Archive | October, 2011

Random Friday Facts

28 Oct

1. I used to have double piercings in my ears, a cartilage piercing and a pierced nose. That was in my heyday. Now I stick to the single holes.

2. I’ll drink white wine if it’s really hot out or if someone is getting a bottle, but my true love is red wine. After studying abroad in Argentina, my go-to wine is a Malbec. Or a Cote du Rhone if I’m with my francophile friends Tyla and Mara.

3. When people start talking about getting a tattoo, I encourage them to print the image out and put it somewhere where they will see it every day for a few months, or even a year. But let’s be honest–I decided 15 minutes before I got mine that I wanted a tattoo and then figured out what to get. And almost five years later, I’m so happy to have it on my body.

4. I went to my third Mat Kearney concert last Sunday. Pretty sure the first time I even heard of him is when my friends Emily and Megan asked if I wanted to go see him two years ago.

5. I’ve also seen Greenday three times. I used to be majorly in love with Bill Joe. Don’t ask. So not my type.

6. I’ve never been to a professional football game, but I bought tickets off of a Craigslist dude this week to the 49ers vs. Redskins game next weekend. I’m excited to tailgate, cheer on the Niners, and check another think off my Fall to-do list!

7. I saw a girl a few weeks back wearing a Mountain Camp II sweatshirt and got irrationally excited. I went to Mountain Camp for four summers as a kid, and am still obsessed. Let’s be honest, what could be better than arts and crafts, capture the flag, campfires, and a trampoline in the middle of the lake?

8. In college, I had a huge banner hanging from my bay window out onto the main quad that told people to call the health center to get their HPV vaccines. It was really easy to give people directions to my room.

9. I love cooking, but I think I love it even more when I come home from a long day at work and the BF has cooked dinner.

10. My eighth grade social studies teacher took a few students, myself included, to hear Bill Clinton speak back in the 90s. I remember shaking his hand, and then turning to my friends and giggling about not knowing where that hand had been.

It’s pumpkin time!

27 Oct

Fall means pumpkin. No questions asked.

As the designated office baker, I was anxiously awaiting the first Fall birthday so that I could bake something with pumpkin. And I waited and I waited. And finally, I got to bake for my friend Megan’s birthday today.

The celebratory sweet? Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting.

I’ll give credit where credit is due, and let you check out the recipe over at Brown Eyed Baker since I used her recipe to a T. And you really should check it out. Because this recipe is amazing!

Next time, I might add a bit more nutmeg and ginger to add a little more oomph–but these were pretty damn perfect just the way are.

Just ask my co-workers.

New casserole dishes, new recipe

26 Oct

While the boys golfed this past weekend, the BF’s mom and I hit up the Shenandoah Valley Flea Market, which is an awesome mix of an antique store and a flea market. They have over 75 vendors, and claim that they will change the way you think of flea markets. And they did. This place was AMAZING. And huge.

Better yet, every August they hold a Shenandoah Valley Route 11 Yard Crawl, with over 50 miles of vendors. It’ll be August 11 next summer if anyone wants to join me.

Long story short, I found two mini covered casserole dishes at the flea market ($2 each), and had every intention of using them right away.

The Fall weather has had me craving lasagna, but I decided I wanted to try something new to inaugurate the new casserole dishes. And so my eggplant, zucchini, mushroom lasagna was born.

This recipe is gluten free, so a great option if you keep a low gluten diet–or if you just want a hearty Fall meal!

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Weekend destinations

25 Oct

Yesterday, I wrote about good day trips to take from DC. But sometimes, a day just isn’t enough. Luckily, the East Coast is small. And you can make it to a lot of great destinations in a handful of states if you hop in the car for two or three hours. I’m always looking for new trip ideas, so add your suggestions to the comment section and I’ll add it to my list!

Weekend Trips:

Gettysburg – One of my favorite things about the East Coast is that you are surrounded by American history. Gettysburg is perhaps one of the best examples as you weave your way through Civil War battlegrounds and listen to stories of various battles and heroes. It’s worth it to buy the $25 CD at the visitor center, since the audio helps bring the sites to life. We wound up staying at a Holiday Inn or something of the sort to save some money, but Gettysburg is full of cute bed and breakfasts if you’re looking for something a bit more romantic and quaint. Approx. driving time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Shenandoah Valley – I mentioned Skyline Drive as a day trip, but there is so much to see and do in the park and valley that can’t be accomplished in a day. Camping in the park is great–and will only run you about $20 for the site (plus $15 for park entry). Just be sure to reserve a spot in advance on three-day weekends! There is also a lot in Shenandoah Valley (New Market, Woodstock, Luray…), including wine tasting, an awesome flea market, juicy fried chicken, and great sightseeing. Approx driving time: 2 hours

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Escaping the city

24 Oct

I love DC. I really do. We have so many of the great city things like restaurants, music, museums, live performances, bars, diverse crowds, etc. without the chaos of New York. Growing up just outside of San Francisco, I tend to prefer my cities under 100 square miles thankyouverymuch.

But nonetheless, you still need to escape the city every now and then. And in my two and a half years in DC, I think I’ve done a good job of exploring much of the surrounding area with day and weekend trips.

Of course having a car makes things easier, but it’s simple enough to get a ZipCar or even rent a car for the day or weekend. There is so much to see and do within a few hours of DC that it would be a shame to stay in the city every weekend and miss out on so many neat destinations.

Below are some suggested day trips. Tomorrow, I’ll post more on weekend getaway suggestions.

Day Trips:

Mount Vernon – We went to Mount Vernon last weekend with my dad, and had a great time. You want to make sure to go when the weather is nice, since you’ll be walking around the property. Washington had a beautiful view of the Potomac, so give yourself some time to hang out on the back porch and in the back yard. Approx. driving time: 40 minutes.

Virginia wine tasting – There are so many places nearby where you can go wine tasting. No guarantees that the wine is always great, but wine tasting is always a fun thing to do with a date or a group of friends. Take a look at a wine map before you go to make sure you’re heading to a spot with a few vineyards nearby. Less driving means more time for wine. Leesburg is probably the closest spot to DC where you’ll find a high concentration of wineries. Approx. driving time: 1 hour

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Random Friday Facts

21 Oct

I think I’m going to cut back on the number of fun facts each week, otherwise I might run out of cool things:

1. I’m pretty sure that I have a shoe-buying problem. Just ask my BF. Also, my boss may have just convinced me to buy a $400 pair of boots. Oops. Update: I still haven’t bought the boots, but I’m too close for comfort.

2. I bought a $90 bottle of Bordeaux at an estate sale a few months back for $25. I’m excited to open it and try it, but also really nervous that it’s going to be corked and awful.

3. I LOVE estate sales. Such cool stuff. Such cool history. I went to one once that was full of Native American regalia. And dolls. Lots of dolls.

4. No matter how old I get or how many top-tier restaurants I visit, I don’t think anything will beat my mom’s blackberry pie.

5. I’m pretty sure I annoy all of my coworkers and the other political people who follow me on Twitter with all of my food and fashion tweets.

6. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve never broken a bone.

7. I bought a bike on Craigslist for $40 the second week I was in DC. I rode it home, and didn’t ride it again for two years. I just sold it a few months ago for $40.

8. I’m a huuuge sap and cry at everything–movies, TV shows, books, articles. Too often, I read those articles or watch those videos at work…

9. I’ve been mugged twice. Once in San Francisco and once at home. No fun.

10. My brother and I were charged by an elephant when we were in our car on a safari in South Africa. Not fun at the time, but a great video and a great story now.

Now that the weather has cooled

19 Oct

Now that it’s finally Fall in DC, it’s time to pull on your boots and zip up your coat and start checking things off your Fall to-do list. That means cooking with new ingredients, getting outside to enjoy the brisk weather, and throwing on some fun Fall clothes! One of my favorite things about the East Coast is having such a beautiful autumn, filled with cool mornings and bright colors–and I plan to do everything I can to take full advantage of my third Fall in DC.

A few things from my Fall list:

  • Go apple picking. Check. We went to Larriland Farm in Maryland, and picked apples, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, beets, chard and cabbage. Cox Farms is another good one to check out.
  • Jump in a pile of leaves.
  • Rock leather boots and a leather jacket. Check. Quite possibly one of my favorites. I now have two leather jackets to my name, and am kind of obsessed.
  • Use a hot drink to warm up your hands as you take a brisk stroll.
  • Cook something with squash/pumpkin. Check. Faux mac ‘n cheese.
  • Bake something with pumpkin.
  • Go to a football game (Redskins, Ravens or Terps–I don’t really care).
  • Visit somewhere with beautiful Fall leaves. We’re going to the Shenandoah Mountains this weekend, so I’ll be able to check this off soon!
  • Spend the evening around the fire. Unfortunately, I don’t have any friends with fireplaces–so this may have to wait until I’m home for Thanksgiving.
  • Make chili and cornbread. Drink it with a cold beer or red wine.
  • Drink homemade mulled wine.

Candy and Costumes

17 Oct

When we were little, Halloween was all about the candy. I remember comparing loot with my brother and friends–and making trades to maximize our bounty. Every year, I’d trek up the long driveway to my neighborhood haunted house (but really…an 80 year old couple lived there and the house had broken shingles, peeling paint and spiderwebs) so that I could pocket the full-sized Score bar. It was worth it.

As we get older, there is less focus on the candy and more focus on the costume. And adding wings to your outfit doesn’t count (I’m looking at you, Ms. Murhpy).

Of course, Halloween has always been considered an appropriate time to add sexy before any noun and make that your costume, but I’d rather not dress as a sexy Scrabble board–thank you very much. While it can be fun to dress provocatively, 1. it’s usually too cold to do that and still be comfortable; 2. it’s not exactly the most creative thing anymore and 3. you’ll get a lot more compliments if you come up with something relevant and unique.

Last year, the BF and I went as Brett Farve and Jen Sterger–the reporter that Farve sent his snapshots too. The costumes were easy, but we had a blast–and were the only ones at the party dresses as Farve and Sterger. Based on what was in the news a year ago, there were also some of Chilean miners and Tiger Woods.

Instead of a slutty [insert noun here], why not try one of these?

  • Occupy Wall Street
  • Katniss (The Hunger Games)
  • 9-9-9 pizza delivery boy/girl
  • Coach Taylor (FNL)
  • Michele Bachmann
  • Steve Jobs (too soon?)
  • Unemployed NBA player
  • Rally squirrel – for baseball fans only
  • Royal wedding guest

What other pop-culture costumes can you think of?

Random Friday Facts

14 Oct

More fun facts to tide you over through the weekend:

1. When I was younger, I decided that I wanted to be a vampire when I grew up. And that was before vampires were cool.

2. I’ve been to five different baseball stadiums – San Francisco, Oakland, St. Louis, DC, Baltimore.

3. This is my first year playing fantasy football, and I’m surprised how into it I am. Go team Alpha Wolf!

4. In high school, I used to skip breakfast. Now I can’t imagine not eating within 30 minutes of waking up.

5. I have always and will always love Kraft macaroni and cheese.

6. I’ve never been to Philadelphia, but my car was stolen there.

7. My boyfriend has had two cars stolen–one in St. Louis and one in Philadelphia.

8. My mom never cooked pork at home (besides bacon), so I’m just starting to discover it as an adult. I don’t know how often I’ll cook it, since I tend to leave the meat cooking to my boyfriend, but I’m a pretty big fan. I had the most delicious pork tenderloin at Marc Forgione in New York a few weeks back.

9. I HATE rats. Which is ironic since I used to have one as a pet. But even then, I was too scared to take her out of the cage and hold her.

10. I love having my car in DC. I know you don’t need one, but it makes it so much easier to get out of town for a weekend–or go to Costco.

11. Of all foods, I probably have cravings for Thai the most often.

12. I was two-years-old, potty training and on the toilet when the 1989 San Francisco earthquake struck. My mom worried that I would be so distraught that I would never be potty trained. I’m glad to say I’m no longer dealing with PTSD.

13. I ran into a guy I had gone to high school with for a year when I was studying abroad in Buenos Aires. Small world.

14. My middle name is Jaeger, which is my mom’s maiden name. I used to be embarrassed by it and wish I had a “normal” middle name. Then I learned about Jagermeister and decided it was pretty cool. Thanks, Mom!

15. Another mom shoutout: Thanks to my mom, who was born in Israel, I have dual citizenship with the USA and Israel. Using my Israeli passport would have saved me $100 in visa fees when I went to Chile, but the Chilean border officials informed me that my passport at the time was expired. So no real perks to having an Israeli passport, but it’s still pretty neat.

Faux mac ‘n cheese

11 Oct

The BF and I went to brunch this past weekend at Lost Society on U Street, which just opened for Sunday brunch a few weeks back. Browsing the menu, I saw mac ‘n cheese listed as a side dish–and knew I had to have it.

You see, I have a thing for mac ‘n cheese. Kraft, homemade, Annie’s, four cheese…you name it, I’ll eat it and love it. And the mac ‘n cheese at Lost Society did not disappoint. The white cheese dish was creamy perfection, and topped with the right amount of crisp breadcrumbs to add texture.

But alas, cheesy, creamy mac ‘n cheese is not exactly a nutritious part of a balanced diet.

So instead of trying to recreate Lost Society’s version of the dish, I opted to use a recipe adapted from Cooking Light┬áthat uses butternut squash for color and creaminess, and a whole lot less cheese, cream and butter than your average mac ‘n cheese.

Before adding the panko and baking

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