Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Michael's 25th Birthday

My man turned 25 on Sunday! We had a great weekend of mojitos, tennis, a friend's wedding, waffles, lounging poolside, ice cream cake, and Michael's annual birthday dinner of chicken marsala and creamy parmesan risotto. I say "annual," but really this is only the 2nd year I've made him this dinner. I barely even knew Michael on June 24th in 2010, we were one week away from being married on June 24th in 2011, and now we have nearly one year of marriage under our belts in 2012. Time flies when you're having fun!

Having had such success last year at wowing Michael to the moon and back with my kitchen skills (he raved about the chicken marsala and risotto for the whole weekend and then seriously for about 2 months after that), I thought "ain't no thing, chicken wing" when planning for this year's birthday meal. It was in the bag, so to speak.

Well. Pride goeth before the fall.

I have no idea what happened, but I couldn't do it. I simply couldn't do it this year. Trying to figure out how to continuously stir the risotto while adding white wine and then 1/2 cup after 1/2 cup of chicken broth for 30 minutes WHILE dredging pounded chicken breasts in a flour mixture and sautéing them for 5 minutes on each side and adding prosciutto and mushrooms and marsala wine and chicken broth to the pan WHILE making sure the asparagus doesn't burn in the oven WHILE also making sure we have the most fitting music playing on Pandora (T. Swift station does the trick) WHILE keeping a cheerful countenance on my face and trying not to die of heat from the oven heating up our little kitchen, basically made me blow a fuse and frazzle up and deflate into a soggy mound of wife.

On my husband's birthday, mind you.

It feels terrible to be a soggy mound of wife. I thought I had planned for everything, but I certainly hadn't anticipated the mascara running down my face in little streams of salty ink.


But this is about where my loving hubby stepped in. Literally to throw me over his shoulder and lift me up and tell me that it is all ok. That he doesn't care even one bit that I'm delusional and having a strangely hard time making honestly not that hard of a meal. That he would love me even if I hadn't planned anything at all for him on his birthday. That his love is not IN ANY WAY dependent on circumstances and what I can do for him. That he loves me just because he loves me. That we are going to cook this meal together and it doesn't matter that I did it all by myself last year because this year, we are cooking it together. That I better not protest (Lord knows I tried) because he's already putting on his apron and rolling up his sleeves.

And if that is not a shining example of the way Christ loves us, then fly me to the moon and call me crazy.

William Blake said that "we are here to learn to endure the beams of love." There is nothing like being a soggy mound of wife (or friend, or sister, or daughter...) and having love aimed directly at you in your moment of total humility. Deep, piercing, nowhere to run, you-are-a-mess-and-it-doesn't-matter love.

Bring. It. On.

Being married to Michael for almost a year has brought countless moments like this one. Where I am sure that he will think "wow, I've married psycho woman numero uno," but instead he astounds me, like flattens me out astounds me, with his love for me.

His birthday dinner turned out to be amazing. Maybe even better than last year.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- Will wonders never cease!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Baby It's Hot Outside

What in the world. I melt. I drip like a popsicle. I glisten. I gleam. And it is only June.

You know you are getting older when you no longer long for hot summer days -- I have recently come to understand what my mom has been preaching for years: escape the heat! Go to Maine! Go to Michigan! Why do you want to come home to Dallas? The heat index is at 105.


Thankfully, I have my Maine love and she has open arms for me. Thank you, Aves!

But for now, there's no escaping the DC summer heat. So I dream of better days - September 18th! Nothing like the turning of the seasons to get you stoked for BEN HOWARD!

That's right folks. I've been informed by some inside sources a friend who musical aptitude I definitely respect that Ben Howard himself is performing at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC on Tuesday, September 18th.

I had no idea. Get excited!

And call me maybe?


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Artistic Endeavors on New Tunes Tuesday

It seems I've had a thing lately for British musicians. What can I say? I like my man Italian and my musicians British.

Recently, I've been listening to Ben Howard. He sounds a lot like Brett Dennen but with way way way better guitar abilities.

I haven't had a lot of down time recently because of a full, fun, busy weekend with both friends and family in town. So I came home from work today needing some rest. I used to come home from work and literally shut the door to my room, get in bed, and read until I fell asleep for an hour. This was when I lived in an apartment building with a workout room, and was getting up at 5:15 every morning for a pre-work workout. WHAT WAS I THINKING? I will tell you. 

I was daily running 4 miles super fast on the treadmill because I was dating my now husband and I had all this energy because I was carried on the wings of loooooove! 

If only that were true. Actually, maybe that is mildly very true. But it was really just because I was in the habit of working out before work. The treadmill was literally about 100 feet away, it would take me about 3 minutes from the time I rolled out of bed, put on my shoes, and started running. And, it was really good time to be by myself. Let's face it: there aren't that many people in an apartment gym at 5:15am. 

Anyway, I don't get up at 5:15 anymore. PTL! But I do still get tired in the afternoons. And I do still need some quiet time, even though I'm not living with 6 girls anymore. My old roomie Liz used to come home from work and yell "helloooooo! Anyone home???" throughout the whole apartment. I would purposefully not answer because I cherished my quiet. Liz soon figured out that I was avoiding her and so she would barge in and sit on my bed. This was semi-ok in my book. At least I was still in bed. And I do love me some Liz time. 

The point is! The point is (what movie: the thing is... the thing is... I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her...) that today I had some quiet time and cherished it. I did something that I often do and rarely do:

OFTEN: listen to new tunes.
RARELY: paint!

The combo of music and painting was both soothing and uplifting. I can see my artist friends rolling their eyes right now... Avery, Kendall, Matt... as I'm sure this is something they have known for their whole lives. Hey now, we all live in the dark. Seldom do the lights turn on.

I'm working on a little art project for my one my BFFs who I cherish so much. I can't post the final product here as it's not done, and I don't want to spoil the fun, but I'm so glad she made me get paint under my nails today. And it's still there. Which makes me happy.

And listening to Ben Howard while painting was like a mini vacay. I can't decide what song is my favorite -- they are all uniquely beautiful -- but "Old Pine" brings me a lot of joy.

Listen! And remember to slow down. It is quite good for you. As I have quoted on this blog before: all the way to heaven is heaven.

...and, I have no idea why part of this post has a white background. C'est la vie!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Love and Baseball

You think you know a person....

And then you go to a baseball game with them. With the crack of the bat, you discovered you live with a crazy man! This is what happened last week when we went to the Nats game with amigos Simmons and Schoeffels.
Awkward family photo?

Michael is typically the responsible one, so after the 10th inning and with us still needing to take the metro home and with me still being slightly high on antibiotics, I was feeling a bit perturbed that Michael was still so into the game and wouldn't take me home. To his credit, the Nats (Washington Nationals!) game was awesome. Michael and I've discovered a new found love for Bryce Harper, the Nationals' rookie outfielder, who happens to be only 19 years old. How depressing. I feel so old.

It's ok, things could be worse. As Jennifer pointed out, one day the president of the United States is going to be younger than you. Chew on that.

Anyway, we finally did leave the baseball game because it was taking FOREVER and the minute we got home, Michael started following the game on the ESPN-MLB site. THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. I've never known Michael to follow any sporting event at all other than college lacrosse. To see him so excited for our (adoptive) hometown team was really quite endearing. Anddddd to make matters way better, we are getting a TV tomorrow! More Nats games, watching Kevin Durant pound on LeBron, and the summer Olympics 2k12 -- get ready. By the way, Kerri Strug had a baby!  

1996 Atlanta. One of those moments you don't forget. (SI.com)

In other news, here is another amazing discovery found on the this boutineer at my cousin's wedding last weekend.
Love, actually, really is all around us.

Next, we've had a great week of cooking. First we made flatbread for dinner on Tuesday.

Onions, garlic, feta and turkey bacon. I know what you're thinking -- "golly gee, that looks like pizza." But it's not! The dough bakes first, and then the toppings are added, even spinach on top. Ole!
You can actually see my teeth marks in the spinach. Wrong. But so right. 

And tonight I made a quiche with mushrooms, caramelized onions and cheddar. It was ohhh mmmm geee good. Recipe found here!

Well. Clearly, food photography aint my thaanng. But you get the point. It was good. And I really should know this now after a year of marriage, buuuuuuttt I need to lower my expectations for having leftovers. It just doesn't happen often. It's alright. My man we both can eat. We ran sprints up Mass Ave today and if you know Mass Ave, IT'S NOT KANSAS.

I had planned to also share some new tunes that have kept me going this week, buuuuuuut I have a date in bed with Anne Lamott. That's right. Traveling Mercies -- third time to read it and I still laugh so hard. Stay tuned (ha) and I'll reveal manana. Bonne nuit!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tortas Frontera

The Bean!!!! ie. Cloud Gate

I had previously thought that Chicago O'Hare Airport was pretty close to the top of my list of most miserable places in the US of A.

Thanks to a new discovery, I STAND CORRECTED.

I was flying home on Sunday evening after some long days in Chicago for work, and was:

a) tired
b) grumpy
c) sad because I accidentally had my current read stashed in my checked bag instead of my carry-on and
d) therefore was forced to buy bought a Nicolas Sparks chick lit, The Lucky One, which I hear is much better than the movie
e) dehydrated because I was on antibiotics
f) ticked off because the Chili's service was slower than a grandma driving a semi truck so I got up and left the restaurant after sitting for 15 minutes without even getting to order a drink (one diet coke, one water)
g) All of the above.

Clearly, you catch my drift -- G is my answer.

So it was without much hope that I stumbled up to Torta Frontera, a little stretch of terminal B property next to Barbara's Bookstore.  I recognized the Frontera name from the salsas in the gstore:

...and was intrigued that there was a restaurant to go along with the salsa. Tortas are a kind of Mexican sandwich that can have any number of assorted fillings, and are warmed up in a giant toaster over - just like what they do at Potbelly. Only even mentioning Potbelly in this post (and I really do like those sandwiches) seems ATROCIOUS because nothing, NOTHING compares to the amazingness that was my torta from Tortas Frontera. I need to pause to cherish the memory...



Anyway, I ordered the chipotle chicken torta (all tortas take 10 mins, but it is worth the wait), and also got the guacamole bar.

The guac bar was super cool.... you could pick your toppings, like pepita seeds, jalapenos, sun dried tomatoes, onions and cilantro etc, but I just went for regular guac with a bit of onions and cilantro. My stomach has been a bit iffy because of the medicine I've been on so I didn't want to push it. And the chips that come with it are perfect -- no extra salt required, which if you ask me is a mighty rare thing to find.

The torta... it was so good. It comes with extra sauces and salsas, which I am always all about, but this time, the flavor combo was SPOT-ON PERFECT and I didn't once think that I needed to add any extra flavor. From memory, I think the sandwich had avocados, thinly sliced chicken, a black bean spread, some jalapenos, salsa, some sort of chipotle mayo, and enough fresh arugula to equal a salad. I need to find a better adjective to describe it other than amazing and awesome and so good.... buuuuuut let's just say that the mere fact that I didn't have to add salt or extra salsa is a BIG WIN in my book. Flavor explosion! And I haven't even mentioned the bread. The bread was perfectly soft and wonderfully thick and held it all together so well that nothing dripped out of the sandwich. Another big win as I'm typically the messy 20-napkins-a-meal user.

The torta is also HUGE. I could only eat half the torta and half the chips and guac, so it made a wonderful lunch for me the next day at home (when I took these pics). TWICE IS NICE!

I miss you already.
Here is the website for Tortas Frontera -- founded by Rick Bayless. I already contacted him and told him to open a Tortas Frontera in DC. He wouldn't regret it. But until then, if you are ever in the Windy City, leave time to eat at the airport. And I bet his other restaurants are worth it too.

I'm stuck on you like glue. 
Ciao amigos!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Dating Advice

I've been doing a little gmail inbox cleaning, and I came across this nugget of gold sent from Barbie Ryan a few years ago. Dating is tricky business, and it is serious business because hearts are involved. For years and years, my mom knew how confused and unsure I so often was while dating. I thought that I would never find the right guy because I had never felt that "release" of love, so to speak. The guys that I dated were all really wonderful, so I thought something was wrong with me because I could only get to a certain emotional point of "extreme like," but not love. Something would always hold me back. Mom gave me this advice:

"Love is a bundle of contradictions and only in the rarest of circumstances will one find, in one's mate, all of the desirable qualities one is looking for...

Having said that, I do think that you need to think in terms of gracious acceptance of the man you are dating, AS HE IS, not as you wish him to be...barring natural maturation and inevitable adjustments that will be worked out between you in marriage (who cooks, who shops, who cleans, who pays the bills, etc).

Never enter marriage with the idea that your partner will change for you. Rather, enter marriage knowing what you adore about your partner and enjoying that...overlooking/accepting the engrained personality traits (such as essential quietness) and making the most of the things you adore."

She is so right. And the things you adore should totally outweigh the thing you don't. I had this incredible cascade of falling in love when I met Michael.

This was the first weekend together after we were offish = officially BF/GF.

And Michael is not perfect! No one is. But it was a far cry from my crazy unsteadiness of heart that I had felt with every guy before I met him. And reading these words from my mom after almost a year of marriage is such a refreshment -- when in the thick of a disagreement, sometimes I forget the amazing qualities that I love so much in my husband.

So, single ladies, no one is perfect, but there is a great guy for you out there. Married ladies, keep loving your man for all the wonderfulness that he is!