Apr 6, 2013

Life Caught Up With Me

So.  I'm sure everyone has noticed that my posts have been declining in frequency recently.  Truth be told, I need a break!  I have a new job, new horse to ride and get to know, and a new town to explore, I have a lot on my plate right now with all these changes.  Luckily, they're all positive changes, and I hope I have the framework for a happy life in North Jersey.  I just have to take some time to get settled in to this new routine!

That being said, I have really enjoyed blogging, so I plan to take a month off and then hopefully pick back up where I left off.  I appreciate everyone who is following along...it's been fun!  I hope to see everyone in May!

Here's one more super cute Murphy picture to send you off with!  

Mar 21, 2013

I Saw the Sun

Wow do I have a lot of catching up to do...almost two weeks worth!  On the docket for today's post:
  • The Time I Went to Florida and Saw the Elusive Sun (that's right, it does exist!)
  • The Time Murphy Decided to Give Me a Heart Attack
  • The Time I Cooked a Bunch of Stuff and Didn't Share it on My Blog
Between going away, starting my new job, and worrying about Murphy, I've had a lot going on.  Hence the long delay between my last post! 

Let's start off with the Florida trip, since I'm sure everyone is super sick of the snow, and really wants to look at pictures of someone else's trip to the land of palm trees and sun (jealous, anyone?)


So last Thursday, I hopped on a plane and flew down to St. Petersburg to visit my long lost high school friend, Justine.  And I just barely made it, because my flight took off only a couple of hours before the snow started in New Jersey!  Justine and I spent the night chatting while munching on finger foods and sipping wine.  It was so good to catch up after 2 years apart!  I also finally got to meet her boyfriend of 2 1/2 years (and make sure he wasn't a creep).  

Friday we started off the morning with brunch in downtown St. Petersburg and then spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the shops and sampling the local gelato YUM.  I really enjoyed the assortment of fun shops and boutiques, especially Savory Spice Shop and Kalamazoo Olive Company (of course my two favorites would be food-related).  

These pelicans were checking out the scene on the Pier 
in downtown St. Pete

Old friends!  As in, we're old now.

Saturday Justine and I checked out the local Renaissance Fair that was in town for the month (I have to say, it's not usually my thing, but I wanted to be a good sport!).  I did enjoy the jousting performance, mostly because there were horses.  We ended the day at a beach bar to grab some drinks and appetizers and a beach walk, although it was a bit chilly!

Sunday was finally warm enough for the beach!  Justine and I packed up and headed down to the beach with some snacks and spent the day relaxing in the sun.  Unfortunately, the water was about 60 degrees.  Too cold for swimming, even for me.  

Pre-sunburn at the beach.  

After soaking up several hours of rays, we got a late lunch at another beach bar (I sampled the grouper, which was fantastic), and then walked around the cute shops at John's Pass (where I picked up a souvenir for BearFace).  

And THEN it was time for our evening at The Melting Pot!  I have been wanting to eat at a Melting Pot for months, ever since I learned that there was such a thing as a fondue restaurant.  And it was definitely worth every penny!  Justine's boyfriend was originally supposed to accompany us, but a change of plans left the two of us on our own.  I'm pretty sure the restaurant staff thought we were a couple, because we were asked what the special occasion was about 4 times.  So it definitely is a more romantic setting... but either way, you should check out the website and look for one near you!

That's what I'm talking about...a big pot of melted cheese.

Here's the cool part...you get to cook your own dinner in the pot!
I chose the Seafood Trio.  Yum. 

And to top it off...a pot of melted chocolate for dessert.

Monday Justine had to work for a while, and I spent a few hours at the beach relaxing.  She left work with just enough time for us to get lunch and have our nails done before she had to drop me off at the airport.  I was happy to get home and see my wiggly boxer and BearFace, but it was sad to leave my old friend behind! (And also the warm weather...) 

And now, about the time Murphy gave me a heart attack.  

It all started Wednesday night.  When I took him out to pee before bedtime, I noticed that he was limping, but wasn't too concerned because he does have trouble with his knee sometimes.  But I did start to feel concerned when he was also limping on one of his front legs the next morning, and sporting his best pouty face (which isn't too hard for a boxer).  I brought him to work with me on Friday to test for Lyme disease, which I was convinced he had.  But no!  The test came back negative.  We put him on some doggie Aspirin and glucosamine, and hoped that would do the trick.  Unfortunately, nothing is ever easy with my dog, cute as he may be.  

By Friday night, I was REALLY getting concerned, and Murphy seemed to be getting worse and worse.  He looked like a little old man hobbling around!  It was hard to tell where he was hurting, but I suspected his back, since he was very hunched and did not want to bend down to his food bowl on Saturday morning.  I decided to send out his blood to the lab while at work on Saturday and wait for the results on Monday.  By the time I got home in the afternoon, he was still worse...trembling, hunched, droopy-eyed, and breaking my heart with his pathetic face. 

Ok, this picture was post-crisis.  But still, look at that face!  
It's pathetic even when he feels fine, imagine when he doesn't!

So this is when over-protective and slightly hypochondriac/paranoid Mom took over the sane part of my brain.  My conclusion?  MY DOG IS DYING.  SO, my options were: spend all weekend worrying until the bloodwork comes back Monday, or drive 2 hours back to CT to see Dr. Matz (my previous boss).  Of course, I chose to drive the 2 hours.  Not that I don't trust my new boss, but Dr. Matz is a special breed of veterinarian.  So Murph and I spent the rest of my Saturday night at the vet, trying to determine where he hurt.  And he was not telling.  We eventually decided to take x-rays, which showed some degenerative changes of his spine (kind of arthritis-like), but still did not really explain the way he was acting.  We finally settled on starting him on antibiotics, just in case he had some kind of tick-borne infection that wasn't showing up yet.  I took him back to my parents' house for the night, where he was lavished with grandparent-ly attention and sympathy.  He didn't even want to play with Ruby :(  

And then, on Sunday, a miracle happened.  The antibiotics seemed to have kicked in and he was wiggling all over the place!  Now, this seemed to support the theory that he did have an infection, so I was convinced that his bloodwork would show that.  False.  Like I said, nothing is easy with him, and the bloodwork came back perfect.  However, he seems to be getting better each day, and is back to his goofy self, although there still is no answer as to what happened.  I can only hope that when we finish the course of antibiotics, he is still feeling good!  Either way, it does not change the fact that he does have degenerative changes as a 3 year old, so it will be something we have to deal with as he gets older. 

Back to snuggling with Dad.  And sporting demon eyes. 

The lesson of this long story is: It seriously pays to work for a vet.  On top of major employee discounts, I have the attention and services of veterinarians at my finger tips!  The downfall of working for a vet, however, is that I know too much.  When something like this happens, my mind instantly goes to all the terrible things that he could have (i.e. MY DOG IS DYING).  My new theory is that Murphy was faking!  He knew that he was due for a bath, and figured this would be a good way to avoid it.  And also get some new orthopedic beds out of it. 

And lastly, I cooked some stuff.   

Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala

I originally got this recipe here, and modified it for the crockpot.  Basically, I just put everything in the crockpot and then turned it on low for 7 hours (the chicken breasts I used were still frozen.  If you use thawed chicken breasts, I would try low for 4-5 hours).  Since I am finally working again, I've been relying on my crockpot for dinner on my late work nights...it's so nice to come home to dinner ready to be eaten!  I also doubled the recipe so we would have leftovers for lunch and dinner the next night as well.  I served the dish with some brown basmati rice.  YUM

Spicy Turkey Lettuce Cups 

I got this recipe from a cook book I have, but can't find it online!  

3 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp dry sherry
1/4 cup water
1 lb ground turkey meat
1 red bell pepper, diced
5 scallions, sliced thin
1 tbsp Asian chili-garlic sauce
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 head Bibb lettuce, leave separated and left whole (I used romaine...Bibb lettuce is another one of 
          things I can never find in the store)
1/4 cup chopped peanuts (optional)
  1. Whisk oyster sauce, sherry, and water in a bowl.
  2. Cook turkey meat in skillet over medium-high heat until just cooked through, 3-5 minutes. Remove from pan, leaving fat from turkey in pan.
  3. Add pepper and scallions to pan and cook about 3 minutes over medium-high heat until pepper softens. 
  4. Push pepper and scallions to edge of pan, and add chili-garlic sauce and ginger to center of pan.  Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  
  5. Add cooked turkey and oyster sauce mixture to pan and cook until thickened, about 1 minute. 
  6. Spoon meat mixture into lettuce cups and sprinkle with peanuts.  

This picture flatly refused to rotate, no matter how
many times I tried.  Oh well. 

Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup

Once again, I converted this one for my crockpot.  I tossed everything in there (except the spinach), cooked on low for 6 hours, then mashed up the sweet potatoes and added the spinach just before eating.  I was afraid it would lose some flavor because I wasn't browning the chorizo and onions, but it came out just fine.  BearFace and I loved it!  If you do have time to brown them before tossing them into the crockpot, I think it would add some extra flavor, but it is still tasty without.

It seems like cheating when it comes out so yummy with so little work!

And that's all folks.  I'm finally more or less caught up, and hopefully nothing catastrophic will happen to throw me off course again.  I'm off to do some errands, chores, and prep work for the upcoming weekend...BearFace and I are entertaining some CT friends in our new place for the first time on Saturday!  

Mar 6, 2013

Rejoining the World

A quick correction before I get started.  In one of my recent posts, I recommended a video my friend Jenny put together of her horse, Molson, and his kitty friend, Stripey.  I checked it the other day and realized I copied the wrong link, so here is the correct one:  Moo and Stripey .  Sorry for the mistake!

So things are starting to look up here in Sussex County!
  • As of Monday, I am officially employed.  I interviewed at a nearby vet hospital last week, and was offered a position there as a full time tech. It is a HUGE relief to know that I will have a regular paycheck again! Time to put down the giant weight I was carrying on my shoulders and breathe a sigh of relief. 
  • I found a horse to lease!  Haven't been on a horse since January 31st, and I am definitely in major withdrawal (just ask BearFace. I am much nicer when I am riding regularly). I did some googling and found a horse up for lease in nearby NY. I will be meeting Chase and his owner in a week or so, and hopefully we will hit it off!  He is boarded at a 100 acre farm with access to miles of trails and fields (we all know how much I love a good gallop). And yes, Murphy is allowed there, too!  Kind of sounds like my all-time favorite place in CT, Ayer Mountain Farm.  You can be sure we will be back on the trails in no time. 
  • Murphy has made some new friends. We recently discovered our town's local dog park, located a convenient 5 minutes from our house.  He has been playing with a few Great Danes, a Rottweiler, and a couple of labs every evening when the weather is good!  
  • I'M GOING TO FLORIDA!!!  That's right, be jealous.  I'm leaving tomorrow afternoon and flying down to St. Petersburg to visit one of my long lost school friends, Justine!  We first became friends in 8th grade, and have remained close through high school and college.  A lot has changed since the days of sleepovers, summers by her pool, and working together at my neighbor's store. I am beyond excited to catch up with her...we've only been able to see each other briefly in the past 3 years (HOPEFULLY this storm will not cause my flight to be cancelled, or Mother Nature and I will have a serious issue on our hands).

Back field of AMF, looking towards the barn.  
Million dollar view, and oh so much galloping space.

Now that we're all caught up on my life, I'm hoping to be blogging a bit more regularly once I start my new job and can have a normal schedule.  I tend to get a little lost with too much free time (as in, I forget what day of the week it is...). 

I do have one recipe to share!  BearFace and I took a quick trip to CT this weekend, where we both caught up with friends and family. I made this delicious and dairy-free appetizer to bring to Sarah Towle's housewarming party on Saturday night. I was a little worried that it wouldn't go over well being a cheesehead pizza, but it got great reviews and was devoured within 15 minutes! 

Mushroom Pesto Pizza  (I originally got this idea here, then did some modifications of my own)

1 15 ounce refrigerated pizza dough
2 cups crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup canned artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, sliced in thin strips
1 jar basil pesto 
Olive oil
Salt and pepper 
1 tsp garlic, minced
  1. Place pan in oven and preheat to 500 degrees. 
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat, then add onions, garlic and mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste, and continue to sauté for about 10 minutes. Mushrooms should be tender, not mushy. 
  3. Roll out pizza dough on floured surface to fit pan, then spread pesto on a thin layer to cover pizza. Poke dough liberally with a fork.
  4. Spread mushrooms over pesto. They should completely cover pesto. 
  5. Top with tomatoes and artichoke hearts. 
  6. Bake for 12 minutes. 
Since I wanted it to be hot at the party, I put the pizza together at my parents house and then baked it at Sarah's. Unfortunately her oven is from the 60's and might potentially be the first oven ever made. Needless to say, the temperature was a little off and ended up burning my tomatoes.  I just picked them off and no one knew any better!

This thing was a work of ART before the oven ate it!

 Aside from getting to see Sarah and some other UConn barn friends, I also got to meet up with Rachel, Jen, and Caitlin!  I haven't seen any of them in a while, so I was really glad we got to catch up.  Of course Murphy and I made sure to spend time with my parents and their dog Ruby, too. Murphy definitely misses her, but was happy to catch up on his napping when he got home. 

And now I'm off to finish laundry and packing for my trip!  Crossing my fingers that winter storm Saturn won't get in my way...

Feb 27, 2013

My Dog is a Creep

Murphy and I have been spending a lot of time together.  A lot.  Of time.  Other than the fact that he is extremely lazy, I have also noticed that he is a creep.  Some might call him a stalker.  

He creeps on me while I'm brushing my teeth...

And while I'm blowdrying my hair.

While I'm eating lunch...

And while I'm blogging!

He creeps on me when I'm in my car...

And when I'm watching TV.

When I'm in the kitchen cooking dinner...

He EVEN creeps on other dogs in our yard!

Sometimes I have to leave the house just to get away from his unwavering stare. 

In other news, last night I almost burned the house down.  Well, not really.  But it did get pretty smoky while I was cooking dinner!  Oops.

Grilled Sausages and Polenta

1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 tube prepared polenta sliced into 1/2 inch rounds, or 1/2 cup quick-cooking polenta (recipe follows)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 bag baby arugula
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  1. Whisk oil, vinegar, rosemary, and garlic together in small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  
  2. Place polenta rounds in another small bowl and cover with 3 tbsp dressing.  
  3. Grill sausages over medium-high heat, turning frequently, until brown on all sides and cooked through, about 7-9 minutes.  
  4. Grill polenta until charred and heated through, about 3 minutes on each side.  
  5. When polenta is done grilling, transfer to plate or serving platter and drizzle with 2 tbsp dressing.  
  6. Combine arugula, tomatoes, red onions, and remaining dressing in a large bowl.  
Ok, so the dressing, sausage, and polenta all tasted amazing.  However, the polenta did not quite grill the way I hoped.  They kind of fell apart on my grill pan, I think due to the grease leftover from the cooking the sausages.  Sometimes, the grill pan just doesn't do the job of a real grill.  Still, it was a delicious meal!

I could not find a tube of precooked polenta in the grocery store, nor have I ever been able to find one, so I had to resort to making my own (if anyone has ever seen these in the grocery store, let me know!  I'm starting to doubt their existence...).  
  1. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to boil in a small saucepan.
  2. Season with 1 tsp salt.
  3. Slowly stir in 1/2 cup polenta.  Continue stirring about 3 minutes or until it reaches a smooth consistency and all water is absorbed.
  4. Stir in about 1/2 tsp black pepper and 1 tsp olive oil.
  5. Transfer to 8x8 glass baking pan and spread in a thin, even layer.  Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then refrigerate for 1-2 hours. 
  6. Using a glass, cut out circles from polenta sheet.  
This sounds like a lot of work, but polenta is pretty much the easiest thing to make (Besides maybe oatmeal).  And it's awesome!  I love the taste alone, but there are so many different ways to make polenta that I never get bored with it.  Nom Nom Nom.  

Umm yah.  I need to work on my grill marks.  Or get a real grill...

Feb 24, 2013

The Time We Ate Two Desserts

I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend as much as we did here in New Jersey!  Friday wasn't really anything special...just our usual dinner and relaxing on the couch.  BearFace had to work for a few hours on Saturday morning, so Murphy and I spent the drizzly and dreary day back on the couch blogging, weekly menu planning, and crafting.

Canvas Mounted Photos

This is a simple project that replaces the need for frames (which can be expensive!)  I had a few 8x10 photos that I wanted to mount, and I was really pleased with the way they turned out.

After an energetic workout at the gym, BearFace and I decided to check out the restaurant scene in Warwick, NY.  We settled on Fetch Bar and Grill (maybe because the walls were adorned with puppy pictures?)  I wasn't overwhelmed with the experience.  It was crowded and loud, although the Thanksgiving Eggrolls we ordered as an appetizer were delicious.  I ordered the veggie burger for dinner just because I have been wanting to try one.  Drew tried to warn me that I would be disappointed, but I refused to listen.  Turns out he was right.  Oh well!

So then, we had dessert.  Twice.  Let me preface this by explaining that I have been craving gooey, chocolatey cake allllll week (I think every woman out there can relate to this).  Nothing on the dessert menu jumped out at us, so we walked down the street to Noble Pies.  Our thought was to pop in, see what they had to offer (ahem chocolate cake ahem), and if nothing looked good, on to the next stop!  As soon as we walked in, there was no leaving.  We were immediately greeted by a friendly worker who suggested several different kinds of pies, none of which were chocolate.  At that point we felt stuck and reluctantly agreed to share a slice of blueberry...which was quite excellent.  However, due to the awkward silence in the cafe and lack of other patrons, we gobbled our pie and peaced out as soon as possible.

I knew instantly that the pie would not do.  I NEEDED chocolate cake.  I certainly wasn't going to bake one at 8 pm on a Saturday night, so what was the next best option?  Stop at the grocery store and pick up a microwaveable molten chocolate lava cake, of course!  I was slightly embarrassed during check out, but it was worth every bite.  BearFace also thoroughly enjoyed his microwaveable chocolate chip cookie.

I can't speak for Drew, but I was definitely feeling the second dessert Sunday morning.  But it didn't last long.  We headed out early for a swim at the Y, and after a solid 45 minutes of laps, I worked off about 1/2 of the 1/2 of the pie I consumed.

Workout done, we did some grocery shopping on the way home and then spent a few hours relaxing before taking Murphster out for a hike on the boardwalk.  It was packed with people today, so pictures were barely an afterthought.  I spent most of the time on the boardwalk keeping Murphy under control on the leash and trying to avoid oncoming dogs and people!  The poor guy just wanted to be friends with everyone, and he doesn't seem to understand that not everyone wants to be friends with him.  He did get some attention from a wobbling toddler out for a Sunday stroll.  Murphy bestowed him with some gentle kisses and snuffles, and was greeted with wild giggling in return.

[Side note: One of my BIGGEST pet peeves is people who are irresponsible with their dogs.  I will admit, I do let Murphy off leash when we are hiking, but only when there are no other hikers around and only because I know that he actually listens to me (ok, so maybe he occasionally ignores me for a piece of poop, or a chocolate lab puppy...).  If I do happen to spot a hiker, I immediately put him on the leash and get out of the way.  It is rude to assume that someone wants your dog in their face.  I expect the same courtesy in return.  So when I am walking on the crowded boardwalk with my leashed dog and step to the side to let a German Shepherd and his owner pass, this is NOT an invitation for said owner to let his dog run up to mine and say hello without asking.  Was I rude when I informed you that my dog is not always friendly when he's on a leash?  Maybe a little, but perhaps it will teach you a lesson!  How do I know your dog won't bite mine?  How do you know my dog won't bite yours?  (Alright, Murphy is the friendliest fellow there is, but he definitely gets tense with new dogs since he was attacked by the husky last year.  Probably just Mom being paranoid, but I don't like taking chances with strange dogs.)]  I apologize for the rant...clearly I am still annoyed.  So, when you're out walking with your dog, remember to be respectful of others!

Our daily dose of fresh air taken in, we threw on our chef hats and put together a fabulous dinner.

Thai Turkey Sliders with Creamy Peanut Sauce

I got this recipe from an issue of America's Test Kitchen 30 Minute Suppers, but this appears to be the same recipe.  These turned out fantastic!  Drew and I were both a little skeptical, and he admitted that it was the first dish I have prepared that he was nervous to eat!  But in the end, we both really enjoyed the burgers.  The combination of cilantro, lime, and chili-garlic sauce was just perfect (Just be warned: fish sauce smells downright nasty).

I could not find slider buns, so we used toasted whole wheat English muffins instead.  I also had to add about 2 tablespoons of water to the creamy peanut sauce.  Not sure what happened, but it ended up too thick.  The water did the trick and didn't take anything away from the taste.  We served the burgers with a side of:

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

BearFace actually made these himself!  He found a recipe online and everything!  Unfortunately, he has blatantly refused to share the measurements with me.  But basically, it's pretty simple:

2 sweet potatoes (or however many people you are feeding)
Black pepper

  1. Poke the potatoes liberally with a fork, then bake at 375 degrees for about 1 hour.
  2. Remove the top of the skin from the potatoes and scoop out insides into a bowl (They should resemble a canoe!)
  3. Add milk and butter and mix until smooth.
  4. Add cinnamon and black pepper to taste.
  5. Scoop mashed potato mixture back into potato skins, and bake for another 20 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle with some dried parsley as a garnish.
Although BearFace in the kitchen makes me quite nervous on occasion, I did my best to keep my mouth shut and stay out of his way.  And he proved to be quite the chef!  (Watch out for a blog from him coming soon...A Bear in the Kitchen: How to Cook When You Have Claws For Hands).  Seriously though, those were some tasty potatoes. 


Feb 23, 2013

Cheese-aholics Anonymous

My name is Michelle, and I have a cheese addiction.

I finally stepped up and admitted that I have a problem.  A cheese problem, or addiction if you will.  I'm sure it has been evident in all of the food pictures I post, in which the dish is completely obscured by the mountain of cheese topping it.  Besides the cholesterol that it adds to my diet, there is another reason I am beginning to see this as a problem. Something in my diet just isn't working for me...I had some testing done last year, and found out that I have severe acid reflux.  I started taking Prilosec every day, but something is still a bit off.  I end up with a lot of abdominal pain and cramping that sometimes lingers for weeks.  I decided that an elimination diet is the only way to solve the puzzle.  And first on my list?  Cheese.  Well, dairy.  That's right, I'm going dairy-free for one whole month to see if it makes any difference.  And I'm pretty sad about it!  Over the next month, I'll be exploring different dairy-free recipes, and coming up with some dairy substitutes to my favorite dishes.

Now that I've admitted to my addiction, on to more exciting things!  BearFace and I had our first visitor this week...one of my old UConn horse pals, Sarah Towle, spent the night with us on Tuesday.  She is a teacher and was able to get away for the night while on her February break.  We spent Tuesday afternoon pampering ourselves with a mani/pedi while BearFace was at work, and then had this delicious dinner waiting for him when he got home:

Stir-Fried Noodles with Tofu, Scallions, and Peanuts

Sarah and I actually doubled this recipe, and it was the perfect amount for the 3 of us, with a little leftover for lunch the next day.  Which was a plus because it was delicious!  Sadly I did not take a picture, but believe me, it looked as good as it tasted.  I happened to have some tofu in the fridge, so we only had to pick up a few ingredients before throwing everything in the wok, and it was ready in a snap.  I also added in some kale because I have a ginormous amount of it in our fridge.

Sarah and I started Wednesday morning out at the our local diner.  On top of their ridculously awesome pancakes, they also have a ridiculously awesome weekday breakfast special: Buy 1 breakfast, get 1 free.  Can't argue with that...  We shared the blueberry pancakes and my personal favorites, the Chunky Monkey PB pancakes (buttermilk pancakes stuffed with bananas, chocolate and pb chips).

After rolling ourselves back to my house and digesting a bit,  we took Murphles out for a hike.  It turned out to be a great day because I finally found the boardwalk trail I have been searching for (Sarah must be good luck).  It was pretty cold and windy, and we definitely froze our butts off, but it was a fun, scenic hike!

I bet this is beautiful in the summer/fall.

 One last thought before I wrap this up...

If anyone has been wondering what became of Rupert, we figured it out!  While I was in the city this weekend, Drew spotted Rupert and a little white terrier in our yard.  Where exactly in our yard were they?  Sitting on the brick patio outside the slider, staring at the sleeping Murphy who was laying in his sunspot on the rug, completely unbeknownst to him.  Unfortunately they scampered off before BearFace could capture the picture of a lifetime.  We discovered that they belong to our neighbors, who seem to have found out about this unlikely duo's wanderings, because they have not been seen since!  


I needed a little hiatus from blogging.  I have been quite busy, between visiting friends, putting some finishing touches on our new place, and catering to my spoiled dog-child's every need.  And of course, job hunting.  Job hunting can be both exhausting and extremely frustrating, as I'm sure everyone knows.  I think it was the mental exhaustion that left me with no desire or energy to write a post at the end of the day!  I have a few bites from a couple vet hospitals, so I'm crossing my fingers and hoping one of them will work out sooner than later.  (I am DEFINITELY not cut out for stay-at-home dog mom). 

Now on to the catch-up:

Valentine's Surprises

I did in fact decide to be a good girlfriend and cook up some Valentine's surprises for BearFace.  For dinner, I made:

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

I decided to substitute sweet potatoes for regular old potatoes, and they came out great.  I did purchase 3 sweet potatoes but only ended up using 1 since it was kind of a monster.  I had some rolls in the fridge from another dinner, and toasted them up for dipping.  BearFace was pretty excited that we were having beef for once, although steaks would have been nice (if only we had a grill!)

Perfect warm dinner for a cold winter night.

While the stew was stewing in the crockpot, I set to work making our Valentine's dessert:

Strawberry Valentine's Cake Balls

1 box strawberry cake mix
1 container strawberry frosting
2 containers Baker's dipping chocolate
Sprinkles for decorating
  1. Bake cake according to package instructions.
  2. While cake is still warm, crumble cake into a large bowl.  Mix in entire container of frosting until combined with cake.  Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.  
  3. Form 1 inch balls with cake mixture, placing on wax paper-lined baking sheet.  Reserve a small amount of cake mixture for decorations.
  4. Melt dipping chocolate in microwave, following instructions on package.
  5. Roll cake balls in chocolate using 2 spoons, then place back on baking sheet.
  6. Decorate with sprinkles or remaining cake mixture (I shaped polka dots and hearts out of the cake and placed them on the chocolate.  Make sure to add decorations before chocolate hardens!)

Some of these cake balls have the chicken pox. 

Our bellies full, we spent a cozy and lazy night on the couch.  It was nice to relax before I was off to NYC on Friday for a fun-filled weekend!  (BearFace opted to stay at home on the couch for the weekend.  Not really the city type).

I was amazed at how simple it was to get to the city from our new mountaintop home....just an hour drive to the train station, where I hopped on the train for a $4.00, 10 minute ride.  Easy peasy.  I cabbed it to Mad Dawg's apartment, where BeenBag was waiting for me, fresh off a plane from Louisiana!  We spent the afternoon snuggled up on the couch, catching up on our lives and waiting for Mad Dawg to arrive home from work.  And then we were all 3 off to meet up with Miheer, Seamus, and Colleen for dinner at Uva.  We started off with some wine and appetizers, and then Miheer and I shared the scallops and gnocchi for dinner.  For some reason, gnocchi has always been on my "do not order" list...not sure where the bad connotation came from, but I haven't eaten it since I was about 5.  MISTAKE.  I was overwhelmed by its dense, pillowy deliciousness.  Definitely back on the "order" list!  

From dinner, we went to a nearby karaoke bar for a night filled with creepy old men, random one-liners (What if I tapped in right now?), and cheering Miheer on while he killed it singing Adele's Rumor Has It (he was in an a cappella group at Uconn...he's no joke!) 

No one is safe from blog pictures.  No one. 

After lunch at Tia Pol with Mad Dawg's mom the next day, I took the subway to my brother's apartment where we grabbed dinner at BareBurger, and then waited for the troops to arrive.  BeenBag, Mad Dawg, Miheer, and Joe's girlfriend Chrissy came over to his apartment for some drinks before we hopped in a cab and went to Red Lion for the night.  Another great night for the books.

After brunch at Docks with Joe and Chrissy the next day, (I had the smoked salmon frittata...unreal!) I hopped on a bus back to the train station and headed back to New Jersey.  In addition to an amazing time seeing friends and family (hadn't seen Mad Dawg in a loooong time), I also made great strides conquering NYC's public transportation system all alone (with step-by-step instructions from the experts).  But seriously, I was quite proud of myself!  And since it's so easy to get to the city now, I'm sure I'll be back to visit soon enough (maybe I'll be able to drag BearFace with me next time). 

Home Sweet Home

When I finally arrived home Sunday evening, I was pretty much running on empty!  BearFace and I grabbed a pizza at one of our local pizza places and then called it a night.  He had Monday off of work for President's Day, so we did some grocery shopping the next morning and then spent an hour at the YMCA.  He signed us both up over the weekend, and we have been enjoying the pool for doing laps, and I have been using the treadmill as well.  (I established pretty early on that I will not be running on our mountain road).  Time to get back in shape! 

Feb 14, 2013

Just Trollin'

So BearFace has taken to calling me the mountain troll, due to the fact that on certain days (mostly during blizzards), I do not leave the mountain.  And since I am not working, I really don't have a definite reason to leave.  Although the rest of the world is only a 3 minute drive away, it seems like another world down there.  At first I was against this new moniker, but I will admit, I am starting to see the resemblance:
  1. I recently stopped washing my hair and it is starting to hang in tangled, greasy locks.
  2. On a whim, I chiseled my fingernails, toenails, and teeth into dagger points.
  3. Due to lack of sunlight, my skin has begun to turn a pasty white/grey color.
  4. I have taken to standing in the middle of the mountain road yelling "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" at our neighbors as they drive by (So far, no one has laughed).
  5. When that gets boring, I hold up a sign saying "YOU HAVE TO PAY THE TROLL TOLL" (Also not super amusing to our neighbors, but I've made $27 so far).       
Ok, just kidding.  Numbers 3-5 are a joke.  I do actually leave on an (almost) daily basis to look for jobs!

Trolling aside, Murphy and I started our morning off with a bang today!  I got up around 8 am (kind of love that part about being unemployed), headed outside for Murphy's morning pee, and out of the corner of my eye, spotted something fluffy.  What looked to be a St. Bernard puppy was standing on the side of the road a little ways down from our driveway.  Always the animal lover, I called the puppy in hopes he would come galavanting over to me, and Murphy and I would have acquired a free dog (useful as Drew's Valentine's present).  By the time I got out to the road, however, the puppy had decided to turn around and run the other way.  Murphy and I went back into our yard, and I spotted the fluffball sitting in the woods on the side hill.  I quickly ran back into the house to grab boots and a leash with which to wrangle the beast, but again, by the time I got back out the pup had disappeared.  We walked part way down the mountain, but despite our best tracking efforts, could not find our furry friend.  I hope the puppy (let's call him Rupert) found his way back home.  And don't worry, I really would have returned him to his rightful owner.  Too much hair for my house!

Cat nap.  Further proof: he is a cat in dog's clothing.

Morning adventure complete, Murphy spared no time hurrying to the living room for his daily sun nap while I made some breakfast:

Almond Banana Breakfast Oats

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Eat it.

Like the blog's author, I have made these every morning since I found the recipe!  They are that tasty.  I did, however, substitute vanilla soy milk for almond milk because my grocery store does not carry almond milk (Most likely I was looking in the wrong place).  I did find almond butter in the store, but it was a whopping $7.00 for a tiny jar!!!  Via the same blog, I decided to try making my own:

Simply Delicious Dry-Roasted Almond Butter

I was skeptical at first, but I actually love it.  Although it was a time-consuming and kind of messy process, it seems worth it for how long I expect the almond butter to last.  I actually started halving the breakfast oats recipe.  1/2 cup of oats was just too much for me...I'm more of a light breakfast person (It keeps me full until almost 1:00!) 

While we're on the topic of recipe-sharing, I threw this together for dinner last night:

Rustic Tomato Rice Kale Soup

Disclaimer: We are NOT going vegan!

I did adapt this recipe a little bit to add some meat protein, since we are a meat-eating household.
  • I sauteed 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in bite-sized pieces, and seasoned with garlic salt and pepper.  Add this in at the end.
  • I substituted chicken broth for the vegetable broth, and probably added closer to 3 cups than just 1 cup.
  • I was not able to find fire-roasted tomatoes in the store, so I went with a can of crushed tomatoes instead.
  • And finally, rather than using frozen veggies, I added 1/2 a bag of fresh broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower (similar to the stir-fry veggies I used for the Orange Chicken).
Top with your favorite cheese (I used brie, and in hindsight probably could have gone with just one slice), and dip in some crusty dipping bread!  This was probably the best tomato soup I've had, although I think I would leave out the rice next time.  The combination of spices were superb!

[Side note: I hope you have noticed our recent upgrade in dishes!  That's right, the country-style plates and bowls along with the horribly dark, 70's kitchen were left back in Salem County.  I love cooking in our new kitchen...it's bright and inviting, and I was finally able to unearth my own dishes and cookware that have been living in my parent's basement for the past 2 years.  I'm trying to upgrade my food photos as well by using an actual camera instead of my iphone, but it's been a slow transition.  It's just so much easier to snap a quick one with my phone, which always seems to be nearby.] 

On that note, I'm off to be a good girlfriend and do some Valentine's baking, cooking, and crafting. Pictures to come.  Maybe.  Someone has been making a little TOO MUCH fun of my "kitchen command center".  Why didn't I put the pencil can on top of the fridge instead of magnetize it, BearFace?  BECAUSE I DIDN'T WANT TO, that's why!  And also it would get in the way of the over-fridge cabinets.  So there.

Feb 12, 2013

Feeling Crafty

Well, I sure hope everyone weathered that blizzard alright!  I was in shock at all of the pictures on Facebook and Instagram of Connecticut swimming in snow.  Although the same storm hit us in New Jersey, we only ended up with a little over a foot of snow.  BearFace had to work Friday and Saturday, while Murphy and I hunkered down and weathered the storm, and then shoveled our way out on Saturday (ok, I only shoveled part of the driveway...).

So what did I do while under house arrest?  Crafted!  I unearthed my supply of arts and craft stuff, and put a year's worth of Pinteresting to use.

The craft center, where it all happens.

First up: Good Dog Treat Jar

Murphy better step up his game...only good dogs get treats!


Hot glue gun
Colored paper
Mod Podge

  1. Arrange letter stickers on colored paper, then apply mod podge over all layers.  (Will dry clear) 
  2. Apply mod podge on back of paper, then place on jar in desired location.
  3. Using a hot glue gun, glue a strip of ribbon around jar.
  4. Decorate with stickers, or any other fun designs!
Next: Kitchen Wall Art

Perfect for the bare wall behind my kitchen sink!

Hot glue gun
Mod Podge
Colored paper
Letter stickers or computer font

  1. Apply Mod Podge to back of colored or designed paper, then apply to canvas as base. 
  2. Arrange letter stickers or printed font from computer on top of colored squares, then mod podge to base paper.
  3. Using hot glue gun, glue strips of ribbon on edges of canvas.
  4. Decorate with stickers, then hang on wall!
Every kitchen needs some of these: Magnets

They actually work, too.  Go me.

Printed design paper
Foam sheet
Mod Podge
Round Magnets (got some at Home Depot)
Hot glue gun

  1. Measure a 1x1 inch square on back of paper and cut out with scissors.
  2. Measure 1x1 inch square on foam and cut out using scissors or Xacto knife.
  3. Mod Podge back of paper and apply to foam, then apply a layer over the top of the paper.
  4. When mod podge is dry, attach magnet to back of foam using hot glue gun.  Allow to set for at least 15 minutes before placing on the fridge.
And lastly: Magnetic fridge pencil holder

Probably my finest accomplishment in life thus far.

Printed design paper
Mod Podge
Round magnets (2)
Hot glue gun
Empty soup can

  1. Measure length and diameter of can, then cut out paper to fit.
  2. Mod podge back of paper and apply to can
  3. Mod Podge over paper, making sure to seal edges to can and press out air.
  4. When mod podge is dry, attach 2 magnets to can using hot glue gun.  Allow to set 10-15 minutes before attaching to fridge.
Along with my new DIY magnets, a few notepads and my DIY pencil can, my kitchen command center is complete!

An excellent spot for to-do lists for certain 
members of the household.

What did Murphy do while I crafted and the blizzard raged?  Slept, obviously.  I guess I never realized just how lazy he is.  

I also threw this delicious meal in the crockpot in between projects.

Since I was out of chicken breasts and certainly wasn't going to attempt a drive down the snowy mountain, I ended up using thighs.  It worked out just fine, but I definitely prefer using chicken breasts when possible.  I also added in some fresh stir-fry veggies, which I found in the produce section of my grocery store (Love using fresh veggies!  Frozen veggies must die).  I added them in about 15 minutes before it was done cooking, then served everything on top of white rice.

My crockpot also loves fresh veggies.  They are best friends.

YUM!  Probably one of my favorite crockpot meals so far.

Good luck to everyone with the great dig-out of Connecticut!  I hope that no one is still stuck in their house.  For once, I must say I am happy to be in New Jersey!

Feb 8, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Murphy

Some of you may have wondered what my dog does all day.  I have often wondered it myself.  Being unemployed, and not having anyone else to talk to, it seemed like a good idea to spend a day observing this strange, wiggling creature that resides in my home.

  • 8 am (1 hour after rising) to 9:30 am

The subject starts off the day with a morning nap.
  • 9:35 am

"Don't you have something useful to do, Mom?  
Like, go to work or something?"
  • 9:59 am

"I was kidding!  Are you really leaving me here?!"

  • Somewhere between the hours of 10 am and 1 pm (While Mom is out job searching)

The subject inexplicably opens the locking trash can, 
presumably in search of snacks.

  • 1 pm to 1:45 pm

"But Mom, I SAID I was sorryyyy!"

  • 1:50 pm

The subject dons a jacket and gets in the car, demanding 
to go on an adventure.
  •  2 pm to 2:45 pm

An adventure is had. 

  • 2:46 pm (No picture of this one, but it was an observation of interest)
    • Upon returning to the parking area at the conclusion of the hike, the subject spots a chocolate lab puppy in an SUV, and jumps in the backseat with the puppy.  Mom yells "COME" at him, and apologizes profusely to the driver of said vehicle (who was quite friendly).  The subject completely ignores Mom. 
  • 3 pm to 4:30 pm

The subject takes a post-adventure nap.

  • 4:30 pm-5:59 pm

"Excuse me?  I know it's not dinner time yet, but 
I'm feeling a trifle hungry and was wondering if 
 you could feed me.  I'll show you where the food is."

  • 6:01 pm

Despair and starvation set in. 

  • 6:10 pm to bedtime

The subject goes into a coma after devouring his nightly meal. 

This was actually an eventful day for Murphy, despite all the napping.  Usually the "garbage scavenging" time is spent also napping.  Such an odd dog...