My Night In! Plus-- To Grandmother's House We Go

Thursday, July 23

I had big plans for tonight.

See, Matt's traveling for work. His office, Capitol Financial Solutions (part of the John Hancock network) met with other branches today in Richmond, VA (about 3.5 hours from us in Raleigh, NC). He's there tonight but the conference doesn't start until tomorrow. Hmm... wonder what they're all doing to kill time tonight before the conference tomorrow... :).

So I had big plans for tonight.

That included:

-Lots of Chinese food

-Red Wine


-and, of course, Laundry and Knitting.

Quite a plan, right?

I picked up my Chinese and settled into my PJs by about 6pm. But I got a happy surprise.

Tom, my step-dad, called!

We talked for a long time about my exciting Chinese evening, my sisters, my Mom's new running club plans (how cool!), his work stuff, etc. It was nice to catch up, since he's home for the first time this week after a couple weeks in China and a week in the mountains of Tennessee on vacation with my Mom. So after we got off the phone, I settled back up with my Chicken Lo Mein. But then, another surprise.

My best friend from college, Leah, called!

I hadn't spoken to her on the phone in a couple weeks! So we talked for a long time about her dating adventures, reminisced about college memories... all the fun stuff. We talked for a long time, but her phone died. So, again, settled into my couch, filled my red wine glass...

My Mom calls! Running class is over-- can she stop by?

Of course! I love my Mom, and I love when she comes by the apartment. She's psyched for her new running club, which met for the first time near my apartment, and we talk about that during commercials of some fun, trash TV (at one point we were even watching E True Hollywood Story). So she stays for a while, helps me finish my Chinese, and I enjoy the company. She heads out around 9pm. Now my alone time will really start. But-- wait!

Leah calls back! She's cooked dinner for a boy who's suppppposed to be home from work.

We talk more about this new beau she's just started dating (and why he isn't home from work yet, when he was supposed to finish up at 9:30... "good thing I bought a bottle of wine," she says, "so whatever."), but mostly talk about more important things... like House Hunters on HGTV (love the show) and how they should have a keychain wine opener (has that been invented yet?).

By the time we get off the phone, it's about 10.

So it was a long, multi-person conversation, from about 6:30 - 10.

I'm a little bit excited. It was so nice talking with everyone... but I'm a ready for this alone time that I've been pumping myself up about.

I sit back in the couch, ponder a fortune cookie, and think to myself, "this is nice."

Maybe I should knit.

Or read.



It's very quiet.

The chinese is gone, the wine is gone, and there isn't anything good on TV.

And after a while, being alone isn't as fun as I thought it would be.

I mean, it's ok... but... what should I do now...

Then I remembered-- ha! I'm behind on blog reading!

And I thought I was alone :)


I'm driving to Richmond tomorrow to pick up Matt when he's finished with his conference. Then, we'll head up to Maryland together to visit my grandma!

I think it'll be a great weekend. I'll take lots of pictures!

Hope you all have a great weekend as well!

Your TV-watchin,

New Girl Blogger

Yummy Cake, But Awful Picture...

Tuesday, July 21

Listening to "Spinning," Jack's Mannequin

First, let's go ahead and get this out of the way.

Are you ready?

It's a really bad picture I took of some cake.

As in, REALLY bad picture.

I'm almost embarrassed.

Unfortunately, when you take a picture of chocolate cake... especially in a bunt cake shape... when half of it is gone... you have to be careful. It can turn out ugly.

Like my picture.


Here we go...


Ok. I apologize for putting you through that.

I tried to take a better one, honest... a couple angles... different lighting... close ups... nothing worked.

Then I gave up and took this one.

See, the cake was better sliced on a plate, with a little chocolate sauce, next to some ice cream and a small drizzle of Bailey's Irish Cream...

...but it's hard to keep ice cream and Bailey's in the apartment for long.

So by the time I went to take a picture of the yummy cake, we were all out of those things.

Now that we've gotten the picture out of the way, let's really talk about...

Duo Dishes' Molten Cake:

(I used this recipe to make Matt's birthday cake!)

-The original recipe makes smaller, mini cakes that go great with ice cream and chocolate sauce!

-Matt loves snickers. So I melted a couple mini snickers in a crock pot and replaced some of the chocolate that the recipe calls for with my melted snickers concoction (you can see evidence of some of the snickers nuts on the platter!). I also cut up some of the mini snickers and mixed that into the batter. Yummm.

-I used a bunt pan so that it would be more like a birthday cake; the recipe still worked, I simply altered the cooking time.

-Yum!! I'd like to try it again later, using small ramekins like Duo Dishes does!

-I definitely recommend! But don't forget the ice cream! Very Important! Mmmm...


Matt's CFP Test:

So... he took it. Finally. After 9 months of classes and 2 months of studying! Phew.

He won't find out for six weeks whether or not he passed!

It's a hard test... over 3/4th of the people there had taken it before, and this was Matt's first time. It would be GREAT if he passed. He put so much time into class and studying, and he's a smart guy. But if he doesn't pass, it definitely won't be the end of the world. They offer the exam 4 times a year. But like I said, he studies a LOT, so I really think he might be just fine. We'll see!

Anyway, again, thanks for encouraging comments :) I updated him incessantly on how many people had wished him good luck!


Now I have to go. I just started a new marketing campaign for the tutoring company-- targeting pediatricians now, instead of just school counselors. It's fun, and it's been going really well, but definitely time consuming!

Plus, my Mom is like two books ahead of me in our Summer book club. Ack!

I should have a break on Thursday to get some much-needed blog reading done :)


Your Potter-fan,
New Girl Blogger

The Intimidating Holy Grail Recipe; + Awards!

Wednesday, July 15

Listening to "Faster," Rachael Yamagata.

The Flank Steak

When I first saw this recipe over at My Tasty Treasures, I was intimidated.

Very intimidated.

Let me explain. Picture this from the beginning. Here I am, trying to learn how to cook this year... and I figured: I'm going to need to learn three things:

1. What kind of flavors are appropriate with what foods

2. How long to keep stuff in the oven or on the stove top

3. How to make gravy, so I can just pour that over things I burn.

Turns out... you need a little bit more than that to cook. It sounds unbelievable-- was I really that naive about cooking?-- but in all seriousness, I thought that it was kind of a one-process-fits-all deal. But recipes aren't just lists of ingredients... they're instructions. I know that now. Back when I first saw this recipe... it was proof that learning to cook, to really learn, the way I want to, would take a little while. There's a lot to learn!

I've learned a lot so far this year... or I feel like I have... thanks in big part to the Recipe Blogroll challenge (have I mentioned how excited I am to make a new one of those soon!?)... and last week I had sudden motivation to try the holy grail.

The recipe with string. (more commonly known as butcher's twine)

That's how I've been thinking of it! I remember when I saw Donna's pictures, all the steps, and
this process that I really wasn't familiar with... I was intimidated. But thanks to that sudden burst of kitchen confidence, I decided to try it.

and here it is!

The Stuffed Flank Steak Debut.



I did it!!

There was lots of jumping up and down, clapping... I asked Matt about 100 times if he liked it...

but more than anything, it was fun. It was fun to finish a recipe that I thought looked difficult. It was fun to create something that required carefully slicing the meat (and I didn't cut myself!), yummy ingredients and, of course, butcher's twine. And, as always, it was fun to learn one more thing about cooking :)


Blog Awards:

Thanks so much, ACE!
honest scrap

1. Thank the award giver
2. Copy the Logo and place on your blog
3. Link back to the award giver/s
4. Name 10 things about you that people may find interesting
5. Nominate and link 10 other blogs for this award
6. Comment on each blog to tell them about the award!

Phew! ok. So, even though it's out of order, here's 10 blogs:
1. Fidgeting Gidget
2. Vicki
3. Amy
4. Mary
5. Iva
6. Katie
7. Shawna
8. Ali
9. Brilliant Farmgirl
10. Kristina

10 Interesting Things... hmm... hopefully these qualify.
1. I read really fast, sometimes too fast.
2. I like things clean and neat; but sometimes it's physically impossible for me to put away my laundry.
3. I have my bank card number, drivers license number and student ID number easily memorized, but I lose my phone 10 times a day.
4. I dye my hair a lot; I think it's fun.
5. My favorite type of wine is cabernet sauvignon... it can even be a cheap one, I'm not too picky.
6. My high school lacrosse team won the state championship my senior year; for me, the best part was that my little sister was a freshman on the team so we got to do that together.
7. My first car was a p.o.s. named Will, and I loved him.
8. I'm still a little (a lot) afraid of the dark.
9. I absolutely LOVE airports and hotels.
10. I got hit by a car once while I was on my bike! It was just a little hit, I was fine, and the girl paid to fix my bike... but if you're in a college town and on your cell phone, pay attention to bikes! It could be me!


Thanks so much, Ali!
love ya award

This award is bestowed on to blogs that are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to six bloggers who must choose six more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.

1. Suz
2. Ace
3. Sarah
4. Peggy
5. The Gamer's Wife
6. Samantha

Woo-hoo! Congrats everyone. Awards are fun :)


I'll save my Duo Dishes' cake post for Friday or Saturday; I'm trying hard to update more than once a week! (And I'm going to need something to distract me while Matt's taking his test...)

Thanks so much for wishing Matt good luck on his exam. He's starting to get nervous (eek! Me too!)... but still doing a great job of studying. We drove to the testing site today, that way he wouldn't worry about driving directions the day of the exam, and we took a break for lunch at Olive Garden! MY FAVORITE! Now he's studying away again... every couple of hours we take a break and play Mario Kart on the 64 :)


Small P.S.: If you're looking for some jaw-dropping inspiration, just take a quick peek at the insane workout plan my best friend Suz has planned for the next 30 days. She went to Canada in high school but she's still my Suz, and if I know her well enough she'll be a little annoyed and embarrassed that I gave her a shout out like this... but she can just deal because her last couple posts about what she's doing during her 30 days of training are really... insane! She's so motivated! Good luck Suz :) Work out enough for the both of us!


Your breadsticks-lovin,
New Girl Blogger

Birthday Bonanza! + Promises for Recipe Reviews

Sunday, July 12

Listening to "Hometown Glory," Adele.

I am a little embarrassed...

...feel as though I might be scolded...


Sorry! It's been over a week since I blogged. Last post, I was blabbing about Matt's birthday, then a busy week of tutoring and Web Design got the best of me, and then...

before I knew it, there was another birthday to celebrate...

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Matt's Birthday:
  • You may recall... he had to spend the whole Birthday/4th July weekend in his online class (his CFP exam is THIS FRIDAY, the 17th!!!! He's studying while I type this :p )

  • We did go out for 4th of July-- to a baseball game with hot dogs, some beers and fireworks.
The Will-Call lady randomly gave us two free,
unclaimed tickets! I thanked her and immediately
gushed, "It's his birthday!!!" He's got good
karma, I guess :)

  • His birthday DAY (the 5th) I gave him his big surprise present-- GOLF LESSONS!

    That's not even the best part.

    They're couples lessons.

    For the two of us.

    To learn golf.


    Dorky? Corny? Yes.

    You may be thinking... uh, Sarah... does your boyfriend maybe want lessons of his own? Without you hanging around? I mean, you guys already live together... he can have his own hobbies...

    Well, don't you worry. Luckily, my boyfriend likes me and we've been talking forever about how we'd like to learn golf together. So he was very surprised and excited.

    I got him two lessons; we'll have our own instructor, and any equipment we don't have we can rent--free of charge (well, free because we paid for the lessons, anyway). And since it's a gift certificate, we can have the lessons whenever we want!

  • Oh, and we went out to dinner to The Melting Pot. YUM!!! And romantic, in a fun way; since you do have to spend time cooking your food it's not a dinner you can rush through. We had fun :) Definitely couldn't afford to go there every month, but it was worth the visit. I'm a new fondue fan!!
So Matt had a successful birthday... despite the studying.

...and like I said, he's still studying.

But it'll finally be over this week!

(can you tell that I'm a little more than a little bit exited about Matt finally taking this test on Friday? He's seriously a study zombie.)


Who else had a birthday?



Since it was her 1st Birthday... it'll obviously be best explained in pictures...

Mom Allie makes Abby a special ladybug cake...

Abby does a great job of eating the cake
like the big one-year-old Abbster that she is...

After a quick bath and outfit change,
Abby opens presents!

And, after all the excitement, takes a quick
nap on her Aunt Sarah :)

It was a lovely birthday :)

Now I'm home and tired.


But I promise, next post, no more birthday madness!

Instead, reviews of:

-Duo Dishes' Molten Chocolate Cake (was Matt's birthday cake!)
-My Tasty Treasures' Flank Steak (yum! just wait!)

Till then, I'm going to enjoy my boyfriend's company (he was studying all weekend and couldn't make it to Abby's festivities), finish my tutor reports and try to catch up on Love in the Time of Cholera! My Mom's already finished!


Your about-to-read,
New Girl Blogger

Frogged- Back to Square 1. Jambalaya. Matt's B-Day!

Friday, July 3

Listening to "I'm Gonna Love You Forever," Randy Travis.

I frogged my checkerboard.

(For those of you who aren't knit enthusiasts)...

Frog: (v) When the knitter makes a mistake, but does not notice the mistake for a while, and is forced to rip out multiple rows of a project, a process known as frogging.

So, again, I frogged my checkerboard. Complete frog. Earlier this week I came to a mistake row, tried to fix it, made it worse, tried to take it out, got stitches crossed and backwards... so I frogged it.

post-frogging: my progress since Wednesday.

Back to square 1... I've been knitting it all over again since Wednesday.

But it's ok! It's a fun pattern to knit, I learned something through my mess up, and I'd rather it be knitted well than almost done and all messy.


Cooking Update

I made Cajun Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp Jambalaya. It is Sooooo good.

Originally, I was going to try Mom on the Run's recipe, which looks fabulous. But I was e-mailed one from a blog friend... he's a military fighter pilot guy who had a blog that helped him clear his head, but he was afraid it would be too easy for others to decipher his wannabe-anonymous identity. So he took the blog private.

But before doing so, he e-mailed me this Jambalaya recipe! And it is so fabulous... it's so amazing that even if you're a vegetarian I would at least suggest trying to make this with tofu or something. Ok... not sure if that would work. But... seriously, the flavor is amazing. Hmm... now I'm trying to think of what veggies you could use to replace all the meat. I'll keep thinking...

I thought I would post the recipe exactly how he e-mailed it, with my comments interjected of course! :)

-2 or 3 chicken breasts [Sarah's note: I used 3]
-Package of andouille sausage (the pepperage farm stuff will do just fine. they make a "cajun" version.) [Sarah's note: I went pepperage farm!]
-A pound or so of shrimp (I'd suggest no smaller than medium. Large works well but sometimes they're too large and people wont get a lot per serving)
-3 ripe tomatoes (use fresh, ive tried to make this with canned and you lose a lot) [Sarah's note: Glad he told me that... I use canned tomatoes a lot with cooking, 'cause I'm a wimp, but he convinced me not to]
-Chicken stock
-2 or 3 cups of rice (I prefer jasmine but that's the filipino in me)[Sarah's note: I used 2.5 cups Jasmine rice]
-4 cloves of garlic
-1 whole medium red onion
-"Cajun" seasoning
-Red pepper flakes
-Salt and pepper

okay. this is an easy, one pot (or two) dish.
First, the prep:

-Garlic - chop fine

-Red onion - chop fine as well
-Tomatoes - peeled, seeded, and chopped fine. my trick is to core the tomatoes. make an "X" on the bottom of it with a knife. then to put them into boiling water for a minute. take them out and immediately place them into ice cold water to "shock" them. That allows you to peel the tomatoes (from the X) quite easily. once peeled, cut in half and squeeze the seeds out. after that's all done, you can chop up the tomatoes into small pieces. dont worry though, the tomatoes will cook thoroughly and dissolve into the stew. [Sarah's note: This was SO helpful! I had no idea how to do this. It was fairly quick and easy. And he was right, the tomatoes dissolved right into the jambalaya, which is great because I'm not big on tomato chunks. So cool. I love recipes that help me learn...]
-Chicken - chop into smallish, 1 or 2" bite sized pieces.
-Sausage - cut diagonally
-Shrimp - peel. devine if you so choose. I don't. [Sarah's note: I bought some that were already peeled and deveined... wimp, I know. One thing at a time, people.]

Cooking time.
-In a large stock pot or dutch oven, heat up some olive oil. add red pepper flakes to infuse the oil. [Sarah's Note: I used 1.5 tbsp Red Pepper Flakes. I thought it was a perfect amount, but I am a slight spice wimp. Use your gut] Add onion and let simmer for a couple minutes.
-Next add garlic and simmer being careful not to burn the garlic.
-Salt, pepper, and add cajun seasoning. I wish I could tell you how much, just game it.
[Sarah's Note: I used what I felt like was a lot... 4tbsp cajun, 2 tbsp salt, 2 tbsp pepper. But it turned out great. I love "taste and see" recipes!]
-Next add chicken and sausage and let saute for a couple minutes. I add some more salt and pepper and cajun seasonings.
-After a couple minutes of sauteing (you dont need long) add the tomatoes and stir. last chance to adjust seasonings so one last taste test.
-Add the rice and follow the instructions for the amount of liquid/chicken stock (usually 1.5-2 parts liquid to rice). [Sarah's note: I used 2.5 cups rice, 5 cups chicken stock]
-Give one good stir then cover.
-Bring stew to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. DO NOT OPEN THE LID ONCE CLOSED!
-Rice usually takes 20 mins to cook so around minute 16-17, add the shrimp to the stew and cover again. this allows the shrimp to cook but not become rubbery from being overcooked.
-Once rice is fully cooked, remove from heat. salt and pepper to taste.

I find that it tastes better if you can perfect the seasoning before the rice gets in. Remember the rice is going to absorb a lot of it. i have a tendency to overseason though so i have to really be timid with it.

Yum. 'Nuff said.

Thanks, blog friend! Like I said-- it turned out really great. I'm loving the leftovers!

Tonight's cooking goal: Donna--FFW's Stuffed Flank Steak. EEeek! Soo excited...


Matt's Birthday!

Matt's birthday is this Sunday! One day after the 4th :) It would be cool if he was born on Independence Day... because then we'd both kinda be born on holidays... but one day off isn't bad.

I am so looking forward to his birthday! I love his birthday. We always do something fun...

Here's us two years ago when I took him kayaking:


We kayaked to this little inlet in Wilmington and had a lovely picnic, just the two of us!
Matt's Birthday '07
Then a storm came in and we almost died getting back, trying to dodge all the 4th of July vacation boats who were trying to hurry back as well. But that story another day :)

And one year ago, when we celebrated his birthday in Charleston...

Matt's Birthday '08
Here we are at the Battery, lookin' out at the water...

Matt's Birthday '08
Here we are, a little tipsy after lots of good food and good drinks at a fancy restaurant in downtown Charleston...

So, what big surprise do we have for his birthday this year??

Unfortunately, he has 20 hours of online courses to complete this weekend for his CFP stuff. I know, on the 4th and on his birthday! So no big surprises like previous years... but it's ok; Sunday night we're going out to The Melting Pot, a fun, swanky fondue restaurant. We've never been!

I've got a couple fun surprises planned... a yummy surprise cake, some fun presents, and a treat at the restaurant... but I can't post JUST in case he looks at the blog. Not that he'll have any time to this weekend with his class... but I don't want to risk it. I'll fill you in later, hopefully with pictures of us fondue-dipping!

It's definitely not kayaking or traveling... but it's going to be a good weekend :)


Other sidenotes:

-Tom's in China! Cool... he'll be there till about July 10th, home just in time for him and my Mom to take my younger sisters on a big camping trip
-Happy Birthday, America! My Dad will be enjoying the 4th from Baghdad, so send happy thoughts that way :)
-Winston is here! I've blogged about Winston before... he's a family friend's dog that I dog sit sometimes. Winston's parents are enjoying the beach this weekend, so he's here keeping me company while Matt studies... (actually, he's lying under the table by Matt while Matt studies and pets him. He's supposed to be playing with me... dogs always like Matt better than me. What is that?!)
-Juggling 3 web projects right now: two volunteer, one paid. Phew! It's taking up a lot of time!


Have a great holiday weekend, everyone!

Your checkers-frogging, web-designing,
jambalaya-enjoying, birthday-anticipating,
New Girl Blogger