Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sisterly Love

This weekend, my sister came for a visit since Nile is away. We had a great time, doing some pretty ordinary things.


Friday: We went out for sushi at the Red Parrot Asian Bistro, then headed to the mall where we hit up the Bath and Body Works sale (hand soap - 7 for $20. A steal.) Then we watched Julie and Julia...well I watched it while she fell asleep with Peanut in her lap. Getting up at 4 AM to make the donuts will do that to you :)


Saturday: We had a lovely manicure planned at a local spa. However, we woke up to a blizzard that the very accurate meteorologists in Maryland predicted would pass over. Well, we had to cancel the appointment at the spa, but I wasn't going to let the snow keep me homebound. We headed bravely in the Camry to battle the snow, and go get our nails done by the nice Asian ladies down the street. It wasn't exactly a 'spa' experience, but it was the best we could do in 5 inches of snow. 


Then, we hit up Big Lots for some sweat deals on things like Listerine (exciting, I know), and headed to Giant and Target. So ordinary, but so fun when my sister is around. Coming from our remote hometown, going to places like Target makes her super happy (since the nearest Target to her is 30 miles away.)


We came home to defrost and have a look at all our purchases, and then ordered more sushi (something else she doesn't get at home.) Then we busted out my fondue pot (given to me by my mom, who got it as a wedding gift in 1980 when they were all the rage), and made milk chocolate fondue with strawberries. Heavenly. All I did was add milk chocolate chips, and about 1/2 cup of heavy cream to the fondue pot. You can pretty much dip anything in this you can get your hands on. I'm pretty sure a flip flop would have been delightful dipped in this chocolate. 


She left today, which is always sad. That's the one thing I miss about not living in PA...doing ordinary thing with family. Some nights, I wish I could stop by my parents house for dinner, or have my sister over to watch a movie. But that's the price I pay for moving away from home. Oh well, at least we're not in Jersey. 


I'm headed to pick Nile up from the airport soon because shockingly, his flight is on time! Way to go, American Airlines! 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fun Fitness Adventures

Getting in shape can only be compared to a violent relationship. The beatings hurt, but I keep coming back for more. Although, the end result should be worth it.

Monday night, I opted out of the Body Jam class, and went to another Spinning class. This time, I went to the earlier class which was instructed by a woman named Helena. She was very fit and muscular which made me think that she was going to totally destroy my world. However, she proved to be quite the opposite. I expected this Jane Fonda-esque type of energy out of her, but I was let down. She kind of sounded like "Debby Downer", which really doesn't make you want to put yourself through an hour of torture. I think her attitude was probably partially due to the fact that she wasn't in full cycle gear like my buddy Tom.

Besides the physical workout, let's talk about some of the other elements of the class.

  1. The music SUCKED. I mean it. First of all, she snuck some oldies in there and those of you that know me, know that I DESPISE oldies music. I would definitely classify the music as Adult Pop/Top 40 circa 1994...which is not condusive to making me want to kick my own ass.
  2. Probably the highlight of the entire class was when the door opens, and in walks what appears to be a chubby female. Picture this: Army crew cut hair, with the top of it dyed bright ORANGE. Black sweatband, Gold's Gym tank top and the hairiest armpits everrrrrrr! She kept me entertained for most of the class.
  3. I spent a good portion of the class trying to do the least amount of harm to my no-no place. I got some good advice from other people regarding positioning, but I'm pretty sure with all the wiggling around I did in my seat, people probably thought I was trying to hold in a very large bowel movement.
So, in conclusion, Spin is turning out to be something that I enjoy. I enjoy my buddy Tom way more, so I'm going to try and attend his classes the most. However, there's 3 other instructors, so I should probably sample all of them. Variety is the spice of life, right?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Typical Saturday Morning

This is the kind of thing that happens on a regular basis on Saturday mornings at our house. It goes a little something like this:

Nile walks down the stairs at about 10 AM, and sits down on the couch beside me:

Nile: "What's for breakfast?"
Me: "Whatever you want to make yourself."
Nile: "Oh."

5 minutes later

Nile: "What's for breakfast?"
Me: "I told you, whatever you feel like getting off your butt and making for yourself."
Nile: "Eggs?"
Me: "Sure, we have those."

Nile walks to the kitchen. I hear the fridge open.

Nile: "Are these eggs any good?"
Me: "Well, Nile, what is the expiration date?"
Nile: "February 5"

Silence.

He proceeds to put the eggs on the counter and stare at them. I'm pretty sure he's secretly hoping if he stares at them long enough, they'll jump out of the carton and cook themselves.

After a few minutes of that, he comes up to me and pushes on my nose with his finger.

Me: "What are you doing?"
Nile: "I'm pushing the 'make me eggs' button."
Me: "It's out of order."

Silence.

Then he proceeds to shake his butt and dance around the kitchen.

Me: "What the hell are you doing?"
Nile: "This is the 'make me eggs' dance. Is it working?"
Me: "No."

I laugh and walk away. Then I hear, "Screw it! I'm making Ramen Noodles."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Spinning

Today, I ventured out of my comfort zone and attended my first spin class at the gym. How was it? In a word...

Torture.

Good torture though. I worked up a great sweat, apparently burned about 900 calories, and bonded with my instructor Tom at the beginning of the class. He spotted me staring at the bike, then fiddling with the knobs to try and make the pieces move. Thank God he stepped in...it could have gotten ugly.

As I suspected, my no-no spot is beginning to ache because you're positioned in a not-so-natural way on these bikes. Tomorrow is going to be quite a day...I'm pretty sure stairs will be completely out of the question.

There were a good mix of men and women. I was the only first timer there, which was a little intimidating, especially since my buddy Tom pointed me out at the beginning of the class. "If it's your first time, raise your hand. You, in the front, it's your first time! Let's give her a hand!" Thanks, Tom...really.

So, let's review the things I hated about it:

  • It hurts my baby maker
  • It just plain hurts
  • Tom is a little too enthusiatic for my liking
  • Some of the music was questionable...I'm pretty sure that Nickelback made an appearance
Now, for the things I like:

  • I burned 900 calories in an hour...big bonus!
  • Tom kicked my butt and made me push myself
  • Tom wore a little cycling hat with the brim turned up, padded spandex, and a sweet cycling shirt
  • I liked at least 3 of the 11 songs
  • The lights are turned out during class, so I didn't feel like everyone was looking at me and laughing
  • I feel...I mean, really feel the burn
Next week, Nile will join me...now that he understands it will not make him sterile. Katie suggested he get himself a pair of padded spandex. He's seriously considering it. If he does, check back for a picture of that sight.

Next up on my list of cardio adventures...Body Jam. It kind of makes me want to show up in a leotard, tights, and a sweatband...think Olivia Newton John's "Let's Get Physical" video. But instead I'll just come in my sweats and tshirt. Much less stylish.

That's on Monday. Stay tuned for that stop on my way to fitness victory.

Nana's Memorial Fund for Cancer Research

My sister and I are raising money for cancer research in memory of Nana. The American Cancer Society has a great feature on their website, where you can build a memorial page for them and ask for monetary donations for cancer research.

Here's Nana's page:

http://main.acsevents.org/goto/nanawalker

They make donating SO simple, and there's no minimum amount. Our goal is $1,000, so we've got a ways to go, but we're hopeful! Spread the word and help us reach our goal!!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Nana's Fudge

Every Christmas Eve, my whole family would get together at Nana's house for a Christmas Eve feast. And every year, among the many treats that were laying around, were several candy dishes full of Nana's fudge. It's the most simple recipe, but requires the utmost attention. For instance, my sister made this recipe this year since Nana couldn't, and we had to eat it with a spoon. Good effort, Natalie...and it was delicious...just not portable.


Nana's Peanut Butter Fudge

1 box powdered sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 jar peanut butter (12 oz.)
1 jar marshmallow cream (7 oz.)

Mix together powdered sugar and milk in small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add peanut butter and marshmallow cream. Stir until thick. Pour into casserole dish, cover with plastic wrap and chill.

A Poem, for Nana

Tomorrow is the Nana's viewing and Monday is the funeral. It's already been really hard, but tomorrow will be the worst. I didn't get a chance to see her before Hospice took her away, so I'll have my time to say goodbye tomorrow.

In any case, I wrote this poem to read (or have the Pastor read) at her funeral on Monday. I thought I would share it with you all.

Among the Angels

The cancer came so quickly

It took us all by surprise
It made her grey and sickly
And sadness grew in her eyes

Her battle was long and hard
And ended in defeat
It left her bruised and scarred
And swept her off her feet

Her courage always amazed us
She never gave up hope
Her spirits were always high
Which helped us all to cope

Now God has come to end her pain
No longer could she suffer
We gaze upon the bed where she’d lain
And don’t know how to begin to recover

We know God came and took her hand
Her time on earth was through
He led her to his sacred land
And said, “This is my gift to you.”

“Join me in this great eternity.”
The Lord said as he opened the gate
“Your life of love has led you to me
And now your paradise awaits.”

“Look below to see the loved ones you’ve left behind
I know you’re sad to leave them
But they’ll never be far from your mind.”

“Now, look beyond the heavens
And choose for me a star
I’ll light it in the evening sky
Reminding them you’re never far.”

So now, my friends, as you begin to gaze
Upon the starry, twilight sky
You’ll see a star that shines so bright
You’re sure to wonder why

That’s Nana’s star up in the sky
Burning bright from Heaven’s gates
To remind us that she’s looking down
Upon us every day

We’ll keep her in our hearts, you see
As we live from day to day
But we’ll always know, when we see that star
That she walks among the angels, always.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

May She Walk Among the Angels

Today, my Nana lost her battle with lung cancer. She passed peacefully in her sleep.

She's the inspiration for this blog, and she will continue to motivate me to live a full life, everyday.

Here's to you, Nana. I'll miss you more than I could ever express. I hope they have all the pie you can eat in Heaven :) May you walk among the angels, always.


Norma Jean - Nov. 19, 1935 - Jan. 14, 2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup - A Hangover Cure?

A few weeks ago, I made Chicken Tortilla Soup from a recipe I found in Everyday with Rachel Ray magazine. The first batch I made ended up being too spicy for me to even eat. Why, you ask? Well, sometimes, I tend to not read over things completely. I skimmed the recipe and saw "2 cans of chipotle chiles." I thought to myself, "Wow...that seems like overkill. I'll only put in one can."

I kept on cooking the soup, dished it out and sat down to dinner with Nile. I took one bite, and my mouth was on fire! So, I doused it in sour cream, hoping to cool the heat. Nope. It still caused me physical pain to eat this soup. Surely, Rachel Ray would not want me to be in this kind of excruciating pain.

I went to the magazine and read back over the recipe. And there, staring me right in the face, was my mistake. The recipe called for "2 canned chipotle chiles", not 2 CANS! This is what I get for not reading directions. I never read them in Elementary School either, and that always got me in trouble. You think I would have learned by now.

Anyway, Nile loved it because he loves spicy food. I've made this a few times since, and one Sunday after a night of cocktails, Nile found himself with a mother of a hangover. For some reason, he thought eating the Chicken Tortilla Soup would be a good idea. I thought to myself, this is going to end in disaster...and a monsterous mess in my bathroom.

He ate 2 bowls. Then we waited.

Shockingly, within 15 minutes, his hangover was almost gone. So now, he swears this soup is a hangover cure. And how could a possibly keep a hangover helper to myself?

Chicken Tortilla Soup - The Hangover Helper

1 small onion, diced
2 cups, cooked chicken, cubed
6 cups chicken stock
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 tsp, dried cilantro
2 tbsp olive oil
2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo, plus 2 tbsp of the sauce
2 limes
1 avocado, sliced
salt
pepper
sour cream (optional)
tortilla chips (optional)

Heat olive oil in a stockpot, add onion and garlic. Saute until soft. Add chicken stock, tomatoes, chicken, peppers, juice of 2 limes, salt, pepper and cilantro. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve topped with avocado, sour cream and crushed tortilla chips.

FYI - This recipe can also be made in the crockpot. Saute the onion and garlic, place in crockpot, then add the rest of the ingredients. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.

Perfect for lunch, or to soothe your wicked hangover!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dinner for Busy People

I hate to cook.

Correction...I hate to cook after I've already put in a full day of work, time at the gym, and driven a 60 mile round trip. So I'm always psyched when I find a great recipe that takes less than 20 minutes to make, is healthy and tastes good. And because I know there are a million other people that are in the same boat as myself, I'd like to share these stellar finds with you.

This recipe comes from Real Simple magazine (aka the best magazine ever.)

Pork Chops with Dijon Mustard Sauce

4 boneless pork chops
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup white wine
2 tbsp dijon mustard
3 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp dried thyme
salt
pepper

In nonstick skillet, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil. Season chops with salt and pepper to taste, and place in hot skillet. Cook for about 4 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Remove cooked chops from skillet and set aside.

Pour wine in the skillet, scraping the browned bits for a spoon. Let wine simmer and begin to reduce. Add garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Let simmer for a minute or two. Add dijon mustard and heavy cream, heat through. Serve with brown rice and a steamed vegetable (like green beans or broccoli.)

Bon appetit!

The Gym...Day 1

In keeping with my goal of getting in shape, Nile and I headed to the gym tonight for the first time in a few months. In NJ, we had a fantastic gym. It had just opened, so no one knew about it. It was never crowded and there was full cable TV on every cardio machine! Plus, it was only $19.99 a month.

After touring several gyms in the area, Nile and I settled on Gold's Gym. It's not quite up to par from our other gym, but it gets the job done. And yes, there are an alarming amount of meatheads wondering around. Most of whom are sporting the little Gold's Gym tank top that barely covers their chest. You know those guys...they have to turn sideways to fit through the door frame. Lucky for me, there's a ladies room with weights so I don't have to feel like an asshole in the free weight room. Nile, on the other hand, isn't so lucky. He really thinks there should be a Fat Kid weight room, but it looks like he's going to have to suck it up and lift with the big boys.

Anyway, we're going to attempt the spinning class on Thursday. That should be an adventure. I heard it's an amazing workout, but tends to be a bit harsh on your nether regions for the first few classes. Nile's afraid of hurting his manhood...the physicial kind...and becoming sterile. So, he's sending me in alone for the first class to check out the seat padding situation. I'm glad to take one for the team, especially for his boys.

On the way home, we needed to pick up a few things from the store. We spotted a grocery store across the street called Allgreen. The name alone immediately made us believe it would be an all-natural, organic type store. However, when we walked through the door, we realized quickly that it most definitely was not. It was more of an international foods store, and most of it was Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican. We did find what we needed, but we also found much more. First of all, if you live in the Glen Burnie area, this place is great if you need ingredients for Asian dishes. Normally at the Giant, I would pay close to $4.00 for a bag of frozen edamame. Here...$1.49. Crazy deal. Plus, we found Chinese Eggplant, which can't be found in normal grocery stores. Besides the funny smells, and super crazy ingredients like jellyfish heads, I would give Allgreen two thumbs up.

Tomorrow it's Yoga class #2. Another step to the goal of getting in shape. Hopefully, I'll be more flexible this week.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tastes of Baltimore




This weekend, my friend Katie came to visit. In addition to the copious amounts of shopping and wine drinking we did, we also had the chance to visit two fabulous restaurants in the Baltimore area. 


If you know me, you know I'm completely obsessed with sushi. I can legitimately say that I could eat it every day of the week. I had my favorite place in New Jersey, Megu (www.megushishi.com) and I've been trying to find a place that can compare around here. 


I think I found it.


After about 4 hours of shopping, Katie and I headed down the street from the Arundel Mills Mall to the Red Parrot Asian Bistro (www.redparrotasianbistro.com). The sushi was amazing! The fish was very fresh and well prepared. If you ever have the chance to dine there, I would highly recommend the Dynamite Roll, Rainbow Roll, and the Rock and Roll. Nile had me order him a roll to bring home, and of course he had to pick the only one on the menu with a crazy name....the Hot Sexy Mama Roll. He said it was delicious, so it was worth it. I believe it consisted of calamari tempura, avocado, jalapeƱo and tobiko. 


This morning, Katie and I met up with Nadia in Fells Point for brunch at Regi's Bistro (www.regisamericanbistro.com). Being in Maryland now, I fully took advantage of the abundance of crab and ordered the crab cake sandwich. The thing that I love about crab cakes in Maryland, is that there's no fillers...just enough to hold the crab together. My good friend and Maryland resident, Chris, once told me to never order a crab cake that's less then $15, because it wouldn't be good. So I've stuck to this rule, and observed the price tag of $16.95 on the menu before ordering. Delicious. 


It was a great weekend. You would think Katie and I would want to go out and explore Baltimore, or go to the bar on a Saturday night, but no. We came home, got into our PJs, opened a bottle of wine, and played Connect Four and Perfection with Nile and Chris. That's right, the kid's games. They are ridiculously fun, even as an adult...made more fun by the addition of wine. Katie and Nile battled for an hour at Connect Four, which ended with the score of Nile - 47, Katie - 0. That's ok, Nile happens to be Champion of the World in Connect Four. No one ever beats him.


Now for a little football to end the weekend.





Saturday, January 9, 2010

Direction

Nile has informed me that every successful blog needs to have direction. He suggested that I make a list of things that I would like to accomplish in the coming year, and document my way at making them happen. He has a point, and it just so happens that I'm a compulsive list maker. Sometimes I make lists, just so I can cross things off. Sad.

Here's a general list of some things I would like to do in 2010. Some are simple, and some will take a little more effort.

1. Do some kind of charity/volunteer work once a month
2. Get in shape!
3. Get a massage by a professional
4. Travel to Europe
5. Kiss the Blarney Stone
6. Get my picture taken with Big Ben (in London, not the football player)
7. Buy a new car
8. Send more cards to people for no specific reason
9. See my family more often
10. Get the cancer butterfly tattoo with Natalie that we've been planning
11. Take advantage of the parks and beaches in our area
12. Go on a picinic
13. Learn to golf
14. Keep up with my scrapbooking

This list will probably be ongoing, but that's what I have for now. Nile and I are hoping to go to Europe this summer/fall and visit England, Ireland and France. I've never been there, and we both would like to go before we start trying to have a family. That's another chapter of our lives that will begin next year :)

Starting Out

For a long time, I've read blogs, studied the benefits of blogs for my job, written blog posts for other people, and searched blog archives to find everything from a great recipe to advice on how to train a stubborn pug puppy. However, now I've decided that it's my turn to try my hand in the blogosphere. I would say my life if pretty ordinary, and consists of the everyday activities that most other people in the world experience. Wake up, go to work, come home, cook dinner, watch TV, go to bed. Over the past year, however, my grandmother was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer which kind of puts everyday life into a different perspective.

When she was diagnosed in May 2009, I bought a little sign for my mother, sister and I that said "Celebrate Life". I've hung it on my desk at work to remind myself to do that every single day. Life has definitely changed for my husband and I over the past year. Last year at this time, we were living in NJ, he had just been laid off from his job, and we were just trying to figure out how to get along with my salary and his unemployment. Truth be told, we hated NJ...we just wanted to get out. Then a colleague of mine shared a job opening in Maryland. The rest is history. Needless to say, this year, we both have great jobs that we enjoy, we've moved to MD which we love and we're closer to our best friends and family.

So, this year, we'd like to celebrate our everyday lives by doing things that are out of the ordinary. In college, we had a passion for volunteer work, so this year we're going to bring that back into our lives. We'll travel, try new things, and of course spend as much time as we can with the friends and family we love the most. I'll be documenting our life in 2010, and sharing things that I've learned along the way. We'll still have those days where all we'll do is lay around on the couch, watching movies, and eating takeout, but who doesn't need a day of rest every once in a while? :)