Saturday, June 30, 2012

New Recipe Every Month of 2012: Paula Deen's Crab Casserole

Wow, I can't believe we are halfway through 2012 already! This means I am halfway through my resolution to try one new recipe every month this year. So far, I think it has been a successful experiment.

 A couple of weeks ago, I happened to be in Alabama during my mother's birthday. And for her birthday, she requested I cook her dinner! I was so excited, and I decided to make an appetizer of strawberries stuffed with cream cheese and pecans (which were delicious, but I'm not going to blog about those) and Paula Deen's Crab Casserole.

It was so delicious (just don't judge by my blurry picture)! I didn't think that crab and olives would  go well together, but they definitely did! It was also nice to get the chance to cook for someone other than myself, since Adam is so picky about what he eats. I do think this was a hit all around.

Song of the Day: Cigarettes by The Wreckers

Monday, June 25, 2012

Amsterdam Trip Day 4: Haarlam, Corrie Ten Boom Museum, and the Anne Frank House

On our final day in Amsterdam, we had no where to be and nothing to do till late in the evening. So we slept in a little and spent the morning eating a leisurely European breakfast at our hotel. After breakfast, we boarded the train to the little town of Haarlam. I find it kind of funny that in historic times it took the Dutch two days to float down the canals to visit Haarlam, but it only took us 20 minutes to get there by train. Technology is astounding.  The reason we were going to Haarlam was to see the home of Corrie Ten Boom, who was a Christian who helped hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust. Her story is miraculous and detailed in the book, The Hiding Place.

When we reached Haarlam, we had a little time before the next tour started at the Ten Boom Museum, so we explored Haarlam. We hit the Grote Markt, which is an outdoor market, full of beautiful items. I was so excited to see this place because I remember reading about it in the book. We bought several souvenirs for our families here, including a little Dutch board game that I found for our 3 year old nephew, Caden. I was so excited about this because I put a lot of thought into the souvenirs I buy for people. And until the last day, I could not find anything special and age appropriate for him, so I was on cloud nine after this purchase.

The first thing I noticed about the Ten Boom house was the Alpina triangle in the window. The same Alpina triangle the Ten Booms would place in the window so that people in the resistance movement would know it was safe to enter.  Unfortunately, when the Ten Booms were invaded, the Nazi Guards figured out the purpose of the triangle and placed it back in the window, which led to several arrests. Next, the guide lead us into the home and everyone gathered in the living room. We all got to know each other better and the guide spent some time telling us the story of Corrie Ten Boom and The Hiding Place.

The Ten Boom House is an odd house. A split level with narrow stairs and bedrooms that sit higher than the attic. We went up to Corrie's bedroom, where a piece of the wall had been sliced open, so we could see where the 6 people hid for 6 days while the Nazis searched for them (they never found them). It was a moving experience and we even got to step inside the hiding place. I can't imagine being trapped in there for so long.

After our amazing visit at the Ten Boom house, we headed back to Amsterdam for a late lunch. I would have liked to get something more Dutch cuisine specific, but Adam really wanted to check out this American diner, so we did. We had the loveliest waitress, who was thrilled to find out we were from L.A. She had just visited L.A. and had fallen in love. So in love, she was  planning on picking up and moving there in a few months. We exchanged e-mails and it was so cool to make a friend while on our vacation! And if I didn't know better, I would think Adam was flirting with her in this picture! But no, he wouldn't, he knows I would kill him!

We had a little time before our reservation at the Anne Frank House. So we used the extra time to explore the beautiful neighborhood surrounding the Anne Frank house on the Prisengracht canal. There were gorgeous canal houses, churches, and unique shops. We spent some time just sitting back and watching the people aimlessly float by on the canal. So lovely. It was hard for me to believe that Anne as a young girl, spent two and a half years hidden from the world. Especially when the world just outside her doorstep continued on.

I have dreamed of visiting the Anne Frank Huis for at least the last 10 years, and it is so weird to realize this dream. It wasn't exciting, and I didn't expect it to be. It was sobering. The rooms were so much smaller than I had pictured in my head. And all the windows were blacked-out as they were during their time in hiding, and it made the space feel so claustrophobic. I can't even begin to imagine what those people, who were innocent of everything expect being Jewish, must have been feeling.  The fear they lived with and the pressure the people helping them hide were under. And in the end, the plan failed. It seems like such a waste, these beautiful people killed for nothing. Both I think their tragic story brings such an awareness to the injustices in WWII, and the dangers of letting prejudices and hate linger.

It seems like a weird turn around to go out to a bar after such an emotional experience at the Anne Frank Huis, but that is what we did. We went to the ice bar for a below freezing clubbing adventure. Once you enter, everything is made of ice, including the bar, the seats, and even the shot glasses! Adam and I looked very dapper (OK, foolish) in our thermal suits. The cold was invigorating. Part of the fun at the ice bar involved this crazy 4D movie, where we were penguins sliding on the ice. It was odd but entertaining. After the movie, we had several drinks and danced to songs like Ice, Ice, Baby.

When we exited the Ice Bar, the sun was setting over the canals, and it was a beautiful end to our wonderful trip. We then proceeded to get on a tram to get back to our hotel, but we got on the wrong one, and ended up somewhere in the middle of the Amsterdam suburbs. It was full circle, being as that this was pretty much the last time we would be using the public transportation, and we had gotten lost the first time we used the transportation.

Song of the Day: How Many Miles by the Waifs

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stars Fell on Alabama

I've been spending this last week in my home state of Alabama and have been having a blast! I'm here for a very important reason that I will be announcing soon, but I am just not totally ready to share with the whole world yet.

So while I've been doing plenty of top secret important things,  I've also squeezed in time for fun as well. I finally got my hair done because I was tired of describing my hair color as, "dishwater blonde," or "dirty blonde." Heck, someone even had the nerve to call me a brunette the other day! The horrors! So now I'm more of a "sun kissed blonde." And I'm loving it.

I've been eating delicious Mexican food, pizza from Mellow Mushroom, and cupcakes from Gigi's (I die for Gigi's). And I've been spending time with my mother, old high school friends, and my baby sister...Just so you know, my "baby sister" is a lab named Carlee. And yes she is the most spoiled rotten dog on this Earth, she even wakes my mom up in the middle night for a midnight snack! But I guess she makes up for her rottenness by being pretty cute and pretty sweet most of the time.

I've sure been enjoying this slow Alabama pace of life, but I'm more than ready to get back to California on Thursday because I'm missing my husband something fierce. As I always do. Is it love or just stifling codependency? Just kidding, pretty sure it's just love.

Song of the Day: Stars Fell on Alabama by Jimmy Buffett

Sunday, June 17, 2012

An Online Link Love Book Vol. IV

James Gulliver Hancock is on a mission to draw all the buildings in beautiful NYC. These are lovely.

After reading these tips, I doubt I will ever lose a game of rock, paper, scissors again.

A wonderful article on Julia Child's modern marriage.

Does anyone else remember the soft drink, Surge? I loved it! Here's a list of 24 other foods you will never eat again.

Beautiful, haunting photos of an abandoned theme park in China.

Can you guess what Iconic TV shows these are from these minimal posters? I got 7 right.

8 creative ways to use pinterest. I also use pinterest to plan vacations! I pinned all activities I wanted to do before leaving for Amsterdam!

This blog has some great tips for improving photography skills.

30 things every woman should have and know by the time they are 30.

I'm a little NYC crazy on this post (maybe because I vacationed there just about a year ago) but here is a yummy dessert guide to NYC.

Song of the Day: Seasons of Love from The Rent Soundtrack

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Graduation Day!

Saturday morning was my graduation ceremony from my Master's Program. And when I woke up on Saturday morning, I was in a really, cranky mood.  I wanted to stay in bed, I didn't feel like driving an hour each way. I thought, "I've graduated from high school and college already. Been there, Done that. No Big Deal." Plus, even though my husband was with me, I really wished my family could have been there too. Hey, sometimes it's hard to live on the Left Coast when almost everyone you know lives on the Right Coast.

But when Adam and I pulled into the parking lot of the arena, I ran into my fellow graduating MFTers (marriage & family therapists, holla), and I put on my cap and gown and my master's hood. I started to buck up. OK, I got down right excited. The ceremony was nice and I didn't trip when I was on the stage (which is always my number one fear!). And they even put my name up on the Jumbo Tron (I would almost bet my life that my name will never be on a jumbo tron ever again). Not to mention, Adam cheered so loud for me from the balcony, it sounded like a million people were there to support me. And when the ceremony was over, confetti and streamers were shot into the air.

After the ceremony, we went to a lunch hosted by our good friends, Albert and Rianne. Albert graduated with me, and we have become close couple friends with them throughout these last few years. But our friends were so busy hoisting their party, that they didn't eat a thing, and Rianne is pregnant so that just wouldn't do. So we ended up tagging along with them for a second lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings (they pretty much forced us to eat again, we waddled out of that restaurant).

(On a totally, unrelated side note: Them not eating at their own party, kind of reminded me of our wedding, where all our guests got to enjoy the delicious food, but Adam and I never ate a bite. We got to the hotel that night and we were STARVING to death. Our amazing friends had surprise decorated our hotel room with roses, champagne, and candles for the wedding night. They had also tossed out the left over pizza still in the pizza boxes from our joint bachelor/bachelorette party the night before, and they left them outside our hotel room door. So we snagged the boxes from outside, and we ate the pizza like people who had been trapped on a deserted island with no food for weeks).

I was so happy I went to my graduation because it was the only time I really got to reflect on the accomplishment of getting my master's. I've just been going and going for the last few years, turning in papers, taking tests, and not thinking about what it all really meant. It was just something I was doing because it was what I needed to do to get to the next step.  So while I'm not going to spend the rest of my life basking in the accomplishment, at least for that one day, I took the time to pat myself on the back.

I guess that corny statement rings true, "The Tassel is Worth the Hassle."

Song of the Day: Graduation Song by Vitamin C

Friday, June 8, 2012

Favorite Things: Essie Nail Polish

A few short months ago, I kicked my lifelong habit of biting my nails. So I've been working on growing out my nails, which are weak because of all the years of abuse. But I'm finally getting somewhere, and now that I am no longer trying to hide my nails, I've really been enjoying painting them. OK, obsessively painting them.

Seriously, I had no idea how fun picking out new colors could be, or how relaxing I would find painting my nails on Sunday nights. The first brand that I tried that I really loved was Essie. I guess I was attracted to the pretty design of the bottles and the uber cute color names (like tea & crumpets, no pre-nup, and picket fence, I mean come on I'm a sucker for cute). But it is absolutely the best brand I've ever used! It is creamy and easy to put on for a novice nail painter like me, who has shaky hands. And I can go at least a week without any chipping.

Right now I own, Mojito Madness, Fear or Desire, Turquoise & Caicos, and A Crewed Interest. But I have so many other colors on my wishlist. I'm just trying to take it easy because it seems silly to spend all my money on nail polish! But I am truly obsessed.

Song of the Day: Rough Cut by Amber Rubarth

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Food Truck Fest Thursdays @ The O.C. Fairgrounds

I recently learned that the Orange County Fairgrounds has a food truck meet-up every Thursday night. And being that I am positively obsessed with food trucks (thanks to The Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network), I got there as soon as possible! It was sooo good and sooo worth sitting in traffic on the 405 freeway for something like 45 minutes (ugh).

We sampled tacos from Calbi, Peanut Butter & Jelly and Macoroni & Cheese Stuffed Bacon Balls from Bacon Mania,  Fresh Fruit Waffles from Waffles de Liege, and Freshly Made Banana & Nutella Cream Puffs from Bakery Truck. We also had plenty of Mexican Cokes to go around. Doesn't coke just taste so much better from a glass bottle?

Song of the Day: Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye

Monday, June 4, 2012

Amsterdam Trip Day 3: Windmills, Cheese, & Wooden Shoes

On our third day in the Netherlands, I woke up and had to acknowledge that it was no longer my birthday, and that it would be another 364 days before it would be my birthday again.  This is a sad realization for someone like me who loves their birthday.  But since I was still on vacation, I knew I could suck it up and savage the day somehow...

We spent the morning and afternoon exploring Amsterdam some more. We enjoyed taking pictures, eating tasty food (frosted dessert waffles with sprinkles!), and buying gifts for our friends and family. Unfortunately, we bought our families some tulip bulbs for their gardens not knowing we couldn't bring them back to the USA. So we got in trouble with customs, and when we returned, they marked Adam's passport, and took our tulips (I was sooo sad).

After lunch, we again headed out to the Dutch countryside. This time to Zanne Schanes, Vollendam, and Marken. Zanne Schanes is a beautiful, historic windmill village. The windmills here were actually working windmills. Currently, the windmills were making oils for painting, spices, and cocoa. The whole town smelled like cocoa! (BTW, the windmills in the Netherlands were originally used to drain excess water from the country, since the whole country is on reclaimed land). Zanne Schanes also had rustic little houses and animals running around.

Vollendam is an old fisherman's village, which is quaint, and had people dressed in traditional Dutch dress. Citizens of Vollendam even speak their own dialect!   In Vollendam, we spent some time sitting by the edge of the North Sea and drinking Heineken beers from the tap, enjoying the afternoon. Next, we took a ferry to the darling island of Marken. Marken is home of Cheese & Wooden Shoes. So while in Marken, we attended a demonstration on how they make their cheese. We, of course, sampled some cheese and bought some cheese to take home (soon I would love to have a cheese party!). We also went to the Klompenmakerij (a wooden shoe factory) and got to see them make a pair of wooden shoes!

We had a great day and at the end of the day, I was so excited, because I knew the next day I was going to the Anne Frank Huis. Which I had dreamed about for years!

Song of the Day: Strangers Like Me by Phil Collins