Tuesday, July 26, 2011

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go...

Except I'm not leavin' on a jet plane this time!  I have the car all packed up and am getting ready to drive to Arkansas!  Just have the last few things to put into the ice chest then my friend Tex and I will be on our way.  Marc couldn't make it this trip because he has some new training at work.  
The trip will take us through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, and finally into Arkansas.  Please say a prayer for safe travels!

I am really excited that the fundraiser is finally this Saturday! I'll post pictures and how we did once it's complete.  I hope it goes as well as it is going in my head!!!!


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Busy Week!

This past week was pretty busy.  I spent all day last Sunday with Kevin, then Monday, I had to work at the office for a little while.  Tuesday, Marc and I went to a membership drive at Studio Square in Astoria, Queens.  It is a huge biergarten (www.studiosquarenyc.com) and is a really cool place.  Kevin met us there with our friend Taylor.  It was a great time! Wednesday, I worked at the MP and Thursday I went to Thursdays at the Cake.

Yesterday, Marc and I got up and went to pick up some of the grocery items I will need for the fundraising dinner next week, but would have a hard time finding down in Arkansas.  We went to a supply store that caters to restaurants and also carries fresh food.  It's a really cool store, especially if you're like me and love to cook.  We got fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese, shredded pecorino romano cheese, fresh green beans, pancetta, and a few other things I can't remember right this second. Getting everything into the fridge was interesting.  It's a bit like a game of Jenga though, so we have to be careful which things we take out or the whole tower might come crashing down!!

Tonight I am working at the MP again.  I think today I am going to blanch the green beans so they'll freeze and keep longer...Gonna call my sweet Grandma because I remember seeing her do that to keep the fresh beans we always picked off the vine.

I am making my lists and getting everything ready to go to Arkansas next week! I am driving down with friends.  I'm really looking forward to the road trip; it's been a while since I went on one.  Got the I-pod loaded with good tunes and last week I bought new tires... I can't wait!!!

Hope everyone had a great week and that you're enjoying your weekend!


Monday, July 18, 2011

Good Times!

Saturday, I took the night off from work so I could pick up one of my very best friends from the airport.  Kevin and I have been friends for about 10 years.  I don't get to see him nearly as often as I used to because his job moved him to California.  I love when friends come to visit!  

We hung out Saturday night at a bar where a band called "Sweet Suzi & Sugarfix" were playing.  I hadn't heard of them, but they were really good.  It's always iffy when bands play in bars because sometimes they're not that good, but they compensate by being really loud.  This was thankfully not the case this time.  The singer had a soul-rocker voice; she reminded me a little of Adele, who I just love, and the drummer was awesome!  They did some original songs and some covers, and were very entertaining overall.  

Sunday, I had to go to a meeting at the MP, then Kevin had gotten us tickets to go see "Spiderman: Turn off the Dark" on Broadway.  

I can't get this to stay rotated in the right direction.  sorry!

It was equal parts awesome and awful.  For those of you who don't know, it is the most expensive Broadway musical ever produced.  The stunts and the flying around on cables, and a lot of the sets are pretty cool.  The music and lyrics were written by Bono & The Edge of U2... A couple of the songs were almost good... but nothing was great.  I LOVE U2 and think they're an amazing band.  I also think that Bono & The Edge should stick to what they're good at.  

The actor playing spiderman didn't seem to have a "Broadway-strong" voice, which was disappointing to me.  I get that Peter Parker is a wimpy kid, so when he's not singing, he does a good job with that weak voice.  I have the expectation that when I see a Broadway show, that the singing should be spectacular.  The girl who played Mary Jane was the understudy, and she missed a few notes as well.  I know I probably sound like a critical shrew, but these tickets are expensive.  I've seen a lot of shows on Broadway and 99% of the time, the voices of the actors blow me away and give me goosebumps.  I'm sure younger kids will think it's fabulous.  It wasn't my favorite.

When we finished at the show, Kevin and I met another of our friends at Hallo Berlin on 10th Avenue.  

Marc happened to be in town for work and met us for his lunch break.  We ordered the potato pancakes and wurst platter for appetizers, and both were delicious.  I ordered the Jagerschnitzel for my entree.  Now, I have ordered Jagerschnitzel in Germany and in New York.  It is my favorite German dish.  It is a breaded and fried veal or pork cutlet served with a hunter gravy with mushrooms.  Always.  At Hallo Berlin, it is.......not.  I don't know what they served me, but Jagerschnitzel, it most assuredly was not. 
I should have taken a picture.  It was a piece of meat pounded within an inch of its life; about 1/8 inch thick, and not breaded, but fried on a griddle and covered with some kind of uber salty tomato and onion sauce stuff.  I ate 2 bites. Blech! I now really want to go to Zum Stammtisch in Queens for some REAL Jagerschnitzel!

After the attempt at dinner, Kevin, Taylor and I went to Rudy's on 9th avenue and shared a couple of pitchers of beer.  We just sat around the table and visited and caught up with one another.  It was fun.  

Today, I had to go to the office for a couple of hours, but then came home and made dinner with Marc.  We had Margarita marinated grilled chicken breasts with a garlic-cayenne sweet & sour sauce, green beans, and corn.  It was really tasty.  

Tomorrow, we're going to the Biergarten in Astoria, Queens for an evening of beer and finger-foods on the patio.  Kevin, Taylor, and Russ will be meeting us there.  It's a fundraiser for one of the fraternal organizations Marc is involved with.  It will be a great time, and I'll take some pictures to show you later!

I hope your week has started off nicely.  We got some much needed rain today.  Hopefully, it helps to cool off the temperature for a little while.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Scholarship fundraising information and other odds & ends

I do believe that July has been the least financially lucrative month EVER in the history of months! I mean, that's going back a really long time!  Everyone is taking their summer vacations and not going to the MP very frequently. I don't begrudge anyone a vacation, we all know this girl loves her travel...I just wish that everyone on Long Island didn't go away at the exact same time. It's distressing to my little wallet...

In less than 2 weeks, I will be at home in Arkansas!! I love getting to go back down south to see my Momma and friends.  This time, I am driving down with 2 friends from up here in NY.  Why are we going to Arkansas, you ask?  I'm so glad you did.  First, I'll tell you a little story. It's not a happy story, but necessary so that you understand why I am doing a scholarship fundraiser.  

You see, my only brother, Justin, was a soldier; a Staff Sergeant (SSG) in the US Army, and he loved his job.  He was on his second deployment to Iraq with the Charlie company, 2-505 Parachute Infantry Regiment.  He was a paratrooper out of Ft. Bragg, NC.  
Justin & Me 5/19/2006 Yankees vs Mets game, NYC
Justin in Iraq 2nd tour
My "little" brother was 6'5" tall and loved shooting pool, tattoos, basketball, and riding his Harley.  He was the truest and most loyal of friends.  He made people feel at east with quick wit and a fantastic smile.  Most other soldiers called him 'Dutch'.

On March 5, 2007 my family received the news every military family dreads.  Justin, along with 6 of his fellow soldiers were killed in action.  They were in a convoy securing the berm when a pressure-activated IED exploded below the 1st Hum-Vee in the line.  Justin was in the 3rd vehicle.  The blast was so great that the first vehicle was literally blown in half.  One of the occupants of the vehicle was still alive, but on fire.  Justin left the safety of his vehicle with a fire blanket and ran to his comrade's aid.  The fire was so hot that the ammunition he carried himself was cooking off and shooting from wherever it was located on his BDU's.  Justin called forward the medical evacuation team and was organizing their transport of the casualties when the cowardly Iraqi insurgents remote detonated a secondary buried IED that Justin was basically standing over.  He was killed instantly.  These young men are known as the Samarra 7.  Justin was brought home to Arkansas to be laid to rest.  His friends flew from all over the world to attend his funeral services.  There were over 800 people in attendance.  I don't know if I've mentioned before or not, but the town we grew up in is very small.  There were 25 kids in Justin's high school graduating class.  We used our high school gymnasium for his services because nowhere else was large enough to hold the crowd.  Justin was awarded the Silver Star for Gallantry in Action posthumously.  "Greater love hath no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friend." John 15:13.
SSG Justin M. 'Dutch' Estes

Justin's classmates set up a scholarship in his honor. It is given to one graduating senior each May from our little high school.  It is a one-time $1,000 scholarship.

I am driving home to do a fundraiser for this scholarship at the end of July.  On Saturday, July 30th, I will be cooking some of the recipe favorites I post about on Facebook.  I'll be making chipotle lime chicken enchiladas & spanish rice, Crispy chicken parmigiana with penne & vodka sauce, my extra cheesy lasagna with bolognese sauce and steamed fresh green beans sauteed with bacon and shallots.  It is $10 for adults and $5 for kids under 10.  We have been securing donations from local people and businesses to raffle off as well.  We've raised a little over $1,000 so far with people mailing donations ahead of time.  I am so excited to do something to keep Justin's memory alive. 

If you have any questions about making a donation to a fabulous cause, please just comment and let me know.  I can't wait to get home to cook for my hometown crowd.  It's going to be a lot of fun with great people and great food.

I hope y'all have a pleasant weekend!


Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday night's dinner and other musings...

I came home from the office tonight to my wonderful husband making dinner.  He made whole wheat breaded pork chops with green beans and mac & cheese, and we snacked on the fresh veggies I cut up yesterday.  It was delicious!

Marc is a really good cook, and it's nice that he enjoys it too.  Doesn't dinner look scrumptious?  It was!  (I bet you're wishing you had smell-o-vision right about now) 

I love cutting up fresh bell peppers and cucumbers to snack on.  Tomatoes are my favorite, and I love baby carrots too.  I like to eat them with dip or without, and I like knowing that they're good for me.  

I received no compensation for posting this picture; I just love it!
I know it sounds strange to most, but my very favorite mac & cheese is Kraft in the blue box, and no, they're not paying me to say that.  I WISH!  It's the kind of mac & cheese my mom made, and it's still my favorite to this day.  I've had the cheap knock-off brand, and it's terrible and I've had the fancy-schmancy gourmet stuff at restaurants and nothing compares to my blue box.  

The other thing that I love that I truly wish I didn't is this little dandy.
again, no compensation...just my favorite beverage
Oh, sweet, sweet nectar of the gods ahem...that was embarrassing.  I love pepsi.  I do not like coke.  Aforementioned sweet husband likes coke.  I have been asked in the line at the grocery store by the clerk why I was buying a 12-pack of each on more than one occasion.  To you folks who say you can't tell a difference, you need to have your taste buds examined.  I wish pepsi was good for me, but since it's not, I try not to keep it at the house.  We still have some left from the BBQ last week, so I'm doing my best to dispose of the evidence...as quickly as possible:)

Tomorrow, I have to go buy new tires for my truck.  Holy expensive, batman! I hate buying tires, but they're a necessary evil. I can't very well drive half-way across the country in 2 weeks on the bald tires I have right now.  Or, I could, but it certainly wouldn't be safe or wise.  It seems like this month is just very expensive in general.  Having to buy tires, as well as my vehicle registration being due are 2 extra bills I could have done without, thankyouverymuch!  

I started reading a new book series yesterday, and so far am loving it.  The first book is called "Soulless" (The Parasol Protectorate) by Gail Carriger. It is set in victorian England and has supernatural creatures, and a skewed sense of history.  I found it very funny and can't wait to read the other two books. (#2: "Blameless" and #3 "Changeless")  I plan to download them to my kindle (oh how I love thee) later this evening.  Books don't tend to last me very long, I devour them voraciously.  I LOVE to read.  I really enjoy having my kindle because I can carry a library with me at any given time.  It's fabulous; especially for travel.  I've even loaned it to a friend so she could keep herself occupied on a flight to the Philippines. 

That's about all I've got for now, I hope y'all have a wonderful week and don't melt in the awful July heat.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things

Now, thanks to the title of this blog, I am singing in my head, ala Julie Andrews...sheesh!  I decided not to go to Thursdays at the Cake tonight due to my sad, empty wallet desire to save some money this month before my road trip home to Arkansas.  I can't believe in less than 3 weeks I'll be home again!  I am really excited to cook for the fundraising dinner for the Justin M. Estes Memorial Scholarship; so far, we're expecting about 100 people! A friend told me the other day that I should start a catering business.  I guess the 30th of July will be a test for me!  I don't think I'll run a catering business per se, but maybe I'll do it for special events for friends.  We shall see.

So! Back to my point.  A few of my favorite things is a little mash-up of things I love or wish to have.  I'll try to restrain myself from going nuts and making my dear readers eyes bleed fall asleep!

*Puppies...I know, this is a given because what kind of communist person doesn't like puppies, but seriously, I love them and I reeeeeeeeeeeeally want one.  HINT, HINT, Marc!  I have some great friends back home in Arkansas who breed golden retrievers, and every time I go home, I make sure to stop to see Paul & Paula to visit, and play with puppies when they have litters there. Aren't they the cutest, snuggliest little things ever???

image courtesy of vinanches.com rachelJenae Photography
*Lake Ouachita in Montgomery County, Arkansas.  This lake is about 10 minutes from where I grew up.  I have such great memories of taking the boat to the lake with my family and tubing or waterskiing all afternoon.  The lake is huge, and so beautiful.  I am hoping to get to go there while I am in Arkansas at the end of July! It's so beautiful! I will definitely be bringing my camera to get my own Lake Ouachita Sunset photo.

Image courtesy of mvk.usace.army.mil
*Traveling. I'm sure it's no secret.  Marc and I both really enjoying going new places and seeing everything there is to see.  We especially love to try to local fare and learn the history of the places we visit.  I LOVE ancient architecture.  I've noticed that most of the pictures I take when we travel are of buildings or monuments.  I think it would be amazing to just be a "fly on the wall" and go back in time to see how things really were done, and not just have to guess.  I think of that often when visiting an ancient ruin, like Rome or Greece.  I still want to go to Egypt and many more places.  We were supposed to get to go to Egypt when we went on the Mediterranean cruise back in March, but about a month before we were to leave is when all of their political upheaval began, so we were not allowed to port there.  I'm disappointed, but understand that a volatile country is no place for a photo-happy tourist.

Bridge in Japanese Gardens, Monte Carlo, Monaco

Japanese Gardens, Monte Carlo, Monaco
*Cooking. Another no-brainer if you know me...I LOve to cook, especially for people who love to eat.  I think that sharing a meal with friends and/or family is one of the greatest ways to pass the time.  Marc and I both enjoy time in the kitchen.  My spice cabinet is pretty large, but it's already overflowing to the next cabinet beside it.  I like to experiment with new flavors and old favorites...
Chocolate chip & bacon cookies, Anyone???
*Clean Sheets. There is nothing like snuggling down into fresh, clean sheets on a freshly made bed.  

*Arkansas Razorback Football!  I seriously can't wait until Marc and I move down to Arkansas when he retires.  I miss going to games on Saturdays and calling the HOGS!  Football up here in Yankee land New York is nothing like what it is back home.  Some of the colleges don't even have football programs! For shame!!!!  Marc played football in college, and he is a HUGE fan.  He roots for the hogs with me and has gone to a game at Razorback Stadium.  We will be fixtures there once we get moved!!
Image courtesy of Arkansasrazorbacks.com
*Sunsets. I'd probably enjoy sunrises too, if they weren't so darned early in the morning.  I am NOT a morning person.  I usually go to bed after 3 AM.  I am the epitome of a night owl, and have a bit of a toxic personality before 10 AM.  Just being honest.
Sunset over Lindenhurst, NY

Sunset over Jerusalem, Israel

Sunset over the Mediterranean Sea, near Greece
There are just a few of my favorite things.  Maybe we can do "Favorite things Thursdays"? What do you think? Anyone else care to participate??

I hope y'all have a wonderful weekend!


Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day!!!

We had a wonderful day today with good friends and good food.  Since I had prepped almost everything yesterday, I didn't have a lot of work to do today.  I made potato salad, cole slaw, deviled eggs with bacon, and shredded the pork tenderloin for pulled pork.  Our friends brought dessert, so I didn't have to do that.  It was pretty hot to start with, but by the late afternoon, it was comfortable to sit outside and visit.  I took some pictures to show you.  

For appetizers, I made fresh salsa, deviled eggs with bacon, & onion dip.  We picked up a veggie platter and some chips also.
Deviled eggs with bacon.  Seriously delicious!

Veggies, chips, dip, & salsa

Marc rubbed down all of the ribs. We had 4 racks of baby backs and 4 racks of country style ribs that went on the smoker at 11:00 am.
Baby back ribs ready to go into the smoker


Ribs in the smoker, the other grill is heating up for meaty goodness!
We also fired up the gas grill to cook smoked kielbasa, margarita marinated chicken breasts, teriyaki marinated skirt steaks, hamburgers, hot dogs, and hot sausages.

Our friend, Al, with all of the grilling meats
I made Barbecue sauce, potato salad, cole slaw, pulled pork, and corn on the cob.  I forgot to take pics of the salads, but got one of the corn.
 Jamie, Danielle, and Jo-Ann made the desserts.  Jamie made chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting, silver edible pearls, and fresh strawberries & blueberries.  Danielle made Pina colada cake with chocolate icing, and Jo-Ann made Marc's favorite crumb cake.
Jamie did all this with a toddler in the house!

Super delicious pina colada cake!

Jo-Anne's crumb cake.  The topping is sooooo good!
I didn't get any shots of everyone who was here, but we had a total of 21 people come over throughout the day.  It was wonderful to visit with everyone and enjoy some seriously delicious food.  We have a lot of left-overs, who's coming to help eat them?

I hope everyone had a safe 4th of July holiday, and have a good week.  I know I don't want to go back to work after such a nice, long weekend!


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Gearing up for the big BBQ!

I hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend so far.  Marc and I decided that next year, we're going to go visit my friend Rob in North Carolina for the 4th of July weekend.  I worked Friday & Saturday nights. The weather outside was really great, so almost no one wanted fondue.  Crazy, right??? Everyone knows that nothing says 4th of july like a big pot of fondue...haha...

So, when I got home last night, I started prepping for our HUGE 4th of July bbq on Monday.  I made fresh salsa. I took a couple pictures to show you.

It's nice and fresh, has just enough heat from the 2 jalapenos, but not too spicy.   I also made my homemade BBQ sauce and got the skirt steaks marinating.  Have I mentioned the menu yet?  Shame on me... We are having fresh salsa & chips, deviled eggs with bacon, baby-back ribs, country style ribs, pulled pork, grilled skirt steaks, grilled hamburgers, grilled hot dogs, fresh corn on the cob, homemade potato salad, fresh homemade cole slaw, sweet tea, pepsi, & cold beer.

Today, I am going to vacuum & dust the house and prep a few more things.  I am dicing up the onion, celery, & sweet pickle for my potato salad, as well as quartering and boiling the potatoes so that tomorrow, all I have to do is toss everything in the bowl and make the dressing.  Marc is going to rub the ribs with spices and get the ready to go onto the smoker first thing tomorrow morning.  We've got a canopy for the deck so no one gets sunburned, as well as plenty of bug spray to keep the mosquitoes away too.  

I'll post pictures tomorrow of all the friends and food we have over here.  

Have a safe and fun weekend! Happy Birthday, USA!