Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Baking the Days Away

I've been doing a fair amount of baking these days.  I took a little time off but I'm back at it.  I made three mini-loaves of cheddar-garlic bread a few weeks ago and it was pretty good (needed more cheese and garlic... but I think everything does).  But I've been getting kind of bored with my same old recipe.  Joe and I stopped by Barnes and Noble the other day, as we like to do, to wander around.  Mainly he goes and salivates over nerdy computer books while I check out the bargain section and take photos of anything that looks interesting so I can remember to get it at the library (please see below for my explanation of how much I love libraries).  But I wasn't feeling great so I wandered over to the chairs which happened to be in front of the cookbook section and saw three books about baking bread right in front of me!  I flipped through them and found one really interesting with a lot of great information.  Unfortunately it was $30.00 and right now that's not in our budget in any kind of way. When we got home I found it online for about half price and snapped it up.  I'm really excited to get it next week and start trying some new stuff (and just learning about baking in general since I know nada!).

My soon to be Bible.

So like I said, I've been getting bored and so I decided to start trying some different stuff starting with... bagels.  I used an Emeril recipe from that looked pretty straight forward.  The whole process is definitely a long one with a lot of steps but it wasn't difficult.  I think the weirdest part was the whole boiling a pot of sugar water and having to dunk the bagels into it for a minute on each side.  I don't know if you've ever boiled dough before... but it's weird and... slimy.  However, when it was all said and done they looked like they were related to bagels...  red-headed step children of bagels perhaps, but related none the less, and were pretty tasty.  Joe was a pretty giant fan and I think he's eaten about 8 in the last 24 hours.  I wish I had taken pictures of the process... it was pretty neat, oh well... next time I guess!

And then this evening after I posted about The Help I was checking out all my friends' blogs and seeing what everyone is up to.  Marie's latest post on Recipeas and Musings included a picture of incredibly tasty looking sugar cookies and I knew that I needed to make cookies immediately.  I'm not usually a big sugar cookie person so I made snicker doodles and since Joe was at a meeting I knew he would be really excited when he got home.  Anyway, I threw the cookies together and they came out perfectly.  So drool away kids... drool away =)

Joe definitely enjoyed them.

"The dishonesty upon which a society is founded makes every emotion suspect"

This blog has been a compilation of my loves and hobbies, however I have managed to write about just about everything except the one "hobby" I've always claimed.  When people ask what I do for fun my first thoughts are "sleep... eat... watch trashy tv..."  but you don't say those things.  "Reading." I always say- not because it's socially acceptable, but because it's socially acceptable AND true.

I've loved books with a deep passion and been insatiable for them since I was a kid.  My mom used to take me to the library and let me check out books before I could even write, I must have been about three.  But I wanted every book, all the books.  My chubby, grubby little hands couldn't hold as many books as I needed.  Eventually she got sick of having to deal with her books and my books and she took me to the counter to get my own library card.  The librarian very kindly told my mother that unless I could write my name- no dice.  My mom, never easily deterred, took me home, taught me how to write my name and had me back at the library the same day.  The woman handed me the card, I wrote my name on the back, and then gripped it for dear life.  That card was gold- it was my ticket to life.  Mom and I would go to the library every week with a basket big enough for me to sit in and we would fill it to overflowing with books.  I'd get in the car and start "reading" them all.  Mom would read three books to me every night just about and the following week we'd start over.  I love books, have I mentioned that?

Oddly enough when I moved to Fredericksburg I developed a friendship with a girl named Ashley.  The love was immediate and complete.  And then I found out her mom was a librarian, and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.  The daughter of a librarian is pretty much required by law to love books, so Ash and I shared that and in high school Rebekah joined us and we had ourselves a little book lovers group- such nerds.  Everytime we see each other we ask how things are, what's new, how is the family, have you read any good books recently?  We've been doing that since we were 15- again- such nerds.  Needless to say I've managed to surround myself with fellow book lovers- not just my best friends but my mother and sister, my husband, my mom's friends.  Anytime conversation dies down there's always the question of recent reads.

My taste in books tends to be a little dark for most of the people in my life.  My sister and I were discussing an audio book I loaned her and how much she loved it.  I told her that I had tried to get Mom to read it years ago but she never "got around to it."  Maggie (my sister) kind of hung her head a little and said "El, I have to tell you something... Mom thinks you only read really difficult and heavy books... so anytime you recommend something... well... she kind of ignores you."  I thought that was hilarious and called Joe in to tell him because he thinks the same thing, that all I read are books about child abuse, sexual assault, abusive men, suicide, blah blah blah.  But it's not entirely true.  I mean yes... I do enjoy reading books about difficult things.  I think there is such beauty in overcoming such darkness.  BUT!  It's not all I read.  And Joe has started to believe that I don't always seek these topics out, they find me.  I recently read The Art of Racing in the Rain which was an amazingly different story of love and devotion told from the perspective of the family dog.  It wasn't a "heavy" read, I chose it because it sounded so neat.  Halfway through the book the father was accused of child molestation and when I told Joe he immediately said "Oh God... another one Ellen?"  It finds me, I swear.

So anyway, I read a lot.  I like books.  I have diverse tastes in books.  I love a good book recommendation.  Maggie is in a book club and she tends to really enjoy what they read and ends up passing them on to me.  Under her direction I read Shanghai Girls, which I loved, as well as a couple others.  But most recently she gave me The Help.  Now let me start by saying I don't usually read a lot of stuff that I hate.  Most recently I read Housekeeping, which I truly hated, but I'd venture to say that's the first book in long time that I've despised (although I was no fan of Never Let Me Go).  So frequently I enjoy the books I read, maybe even really enjoy, but The Help... I loved.

The Help is set in Mississippi in the mid 1960s while the Civil Rights Movement is just revving up.  A white woman returns home from college and decides to work with the African American women who work as maids for white families in town to create a book of their stories.  And that is a very very brief summary.  When I was talking to Joe about it I was saying how when I think of severe racism and segregation I see it all in vivid... black and white.  I don't see it surrounded by air conditioning and color televisions.  But this novel reminds you, without beating you over the head, that racism was not dead just because skirts were getting short and hair was getting long- especially not in the south.  It is a beautiful account of love, faith, family, pain, heartache, and above all strength.  While I was reading I kept thinking "I don't know if I could have survived during all of this."  White women characters would make comments and I wanted to hit them, hard.  Children would be colorblind and I would want to praise them.  Women would put their lives on the line to tell a story, and I would be in awe of their strength.  Would I ever be that strong?

I enjoyed the book from the start, but as it started to come to a close I couldn't put it down.  I found myself laughing and crying at the same time, curled up on the couch in Joe's bathrobe with a box of Kleenex next to me.  Joe kept looking over at me like I was an absolute lunatic.  It isn't every day that a book comes along that allows to feel every emotion in the book and love every second of it.  And of course, when I was done I was sad it was over.  I was glad I am not living during that time.  And I was mad that society is still not all that different.  I won't get on my political soap box, as I've promised myself I will not do that in this forum, but I can say that different is not equal.  It wasn't in 1965 and it isn't now.  However- different is beautiful and I am so glad that I was lucky enough to grow up in a place where color was just that- a color, not a definition.

Read it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Celebrity Love

Everyone has a celebrity crush at some point in their life.  A lot of my friends have always had rather huge celeb crushes- in fact my two best friends from high school were sitting at a red light with the windows down discussing, if I remember correctly, marrying Heath Ledger and got a little animated and a little loud... and looked over to see the guy in the car next to them staring at them like lunatics.  Don't get me wrong, I loved Heath and his giant dimples, but I wouldn't have fought them for the honor of being his wedded wife (sorry ladies).

My first celebrity crush was Jonathan Taylor Thomas.  This is rather amusing since I hated Home Improvement... I think I fell in love with him as Simba in The Lion King... which comes with it's own load of creepy.  But man he was cute, in lion form and human form.  I loved that kid.  However, I never rocked a JTT poster or bought Bop! so I could tape up the cover on my wall (although I did have a Lion King poster which I got for my tenth birthday along with a training bra... thanks Mom).

In high school and college when people asked who my favorite actor (read: celeb crush) was, I never really had an answer.  But I think I've been kidding myself.  I think I have a giant celebrity crush that I've been neglecting- and I think it started in 2001 with the release of "I Want Love" by Elton John.  No, Elton is not my crush, as adorable as he is.  When Elton was creating his music video Robert Downey Jr. had just finished up a shit ton of drug rehab stuff and was, I think, turning his life around for real for the first time.  Elton asked RDJ to be in the video and what they created is at once moving and a little creepy.  It's a beautiful song and the lyrics fit RDJ's situation so well.  When I saw the video for the first time my heart melted a little and I fell in love.  But I don't think I realized how in love I was until today.

Joe is out having a donut eating challenge with a friend of his so I'm wasting time watching a Toddlers in Tiaras marathon (a topic I could discuss for hours) and enjoying some OMG! from Yahoo.  They have a photo post about RDJ's fashion over the years and there was a picture of him with Elton and it mentioned the video, which I had forgotten about.  So I watched it again and *sigh*....  I just love him.  Not only is he handsome but he's struggled in life, like many celebrities, but he's owned up to his difficulties and maintained an honest sense of humor about it all.  I'm not one to watch "Inside the Actor's Studio" but once I caught his episode and he answered every question with a smile on his face and true answer.

So here I am.. owning up to my first true celeb crush.  Look, Joe, this is what happens when you leave me home alone.


Thursday, April 29, 2010


So I think I started this blog as... well as a mega outlet.  Not necessarily to discuss things that were stressing me out or pissing me off, but just as a place to write in general.  When I was a kid I wrote stories for fun, and writing has always been an outlet for me.  But now I'm in a different place and I'm kind of insanely happy and satisfied with life.

I was a little terrified of being unemployed.  I have a knack for spending sick days and days off work on the couch, in my pajamas, watching a lot of shitty television.  I figured unemployment could very well end up the same way- long days of crappy tv turning into me sulking and being lonely.  However, I'm finished week two of unemployment and today is the first day in over a week that I haven't had something going on.  I've been cleaning the house, baking, cooking dinners, going to the dentist, visiting my family, catching up with old friends, etc.!  I've even picked up my photography again since I have my new camera.  All of these things have combined to make me happy.

So anyway, long story short- sorry I haven't been writing!  However, I have not lost all of my stupid loves, in fact, I think they're just increasing.  Look for a post with some photos coming up =)

Oh look... it's Beer 30

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


So yesterday was my first day home from work and it was a tough one.  I found out my car was going to cost a small fortune to repair, I heard some news I wasn't happy about, and I was stranded at home all day while the car was being repaired.  Anyway, by the end of the day I was feeling pretty discouraged.  I guess I was just feeling like here I am, finally doing something for ME, to take care of myself, and life is just throwing lemons at me over and over again.

So I called my mom.  For those of you who don't know my mom is social worker too, and beyond that she and I are pretty much identical in most ways.  We think the same way, we react to bullies the same, we have the same low threshold for crap, etc.  So through everything that has been going on my mom has been an amazing sounding board for me.  She's able to encourage me and offer me advice without telling me what to do.  When I talked to her last night she definitely settled me down, as she always does, and encouraged me to journal about what is going on.  She told me to focus on gratitude- all of the things that I'm grateful for and feel lucky to have.  So I did that before I went to bed and came up with quite a list.  When I finished writing I realized I could go one for pages and that that was probably the point my mom was trying to make.  Tricky, Ann, tricky.

So here is my list:

  • a loving and forever supportive husband
  • a loving and forever supportive family
  • a roof over my head
  • food to eat
  • my education
  • my crazy dogs
  • having a car!
  • the ability to take some time for myself
  • in-laws who actually love me
  • friends who are there when i need them
  • my health- i'm young and have a lot of life left to live
  • Joe's job
  • our sealy posturpedic queen size pillow top mattress- it's true <3
  • forgiveness
  • second chances
  • resiliency
  • that my life has been filled with a million times more love than hurt
  • constant laughter thanks to my own personal comedian
  • my camera and renewed art
  • a 5 year old who always makes me laugh and tells me i'm good at things
  • all of the exciting things yet to come with my Joseph (a baby!!!)
  • all that i have learned in the past three years about myself and the work i've been doing
  • my inability to put up with bullshit- it's a love hate thing!
  • the fact that i live in a time when my mental health doesn't make me worthy of a padded room
  • books and the fact that i love to read
  • patience- not mine, other people's
  • the fact that my mom has been here and gets it without trying to tell me what to do about it
  • that my sister is always ready with drinks
  • that my dad thinks i'm a gift no matter what
  • new creative outlets like baking and painting
  • warm showers
  • loud music
  • puppy snuggles
  • that i know i did a good job
  • that i'm proud of me

And that just doesn't seem to do justice to all that I'm grateful for.  So thanks Mom, for reminding me that life isn't all bad =)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Welcome Summer...

well.. it isn't really summer yet.  But I went to Fresh Market yesterday because I happened to be at the Office Depot right next to it- and when I walked in the first thing I saw was a giant mound of bright red, organic tomatoes.  They were so beautiful that my mouth immediately started watering but I thought- nah, it really isn't time for them yet, I can wait (for those of you who don't know, tomatoes are probably one of my favorite foods in the entire world... and I happen to be rather allergic to them)... but then I walked to the far side of the display and saw big bouquets of basil... and then I saw fresh mozzarella.. and Fresh Market won.  I put all three in my cart and was almost skipping with happiness.  Then I went to the meat counter just to see what they had and get some ideas for future meals but they had these sirloin burgers with portabella and gouda so I caved and purchased two of those as well.  When I got home I threw together a tomato salad and Joe grilled the burgers with some ciabatta rolls I bought for them.  We cleaned off the deck table and had our dinner out there....  despite one gnat landing in Joe's wine it was really rather lovely.

A very dry Pinot Noir paired nicely with our dinner.

So good... especially on the plates I've been eating on for as long as I can remember, lol.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Mi Corazón, Mi Alma, Mi Vida.

This blog contains mushiness and should be avoided by all those who may be tempted to "blarghle"

I'm going through a really strange and crazy time in my life right now with me leaving my job of three years and trying to learn how to take care of myself for the first real time in my life. All at once I'm feeling like everything I thought I knew has been turned upside down and I'm feeling happier than I've been in years. I finally talked to one of my best friends for the first time in too long and she told me that when she saw me last I didn't seem out of it or distant, I just seemed unhappy and I realized... I really was unhappy. I was unhappy in an all encompassing kind of way. Not a day went by that I didn't feel grateful for Joe and my family and all of those things, but all of that love and appreciation was clouded by a thin film of haze, like I was just going through the motions and not seeing the beauty.

Now I'm seeing the beauty. When my coworker invited me out for dinner last night I didn't make up excuses so I could stay home in my pajamas- I went (and I had fun!). When my bestest called me I called her back and didn't get her... so she called me back and missed me... so I called her back and finally heard her voice on the other end and I felt grateful, not frustrated that I had to talk on the phone. We talked and I had questions, I had things to say, I cared about the silly haikus she was reading me! Three months ago it would have felt like pulling teeth to come up with something to say. When I was laying in bed reading last night with Taylor curled up next to me I actually laughed out loud at my book. It's like I'm feeling life again, not suffering through it.

Now all of that being said I have to clarify- I have not wanted to kill myself for the last three years. It's not like I have nothing positive going on in my life. There have been beautiful moments in my life that I would never change when I feel like I could not have been happier, like the day I stood on a rainy dock and promised to spend my life with Joe- I wouldn't change anything about that day. I don't think I could have been happier. But that's the thing- there's always been Joe, he's always been my bright light.

I've dated plenty; I've had enough boyfriends to know what's good, bad, and ugly about a relationship. I've claimed to love people; I've thought I loved people. But then I met Joe. We have such a strange and intertwined story that I have to believe that we were meant to find each other and spend our lives together.

I first met Joe at a Memorial Day BBQ that we both attended with our significant others of the time. My bf at the time and I hadn’t been dating too long I don’t think (honestly, no one really seems able to decide what year this happened), and we were still figuring out how we felt about each other. The BBQ was being held by all of his friends who I had never met- so overall it was a pretty terrifying event. We ate food, they played volleyball, I sat on a bench and watched, and then we all went to someone’s house and got drunk and played Cranium. I ended up on Joe’s team and spent most of the night trying not to pee my pants because I was laughing at him so much. There was something about him that made me feel like he was important and when we all woke up the next morning and went our separate ways I never really stopped thinking about him. We talked online a couple of times but that was pretty much it. His friend and I became really good friends but stopped dating and eventually I ended up in a relationship with someone who never treated me like I was anything of import and generally made me believe that I wasn’t anything at all. When we finally broke up I was pretty broken. My good friend (and former boyfriend) invited me for a “weekend of awesomeness” in Northern Virginia and I immediately asked what Joe was up to… I never intended to fall in love and I never meant to start the rest of my life, but that night was the beginning of all the crazy beautiful that is us.

Two months later we were moving in together and a month after that we were engaged. He was my one from the moment I met him and sometimes I feel so sad at all the time that was lost, but also so grateful for all I was able to learn about myself during that time. Joe treated me like a queen. He told me I was beautiful and amazing and he made me believe it for the first time in a long time. Since then he’s never stopped reminding me and with him beside me I feel like I can conquer the world. He’s not my rock holding me up, that implies that he’s nothing but a support I use- he’s the roots of my tree that hold me in place, encourage me to thrive, and work with me to grow.

And through all of this insanity in life, all of these months of doubting myself and thinking I’ve failed, all these years of cloudy film, he’s stuck by me, reminding me how bright the flowers are and believing that eventually I will see their beauty myself. And now I’m feeling nervous about this new chapter, but I’m feeling confident because he’s beside me.

I’ve spent my life believing that love exists, that there is perfection for every person. I spent a lot of time believing I’d have to settle for good enough, but that I’d never find my perfection, but I was wrong. All that time he was playing putt putt 3 miles from my house, cooking banquet meals for my uncle, and loving Cannibal the Musical just as much as me. He is the half of me I never knew I was missing.

He’s been out of town for a few days and those days have done nothing but intensify my love for him and given me time to think about our story. He’s stood by me through thick and thin and the thought of spending the rest of my life with him excites me to an unbelievable point.

Now I know that only a handful of people read this, and I happen to know that one of them is holding onto their faith in love by nothing more than a thread. Let this mushy, sappy, disgusting, post serve as a reminder to you that even when your faith wanes love never does.

New Years '06-'07
My favorite picture of us

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The best things in life are... food.

This weekend actually turned out to be really nice!  On Friday my agency had their annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month event which managed to go off without a hitch.  After that Joe and I came home and paaaassed out.  On Saturday we spent the day doing a lot of free things including taking pictures of some of the beautiful trees and flowers in bloom, going to a Chesterfield library that we don't usually go to, and hitting the dog park.  Both of those days were really nice... but today was amazing.

Dex kept crying in his crate all night (very unusual) so neither of us slept very well and I ended up sleeping till lunch time.  When I got up Joe and I split my leftover breakfast from IHOP and then spent most of the afternoon painting.  The real excitement started around 3pm when my mom called.  She called to check up on me... supposedly.  After we talked for a little while she admitted that a big part of her calling was for Joe.  Mary Washington has put out a few of their presenters for the public forum and on September 23rd.... Anthony Bourdain will be speaking.  OMFG... ANTHONY BOURDAIN!  For those of you who DON'T know Joe and I are slightly obsessed with this rough-around-the-edges chef.  Mom told us that she would pay for the four of us (my parents, Joe and myself) to go see Tony at UMW.  I told her that we could probably find him around town and she suggested maybe they'd pay the extra fee to go to the reception afterwards and... get this... MEET HIM.  Wow... amazing.  So after we calmed down from all that excitement Joe took me to Pho So1 off Broad Street.  We love Vietnamese food and Joe adores Pho and he'd tried this hole in the wall a few weeks ago.  When we walked in the place was packed and there was only one non-Vietnamese person there- and he was there with his wife who was Vietnamese.  We sat down and the menu was two pages... one of which was Pho.  Our waiter came over and stood next to Joe, pen and paper in hand, but never took his eyes off the Lakers game on the GIANT screen TV over our heads.  He said "huh" more than a few times.  Joe ordred that and I had pork vermicelli and then I felt adventurous....  why not try the "salty lemonade soda"?  So I ordered that and Joe decided to try the "salty plum soda".  When he ordered it the plum soda the waiter said "you sure?"  So Joe asked if he'd had it and the guy said "no no, it just.. smells funny."  Well Joe is hardcore and decided not to heed this old Vietnamese man's advice on Vietnamese beverages in a Vietnamese restaurant.  So our food came (and it was phenomenal) and our drinks came and they were...  different.

Can you tell how much Joe enjoyed his "salty plum soda"?

The last two pictures are of my "salty lemonade soda" and yes, those are pieces of something floating in the bottom... no... I'm not sure those pieces are lemon.

After a very tasty dinner we went to Deluca Gelato, our favorite sweet treat in Richmond.  Joe had half sweet cream and half banana nutella gelato while I had my usual half of amaretto and half cookies and cream.  Gelato is really the best way to start or finish anything- always.

So yes blog followers- the best things in life are food, or at least food related (like Anthony Bourdain).

For more on Tony, my favorite celebrity chef, and why I love him, please watch this video which was my introduction to Tony and made me cry beautiful tears of joy.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Manic Monday update!

Because I know that the Fiona picture is slightly terrifying I had to add this...

I came into work this morning right on time with Dexter on my heels.  We have a big event coming up tomorrow and the day before a big event tends to be a little crazy since we cater our own events and style them all to be PERFECT.  Needless to say when I showed up at 9:30 I found three of my coworkers in our storage closet digging for last minute stuff, so I helped out for a few minutes and then headed upstairs.  When I got there I found Fiona had made a triumphant return to my office space, which is funny since I just posted about her and she's been MIA for a month or so now (we tend to pass her around to office to surprise each other...)

Fiona had developed tears which puddled at the bottom of her neck (she was seated in my chair but i had to move her to get a decent picture) with a note that said "It'll sure be different without you here.  -Jane"  It was from my former supervisor and the woman who has, by far, taught me the most about the work that we do.  She's become my mentor and someone I truly look up to and seeing that I would be missed just made these last three years worth it.  During a time when I'm feeling like all the work I've done isn't appreciated she took the time to let me know she'd miss me in a funny way that was special to us (although creepy).

I will miss this crazy family.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Just Another Manic Monday

So yesterday was quite a day.  I have been blessed to have been working at the same agency for almost three years- which is actually quite a feat not only for a young social worker but really... for any social worker.  I love the work that I've been doing and most of the people with whom I work have become my family in the last few years.  We may not always see eye to eye on work related matters but when it comes right down to it there are a lot of days I walk into my office to find a tiny plastic penis or even Fiona in my space and I can't help but love my crazy coworkers.

This is Fiona.
The head and wig were donated...
the artistic touches were added by my director and former supervisor and it was left on my bookshelf for me to find on Monday morning.

However there have been some changes over the last year that I haven't entirely been on board with and beyond that the work that I do is mentally and emotionally taxing.  I started job hunting pretty aggressively in January and on Monday I realized that I just couldn't wait any longer.  It was a really difficult decision that I didn't make lightly.  I chose to quit my job knowing that times are tough and jobs aren't easy to come by, but I chose to quit my job to save myself from certain destruction.  My mom put it best when she said "interviewing for jobs requires you to sell yourself and right now you aren't feeling good enough about yourself to be able to do that well."

When I made the decision that I was ready to quit I talked to Joe and luckily he was incredibly supportive.  I was terrified on a lot of levels but he never once made me feel like I was making the wrong decision.  When I got home last night he greeted me at the door with a giant grin and open arms.  All he could do was hug me and say "I'm so excited for you."  And he's right- the best is yet to come =)

So here is to tomorrow- to the next chapter in this crazy life I- no, we- live.  All I know is that it will surely be a bumpy ride but I have the support of an amazing family and the best man I've ever known.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Eating play dough may have paid off....

When I was a kid my mom used to make us play dough using flour, water, who knows what else, and a LOT of salt.  We always seemed to have a gallon ice cream bucket filled with play dough and to this day I can remember the smell that came wafting out when you pulled the top of the container off.
Also when I was a kid- I loved salt.  I mean, is there a kid who DIDN'T love salt?  I know so many people who would just eat straight up spoon fulls of butter when they were little, so I guess I should be grateful I wasn't doing that.  However... there was a play dough eating incident....  I had a friend growing up who I spent a lot of time with, I won't call him out by name but let's just say he's moved on to a much higher place in the world than I did since he finished a master's degree in biomechanical engineering at Stanford in the last couple of years- so i guess this incident didn't ruin him so I'll claim the same for myself.  Anyway, this friend and I spent a lot of time together and looking back on it I think we generally found ourselves getting into a lot of mischief.  So there was a time when my mom had made play dough and at 5 years old that play dough smelled kind of... well... tasty....  so my friend and I climbed under the dining room table with our gallon of play dough and proceeded to eat it.  I don't know if we each had a small bite or if we ate half of the container, but I do know that when my mom found us she was surprisingly less angry than I expected and now I realize it's because I'm sure she was using all of her strength not to just start laughing at these two very small children hiding with a gallon of play dough.

I'm not entirely sure what has possessed me to share this rather embarrassing story with the entire internet community (although I'm guessing only about 3 people will even read this, and I pray that this boy never reads this...) but here we are, with my play dough past now out in the open.

So anyway, I went to a training today that was hosted by the Children's Advocacy Taskforce and whenever they host a training they put out play dough (and this time pipe cleaners) for people to play with while they listen to the presenters- I guess they understand that we all need to occupy ourselves while listening to presenters who are a little over our social worky heads.  So before lunch I started with the pipecleaners and the very kind Petersburg police officer next to me even gave me his so I could continue my creations (I think he was amused by me).  The only thing worthwhile that I created from the pipecleaners was a dog.  He needed a way to stand up so I dove into the play dough to create a platform that, as it dried, ended up looking a bit like a surfboard.

This general dog design has been my only real method at creating dogs since probably about fourth grade.  I checked a book out of the Lousy Crotch- I mean- Lyles Crouch (my second-level elementary school) library about how to draw (clearly art has always been a skill I've always longed for) and really the only thing that stuck was this "scruffy" dog which is basically made up of scribbles.  So i used my scruffy dog design to make this little guy who I will ask Joe to name since he's gifted at naming things.

Once he was done I was a little obsessed with creating things (especially since the first presenter kept talking about neuroscience and I only understood ever 5th word or so) so I helped my coworker create some eggs for what, I think, was meant to be an easter basket but ended up looking more like a nest of totally awesome dinosaur eggs.

After the eggs I attempted to pay attention... but that didn't last long... so I was back to the playdough.  I had really bright colors so I decided to make some calla lilies because they seemed straight forward.  After I'd made one I needed a container so I made a box/basket thing...  and then I thought they looked pretty cool.

Please disregard my notes...

So then it was lunch time and one of the staff members announced that she was going to have 6 people who didn't create anything with the dough to judge the stuff everyone had made.  Unfortunately I was not pronounced the winner.  It ended up being between a former coworker from my old agency who made a glass of wine and some music notes and my current coworker with the basket of eggs.  Highway robbery if you ask me.  Anyway, the eggs won so I took a little credit for the win since I helped!

After lunch there was a presentation which I'd already seen so I started doodling a tree I'd seen out front during lunch- you know how I love trees.  While I was doodling the tree I realized I might be able to use to dough to create a neat tree.  When I started the creation process my former-supervisor (and my advocate role model), who was sitting next to me kept saying "well... that's... interesting?"  Granted- at first it looked like some weird-antler kind of thing.  However, as it grew and started looking like a tree I noticed my coworker couldn't stop staring at it, it was pretty funny.  Once I added the "flowers" she couldn't stop talking about it either- "It looks like some kind of Japanese art!"  "I wish you'd turned the paper over so you had a blank background!"  Part of my felt like I should gift it to her- maybe I'll create something out of real clay or sculpy for her.

It looks different now that it's kind of dried out.  I was working with play dough after all so I guess I couldn't really expect it to hold it's shape.  As it dried it kind of.. shrunk I guess, so some of the branches have pulled away from each other and the base of the branches pulled away from the trunk completely.  Plus, you can see the VSDVAA logo under the top of the tree which is too bad, but it's still kind of neat.

As I was collecting all of my crazy-kindergarten-artwork everyone walking by kept saying "Oh how pretty!"  "Wow that's so creative!"  and I have to admit that I loved every second of it since artistically creative has never been me at all.  Needless to say that I enjoyed aspects of the actual training, but overall I loved my day of creation.

But I admit.... the best part of the day was meeting Joe at Deluca Gelato after the training since we were both on that side of town.  I got to have my favorite amaretto gelato and I even tried a new one!!!  I tried the chocolate, coconut, rum and damn it was tasty!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Now everything is... technicolor.

Let's start off by saying... if you can name the song/movie that the title of this post is from then I will love you forever.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've taken up some hobbies.  Baking is by far the tastiest hobby, but painting has been surprisingly relaxing and at times rewarding.  At work we use painting as a healthy coping mechanism sometimes.  We have a woman come in and teach our group members how to use watercolors and the two hours allotted for group tend to fly by- it's pretty amazing.  After messing with watercolors in these sessions I realized I really enjoy doing it, so for Valentine's Day Joe bought be a box of watercolor tubes, paper and brushes.  He's started painting with me and it's a really nice way for us to spend time together.  We've set up a (formerly used for beer pong) table in our family room so we can sit at a real table but still watch epic shows while we paint- like hoarders, inside 9/11, etc.

Joe has been massively showing me up with his watercolor skills but I go on unimpeded!  My main focus has been trees.  I told a client that last week and she asked why and I realized, I really have no idea why, I just love trees.  I think they symbolize all of nature's beauty in one thing- they reach deep into the earth to gain stability, and then they stretch for the sky... they're just beautiful.  My first tree attempts left much to be desired.

Trees seemed so easy, trunk, branches, leaves, done.  False.  The branches can't all look the same, each branch breaks into a bunch of little branches, the trunk isn't a straight line and no tree is perfectly round up top.  Not as easy as I had hoped, but I kept trying to make one large tree and with a lot of horrible and some decent attempts I made one I was kind of happy with.

It wasn't great but I was happy with the way the leaves looked and the trunk was a little more defined.  It looked like a tree.  After realizing that maybe I needed to start smaller I came up with some trees I was happier with.

My favorite one!

Everything looks so easy when you just look at it.  "Oh sure, Dexter is made up of squares and triangles and circles, I can paint him... oh wait.. he's all black and furry and I suck at this."

So we went to the library on Saturday and we picked up a few books on watercolors.  I flipped through and started copying some sketches and then painting them with my own color ideas and ended up pretty happy with what I had done.

I wasn't born with any real artistic ability so this is a big struggle for me, but I'm learning.  Every time I paint I get a better idea of how to use the paints and how to shape the structure I'm sketching.  I'm learning, and I'm so glad that I can share this process with my husband (even if he is way freaking better than I am).

Bread makes the world go round

I've taken up a lot of new interests recently but my absolute favorite new hobby is baking. I've made cookies and Joe and I have created fun rice krispie treat concoctions, but my focus has been bread. Joe made a batch of bread back when we had all the snow, but we didn't love the recipe. It came out with a really tough crust and didn't rise as much as we would have liked. I found a really simple recipe a few months ago and started working off of that. The first batch was really tasty, kind of flaky crust, soft insides, etc. After that came out well Joe and I started thinking up fun bread concoctions. We started with olive bread. It was pretty tasty, but nothing crazy awesome. After that we made FETA olive bread, but I was a little wussy on the amount of feta I put in. Still, tasty. Next I made cheddar, jalapeño and it was pretty darn good, but again I was wussy with the jalapeños. I also tried a garlic, rosemary bread but it was way too much rosemary and I really wasn't a fan.

Cheddar-Jalapeño Bread, you can see why I like using cheddar.

My sister finished her national boards this week which is a HUGE deal. She and I celebrated with a trip to Love of Jesus (an amazing thrift store), DSW and Melting Pot. Amazing. I promised her a special treat and she chose some form of cheddar bread. I added in some garlic powder to give it a little kick. I didn't get to try this batch but she claims it was tasty.

After making this loaf for Maggie, I felt badly for teasing Joe with the scent of rising bread all afternoon so while we were at the store I picked up a block of kroger brand "chipotle white cheddar" cheese. Joe likes spicy. So I grated up the whole damn block and threw it into the bread mix. Let's just say... you know a bread is good when you don't even need butter.

Needless to say, I'm pretty proud of my new baking skills. I'd love some bread suggestions since I'm a little stuck with cheese and... anything. Not that that's bad! But I'd love some fresh ideas =)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Uh Oh...

I'm already failing at blogging!  However, it's been a super busy few days so I'll use that as an excuse!

So on Friday I turned 26.. I know, that really isn't that old... but all I keep thinking is "oh my gosh that's the downward slope of my 20s..."  not cool.  Luckily I have quite a few amazing friends who have also celebrated their 26th birthday in the last few days, so I'm not alone- we're ALL getting old!

So in honor of my birthday Joe and I had an adventurous weekend!  We headed to Arlington (after a nap) on Thursday evening and had Chinese food with the Costlow family and then just hung out for the rest of the evening.  On Friday I was lucky enough to get to spend the entire day with my favorite little sister, Miss Audra.  She, Joe and I went to Rock Bottom for lunch because I'm slightly obsessed with their mashed potatoes.  We stuffed ourselves and then I bought a bright blue purse at Payless- fabulous.  After that we ran home to say goodbye to Brian who was leaving for Seattle and then the three of us headed out into the beautiful weather to wander around.  Joe got his hair cut while Audra and I went in some really cute little shops.  As soon as we got back we took quick naps and then went to dinner at Boulevard Woodgrill which was fabulous.  We sat downstairs in the bar area where they had half price apps which we totally took advantage of by order ceviche, calamari and firecracker chicken or something.  The chicken was super spicy (just the way Joe likes it) and the calamari was pretty good but the ceviche was suprisingly amazing.  Now, ceviche is a recent food obsession for me.  A few years ago Debbie brought it to a party and I was terrified.. but she convinced me to try it and the rest is history.  It's a pretty scary dish consisting of fish, onions, and a lot of lime juice which kind of "cooks" the fish.  You can understand my fear.  Needless to say Joe makes awesome ceviche but what we had at Boulevard was suprisingly tasty with cucumbers and tomatoes mixed in.  For my entree I had a ribeye with mushroom butter, broccolini and roasted potatoes- fabulous.  Jeff had nachos and everyone else had some form of seafood which everyone raved about.

After dinner we headed home and Joe ran to Carvel to get a Cookie Puss cake.  For those of you who are not familiar with Cookie Puss I strongly suggest you take a look at his wikipedia page- it's fascinating reading.  This Cookie Puss seemed to be a leftover from St. Patty's with some creepy green icing... however his face tasted fabulous.

Joe ended up covered in green icing- not a great look for him.

On Saturday we devoured some Italian Store subs and then headed to Fredericksburg for a Tobin-family gathering.  It was great to get to see my aunt and uncle who live in Massachusets for the first time in too long as well as my Maryland relatives and my MA cousin who happens to be going to school at Mary Washington right now.  We had more steak for dinner and apple pie, carl's icecream and red velvet cake for dessert.  When Joe and I finally folded ourselves back into the car we were stuffed to the gills to say the least.  We got home late on Saturday and went right to bed.

I spent Sunday afternoon at Old Navy with my sister shopping and saving over $100.00 thanks to a 30% off coupon!  Joe spent the afternoon developing blisters from raking our front yard... he's a good man.  We had Cici's for a late lunch and then went to The National to see Ben Folds.  Ben Folds is by far my favorite person to see live, he never fails to amuse the HELL out of me and the show on Sunday was no exception.  Apparently he and Nick Hornby (High Fidelity author) teamed up to write some songs.  Nick did the lyrics, Ben did the music, and together they made magic.  He played a couple of those songs including "The Levi Johnston Blues" which was a hilarious musical ode to the father of the coulda-been-VP's grandbaby.  Amazing.  Ben also spent about 20 minutes on ChatRoulette improving songs about everyone we came in contact with.  Towards the end he admitted he was a bit addicted and would have to be cut off after the next person... who ended up being a dude drinking Jose Cuervo from the bottle while wearing a viking helmet, complete with horns.  Again, amazing.  Joe had never seen Ben perform and I was glad to see that he enjoyed himself thoroughly.

We crashed when we got home from the show and made it to work on time on Monday.  However, the excitement did not end there!  We had a brief visit from one Miss Ashley Belyea and her lovely boyfriend.  It was really exciting to see Bella for the first time since Christmas and to finally get to meet Keith who proved to be as great as she claimed =)  They both commented on our new blogging experiment and suggest we blog about their totally rad visit- so here you go guys, BLOGGING!  We went out for Thai food (our first Thai food in Richmond I think..) which was pretty good, and then we went home to share some drinks and desserts (yes, the leftover red velvet cake as well as Guiness gelato).  I shared some lovely pictures of Ashley during some of her more awkward times (and of course my more awkward times but I was not the focus of Keith's attention) with Keith, which he loved and I think made Ashley want to strangle me.  At one point I confessed that we have most definitely known each other too long.

We also reminisced about some good times- the 911 call in Medford when we were sophomores in high school, the 7th grade fight when she told my the my "twisted sense of justice includes cruelty"- yes, a direct quote, and discussed the fact that people we know are getting married and having babies- a terrifying thought.  All in all, it was a great visit that was, as always, too short.

I also had the chance to talk to Leanne, one of my best friends from college, for a little while this morning.  She's currently living in Australia and we havent spoken since Christmas I think.  It was great to catch up and share our mutual distaste of our current professions.  Talking to her reminded me just how much I miss her.  It's amazing how not seeing or speaking to someone keeps you from acheing from missing them, but seeing Bel and talking to Le this week has been both lovely and also rather painful.  I do miss my girls.

So that's a way-too-long update on my birth-weekend and all of the totally interesting things happening in my life- I hope you've enjoyed =)

p.s.  I totally don't re-read these before I post them... excuse any typos or incomplete thoughts....

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Ok, I'll admit it...  I'm enjoying this blogging thing way too much.  I was just telling my friend that I kind of wish I hadn't told anyone about it because I just want to keep typing random crap.  She says that that is even more of a reason to share it with people.  Hearing that got me thinking...  I'm horrible at keeping in touch with people, I always have been.  I had amazing friends when I was in high school and somehow managed to lose them all by the end of college- not because of falling outs or disagreements but just because I never made an effort.  The only two I really maintained were my best girl friends who happen to be on a similar page as I am when it comes to keeping in touch which makes it possible for us to stay close.  We email when we can, sometimes we chat on the phone, but put us in the same room for a couple of hours and it's like no time has passed at all (especially if you fill us up on some butterbeer....  *gag*).  So like I was saying, I'm horrible at keeping in touch with people, so maybe this blog can be a way to keep people up to date on my totally interesting life.  Perhaps it will facilitate more communication between myself and the people I miss.  Maybe it will be a path back into the lives of those I love.

So here is an open request to all those with whom I've lost touch-  come back to me.  I'll make an effort this time, I'd like to change =)  And if that isn't heart warming enough, I hope maybe this picture will remind you how totally amazing I am and make you realize just how much you've missed me.

This is me, probably about 7, hanging out in the middle of the sidewalk with a giant hunk of cheese, a husband pillow, a doll table, and one of the original cordless phones because apparently I was awaiting a phone call.  Amazing.

OMFG I'm Famous!

Ok maybe not "famous" per se... but our friend Sarah came to visit us this weekend after an extended stay in France.  We ended up spending an extreme majority of her time with us eating- but I don't think any of us would have had it any other way.

When my sister moved to Richmond back when I was in highschool I could not understand her interest in living here and I swore that I would never even consider Richmond as my home base.  However, after 5 months in Woodbridge I realized that it was either move... or murder the masses at Poto Mills, and I wanted to be close to family so Joe and I packed up and headed south.  I am lucky enough to have both my sister and brother and their families (including my amazing and beautiful nieces) within miles.  In fact, my dad apparently tracked the mileage and my sister and I live exactly one mile apart- a rather frightening thought for some of you I'm sure.

Wow that was a tangent.

Anyway- now that Joe and I are in Richmond I can't imagine being anywhere else.  We live about 15 minutes from absolutely everything (except my job which does pretty much blow) and although we don't take as much advantage of our city as we should we do venture out sometimes.  Most of our "adventures" involve food since it is by far our favorite thing and luckily Richmond is the place to be when it comes to food in Virginia.  What is it Joe?  Richmond has the most restaurants per capita in the country or something totally ridiculous?  Needless to say, we spent our weekend happily with a good friend and good food.  Sarah wrote it all beautifully on her blog The Damned Mountain

I must add that Joe was the one brave enough to down an entire cup of guinness gelato.  I had amaretto and chocolate hazelnut- my usual.  And my homemade pizza had tomatoes, mushrooms, greek olives, artichokes, mozzarella and parmesan on top of a garlic, red pepper, olive oil mixture. Always amazing.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Dexter, asleep in the car on the way to work.

We got a puppy back in November when he was only 6 weeks old. I had been wanting a puppy for... well for forever... but Joe wasn't so convinced it was a good idea. Eventually I got Joe to agree to let me have a puppy as my Christmas present with the understanding that I would be bringing him to work daily and training him to be a therapy dog. We spent some time hunting through the various local SPCAs to find the perfect pup which proved a little harder than I expected. See... Joe's dream dog is a newfoundland... I mean... really? My dream dog (besides my beautiful rat terrier, Taylor) is a corgi... can you see where there may have been a few disagreements regarding what kind of puppy we wanted? Beyond that, when you're shopping for a puppy through rescue agencies your options are pretty limited. I kind of had to tell Joe we could get a bigger dog in order to get him to even let me think about a puppy... so eventually we found "Big Head Todd." Yes, that was his name. Big Head Todd was part of a litter of about 8 black lab/ border collie puppies. We agreed we wanted a male dog since Tay has had some trouble with girl dogs in the past, and Big Head Todd was the most interesting looking of all the pups. Fortunately, Big Head Todd was spoken for but his brother, Rocky, was available.

Annnyway... we got Rocky, now known as Dexter (yes, he is named after the amazing serial killer Dexter Morgan), at the beginning of November and I started bringing him to work immediately. He settled in really well and was surprisingly calm for a puppy (I worried he had worms but fortunately he was just docile). Now Dex is about 7 months and still sweet as pie. I had him at work today and there was a 2 year old there who was terrified of him. I got him to lay down on the floor on his back and eventually she was giggling while he wagged his tail and his tongue lolled to the side. He's a sweetheart. I was so proud of him when we got home and I told Joe all about it... but then while we were making dinner he started lunging at Taylor and pouncing at her repeatedly. We let him outside to work off some energy and I started hearing weird noises. When I looked out the window I saw Dexter carrying around a large piece of wood from our (unfinished) deck and nearly taking out our grill while prancing proudly. Later I found him with a long piece of black tubing just running back and forth across the yard.

Long story slightly short... Dexter may be as much of a lunatic as his sister Taylor.

So it begins...

It seems like everyone has a freaking blog these days. My husband and I have been joking about creating our own blogs but it always comes back to the real questions at hand- What do I have to write about? Who cares what I have to say? Is my life really interesting enough to merit writing about it publicly? And when it all comes down to it the answers are consistent- nothing, no one, and no. But here I am- with a blog.

Honestly, I think my life is pretty amusing. There never seems to be a dull day whether it's dealing with the interesting people I work with, attempting to maintain some semblance of sanity with my ridiculous dogs, or just spending time with my loon of a hubby. I’m lucky. I love my life, bad days and all. So maybe I need to look at this blog not as a public platform to share something witty or useful with the world, but as an easy place to amuse myself… because I sure do think I’m funny.

So here we go… on a magical trip… I’m sure it will be epic.