Saturday, December 13, 2008

Day Trip: New York City

When I was younger, I developed a real fascination with NYC. I have no idea where it came from (Felicity-maybe?), but it was so serious that I actually applied to (and was accepted to) NYU. I would have gone there had I not decided between following the man who was to be my husband to ASU, or my friends to Purdue. However, up to this day, I have never set foot in the city. We finally remedied that situation.

We took a shopping trip today.

New York City is about 135 miles from our house. It is actually a quick jump away; about two hours (and $8) on a swiftly moving Jersey turnpike put us within sight of the city. Brian was very disappointed that I didn't scream when I saw the Empire State Building (as I did when we saw the Hollywood sign), but that has never been such an icon for me.  But seeing the city for the first time was memorable.

We then exited before the London Tunnel (the only bad traffic we got into) and parked in Hoboken, New Jersey (a very-very cute little neighborhood). We paid $7.50 each way to take an 8 min ferry ride across the Hudson River, and we were finally on Manhattan soil (well, concrete).  A bus/train would have been cheaper, but not as scenic.

For once in my life I wore comfortable shoes, and it was for very good reason. We walked many miles across the town, mostly window shopping throughout the borough. We saw so much in such a short time-Times Square, Broadway, all the high-end stores on 5th Ave, the tree in Rockefeller Center, and the horse-and-buggy carriage rides in Central Park. It was so crowded, but it didn't really bother me that much.

Interesting sights and sounds included: the smell of roasting nuts on every other street corner, the guy in Central Park who offered us a map and illegal substances, and the very tall "woman" with a surprisingly deep voice working at Macy's.

One of the interesting parts of the holiday season is all of the elaborate store window displays that all the stores put up.

*I was very proud of my husband, when he visited all 10 floors of Macy's (both buildings). Without complaining!*

Walking back toward the dock, we spotted this little place in the Garment District. Of course it intrigued Brian, so we ate their for dinner. It was pretty good.

We took this picture back across the river in New Jersey, with the Empire State Building right behind us. We will definitely be back to take in more sights... the Guggenheim, MET, Statue of Liberty, and seeing a play on Broadway are on my list for next time.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Anniversary Homemade Pizza

On Dec. 2, 2000, Brian and I enjoyed our first date (pizza and a movie). For years we have acknowledged this anniversary, but that has waned somewhat since we have a new wedding anniversary. However, we normally still remember it.  This year, for the first time, I actually missed it, while Brian remembered it. Once I realized it was our anniversary, we decided to recreate part of our first date. We made a homemade pizza-one of our hobbies of late. So far, Brian has put the following things on various pizzas (though not all at the same time): artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, carrots, corn, onions, and black olives, along with various meats.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas Tree 2008

Newark Winterfest 2008

On Friday, we headed downtown to the acclaimed "Winterfest" of Newark. It was actually quite cute, and though we missed the tree lighting, it was a very festive atmosphere with ice carvings, carolers, and free cookies. There is also a walk/run race, which we may train to do next year. It'd be a great way to warm up in December. All in all, the town felt very much like Star's Hollow (fictional setting of Gilmore Girls).

We also enjoyed a meal on Main Street, at one of our favorite (pricey) places. Iron Hill Brewery is fabulous. I normally order the chicken fried chicken.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

This Thanksgiving was the first one we spent in Indiana in a few years. Well, Indiana and Ohio. It was a very quick and whirlwind trip.

First, we woke up early on Thanksgiving, and headed for Toledo. We drove diagonally across Pennsylvania, and then across northern Ohio. It was a very pleasant drive, hardly any traffic, and though there was snow on the ground, none was on the road. I was impressed when we passed Penn State's football stadium-a huge fortress in the middle of nowhere.


We then spent the day with my husband's paternal side, before traveling on home to Indiana.

On Black Friday, my sister and I went out to make a purchase, and then did a little more shopping around Huntington. It really wasn't very crowded at all. Then, another of my sisters met us to see Twilight (the movie). The one had saw the movie already, and I made the other read part of the book on the drive there. They were each so loud during the movie-asking questions and making comments-I was about to kill them-but it was still fun to see the movie together.

That night we had dinner with my maternal side. After the delicious meal we participated in many rounds of corn-hole tournament. Apparently, my grandpa saw the game recently at a festival and decided to build his own. A couple years ago we were racing Matchbox cars on a track he built-we are a very competitive family. I was unofficially the worst player throughout the first few rounds. I did finally start doing good, and actually got three or four in the hole in a row.

We then headed back to Ohio, this time down toward Columbus, for my husband's maternal side. The game at this family was Quiddler-a word forming game based on cards. It was kind of a cross between Scrabble and Gin. We then traveled back to Delaware, stopping overnight in Morgantown, WV. The drive back was much slower, with rain, fog in the mountains, and more traffic. We did make one stop, trying one of the many wineries, Frederick Cellars. It was an okay place, nothing really stood out to me though. We did get the following:

-Chardonay "A lightly-oaked Chardonnay with delicate notes of pineapple. A nice compliment to just about everything."

-Rose 2007 "A dry Rose in the Rhone tradition; summer in a botthe with hints of strawberry. PAirs with fresh fruit, mild cheeses and grilled salmon."

-Merlot " From Annapolis, a smooth, full-bodied Merlot with flavors of blueberry and blackberry; pairs exceptionally well with hearty or spicy foods.

Monday, December 1, 2008

My New Classroom

I have been at my new school for almost a month now. My job is a little different.  I basically have 6 classes, with 5-11 kids in a class. I work with them on math, trying to close gaps they have in math understanding.

$500 Dent

We really just have bad luck with cars... this happened in a one-lane construction zone, where something very large and hard was bouncing around the road. We had to rent a car to get it fixed since the paint had to dry for a couple days.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Caffe Gelato

The first place we ever dined in Delaware was the restaurant Caffe Gelato. Brian's then-future-advisor took us there when we were visiting the campus. I really enjoyed the food, but it is a little too pricey to go there often. So we waited until my birthday, and finally went there again. They have a lot of pasta, as any good Italian restaurant, and are known for their wine selection. I have ordered the same entree both times:
An eight-ounce filet mignon, served with a roasted shallot and green peppercorn demi-glace, pancetta mashed potatoes, sauteed fine herbs and baby carrots.
I highly recommend Cafe G.

This post wouldn't be complete without mentioning the dessert. Of course they have great gelato, but I never have any room left to enjoy dessert.

Book Recommendation: Twilight Part 2... 3... and 4

So, for the last week I have basically been wrapped up in my blankets in my room, escaping the crisp air and rain outside. Though I did drag myself out of bed to go to work and celebrate my birthday, I spent the rest of the time reading. Right on through the Twilight series. :) I'm talking serious reading-skipping meals, phone off, staying up really late, even missing the Top Chef premiere.

I know it sounds like a silly series, vampires and all, and it is really meant for adolescents, but I really just enjoyed escaping to Forks and Bella's life. I haven't been that wrapped up in a series since I started reading the Harry Potter series (when most the books were already out). Or when I started reading Jodi Picoult books. It is just so invigorating to read a really addictive book-it makes me sad for people who don't like to read.

I also really appreciated the "small world" I entered when I read her acknowledgement at the back of book 3. She thanks Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, which happened to be my very favorite bookstore right next to Wildflower. I bought many, many good books there.

My husband is so glad I'm done reading though, so I can start cooking for him again.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Book Recommendation: Twilight

For the last few years, I have seen the same black covered book in the bookstores, and in students hands. I glanced at the back cover once, and it didn't make me want to read the book at all. I thought it wouldn't be very good.

After a friend recommended it to me, I finally started reading the book Twilight. This was yesterday afternoon. I finished it today. I think that is enough said.

It was definitely a hard book to put down. There are three more books already in the series, and I can't decide whether to start reading them, or wait until I am on a school break. I'm afraid I'll start reading them and not be able to put my book down to do work.

Now I'm super excited to see the movie come out in a few days.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Day Trip: Lancaster, PA

The hubby and I had a lovely drive Saturday. Our destination was Lancaster, PA, specifically for a friend's husband's art sale.
After a few errands, our first stop was at Bravo Pizza. There are only two locations of this restaurant, both in Pennsylvania. We were looking for a quick place, and this was perfect for that. You can simply pick a slice from a large variety of pizzas, and they will put it in the brick oven and have it to you within minutes. It reminded me of a place in Tempe called Slices. Definetly a nice little pizzeria.
Next, driving through a lot of little towns, we stopped at one called Gap. Here we entered  The Town Clock Cheese Shoppe, a surprisingly charming destination.  By simply "putting your hand in," you get a taste of whatever cheese any customer is trying. We tried Havarti, Swiss, cheddar, and mango cheeses. We came away with a Swiss and cheddar, as well as some cheese curds-which reminded me of squeaky cheese. It will definitely get our repeat business.

We then finally arrived at Josh Heim's pottery sale. He had lots of beautiful pieces, and we bought a few, most notably the platter below. He is also making a cylindrical vase for us in the same style as this one (for dips).

Chocolate Walnut Breakfast Bread

When I bought new bread pans a few weeks ago, this recipe was inside the pan. It is delicious! If you like chocolate chip cookies, you will like this. We like to eat this bread for dessert or breakfast.

Ingredients for 2 loaves:

4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups milk
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups chocolate morsels, divided
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Grease two large loaf pans.
  3. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Combine eggs, milk, and vegetable oil in a medium bowl.
  5. Add wet ingredients to the flour mixture; mix just until moistened.
  6. Stir in 1 1/2 cups morsels and nuts.
  7. Spoon into prepared loaf pans.
  8. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  9. Cool in pans for 10 minutes.
  10. Remove from pans.
  11. Put the remaining chocolate morsels in a baggie, and into a bowl of hot tap water and set it on top of the stove near where the oven vents.
  12. When melted, squeeze chocolate to drizzle over bread. (if you are creative, you can make neat designs like my husband)

Wildflower vs. Panera Bread

When Jefferson Pointe first went up in Fort Wayne, IN, I was in love with the restaurant Panera Bread. It has awesome soup, and nice cafe sandwiches. However, when I moved to Arizona, they didn't have any Panera Bread restaurants. I mourned for a couple of years, and I would hit up Panera anytime I was back within range.

Then, I wondered upon a cafe in Arizona called Wildflower Bread Company. It reminded me of Panera, but was even better (especially the sandwiches). Wildflower became my favorite quick restaurant (conveniently located by my favorite bookstore, Changing Hands).

Now that we have moved again, I am slightly saddened by the fact that we are back to where we started.  Delaware has Panera Bread, but no Wildflower.  Funny how things change.

Thai Curry

After we saw a chef make a Thai curry at Coast Day, Brian and I decided to make our own variation. Brian doesn't like shrimp, so we tried this with both chicken and beef. It is a good spicy meal to make, but does require a few harder-to-find ingredients. I ordered these from a quick online market when I couldn't find them at my local store. Brian recommends that you not lick your fingers after touching the curry paste.

1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoon vegetable oil, divided
2 pounds beef or chicken strips
1 pinch sugar
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup sliced onion
1 tablespoon Thai greet curry paste
1 (14-oz) can coconut milk
1 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 cup petite-cut diced tomatoes
6 cups hot, cooked jasmine rice
Combine 2 teaspoons oils with beef/chicken and season lightly with salt, sugar, and red pepper flakes.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook meat in skillet until browned, in two batches if necessary.
Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in now empty skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; stir fry until soft and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add curry paste, stir about 1 minute. Add coconut milk, broth, fish sauce, and sugar; bring to a simmer. Add tomatoes and simmer 2 minutes. Add meat and cook another minute. Serve over hot, cooked jasmine rice.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Delaware Book Festival

Sunday we went to the Delaware Book Festival. The festival was quite a bit smaller than Arizona's, and still had some kinks to work out (food lines, book stores lines), but it was still a nice time. It was located in Dover, near the state capital, which is actually quite beautiful. I was most excited to meet Marc Brown, author of the Arthur books, and Jon Scieszka, one of my favorite authors. He is especially interested in getting guys to love reading, and has written the following: The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, Math Curse, Squids Will be Squids, Science Verse, and Summer Reading is Killing Me! Scieszka (rhymes with Fresca) was very entertaining-as are his books.

Here is a list of other book festivals:
National Book Festival Washington DC: (WE MISSED IT! Apparently this was in September)
Arizona Book Festival Phoenix, AZ (Undetermined date)
Free Library Festival: Philadelphia, PA (April 18-19)

My New Job

I have started working again! I have found a job at a middle school as a math interventionist. My position will include working with groups (7-11 kids) simply to improve their math skills. Check out my school at A. G. Waters.

Movie Recommendations: The Duchess & Changeling

I have recently watched both the Duchess staring Kiera Knightley, and Changeling staring Angelina Jolie. Both movies were based on true stories of two very different, yet very similar women. The Duchess is based on the life of Georgiana Cavendish, born in 1757, and though a very long movie, it was extremely captivating and emotional. The same could be said about Changeling, based on the story of Christine Johnson in 1928. It actually carried two of the same themes as the first movie:  of motherhood, and the role of women in history.

I highly recommend either movie-both tearjerkers, which will stay in your mind for a long time after the viewing.

Shannon's Sweet Potato & Sausage Soup

I got the idea to make a sausage and sweet potato soup a few weeks ago, but could not find a good recipe. I pretty much came up with this one on my own, adding spices that my husband normally likes with sweet potatoes. I'm actually not a big sweet potato fan, but I really like this soup. Feel free to change it up.

1 lb. pork sausage (I use my families own butchered pork)
1 large onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, cut into 1/4 inch slices
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cloves

In a large soup pot, break up sausage and cook until browned, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Transfer sausage to paper towels to drain. Drain excess oil, but leave a couple tablespoons in the pot. Add onions and garlic and cook until translucent, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and cook until beginning to soften, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Add broth, brown sugar, and cloves; bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Using potato masher, mash some of potatoes in pot. Add browned sausage to soup. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among bowls and serve.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Great Fall Food Ideas

We have had to use our oven a lot lately to keep our apartment warm! Here are a few of the treats we've been making.
Butternut Squash Soup, Autumn Ham, and Molasses Wheat Bread

Banana-Chocolate Nut Bread
Gemelli Pasta with Ham, Peas, and Carrots

Lamb Stew with Irish Soda Bread

Au gratin Potato Casserole

Dates with Goat Cheese and Strawberry Glaze

Slow Roasted Lamb with Mashed Potatoes and Caper Gravy

Acorn Squash

Butter Pecan Cake

Gorgonzola Meatballs with Pasta Shells

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hickory Run State Park, Poconos

On Oct. 10-12, we spent a chilly weekend camping in Northeastern PA. After a short 1 1/2-2 hour drive, we arrived at Hickory Run State Park. (Near Stanton-not as bad as Biden makes it out to be.) The drive was beautiful, and the road right up to the park was a canopy of perfectly Autumn colored leaves.
Top 6 things:
-cooking over the campfire (s'mores!)

-hopping around the boulder field

-hiking the trails

-exploring the Lehigh River

-taking in Autumn colors for the first time in years

-relaxing in the chilled air

I make a white chili at home a lot, and took it on the road with us. It was easy enough to cook outside (in relative darkness), and just as delicious.  I pre-measured out the spices and just packed all the ingredients ready to throw into the pot. This is from the Taste of Home cookbook.
1 pound chicken breasts, cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cans (15 ½ oz each) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
14 ounces chicken broth
8 ounces chopped green chilies
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
½ cup heavy whipping cream

In a large saucepan, saute chicken, onion and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add the beans, broth, chilies and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in sour cream and cream. Serve immediately.

When we were leaving, we tried to stay off the turnpike to see a little more of the area. We eventually had to get back on the highway, but we stumbled through the enchanting town of Jim Thorpe (right in the middle of a town festival). We definitely have plans to return (perhaps by train), and will be sure to stop at a great ice cream/coffee shop-I'm not sure of the name, but it was right beside the Subway.  It was the best ice cream I have had in a while (even better than Cold Stone).