Tuesday, January 20

Ale to the Chief

Ben and I have been watching the Inauguration events all day today. Neither of us felt like making dinner tonight…I think we both had a little Cabin Fever and were itching to leave the house. The roads were clear, so we placed an order for pizza at Namoli’s NY Pizza and set out for the pick up.

Snow 2009 075Snow 2009 077 Of course the night wouldn’t be the same without a special beer. Ben purchased the Avery Ale to the Chief, made specifically for the Inauguration today. When he bought it several months ago, no one knew who we’d be toasting to January 20, 2009, but regardless it was a fun occasion. It was pretty neat to have our own little piece of celebration for this historic day. As for the beer, it was a “Presidential” Pale Ale: Not an “Imperial” pale ale, this is a democracy. It’s Presidential! Take the all-American pale ale, a bipartisan blend of malt of hops, increase both the Avery Brewing standards, and then of course, dry hop the result with that most quintessential of American hops, Cascades, and you get this…Ale to the Chief. A brew worth of the Oval Office!

Snow Day 2009!

After receiving calls from my manager and auto text from the company regarding the Winter Weather Advisory last night, I still was expecting to go to work this morning. Ben woke me up around 3am and the ground was covered. When I woke up at 642am by the alarm, the roads were covered and I instantly decided today would be a “work-from-home” day! Snow 2009 021 Snow 2009 034 By 730am I was logged in online…I was feeling a little anxious since yesterday was a US holiday and many of my Indian and UK clients were waiting on emails and files. Working from home is so nice and comfy…never mind very productive.Snow 2009 029 Snow 2009 049 It’s amazing to be able to work alternatively on the couch or the dining room table all day by the fire! I enjoyed coffee in a mug and took a quick mid-day break to shower, then one for lunch. I thawed out some turkey soup I had froze many moons ago and it was perfect for a snowy day. Ben worked on school stuff, napped and we both watched the Inauguration all day…which was amazing to see history made regardless what party we belong to, what color our skin is or where we live in the world. Snow 2009 031Snow 2009 020

Finally after a little pleading from Ben, we set out for a walk in the snow. Freddie has not really ever seen the snow besides a few flurries and he absolutely hated it. He shivered the entre time and tried to pull back towards the house. For the rest of the afternoon he settled down by the fire for a long nap while we enjoyed a big cup of Hot Chocolate with handmade Peppermint Marshmallows!Snow 2009 059 Snow 2009 065 Snow 2009 037 Snow 2009 069Snow 2009 072

We ended up with almost 6 inches of snow, but by the evening it had all melted on the roads. I’m hoping to make it into work tomorrow, but we’ll see how the roads are in the morning…ICE is never a good thing!

Snow 2009 066

Sunday, January 11

Current Obsessions…

During my run this afternoon, I realized I have a few obsessions lately…

Running (obviously). I set out for a late afternoon run and took it easy since I’ve got a bad case of shin splints, which I thought had improved. I made it 2.5 miles and decided to stop. I guess this cycle will continue until the days get long enough for me to get some regular and consistent runs in during the week and get my muscles back into shape…and keep them there. I’m currently icing my shins on the couch…no fun when I really just want to RUN!

During my run I had a great playlist. I get sort of obsessive with one particular song and play it over and over again for a few weeks. Today’s selection is Love Story – Taylor Swift…which I replayed 3 times! Other songs that kept me moving today:

~Womanizer – Britney Spears

~Disturbia – Rihianna

~Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) – Beyonce

~Let It Rock - Kevin Rudolf & Lil Wayne

~Run (I’m A Natural Disaster) – Gnarls Barkley

Love Story by Taylor Swift captured my attention since I’m in LOVE with the Twilight series and could pretty much be the theme-song of this series. I finished Twilight last night and stayed up until 1:30am reading. At 9am when I woke up, I picked up New Moon and read until 3pm, stopping only for coffee, oatmeal and bathroom breaks. Ben tried to convince me to ride with him to American Brewmaster for brewing supplies, but I was too engrossed in reading. While he was gone I found the perfect Twilight T-shirt and placed my order. Forks Brewing Co: The Ultimate Thirst Quencher – Reach for a Cold One! I’ve already placed my order online and hopefully it’ll arrive soon.

Forks Brewing

I’m pretty certain the rest of my Sunday evening (what’s left of it) will be spent reading…I cannot get enough of Edward Cullen! The possibility of sipping on a beer might be in the future too…if only there was a true Forks Brewing Co.

Uggs. I thought I wanted these last year, but honestly they aren’t that cute looking and I honestly was not sure I was cool enough to wear them. But, this year I finally gave in and got them for Christmas! I don’t care how ugly or stupid looking they are…they are so, so, so comfy and feel just like bedroom shoes. I also don’t like wearing shoes in the house and almost immediately take them off when i get home, however, I could leave these on all day!

Thursday, January 8

Forced Relaxation…

For the first time this week, I was home before 7pm and excited to have a night of TV and Internet surfing. Since the weather turned cold from our crazy weather from yesterday, I was also craving a hot dinner…perhaps an omelet or leftover chili. I guess this is my usual relaxation…

No sooner than I changed out of my work clothes and was checking my home email did the power go out…no TV, no internet! I light candles and waited a while to call the Police Station to report the outage (yeah my little suburban town still does this) and was told they knew of the outage and had a crew working on it, but it would be another 2.5 hours! That’s after my bedtime.

I decided it would be a perfect time to try a new Yoga class I downloaded that KathEats had recommended. I’m really trying to like Yoga better, not only for the relaxation benefits, but in hopes it will improve my flexibility and in turn improve my running. The class was called Gentle Hatha Yoga and is perfect for beginners. I’ve taken yoga classes before at my gym, but I always have felt funny; like I’m not doing the poses correctly. I very much enjoyed taking the class at home. There is a pictorial guide with the poses if you aren’t familiar with them, but Jackie, the instructor, is very descriptive. Best of all, the 20 minute class is free to download and they have tons.

By the time my yoga class was over, I was getting pretty hungry and decided the power would not be on anytime soon to make a hot dinner. So cold cereal and a small peanut butter sandwich sounded only slightly appealing. We keep our heat set very low (66 F) and I was already chilly…it finally dawned on me the hot water heater is gas and still works. So I enjoyed a nice hot bath by candlelight. I even found the salt scrub in the back of my bathroom cabinet…now my arms, hand, feet, legs and chest are perfectly smooth! The bath did the trick in warming me up too.

Now that I was finally relaxed and settled down with my book, Twilight, that I have not been able to put down. I knew it was getting good and honestly just a little scary. I know it’s a teen love story, but really…vampires, night time, attacks and darkness here. I put it down and started blogging! Good thing I downloaded Windows Live Writer yesterday so I could do that and upload my post when the power was back on! One more reason I love this thing.

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Just as I was halfway through this the power came back on! I’m still sitting by candlelight with the tv off as I finish this. Sometimes it’s nice to be forced to relax…even if your idea of relaxation isn’t the same. I’m pretty sure I’m more relaxed now after a hot bath with candles, reading, yoga than I would be with the internet and tv!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 7

Hello From Windows Live Writer

This is more like a test post than anything. Today I discovered Windows Live Writer and hopefully it will make it easier to post and add pictures. Which means more posts, recipes, pictures and fun updates from us.

If you have a blog, you definitely need to download this. It’s super easy and quick to set up, within 10 minutes of downloading the program I had set up a profile and it found my blog.

Other things I love so far:

  • No waiting for the Blogger, Wordpress, etc websites if they are slow. This is a desktop application and essentially uploads or publishes your blog post to your host website.
  • A much larger space for blogging rather than the small tiny window that blogger offers
  • The drag and drop feature for pictures. No more individually selecting and uploading pictures one by one…

Only two more days left in the week…after this week, I’ll be ready for a nice relaxing weekend. Hopefully we’ll have a few updates and pictures that are blog-worthy since my little sister, Lillie, is having her 6th Birthday Party on Sat. And we’ll be cheering on the Carolina Panthers in the NFL Playoff game Saturday night.

Enjoy the rest of the week and Windows Live Writer! I’m freezing with the winds whipping outside…some Sleepytime Tea sounds so perfect, plus it really does make me sleep better!

Sunday, January 4

A Little Work...A Little Play!

As usual with the New Year, I'm in an organizing mood after the dreaded thought of de-Christmasing the house. Plus, we've been in our house for 8 months and are finding out how our routine works with where things are placed. I've already sorted through my closet, so this weekend we organized the garage. Everything finally has a place and there are different zones on our built in shelves for each specific task...grilling, yard/gardening, tools and sports equipment. While everything was drug out, we swept and used the blower in every nook and cranny to get it really clean. Let's see how long this lasts!

Once the garage was complete, we pulled down all the boxes for the Christmas decor from the attic. We collected all the decorations and organized them as well. We decided not to take down our tree since it's still perfectly fresh and we are still enjoying it so much. We'll officially finish de-decorating next weekend once we take down the tree...but for now we're those people!

Of course the weekend wasn't complete without a little play, especially with some of our new things we received for Christmas. Saturday, Ben's friend Chris, who was just accepted for a Beer Master program in Chicago and Munich, came over for a little celebration of helping Ben brew his next beer. My parents gave Ben a turkey fryer to use for brewing, so it was quite interesting to see the new process. I very much enjoyed my house not smelling of wort! If you're interested in his process, check out his blog: Jamm'n Brews. His next batch is a Double Scottish Ale!!

After a much need grocery shopping trip, I spent most of Saturday engrossed in Twilight...falling in love with Edward Cullen. And today we started off the rainy morning by making pancakes on our new griddle.

I also used my Williams-Sonoma Chopper and my Dutch Oven to make a big pot of chili. It's sitting on the stove cooking now, but it smells wonderful. Since Christmas Day, when we missed a chili dinner at Ben parents, he's been craving chili. We found a 5-star recipe from Cooking Light that includes a bottle of beer. We used Ben's home brewed Cinnamon Oatmeal Stout! I hope it tastes as delicious as it smells.

Smoke's Chili (adapted from Cooking Light)

2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
2 pounds lean, ground beef
3 cups chopped green bell pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (12-ounce) bottle beer
2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
3/4 cup low-fat sour cream
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese

Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add half of meat. Cook 10 minutes or until browned; remove from heat, and drain. Repeat procedure with 1/2 teaspoon oil and remaining meat; set aside.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in pan over medium heat. Add bell pepper, onion, red pepper, and garlic; saute 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add chili powder and cumin; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add meat, sugar, and next 5 ingredients (sugar through beer); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes. Add beans, and simmer, uncovered, an additional 40 minutes or until meat is tender. Serve with sour cream and cheese.

Note: To freeze, cool chili, and place in an airtight freezer container or a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Freeze chili up to 3 months.

UPDATE!! The Chili was a success in our new DK Clay pasta blows from my parents! It had an interesting flavor that was very complex...lots of spice and a little sweet from the brown sugar. You couldn't really tell it was made with beer, but I guess knowing it's in there is good enough. It was very very filling and I'm going to freeze half of what we have left for dinner in a few weeks. I'm pretty sure this will become our standard chili recipe with a few modifications.

I'm off to spend the rest of the evening with Edward Cullen!

Thursday, January 1

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! We hope you had a wonderful 2008 and had fun celebrating New Year's Eve!

Ben and I celebrated New Years Eve with 3 other couples. We had an abundance of food & fun! We ate dinner at Maggiano's, Family Style, and surprisingly 8 adults were able to quickly decide on two of each appetizers, salad, pasta, entrees and desserts within a reasonable amount of time. The food was delicious as always, and I always overeat, but I guess that's what New Year's Resolutions are for!

After dinner, Tara and Rick hosted us to watch the ball drop with champagne and of course an impromtu beer tasting. They had just gotten back from NJ and picked up tons of beer that you can't buy in NC. What better way to ring in the New Year...with good beer and company!

Looking back, 2008 was a great year for us. We bought our house and made it our home, took a few little weekend trips and vacations with family, celebrated our 2nd Anniversary, Ben graduated with the first part of his degree and started the second part at ECU, and of course all the time we were able to spend with each other, family and friends!

In 2009, we're looking foward to seeing the economy improve a little and beef up our savings, complete the backsplash and microwave addition in our kitchen, being apart of my college roommate, Stephanie's wedding in May, possibly a trip to Seattle and enjoying the small things in our lives that make it so great!