Archive for 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We're spending today close to home as we rest up for our night out at Ford's Theatre. It's becoming a bit of a tradition for us. Only we're taking his parents as they made the trip down to spend the holiday with us this year. Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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Golden Arches, No More

I've been waiting for the leaves to change and create a golden arch all fall. It's one of the most beautiful sites to see. On Saturday it finally happened - the arch was a gorgeous yellow. Rather than take the photo right then and there, I decided to tackle the Thanksgiving grocery trip. What a mistake! I was heartbroken when I looked out the window Sunday to find bare trees. Instead, I was greeted with a yellow blanket on the sidewalks and streets. Regardless, still a sight to behold - and one I couldn't help but share.

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Thanksgiving Planning

Planning the Thanksgiving menu and subsequently cooking the big meal is something I truly relish. I start thinking about the menu right after Labor Day. I then agonize over the final menu for the entire month of November. This year I'm thinking it will be a pretty straight forward theme of simple comfort. I contemplated new recipes, but really when it comes down to it everyone is happiest with the basics.

Now for the big shopping trip this weekend. I know Keith looks forward to this every year. (Can you hear the hint of sarcasm?)

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Friday Cocktails: Simple Bourbon Chai

Am I the only person that's not a big fan of Starbucks' coffee? Whenever I go I bypass the burnt, bitter coffee and instead opt for a chai latte. With it's warm spicy goodness to get my day going, it's like a extending the time cuddled up in bed especially now that we're finally dipping into the 30s here. 

While conducting research wasting time on Pinterest I came across Saveur's Bourbon Chai. It sounded delicious, but once I read the steps I quickly dismissed it. Yes, I'll admit to not wanting to take the time to brew a cup of Chai tea essentially from scratch. And, no, it's not because I didn't have the necessary spices. 

Then a flash of brilliance hit...I could use chai tea concentrate to bring the warm, spicy goodness to my mug. This is something one should not skip as the nights grow longer and the temperature continues to dip. It'll warm you from the inside out. You have my word. 

Simple Bourbon Chai

4 oz. chai tea concentrate (You can find Tazo concentrate at Whole Foods and Target.)
4 oz. milk (almond or milk works)
1 oz. bourbon (I went with my good friend, Maker's Mark.)

In a microwave safe mug, combine the concentrate and milk. Stir and heat until warm in the microwave. Carefully, remove from the microwave. The mug may be warm to the touch. Add the bourbon and stir. Sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg before serving.


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Recipe: Bourbon, Chocolate Banana Bread

When I stumbled across Joy the Baker's recipe for the Best Banana Bread You'll Ever Have on Cup of Jo, I felt we were meant to be soul mates. Taking banana bread to the next level, Joy adds bourbon and chocolate chips. This woman is genius. Pure genius!

It takes all of my self-control to not the devour the entire loaf when I bake it on Sunday afternoons. I may even just let bananas sit a little too long just so they are perfectly ripe for this bread. I recommend you do the same.

Bourbon, Chocolate Banana Bread 
Courtesy of Joy the Baker 

2 c. all-purpose flour
3 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c. mashed ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
1 t. lemon juice
3 T. bourbon
1 c. chopped walnuts
1 c. semisweet chocolate chunks

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Grease and flour an 9x5 loaf pan. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

4. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add bananas, lemon juice, and bourbon. Beat until well incorporated.

5. Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture all at once. Beat until almost incorporated. Stop the mixer and remove the bowl. Add the walnuts and chocolate chunks and incorporate the last of the ingredients with a spatula.

6. The batter will be thick. Spoon the mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (It takes my oven about 55 minutes.)

7. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.

8. Enjoy!

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Fall on Capitol Hill

The calendar may have reported it was fall back in September, but it took most of the month of October to read the memo. The air finally has a crispness to it. The leaves are blazing in all those gorgeous warm colors. And the football season is well underway. It's my favorite time of the year. 

You appreciate the beauty of the historic row homes throughout the year when you live on Capitol Hill; they just look that more beautiful during the fall. I like to think of fall as the neighborhood's real time to shine. It's just stunning. The capitol dome even looks a bit more glamorous and you almost forget the trouble shaping up underneath. Almost...

The leaves are falling faster than I would like and December along with the holidays will be in full swing too soon. But yesterday, Keith and I walked around the neighborhood to soak up all the beauty and just enjoy it. Now to just live in the moment more often. 

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Living Room Refresh

After seeing various gallery walls on Pinterest, I was convinced we needed one in our home. Once I reviewed the various pins, I noticed I gravitated towards galleries in the hallway and surrounding the television. With family coming to town for Thanksgiving, I had to stop thinking about and begin putting things on the wall. 

I started by laying everything out on the floor in various positions, but ultimately I just started hanging things. I should have went the easier route from the beginning because having everything on the floor just led me to over think everything. I'm hoping to slowly add more items, but this is a good start. Since the camera was already out, I figured I would capture a few other photos of our main living space. If only I had a better eye or maybe photoshop to enhance them a bit. 

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Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

If you're looking for a wonderful story that will make you laugh and cry, but is also a quick read you could knock out in a weekend, this is your book. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is a story about coming of age, first loves, coping with loss, and how to do it all with grace.

Narrated by 16 year old cancer patient, Hazel, you learn she's a bright young woman that has thought of herself as nothing more than a terminal cancer patient. After giving in to her mother's prodding, she joins a support group where she meets August and her life takes on a new meaning.

Have a box of tissues nearby, but don't worry it won't be all sadness. If you're anything like me, you'll be wiping tears away and laughing only moments later. This is a book deserving of the accolades. But don't take my word for it, go read it for yourself. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Saturday exploring more of Virginia wine country

Like I mentioned yesterday, my plans for an afternoon spent apple picking was a bit of a bust. Thankfully, Keith wanted to make the most of the hour and half drive out of the city deeper in to Virginia. The majority of Saturday afternoon was spent sampling more wines of Virginia.

Our little adventure took us to four wineries and vineyards - Philip Carter Winery,  Winding Road Cellars, Hume Vineyards, and Rappahannock Cellars.

After completing the tasting the best thing at Philip Carter Winery, the best glass we tasted was the sangria. The space was beautiful and if the wine was better I would have been interested in drinking a bottle and playing some lawn games.

Winding Road Cellars is a small operation with a charming wine maker. I find I like the white wines coming out of Virginia much more than the reds as was the case at Winding Road Cellars. We left with a bottle of Chardonnay. Their Chardonnay was nicely balanced and I could see it being a lovely table white should it ever become more readily available. I wanted to like the reds, but found them all to taste a  bit like musty mushrooms. Way too earthy for my likes.

Further down the road, we ended up at Hume Vineyards where I again struggled to find a wine I really enjoyed. That is until the final one we tasted - their 2011 Vendange Tardive. Unlike most desert wines, this one had a light mouth feel, which makes me think we'll serve it as an aperitif with some good sharp cheeses.

The final stop of the afternoon was Rappanahannock Cellars and by far the best of the four. We left with not only two bottles of wine - the 2012 Viognier and the 2011 Meritage. The Viognier is crisp with a wonderful apricot finish. The Meritage is well-rounded with a soft earthy finish. In addition to wines, they offer Greek olive oils. Had we not ordered their sampler of warm bread and olive oil we would have missed out on the heavenly truffle-infused oil.

P.S. This is our third adventure exploring Virginia wine country. You can find one here and two here. I'm thinking my favorite vineyards are located closer to Charlottesville.

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Saturday afternoon at the apple orchard

I never imagined writing these words, but sometime the inevitable happens and they must be said. Keith was right.

We spent Saturday afternoon at Stribling Orchard in Virginia for what I thought would be an adventure filled afternoon spent picking beautiful, red and golden apples. I wanted to be taken back to those childhood memories of picking apples with my sister and grandpa. The sweet crisp taste filled my mouth as we pulled up to the orchard.

I'm not sure if we missed the window or we didn't walk deep enough into the orchard, but we managed to pick a peck in less than half an hour. And who knew a peck or a small bag would cost $15? The really good looking apples had already been picked and were available in the bins at the general store. Regardless, it was a lesson learned every now and then Keith knows what he's talking about. And that didn't mean we did't enjoy picking our small bag's worth of apples. 

Have you been apple picking? If so, should we have went our earlier in the season? Would you do it again? I'm still in the love with the idea.

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Book Review: The Husband's Secret

Secrets are often held close and never make their way out to be shared with a spouse. Imagine your secret is so dark that is could damage your marriage, your family, and everything you hold dear should it be known.

That's the kind of secret that Cecilia Fitzpatrick stumbles upon when she finds an old yellowed envelope addressed 'To be opened only in the event of my death' from her husband. He is still very much alive and out of town on business. Does she open the letter?

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty is a captivating story weaving together the lives of a group of people that barely know each other but will are all impacted by the secret included in that letter. This book left me speechless and provided the right twists and turns at just the right moments to keep you reading.

You should definitely add this one to your list or just download it to your e-reader now. I want someone to chat with about this book and everyone I've recommended it to have finished it yet.

Any recommendations as to what I should start next?

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Weekend in Kansas & The Eisenhower Museum

We flew back to Kansas this past weekend to help my mom celebrate her 60th birthday. During a little downtime, I managed to share a piece of Kansas history with Keith by making the drive over to Abilene for an afternoon exploring the Eisenhower museum.

You all know of my love for presidential libraries. Despite having visited this one many times, I still enjoy walking through and learning a new tidbit or two. Unlike most other presidential libraries, the Eisenhower library and museum is more like a campus with multiple buildings, including his childhood home as well as chapel including his final resting place.

We couldn't have asked for more gorgeous weather. Can you believe the blue of the sky? And of course, what trip to Kansas would be complete without a stop at Arthur Bryant's before the airport? I might just take Keith to one of the other barbecue joints in Kansas City on the next trip...maybe.

It was good to see family and celebrate a milestone birthday with my mom, but it sure does feel good to be back in DC with Sammy. There's just something about your own bed.

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Recipe: Breakfast Cookies

After flipping through the collection of cooking magazines that I had acquired, I was reminded of a few recipes I had forgotten about. One of those was Cooking Light's recipe for Breakfast "Cookies." This is  a recipe I was using almost weekly a few years back and then it just disappeared from the rotation - or maybe I over did it.

Regardless these "cookies" are a great way to start the day especially when the chances of eating at the desk or en route to the desk are high. You'll also feel pretty good about eating them - whole wheat flour, wheat bran, dried fruit, and nuts. But don't let all that healthy stuff scare you, they are really good.

Breakfast Cookies
Adapted from a Cooking Light recipe

3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/4 c. finely chopped dried figs* 
1/4 c. dried cranberries* 
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. wheat bran
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground allspice
1/4 c. sliced almonds
2 t. granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Combine first three ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in chopped figs, cranberries, and vanilla.

3. Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with knife. Combine flours, bran, baking soda, cinnamon, and allspice with a whisk. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring until moist. It will be really thick and sticky. Fold in almonds.

4. Drop by 1/4 cup measures 4 inches apart on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle evenly with granulated sugar.

5. Bake at 350 F for 12 minutes or until almost set. They will be slightly browned around the edges. Do not wait for them to look "done" or they will be dry and overdone. 

6. Cool 2 minutes on pans. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire wracks. 

7. Enjoy!

* I almost always sub in dried dates for the figs. I've also used an assortment of whatever dried fruit I have on hand, including apricots, raisins, and pineapple. You can also swap out the almonds for walnuts, pecans, or whatever nuts you like. Don't like nuts feel free to skip that.  

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Book Review: The Language of Flowers

Have you noticed that you experience an uptick in the number of books you read during certain times of the year? For me, I read a great deal during the summer. I only wish it was because I was laying poolside or on a beach. Unfortunately, I just couldn't find anything to watch on TV especially since we powered through Orange is the New Black. As an aside, wasn't that show just awesome?

I don't have plans to review every book I read. However, for the rest of September, I'd like to share my favorites with you on Wednesdays. The plan is to kick it off with a moving book that you should add to your reading list if you haven't read it already. 

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is a wonderfully written story that follows what seems to be a trend of weaving between past and present. Using the meaning of flowers, Victoria is able to help bring about desired changed in the lives of those she meets and ultimately her own. I definitely recommend this read. Once you get started, you won't want to put this one down until you know Victoria's full story - from start to finish. 

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Organizing and Purging - The Cookbook Corner

Every time we would sit down to eat at the dining table, I'd look over at my collection of cookbooks and cooking magazines and grow frustrated. I knew there had to be a better system that looked better. I also knew it was on me to organize them. It wasn't like Sammy was going to take care of it.

Here's a before and after. It's very subtle and I'm probably the only one that can tell the difference. You know? I'm okay with that.

You will notice the random canning jars full of our bourbon experiments have been properly disposed of. The box of glasses have found a new home. And what started as this humongous pile of magazines...

...was condensed down to fit in the right-hand pocket of the yellow folder. I'm sure it was because I had Sammy's assistance.

My cookbooks are not at all in the order I'd like for them to be. I struggled with keeping them organized by size versus type/cuisine grouped together. As you can see, size won out.

In a dream world, I'll have shelves like this...

The cookbook corner was the first of many little projects I have on my list for organizing and just overall tidying up. Maybe the first signs of fall weather are giving me the boost I need to get things in order so we can properly nest for winter. How about you? Any little organizing projects you'd like/need to tackle?

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Summer Vacation is Over

Despite not having children heading back to school, it feels like Labor Day weekend brings the official end to summer. Although fall doesn't officially start for a few more weeks, I'm hoping to feel a renewed start when I return to the office tomorrow.

I'm ready to leave the summer behind. Summers at the office for me are filled with various deadlines while everyone else is enjoying time at the beach. I know I sound bitter. Don't worry. Keith and I have agreed that next summer we're going to escape even if it's just for a long weekend. Despite not sneaking out of the city, we managed to fit in a few moments of fun.

We caught a few Nationals games. (Thank you to the office for the great seats!) I took in the War Photography exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery; I highly recommend fitting that in before it leaves at the end of the month. We also ventured over to the northeast side of the District to check out one of the latest DC Breweries - 3 Star Brewing Company. I'm not much a of a beer fan, so I can't give you much. Keith on the other hand cannot stop raving about their IPA. Something about it being well-rounded and full of complex flavors, including apricot. Of course, there were weekends spent baking and time with bourbon. I hope your summer was good to you.


I don't know about you. I'm just eager to welcome cooler weather, spend my weekends watching football, and a break from the nonstop hustle at the office. Do you find a renewal with the change of seasons as well?

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Recipe: Bourbon Nectarine Ice Pops

Remember Pop-Ice as a kid? I loved those things. However, my mom wasn't the biggest fan of them and wouldn't buy them regularly. Something about all the sugar.

When I came across these silicone molds at my favorite store, Hill's Kitchen, I was just full of ideas. (If you don't have a Hill's Kitchen, you can find the molds at Target and Amazon.)  And don't you know, those ideas included bourbon. Let's up the ante on a childhood favorite. I tried to balance the bourbon with fresh nectarines.  Combine all this with the heat wave DC is experiencing at the moment, and you have a wonderful idea.

Bourbon Nectarine Ice Pops

1/2 c. simple syrup
3 nectarines
3 T. bourbon

1. Make the simple syrup by combining 1/4 cup sugar with a 1/4 cup water. Heat the combination until the sugar dissolves and remove from heat. Allow this to cool to room temperature.

2. Pit and slice the nectarines. You can peal the nectarines if you want a smoother pop. I didn't peel, partly for the texture and partly because I'm lazy.

3. Place the nectarines, simple syrup and bourbon in a food processor. Pulse about 12 times until relatively smooth.

4. Transfer the mixture to a large measuring cup. This makes it easier to pour the nectarine/bourbon mixture into the molds.

5. Freeze for at least one hour. Don't forget the bourbon will keep it from freezing solid.

6. Enjoy!

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July 4th on the Mall

Too bad we can't pick the day of the week that major holidays fall on. If so, I wouldn't have agreed to the Fourth of July taking place on a Thursday. Friday at the office was rough and threw me completely out of whack. Very technical explanation - I know. 

Unlike last year, Keith and I had a quiet day at home filled with red velvet cake and some of the best barbecue chicken. Around 8:30 pm we walked down to the National Mall to take in the show. Neither of us are big fans of large crowds, but this is one of the few times a year we make an exception. I just don't feel like you can live where we do and not walk over. If only, my picture did it full justice. 

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DIY Bedroom Art - Part II

As you may recall, I tried let my inter artist out. Well the more I looked at that painting above the bed, the more I just didn't like it.

So that painting became this:

I'll be the first to admit taking an iPhone photo without the flash or better lighting wasn't the best approach, but you get the idea. I painted the canvas white and then simply did a quick pass writing out the words. I then went over it a couple of times with paint really loaded up on the brush and a few strokes with a wet brush to get a varied affect. 

This project has lead me to completely turn the bedroom upside down. I have plans to move this on a different wall. I ordered various fabric samples with plans for new curtains, a toss pillow or two, and a few art projects. I even purchased a new arm chair. 

Now I'm thinking I might need to take few days off work and have a staycation knocking out the new to-do list I created for myself. Do you ever bring something into your home to find it didn't work like you thought it would? Please tell me it's not just me. 

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Book Review: The Secret Keeper

"The Secret Keeper" explores dreams, desires and the lengths people go to make them a reality, and the life long consequences they can have. It's a story of love, friendships, dreams, and schemes.

The party comes to an abrupt end as Laurel watches her mother do something she never imagined, impacting her view of her mother for years to come. Kate Morton takes you on a journey, seamlessly switching between past and present to explain who Laurel's mother was and why she saw what she saw.

While the story was good, it took me almost 200 pages to really become invested. Regardless, it was a good story. I just would have cut out almost 40 percent of it.

There's a good chance I was the only one that found this book cumbersome at times. The story is good and left me surprised as to the ending, so I'd recommend it for that alone. I'd just advise patience.

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Friday Cocktails: Fizzy Old Fashioned

Not sure why this is the case, but I only want an Old Fashioned during the cool winter months. The spicy rye with a hint of citrus just makes me think of the holidays. I know. I know. Most people think spiked egg nog. Wait, why are we talking holidays in the middle of June?

Let's focus on the beautiful weather we've been enjoying here in DC for the past couple of days. It's the kind of weather that requires a lighter cocktail for sitting on the back porch with. And I just can't get down with vodka or gin, so I present to you the Fizzy Old Fashioned or my summer old fashioned.

Fizzy Old Fashioned

1.5 oz rye (I used Cotoctin Creek cask strength.)
0.5 oz fresh lemon juice
dash of Peychaud's Bitters
chilled blood orange soda

In a chilled rocks glass, add a few ice cubes and everything but the soda. Give a quick stir and top with the soda. Garnish with an orange slice and cherry if you have one handy. 

Cheers to summer!

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Documentary: A Place at the Table

Did you know 1 in every 4 children within the United States don't know where their next meal is going to come from? I find it very troubling that in one of the richest countries we cannot provide healthy food for our citizens.

I promise not to go on a big political rant. Instead, if you live in Washington, DC, I'd like to ask you to join me at the screening of "A Place at the Table" tomorrow evening at the AMC Loews Georgetown. This is a documentary from the people who brought you "Food Inc." You learn more about the issue of hunger through the stories of three people struggling with not having enough food.

You can still buy tickets and make a contribution to Martha's Table to help feed those in the Washington, DC community. I hope to see you there!

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Saturday morning at a lavender farm

When I first learned of a lavender farm about an hour outside of Washington, DC in Virginia, I ran the idea past Keith as being a nice Saturday adventure. His immediate response was "Andrea and Jaime aren't free?" 

Taking the hint, I took the idea to the ladies. Thankfully, they were up for a little road trip into the Virginia countryside. It was a pleasant morning filled with the wonderful scent of lavender and a French inspired brunch of buttery croissants and mimosas.

There was talk of taking our next adventure north to explore Gettysburg on horse back. Again I suggested the idea to Keith so he could have first refusal. Again he suggested that be a ladies day out. I have no idea where his sense of adventure went.

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