Tuesday, August 28, 2012

the wednesday night assassin squad

Last Friday culminated this summer's Intensive Flying Workshop at trapeze school! I was able to make it to our performance just in time. My flight from Dallas was delayed but I arrived at school with 5 minutes to prep. Sending out a HUGE thank you to my classmates for checking my flight status and greeting me with big smiles and high fives when I snuck in the back door. Especially want to call-out a few folks...

  1. Grace for finding me a belt,
  2. Rosy for applying my mask under extreme pressure, and 
  3. Natalie for walking me through our entrance routine!
It was such a pleasure meeting you all and flying with you this summer. We totally rocked it last Friday!

And here is a video of my half-turn!!

packing for a/c not the forecast

Last week I had the pleasure of flying to Dallas, TX to coach 400 of the newest practitioners at my firm. Most of these Analysts are recent college grads, others have previous work experience, and a few already have Masters degrees. The diversity of backgrounds and experiences ultimately leads to a successful and engaging learning experience but it also reminded me that their exposure to office cultures was limited, at best.

As a coach at this week-long training I knew to expect cold temperatures because I had been fooled too many times. Rather than packing for the forecast outside, I planned for the blasting air-conditioning inside. This turned out to be a successful method as I usually didn't step outside until I was enjoying dinner on the patio or while en route to the bar after the sun had set. This is a common trap for women to be conscious of when traveling for business, so I've included some tips to keep in mind when packing for your next conference!

  • Mix and Match!
    • Multiple layers take up more space in your suitcase and chances are that space is precious because you have a carry on. Choose 2-3 jackets or cardigans that coordinate with multiple outfits to save space.
    • It's okay to wear the same pair of pants or the same skirt twice. Change up the top you are pairing it with and nobody will ever notice!
  • Prepare for the A/C not the Forecast
    • I suggest wearing pants! Not only is it cold in the rooms but I am usually worked to the bone and so tired that I have minimal interest and time to commit to shaving. Yes, I know that's not something y'all want to hear but it's true. If I can skip a day of shaving my legs after getting only 4 hours of sleep, I am grateful! 
    • Pack pantyhose or stockings. This can go against your mindset for summer months - but remember that you're not outside in the heat, you are inside in a cold conference room! If you don't feel comfortable in pantyhose, please refer to the bullet above :)
  • Fashion or Function?
    • Shoes take up precious space in your suitcase as well. Pack some pairs that are versatile enough to wear day and night. You'll also want to think about an overall color scheme so that you can wear your shoes with multiple work outfits throughout the week.
    • Don't forget that most conference centers are big... you'll cover a lot of distance between your room, the ballroom, the restaurant, and more! If you are wearing heels consider a thicker heel or a strap around your ankle. And don't forget those band-aids.
  • Consider your Audience
    • If you will be socializing with your colleagues, peers, and supervisors outside of the sessions, put a little thought into what is and what is not appropriate to wear. The shirt that slips off your shoulders may not be a great idea. 
Do you have any other suggestions for packing for a work trip??

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Restaurant Week at RIS

As Google has already told you this morning, today is Julia Child's 100th birthday. Okay, if she were alive it would have been her 100th birthday, in reality she was born 100 years ago today. To my very pleasant surprise, the RIS Restaurant Week menu was dedicated to Julia Child.
RIS' restaurant week menu - "All Things Julia"
RIS is located in Foggy Bottom, has been on my radar for quite some time, and definitely met or exceeded every expectation that I had. First and foremost I have to say that I was wildly impressed that the servers did not clear any plates until Ross and I were both done eating. That is the way fine dining should be, but unfortunately even this is a piece etiquette experienced few and far between. It was so nice to watch the servers keep checking and noticing that I was not quite done, they didn't even ask, they relied on their powers of observation and I have to give RIS, their management, and their waiters two big thumbs up for continuing this fine tradition.

On to the food... it was so good that I forgot to take pictures! I got one photo of my entree after I had already started eating it, but beyond that nothing! I started with the mussels... "Moules Mariniere"... that were to die for! They were served in a creamy, savory white sauce with butter, shallots, and parsley. After I ate the mussels I gingerly dipped my toast in the sauce to sop it all up!

My entree was a great-sized portion, and for Restaurant Week it was an exceptionally sized portion. I ordered the roasted chicken with fries and glazed carrots. I ate every bite despite my very full stomach. It was so tasty - the chicken was warm and juicy. The carrots were sweet and tender. And the fries were crispy until they came in contact with the sauce on the plate - which was okay by me! I was so full it almost hurt after I ate my entree, but alas I had a third course to endure.
Poulet Frites
Ross was kind enough to split the Almond Vacherin with me. It was an almond meringue served with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream on top, with lightly glazed peaches too! Heavenly. We finished every bite on this plate as well.

As you could tell from my post (and clean plates) I thoroughly enjoyed our experience at RIS last night. Their regular menu, which Ross ordered off of, looked very tempting as well! I think we'll be coming back to RIS for special occasions in the future. What wasn't to love, after-all?

I would also like to give a shout out to my trapeze instructor, Mandy! Today is also her birthday :) Her dedication to trapeze, her contagious tenacity, and her warm and loving spirit help so many athletes every day get better and better on the trapeze. I'm so grateful she's been on my journey at the rig and I wish her all the happiness, excitement, and wonderfulness that come with birthdays! See you tonight :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

running? me?

Have I ever mentioned that I used to loathe running? That runners high or increase in endorphins people experience NEVER used to happen to me. But then something changed... I made a schedule and stuck to it. I saw improvement in my endurance and distance and I saw strength throughout my body which translated to success in trapeze! Suddenly I was getting excited to go out! So far, so good but the weather is bearable and  I'm concerned what might happen to my running habits come November... December... you get the picture ;-)

Saturday afternoon afforded me some time to pick up my running training again. You see, a little over two weeks ago I strained my hamstring while water skiing. I thought it would be better after a week and when it wasn't I adopted an ice, stretch, and Icy Hot routine. This has been very helpful and provided me enough strength and flexibility to start running again. My ToughMudder race is four weeks from last Saturday so I have no time to miss a run, given my furthest distance to date is 5 miles and my race is nearly 12! That is why I have gone on runs the past three days; 2.12 miles, 4.10 miles, and 3.46 miles, respectively. My goal is to run six days per week and build myself up to 10-11 miles before the race. Because of the burn an exercise like an 8-10 mile run has on your body, I purchased a waist belt. I opted for the Nathan Speed 2R which has two "nutrition flasks", 8 oz. each for water, gatorade, or carbo-gel drinks. Since Ross' sister was kind enough to share some Shot Bloks with me - I'll give them a try first and rinse them down with water once I'm 60 minutes into a run.
For those of you who may not be familiar, Shot Bloks are a product by CLIF that provides electrolytes, caffeine, and calories when your body needs it most. Each sleeve has 6 cubes in it, and I'm planning to consume just 3 on my run. From what Ross' sister told me, some people have averse reactions to these products so the next few weeks are going to be trial and error. I will keep you all posted on products that work or don't work well with me. Side note, I'm going to have to seriously shift my sleep schedule if I plan to get a 90 minute run in before work!

In other running news, this is probably too much information, and you might want to skip this paragraph if you have a queasy stomach. I'm fairly sure the toe box of my running shoes is too narrow. In early July I noticed my pointer/second toenails turning dark purple as if I had a black and blue underneath. This was after I had developed big blisters on the tip of these toes! It was not a fun transformation to watch and I was warned by other runners that yes, my toenail would soon fall off. This got me very concerned. I was afraid it was going to hurt and my toe would be ultra sensitive without a nail. Plus, it's the summer and would eliminate the option of wearing sandals. Well, my toenail on my left foot finally fell off last week! And to my surprise there was a little toenail underneath, although it's still black and blue. My right toenail has not fallen off yet, though I expect it to happen within the next week. So, when I changed out my polish last night I opted for a dark purple... thankfully letting me wear sandals and hiding my toe trauma.

Since I've done three days of running in a row my legs are quite fatigued. Both calves are extremely sore and  I am limping a bit when I get up. The plan for today is to stay very hydrated! Hopefully I can get back out on the road for about 4 miles tomorrow morning.

kitchen musings

This past weekend was one of the only weekends this summer which Ross and I were staying in town and had no formal plans. Weekends like these are rare and it's important to savor every moment within them. I usually like to indulge my guilty pleasures and take care of chores or errands I may have put off for a while.

Just last week one of my college roommates and her husband moved to our neighborhood! We were going to enjoy the Friday Evening Concert series at the Yards Park; however, Mother Nature had other plans. Given the downpours all last Friday we opted to have our wine and cheese indoors! Including a really tasty Sage Derby cheese Ross and I sampled during a wine tasting at Aspen Dale Winery last weekend and I just happened to spot at Safeway! Oddly, I just noticed that Sage Derby has its own Wikipedia page... apparently this cheese is more common than I gave it credit for. After some vino, bread and cheese we headed over to Truckeroo for some late night dinner. (Have you been to Truckeroo? It's a day of food trucks gathered at the Fairgrounds on Half Street next to Nationals Stadium!)

Saturday morning began with errands. I had dry cleaning to drop off, a pile of clothing to donate and another pile for resale. So we drove across the city to my consignment shop and on to Goodwill. From there we headed to the supermarket for our weeks worth of grocery shopping. (Do you like to do weekly shopping trips? I try to avoid week night trips to the store.) Given that it is Restaurant Week in DC and our two-year anniversary is coming up, we have plans to eat out twice! We're headed to RIS tomorrow night with another couple and Kinkeads in Foggy Bottom on Friday. The last time we were at Kinkeads, Restaurant Week last year, we were pleasantly surprised! They had their entire menu on the Restaurant Week special; three courses for $35! And the food is great.
Mushroom & Ricotta Ravioli by Logan's Kitchen
Saturday night I tried out a recipe I had seen on pinterest, Mushroom & Ricotta Ravioli (pictured above). I had some serious issues with my pasta dough and since I've had good and bad experiences with different recipes, I'm thinking about doing a whole post on successful homemade pasta dough - what do you think, would you be interested in reading that?

The dough I made created about 25-30 ravioli and I had a lot of filling left over so I made a new dough on Sunday which yielded approximately the same number. We now have a lot of frozen ravioli in the freezer for easy weeknight dinners :) Note, the dough I made on Sunday was from the recipe link above, although I halved it. I had to add quite a bit of water on top of the eggs to get it the right consistency but it was the very first time I had an all-around positive experience with pasta dough. Also - it had to sit in the fridge for a couple of hours so I combined the ingredients in the early afternoon and assembled the extra ravioli after dinner.

Saturday night Ross and I enjoyed the last of our apple pie ingredients from the apple apple pies I made the weekend prior. I put the dough in a little dish, popped in the apples/cinnamon/etc., and created a lattice with extra dough on top. It heated up in 25 minutes for us to enjoy while watching the second Sherlock Holmes movie!

Earlier on Saturday, after my run, I put together a smoothie recipe that I had found on pinterest. It has a great combination of ingredients from yogurt, to coconut water, oatmeal, frozen and fresh fruit! The recipe made about two cups (see picture above) worth and I only had one. I plan on making this each morning when I get back from my runs, but perhaps cutting the recipe down. (Note, this is not enough for breakfast. By 10:30 on Monday morning I was famished and broke into my lunch box for some snacks. I doubt my sandwich will make it past 11:30!) (Second note, sandwich made it to 11:15. It's 11:30 and my lunchbox has only a peach left in it.)

A lot of Sunday was spent in the kitchen, which is REALLY okay by me. It all started with whole wheat blueberry pancakes. I used this recipe from all recipes but I have mixed feelings about it. Despite the fact that I added extra milk, the batter was really thick and I should have used butter or olive oil to coat the pan instead of PAM. Oh well, I made homemade whole wheat blueberry pancakes at 10 am on a Sunday and that's saying something!
I like to add a drizzle of white chocolate as a design element. It also helps distinguish flavors if you keep the design consistent!
I also made two dozen homemade chocolates. Half are filled with caramel and pretzels and the other half are filled with peanut butter. They're for a surprise party later this week! I was actually able to incorporate the steps of this recipe throughout my day which was a huge help because I only have molds for 12 candies and they require a lot of setting time in the refrigerator.

For dinner we had steak sandwiches made with skirt steak on a long roll (toasted), topped with red onion and spinach and spread with hot horseradish. They were really really tasty! Also, I love skirt steak because it's usually so big you can get two meals out of it (hello Thursday night dinner). On the side I made some mashed potatoes from potatoes I had left over from last week. I looked all over for recipe inspiration and ended up following my own vibe. The potatoes were not as soft as I needed them to be so I added them to a pot with a half inch of water, put the burner on low, and let that water simmer, soften the potatoes, and evaporate out! I mashed the potatoes right in that pot so that the water would continue evaporating as they got mashed and wouldn't be watery. To the potatoes I added a little bit of butter, some garlic & herb cream cheese, a big crushed clove of garlic, and some skim milk. Oh they were looking good!! I transferred them into a small casserole dish and popped them into the oven for 30 minutes at 350. But before I did that... I added a few pats of butter on top and sprinkled seasoned breadcrumbs.

We ate surprisingly early... as in the 7 pm hour and I was able to complete my ravioli by 8:30 which meant I had some time to devote to painting my fingers and toes before True Blood came on at 9. I chose Guchi Muchi Puchi for my fingers (soft pink) and Damsel in a Dress (dark metallic purple) for my toes, both by Essie. We finished our Sunday menu with some homemade fudgsicles I put together last week with nutella and chocolate almond milk. So delish!!

Friday, August 10, 2012

wedding planning 101

The guide to wedding planning is the actual "planning". Having an idea of how you want your day to look and feel is an important part of getting started. Luckily I had been thinking a lot about my wedding before Ross popped the question, so I had a list of venues to consider and a pinterest board to consult!
I adore this centerpiece and would love to have something like this in the foyer of my venue.
Having support is also a big help, this is where my Mom stepped in. Before Ross and I left for Cabo, my Mom and I sat down to talk through the places for consideration. While we were on vacation she called our list and got the important details:

  1. Available dates
  2. Cost per head (including open bar, service charges, and tip!)
  3. What options does the menu include? (For example, if the cocktail hour only includes tables and no passed around hors d'ouevres, I would expect to see a significantly cheaper cost.)
  4. Are linens included? Are the gold chiavari chairs extra? (The ones that look like bamboo.)
  5. Do you have extra fees for valet service?
These are all really important pieces of information to collect in the beginning so that you are aware of all the costs and none come out of the woodwork to surprise you down the road. It helps to write these questions down and track the answers for each venue you talk to. It will make the selection process much easier! So, thanks to my Mom we were able to narrow our list down pretty quickly!
A classic and simple twist that got QUITE the reaction on pinterest!!
By the end of that week we had picked our venue and started choosing menu items!! We also reserved the band (including a harp for the ceremony!). And later booked our photographer from our engagement session - more to come on our engagement session soon!
I hope to recreate a photo similar to this on our wedding day!
At this point my one "walking down the aisle" pinterest board expanded into quite a collection. This is helping me keep things organized, especially as I start approaching all of the details. For example, I know for sure that I want to get peach and gray striped paper straws, have childhood pictures of us on the doors to girls and boys room, and put together welcome bags that represent us and New Jersey!
I am totally swooning over this bridesmaid dress!
For your browsing pleasure, here are links to my pinterest boards:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

food for thought

While uploading my iPhone photos this week I realized that I have been cooking up quite a storm over the past few months and it's well worth sharing with you all. Most of these recipes were sourced via Pinterest and I've provided links, when possible, so you can try them out for yourselves!


Asparagus Gruyere Tart

This delicious asparagus tart was brought to my attention on Cupcakes and Cashmere. Emily on C&C was inspired via Martha Stewart. Oh how lovely (and delicious) sharing on the internet can be!

No recipe to link here... just wanted to share this photograph of some lobster tails being pan fried! We popped them into some pasta with sauce, added red pepper flakes and VOILA! dinner. Quick, easy, and tasty.
Chocolate Dipped Frozen Banana Bites

I made the chocolate dipped frozen banana bites as a surprise dessert mid-week. As soon as I came across the recipe I was instantly inspired and knew that I already had everything I needed at home. I enjoyed making this treat almost as much as Ross enjoyed eating it :)

For my toppings I went with crushed Reese's peanut butter cups and peanuts. Also, I added some peanut butter to the melted chocolate so it was a whole chocolate, peanuty, banana-y experience!!
 No recipe for this one either. This is a quick salad thrown together with mixed greens, pears, walnuts, and blue cheese. I think I see some pieces of roasted chicken in there too.

Likely the dressing is a homemade version of a mustard-balsamic vinaigrette that I learned four years ago and am still addicted to. The ingredients include; extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh lemon juice, honey, dijon mustard, minced garlic, salt and pepper. It's a crowd-pleaser... every time!
 Meatball Parm Subs!

These were HEAVENLY. Not exactly what you would expect to eat in the Spring in DC, but hey - work with what you got on a weeknight.

The prep for this recipe was quite minimal as we already had the ingredients on hand. Thanks to my Dad for a nearly-constant supply of baguettes from Balthazar Bakery! We had a group of meatballs hanging out in the freezer, which I'm fairly sure were a product of this recipe. And the sauce was left over from the lasagna recipe below. Top with some mozzarella and parmesan, and pop that baby under the broiler for a few minutes! Oh, I'm craving one now.
 Barbecue Chicken Pizza

This used to be one of my favorite dishes at California Pizza Kitchen. (That was before my honey wheat crust, I can top a salad on my pizza phase!) And I'm not quite sure where the inspiration for this came, but I used The Pioneer Woman's recipe for guidance. Thankfully the local Harris Teeter supermarket carries whole wheat pizza dough, so we can stretch it out ourselves. We also had some rotisserie chicken on hand and used that to toss with barbecue sauce for easy preparation.
 Lasagna Bolognese

The Smitten Kitchen blog was just teasing me with this recipe for months! So, finally I decided to give it a try. I made the bolognese sauce and the bechamel base  from scratch. I must say, I did not miss the ricotta cheese in my lasagna, not one bit.

The crust on this was delicious. Leftovers certainly didn't last long. And it was quite pleasing to my "meticulous nature" that this was not a sloppy lasagna sliding all over the plate.
 No Sugar Breakfast Bars

As I started training for my Tough Mudder and going on longer morning runs, I knew that I would need more fuel before heading out the door. I needed a quick source of calories that would not make me sick during a run. Or, something that I could eat quickly when I got back and readied for work. These breakfast bars were GREAT! It was a healthy combination of some of my favorite ingredients; oatmeal, raisins, and peanut butter.
Linzer Tart Cookies

I bought my linzer tart cookie cutter during a recent trip to Michael's arts and crafts. It came with six different cutouts for the center shape; heart, circle, diamond, star, triangle, and I cannot remember the last. It sat around for a little while before I had time to use it, but boy am I glad I did!

These little guys were fantastic! I used a Strawberry Rhubarb jam that I had been given for a Christmas gift. And I decided to swap the almonds in the recipe with hazelnuts - a very happy substitution, indeed. Everybody loved these cookies, and my Mom even said they tasted better than the ones from Balthazar Bakery!

Glorious, glorious food! Ross and I received the pasta maker attachment to our KitchenAid mixer as our very first engagement present. (Thank you, again, Dayna and Ken!) It was such an exciting day to open it up and give it a try. And let me tell you, I went for the fences and hit it out of the park! 

My stepsister told me all about this recipe her friends had made last New Years Even and I was instantly hooked. I knew this would be the first recipe I tried with my new gadget. Rolling out the pasta dough was fun, Ross helped as the sheets became longer and longer. 

The outcome was really amazing. The yolk was still runny, as you can see in the photo to the right. And the browned butter sauce with sage leaves was unlike any other sauce I've had. This is definitely a repeater.

Another quick pasta story to share...

I also used the fettuccine attachment for a go at light-wheat pasta. Wheat pasta was exactly the way I remembered it - quite like cardboard. I don't recommend you try it. But now that I have the ingredients, I feel like I have an endless supply of inspiration to use on this gadget, and if one recipe doesn't work out, hopefully the next one will!

Next up on the engagement gift excursions; popsicles! My mom was kind enough to fulfill my summer's desire to make popsicle after popsicle. Last weekend I also made a fudgsicle of sorts with Nutella and chocolate almond milk. It was out of this world! With popsicles, the possibilities are endless and I'm excited to try new ones before the summer is done. 

 Homemade Cheez-Its

These little snacks were devoured almost immediately! They didn't even last a week. The Smitten Kitchen recipe calls them goldfish, but I upped the cheese and sprinkled them with sea salt before cooking - and I feel like they resembled Cheez Its in the end. Whatever they resembled, they were T-A-S-T-Y.
Crunchy Coconut Chicken Tenders

These tasty guys were a great twist on homemade chicken fingers (one of Ross' favorite meals!). I also made the apricot chili sauce to go with them. Plus, this recipe makes enough to store them in a freezer so you can pop some in the oven when you have zero time for dinner prep!

Unfortunately I don't have my own pictures yet but last weekend I also put together some apple apple pies for dessert! They are apple pies served in an apple with a pie crust latticed on top. Heaven in a bowl, on a plate, and on a spoon. Oh they will definitely be coming back to my kitchen again soon!!

Where is your favorite place to find inspiration for recipes? I love using the internet and searching keywords. And as much as I say that I will repeat meals, there are endless possibilities and I love trying new recipes so repeats don't always happen as frequently as expected. Which, I guess is a good thing.

Monday, August 6, 2012

bling bling

As soon as Ross proposed that engagement ring hardly ever left my finger! Keep in mind, three days later we were leaving for vacation in Cabo, Mexico and I made the executive decision to bring it along. It was just too pretty to leave behind :)

The ring survived Mexico (crashing waves and rip tides included) but it was time to visit a jeweler. You see, the ring was 60 years old and Ross' grandmother was an OB-GYN, so she was constantly taking her rings on and off to deliver little babies into this word. :) This lead to a slow wearing-down of the setting over time. We knew we had to get it re-set and Ross wanted me to be actively involved in that process.

We planned to take two weeks off for vacation, which meant we had the entire second week to dedicate to wedding planning in New Jersey! Two of these days were slotted for trips into New York City for ring shopping and consultations. It was SO much fun - each time we went over the George Washington Bridge I was reminded how much I love and miss New York City.

After meeting with our jeweler, we quickly realized a custom setting would have to be created. So we left the ring with him to get the whole profile (4 C's... Color, Cut, Clarity, Carat... come on girls, you know what I'm talking about). I knew almost immediately I wanted pear-shaped side stones to go with the circular center stone. I usually feel that three stone rings look like anniversary rings, rather than engagement rings so I wanted to stay away from three circles. With the tapered end of a pear, it kept the setting really clean and classic. I was also excited about have a unique setting, rather than a trendy setting or a typical ring! Two days later we hopped back into NYC to pick out the side stones. He brought two sizes with him, guess which ones I picked? Okay, in all honesty, the bigger ones just suited the center stone better. I promise!

The next week and a half without my ring was torture. And of course the day that it showed up, I get an email at 9:15 am alerting me a FedEx had arrived at my front desk. Naturally, I metro'd back home to pick it up and then ventured back to the office. (Not that I accomplished anything that day... I had a sparkly diamond flashing in my eyes every time I typed!)

"BEFORE" -- Engagement ring, pre-reset, with my Shellac manicure for Cabo!

Spec sent to me from jeweler... sans the "fangs"!

"AFTER" -- About twenty seconds after I took it out of the box!!  
Side-view of the setting.
I absolutely LOVE my ring!! It's exciting to have a piece of Ross' family passed on and to be able to tailor it and make it unique. Every day that I look at my ring, I'm reminded how lucky I am to have the most wonderful man in the world as my fiance. Knowing I get to spend the rest of my life with my best friend is SO exciting.

So now the big question is, what should I get for my wedding band? At first I thought a plain platinum band. But now that I have this beautiful diamond ring, I have an urging feeling inside to make it even more sparkly. However, the responsible and pragmatic side reminds me that I can't wear a diamond ring while I'm taking part in any physical or dirty activity (such as tubing down a river or gardening - both of which I have done this summer). I also want to wear my wedding ring when we travel - diamonds are attractive to pick pockets and thieves... another thing to consider. What do you think would work well as a wedding band?

A potential contender I made up on a Post-It note! Two pears, three round stones.