Thursday, September 21, 2006

Let them eat Cake!

I feel like most of the dates that Michael and I go on are centered around things I like to do...going out to eat, spending an evening at Barnes & Noble, window shopping in Clarendon (a posh community of Arlington). So, last week, when Mike asked me what I wanted to do that evening (one of his afternoon classes had been cancelled, freeing up some time), I told him that I wanted to do something that HE really wanted to do.

When I got home that night, Michael told me he had a surprise for me and that we needed to eat dinner quickly and then hop on the Metro to go into the city. (First thought: ok, we are not going out to eat.) Michael was so pleased with himself and the surprise he has been planning all afternoon, and probably more so that I really didn't have a clue what it was. As we rode the Metro, he would periodically get this look on his face--like he was an ecstatic little kid--knowing that I was going to LOVE my surprise. As we rode the train, I started to think about what "my surprise" could be. I first thought that we were going to Union Station--one of my favorite places to walk around right in downtown with lots of fun shops and restaurants. But, we passed that train stop. Then I thought we might be going to the National Gallery--Michael knows I love to look at art and we haven't been there since last summer. Nope, we passed that train stop too. At this point, I don't recognize any other Metro stops, so I'm out of guesses. I asked Michael to give me a hint and he said, "It has to do with economics." Great. Then I remembered that he asked me before we left if I was going to bring the book I am reading--The Armchair Economist (it has become one of Michael's favorite books and I thought I would understand why he is so obsessed with economics if I read it). So, because he asked me if I was going to take this book on our trip (his copy), I thought we were going to a book singing of The Armchair Economist.

When we finally got off the Metro, we were on U Street in northwestern DC. We started walking down the street and I started to wonder if Michael even knew where he was going. I didn't recognize ANY thing in the area, but when we finally got to the corner of U Street and 15th street, I noticed a bakery called Love Cafe. It made me remember a bakery I had read about last summer in the Washington Post that I wanted to go to....and maybe this was it! Michael started to slow down and asked, "Do you know what this is?" YES! It WAS the bakery that I read about last summer. The article what about a lawyer turned baker who had recently opened a bakery and was going to be starring in a new show on the Food Network called Sugar Rush. I was SO EXCITED! A date that was supposed to be what Michael wanted to do, and he plans something that he knew I would love! What a guy.

This bakery specializes in cakes made from scratch and cupcakes with many flavors of buttercream frosting. Michael got the German Chocolate cupcake, which he at in about three seconds flat.

I opted for a chocolate toffee crunch layer cake. Wow, was that good! I'm already planning my birthday cake for this year (and only 3 months away!)

Monday, September 18, 2006

The yummiest lasagna ever!

This lasagna recipe is SO SO DELICIOUS! Not only do I love it, but it is honestly the only thing Mike requests when I say, "What do you want to have for dinner this week?" And, if I try to make a new dinner the night after I make this lasagna, he would always rather have the lasagna again.

This is what you will need:

1 package lasagna noodles
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 cans tomato soup (condensed, do NOT add water)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups cottage cheese (small curd)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Boil noodles according to package directions.

While noodles are boiling, brown beef in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, adding chopped onion, garlic and oregano to meat as it cooks. When meat has browned, drain off fat and then add tomato soup and apple cider vinegar. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven for 350 degrees F.

Spray a medium casserole dish with a nonstick cooking spray. Lay noodles lengthwise across bottom of casserole dish. Spread a layer of cottage cheese over top of noodles. Add a layer of meat mixture, then cover with mozzarella cheese and repeat for a total of 3 layers. Finish with a layer of cheese and bake for 30 minutes or until bubbling. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

"I am here to challenge you to a throwdown!"

One of my new favorite shows is called THROWDOWN with BOBBY FLAY on, of course, the Food Network. The premise of this show is that Bobby is on a secret mission to challege masters of one kind of cooking--wedding cake pastry chefs, award winning BBQers, bakers--some with a roomful of trophies to show for it. In each episode, one of these cooks is made to believe that Food Network is shooting their profile for a show. They film a spot about their dish, how they got started, the awards they've won and then they plan to have a party where all the locals come to celebrate with the chef for their profile on the Food Network. What they don't know is that Bobby is going to drop in for a surprise visit and challenge them to an unexpected cook-off .

I think this is a great new idea for a competition-type of cooking show. It shows how versatile Iron Chef Bobby Flay really is as he is able to create recipes off the top of his head to stand up to each of these master chefs' famous dishes. And, he definitely isn't always in his element--he once competed in a wedding cake throwdown, having never made a wedding cake before. Another thing I like is that Bobby isn't guaranteed a win, just because he is a Food Network star...I find it a little bit endearing.

Check it out!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Justin 99.5

So, now that I have a 45-minute commute every morning, I had to find something to listen to that would keep me awake on the road. Unfortunately, my XM radio membership has expired and that isn't exactly an expenditure that is in the monthly budget for now. I thought about getting the Book of Mormon or some other book on tape to make me feel productive on my way to and from work everyday, instead of mindlessly flipping through radio stations trying to find a song I like. I haven't yet gone to the library to check out the books on tape; but, I happened to find a radio show that is pretty entertaining!

"The Morning Mess" on HOT 99.5 is a pretty funny morning show, and, more importantly, their hosts don't annoy me. I'm sure you've all heard dozens of radio hosts that just grate on your ears so much so that you can't even bare to listen to them and you change the channel as soon as there is a break in the playlist. These guys, Mark and Kris, among others, have really nice voices, they talk about topics that interest me (not really intellectually stimulating, but who really wants that at 7:30am anyway?!), and they are pretty funny. I think I would like to be friends with them...but for now, I will just pretend to be their friend as they drive with me to work every morning.

On Tuesday, in honor of Justin Timberlake's release of his new albumn, the Morning Mess decided to rename their entire station for the day. They were no longer HOT 99.5, they were JUSTIN 99.5. They did not have the HOT Hollywood HOTsheet, or HOT Headlines; they had the Hollywood JUSTIN sheet. And, they played Justin music all day long--some throwback tunes to his N'SYNC days and also some unreleased songs on his new album. Even though I don't consider myself a huge Justin Timberlake fan, I thought their promotion idea was pretty clever and it was kinda fun to hear all the old N'Sync songs I used to listen to in High School. Needless to say, I think I'll keep my radio tuned in to HOT 99.5's Hot Morning Mess!

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Pink Motel

This is, hands down, my favorite book from elementary school...but, until last week, when I read it again, I really couldn't tell you why I loved it so much. In fact, I could barely remember anything about it. I decided to refresh my memory and went in active search of this childhood favorite. I searched at Borders, but it was out of print. I guess it wasn't really an active search, because when I couldn't find it at Borders, I gave up...temporarily. Knowing that I had such fond memories of this book and was anxious to read it again, my dear twin sister surprised me with it shortly after I moved to Virginia. I was so excited when I opened the package, I honestly screamed and all of the Wheatleys looked at me like I was nuts!

In The Pink Motel, Kirby, Bitsy, and their parents inherit an unusual and very pink motel in Florida. When they arrive during their winter vacation, they find it filled with eccentric characters, mystery, and adventure. The Mellen family plans to fix things up so that they can sell the motel and be back in Minnesota by the time school starts, but as soon as they arrive at their new motel, the regular winter guests begin to arrive and the adventure begins!

Before reading this book again, the only thing I remembered was that while reading The Pink Motel in the fifth grade, our English teacher Mrs. Newman, (who, as it happens, was from England) taught us about Lady Fingers. One of the characters in the book, Miss Ferry, could always be counted on to have treats and goodies for Kirby and Bitsy; and on one particular day, it was lady fingers that were served. Ever since then, whenever I see lady fingers in the store or being used in some recipe on the Food Network, I always think of The Pink Motel.

I would highly recommend that you pick up a book you remember fondly from your childhood and rediscover why you loved it so much. I was so happy to read The Pink Motel again after so many years, and remember things from our fifth grade English class that we discussed about the book. This will definitely be a book that I read to my children at bedtime!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A literal Labor Day Weekend

For most, Labor Day weekend is a time of complete relaxation...usually filled with bar-b-ques, trips to a lake or cabin, hiking excursions, softball games or other outdoor activities, and most importantly, NO WORK. For us, it was quite the opposite.

Friday was the day that Mike and I were able to pick up the keys to our new apartment. We planned to start taking boxes over when we picked up our keys and start unloading that afternoon. We woke up Friday morning to a torrential down-pour! (not a good sign) It did not stop raining from the time we woke up until the time we went to bed. But, like troopers, Mike and his brother James did end up loading the suburban with boxes and fought the elements as they started to move us in.
When we woke up on Saturday morning, it was still raining, though not as hard as the day before...this was just a steady mist--just light enough so that you couldn't really tell if it was raining by looking outside, but just hard enough so that it was really irritating. We went to pick up some furniture from a lady in our stake whose calling it is to coordinate furniture donors with people in need of furniture. We made two stops to pick up furniture--Mike's dad driving the Burb and Mike and me in his car--and took a load over to the aparment. Then we went back to the Wheatley's to load more furniture and boxes, and this time we headed to Arlington in a convoy of all the cars at the Wheatley house. We decided to hold off on taking the bed and our clothes over until the rain stopped, but we made a lot of progress. That night I went Target to get more stuff for the apartment--it felt a bit like stocking up on the necessities that I did when I first arrived at BYU!

On Sunday, we went to our new ward in Arlington and then headed to our apartment to start unloading boxes. We worked until we were starving--which, as it was fast Sunday, didn't take too long. But, I felt pretty good about the progress we'd made.
By how exhausted we were on Sunday evening, I would've thought that most of our work was done. As it turned out, I WAY underestimated the amount of work we had left to do! As we were cleaning out closets and making trips from various places in the house out to the car, Mike said, "I'm to the point where I feel like no matter how many trips I make to the car, I am never going to be finished." (Very similar to what he said the day we moved out of our apartment in Provo when we were taking things down to the car...I think he counted 87 trips to the car that day--just his trips, not mine.) First we took apart the bed and moved the bed frame, mattress, and box spring. Then we moved all the clothes in our closet and wardrobe's times like those when I wonder how in the world I can often think in the morning, "I have nothing to wear!", but I still do. Finally, with the suburban and the Trailblazer loaded again, we made another trip to Arlington. Two and a half hours later, we were back at the Wheatley's to drop off the car and then off to buy a couch--finally one thing that we can have someone else deliver! The good news is we got a great deal on a couch that I am really excited about. The bad news is it won't be delivered until next Friday. Boo.

Now that our "vacation" weekend is over, Mike has had to get back to his law books, and I come home from work everyday to continue to take things up to the apartment--yesterday is was half of Costco's inventory, today I plan to clean out the grocery--and unpack and try to find storage in our little apartment, but I am very excited to be moved in and finally have a place of our own. It almost felt like Christmas to open so many boxes of things I haven't seen since June, and even some wedding gifts that continue to trickle in. My forcast is that it will be until the couches arrive that (almost) everything is in its rightful place.