Sunday, March 30, 2008

A new tv!

We got a new tv! We'd been discussing this for awhile, and finally bit the bullet yesterday. We were lucky to have Kathleen and Lee come over yesterday to help move the old tv and to get our new one all set up.

We of coures bribed them with dinner and drinks!

I'm bummed that I am leaving for a business trip tomorrow as I haven't gotten much tv watching time in, but I know it will still be here when I return.

Meanwhile, Andy will have plenty to keep him busy now while I'm away...he can't wait to play "Flight Simulator" on the 57" screen! I hope he remembers to go to work :)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

But...does it really do that?!

In this month's issue of Real Simple magazine they have a write-up about a cool new product that's bound to please. For those of you with KitchenAid Mixers, you know one of the frustrating parts is having to stop frequently to scrape down the sides. Well, apparently there is this cool new attachment (not sold or made by KitchenAid, but apparently will fit on one) called the SideSwipe Spatula Mixer Blade. It has silicone "fins" attached to the paddle that are supposed to scrape the sides as it mixes and push the batter down into the bottom of the bowl.

So, does it really do that? At $24.95, those of you with "tilt-head" mixers can find out. I on the other hand will have to wait with the other "bowl-lift" mixers out there until that version is available.

I figure if
Real Simple is going to give it a mention in their magazine, then it must be pretty dependable, but I suppose I'll just have to wait to find out.

If anyone out there has it, let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Excuses, excuses...

The weather could not have been more perfect yesterday, so Andy and I took the opportunity to get in 9 holes of golf. Mark Twain once called golf, "a good walk spoiled." Well Mr. Twain, you certainly hit the nail on the head with that one.

It was a gorgeous day, and it was a great excuse to get out and see some of the blossoms on the trees, and walk about 2 1/2 miles, but let me tell you, while the scenery was pretty, the golf was ugly!

However, I'm not too concerned because I've got several really good excuses:

1) I just got my clubs re-gripped, it's bound to take time to get used to the new feel
2) After my clubs were re-gripped they were put back into my bag in a different order which caused some confusion at times, and so clearly my head was not 100% focused
3) Andy was playing well and it's a well known fact in our little family that if one of us is up, the other is down
4) The change of seasons (ok seriously, people use that as an excuse for lots of stuff, why can't I use it here?)
5) I'm playing with a colleague next week in Charleston, SC so I was clearly trying to save up my good shots
6) The greens had just been aerated, so putting really didn't count
7) It was a Wednesday, I always play better on Sundays, unlike Phil Mickelson
8) Did I mention the change of season?

Ok, so maybe these aren't very good excuses, but any golfer knows having a few excuses in your backpocket is just about the only way to make it through a sub-par round.

Here's hoping I play better the next time. If not, I'll simply enjoy the nice walk and try to make sure my pockets are stocked with a new set of excuses!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Time to make the switch...

Now that the days are longer and the temperatures are warmer, it means it is time for the semi-annual closet clean out! I am actually really looking forward to making the switch from my sweaters to my capris and golf attire. I know we still have chilly mornings and the possibility of cool days, but I think it is safe to say the wool and fall colors have served their time.

Martha would tell me that I should pack everything away in appropriate containers, with everything pressed and clean, but I'm lucky if I get everything folded nicely. I'll iron everything in the fall (which by the way, come autumn I'll be cursing myself for not putting things away more neatly, but I'll deal with that in 6 months.) Of course I suppose I probably said the same thing to myself in September when I put away my spring/summer clothes, so darn, I guess I'll be ironing tonight!!

Aside from getting things put away and other things pulled out, I also try to get rid of a lot of items. I try to follow the "if you haven't worn it in the last year, give it away" rule, but somehow I end of convincing myself that maybe I will give that top one more try next year...perhaps what I need to do is simply remind myself that it will be one less thing to iron come September! Andy is always a lot better about putting things in the give away pile, but on the other hand, sometimes he gets carried away and then in 6 months will ask me wear his grey sweater is, ha!

While this closet clean-out definitely falls in the "chore" category, I do get a lot of satisfaction out of straightening up my closet (always nice to start a season color coordinated) and pulling out the spring clothes feels a bit like shopping in that half the time I've forgotten about a certain top or skirt, so that makes this job bearable.

Of course I'm just now realizing that cleaning out closests is probably just about as fun as reading about it...oops! I'll try to do better tomorrow :)

Monday, March 24, 2008

A fabulous Easter...

Easter really popped up rather quickly this year. I had barely taken down my St. Patrick's Day flair, when I realized it was time to get out my Easter bunny and baskets. However quickly it might have sprung up on us, we still managed to have a really great day!

I decided to pop out of bed early to set up an Easter Egg Hunt for Andy. I know, sounds childish, but it was a lot of fun, and you could even see the excitement in Andy's eyes when he would come upon another hidden egg. Each egg was either stuffed with candy or little notes, one of which gave him a miriad of options for breakfast, (he decided on eggs, a fitting choice!)

After all 18 eggs were recovered, we enjoyed some mimosas and an eggceptional (sorry, I couldn't resist) breakfast. That evening we were expecting my family for Easter dinner, but before we started getting ready for that we decided to take a drive downtown to check out the cherry blossoms. I figured it wouldn't be very crowded and even though the trees are a few days from being at their peak, it was still a gorgeous setting and a great way to spend our Easter morning. We'll head back downtown next week to catch them in their full bloom.

We had decided to send everyone home with mini-Easter baskets filled with some chocolates and mini-sugar cookies in spring cut-outs. We had a lot of fun making the cookies the night before, but boy did that batter yield a TON of mini-cookies. We'll be eating little ducks and bunnies for the next month!
For Easter dinner we decided to try and recreate the menu/atmosphere from the Hotel Roanoke where we spent many Easter Sundays. For appetizers we had shrimp cocktail, assorted cheese and crackers, cucumber slices with smoke salmon and cream cheese, deviled eggs, and as a definite tribute to the Hotel Roanoke, a peanut soup. For the main course we did a lamb roast, scalloped potatoes with leeks, steamed asparagus, and a strawberry and spinach salad. We then finished it all off with carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Needless to say, no one went hungry!

All in all it was a fabulous day and we were fortunate enough to have sunny skies and mild temperatures, always a plus on Easter.

Friday, March 21, 2008

And so the "madness" ensues...

I have never liked basketball. Ask anyone who grew up with me or who knows me well now, and they'll tell you I hate playing this sport. Something about the squeaking of your shoes on the court and the fact that someone is trying to steal the ball from you is just not for me. I've also never been much of a fan of watching the game either. I always struggle when the score is 0-0 to find the meaning in watching from that point when you know at the very least, each team will most likely score 40+ points. I suppose since I never played, I can't appreciate the rules and moves and so forth, but still, give me football or baseball anyday over basketball. Well, that is except for in March.

I don't know if it's the gambling side of it, or just the thought that pretty much everyone in the country is tuned into this monumental sporting event, but I just love it! Perhaps that's why they call it March "Madness." Even as a child I always loved picking my teams and waking up each morning to see what I got right and where I went wrong. Of course, I think I have now participated in roughly 20 bracket contests and have yet to win, but don't worry, this will be my year!

Ok, probably it won't, but I am off to a great start! I only missed two games yesterday, one of which was a pick I made purely with my heart, I knew Mason didn't stand a chance against Notre Dame, but I just can't bring myself to route for the Irish. I believe that is actually a rule in the Hokie Handbook, honestly.

So good luck to all of you who are in pools (well, except for those of you who are in the same one as me) and here's hoping Memphis goes all the way!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wineries at Lake Anna

While at Lake Anna, Andy and I made two stops at local vineyards. Our first stop was Cooper Vineyard. We had never visited this winery before, but had heard great things. I must admit, it was quite a hike and without directions or an address, we were simply relying on those few and far between vineyard road signs. Happliy enough, we did make it and boy was the drive worth it.

This winery is rather small and they don't even have an official tasting room constructed yet, so the wine tasting is done in their home. We were a little intimidated at first, just barging into their home, but fortunately there was already a rather large crowd inside. The first few wines we tried were nothing too extraordinary, but that was before we got to the Noche Wine. The Noche Wine is a, get this, chocolate infused red wine! Oh my goodness, just the smell alone was enough to make your mouth water. I've certainly paired wine and chocolate before, but having it already done for you in a glass is to die for. Needless to say, we purchased a few bottles! They recommend serving on top of vanilla ice cream, or of course, just drinking it for dessert-Yum!

After we left Cooper Vineyard we then made the trek back towards the lake and stopped off at the Lake Anna Winery. We have been to this winery a few times before, but knew they had a few new wines out to try. We've always enjoyed their wines, but I think our favorite part about it are the people who work there. The vineyard is family owned (like most vineyards in Virginia are) and the two brothers who run the show are so friendly and outgoing, it makes for a great experience. Of course the tasty wine might also have something to do with it!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lake Anna Adventure, Part II

While it may appear that our weekend was soley built around Liddy getting her swim time in, we really did fit in a lot of other fun activities. To be honest, because they had predicted so much rain we went down with lot of "rainy day" activities planned, so while we still got a lot of those in, it was nice to get "sunshine" time in as well.

I had the goal of starting and finishing a book while we were there, and I'm happy to say I accomplished that. It was great getting to read on the porch with the sun shining. Those rocking chairs are fabulous! I also got halfway through my April "Martha" magazine, which for those of you who know me well know is always highlight.

We also went for a nice drive on Saturday to two different wineries (more on that later). The drive itself was great as we were able to have the windows down, the music pumping, and beautiful scenery. We were amazed to see that the Bradford Pear trees were starting to blossom!

One of our "rainy day" events had been to dye Easter eggs. We try to do this every year, and typically five minutes into it, we both lose interest, but for some reason this year the activity kept both of our interests the entire time. We have some funky and glittery eggs as proof! The only down side is we are both getting sick of eating various "hard boiled egg" recipes, and we still have about 18 eggs left to eat. Feel free to pass along recipe suggestions if you have them.

We also got in a few nice walks. We bypassed the actual hiking trails, as I refused to take off my flip flops! :)

While the weather was nice a warm during the day, it did tend to get rather cool at night, which made for a great excuse to have fires, though I have to admit, the first night we did crank up the AC as the fire was probably not necessary...but who can resist the ambiance!?

Andy and I also spent a lot of time discussing our summer. We hope to go down to the lake for an entire week, so it was fun making plans about that. Oh, and this time, we won't forget to bring Wally!

Lake Anna Adventures, Part I

We had a fabulous weekend at Lake Anna and I must say, even though it was a short trip, I am still having a hard time adjusting to being back in the "real world." I miss my morning coffee on the porch looking out onto the lake, somehow sipping my coffee staring at a computer just doesn't have the same affect. (shrug)

I suppose on the upside, I can now steal a few moments from my workday to relive parts of the trip. We ended up with beautiful weather, but alas, due to the forecasts of rain and chilly temps, we left the boat at home. However, I am convinced that had we brought Wally, we would have had rain, so everything worked out for the best! The sun was shining the whole time and we had temperatures near 70. I was able to live in my flip flops, which as you know, makes me a very happy person.

The first order of business after we got unpacked and settled in was to take Liddy for a swim. The minute she saw the water her tail was wagging furiously, she remembered this place and she knew from the moment we strapped her into her life vest that it was swimming time! Unfortunately, we neglected to bring a tennis ball for her, but sticks seemed to be a decent substitute.

She swam Friday evening until she was too tired to continue. Andy had a great time throwing sticks for her, while I sat on the porch in my rocking chair watching them. It was perfect!

Liddy also got to go for an early morning swim on Saturday, and again in the afternoon. By Saturday evening, she was zonked! Though had she had the option, I'm sure she'd have gone back for more on Sunday.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Lake Anna Bound

Today Andy and I are taking the day off of work (yay!) to head down to Lake Anna for the weekend. We haven't been down there for a weekend visit since last May, so this trip is long overdue.

We always stay at these great cabins in the state park. They have all the amenities of home, minus a tv, which we don't mind as it is a great excuse to just relax, read, and enjoy each other's company. I think my favorite part of the cabins are the rocking chairs on the covered porch. Even in the rain we can sit out there and look out onto the water, it's just gorgeous!

Liddy also loves going down there as swimming is one of her favorite things to do. Even though the water will be a bit chilly, I'm sure that won't stop her from taking a few dips this weekend. She also loves having a yard to run around in, something I'm afraid she doesn't have here at our townhouse. It is great to let her get all of her energy out, and boy does she come home exhausted!

We haven't decided yet if we'll bring along our boat, Wally, or not. They are calling for some warmer temperatures, but they are also calling for lots of rain. It would be Wally's first time out this season, so we aren't sure if it is worth the hassle or not. I think we'll change our minds at least 5 more times before we leave at 1:00.

Regardless, there are plenty of other fun things we plan to do this weekend, even if it does rain. I'll look forward to posting when we return on Sunday with lots of pictures and stories of our fun weekend at the lake.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Barnes & Noble...

Last night, Andy and I went to Barnes & Noble after dinner to pick up a few good reads for our upcoming weekend at Lake Anna. Andy went in with a good idea of what he was looking for, I, on the other hand, was going with the old "judge by the covers" standby.

I have been pretty terrible about my reading lately, in that I haven't been doing much of it. By the time I get to bed, I'm so exhausted that I read one page and I'm out. One page a day does not make for a quick read, surprisingly enough. I suppose when I've got a book that I'm really into, it makes it easier to either stay up later or to find time throughout the evening to read, but the issue seems to be finding a book that hooks me.

Over the holidays I started reading "P.S. I Love You." Boy was that a mistake. For those of you who are not familiar with either the book or the movie, it is about a woman whose husband dies but who had prepared all these love letters to be sent to her after his death. And yes, it is as depressing as it sounds. I barely made it through two chapters before I realized that this was not quite what I wanted to be reading, especially on a business trip away from my own husband.

I then decided to pick up "Atonement" at the airport. I'd heard great things about both the book and the movie, so figured I'd give the book a try first. I got further into this one, but still, I'm just not hooked.

So last night I purchased some old standbys, a Mary Higgens Clark and a James Patterson. I'm hoping I picked up two books that I haven't already read, though I must admit, I have certainly done so in the past (I can't be getting that old!). I know these books aren't going to make it on Oprah's book club, but I know they'll grab me from the get-go and I'll be finished with both before the weekend is over.

In the meantime, if anyone has any suggestions for some good page turners, I'd love to hear about them. I suppose I can't continue picking out books based on their covers and honestly, I think I've already contributed enough to James Patterson's yacht fund!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Terrible, horrible, (some good), very, bad day!

I have to admit, today was just not a good one. There were some redeeming factors, but honestly, for the most part it was pretty sub-standard.

For starters, this whole springing forward deal really messed me up. Andy and I stayed up later than usual and when the alarm went off at 5:01 (really 4:01) waking up just did not seem like a good option. So we both stayed in bed about an hour longer than usual, which isn't so bad, we still got out the door in time, but I was rushed getting ready and missed watching the news and other things I enjoy doing in the morning.

Already feeling a tad grumpy and also feeling the typical "case of the Mondays" things continued to go downhill. My fabulous, wonderful, irreplaceable coordinator, Karla, informed me today that she is moving back to Texas to pursue her MBA at the University of Houston, her last day will be April 18. Ever since she started a little over a year ago, I've always known this day would come, but boy was I hoping it would come after I'd already left! (ha!) I of course am thrilled for her, and wish her all the best, but she is leaving behind some HUGE shoes to fill and I am really scared at the prospect of trying to find someone to fill them. I know it will all work out, but for now I'm going to let myself be really depressed about it.

When I finally left the office, I was confronted by miserable traffic on the beltway. It took me close to two hours to get home. The good news here is that I still made it home in the daylight.

So now that I've whined and complained and dragged on about the "downers" of my day, I suppose I ought to re-focus on the good.

*I got to go for a nice walk at lunch
*I got to talk to Erica on the phone today
*I realized that having to re-hire someone means I've got an opportunity to bring in a fresh perspective to what we are trying to accomplish.
*It is still light out and it is 7:16
*Andy made dinner (something that occurs often but I never take for granted)
*There is still left-over birthday cake, so I get to drown my sorrows in CHOCOLATE! :)

There, now I feel better!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A birthday celebration...

My dad's birthday is tomorrow, March 10, so last night we got the whole family together to celebrate. I was put in charge of making a cake and helping my mom cook dinner (something she only has to do once a year now that my dad is the one who stays at home while she goes to work.) For a cake, I decided to try Martha's yellow butter cake recipe and her dark chocolate icing. The cake was actually pretty easy to do, unlike her white cakes where you have to deal with egg whites and such. The cake turned out denser than I had expected, but it was still flavorful and yummy. The icing was actually the most time consuming part. I had to finely chop a pound of semi-sweet chocolate, then melt it, then let it cool, then beat it into butter and sugar. It was extremely rich, but went well with the cake. I topped it all off with Hershey Kisses, my dad's favorite!

The party itself turned out great. We all met up at my parent's house. I grilled up some steaks (which I fear got a tad bit charred, but we are blaming that on my dad's grill cleaning abilities), my mom made slow cooked green beans (my sister's favorite), mashed potato casserole (one of my dad's specialties, so I have to admit, we let him make that himself), green salad, and fresh french bread. We also enjoyed some great wine from Nappa, and of course, topped the evening off with my "Kisses for the birthday Dad" cake!

Happy birthday Pops!! Here's to many many more! :)