Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Summer Sneak Peek

Although it got down to 37 degrees in Durham two nights ago, I was really craving a taste of summer.  With a little pre-planning, this meal can come together in 15 minutes or less at dinner time.  I made it as a light dinner before going to my Bible study on Monday night.  It's a light, flavorful meal, and it was perfect for me.  However, Brent claimed he had to eat 3 ice cream sandwiches afterward, so you  may want to include some bread or ice cream for your man :-)  In the morning, marinate your chicken in a large Ziploc bag.  Also in the morning, chop up fruit and make the fruit salad.  Stash everything in the fridge to get all yummy.  Dinner will come together in no time when you just cook the chicken & quinoa.
Lime Chicken
{Mom's recipe}
Pound chicken breasts thin, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add them to a Ziploc bag.  Marinate with soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and lime juice.  I refuse to measure ingredients for marinades, so I encourage you to do the same.  I added soy sauce, Worcestershire, and lime juice in an approximate 2:1:1 ratio.  At dinner time, saute in a skillet over medium heat approximately 6 minutes per side or until cooked through.  Slice thinly.  If you have a grill, more power to ya, but I just used my lowly skillet, and I still got lovely "grill" marks.

Savory Tropical Fruit Salad
{Adapted from Cooking Light}
In a bowl, combine:
1 mango, diced
2 cups pineapple, diced
2 kiwis, diced
1 orange, diced
2 T. red onions, diced
2 T. cilantro, chopped
half of a small jalapeno, diced
1 t. ground cumin
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Cilantro Lime Quinoa
{Adapted from Pinterest}
Cook quinoa according to package directions.  I cooked 1 cup of quinoa for two people.
When cooked, stir in lime juice, chopped cilantro, and salt to taste.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Easy Eataly

This past summer, Brent and I discovered Mario Batali's "Eataly" in New York City.  We had a fabulous dinner there.  Brent got a pasta dish that was so good, we are still talking about it.   The odd thing is that it was just about the most simple, basic pasta dish EVER.  It was amazingly well-executed with high quality ingredients.  It was a penne pasta with marinara, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil.  There was something about the sweet marinara, creamy mozzarella that got kind of melty, and fresh, fragrant basil that was simple perfection.  It's a meatless main dish, and I'm kind of embarrassed about how easy it is.  This is one of our go-to meals when we are feeling kind of lazy but still want something good.  Now, I'm quite sure Mario whips up his marinara sauce from scratch, but I find Newman's Own jarred sauce saves me approximately 3 hours.  Last night was stormy here in Durham, and this was the perfect dinner to eat curled up on the couch watching DVR-ed "Selling New York".  Add a bowl of salad and some garlic bread, and you've got a meal.  Try it this week!
Easy Eataly Pasta
Good penne rigate
Good jarred marinara (we like Newman's Own)
FRESH mozzarella cut into small chunks
FRESH basil cut into thin strips
Optional:  Crushed red pepper flakes and fresh Parmesan

Boil your penne according to directions on box.  While pasta is cooking, cut up your mozzarella and basil.  Drink wine.  Drain in colander & return pasta to pan.  Pour in marinara sauce and cook on low for just a few minutes - you really want the sauce to warm up and soak in.  Serve pasta in bowls and let each person add as much mozzarella, basil, red pepper flakes, and/or Parmesan they desire.  Stir it all up, let the mozzarella get all warm and melty, and enjoy!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cruising the Caribbean

Did you know that I have the best husband in the world?  Well, I do.

He has been busy with school this year, but he just got an internship (more on that later), so we decided to celebrate, and he took me on a wonderful spring break vacation.  I've never been on a cruise before, and we found a good deal on a great cruise (thanks, Susan!)  We sailed the Celebrity Eclipse from Miami to Puerto Rico, St. Martin, and St. Kitts for 8 days and 7 nights.  We had a blast doing something different together and getting truly off the grid for 8 days.  I don't remember the last time I didn't have access to a computer or cell phone for that long.  It was glorious. 

Since it was our first cruise as adults, we had a bit of a learning curve.  By the end of the cruise, we knew where to eat the best food and where the best pool chairs were and when the sushi buffet was put out and what types of excursions are best.  We deemed some people on the ship "cruisers".  These are people who have been on approximately one thousand cruises in their lifetime, and they are NOT messing around.  (My apologies if you are a cruiser.)  These people had laminated lanyards for their "sea pass" and they were going to be first in line for food and first off the ship at the port and they were going to wear flip flops and palm tree shirts to dinner.  And don't even try to get in their way.  We had a few good laughs about the many "cruisers" on board.  And then there was our favorite:  cruisers on cruisers.  This was a "cruiser" on a rascal or some sort of motorized chair.  Now THEY were serious.

Anyway... we learned!!  If you're interested, here's the recap!  Picture overload alert!

To save money, we drove 12 hours from North Carolina to Miami instead of flying.  It wasn't a bad drive at all, and we were greeted by a beautiful Miami sunset.
We stayed the night at the home of Brent's aunt, uncle, and cousin.  His aunt & uncle were out of town, but we got to hang out with his cousin, Jorge, and his wife, Kelly.  We had a great time seeing their new house and eating Cuban food for dinner.
This is one view of their backyard which is right on the canal leading to Biscayne Bay.  Who needs a vacation when you live here?
Well, we don't live there, so on Saturday morning, we boarded our cruise!  Getting on board was seamless and smooth, and we had so much fun that first day exploring the ship.  While docked in Miami, we ate lunch outside with a beautiful view of the port and the city.

We finally got into our room, and we loved it!  Our room far exceeded my expectations for a cruise ship room.  It was spacious and nice, and the bathroom was great!  We even had a large balcony with a table and two chairs, and it was so fun to stand outside our room and watch as we sailed away from Miami.

We celebrated our first night in the martini bar. (OK, and every night after that)
I was wondering if they still made towel animals on cruise ships... they do.
On day 3, we reached our first port of call: San Juan, Puerto Rico.
We took a walking tour with a darling old man who I sincerely loved.  He took us on a tour of the historic downtown of Old San Juan and the El Morro Castle and fort.  The views and scenery were spectacular.

If you ignored the tourist section with cheap shops and jewelery stores, downtown San Juan was quite charming.  The cobblestone streets are original.  The streets were paved in cobblestones because when the explorers came there, they filled their ships with stones as "ballast" to balance their ships.  Upon reaching the new world, they found so much gold that they dumped out the stones and replaced them with gold.  As a result, San Juan had enough stones to pave the whole city.  Crazy!  We also saw the church where Juan Ponce de Leon was buried!  My teacher heart liked that.
The buildings really were this cute.

We had dinner at a sidewalk cafe in San Juan.  The drinks and the atmosphere far exceeded the food.  Oh well.
Once we got back on the ship, we headed up to the 16th deck to the "Lawn Club".  The top deck of the ship is an actual lawn with real grass!  That night, they had wine, cheese, and jazz.  They even had cozy flannel blankets to sit on.

Our next stop was St. Martin.  It was interesting to drive through both the French and Dutch sides of the island.  We went on a beach excursion on the French side, and we had a lovely day relaxing and eating lunch in a tropical cabana-style restaurant.

Back on the ship.  Did I mention there was a martini bar?
Our third stop was our favorite by far:  St. Kitts.  We woke up and saw this out our window as we approached the island.  Not bad, not bad.
This was paradise.  Turquoise waters, mountains in the distance, secluded beach, perfect weather, and clear ocean.  We had the best day here swimming, walking, and reading on our beach chairs.  I finally read Twilight!  Yes, for the first time!  I can finally get my English teacher card back.  It was a great beach read.

The picture at the top of this post is us on the beach in St. Kitts.  Love.
This is a view from a lookout in St. Kitts where you can see the Atlantic Ocean (on the left) and the Caribbean Sea (on the right) at the same time.
OK, tourist trap alert:  sorry, but I couldn't resist.  Apparently there are 25,000 monkeys roaming St. Kitts, and many of the locals have taken it upon themselves to capture, train, dress, and keep these monkeys as pets.  There are people everywhere willing to lend you their monkeys for a picture.  We offered the guy $2 for this picture, but he told us it would be $10.  Seriously?!  $10 for a picture with monkeys?  I mean, they did have nice outfits and everything but...  We had already taken the picture, so we just gave him $10 and laughed about it the rest of the day.  We decided that Brent is going to quit school and we're going to be monkey keepers in St. Kitts because at the rate of $10 every 15 seconds, that dude is pulling in $10 million a year.  Just saying.
Did I mention there was a martini bar?
The pools on board the ship had these really cool covered cocoon lounges that you could sit in all day.  And we did.
On one of the last days at sea, there was a HUGE (and I mean huge) brunch display.  It was overwhelming.  This was just one small portion of the dessert display.
Brent enjoying coffee on our balcony
The last night, we ate in this really cool restaurant on board where you ordered your food from an iPad!
That night one of our favorite dishes was lobster escargot... yum!
For dessert, they had "make your own cupcakes".  How cute is this?  They bring you cupcakes, frosting, and toppings, and you make them how you want!!
All in all, the first cruise was a success!  Beautiful, relaxing, and different.  Thanks to my sweet husband for taking me!  Now, back to work...

Monday, March 5, 2012

March Must-Haves

I've taken the liberty of rounding up ten things gauranteed to make your March amazing.

1.  Downton Abbey
If you haven't watched Downton Abbey yet... run, don't walk, to your Netflix or iTunes.  I don't like very many TV shows at all, but this one is just.plain.amazing. and one of my favorite shows ever.  Imagine a sumptuous, luxurious castle with rich sets and costumes.  Add incredible acting and zingers that will make you laugh out loud plus copious amounts of shocking drama.  This show is a major winner.  It's on PBS, so if being a nerd is wrong, I don't wanna be right!

2. A Spring Wreath
I'm becoming quite obsessed with having a wreath for every season.  After trolling Pinterest for ideas, I combined a few into my own spring wreath using a twig wreath, burlap, ribbon, silk flowers, and a little birdie (all from Michael's).

3.  40 Days of Prayer 
During this season of Lent, our church is participating in 40 days of prayer.  Summit Church is providing a free 40 Days of Prayer Guide that you can download on your computer or iPad.  Each day contains a scripture, short devotional, and prayer guide.  You can start anytime and don't even have to go in order.  Download it today and pray with me as we prepare for Easter!  Get your download HERE.

4.  Cover Girl Nature Luxe Foundation
I have been using tinted moisturizer for most of my life because I can't stand the feel of heavy foundation.  However, upon turning 30, I decided I should investigate some better coverage options.  I found this Cover Girl Nature Luxe, and I love it!  It's extremely silky and you truly can not feel it on.  It also covers well without looking caked.

5.  The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
This is a GREAT book I just finished!  It's a psychological thriller that turns paranormal at the end.  It's about a teenager, Mara, who wakes up in the hospital after a terrible accident that killed her three friends.  She has post traumatic stress disorder which causes her to hallucinate and not be able to tell what's real as she tries to put the pieces of her life back together and figure out what happened.  This is definitely a page-turner!  I highly enjoyed it.

6.  Quaker "Quakes"
My mom used to feed me rice cakes as a kid, and I seriously hated them.  They tasted like pressed sawdust.  Well, apparently in the last 20 years, there have been some breakthroughs in rice cake technology.  Brent & I are obsessed with these Quakes - especially the cheddar kind.  I sometimes crave cheddar chips, and these do the trick perfectly.  They are very crispy, light as air, and have a really delicious flavor.  There are 18 in a serving size with very few calories.  Delish!

7.  Mothering From the Heart
No, I'm not a mother (yet), but I have been so encouraged by this resource.  My blogger friend, GraceAnna, does a radio show with her mom called "Mothering From the Heart".  They answer questions from women about being a Godly wife & mom.  They always give such good, practical, biblical advice.  I sometimes listen to the archives when I'm working, and I always feel like I have a new perspective on something that applies directly to my life or something that I will for sure remember for the future.  You can listen to any of their archived shows on demand on their website HERE.
8. Target Leandra Flip Flops
Spring has sprung, and I'm pretty sure you need some bejeweled bright colored flip flops.  And... they are only $7!!  They come in white, teal, pink, and coral.  Pretty sure you need them all.

9.  Essie "Bahama Mama" Nail Polish
I am loving this shade for both nails and toes these days.  It has just a hint of "bright" for spring, but it's still dark enough to be a good bridge between winter and spring.  Plus, it's a shade of super-chic purple.  I love this stuff!!

10.  Ann Taylor Loft Striped Belt
I am rediscovering the greatness of belts.  I recently picked up this adorable striped belt from Ann Taylor Loft.  It's stretchy and goes with anything!  I love the bold stripes, and I plan to wear this with navy, gray, or yellow!

Here's to a marvelous March!
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