Thursday, January 27, 2011

January recipe challenge: poulet au porto

Poulet au Porto by Julia Child

Start-to-finish time: about 2 1/2 hrs

What made it challenging: trussing a chicken and lighting the concoction on fire with cognac while it was cooking on the stove, two things I had never done before

The ingredients...
 

The trussed chicken (not completely sure I did it right... the diagram was a little hard to decipher)


The flames from the cognac barely show up in the picture below (far right in the pan), but they were most impressive! I was nervous about it at first, but it was exhilarating to light my concoction on fire--cherries jubilee, here I come! (Don't worry, Brad was right next to me near the fire extinguisher in case we had an emergency.)


Almost done...


The full meal. I served poulet au porto with a baked potato and sauteed spinach.


Assessment: We loved it. I would make it again.

One down, 11 to go!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

another year

To my red-headed sweetheart,


the one who shares in all my adventures,


and who drives me around and keeps me safe (especially in other countries where they drive on the opposite side of the road)


happy, happy, happy birthday!


Here's to many more years of birthday dinners, staycations, vacations, reading endeavors, and everything else in between. Love you!

Monday, January 24, 2011

reading/marriage challenge

During Brad's and my holiday staycation, I told him about the books I was considering reading as part of my 2011 goals. At that time, I was still torn on whether I'd tackle The Count of Monte Cristo. It has rave reviews and I've wanted to read the book for quite a while. But after finishing two tomes in 2010, I wasn't sure I was ready to dive into another 1,000+ page book. That sort of reading requires serious planning to ensure I don't get behind on my other books.

But as soon as I mentioned The Count of Monte Cristo to Brad, he burst with an enthusiasm I never believed him capable of. He begged we read and discuss it together, like book club (something we've joked about doing for years). Because I'd never quell anyone's enthusiasm for reading, I agreed.

But because I know my husband and his reading habits, I established some conditions before I agreed to this idea. Brad loves to read, but he's fickle about books. He thinks nothing of starting a book and discarding it only pages later if it doesn't hook him soon enough, something I can remember doing only once in my life (and I still feel guilty about it). I told him that if I read all 1,312 pages of The Count of Monte Cristo and he didn't, he would put our marriage in jeopardy. As an additional incentive to finish, I told him that if he bailed on our agreement, he had to read Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer's unpublished version of Twilight from Edward's perspective, which, of course, is all the motivation he needs to do his part.

I need to read ahead on selections for my book clubs, and then Brad and I will begin The Count of Monte Cristo in February or March. This book could be a fun activity for us, or it could strain our marriage. Let's hope for the former. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, January 21, 2011

birthday season begins again

Longtime readers know of Brad's and my birthday and anniversary dinner traditions. And that season is upon us again as Brad's birthday is next Tuesday and we'll go out this weekend to celebrate it.

But this year, these fancy dinners feel a little strange. You see, we weren't supposed to be dining out this year for our birthdays. 2011 was going to be our year of ordering pizza and sitting at home in our comfy clothes. Our twins were due on Valentine's Day, but we expected them anytime from mid-January on. We were going to be a family where each member's birthday fell within a three-week window. "Birthday season", as I like to call it, was going to take on new meaning for us and for our little family.

So, dining out like usual feels a little disappointing this year, but I'm sure that we'll enjoy ourselves anyway and of course, we're extremely thankful for the means to fund this tradition and the time to uphold it. We're going back to Brad's favorite, The Caucus Room, for his birthday. For my birthday, we're going to Marcel's. I've heard mixed reviews of Marcel's, but it's one of the few high-end restaurants in DC that we haven't tried, and I feel the need to make the rounds. As long as the lights are low, I'll be happy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

i could live there

Ever since I moved to DC in 2000, I have found an excuse to visit New York City at least once a year, sometimes twice, since 2001, with the exception of the past two years. Because we were long overdue for a visit, Brad and I went this past weekend, and we had a ball!

We hit some of our old standbys: Tea Spot in the Village and brunch at Good Enough to Eat on the Upper West Side. Thanks to a friend's recommendation, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner on Saturday night at The Little Owl in the West Village. This restaurant was perfect: tiny (only about 10 tables), neighborhoody (i.e. no tourists), delicious food, and most importantly (to me anyway), low lighting and a terrific atmosphere. Our waitress there recommended grabbing an after-dinner drink at Little Branch, a basement lounge in a nondescript building right down the street, which we did.

Brad and I like to pretend we're locals when we're in NYC, with the exception of seeing a Broadway show, which is a staple for us. This trip's selection included Wicked, which now ranks among my favorite Broadway shows.

I love, love, love New York City. Each time we visit, Brad and I talk endlessly about where we would live if we moved there. But, I'm conflicted. Am I a Village or an Upper West Side girl? I love both. I see the benefits and drawbacks of both. And I am completely torn.

I guess we'll have to stay in DC until we figure it out.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Saturday morning play

Sidamo's best
A couple months ago, Brad and I started a tradition: go out for chai/tea/hot chocolate (we're not coffee drinkers) every Saturday morning that we don't have somewhere to be. This may sound like a no-brainer to most of you, but when two work-before-play people marry each other, well, it takes over eight years of marriage to learn that it's okay to put off the obligatory Saturday chores for a few hours.

We are blessed with four neat coffee shops within a five-to-ten minute walk from our house, and not one of them is Starbucks or another big chain! Sidamo is the coziest, cutest, closest, tastiest, and our favorite. We strive to become regulars there.

What's your regular Saturday morning indulgence?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

the skinny

I know most of you fashionistas are years ahead of me on this trend, but I finally broke down and bought some skinny jeans. Are skinny jeans still in style? Or did I miss that boat completely?

I've been wanting to transition to the skinny look for about two years now. And my hesitation to do so has not been with my legs--as a runner, my legs are the most toned part of my body--but with my feet. Boot cut and flare styles hide size 10 feet much better than skinny legs do.

I bought two great pairs of tall boots and I love my skinny jeans tucked neatly inside them. My feet don't look gargantuan in the boots. But I don't know what to do when spring arrives and I must retire the boots and pull out the flats. Heels elevate feet, making them appear smaller, and should be okay with skinny jeans, but with flats, well, I might as well be wearing skis.

Does anyone else obsess over these details like I do?

And, more importantly, does anyone have any suggestions for what to do when spring arrives?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

a true calling

85 years old
55 years of practicing medicine and still going strong
1 small town medical practice that is open 7 days a week and every holiday
3,500+ babies delivered (more than the population of his town)
0 vacation days taken since World War II

Neatest thing about Dr. Russell R. Dohner of Rushville, IL?
To this day, he only charges $5 for an office visit.

Second neatest thing about Dr. Dohner?
He delivered me:).

The Today Show discovered Dr. Dohner in 1983. When he refused to fly to New York City to appear on the show because that meant taking a day off, the cast and crew came to him. (I still remember that day. I was nine years old. Nothing fires up a small town like television cameras from the big city!) The Today Show recently did a follow-up interview with this inspiring man--take a peek.


Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 goals

I've learned a few things from setting goals the past few years. First, I need to structure my goals in ways that motivate me. For example, it's pointless for me to set a numerical goal to read books. I love to read and am naturally motivated to read as many books in a year as I can. On the other hand, I NEED a miles goal to guilt me into running regularly. Second, procrastinating causes unnecessary stress.

Here are my goals for 2011.

Cooking
  • Select and prepare one recipe per month that challenges me (i.e. involves an in-depth procedure or a technique or piece of equipment that is unfamiliar to me). (Note: I'm excited about this one. Expect to hear about it monthly on my blog. Thanks Julia, for the many challenges you are sure to provide me.)
Running
(Sigh. Saying I'll try my best no matter what I experience health or weather wise isn't good enough, is it?)
  • 400 miles
  • I'd like to work on speed this year. I'll never be a fast runner, but I slowed down a little in 2010, and I'm not happy about it. So, by July 1st, I hope to reduce my minutes/mile pace by 30 seconds/mile for my standard five-mile run before work. By December 31st, I hope to finish this standard run one minute per mile faster.
Reading
(I've thought long and hard about these selections, and I have a reason for each of them.)

I addition to all selections for both book clubs I'm in, I will read the following books:
Wish me luck!

    Friday, January 7, 2011

    movie watching season

    Brad and I watched seven buzz-worthy movies over the holidays; we're getting ready for the Golden Globes and the Oscars!

    We watched the following films in the theater:

    The King's Speech


    Black Swan

    The Fighter

    True Grit

    And we watched the following movies at home:

    Inception

    The Town

    Toy Story 3

    I enjoyed all seven movies, but The King's Speech was my favorite. Go see it if you haven't already!

    What movies have you enjoyed lately? Which award-worthy movies have Brad and I missed?

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    2010 reading analysis

    I'm a word AND a numbers girl.
    • Total # of Books Started and Finished = 46 read (27% increase from 2009) and 14 audio for a GRAND TOTAL of 60 - Wahoo!!!!
    • Average # of Books Read Per Month = 3.83 (read) or 5 (read/listened to)
    • Best Reading Month = March (9)
    • Worst Reading Month = tie among January, September, and November (3 each)
    • Total Pages Read This Year = 18,263 (15.6% increase from 2009)
    • Average Pages Per Book = 397
    • Average Pages Read Per Day = 50 (16% increase from 2009)
    • Average Pages Read Per Month = 1,522 (16% increase from 2009)
    • Total # of Fiction Books Read = 36 read and 14 listened to
    • Total # of Nonfiction Books Read = 10 read
    • Total # of Classics = 12 (also included in the fiction tally)
    • Total # of Books Reread = 4
    • Total # of Chunksters (450+ pages) Read =15 (1 fewer than last year, but I did read some tomes: War and Peace and Gone with the Wind.)
    • FAVORITE read of 2010: Hands down, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
    • Lesson learned: Don't put an entire series on my reading goals for the year. I made that mistake twice this year (Percy Jackson and Lord of the Rings) and it nearly killed me each time.
    I already have my spreadsheet going for 2011!

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    a plant lover's paradise

    Brad and I went to the United States Botanic Garden one day last week. It's right by the Capitol, and an easy walk from our house.

    Being the plant lover that I am, I questioned why I am just now visiting this paradise!

    We stopped for a picture in the Fern Room, in honor of our beloved Fern, who is technically not a fern.

    Fern Room
    I loved the orchid room.

    Orchid Room
    So pretty!

    Why don't my orchids look like this?
    Small models of Capitol Hill rowhouses surrounded the giant Christmas tree. As neighbors of the United States Botanic Garden, we appreciated this personal touch.

    tiny rowhouses
    We loved the models of the United States Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, White House, Washington Monument, Library of Congress, Smithsonian Castle, and Supreme Court.

    posing by the U.S. Capitol
    We climbed through the jungle, visited Hawaii, and admired the cacti in the Desert Room. What a great way to see the world's plants without the hassle of traveling!

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    2010 goals recap

    Another year is over! Let's see how I did with my 2010 goals.

    Writing/blogging
    • keep this blog updated an average of three times per week (166 posts this year/52 weeks = 3.2 posts per week. SUCCESS!)
    • read at least two books either on grammar or the craft of writing (this one overlaps with my reading goals, but oh well) CHECK
    • continue to take at least 30 minutes per day, six days a week, to write freely about anything that I want (I missed fewer than 10 days this year of free writing, but usually spent longer than 30 minutes when I did do it, so I think I did pretty well on this one.)
    Running
    • run 600 miles this year or an average of 50 miles per month (ran 605.4 miles for an average of 50.45 miles/month. SUCCESS!)
    • enter and complete one race that is new to me (distance does not matter) (ran the Lawyers Have Heart 10K in June)
    Reading
    CHECK for all!

    Stay tuned for an in-depth analysis of my reading year as well as my 2011 goals.

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    back at it

    Brad's and my holiday staycation was phenomenal--the best present ever for both of us! We watched seven movies (blog post coming soon), visited the United States Botanic Garden (blog post coming soon), kept our neighborhood coffee tradition alive (blog post coming soon), toured the trees, shopped till we dropped on two different days (but thankfully, did not have to share a dressing room!), went out for dinner at one of our favorite special-occasion restaurants to ring in the new year, and enjoyed being hermits. We could get used to bowing out of the holiday rat race.

    Thanks to six vacation days, one comp day, two furlough days, and six university holidays, I've had a nice long break. I haven't seen my office since Friday, December 10th! So, I'm happy to be back to a routine today, catching up on emails and preparing for my semester to begin in three weeks. When my darling students arrive back on campus on January 24th, I'll be rested and ready.

    Saturday, January 1, 2011

    happy 2011

    Happy New Year! And happy 3rd anniversary to those who have been with me since my first post. This blog is one of my favorite hobbies--thanks for giving me a reason to keep writing.

    May 2011 bring you growth, contentment, patience, trust, and courage. Love to you all!