Thursday, May 31, 2012

fire up the grill

This summer has already been incredible.

When Dusty picks me up at work, he always has his sunglasses on, the windows down and the sunroof open, and some music blasting.
We've gotten in a habit of yelling, "Summertiiiiiime!" while we pull out of the parking lot.

We go to Caribbean Snow about once a day, on average.
Not really...more like 3-4 times a week. Is that better? No. No, it's not.

It's our new summer spot. It's a little shaved ice hut in the parking lot of our grocery store, and lemme tell you, as soon as you pull in and hear that festive Caribbean Bahama-Rama Music coming from the hut's speakers, you can't help but be in a good mood.

Good moods.
Kiwi and White Coconut are by far the best flavors. Throw a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the center, and you might as well call yourself Gilligan because you've found yourself right in the middle of paradise.

In other news, the warmer weather has allowed us to break out our grill! My dad got us a fantastic Cuisinart grill, and it made its debut on Memorial Day. :)

I'm letting Dusty take the credit for these little burger baskets and festive napkins -- he was pretty excited when he saw them at Michael's :)

All the fixins for a good time! Burgers, brats, "hint of jalapeno" chips, corn on the cob, little medallion potatoes, baked beans, and homemade mint Oreo ice cream and American cookie pie for dessert!

The boys were outside during the prep time, enjoying the hot, sticky weather and watching the hamburgers and brats roast away. :)

Corn on the cob is pretty much the best thing ever.
Slathered in butter, with chili powder and garlic salt is how I like it best.

That little strip of buttery burn is the best part of all.

After our feast, we got to enjoy some super creamy mint Oreo ice cream.
I'm excited to really get the hang of this ice cream maker, and experiment with flavors and textures!
The weather is hot and the taste-buds are a-callin for some freezer foods.

Apart from having friends over and eating a lot of sugary cold substances, we've also been doing a lot of renovations to our little apartment!
BECAUSE I'M A WIZARD at collecting whosie-whatsits for the home.

Exhibit A:

This wooden fiend grabbed my attention before I could even recoil at the pile of old sheets behind it.
Good Will is sometimes a home owner's small apartment renter's best friend.
$15 later, I couldn't wait to get it home and have Dusty sing my praises.
Hopefully with "You're So Beautiful" by Joe Cocker or the theme to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Not sure why, but I think if he sang that when I came in the door it'd somehow translate into a stellar compliment.

 Luna's version of approval:


We love it! We're finally getting to the point where our apartment feels complete.
We've thrown around the idea of moving to a bigger place, and it's still a slight possibility, but I think things have really begun to click with us and this little home of ours.

The next BIG change all took place within about 20 minutes yesterday afternoon.
As I was getting ready to get off work, I was trolling around Craigslist. I've been hoping to find a tall and skinny dresser-type unit to replace my giant plastic bin of fabric in the craft room.
(That's the saddest, most sporadically decorated room in the house).
Instead, I came across 2 most intriguing listings.
In this case, "intriguing" means "cheap".
Now, I know. Thomas Jefferson advised never to buy something just because it's cheap.
But if someone offered you prime rib for 50 cents, wouldn't you take it?
No, scratch that. That's gross, and you might die. What about...what if someone offered you a bouquet of red roses for $1? That's better, and far less dangerous. The moral of the story is, don't buy 50 cent meat from anyone. Ok, kids?

This listing said TWO wooden chairs for $5.
The next listing said a dining room table for $2!
Surely I was hallucinating.
It didn't occur to me until later that this person could be luring strangers to their home with evil intentions, but by then, Dusty was already on his way there and I was in the Chiropractor's chair.

While we still aren't sure about the details, the owners of this fantastic furniture were obviously moving in a hurry, and just needed to get the furniture out of their home. They seemed to be a nice family; the husband was from Africa, and they had several cute (according to Dusty) little kids.
Dusty gave them $10, and somehow managed to get the table and chairs in our little car.

I'm absolutely kicking myself that I didn't get any pictures of it. I had to wedge myself underneath the table in the back seat, while both front seats were lying flat, and Dusty was sitting up with his side squished up against the door by the table.
We drove very carefully, and very slowly. We also said "I love you" a lot in case we died on the way home.
Worth it? Absolutely.
If we had actually died on the way home, well...then no. No, it wasn't worth it. Lesson learned.

But I'm still pretty amazed at how nice these are!! We updated our apartment furniture this week for $25!
Beat that, Martha Stewart!

It was perfect timing too, because we were having some friends over for dessert and games that night!
We now have a table fit for any game. It can comfortably sit more than 3 1/2 people, and still works perfectly with the space we have.

I cut up some fresh mangoes for homemade mango ice cream this week
(See below for how to easily cut a mango!)

And Dusty fired up the grill once more, and made some kick-tush Rosemary Ranch Chicken Kabobs.
He's a pro.


I can't wait to get home, have some mango ice cream, and enjoy our apartment.
Next on the list is that craft room...

Wish me luck!

In love,

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

the point of no return

I talk a lot about food on this blog.
I think because it's the driving force for all of humanity, and I like to pay homage to God's delicious creations via chefs and talented spice-users.

But what I haven't really talked about are the uh-ohs. The "oops"es, the dear GOD!s, the restaurants that you'd like to forget you ever went to. The ones that maybe make you sick all night, or even the ones where you just swirl your food around to make it look like you ate something...

Despite your great opinions of us, we've been there. Done that. There have been plenty of restaurants we haven't been particularly proud of. Ones we don't tell anyone about. Rooky mistakes.

Last night was one of them.

Now, there's a time in every eating situation where you can't leave. The Point of No Return.
That moment when you sit down, and say, "I'll have a coke."
Bam. You're tied to that table, to that check, to that waiter/waitress.

My advice to you? Take a look around. Loiter around the doorway. Take it all in. If you're paying attention, in the first five minutes, you can successfully determine whether or not you should run for your lives, or sit to dine.

Some dangerous downfalls:
(these typically do not apply to well-known and/or chain restaurants. especially with fast food, you're always eating at your own risk):

1. Just because the parking lot is full does NOT mean that the restaurant is of good quality.
2. If you are the only one of your age/gender/race, you're probably in the wrong place.
3. If the title of the restaurant has "Country" in it, you have about an 87% chance that it's for people over the age of 65.
4. Don't get fish unless it's a Seafood Restaurant. (I don't always follow this, but it's usually a good idea.)
5. If they have steak for $4, GET OUTTA THERE.
6. If the tables are dirty, the floors are dirty, and the people are dirty, chances are, the food will be dirty.
7. If a restaurant can't decide what it serves (AKA Italian, Mexican, Asian, American, Southern, etc.) then it most likely doesn't do anything very well.

Last Night:

Dusty got all of his grades back, and did amazingly well. He was extremely excited! So we went down the list of restaurants we wanted to try for a celebration dinner.

We started at the bigger places, then filtered down the line and landed on tacos, since that was the closest to the other errands we had to run.
So we headed out to La Ranchera.
I'm not going to be too harsh on this place, because we got too scared to stay longer than 5 minutes, so my first impressions are all I have.

A friend recommended this place for really good, authentic Mexican tacos. Although he had never actually been himself. (Red alert). As we pulled in, we began to collect hunches. Not many of them were good.
It was a small little building, and was definitely not in the "restaurant" category. We had already been expecting a hole-in-the-wall, so we went in despite our trepidation.
Inside was a Mexican market. Our interest was piqued, because we have often been pretty saddened by the lack of real west coast Mexican food around here.
The rows of shelves were really close together, and it was dark and really quiet. Dusty and I walked in slowly, and were stared down by the cashier. We shimmied to the back, where there was a little counter and a menu up above it. There was a little woman inside, but it was really dark, and we honestly couldn't tell whether or not anything was on. She stared at us for a while, and then disappeared.

We blinked around, and I hopped excitedly over to a nearby wall that was packed with Mexican spices. Of course, after seeing about a thousand packets of Coriander seeds, and nothing of true spice value, I pouted.
I regained some excitement when I saw a stack of tortillas!!
But they were dry, thick, and unholy.
This confirmed our worst suspicions: Virginia Mexicans are devious pretenders.
They don't know what green chiles are, what "enchilada style" means, and have probably never seen the sunny coasts of Mexico.
We got outta there pretty quickly, because...well, refer to #2 on the above list.

Dusty was so hungry at this point that we decided to go back to a restaurant we had passed earlier, that had a full parking lot and was called "Country Kitchen". Refer to #1 and #3.

As soon as we walked in, I started to giggle. We sat in a booth, and ordered the fateful beverage.
"I'll have a coke".
I continued to giggle, and Dusty just kept saying, "What, what?? This will be great. It'll be great."
The more we looked around, the more I laughed. "Happy celebration dinner, honey!" I said, with a cheesy smile and a pat on the hand.

We were pretty surrounded by the elderly. You could clearly detect that they were all regulars, who came here daily and called the waitresses by name. I actually heard a man nearby say, "Well, ya know, 30 years ago..."

The nice gents sitting next to us.

It took a while to decide, but we finally ordered.
We had asked the waiter what the most popular menu item was, and he said the meatloaf.
The menu item description was, "Meatloaf with tomato sauce." Not ketchup, not barbecue sauce, just...tomato sauce.
I decided to get the grilled salami and swiss sandwich; nice and simple. Hard to get wrong.
We then asked what a "Hot Hamburger" was. He described it as a bun, burger patty, french fries or mashed potatoes, some gravy, then another burger patty, and a bun. It sounded like a pretty interesting Southern-twist burger. So Dusty decided to try that, since neither of us had ever heard of anything like that.
What the man did not say was that it was 2 buns, 2 burger patties, and a pile of mashed potatoes all drowning in gravy together.

See that pile of ketchup on my plate? It was sour.
Now, I've never had bad ketchup before. But if ketchup can ferment the same way fruit can, lemme tell you...that ketchup had some kick.

$15 later, (they didn't take cards, which we were not aware of until we approached the cashier and she let us know. So, check it is!) we emerged from the restaurant, and I started to laugh again.
Sometimes, you just gotta experience something before moving on. Oh, and I'll ad another point to my list...

8. Don't stop somewhere just because you're hungry and don't want to wait to find something worth your while. (Go a little deeper, and that little gem can apply to all facets of life).

Lynchburg has a lot of hidden treasures, but sometimes, you throw your net out, and all you catch is an old boot.
Country Kitchen is not somewhere I'd ever go again, but it's definitely a treasure for some of the every-dayers. And I think that's sweet. So I'll leave 'em to it :)

Tonight, we'll be grilling chicken kabobs with friends, and making homemade Mango ice cream.
I think we'll stick to eating in for a while, and save the time and money!

Happy Wednesday :)

In love,

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

holding hands

Holding hands for the first time is kind of a big deal.

Especially for me, because I like making everything a big deal. I also dated only 3 or less people (the jury's still out on that, and I don't really care to specify the numbers), and I've only kissed one guy in my entire life.
(AKA, my husband, in case you were stumped).

The first time we held hands was on our first real date. Or what eventually became known as our first the time, he didn't think I liked him, and we were just going as friends.
Our story is rather complicated actually, and would take a while to tell, and is much better in person because I move my arms a lot when I talk and get louder when I'm excited.

So. Our first date. Winter Formal, January 13th, 2007.
We're the fetching couple in the center.

Despite the early-on strained relationship (he teased me, I rolled my eyes, he pulled my hoodie sweatshirt over my head and cinched it shut and tied it in a knot, know, the age-old story), we had been getting along and flirting here and there since going to the Rose Bowl Parade a few weeks prior. Another story entirely. "Where it all began."

For Winter Formal, I was in a super-great dress borrowed from my sister-in-law. We had a really great time with our friends, avoided the dance floor, and eventually headed over to a friend's house to spend the rest of the evening.
Meant to be.
I honestly don't even remember what movie #1 was. Maybe Dusty does.
All I remember is sitting there next to Dusty with our hands both laying flat on the couch, the stupid and oh-so-high-school signal for, HEY HAND! My hand is here too, just in case you wanted it.
After the movie, it was nearly midnight. My friend Megan was still there with her date, (it was his house), and I was spending the night at her house afterwards. We started getting ready to leave, since her curfew was 1am. Suddenly Dusty began to fervently insist that we go rent another great movie, called Identity.
I joined in. It was like we were both begging, in code, to PLEASE let us watch another movie so we can have another 2 hours to try and muster up the courage to hold hands.
Poor Megan. She finally said ok, like a champ.
Dusty and I ran outside to take his truck to run to blockbuster, which closed at 12. I didn't even have time to grab shoes, so Dusty hoisted me up to ride piggy back across the wet grass to his car. It was a special moment.
Dusty went in and grabbed the movie, (he forgot his wallet so I had to casually walk in barefoot to use my Blockbuster card. I don't think anyone noticed or cared, but I felt super rebellious.)

Back at the house, about an hour into the second movie (don't judge, it can be very intimidating to hold a hand) I see Dusty grab his phone. He starts texting, and I do my best to extend my peripheral vision to see who he's talking to. He's texting Mike, whose house we were at...
(Another long story, but Mike knew that I liked Dusty, and was sworn to secrecy. It was a weird situation.)
He was asking hand-holding advice. Or more specifically, I think he was saying, "Dude. Should I? I don't know. Her hand is right there. Dude."

After a few more minutes, he hands me his phone. In the text box it says, "Can I hold your hand?"

Now, his phone was a Razor. I remember because I hated Razors, and had an old-timey phone and could not figure out how to text on his.
As the seconds tick by, he starts to fidget. His posture screams "WHAT HAVE I DONE".
I plop the phone back onto his lap and just say, "Yes. Yes, you can."

The rest is history. :)

 I love that boy.
And every adventure since then has been just as fun, giddy and ridiculous.

I'm proud of all that he has accomplished this year, and how he still takes the time to hold hands and be silly.
I appreciate how hard he works not just for himself, but for us.
And I've enjoyed every single dance party.
Want a taste?
Go here and here, and dance your little heart out. We dance badly, so maybe try some good old-fashion snapping (my signature move), or just imitate Chandler Bing, and you'll be solid.

Love you Schanaker!
Congrats on finishing your first year of law school, with flying colors.
I'm rootin' for ya.

In love,

Friday, May 25, 2012

oh baby, oh darling.

I love these little prints from a shop called Fifi du Vie on Etsy.
They're so simple, but so perfect.

In a lot of ways, I think this is how my love and I live.
We wish and we dream, and we would rather go broke from great food and beautiful places than be responsible and "save", whatever that means. I've never been good at it.

But I have to say, I have very few regrets. Whenever we buckle down and decide to really save up our money, someone mentions a fabulous restaurant we've never heard of, and Dusty gets this mischevious look in his eye. "Screw it," he whispers, and we do a happy dance that involves throwing a lot of money around our heads and acting like wild men.
Okay, so that part doesn't really happen but it usually involves us laughing a lot and talking about what a great date we had.

The one thing I would heavily emphasize is the fact that we have had a lot lot lot lot lot of help over the 1 year, 4 months and 24 days that we've been married. And plenty before that, as well.
I hope to one day pay our parents back, penny by penny. Their love, wisdom and generosity has led us through.
Still being in school is sometimes hard, because it doesn't allow us to truly be on our own. We take out loans, we receive gifts from others...and I'm the only one working. My little job provides enough for rent and bills, and a small portion of our food and other expenses.

I also have Posies by Cait, which I've actually been working really hard at! It's something I really enjoy doing. I have my first big, official craft fair tomorrow, and I'm so, so nervous.
(The funny thing about these things is that often the cost of the event preparation alone may outweigh the actual profit...but I'm hoping for a sunny day and LOTS of people!)

I suppose my general musing about all of this is that there are a lot of contributors to my husband and I's craziness.

1. We love food
We have finally come to the conclusion that a consistent work-out system must be in place, because we simply love to eat.

2. I love to give presents
Birthdays, holidays, showers, parties, will-you-be-my-friend bribes...all of these amount to a lot of money spent on others, that I simply can't live without.

3. We love our friends and family
Whenever our loved-ones plan a get together, it's impossible for us to resist. Going out to eat, double dates, concerts, trips, etc. etc.

4. Shopping is FUN!

5. We love to travel
This is the best and worst one. We are bursting at the seams to go all over this crazy world. We've had little tastes here and there, but we have a nice long list of all the places we want to go.
We have a coffee shop designated for whipping out a little notebook, and planning out trips for our future. It's called The Muse, which is rather fitting, I think.
The truth is, some people never get to check off that list...but we've already gotten started on it, and feel immensely blessed and motivated to have travel be a priority in our lives, before and after we have kids. But a big part of us wants to take some of our adventures while it's still just the two of us.

 6. There's something seriously wrong with us.
Last, but not least.

Someday, I'm going to make my own print.

And it's going to say,

Live Simply, Travel Extravagantly.

I'm so glad life is an adventure. I'm so glad we don't know what's going to happen. I'm so glad we have families and friends that love us, and I'm so, so glad I found that handsome weirdo up there to spend  his life with me. I sure do love everything about our life.

In love,