river - it was so hot, we spent the whole time in the water!  Once we were hot enough and hungry, we headed back and took our time hours getting dressed for the evening.  

Picture from
Before heading to Hilton Head for dinner, we stopped and did some outlet shopping at Ann Taylor Loft and Banana Republic.  Yes!  There's an Ann Taylor Loft OUTLET!  I got a bunch of things - I love outlet prices - 3 dresses, 2 shirts and a hot pair of white jeans.  I'm totally excited about my new things, and all for $170!  After we'd spent all of our money, we'd worked up an appetite so we headed to dinner. 

We went to the Skull Creek Boathouse - it was really great.  We sat at the outside bar for a bit, had a drink and enjoyed the scenery while we waiting for our table.  Cara had a sangria, Lindsay a strawberry margarita and I had a mojito.  Delicious!  We took some great pictures as the sun was going down, it was so beautiful. 

After soaking in the sunset, it was time for dinner.  We ordered several things and shared them.  Lindsay and I had a bottle of the J Winery Russian River Pinot Grigio - it was delicious - and Cara enjoyed some frozen margaritas.  We each had a salad to start.  Then we shared the we-peal-you-eat steamed shrimp - they were wonderful.  The Boathouse is also known for their adventurous sushi, so we ordered 2 rolls - the special with grilled mahi mahi and tuna and avocado was very good - the pieces were huge.  We also ordered the buffalo chicken one with bleu cheese and julienne celery.  It was like a chicken wing in sushi form!  Everything was delicious and I certainly recommend checking out the Boathouse if you're ever in HHI! 

Following dinner, we were on a mission: find a cute boy to take a picture with Cara, so she didn't have to photoshop one in... 

So back to Bluffton we went to the Old Town Distillery Dispensary.  They have Strongbow on tap, so Lindsay and I had one and toasted to our junior year winter term trip class when we went to London together.  We were sitting on the deck and these (very young) boys were playing cornhole.  And the hole of the board was lit up!  What a GREAT idea!  So we hopped off our perch and grabbed the other set and spent several hours working off dinner and playing cornhole! We found 1 boy, Josh, who humored us for a while and played...but soon got a little bored and wandered off... 

Once we'd had enough of the Distillery, we headed to Wild Wing, which was the location of the post wedding party when Lindsay got married in 2006.  

Being that it was almost closing time, there were only about 10 other people in the bar.  Cara was getting naturally we ordered her a Jagarbomb to get her going...being the lady that she is, she sipped it through a stirrer...  

Whatever, it worked, and she was shortly making requests of the DJ.  Several songs from our college days later, we said good bye to our new bartender friends and headed home.  Unfortunately we were unsuccessful in securing the photo of Cara and a cute boy mission, but we had a great time together!  

Sunday was a wonderfully lazy day.  We started the morning by testing out the Wing Flyers, which Cara is now selling.  They are basically a scooter with a stair-stepper to make it go.  It was much harder than it looked!  

Unlike a bike, this feels more like an elliptical motion, almost a backwards motion.  It's a little tricky at first, but after a few laps in the neighborhood, we got the hang of it.  Working up more of a sweat than we'd hoped for, we headed inside for some delicious stuffed French toast!

After breakfast, we went back to the outlets, this time stopping at JCrew, Polo, and Brooks Brothers.  Not wanting husband to feel forgotten, I picked up a couple of shirts and new ties for him.  After lunch we went back to the pool for some late afternoon time - Lindsay's husband Court and friends Joe and Jodi met us there!  It was great to spend time with Joe and Jodi since I hadn't seen them since Lindsay and Court's wedding - Joe and I were the Best Man/Maid of Honor!  We had a wonderful dinner back at the house that Court made - beer can chicken, ribs, and roasted eggplants and tomatoes.  It was delicious!  We played a new game, Apples to Apples, which was very fun!  We need to add that to our (very small) collection of games!

Monday morning we said good bye - Cara drove to Charlotte and I flew home to DC.  What a great weekend we had, sharing stories, talking about old times and looking forward to our futures together.  There's something about college girlfriends that is so special, and I'm blessed to have such wonderful ones in my life!  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What's for dinner?

I love Giada. 

I really love her.  Everything of hers I have ever made has been delicious. 

Well, everything except the chicken tetrezzini I tried to make when I was living down in NC about 7 years ago.  It is the one dinner I actually didn't eat because I threw it out.  I have had nightmares...I had flour everywhere....


Pasta Ponza.  A few weeks ago I was catching up on DVR'd shows and watching one of her 30 minute shows on the Food Network (yes, I record them) and the episode was all about pasta.  Hello!  I love pasta!  So I printed out this recipe and made it a few days later for dinner. And it was delicious.

Well, last night I made it again.  And this time I just threw it together with what I had in my fridge and pantry.  I didn't need to buy a thing for this dinner, which was great.  I used the leftover 1/2 full boxes of fusilli and bowtie pastas, the grape tomatoes I had left from lunches last week, and then already had a 1/2 jar of capers in the fridge and the olive oil and bread crumbs in the pantry.  Plus I had the 'good stuff' as husband calls it - fresh shredded cheese left over from a previous dinner.  I used what was left and filled in with grated parmesean from the green can.  I even used fresh parsley from my back deck

I apologize, I forgot to take pictures (again).  I threw the tomatoes in quickly, made the dog her dinner, put the pasta on, threw a bag of steamer green beans in the microwave, grabbed and opened a bottle of wine and everything was ready!  It really is that quick!  The actual recipe below is pretty structured, but I really just threw together what I had in the house already.  It was so good, I just couldn't not tell you about it.


Pasta Ponza by Giada from the Food Network


Butter for greasing
2 cups (12 ounces) red cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 cups (12 ounces) yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
1/2 cup Italian-style seasoned breadcrumbs
1 pound ziti or other short tube-shaped pasta
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 ounces) Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.

Place the tomatoes, capers, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in the prepared baking dish. Toss to coat. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the tomato mixture. Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is golden. Cool for 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.

Place the pasta in a large serving bowl. Spoon the tomato mixture onto the pasta. Add the cheese and toss well. Thin out the sauce with a little pasta water, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.


This is definitely a tasty, quick and easy go to pasta dinner.  And it makes delicious leftovers for lunch at work the next day!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tiling adventure, part dos

Well, we've been at it again.  And again, my kitchen is a disaster.  Counters and faucet covered in plastic and taped up, power off, and oven in the center of the room.  This is becoming a normal look for us these days... 

Over last weekend, in between Capitals rookie practice, brewery anniversary and opening parties, a baby shower, a birthday party, and dinner with college friends in Maryland, we grouted the tile in the kitchen.  This was definitely much less time consuming than the actually placing of the tiles.

First, you mix the gunk...different gunk than before, but similar idea - liquid substance + powdery stuff + mix = gunk grout. 

Then, using the tool in the picture below, you spread it on the tiles.  Instantly you can see the difference with the black spaces between the tiles turning to white.  The tool is very similar to the trowel we used to spread said gunk the first time, but soft and almost padded feeling. 

So once you spread it, you wait about 10 minutes and then take a clean, damp sponge and start wiping the excess off.  You're trying to get the majority of it off the tiles, the big clumps, while keeping a smooth, even feel to the lines.  This is harder than it sounds, because you're trying to keep an even amount of grout between the tiles while not taking too much out. 

Husband spread the grout, and I cleaned it off.

Over the next few days, we sanded, chipped, and then added more, spread and cleaned.  It took us a few tries in a couple of spots to get it right.  

Then, after 48 hours of drying time, we husband sealed and put in the caulk.  We purchased the sealer from The Tile Shop when we got all of our tiles.  You just pour it into a little dish and use a toothbrush to brush it over the grout.  (notice that it's a nice, kitchen dish.  This is what happens when I'm not home)  The grout is porous, so it prevents anything from getting or growing in there - you don't want water splashing up on the un-sealed grout - it can grow mold over time.  So you rub it on and wipe the excess off with a rag.  It's a very thin liquid, so it runs a lot over the tiles.

We husband also caulked the edges, the space just under and around the cabinets, and the area where the tile meets the granite.  We used white for the edges and clear along the granite.  It makes such a big difference, and looks so smooth now.  

It's probably really hard to tell - but it's so smooth along the edge now.  Unlike before when you could see the first gunk that we used to put it on the there's a smooth line above and along the side of the tile.  These tiles are rounded on the top and right edges, called bullnose.  Once the primer on the walls is painted over with the wall color, it'll look finished and clean.

Also, the plates are finally on the sockets!  Maybe I won't have to keep resetting the microwave clock every night now when we turn off the power to fix something!  They look so good compared to what they were before.

We finally are able to put things back in the kitchen - no more making coffee in the powder room or running back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room while making dinner to get the knife or utensil I need!

Too bad when you look up, it looks like this....

Ugh.  Let the fun continue.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Friday happy hour in Arlington

While I usually have Friday's off (love the 4 day work week option), last week I was in the office.  About halfway through the day, I gchatted the husband to see if he wanted to meet in Arlington for happy hour!  We usually can't do this together, mostly because of Cady, but I'd left a little later in the morning and if we went early enough, we could still get home close to our regular time.  We had $50 left in the budget for the week, and we just couldn't not use it!  So after some back and forth, we decided on Fireworks, on Clarendon Blvd right in Courthouse.  It's owned by the same people who own Tuscarora Mill in Leesburg, so we knew it was going to be good.  (there's also a Fireworks in Leesburg, too)

It was a huge place.  Since it was a little toasty to sit outside, we opted for the bar.  Actually, right about where this photo was taken.  The patio was really big, with big red umbrellas, and lots of people were outside enjoying the evening.  The bar and restaurant were relatively empty when we got there, but had a steady stream of people through the afternoon coming in and was crowded when we left.

They have a great happy hour 3 pm-6:30 pm Monday - Friday.  They have a handful of beers on special for $3.50 - of course none of those were the ones husband wanted...but with 33 beers on tap, he found some disgusting piney IPAs to enjoy.  They also have a red and white sangria on special for $4/glass - I tried both.  The red is the better of the 2, but I'd stay away from those...they just weren't great, and the bartenders knew it.  I think it's time to switch up the recipes.  They also had a white and a red glass of wine for $5.  I had the tempranillo, and it was very good, especially for $5!

Since we really didn't have any food at home...we decided to take advantage of their $5 pizza special!  First we got the mixed greens salad to share - it was very fresh and full of corn, cucumbers, tomatoes and sunflower seeds.
photo from

They have 5 or 6 10" pizzas on happy hour special that you can choose from, of their 15 total options.  We went with the Firecracker and the Sopranos.  Both were very good, but the roasted mushrooms and onions on the Sopranos were just delicious.

They have a huge regular menu, lots of sandwiches and other items.  We'll certainly go back there again, and hopefully soon!  Put it on your list!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

DC rooftop wedding!

During our tiling adventure weekend, we were lucky to have a great excuse for a break Saturday night.  Our neighbors, who've become some of our closest friends in DC, got married downtown last weekend!  They were married in the City View room in the GWU's International School building right at E and 18th Streets.  The view was beautiful and the evening perfect.

The ceremony was in a great spot - on the shady side of the building and just in time for the heat to calm down a bit.  They wanted the evening to be a casual, fun celebration, so they had the cocktail hour before the ceremony!

The beautiful bride and her mother both were a little teary as they made their way down the aisle!

Photo taken by Kevin Homan

It was a beautiful and fun evening with friends, celebrating our neighbors' marriage!  The view was gorgeous, and the space perfect for what they wanted.  With the original plan to get married on the beach in Hawaii with a very small gathering, I think they were happy to be surrounded by friends and more importantly, family, on this special day.

Congratulations Jeff and MK!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What are you reading?

I thought I would take a break today from bombarding you with home improvement updates and talk about something different.  With all the chaos in our house right now, I could certainly use a break myself!  Thank you for all of the sweet comments about the tile - we really appreciate them!

Since it's summer, and everyone has a long list of good beach reads stacked up (whether or not you'll actually make it to the beach is beside the point), I wanted to talk about a couple of the books I've recently finished. 

Mom, I hope you didn't just fall out of your chair since I'm writing a post about reading.  Books.  I know!

I go in stages with reading.  I'll get into a book that I'm just not loving, but feel that I must finish it before I can move on.  And it can go on like this for months!  I find myself completely uninterested in reading.  And then, finally, I'll either finish that book, or just switch and decide to start something new.  Well, a couple of months ago I finally finished The Year of Pleasures

It was a good book, it really was...and I don't know why it took me FOREVER to read...because it's not that big.  But it just did.  Ugh, it seemed to drag...but, it was a good story!  Anyway, nevermind about that.

My blogger BFF (who doesn't actually know who I am), Jenna at Eat Live Run, does a book review every week or so.  And she did one right as I was about to be ready to start reading again.  And she's incredibly convincing!  When she says it's "the best book I've read this year" - I believe her!  (granted, I just realized it was on February only 2 months into the year...details.)  So I clicked the link right off her page and ordered Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt immediately. 

And you should too.  It was so good.  It was finally a book that wasn't just about some fancy single 30-something NYC ad exec and her amazing boyfriend, that I feel like so many chick-lit books are about.  It was a great story, and kept me interested the whole way through.  I finished this pretty quickly - and it usually takes me a while to get through even books I love. 

Then, she reviewed another one that I wanted to get.  I'm telling you - you have to be careful with her, she's a crazy reader, can finish a book in a day.  If I bought all the books she recommends, I'd have a full library.  She'd recommended one by Kristin Hannah when I was only about halfway finished with Pictures of You, so I decided to hold off...then she did another one, Firefly Lane.  And it was perfect timing.

I hear she's the next big author, so I wanted to check it out.  This is a great story about childhood friends, and I really enjoyed it.  I cried through the last 3 chapters or so, and when a book can do that you know it's good!  I'm currently listening to another one by her, Winter Garden, through Audible during my commute (when I'm not listening to the traffic report).  I'm not very far into it, but it's really good so far!

I'm now trying to decide between The Help and Water for Elephants.  I've heard great things about both, and I want to read both, just haven't started either one yet. 

Have you read any good books lately?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tiling adventure, part 1

As I mentioned last week, we had our new beautiful granite installed in the kitchen on Friday.  So once it was in and set, it was time for the real fun to begin.  After lots of shopping and picture surfing, we've decided to put white subway tiles on the back splash.  We did look very closely at a white marble tile with some grey streaks in it, but the price difference was about double, and we just couldn't justify that.  If this was a house that we had plans to be in for years to come, then that would have certainly been more of a contender.  But, with a hefty price tag, we decided to stick to the subway tiles. 

We went to The Tile Shop in Sterling and they were extremely helpful.  Their tiles were a little more expensive than Lowes, but we felt that the higher quality was worth it.  They set us up with all of the necessary tools that we needed.  They even offer a free tiling class every Saturday morning, but we decided to give it a go without the class.

We used a piece of wood where the stove usually sits so that we could keep the same line across as the counters.  Once we had that nailed in, we had to cover the counters carefully.  Using both paper and a thick plastic drop cloth, we got every corner covered.  We originally put it down flush with the wall, but that was too close - the tile has to sit between the wall and where the cover was, so we had to move everything back about 1/2". 

So, huge bucket of gunk (the stuff that you put on the wall to get the tiles to stick...not the technical term) was mixed...tiles were out, and it was time to go.  Now, I've never laid a tile before in my life, and had no idea what I was getting myself into.  My job was to tile, husband's was to cut.  Since we were going for the subway look, each line alternated - so we started with a full one on the bottom row, then a half on the second, and so on. 

Apparently, come to find out, once mixed, you have 30 minutes to use the gunk before you have to throw that batch out and start a new one.  Thirty minutes goes incredibly quickly when you're trying to figure out what on earth you're doing.  So the first 30 minutes past...and there were a few choice words exchanged..and once we fully understood the situation, the second batch of gunk was much smaller!  After a little while we found our groove, and moved along the wall. 

I spread the gunk and tiled while husband mastered the wet saw and tile cutter.  We had a few little slivers of space that needed to be filled - under the microwave, around the sockets, and along the corner. 

Because of the subway look with the alternating seams, we used an incredible number of spacers.  We had to put 2 in each vertical seam and then 2-3 along each horizontal one.  In the end we used over 600 spacers.  I have had nightmares of those things falling out! 

We finished the placing of the tiles in 1 weekend.  Our kitchen really isn't very large, but the project is tedious, with having to place one perfectly level, straight, and with the right spacing.  Next step is to grout...and from what I've heard, it's a real pain in the you know what. 

We had high hopes of getting the grout done during the week, but with working, commuting, playing with Cady and dog sitting the neighbor's dog Oliver, we just haven't gotten there yet.  (I thought Cady was crazy...she is nothing compared to this dog!)  Looks like it's going to be a great Saturday morning project!

We Husband did get the faucet and new garbage disposal hooked up!  The sound of running water in the kitchen last night was such a sweet sound!