Thursday, March 22, 2012

my playlist

I go through musical phases.
I think most people do; but I really push the limits (of mostly my husband's sanity) of how long you should listen to one new band/cd/song exclusively.
I also cycle through 4-5 songs that I sing around the house. They're seriously the only songs I ever sing around the house. Cleaning, getting ready, crafting...

1. Super Trouper by ABBA
2. Every Teardrop is a Waterfall by Coldplay
3. Peponi (Paradise by Coldplay, African Style)
4. Mayberry by Rascal Flatts
5. Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas

A couple things about these songs. If you haven't already seen the music video for Paradise by Coldplay, it's probably my all-time favorite, so you should watch it. (Click on the link on "Paradise").

Also, Super Trouper is by far my most performed song in the house (or in the car, or at the store, or on the street). Don't ask me why, because I still don't know. I thought my husband was going to have a full-on meltdown, for all the time I was singing it.
But then I played it for him, and we had a dance party in the living room.

I've always looooved Coldplay. They've been my go-to band for several years now. They've been my casual music, my happy music. It's only recently that Dusty has consented to truly enjoy them. And that's probably because their new CD is the Best. One. Yet. Capital B, capital O, capital Y. Heh, that spells boy.
Anyway, it's fantastic. Truly. Dusty and I have been listening to this CD on repeat for weeks now, and still have yet to tire of it. I put it on shuffle/repeat at work, then put it on shuffle/repeat at home.

CD: Mylo Xyloto
My favorite songs: Hurts Like Heaven, Paradise, Us Against The World, Every Teardrop is a Waterfall, U.F.O., Princess of China, Up In Flames, Up With the Birds.
Yes, it's THAT hard to choose.

Although if I had to choose, right now, (other than the 2 most popular, Paradise and Teardrop) I'd narrow it down to Up in Flames and Us Against the World, which is probably the prettiest. And Princess of China, which is spunky and features Rihanna. :)

Okay, now lets up the ante a little bit. A lotta bit.
Snow Patrol. Heard of them? They have also released a stellar new CD called Fallen Empires. Take Mylo Xyloto, and Fallen Empires, and put those hands together. 
On a shuffle mix, these two CDs are what have been my life's playlist for the past month.

CD: Fallen Empires
My Favorite Songs: Called Out in the Dark, This Isn't Everything You Are, The Garden Rules (really lovely), Berlin (instrumental + humming/wordless), Lifening, New York, Those Distant Bells.

Snow Patrol uses a lot of cool details on this CD to really establish a common feel throughout.
One thing is a use of a many voiced choir/chorus. Particularly in:
The Weight of Love, I'll Never Let Go (at the end), and This Isn't Everything You Are.
They also have a lovely-voiced woman make guest appearances in some of their songs. Most notably in:
The Garden Rules and Those Distant Bells

Have a listen, I know you'll enjoy it. :)

This is just a daily muse. I'm currently listening to (shock!) a mix of Mylo Xyloto and Fallen Empires.
Current song: This Isn't Everything You Are by Snow Patrol.

In love,

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

the luck of the irish

Did you know I'm Irish?

Yes, I know, I'm American. But you know how it is. Americans like to spice things up a bit, by claiming their largest fraction of whatever-it-might-be as their true heritage and just running with it.
Well, we've been running with our Irish side for as long as I can remember.
My maiden name is O'Neil. I just love O'Neil. I love the way it sounds, love the way it looks. It was a fantastic name to have for 22 years, and I'm proud to be a part of that family -- just as I'm proud and excited to be a part of a new family name for the rest of my years!
(I'm not one of those girls who won't take my husband's last name. I have some thoughts and theories on those women, but I'll keep them to myself.)

We had THE BEST St. Patrick's Day party this past weekend.
We just decided to go for it, and have a big shindig with 4 other couples in our little cozy apartment. And I gotta say, I was totally pleasantly surprised with how lovely it was. I was a little stressed about how the flow would be, and about our lack of seating, but everything worked and it was great. It was so fun!

Luna was pretty at home with the Irish decor.

I utilized our computer chair,
fabbing it up with a soft blanket and pillow :)
Balloon chandelier!

I tried the fun Pinterest technique of putting a marble in a balloon, and hanging a bunch of them from the ceiling. Worked like a charm!


Dubliner Cheese (imported from Ireland), grapes, green apples, and kiwi.
Green hummus, with celery or pita chips. 

Main Course:
Guinness Stew, with Colcannon

Specialty Drink: 
"No"jitos! Yummy lime/mint soda drinks.

Mint Brownies. Mmmm.

How adorable are these kiwis,
cut into shamrocks with a cookie cutter? :)

Shamrock confetti, and chocolate cold coins :)

A fabulous touch of "rainbow" added to the table!

 PS: I was wearing a black shirt with green jewelry, and let me tell you, I was bombarded with accusations. I was totally psyched at how spirited everyone was :)
And how dedicated they were to GREEN!
So I changed. :)

We all hung out for a while, and Allison mixed up our Nojitos while we all snacked and visited.

The whole apartment smelled so minty! Yum!

I was wishing I had a dinner bell to bring the boys inside to eat.
Once the Nojitos were done, and I could hear the tummies a growlin', I ran up and grabbed an Irish blessing to bless the food with.

I used the wedding blessing that my maid of honor read to us in her speech at our reception. Over Christmas break, she gave us the blessing in a beautiful gold frame. I thought it was fitting for the evening!

We were then ready to dig in. :)

I totally loved the Colcannon.
It's an Irish dish, made with mashed potatoes and kale.
One of the couples had brought it go with the stew, and it was the perfect addition! 
A big dollop of Colcannon, topped with Guinness stew, is an extremely delicious meal.

There's nothing like some soft, delicious mint brownies with vanilla ice cream to finish off a happy stomach!

I may as well introduce these couples to you.
I absolutely love any get-togethers that bring all of us girls together, but having the men along is always double the fun. We had some pretty goofy moments - and I love the photo booth style pictures we set up!

A dynamite couple, with good looks and an adorable baby boy to boot.
Healthy, stylish, and athletic, this pair is the epitome of High School Sweethearts.

Coffee, food, travel, and fitness -- all of these things are integral parts of the Chris/Heather combo!
A fun and outgoing pair, they're sure to liven up any get together with their energy and humor.

A power couple complete with style, taste, and culinary skill. (Stephanie reigns as Dessert Queen).
Their adorable pinch-his-cheeks baby boy is enough to make anyone grin, and they're a warm, happy family that is always a joy to be around. 

Animal-loving, Catan-playing, fun-loving, well-read couple that is impossible not to love!
They're smart and kind, but it was their love of games and great books have made them top-notch in our book -- plus they're pretty much adorable.

OH wait - that's us! Weird and awkward, we've somehow managed to snatch up all of these great friends. 

We are what make the parties great.
Make no mistake.

They are what make us happy. :)

I hope you guys had a fabulous St. Patrick's Day, because I know I did! 
I love Irish things. I love St. Patrick. 
Show this off to your friends, as a no-booze way to party.

In love,

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Get in my Belly: Washington D.C.

"Life is just a bunch of time spent anxiously awaiting and planning the next great meal."
-Heather and Caitlin

Heather and I figured out pretty quickly that we were very alike in that way.
Going to bed at night: "Ooh, I can't wait for Starbucks in the morning."
After Starbucks: "Oooh, what's for lunch? I can't wait to go there...yeah, that's only like 4 hours away!"
Five minutes later: "No but really, I wish it was lunchtime already..."

This was a great trip for our bellies. We essentially ran out of time this trip, with a rapidly growing list of must-eat restaurants for next time!


Um, yum. Holy cannoli. Actually, more like holy tapas!

"Mojitos and Tapas", our first restaurant experience.
We stopped at this bad boy on our drive out, a totally hidden little gem nestled in some hot spot about an hour outside of Fairfax.
Luckily for us, Chris has Cuban roots and was an expert on the menu and on the delicious things to get! I can't believe I haven't been eating fried plantains and Mojo my whole life!!

Dusty got the Cuban sandwich (fitting, ya?) which was HUGE and wow. I got Tostones Rellenos, delicious plaintains stuffed with Ropa Vieja, which is the Cuban styled beef. Excuse me while I speak "foodie" for a moment: Ohmyword, mmmspice.

Mojitos and Tapas was also decked out in St. Patrick's Day decor, which was kind of fun :)
The blending of two cultures.
Oh, and PS, Cuban coffee? Yeah, you guessed it, yum.


I was going to title this section "American", but the truth is, Burgers deserve their own category.
Especially the burgers from Good Stuff Eatery.

I speak for both Dusty and I when I say this was our favorite stop from our last visits to D.C. And absence really does make the heart grow fonder -- I left violently angry that this joint wasn't in my own backyard. Actually, I left in a blissfully happy food coma, but the anger did come around later on.

It was SO FUN introducing friends to such deliciousness.
They were pretty excited. Though slightly daunted by the line that trailed all the way to the door, I think it was just further proof that this place was going to rock their socks off.

I'm going to take a moment to talk about the shakes.
No, actually, I'm not. Because I'm sorry folks, but you've gotta just buy a plane ticket and get your little tushies out there and try them for yourselves.
And nix the "them", because there's really only ONE that you've gotta try: Toasted Marshmellow.
Creamy, toasty, bonfire-y, summery, flavorful delight.
I'm feeling the anger again.

This is the face of "Good Stuff".
I'd like 1 Obama, please!

Dusty ordered the Uncle D chili/cheese burger, which was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I personally had the Obama Burger. While I leave politics completely out of this blog, I gotta say, it was pretty fantastic to take a bite out of Obama. :)

The "Prez Obama" burger has applewood bacon, onion marmalade, roquefort cheese and delicious horseradish mayo. I'm telling ya, it was the stuff. The GOOD STUFF.

And lastly, I'm going to tell you gently and lovingly of the rosemary and thyme french fries.
Ooo, la la. Ooo, la la la.

I really shouldn't write this blog post so close to lunch.


This venture included a very exciting cab ride (with a driver we named Ranjit, please watch How I Met Your Mother for proper appreciation). Dusty had NEVER ridden in a cab before.
I'm not gonna lie, I love that silly-faced man.

Once we arrived in the we're-gonna-die-here neighborhood, (this was long after we had pulled up to an empty-looking brick house where Ranjit asked, "is this it?"), we spotted the neon "Open" sign in the window next to Coco Booty. Oh, I mean Kotobuki. Chris kept saying Coco Booty so often that we decided to just change its name.

 The restaurant was hidden in the upstairs of this building, so we had no idea what to expect! We climbed the narrow staircase and found a small, and I mean SMALL, Sushi restaurant. We knew we were in for a real treat. The restaurant seated about 24-30 people, if you really squished (which we did). It was full, so we just stood halfway at the top of the stairs, a quarter in the storage pantry, and a quarter in the kitchen, until a table emptied out. We had gotten there right in the nick of time!
They didn't seem to want to seat us at the two-person table, but we assured them we could make it work.

Everything was so fresh, and so delicious.
It was a real, genuine Sushi place. No tricks, nothing artificial. We savored every bite.
I was really wishing my brothers were there with me!
This place is definitely hidden, and a definite treasure for those "in-the-know". We felt super fancy and rather fortunate to have gotten a table, and we really, really enjoyed our meal.

Afterwards we walked over to Safeway (Safeway!! How I miss thee) and got the long-awaited Birthday Cake Oreos that we had been dying to try, and some milk! We managed to figure out the bus sytem after a while, freezing while we waited. The nice man let us ride the bus for free, (chivalry does still exist), and we ended our night with Oreos, milk and Saturday Night Live.


The next day was awesome, totally comfort food.
We got everything we wanted: Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes, Avocado Egg Rolls, Evelyn's Pasta, coffee, was a little taste of home, and it was oh so sweet.

We also hit up a Shake Shack! We went to the one near Times Square when we were in New York, and Dusty was excited to get another shake.

No offense to anyone, but I'm much more of a Good Stuff Eatery gal. :) although Shake Shack is a delicious, solid burger -- everything you want from a fresh, lettuce/tomato/onion kind of treat.
Heather and I humored the boys as they enjoyed their shake and burger, but we were more excited about the Pinkberry across the street -- especially after the incredibly heavy lunch we had!

Frozen yogurt has pretty much spread like wildfire all over the place, and there are way too many fro-yo places to even name. Bloop is by far my favorite in Lynchburg, but Pinkberry is the winner of the original tart. It's the best, and is so thick and creamy, it stays intact while you're eating it and doesn't get all melty.
The salted caramel is also super yummy!


This was quite fun, I must say. :)
On our bike-ride trip to Georgetown, one of our main goals was to stack up two of the most famous cupcake places, Sprinkles and Georgetown Cupcakes, against each other and see which one was victorious.

Sprinkles has been my long-time favorite, since they have a location in Scottsdale. I knew from experience that the Coconut flavor was by far the Cup of their Cake.
Oh and also, FYI, they serve delicious COLD milk. That's important to some people!

Dusty and I decided to go outside the box, and get something neither of us had tried before.
I opted for the Banana, and Dusty got the specialty Irish Cream, just in time for St. Patrick's Day.
I'm glad Chris decided to get the Coconut -- I'm still convinced it's the best representation of a to-die-for cupcake.


Irish Cream

We then headed to the infamous Georgetown Cupcakes.
(On our way there is when we got bombarded with insults from a strange man.)
When we got there, we knew immediately that this was most definitely a well-liked and well-known place!

Standing in the loooong line!

Toffee crunch - my choice :)

Point 1 goes to Sprinkles - Georgetown's cupcakes were much smaller!

A breakdown of our rating system goes like this:

Quality of Cake: Sprinkles
Quality of Frosting: Georgetown
Size: Sprinkles
Variety of Choices: Georgetown

So it was a tie, except that Sprinkles won.
Haha! And here's why: overall, size and cake won out in our minds. Plus the frosting at Sprinkles is super good, just not quite as fluffy and creamy.
Word to the wise? Always get Coconut.


Our last meal was a doozy. We were thrilled at this choice! One of the most unique experiences of our trip. And honestly, the whole idea of "Tapas" (a meal composed of smaller/shareable plates) was new to Dusty and I. At this next place, we ordered about 3 or 4 Tapas plates per person.
Oyamel  was chosen by our hosts, Jeremiah and Christina. We were so glad they knew their way around, and we had so much fun being bold and trying out all the unique Tapas!

They had such intimidating choices, especially for a newly-reformed picky eater like Dusty.
Chris and Heather tried out this dish on the left, which was called "Ceviche de atún Pacífico". It was raw Tuna with Maggi-lime marinade,
scallions, avocado, toasted pecans,
jalapenos and crispy amaranth.
They let me taste some, and I really liked it!

 One of my favorite features of the evening.
They had a fresh guacamole menu item, where they come and make it right next to your table.
It was the BEST guacamole I've ever had.
And I really don't say that lightly!
It was also the spiciest. Oh my word!
We told her to make it spicy, and she definitely delivered.
 She made it so quickly and effortlessly (did I mention our waitress had something akin to a Ukrainian accent? She was pretty cool), but I wish I had really payed attention to all the ingredients.
It was delish. I'd probably go back there just for that.

Next stop?
Brussel sprouts.
I don't even wanna hear anyone's moans or groans - these brussel sprouts were so good, even a spoiled picky-eater child would love them.
These were my number one love of the night.

These Col de bruselas estilo San Quintín were perfectly designed.
Crispy brussel sprouts with an arbol
chile sauce, pumpkin seed, peanuts and lime.

Now I'm most definitely ready for lunch.
So excited to have spent that time in D.C., and to have had such fun experiences there with our friends.
It's one of the huge bonuses of being over here on the east coast. I don't want to miss out on being so close to  some amazing travel opportunities! :)
Looking forward to our next trip.

In love,