Friday, January 31, 2014

Pea "Guacamole"

Pea... Guac? 

I know it sounds strange, but this dip is actually quite good. I served it to our community group and had them guess what was inside - most people guessed avocados, no one guessed peas! 

Like you, I had second thoughts about mixing peas into a dip, but they were cheap (83 cents for a bag) and there are LOTS of recipes using them in this way so I went for it. 

You'll Need:
10-12 oz frozen peas, defrosted (I just ran under warm water for a few seconds)
lime juice
pinch of cayenne
olive oil
salt and pepper
(red onion would be good too, and I thought about adding a little pesto instead of cilantro but someone in our group has a peanut allergy and I didn't know if the pine nuts in pesto acted the same way as peanuts!)

Mix up in a food processor, put in the fridge until ready to serve. Everything I put in was to taste, and I added the cayenne at the end for a slight kick. Since the flavor of peas is surprisingly strong, taste as you go. I served with tortilla chips.

The nice thing about this, other than how cheap it is, is that unlike guac, it doesn't brown. It is VERY green which can be a little alarming, but it's good!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Getting the Most Out of Cleveland

Over the last few months, I've been really convicted and challenged to be intentional in our time here in Cleveland. Whether it's getting out of the house and exploring the things the greater Cleveland area has to offer or putting myself out there to get to know the ladies at our church better, I'm feeling the need to dig as deep as I can while we are still here. We don't know what the future holds, but it seems that our time here could very well be quite short, so the absence of time is pressing this intentionality more than it would if this was the place we thought we'd be living forever. So I'm praying that I will be more thoughtful with my time. I don't think it's good to be gone every night of the week and to ALWAYS ALWAYS have plans, but I know that I'll regret not getting the most out of friendships here if I just stay in and watch a movie.

Deanna and Lana, friends of mine, are helping me with this by introducing me to places I've wanted to go and haven't. At Community Group one week they noticed that I'd said "Oh, I've never been/eaten there!" one too many times, so Deanna took it upon herself to enforce my getting out there and I'm thankful! We've made trips to a few Cleveland places already and have plans to continue.

Happy Dog
The first weekend, we went to Happy Dog, which is a hot dog place with SO MANY options. I've heard good things but hadn't experienced it and finally did! You get a paper with a bunch of topping options and just check off what you want on your hot dog, paying a flat $5. My hot dog had garlic aioli, bacon, a fried egg, caramelized onions, a pickle and feta cheese - and mine wasn't even unique! Happy Dog had Froot Loops, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti-o's and other crazy options. Carson didn't go, but it was only $5, so I think I'll have to introduce him.

West Side Market
The following week, we went to the West Side Market, which I've heard SO many things about in our time here. It's similar to Pike's Place Market in Seattle, but only open a few days a week. It's huge and there are vendors selling fresh produce, meat, popcorn, cheese, bread and all kinds of other great things. I spent $15 and came home with SO MUCH STUFF. It was fun to look around and be surrounded by crowds of people. We will be back!

Playhouse Square
AND did you know that Cleveland has the second largest theatre district in the world (second to New York)? I certainly didn't, but since we learned that, we've been wanting to go to plays here. Friends in our community group work for the Cleveland Playhouse so they offered free tickets to the group. Lana and I decided to go down there on a Wednesday night to see Yentl, a play about a Jewish girl who wants to study Jewish law but can't because she's a girl, so she pretends she's a boy and goes anyway. It was really interesting!

(I took this before the show - before they said not to take pictures)

It was a beautiful building and I wish I'd brought my good camera.

So pretty at night!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Painted Knife Block

I was once browsing Pinterest one day and saw an idea I loved. Someone had painted their knife block and put a vinyl monogram decal on it. It looked easy enough so I went for it. The tutorial I saw was hand painted, but to make it even easier, I used a can of spray paint (that I already had from painting a lamp). I wiped down my knife block with soap and water, dried it off and took it into the basement for a few coats of paint.

Hours later, I put the knives back in (carefully, since I didn't let it sit for 24 hours like I probably should have) and admired the easiest thing I'd ever done. I didn't use a vinyl decal because I A) Didn't have one and B) The metal logo plate serves as a visual interest like the monogram would have done.

It's holding up really well (it's been a week), but if it decides not to, I'll just attack it with another coat of paint! 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Stream of Consciousness: Life

January and February feel very long to me. I think it's the endless cold and snow and the fact that few events happen in our lives in these two months. We have a few things with friends and Superbowl plans but other than that it's life and nothing else, which isn't bad at all.

It was so refreshing to have Carson around over Christmas break that now feels bittersweet having him back to the grind. For awhile there he was dropping me off at work (and I was enjoying having my own personal chauffeur and windshield scraper) and picking me up and that was nice because even though he'd hit the books or take the car to his office to study, it was nice to see each other several times during the day. We've spent lots of time apart in our relationship and since Carson's been in grad school it feels normal to have just one night a week together. One thing that is new is that we are having a consistent night together for date night, which has never happened. We have Community Group on Mondays, Carson has class till 9:30pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and then he works at night on Friday, Saturday and sometimes Sunday. Guess how often I make dinner? That's right, not often.

I have Poison Oak again, which is just very strange and mysterious. My time outside has been limited to hurrying from the car to the house to work to Target or the grocery store. I haven't been pulling weeds or so much as touching a tool outside. I wore the Tshirt I wore when I first got Poison Oak in September, but I've washed and worn it probably five or six times since with no problems. And the weirdest part to me is that the Poison Oak is on my ribcage, which is not usually a place that gets such things unless you're doing yard work in a sports bra, which I wasn't. So that's been the most exciting thing lately. It was a flare up and has been healing really fast (about a week and a half in and it's mostly faded, while last time it took over two months to finally go away) with the application of calamine and super hot showers.

Because it's been cold, and so cold that our heater is overworking itself and still won't get past 63 degrees (which feels downright cold in our poor drafty house), I've been spending 90% of my time huddled under or on top of the electric blanket on our bed. Once again, that thing is the best thing that ever happened to a cold weather hater like me.

I've been trying to keep myself busy on these chilly days, so I've organized the upstairs landing (aka my craft area), moved the DVDs up there and done a load of laundry a day to give myself something to actually do. It's far to cold to think about running (my lungs feel like they'll explode when it's cold) so I've been running up and down our stairs and doing exercise DVDs. Carson on the other hand ran home the other night wearing shorts in NEGATIVE FOUR DEGREE weather.

I went through my old backup CDs from high school last week and found some serious blackmail... mostly blackmail for myself, since my braces days were long and unattractive. But it was fun to relive memories and to see how my friends and I dressed and even to look through the pictures and realize that there is a lot that I don't remember, which is saying a lot if you know me.

One thing I've been doing this year and hope I'll continue doing is to organize birthday cards for the month a few weeks before the month starts and have them addressed and ready to send out ON TIME. There's a post office at John Carroll so I just send them with Carson and he mails them for me. So far my plan is going well and it's January 23rd so that's 23/365 days of success.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Homemade Thin Mints

I'll admit: I was as skeptical as you are about this treat. Regardless, the ingredients were simple and I had most of them, so I decided to go for it. 
I had a cookie exchange for work and didn't feel like making sugar cookies again, so I decided that I would do these for that and hope for the best. It turns out: these taste like thin mints! They are the right size, have the right taste and the right texture. I was astonished. Carson is in love with them. 

I got the recipe from here originally.
Makes... well, that's hard to say. The recipe I followed said 18. But she used more chocolate than I did, so it depends on that. 
You're going to need:
box of Ritz crackers 
3/4 tsp Peppermint extract 
cup of semisweet chocolate chips
a bit of shortening (for melting chocolate)

First, line a baking sheet with wax paper. Then, melt your chocolate. I thought the shortening added a better texture, so I used it. Add your extract carefully and mix.

I then tried to carefully dip the cracker in the chocolate without making a mess and it proved impossible, so instead of using a fork, I used my fingers to coat the crackers. It was a huge mess, but it was also the only way I could do this. Perhaps if I had used more shortening it would have thinned the chocolate and been better, so try that.

Put them on the cookie sheet and then put that in the refrigerator until you're ready to enjoy. I really was surprised by how good these are, and they aren't $5 for a tiny box or seasonal! (Additionally, other pictures I've seen were much prettier. Mine weren't.)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Broiled Steak and Roasted Parmesan Green Beans

"Let's make dinner for date night!" we said. 
"I can make chicken in the crockpot!" said she.
"That sounds great" said he. 
"Oops, I forgot" said she. 
"We're already out so let's go to the store", said we.
"Hm, red meat sounds good. We have green beans at home... let's figure out how to make a steak without using the grill"

And so they did, and it was the most wonderful dinner ever. The end. 

We've never made steak at home before. Both of us like red meat, but we don't make it often because of price. We do however have a weekly date night budget, so we spent money from that budget for our steak (we had no idea what we were doing in the meat section so we hoped for the best).

We set the table (sparkling grape juice leftover from NYE - we're fancy)

Played the Louis Armstrong Pandora channel.

For our steak: Carson coated it in garlic, rosemary, steak sauce, pepper and Worcestershire sauce and threw it in a bag to marinate for a couple minute. Then we put it in the broiler on a roasting pan for 3.5 minutes on either side. We like our steak pink in the middle, and this was perfect. Carson claims he's never had a better steak and I'm going to agree with him - it was good! I've heard good things about putting butter on top with some garlic so that might be our next recipe.

And for the green beans. We chopped off the ends, chopped up some mushrooms to go with, threw some Parmesan on there, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper and threw them in the oven at 375 for ten minutes. I left them in there a bit longer so they would be slightly overdone. We've discovered that we LOVE our veggies roasted. Better flavor... I hate boiled vegetables.

End result. YUM. This could be a meal all it's own.

Date night success. A great meal for probably 1/4 of the price of a restaurant.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winter Break

After almost a month of winter break, Carson goes back to school this week. He's in his last semester of grad school, so I'll be lucky if I ever see him! He's done a lot of studying on his own time this break, but it was great to have time with him to relax, too. My schedule is never the same, so over the break we sometimes had mornings together, but we mostly got afternoons and evenings, plus those super special times where Carson took me on that two-minute drive to work at 5am... not sure that counts as quality time though. 

On the last day of school, we went to Sonic to celebrate, just like we did for the first day of school (we love Sonic and wish it were as close to us as it was in Spokane!)

I looked through the pictures I have from his break, and few of them are of things we did... since I don't take pictures when we watch movies or go to Target. 

One thing Carson did get to do on break though? 

He got a bad cold/sort-of-a-stomach-bug (he didn't throw up but he did feel bad) after we got back from Pennsylvania, which meant that he slept on the couch to avoid waking me up in the middle of the night. After he felt better, he got sick again, so he's gotten some quality napping time in. We spent New Year's Day just relaxing, and I know you can't tell from the pictures, but he felt pretty crappy on New Year's Eve.

We also ate. This masterpiece is from Melt. It's a macaroni and cheese grilled cheese sandwich, Melt's special for the month of December. Friends of ours raved about it, so we picked it up one Sunday and brought it home to share... good thing too, because that's a LOT of cheese. They have the special one day each July for a "Christmas in July" special too.

Oh, and we both got new slippers and PJs for Christmas (technically, mine are from the after-Christmas sale rack), so the break time has allowed for a lot of time wearing fleecey pajamas and warm slippers.

Monday, January 13, 2014


What have we been doing since the year began? Freezing. 
We knew that last winter was considered normal or mild to these Ohioans, and when it snowed before Halloween we had suspicions about the amount of snow we'd get this year. Someone told me that we have exceeded last winter's total snowfall, and I'm inclined to believe them. It just won't stop! Thankfully, we're prepared for the cold weather with coats and new snow boots (we decided to budget for those back in October and have never regretted our decision) and electric blankets (best Christmas 2012 present ever - thanks Nana!). Still, it's been chilly and icy and wet. 

We accumulated a couple of feet in this snowfall... more came the next day but I was amazed at how far it got on Carson.

He's bending his knees for this picture (he had me take it to trick my Southern family members), but still. There is a little divot in our backyard where the snow gets extra deep.

The next day... after the porch was shoveled

I was trying to walk where Carson had walked the night before... and I couldn't get out there without snow getting into the tops of my boots (that's the fuzzy thing in this picture)

Poor Larson the Civic, nearly buried. The car, by the way, has been doing alright in the snow. We have all-weather tires and they seem to be handling well. I've been a chicken, so Carson has been driving me to work. I walked home one day (it was 4 degrees) and couldn't feel my face, so since then, he's been my chauffeur. 

After the snow melted a little bit, we had a few days of warmth and then... Polar Vortex. The name truly sounds ridiculous, but let me tell you, it was COLD. Never have I experienced such cold, and hopefully never again!
This was at 4pm on Monday

And this was Monday night. I took a million screenshots of the weather because I couldn't believe it. FIFTY degrees below zero with windchill.  

I wasn't outside very much so I didn't take real pictures, but the icicles I saw were impressive, sometimes stretching from someone's roof to the ground. There wasn't too much snow, but the wind and ice were certainly abundant. Schools were closed, as were some businesses, but work wasn't canceled for me. It was COLD working that day, but we have lots of hot drink options to keep us warm. One of my coworkers walked to work on Tuesday and his eyelashes were nothing but icicles when he came in the door.
I wore my coat on my breaks. Very cold in our back room.

Our furnace at home struggled to combat the heat outside, so we cuddled under blankets, while tacking up towels and blankets around our windows and doors. One of the windows on our door gets a little drafty (there's a crack in the glass) so we used some Press and Seal wrap on it and that actually worked well! We were thankful to HAVE power! I know just a few people who went without for a couple of days and can't even imagine.

On Wednesday, it warmed up to 20 degrees. You wouldn't believe how warm 20 degree weather feels when you've been living below zero for a few days. Everyone's mood at work was improved and relaxed. On Thursday I had an appointment and was so warm that even though it was probably 25 degrees outside, I went in flats instead of boots and didn't regret it. 

This has been a sponsored advertisement for the Cleveland Tourism Board. Anyone for a visit? 
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