Thursday, August 27, 2009

VACATION or Bust! (and a wee baby)

A.R. and I are leaving tomorrow for our 1st anniversary trip...I am so excited it's finally here and I can't believe we've almost been married a year. I know I've been slacking at the blogging lately, but I have good reason. I'm experiencing the extreme exhaustion that comes along with the 1st Trimester of pregnancy. A.R. and I are expecting our first baby on March 28, 2009. Today we got to see our little one (about the size of a medium green olive) and hear the precious heartbeat for the first time.

My current new favorite picture:
And as for my To-Do Thursday, I barely read one magazine, but didn't do anything else this week...I barely got my darned suitcase packed! Here is my Top 5 To-Do's for this week:

1. Sleep
2. Swim in the ocean of the Virgin Islands
3. Snorkel with sea turtles
4. Eat like a pig on the cruise ship
5. Fight morning sickness and nausea like a champ (I haven't had much yet, knock on wood).
Until we return...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Chicken with Wine & Mushrooms

I love this recipe and I've only cooked it once. A.R. used to make this for me on one of the nights I had class and didn't get home until late. A couple of weeks ago I got the craving for it and returned the favor and made it for him. :) I must say, I think it's better when someone else cooks for you sometimes (as long as he cleans the kitchen after himself!).

I was impressed with his culinary skills and his ability to improvise on a few of the ingredients. Try out the recipe and see for's quick, easy, and delicious!

Recipe is courtesy of on their "Southern Food" section, although I wouldn't classify it as the Southern food I'm used to. A.R. found it thanks to Google.

Chicken with White Wine & Mushrooms
4 boneless chicken breast halves, without skin
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp coarsely ground pepper
3/4 tsp dried leaf tarragon
1/2 tsp dread leaf basil
3 eggs
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp butter, divided (I used I can't believe it's not butter)
8 oz slice mushrooms (we use cream of mushroom soup if we don't have the mushrooms handy)
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio (we use white cooking wine)
juice of 1 small lemon, about 2-2 1/2 tbsp
3 tbsp freshly chopped parsley or chives, for garnish
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter

1. Flatten chicken breasts; place plastic wrap over each chicken breast and gently pound with smooth side of a meat mallot until uniform thickness.

2. In a pie plate or wide shallow bowl, combine flour, salt, pepper, tarragon, and basil. In another pie plate or shallow bowl, beat eggs with the water.
3. Melt 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet.

4. Dip chicken pieces into egg, coating well, then into flour and herb mixture, turning several times. When chicken is well coated, place in hot butter and oil in the skillet. Brown chicken on both sides for about 3 minutes per side, or until juices run clear and chicken is brown. Remove to a plate.

5. Add mushrooms and remaining 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp butter to the skillet. Saute for about 4 to 5 minutes, until mushrooms are browned. Add the broth, wine, and lemon juice; simmer rapidly for about 3 minutes to reduce somewhat.
6. Combine 1 tbsp flour with 1 tbsp butter, stirring until smooth. Add to the broth and wine mixture, stirring and cooking for a minute, until thickened, then add chicken back to the skillet. Heat through. Serve garnished with fresh parsley or chives. Serves 4.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Warm Apple Pie

A.R. had the hankering for some fresh applie pie a week or so ago and I felt like baking so I whipped up my favorite apple pie recipe from the July 2002 edition of Cooking Light. They actually have a recipe for the crust, but I cheat and buy the pre-made frozen ones. This recipe is so easy and quick to make. Pick up some fresh apples and give it shot today! This recipe makes two normal size pies, only one if you want an over stuffed (hi-rise) apple pie.

Ingredients for Filling:
8 cups thinly sliced peeled Breaburn apples (about 8 medium)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

Other ingredients:
cooking spray
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon suger

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. To prepare filling, combine the apples and lemon juice in a large bowl.
3. Combine 2/3 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.
4. Sprinkle sugar mixture over apples; toss well to coat.
5. I then use pre-made pie crusts and fill them to heaping (it will look like a mountain of apples, but they'll sink down so if you want an overstuffed pie put extra apples on top). I then cover with criss-crossing dough, but you can cover with a solid layer as well.
6. Brush top and edges of pie (on the dough) with egg whites and then sprinkle with extra sugar.
7. Place pies on baking sheet; bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees (do not remove pie from oven), and bake an additional 40 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire rack.

Top 5 To Do Thursday

Well, I didn't do so great with my list last week, but I have good reasons (excuses!) as to why which I'll get into in a later post. Let's see how I did...

Top 5 To Dos for last week:
1. Finish hemming the rest of my work pants (3 pairs) I haven't even touched them!
2. Finish the scrapbook for my Bachelorette party (that was well over a year ago now!) I haven't even touched it!
3. Sew at least one of the curtain panels for our purple guest room (Bonus: if I finish them both!) I can't start this project until I finish #1!
4. Mop the kitchen floor (yup, I've REALLY been slacking!) Check. I mopped the kitchen and all the bathrooms (does that give me extra credit?)
5. Read one of the magazines in the stack that is piling up in my coffee table cubby hole and recycle when finished Check. I actually read and recycled 3 magazines.

New Top 5 To Do List for this week:
1. Read two magazines from the coffee table stash
2. Finish hemming the 3 pairs of work pants collecting dust in my spare bedroom/sewing room.
3. Finish my Bachelorette scrapbook.
4. Start sewing the purple curtains for the guest room.
5. Scan the pictures I borrowed from my Aunt of our family and my grandmother as a young woman so I can bring them back to her.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Remembering Sebastian

August 1996 - August 15th, 2009
My beloved cat, Sebastian, passed away this past Saturday after 13 years of life. His illness was sudden and hit hard. He had stopped eating the weekend before, so I had scheduled him to see our veterinarian's partner. When we got to his appointment his breathing was labored, so our veterinarian did some x-rays and discovered that his right lung was filled with fluid. We transferred him to the local pet ER where they could drain his lungs and run some tests to find out what caused the fluid to gather and they could monitor him over night. Around 10pm the emergency vet called to tell me that he was resting comfortably and the fluid was drained and sent off to be tested at the pathologist's lab, but that it was clear and the preliminary results pointed to him having dilated cardiomyopathy or the precursor to heart failure.

He assured me that it was nothing we did and the type of myopathy that he had was very common to the Siamese breed (Sebastian was 1/2 Siamese, his mom was a stray black & white). In the meantime, we took Sebastian home and he was prescribed Lasix (a diuretic) to keep the fluid levels down in his lungs while we awaited the formal test results to decide what steps to take next to make him comfortable for the rest of his days (we were told, best case scenario was he'd have 6-24 months to live). He also prescribed a cardiac ultrasound which we opted to forego for the time being. Once home, Sebastian rested on Wednesday and on Thursday seemed more like himself roaming around the house. He would not eat on his own so I was hand feeding him baby food. He wouldn't even lick it off my finger so I had to use my finger and just put it on his tongue and let him swallow it. Our regular vet called us for an update and we scheduled a follow-up appointment for Wednesday of this week and assured me his eating should pick up again in a day or two.
In one of his favorite sunspots in the new house
By Friday evening, Sebastian seemed to be worsening and refused to eat altogether. Alexi and I decided that if he didn't eat or look better in the morning we were going to take him back to the pet ER as that vet was covering for our regular vet who was on maternity leave and our local office was short staffed. Before we had a chance to take him back to the ER, they phoned us with the final results on the biopsy from the fluid that was in his lungs. Unfortunately, the results were not good. The biopsy showed that Sebastian had carcinoma which is a fast spreading and incurable cancer. Most likely the tumors were growing throughout his chest cavity and were just too small still to see on original x-ray but would grow rapidly and were certainly already taking their toll on his heart & lungs. With that diagnosis and the fact that Sebastian was continuing to deteriorate rapidly we took him into the office to be put to sleep. Sebastian died peacefully with A.R. & I by his side. After 13 years with him by my side I was numb. I miss him horribly...especially cuddling with him each night by my side as he purred me to sleep. I miss seeing him in his favorite sunspot on the window sill in our bedroom every morning as I wake up and him attempting to sleep on my laptop as I type out my blogs or surf the net.
"Helping" me do homework when I was in college.
Sebastian was an awesome cat and very handsome. He was dainty and anal retentive about his cleanliness...if you messed his fur up after he bathed himself you'd get an evil glare with pinned ears and he'd start the entire process again. He shredded cardboard boxes because I made him move at least a dozen times with me and he hated it...from my parents home (I got Sebastian when I was 16! He was born in my horse trainer's barn in NC), to my first array of apartments in NC, all the way up to CT and the various apartments I had here before finally moving into our home last November. If he was hungry in the morning & his dish was empty, he would empty the bedside table of everything, pushing it to the side until it crashed to the floor and you woke up to feed him. If that didn't work he'd put his nose to your face and stare so that when you opened your eyes you'd see him up close and personal which never failed to scare the absolute crap out of you early in the morning. He loathed Molly (my little girl kitty that died of kidney failure at the young age of 5 in 2007) when I first brought her home as he also did with Tomas before becoming their father figure and bossing them around. He made Tomas sit still to have his eye buggars (gross, I know!) cleaned each morning...Tomas laid down so Sebastian could reach him better as he grew from a puppy to his full size. Sebastian was a great companion during afternoon naps and gladly curled up in the crook of your leg for a snooze. He loved to "read" and thought the best way to do so was by lying directly on the page you were reading. He loved to go outside and hunt and use the potty, but he always came home before night fall and waiting patiently (well sometimes) by the door to be let back in. He stole hair elastics and hid them under the bed in his secret spot. Sebastian was my best friend and a great companion when dealing with any of the crap life tends to spring on you at times.

I loved Sebastian with all my heart and he loved me back with all of his. I hope he is up in kitty heaven purring me a lullabye each night so I can drift off to sleep as easily as I did with him by my side. He will be missed greatly. I love you my handsome "Purr purr" and I miss you terribly, but I know you are no longer in pain and that gives me comfort. May you rest in peace.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Day At the Beach

Last Saturday A.R. and I took a trip to Massachusetts to take my grandmother to the beach. After such a mild and rainy summer we lucked out with a perfect day. My very first trip to the beach was with my grandmother when I was a tiny girl and I've been in love ever since. We go to Horseneck Beach in Westport, MA. The parking is quick and easy, the water is clear, there are bathrooms and a food stand just off the beach, and there are lifeguards there from sun up to dusk. I remember running through the sand dunes as a little girl but they are now fenced off and protected.
My grandmother stopped driving this month and she needed to get out of the house and feel like she was free again. She has macular degenerative disease and is slowly going blind and losing her independence. It was great to make my first appearance at the beach this summer while cheering my grandmother up at the same time.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Diner, Drive-Ins, and Dives

My grandmother and I have made a tradition of going to this little old diner in Attleboro, MA after we spend a day at the beach or for mini-celebrations after a game of Yahtzee when I go to visit her. I remember going there as a little girl and hoping she'd let me get a nice bowl of tapioca pudding or ice cream for dessert. Well, it turns out our little diner, Morin's, is going to be show cased as a hot spot on the Food Network's show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives hosted by Guy Fieri. How freakin' cool is that?!

As we dined there on Saturday after a beautiful day at the beach she was telling me how they had to close for 3 hours one morning to do the taping with Guy and how people were waiting outside at 4am to get a peak at him and the tv crew. I guess one of the foods highlighted in the upcoming episode is their delicious French Meat Pie. Click here for the article in the Attleboro Sun Chronicle. The show is set to air sometime in August so check it out!
Guy lef this momento on the wall at Morin's


Thursday, August 06, 2009

Top 5 To Do Thursday

I've been rather lazy lately and need to really start checking things off of my to-do list, so I'm going to post a list here for this week and report back next week on how many items I check off and how things go. If it works, I'll make it a habit and maybe, just maybe, I'll get things actually done for a change.

Top 5 To Dos for this week:

1. Finish hemming the rest of my work pants (3 pairs)
2. Finish the scrapbook for my Bachelorette party (that was well over a year ago now!)
3. Sew at least one of the curtain panels for our purple guest room (Bonus: if I finish them both!)
4. Mop the kitchen floor (yup, I've REALLY been slacking!)
5. Read one of the magazines in the stack that is piling up in my coffee table cubby hole and recycle when finished

Wish me luck!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Cucumbers & Pickles Everywhere

A.R. and I picked about 25 cucumbers out of our garden over the past week and after giving some away to my boss and his mom I decided to take a stab at making pickles and canning some cucumbers to eat, gift, and store. I ended up making a dozen jars of dill pickles and 5 jars of sweet pickles.
The recipe for the sweet pickles is courtesy of a fellow blogger, Crystal Cooks. I must've gone to a half dozen grocery stores in search of pickling salt and pickle seasoning before I finally found one of the two ingredients. I came home to discover that they were indeed two different ingredients while I already had the brine boiling for the sweet pickles. So, I enlisted my good friend Google and found the ingredients in pickle seasoning online and then randomly added them to the pot hoping it turned out okay. A.R. and I taste tested a few of the pickles before canning and they actually tasted pretty good, but we'll see how good they taste in a few weeks! Next time I think I'll order the pickling seasoning on-line instead of just winging it. I also discovered you have to cut the cucumbers wide enough when you use a recipe that boils them in the brine before canning or they kind of separate and disintegrate a bit in the brine.

I found the dill pickle recipe on-line at and it came highly recommended by other cooks on the site.


8 pounds 3 to 4-inch long pickling cucumbers
4 cups white vinegar
10 cups water
2/3 cup pickling salt
16 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
8 heads fresh dill weed
8 sprigs fresh dill weed

1. Wash cucumbers, and place in the sink with cold water and lots of ice cubes. Soak in ice water for at least 2 hours but no more than 8. Refresh ice as required. Sterilize 8 (1 quart) canning jars and lids in boiling water for at least 10 minutes.
2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar, water, and pickling salt. Bring the brine to a rapid boil.

3. In each jar, place 2 half-cloves of garlic, one head of dill, then enough cucumbers to fill the jar (about 1 pound). Then add 2 more garlic halves, and 1 sprig of dill. Fill jars with hot brine. Seal jars, making sure you have cleaned the jar's rims of any residue.
4. Process sealed jars in a boiling water bath. Process quart jars for 15 minutes.
5. Store pickles for a minimum of 8 weeks before eating. Refrigerate after opening. Pickles will keep for up to 2 years if stored in a cool dry place.

The pickles smelled delishous before as I was canning them, so I hope they taste just as good in 8 weeks!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

My Latest Read

"Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea"
by Chelsea Handler

My good friend gave me this book for my birthday back in March and I finally got a chance to read it. It was pretty funny, but I wouldn't go out of my way to buy it. Chelsea is actually a comedian with her own show which I wasn't aware of before reading this book. I would love to see her comedy act in person if she ever traveled but writing really doesn't seem to be her forte. In the beginning of the book her writing reminded me of Judy Blume. Some of the chapters did have me laughing out loud, but there was no real logical order or format to the book itself. Each chapter was a snippet of Chelsea's life experiences.