Archive | June 2013

Home Improvement Surprise

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My husband had not been inside our house since January 3 when he arrived home on June 21. That was 169 days for me to ruin everything, burn the house to the ground, create a massive mountain of dirty dishes… basically it was a lot of time for any number of things to go wrong.

Thankfully I — and the house — survived the long separation without any major damage. In fact, I wanted to surprise my husband by improving some of our space while he was away.

First a friend helped me clean and organize the closet in my office and at the same time we completely cleared out the small extra room. But that wasn’t much of a surprise to my hubby since I had blogged about it, allowing him to see the pictures of the improved space.

What he didn’t know was the next weekend the same fabulous friend came back and helped me repaint our bathroom, changing it from the very vibrant blue it has been since 2009 to a lovely new shade called Bavarian Cream. We also hung a piece of my mom’s art, adding a splash of color. These two projects combined with the bathtub refinishing that happened in February and it seems like we have a new space! (Ignoring the 80-year-old tile and terrible Home Depot vanity…)

Needless to say he was surprised (and pleased) with the new look when he walked into our bathroom for the first time in 6.5 months.

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Mini Monday: Reunion Weekend

As my faithful readers (i.e. my dad) know my husband has been working in Afghanistan since November 1. Thankfully he finished up his time in Kabul last week and returned to DC early Friday morning. The weekend was definitely a special one after all those months away. Highlights included:

• Seeing my hubby walk around champagnethe corner at the airport after clearing customs! I was so excited to give him a hug and a kiss for the first time in more than two months. It was the perfect way to start the day.

• Arriving home from the airport to see a friend had left B (and me) a welcome home bag containing a bottle of wine, some cheeses and prosciutto, crackers and some much needed croissants — it was about 8 am and we were starving. She thought we may not want to bother with running errands or cooking during the weekend, what a sweet friend!

• Walking to and from Eastern Market to enjoy some iced coffee and pastries outside our (okay, okay, my) favorite corner coffee shop. The weather was gorgeous Friday morning and being outside enjoying the sunshine and cool breeze (and chocolate muffin) was a wonderful way to spend our first morning together.

• Having a celebratory brunch at a local French restaurant that opened since B started his tour. The champagne came in these fun glasses and the food was delicious.

• Surprising B with a home improvement project (repainting the upstairs bathroom and hanging a piece of art). More on about this revamp later in the week.

• Just being together — relaxing, working around the house, cooking. It was so refreshing to be able to talk face to face!

Tuesday Treat: Sweets for My Sweetie

I was too cranky on Monday to write a mini-post about anything (other than being cranky). Despite how I longed to vent, I felt quite certain that no one wanted to read about my miserable Monday. So here we are, moving forward to a Tuesday Treat. Hopefully today will be much sweeter all around!

I’ve had a few posts recently about making some goodies and stocking up the freezer for when my favorite person FINALLY gets home from Afghanistan. If all goes according to plan, he should be back at the end of the week and I managed to squeeze one more tasty treat into the freezer for us to enjoy together this summer — coffee semifreddo. This creamy concoction has an easy (albeit kind of odd) recipe that we stumbled upon a few years ago and it is so yummy.

It’s best to make this on a cool(er) day since you do need to use the stove to prepare it. Then you can just pull a dish out of the freezer and enjoy when a super hot summer day rolls around.

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Coffee Semifreddo
(makes 4–6 small ramekins depending on how full you want them)

1 cup strong coffee
40 large marshmallows (10 ounce bag)
2 cups heavy cream
chocolate syrup for garnish
8 to 10 mint sprigs for garnish

In a saucepan over medium heat combine coffee and marshmallows, whisking until marshmallows melt. Then cool the mixture.

Whip the cream until it has peaks and fold it into the cooled marshmallow mixture.

Spoon into small ramekins lined with plastic wrap extended over the sides. Cover the semifreddo with the saran wrap and freeze.

When ready to serve invert semifreddo onto individual plates, remove plastic wrap and garnish with chocolate syrup, mint sprigs, etc.

Serve and enjoy!

1st Jazzer-versary

When I dove into the deep end of freelancing, it was a turn I hadn’t expected to take, but making that change has been amazing. It has given me flexibility to take on projects I enjoy, travel and establish a much more pleasant work/life balance.

A year ago today I took another road I had never planned on — I passed a grueling audition to become a certified Jazzercise instructor after being a student for about five years. I spent the spring learning how to teach 10 routines and then it was audition day — a boiling hot summer morning (I was thankful to be in the morning group, not the afternoon bunch). When I arrived I selected a number and, lucky me, I was the ninth out of 10 to audition. Each of us got on the stage and led the group for two routines, but until it was your turn you had no idea which two routines you would be assigned to teach. To support our fellow auditionees, we acted as students throughout the morning. I was 16 routines in (26 if you count the “warm up” round where we each practiced teaching a routine) when it was my turn to take the stage. I felt exhausted, but I got up on stage and gave it my best shot.

As it’s my first Jazzer-versary, I passed! I was so excited that all the hard work had paid off! The process continued the next day with workshops on class planning and business training followed by another day of refining our jazzer-technique. That really just meant eight hours of exercising. Needless to say I spent that Sunday on the couch!

As a substitute instructor for the past 12 months, sometimes I have taught four classes a month and sometimes 10. In February I started teaching a regular Saturday morning class and in a few weeks I will be adding three more weekly classes to my routine… It’s going to be another adventure!

There have been challenges during this past year — most notably dealing with a mysterious knee injury for the past few months. I’ve also been on the road a lot. Between Norway, Iceland, Turkey, Greece, and four trips to California, I have spent about 12 weeks out of the past 12 months traveling, making it impossible for me to teach as many classes as were offered to me (or find time to learn as many new routines as I’d like).

During the course of my first year as an instructor, I’ve taught 72 classes, learned 68 routines, and am hopefully growing and improving with every class. I’m looking forward to seeing what year two will bring!

Making Rhubarb Sauce

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I am pretty sure that I did not eat rhubarb until I was well into my 20s and my father-in-law had a hankering for it while visiting us in DC. We picked some up at the grocery store (who knew it looked like celery?) and made a crisp. It was tart and tasty, but I didn’t give it much thought once it was gone.

Some time passed and then my sister-in-law returned from a trip to her parents with some stray rhubarb that had been growing like weeds in their yard. She planted it and waited to see if it would take off. And take off it did! When my hubby and I started gardening in our own backyard, his brother and sister-in-law generously donated a hunk of rhubarb root to us and it has been going strong ever since. Well, except at the very end of last summer when I thought it was totally dead. Yet 7 months later when I returned from Turkey the plant had gone from nothing to so big I could already pull stalks from it—I guess it was just napping in the interim.

Since I have already been harvesting the rhubarb I wanted to make sure to use it, but I didn’t want my husband to miss out on getting to enjoy whatever I made. So on Sunday I cooked up some rhubarb sauce to put over ice cream when he gets back from Afghanistan. I figured if I made it on a day that wasn’t so hot, I could freeze it and we can use it later this summer without having to turn on the stove.

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I set to work boiling sugar (c. 1/2 cup) and water (1/3 cup — this was way too much water) while I chopped up the rhubarb. When the sugar water was good and hot, I added in about 4 cups of rhubarb chunks and let it cook down. Because there was so much liquid, I ended up simmering it for about 40 minutes to try and get some of the extra liquid to cook off. If you started with less water, the sauce could probably be ready in as little as 15–20 minutes of cooking.

And that’s it! Easy peasy. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see how it tastes…

Mini Monday: Garden Week 11

Lots of rain and warm (but thankfully not miserably hot) weather has left the garden plots very happy. Flowers are starting to appear in great quantities on the pepper, cucumber, and tomato plants. In fact, when weeding yesterday I noticed our first tomato is on the vine along with the first cayenne pepper. And it is finally the year of the sugar snap pea! I have been harvesting a handful once or twice a week and there are still loads on the vines.

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I was surprised to find that the plots weren’t overrun with weeds when I did my Sunday morning inspection, but many of the plants — particularly the potatoes and rhubarb — were growing out of control. I significantly clipped back the potato greens and pulled a bunch of rhubarb stalks which I used to make sauce. More about that in another post.

Flowers in the first and last plot are continuing to be bright and beautiful, but I need to plant something in the center plot. For some reason the snapdragons seeds I planted only came up on one side leaving the center a barren pile of dirt. I’m sure as the summer progresses the tomato and pepper plants will grow up and out and hide it, but for now the space needs a bit of color.

As I enter my final few days as a solo gardener I’m quite pleased at how everything is coming along. But I certainly won’t complain about having a helping hand soon!

Time for a New List

Return ListWhen we found out my husband was going to spend 6 months (although its really been more like 8) in Afghanistan, I got to work making a long list of all the things I wanted him to do around the house before leaving. He had about 6 weeks between when he found out and when he left, throw in a trip to another undesirable travel destination and lots of training, and there wasn’t much extra time for projects. Still he managed to take care of almost everything I’d asked before leaving.

I ended up heading to California on the morning of the day he left for Kabul and I was quite surprised to come home and find my own to-do list. I’ve failed to complete my list (sorry honey!), but that hasn’t stopped me from starting a new list: my hubby’s welcome list! Isn’t he a lucky guy? This list is significantly shorter than his going away list (although there is plenty of space for me to add more), but there are some things I just haven’t been able to take care of on my own, like installing my AC window unit in my office. I can’t pick the darn thing up, let alone carry it up two fights of stairs! So honey, hurry home. I’ve got a few things for you to take care of around here!