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Life, lately

2014 November 11
by Laura

It got cold. WAH. But now I have a dog to snuggle with 24/7, so we’re good.

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Life lately has been cozy. Smiley. I had a glorious 3-day weekend (totally off from work!) last week, which was unusual and filled with productivity and relaxation. We hiked, we walked, we drank, we ate delicious fall foods, and we watched a lot of Friends. (I finally convinced Someone to watch the series with me, and he’s obsessed. “This show is good.” That is HIGH praise, people!)

We finally saw Gone Girl (which was good, but book was better, amirite?) and took Rennie to meet Someone’s parents and grandparents. What else have we been up to?

 

Listen: Serial. We are completely obsessed with this case. Each week, a new podcast episode comes out in the series, in which journalist Sarah Koenig investigates a murder trial in Baltimore in 1999. Let’s just say that if you were a member of the jury, you probably wouldn’t have convinced the guy currently serving life in prison. The facts and details of the case are absolutely enthralling and Someone and I cannot stop talking about our own theories. Download or stream today, you will not be sorry.

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Eat: Dinners lately have been fall celebrations! Steak with wine and mushroom sauce, roasted cauliflower with lemon and garlic and parmesan (SO GOOD). Sweet potatoes with honey and rosemary, and brussels sprouts with bacon.

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Do: I’ve spent a lot of time on Arlington County’s Parks and Recreation site, and it’s led me to some interesting places. Walking Rennie lately has led me to find some treasures nestled right behind Arlington’s luxury townhomes. Picturesque parks, A historic site of a castle, an old spring, tons of little trails that traverse streams yet get annoyingly close to highways.

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Read: Get a library card. I’ve been going through about a book a week lately, all thanks to the added pressure of a library card. The HOLD IS READY! I have to go pick it up and read it immediately because now I have four books from the library all ready at the same time for pick up and I only have three weeks to read them or I have to give them back ahhhhh and then if I have to be added back to the bottom of the hold list I will be #84 on the list and I’ll never get my turn again!

Seriously, it’s kind of like that. But I’ve also read some really good ones lately, and I’m deep into this tale right now:

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Snack: The best flavor of Greek yogurt ever (Oikos Toasted Coconut Vanilla) and homemade pumpkin seed granola:

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Watch: MasterChef Junior. You’ll probably feel really unaccomplished, but you’ll probably also cry and laugh and feel warm inside, too. Fox, Tuesday nights.

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Can’t stop watching this video.

2014 November 11
by Laura

Taylor, are you kidding me with this?

I heard this song on the radio the other day and tried to Shazam it before it was too late, because I was immediately hooked and I just had to know who sang it so I could download it. So imagine my surprise when I see it was T-Swift!?

Enjoy, if you haven’t already seen this pretty-awesome-for-a-music-video music video. I thoroughly enjoyed it and have the song on repeat.

Other internet reaction:

Taylor Swift in the Blank Space Video is the Woman We’ve Been Waiting For

Taylor Swift Made Her Blank Space Co-Star Blush On Set

Buzzfeed: 21 Perfect Internet Reactions to Blank Space

My personal favorite: Every Single Outfit Taylor Wears in the Blank Space Video

The Voice

2014 November 1
by Laura

The Voice is my favorite reality competition show of all time* — yep, I said it. And a few things are kicking it up a notch this season: 1, Pharrel Williams, and 2, Taylor Swift.

I never loved Pharrel before. Big hat, annoying song (“Happy” makes me want to jam pens in my eyes). But he approaches the show as such a producer, and it is so different to hear the perspective of the person who makes the music, not just sings their own.

Taylor Swift: Well, who doesn’t love her. If you don’t, you’re in denial or jealous. She’s not just a cute face and a catchy song writer, she offers the most insightful performance advice. (Which is kind of funny, because I actually find her terrible at live singing.) The contestants’ performances were totally changed with Taylor’s critical notes. It was kind of amazing to watch. Also, her haircut: are you kidding me?

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I digress. The only thing more fun than the Battle Rounds on the show are the Knockouts.

If you’re even remotely curious, head over to The Voice‘s youtube page and watch a few of them. You won’t be disappointed!

My faves:

 

Perfect listening for an icy, rainy Saturday morning!

So we got a dog

2014 October 28
by Laura

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When Someone and I were talking about moving in together, one of the things we kept talking about was that our new apartment had to be dog friendly. And not just dog friendly as in, “yeah, dogs can live here,” but as in “there’s enough space for a 4-legged creature and her crate” and “an apartment without elevators or stairs.”

We hit the jackpot with our current abode, as it is on the first floor of a garden-style apartment complex, and the first spot for a pup to “do their business” is about 10 feet out our front door.

After we moved in, I wanted a dog, like, yesterday. We started to look at different rescue organizations and were pre-approved by several after home visits and phone interviews and really, really intense application questionnaires. (Seriously, college application style, with essays.) We went to a few adoption events here and there and even got thisclose to adopting two different doggies.

Those two didn’t pan out, though: one had a severe anxiety problem and needed to go to a family with another dog; the other required us to adopt “right off the truck,” sight unseen, which made us very nervous. A few weeks ago I gave up. I couldn’t handle the hours of perusing online adoption sites like dating websites, judging photos and getting a terrible feeling of sadness that all these dogs needed good homes.

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We went to Maine. I stopped looking. I thought we would wait until the spring and maybe start researching breeders.

And then, two Sundays ago, I was browsing Facebook and saw that one of the rescues* had posted a picture of a dog they had found as a stray in NC. Her name was Lucy, and she was some sort of corgi/sheltie mix who looked adorably vulpine and had freckles on her nose. I had a weird feeling in my gut about her. Her face was so sweet in the photograph, and I had to know more.

(*A girl I went to high school with ran into my mom and had told her about a rescue she adopted from in Chester Springs, PA, called All 4 Paws. She told me they had no problem adopting out of state and that they did not require a home visit. I added it to the list of rescues I searched every week.)

I sent my friend a message that afternoon. “Lucy. I want her.” I listed her as a reference, I filled out my application, and I sat back to wait. I figured it would take a few weeks to hear back. That evening, we were approved!

Lucy’s transport date from North Carolina to PA was Saturday, 10/25. We went up to my parents’ house for the day and drove the short distance to the farm where we were picking her up. We brought Gracie the golden to help vet her, too, since Grace has a calm and submissive personality that offends no other dog.

When we pulled up we were shocked at Lucy’s size. She was so much smaller than we thought! The pictures online made her look like a giant long thing. In reality, she is a tiny 23 pounds. She looks way more like a sheltie/papillon than a corgi, too.

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You guys. I’m OBSESSED with her. Obsessed. I had to go to work on Sunday night only hours after we got home with her, and I physically missed her. I want to pick her up and force cuddle her all the time.

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She is SO good, and so smart. She is eager to please and easy to train. She’s well behaved on a leash, loves walks, has a great energy level for me and Someone (aka, she is perfectly content to sleep with me after night shifts and still ridiculously excited to go on a walk), and she is practically perfect in every way. I cannot get enough of her. Her name is Rennie, because the French word for fox is “renard.”

Our first night at home, we put her in the crate but left the door open. She stayed there for about an hour before leaping onto the bed and curling into a tiny ball between me and someone. And there she stayed.

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We have a little work to do: She is terrified of construction noises, very tall men, and busy intersections. She also hates the UPS truck. (I do too, Rennie!) Already we are making progress, and she is as sweet as can be.

Even Riggins likes her, although he was unbelievably jealous when we brought her home. Nothing a little love couldn’t fix!

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Welcome to our little family, Rennie!

Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, Maine

2014 October 28
by Laura

One evening in June, before we moved in together, I sent Someone an e-mail with four skeleton itineraries for fall trips. One was to a villa in St. Thomas that I found on Air BnB. Another was to Nashville, TN; the third, Charleston. And the fourth? An autumn getaway to Bar Harbor, Maine.

I was secretly hoping Someone would pick the fourth one, and he did not disappoint. Neither did Maine in October.

I was worried: I’ve spent many long weekends in Maine before, but only in July, when the highs are near 80 and the sun is shining brightly. How would it be to hike in chilly temperatures that barely reach 60, with morning lows in the 40s?

It would be wonderful, of course, because we were treated with “unseasonably warm weather” and happened to hit right at the peak of Maine’s foliage.

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Our first day we checked into the Acadia Hotel, a quaint little thing located perfectly in the heart of Bar Harbor. Although we laughed about the size of the room and the lumpiness of the mattress, it was affordable and a great value for the location and cleanliness of our accommodations. We will definitely stay there again (although next time, we might splurge for the Cadillac Suite on the second floor).

Day two was a focus on Jordan Pond: we did the 3.3 mile loop around the “pond,” had lunch at the renowned Jordan Pond House overlooking the lawn and Bubbles in the distance, and then hiked to the top of the South Bubble in the afternoon to see the famous Bubble Rock.

Someone and I could not believe our eyes. We kept pulling over to the side of the Park Loop Road to photograph more of the astounding colors. I’ve never seen nature look so spectacular.

 

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Our second day featured a hike to the top of Beehive, which is, as our guidebook described, “not for the faint of heart or weak of limb.”

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I was shaking (seriously), because at many times you’re climbing up and around boulders with nothing below you except sky. The last time I did this hike I was 19 and fearless. Now? Not so much. A few iron rungs and grates are there to support you, and it’s an easier go if you have a Someone to help you and say, so sweetly, “We can turn back at any time.”

Aww! But go back we didn’t. We kept on! In the afternoon, we hiked to the top of Beech Cliffs trail for some spectacular views and rounded out our hiking with a trek to the top of Flying Mountain.

A word about our food: A-mah-zing. We had incredible meals at Side Street Cafe, Mache Bistro, Cafe This Way, 2 Cats, and West Street Cafe. There were gluten free options (and not just options, but entire meals) at each of them, and the GF lobster macaroni and cheese from Side Street Cafe was to die for. I also enjoyed gluten-free rolls and sandwiches, cheesecake, pancakes, and toast with strawberry butter from 2 Cats. Bar Harbor is a gluten free mecca.

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On our final morning in nature’s paradise we got up at 6:00 and drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain to see the sunrise. We weren’t alone, but the reverence was palpable from the crowd around us. We watched the sky lighten and then redden as the sun peeked over the Atlantic, bathing the mountainside in soft, warm light.

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We were so sad to leave, and cannot wait to go back. I’m not sure I’ll ever want to go back in the summer again!

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Really really good chicken enchiladas

2014 October 5
by Laura

REALLY good chicken enchiladas. These will be added to the rotation, absolutely. Thanks, Cooking Light!

  • 3 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup fat free sour cream
  • 1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 8 (8-inch) flour tortillas (gluten free tortillas are fine, the big ivory teff wrap kind!)
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 1 (8-ounce) container fat free sour cream
  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle green taco sauce
  • Toppings: diced tomato, chopped avocado, chopped green onions, sliced ripe olives, chopped cilantro

Preparation

  1. Stir together first 5 ingredients. Spoon chicken mixture evenly over each tortilla, and roll up. Arrange in a lightly greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
  2. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. Stir together sour cream and taco sauce. Spoon over hot enchiladas, and sprinkle with toppings.

 

Enjoy!

Life lately

2014 October 5
by Laura

On the rare weekends when I have a moment off from work (bottom of the totem pole, wah), we’ve been trying to live it up, fall style.

Renn Fest: awesome. Turkey leg eaten, meade imbibed, lip prints read. Only the usual.

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My lip print reading was pure BS, but I enjoyed it when she said things that somewhat applied: I’m a “foodie on a diet,” I have a sharp and bitter tongue, I keep a lot of secrets for my job, I’m a great listener, need to get some sleep…

After Renn Fest we headed over to a pumpkin patch for some pick-your-own-pumpkin fun. Gourds everywhere! So basic fall white girl!

We enjoyed the Homestead Gardens and I restrained myself so much that I left with only this tiny little pumpkin.

 

This past weekend, we celebrated one of our near and dear’s 30th birthday winery style. Crisp fall air, wine, warm sunshine — check, check, check!

 

Has your fall been picture perfect? We slept with the windows open last night and it was the best night’s sleep I’ve gotten in months!

 

Childlessness

2014 September 19
by Laura

I found this article compiled by The Cut blog absolutely fascinating — it is 25 famous women’s quotes on why they never had or wanted children.

Although I fit in the “I knew that I wanted to be a mommy since I knew what a mommy was” camp, I have talked to friends and coworkers who were unsure, and who took that uncertainty to mean “no.” That makes sense to me. Everyone is different! Not everyone wants a dog, or a cat, or a child.

How unfair that we somehow make these women feel like they are alien or strange for making their own (very well-thought out, rational) choices. Woman does not equal mother, and mother does not equal woman.

I like Zooey’s response:

Is having children on your priority list?
“I’m not going to answer that question. I’m not mad at you for asking that question, but I’ve said it before: I don’t think people ask men those questions.” —Zooey Deschanel, Marie Claire, September 2013

Herbed pork chops with bean salad

2014 September 17
by Laura

I went out on a limb with this one, because it’s not something I would typically consider making. The flavor profile isn’t one I play with much in my kitchen, even though my new-found love for olives should definitely inspire me to cook with them more often.

These pork chops, from the new Cooking Light, paired specifically with the accompanying bean side dish, were delicious. They were somehow bright and tangy, with a very fresh flavor. Easy flavors that combined well—not too heavy, not too rich. Just simple. It felt like clean eating.

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I was skeptical about the instructions: cook the pork chops with just salt and pepper, and then place them on a platter that you’ve sprinkled with the herb mixture. The pork chops rest on the plate while soaking up the herb flavors, and it’s magical!

The bean salad is so refreshing with spinach, green onions, Castelvetrano olives, lemon, garlic, and parsley. This will definitely be a frequent meal for us this winter when we miss the flavors of spring!

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced sage
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • minced garlic to taste, divided
  • 4 (6-ounce) bone-in center-cut loin pork chops
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zet
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans unsalted cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 packed cup baby spinach leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 12 Castelvetrano olives, pitted and finely chopped (2 ounces)
  1. Combine 2 teaspoons oil, 2 tablespoons parsley, sage, vinegar, rosemary, and half of garlic on a large plate or serving platter; set aside.
  2. Sprinkle pork chops with 1/4 teaspoon pepper and salt. Place pork on cold pan coated with cooking spray; cook 4-5 minutes. Turn pork chops over; cook 3 minutes or until done. Transfer chops to serving platter; turn to coat in herb mixture. Let rest a few minutes. (Don’t overcook the pork chops!)
  3. Combine lemon rind, juice, remaining 2 teaspoons oil, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk. Add beans, remaining garlic, spinach, green onions, and olives; stir to combine. Serve with pork chops. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons parsley to garnish.

Bidding summer adieu

2014 September 16
by Laura

I didn’t want it to happen, and certainly not so soon into September. BUT, here we are, saying goodbye to summer.

We had a lovely weekend at the shore house in New Jersey (thanks again, Mom and Dad!) and crossed several things off our summer bucket list — miniature golfing, bike riding, crabbing, climbing a lighthouse.

(We actually had a physical bucket list this summer, and we loved crossing things off the list together. Sometimes you wake up on lazy Sundays thinking, “What should we do today?” and this list helped guide our weekends quite frequently!)

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The beach had that classic “September” look to it — a darker, wind-blown ocean with wispy clouds, long shadows, and stiff breezes.

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We went up to Barnegat Light and climbed the 217 steps to the view at the top.

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We ate linguine with clams, oysters, and drank a lot of coffee and wine.

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We said goodbye until next time, little house!

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So long, sweet summer!!