Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Tom and I celebrated the holiday by attending a party at a friends house. This is the second year they have hosted Halloween and it is quickly becoming a tradition. As you can see, Tom and I dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, we were quite a hit. You can't quite see it in the picture, but I brought a picnic basket full of cookies for grandma. Those were quite a hit too. It was a low key type of party, the kind I prefer. There was alcohol available for those that could drink it, I enjoyed apple cider and cranberry juice. We played a couple of groups games and ending the evening in the basement playing pool and darts. 

Last weekend, Tom and I carved our pumpkins. We are the nerdy type, so we like to go all geeky. I decided to carve Boo, from Super Mario Brothers. He's a ghost, so it works, right?

We also watched a couple of scary movies throughout the week. I am not one for horror movies, especially ones that have a lot of pops. I end up spending the majority of the movie hidden under a blanket. Seriously, my family picks on me because I cannot get through Garfield's Halloween Special. This year I did good, Tom introduced me to Bram Stoker's Dracula and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I made it through both movies without screaming. I actually enjoyed them. It is nice to finally be able to watch a couple of big kid Halloween movies. We also watch The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, because, let's face it, it's not Halloween without Linus sitting out there in the pumpkin patch.

My Little Red Riding Hood costume made a reprise at work. We were having a costume contest, and I decided to go for it. I got third place, and a $10 gas card, score!

I hope everyone else is having, or had a safe and happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Time to Shoot Up, With Fertility Medication

Did you ever wonder what $8,000 worth of medication looks like? Turn to your left, and you will know. That's right, three zeros. I have a bag sitting in my dining room that I am pretty sure is worth more than my car. The best part? It is all injectables, aka shots. I started giving myself shots last night. They are subcutaneous needles, which means they are very tiny. I would compare them to the needles my acupuncturist uses. I was really nervous about giving myself shots, but the lovely nurse at the apothecary gave me a hands on tutorial. It really is not that difficult, I have to mix one of the medications and it kind of makes me feel like a chemist or something. In the near future, I will be adding a third medication, but I can just mix that with one of the other medications I'm taking and stick to two shots a night for 12 days. Now the needles are not that bad, the cramping that comes from after the shot sucks. I've been loving my heating pad since last night. I knew cramping was going to come into play, but I did not expect it so early in the game. Oh well, it will be worth it in the end right?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday's Letters

Jenny and Tom as toddlers, I think we are destined for cute kids

Dear future children: When you ask for your first car, I'm going to show you a picture of the $8,000 worth of medication (yes that's three zeros) required to make you. 

Dear insurance company: Thank you for being so awesome, while $322 is by far the most I have ever paid for medicine, it is a lot easier to swallow than $8,000. I may not love my job, but my benefits are great, and will be worth it in the end.

Dear nurses: Thank you for being so patient and teaching me how to do the injections.

Dear aunt flo: Really? The one month I actually wanted to see you, you decided to go AWOL on me? 

Dear Tom: Thank you for being so understanding through all of this. So much is changing and happening, but we also have to be so patient. It will be worth it in the end when everything finally falls into place. Also, thank you for being such a good sport with our Halloween costume, but more on that later.

Dear Subaru: Last week I was thanking the Dodge dealer, but then you came around and blew everyone out of the water. When the question was posed on Facebook about what type of car we should get, our friends overwhelming recommended you. Sorry Dodge, it looks like an Outback is in our future.

Dear Sandy, aka Frankenstorm: I am finishing up my baker's rack, and it is currently sitting outside on my deck. If you should decide to rain on it and ruin it, we will be having words.


Thursday, October 25, 2012


So, my blog has sort of taken on a different flavor as of late. When I first started writing again, towards the end of August, I was all optimistic that my blog would be a collection of recipes, restaurant reviews, and DIY projects. The thing with blogs, and writing in general, is they sort of take on a mind of their own, they ignore what your intention was, and encourage you to get to the heart of everything. As a result, my happy go lucky little newlywed lifestyle blog seems to be shifting. It is shifting to my life, and my story, and maybe I will be lucky enough that other people will want to read it, if not, it's a way for me to get my emotions out. Let me tell you, right now, my brain is absolutely fried. I explained it to Tom the other day, he asked how I was feeling, and I told him that I cannot focus on anything and my brain feels like scrambled eggs.

Our first IVF trial is now in full swing. I just completed my suppression phase, and now I am waiting for good ol' aunt flo to arrive so that I can become a human pin cushion. I mean, so that I can start administering my hormones, by injection. Two a night, for I want to say about 12 days. I'm not afraid of needles, but I am absolutely terrified of the idea of giving shots to myself. I've watched the educational videos online that my doctor prescribed, and tomorrow I get some one on one time with a nurse to answer any questions. Then I get to start going to regular ultrasounds until the doctor decides that I've created enough follicles for surgery. Which should be sometime in mid-November. Five days after that, the best two embryos will be transferred back into me, and by Thanksgiving we find out if the entire process is successful. My doctor is very optimistic due to my age. I'm terrified. I'll be honest, I'm so used to being infertile that over the last year, even when I've been late, in the back of my head, like it or not, I knew that I was likely not pregnant. It still hurts to have confirmation, but at the same time, it has kept me away from thinking about being a mommy. This time around? Completely different story. I don't know how to describe it, but Tom and I just have this sort of gut feeling that next August we will be welcoming twin girls into the world. The reality of we are going to become parents, sooner versus later, is starting to hit home.

Tom and I paid our final car payment about a week ago, and now we are on the market for a new car. Our list of things we are looking for in a car has completely changed, we need something that we can take camping and on road trips, that will also fit a car seat or two and baby gear. Safety ratings are also taking a whole new priority. This past weekend, my mom and I went to a baby shower. I had a blast at the baby shower and got to hold my cousin's three month old baby. Once I got home, I browsed around the website of a popular baby chain. I was more than a little struck with sticker shock. Babies can be expensive! Needless to say, we are also in the process of stabilizing our finances, with plans to purchase our first new car by the end of 2013 and a house, yes, a house, in the next 3-5 years.

Medical procedures, babies, finances, cars, and houses. No wonder my brain is scrambled eggs. On the positive note, I'm happy to be planning for the future and making steps in a positive direction. On the other had, it is a lot to process in a relatively short piece of time.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Moving Forward

I apologize for not posting lately, truth be told, I just do not have a lot to write about right now. There is so much happening, yet at the same time so little. We received financial approval for IVF, now I just need to wait for the finance department to get in contact with my specific doctor so that they can tell me what to do next. Things are starting to get very real, I went to my cousin's baby shower on Sunday, and all I could think about it how next summer we will (hopefully) be celebrating my baby shower. I had an acupuncture session this morning, and my acupuncturist informed me that next week we are going to start focusing on fertility and less on anxiety, which is definitely going to be a change.

In other news, but sort of related, Tom and I have started looking at new cars. Specifically, an SUV crossover. Right now, we drive a Chevy Impala, which we love, and paid off last Thursday. The only problem with our current car? When Tom and I go camping, we use up the entire trunk and the backseat. There is simply no way we could fit a car seat or two plus baby gear plus all our camping equipment. We also like to road trip and need something reliable that we will all fit in. I guess the nearly 200,000 miles we have put on our current vehicle does not help the situation either. After test driving about a half dozen different vehicles, I think we are going to go with a Subaru Outback. We really loved test driving it, it has an excellent resale value, and our friends are giving it rave reviews.

I guess that's about it, lots of dreaming, planning, and waiting.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday's Letters

I did not throw my cat away, he did this to himself!

Dear IVF Financial Services: Thank you for finally getting back to us and signing us off on financial approval! Our first IVF trial starts in November. I have never been so excited about the idea of giving myself shots and having surgery, but if this is what will make us parents, I'm all for it.

Dear Car: As of yesterday, you are fully paid for. Yay to Tom and I for making the final payment on our first major purchase!

Dear Ford Dealership: Your salesmen are absolute pricks, we were interested in a Ford Escape, but after the way you treated us, we are no longer interested in your brand, at all.

Dear Dodge Dealership: You will have yourselves a new customer in the next six months or so, once we save up a nice down payment. Your customer service is excellent, the Dodge Journey meets all our needs (and then some), and the safety rating is amazing. We look forward to doing business with you.

Dear Toyota Dealership: You guys are great too, and you are definitely our second choice, we were just a bit more comfy in the Dodge. No hard feelings, k? Oh, and thank you for completely making our day and telling us that we have accrued enough credit to be able to get a car loan. 

Dear Restaurant We Went to Last Night: Thank you for far exceeding our expectations, you were definitely better than the last time either Tom or I visited you. We will definitely be visiting you again soon. 

Dear Insomnia: After such an awesome day yesterday, why did you have to go and rear your ugly head last night? Really? Three hours of sleep? Not cool, not cool at all.

Dear Mom: Thank you for helping Tom and I out with our Halloween costumes, we are going to rock the party tomorrow night. 

Dear Tom: Things are changing so quickly and for the better. I am so excited about the direction our life is headed. We will be pregnant before the holidays, you start school in January, we will be buying our first new car at some point next year, and in three-four years we should be ready to buy a house. I finally feel like a grown-up, and it is so fun to have you at my side through it all. I have never been so optimistic about my future in my life, OUR future. 


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Maine Earthquake 2012


So, I was at work this evening, around 7:30. I was finishing up my monthly 1:1 with my boss, when the building started shaking. At first we thought it was a big truck going down the road, then concern grew that a boiler exploded in the basement. As it would turn out, it was more than just the office that was shaking, the State of Maine was shaking, and parts of New Hampshire too. Minutes later, it was made official, a 4.5 earthquake with an epicenter about 15 miles south. A baby earthquake compared to what is felt in California and Japan, but an earthquake none-the-less. 

And how was your day?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Kitchen Update- Starting to Come Together!

My mom and I went shopping over the weekend and I got a couple of pieces for the kitchen; red gingham fabric for curtains and rugs for the floor. I was a little nervous about the rugs, because the were not the braided rugs that Tom and I had in mind, but I am so happy with the end result. The kitchen feels like it is coming together now, and it feels a lot warmer than before. Excuse the Halloween lights in the picture, it is that time of year.

The curtains are handmade. A couple of years ago I was looking for curtains at a department store and the prices made me gag. A curtain is more or less a rectangle of fabric with the edges turned over and a sleeve stitched into the top to run a curtain rod through. That being said, why are curtains so darn expensive? I made the decision that day to make my own from now on and I've never looked back. Not only is it extremely cost effective, I also have the luxury of making the curtains specifically for the window, with the exact fabric that matches with my decor.

Our kitchen window overlooks our balcony, which we set up with some window boxes full of herbs and a bistro set. It's a nice view with a lot of sun, so I opted to make cafe curtains. This was actually my first time making this style of curtains, usually I make drapes, but I really like how they came out.

It took me about 3 hours to cut and sew curtains for both my window and the door to our pantry. I was able to get them done the same day I bought the fabric. Tom was impressed and took me shopping for curtain rods so that we could hang them the same day. Needless to say, I am pleased.

Next on our list of projects for the kitchen? Refinishing our baker's rack with a nice coat of black spray paint. I just need to wait for the rain to stop for a few days.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Social- Let's Get Literary!

Sunday Social
This week's Sunday Social is all about reading. I wish I could be more of a reader, Tom always has his nose in a book. I just cannot seem to get into it. With that said...

 1. Favorite Childhood Book: I was quite an avid reader when I was a kid, until my seventh grade reading teacher basically told me that I was an idiot and that it was inappropriate to be reading Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie. She wanted me to challenge myself more with reading, in the end, she scared me away from reading. I'm trying to get back into it. My favorite book was Dear Mr Henshaw by Beverly Cleary. It's about a boy writing to his favorite author. I don't know what it was about the book, but I read the whole thing in one sitting. I was also an avid fan of Judy Blume and R.L. Stine.

2. Favorite Book Lately: Game of Thrones I was about 3/4 of the way through when I put it down, Tom keeps pushing me to pick it back up. I really need to, I have not seen the series on HBO yet and I absolutely refuse to do so until I have finished the book.

3. Book You Wish You Could Live In: The Notebook, or really any Nicholas Sparks book. He is definitely one of my favorite authors, and I want to visit North Carolina specifically to see where the majority of his books take place. 

4. If you could be any character from a book, who would it be and why? I am going to have to let my nerd side show with this one, I would love to be Menolly from Anne McCaffrey's Dragon Riders of Pern trilogy. I read the books when I was in high school, and I could relate to the character so much I actually dressed up as the character for Halloween. 

5. Favorite Book Turned Movie? Interview with a Vampire, because Anne Rice did such an amazing job with the screenplay, and Tom Cruise IS Lestat. I was so obsessed with the movie as a teenager that I have a signed copy of the book, and I refuse to read/watch The Twilight Saga.

6. Favorite Magazines: I'm not really a fan of magazines. I occasionally like reading Cosmopolitan as a guilty pleasure, and I will read People while at the dentist's office. I have a free subscription for Good Housekeeping right now, but I'm not really getting into it. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Our Kitchen Shelf

Tom and I had a big empty wall in our kitchen, so we decided to fill the space with a shelf. Tom inherited a butcher block from his grandmother, so I wanted something wooden to tie in with the butcher block. I knew what I was looking for, a deep shelf with pegs that we could hang stuff from.

Our mission to find the shelf began at a local unfinished furniture store. We found a shelf that was the right length and depth, but it did not have pegs.

Tom immediately refused the shelf because it was poorly constructed and stapled together. Tom and I subsequently left the unfinished furniture store and headed to a home improvement store, where we quickly learned that the lumber necessary to build a shelf cost more than the shelf at the unfinished furniture store. Tom responded by heading to the hardware aisle and purchased some screws. Our new plan was to purchase the shelf at the unfinished furniture store, take it apart, and put it back together, correctly. We purchased the shelf, some pegs, and some wood plugs and went home.

In terms of taking the shelf apart, Tom was easily able to pull the shelf apart, which I found kind of disturbing. I am not going to name the unfinished furniture company that we went to, but I am also never going to return to purchase furniture from the store either. I distressed each piece of the shelf with rocks, a meat tenderizer, and just overall abuse. Distressing is awesome, you should try it some time. Tom drilled holes in the cross piece and I attached the pegs with a bit of wood glue. We then reassembled the shelf with wood glue and screws. Tom counter sunk the screws and capped them off with wood plugs. Once assembled, the shelf felt much sturdier than when we started, always a good thing.

The next day, I finished the shelf with an oil product both stained and protected the wood. Five coats later, we ended up with a color that we liked. The stain also made all of my distressing stand out. This morning, while I was at work, Tom hung the shelf. He mounted it right into the studs so that the shelf could support weight. Originally, Tom had our cast iron frying pan sitting on top of the shelf, but I wanted to decorate, and that completely defeated the purpose of having the pegs. We fashioned some pot hooks out of 4 inch segments cut from a wire hanger. The top is decorated with some random knickknacks that we've accumulated.

Inspiration Source
Finished Product
Overall, I'm impressed with our project. I have been purchasing Tom tools for Christmas and his birthday for the last couple of years, so it was nice to see him actually use them. Also, if you compare the finished project to our inspiration, I think we hit our mark. It is nice to have little bits and pieces of our kitchen coming together, it makes me excited to go shopping for rugs and fabric to make curtains tomorrow.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday's Letters

Dear Tom: It was so awesome watching you build the shelf last night. There is just something about a guy with power tools... *wink*  It is exactly what I wanted, I can't wait to stain it tonight.

Dear Kitchen: It is on! We have inspiration, we are gathering pieces, it is only a matter of time until you are the snazzy red and black retro vibe kitchen that Tom and I actually want to spend time in!

Dear Baker's Rack: I am sure that you are aware of the spray paint treatment bestowed upon the spice rack, paper towel holder, and mug tree. You, my friend, are next. If Tom get's his way, you might be moving too, and *gasp* become functional.

Dear Immune System: Seriously? What did I do to you? First I have a cold/flu that completely ruined Columbus Day weekend, and just as I'm getting over it, you throw a stomach virus at me and now I am on a clear liquid diet for the next 48 hours. What I would not do for a hamburger right now, or even crackers.

Dear Tom: Thank you for taking care of me last night, I was in a lot of pain and you came to my rescue, just like you always do. I am such a lucky girl to have you in my life. This Sunday, I'm totally making you apple turnovers to return the favor. That's right, puff pastry, all for you baby.

Dear IVF Financial Services: We had our consultation 3 weeks ago, and have been waiting white knuckled for a yay or nay. I've called you every week, at least once, hoping for an answer. That being said, why did you wait until this past Monday to submit our paperwork to the insurance company?

Dear Acupuncturist: I had no idea that acupuncture can be used to treat head colds! You said the acupuncture would help me get over my cold faster, I woke up Monday feeling like death warmed over, and by Tuesday night I was breathing through both nostrils again. You are good.

Dear Passionfruit: I am seriously considering using you for ad swaps, but I am torn and wondering if I should let my blog grow a little bit more first. It is a definitely a mental debate.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Chicken Noodle Soup

Cold and flu season are upon us, and sadly, Tom and I are not free from its wrath. Our Columbus Day weekend was spent on the couch with a box of tissues, fevers, sneezing, you know the drill. On Sunday night I decided to make a chicken dinner. While the chicken dinner was amazing; we had mashed potatoes and gravy, squash,  homemade cranberry sauce, and apple bacon stuffing, the real reason I roasted a chicken was so that I could make the ultimate weapon against colds. Chicken noodle soup.

Yes, this is the real deal, handmade broth and everything. It is a recipe that I came up with and have perfected over the years. It is to the point that I do not know what Tom is more excited about, roast chicken dinners or the resulting soup the next day. The one thing I can say about this recipe, is that it takes time. It is not difficult, the majority of the time is spent waiting for things to boil. Seriously though, if you want to do this, give yourself a day to do it, or at least the better part of an afternoon. I am going to write this as two separate recipes, because while it does not taste nearly as amazing, it is possible to skip the handmade broth part and just go straight to the soup part. I recommend giving handmade broth a try, but the boxes of ready made broth do work in a pinch, and no matter what you are still getting a finished product that is a thousand times better than anything you would ever get from a can.

Chicken Broth
The carcass of a roasting chicken, aka the bones, and what ever meat was left over on it
3 carrots
3 stalks of celery
1 large onion
1/4 cup of salt

1. In a large stock pot, dump the remains of the chicken. Cut the celery and carrots into thirds and chuck them in too, leave the leaves on the celery. Cut the onion into quarters, paper and all, and toss that in as well. Add your salt.

2. Add enough water to cover, and then some. I use a full sized stock pot and fill it about 3/4 of the way up.

3. Put your stock pot on the stove and heat over medium high heat for between 4-6 hours. You want a rapid simmer to a boil, just check on occasion to make sure nothing is boiled over.

4. This can be messy, but run your broth through a strainer into a very large bowl, or a series of bowls and stock pots, whatever you need to do to get the job done. To avoid burns, I like to kill the heat to my stock and let it sit for a good thirty to fourty-five minutes before I even attempt this step. By this point in time, your house should smell amazing from the broth simmering all afternoon.

5. It is up to you what you do with the stuff that was strained out. Tom and I are not onion eaters, so we throw the onion away. I usually slice up the carrots and what is left of the celery and toss back into the broth. Also, go through the chicken bones to retrieve any meat for the soup.

You now have a large quantity of chicken broth. Time to make chicken noodle soup!

Chicken Noodle Soup
2 leeks
3 carrots
3 stalks of celery
1/2 stick of butter
Chicken broth made above, or 2-3 boxes of the pre-made stuff
Chicken meat retrieved from the broth making process, or two chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1 Package of Kluski noodles, which can be found by the egg noodles (if you can't find them just get egg noodles)
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Slice the carrots, celery, and leeks into about 1/4 inch slices. Add them to an empty stalk pot along with the butter, and 2 tablespoons of salt. Heat over medium heat until the leeks go transparent and the whole mess gets really aromatic. This should be a slow sweat, not a saute. If your veggies are caramelizing or if the butter turns brown, your heat is too high. This process usually takes about 5-10 minutes. *Note: if you "salvaged" any of the veggies from your handmade broth, toss them directly into the broth, and use fresh veggies for this step. It will turn out awesome, I promise.

2. Pour your chicken broth (and any salvaged veggies from the broth making) into the stock pot and bring to a boil. Give it about half an hour, you are ready for the next step when the carrots start floating.

3. Add your chicken, simmer for about 10 minutes.

4. Add your Kluski noodles, simmer for another 10 minutes.

5. Turn off the heat, and let everything sit for a good 15-20 minutes to cool. Salt and pepper to taste, I seriously add a couple tablespoons of pepper.

Eat and enjoy! As you can tell, this recipe makes a lot of soup. Tom and I have made a pot of chicken noodle soup last us several days, we just leave it on the stove top and keep reheating it, as the flavors condense, we add more water  and end up with more soup. If you are going to try this "bottomless" soup method, make sure you bring the soup to a full boil for a good ten minutes between servings.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fryeburg Fair

In New England, fall is fair season. As a kid, I remember my mom used to call us out of school just so that we could go down to New Hampshire and go to the fair with my grandparents. I have vivid childhood memories of the rides, carnival food, exhibition halls, and the animals. This is a tradition that Tom and I intend to continue with our future children.

For the last two years, we have been visiting the Fryeburg Fair, which is one of the biggest fairs in the state of Maine. I actually think it is the biggest, but I'm not 100% on that. Regardless, it's a fair, it's fall, and it's awesome.

Tom and I tried a different fair strategy this year. Rather than getting up early to get to the fair right when the gates open, we opted to go in the evening. We left our apartment around 2ish and got to the fair around 3. For any Maine locals, this is the way to do it. We saw very little traffic going in, and if Tom didn't make a wrong turn at the fair grounds, we would not have gotten stuck in traffic at all. We picked a sunny day to go, which was definitely a good thing because it rained the rest of the week. In fact, we overheard several people talking about how the fair was "mobbed" that morning because it had rained the two previous days. Another reason to go later in the day. There were crowds, but not so bad that we felt over crowded or unable to see everything.

Our primary purpose behind going to the fair is to indulge in carnival food. We have our usual things that we always get, like fried dough and veggie tempura. This year, Tom convinced me to share a turkey leg with me. I am very happy we shared one, there was enough protein on that thing to keep me full for the rest of the day.

This year, the fair introduced a specialty foods exposition hall. Tom and I were intrigued, so we went in and enjoyed samples of various locally made goodies; hot sauce, honey, jams, jellies, popcorn, and barbeque sauce. We discovered blueberry pepper jelly and absolutely fell in love. It starts out sweet with a spicy chili finish. We loved it on the crackers the vendor provided, but then the vendor told us about how he likes to cook with it as well as a marinade. Needless to say, a jar of that came home with us. We also have their website and will be ordering more.

After eating and checking out some agricultural exhibits and the crafters hall, we wandered over to see the animals. My grandparents have a dairy farm, so I grew up around cows. I love seeing all the animals, like the pigs with their pile of piglets, the sheep that feel like walking sweaters, the bunnies with their motor noses, and the poultry exhibit, where it takes all of my self-control not to crow like a rooster to make all the chickens twitch... okay, I'm weird.... but it's funny. Take my word on this one and try it some time.

We also stopped to watch a bit of a horse pull. In my many years of fair going, I have never really gone to any of the agricultural events, except for the occasional pig scramble. It was really impressive to see horses pulling over 7000 lbs of weight. Tom helped me put it into perspective by saying the horses were pulling 2-3 of our cars. I was impressed.

The one the we did not check out was the mid-way. Tom and I have outgrown it, and last year the carnival games were not that great. I honestly did not even miss it. When I was a kid, I used to try to rush through everything to get maximum time on the rides. I'm sure that thrill will return once we have a little one or two to take on the rides.

All in all, it was a perfect fall day.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Kitchen Inspiration

Sources: Pot Rack, Clock, Mixer & Glasses, Dishes, Pans, & Casserole Set, Braided Rug, Shelf, Curtains, Baker's Rack, Butcher Block, Canister Set, Dancing Snacks, Inspiration Kitchen paint chips courtesy of Sherwin-Williams Chip-It tool
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how we wanted to make over our kitchen, both to make it more pleasant to be in, as well as to make the kitchen more functional. Thanks to Anna's tutorial on How to Create a Design Board, I was finally able to put my vision together. I feel a ton more comfortable about it to, because we already have the majority of the items on the board, it's just a matter of putting everything together in a cohesive way and altering a couple of things. For example, we have a baker's rack, but right now it is ivory. It's just a matter of some sanding and a can of spray paint to update the baker's rack and have it match the rest of our kitchen. We have a large empty wall on the kitchen, and I have been collecting some antiques, so now it is just a matter of finding an unfinished shelf so that I can match the finish to the antique butcher block we already have. The goal of the pot rack is to get the pots and pans out of our limited  cabinet space. I only insist that we purchase the new pans first, so that I have something I will be happy to have out on display. Tom is happy because he finally understands why I'm going nuts with the spray paint and sees everything as a cohesive plan. The fact that red is his favorite color helps out a bit too.

What do you think?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Apple Cranberry Pie

I like apples, and I like cranberries. They seem to get along well in juice, so I figured, why not pie? I consulted the almighty Google, and sure enough, I found a plethora of apple cranberry pie recipes. I less than impressed with most of the recipes, so I sort of combined two recipes. The end result was quite delightful, apples that are perfectly cooked, cranberries on the verge of exploding so they just burst with flavor in your mouth. It's a very good thing.

You will also notice the crumb crust. Depending on what part of the country you are in, an apple pie with a crumb crust may be referred to as "French apple pie" or "Dutch apple pie." My opinion is someone just got lazy one day and opted to throw apple crisp topping on top of the pie instead of taking the time to make a top crust. Regardless, crumb crusts are love in my book.

In terms of the recipe, I based my filling off of this recipe, because it uses real cranberries. For the crumb topping, I altered the crisp off of my apple crisp recipe. I tweaked the cooking time a little bit because I used McIntosh apples instead of gaias and I wanted pie, not apple sauce. Without further ado:


Pastry crust for a 9" pie, you can use grandma's recipe if you want, or you can just pie the ones that come rolled up in a box. That's what I do, I admit it, I have no shame.

5 medium McIntosh apples, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced
3/4 of a bag of fresh cranberries
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oats, from the canister
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees

2. Grease a 9" pie plate, line it with the pastry crust.

3. Put all the filling ingredients into a large mixing bowl and toss. I used a large serving fork. Be gentle, you don't want to break the cranberries.

4. Dump the filling into the pie plate.

5. Place the pie plate into the oven to bake for about ten minutes while you make the topping.

6. Combine the topping ingredients in a mixing bowl. I use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. The goal is a consistent mixture with the texture of sand that can hold it's shape if you squeeze it together.

7. Pull the pie out of the oven, drop the temperature down to 375 degrees. Dump the topping on top of the filling, smooth out to look pretty and cover all of the apple goodness.

8. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the apples are tender and the topping is crisp.

Give this pie a good 45 minutes to an hour before you cut into it. Cranberries have a lot of naturally occurring pectin, so as the pie cools it gels together quite nicely. I wish I had taken a picture of the pie right out of the oven before people started stealing slices, but pie really does not last that long in this household. This recipe is definitely a winner, and will likely be showing up again around Christmas time.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday Social- Fall!

Sunday Social
This week's theme is "Things I Love About Fall." Fall is my favorite season, and September and October are my two favorite months out of the year. Yes mom, they even beat December and Christmas. Up here in Maine, it means the tourists are going home, and we finally have the state back to ourselves. It means other things too, you'll see!

Our Anniversary
Okay, so maybe I'm cheating a little with this one, our anniversary is on September 11th, which is technically still summer, and throughout wedding planning, I insisted that we were having a summer wedding. Let's be honest, September is one of those months that can go either way, and depending on the year up here sometimes our anniversary feels like summer time, other times it definitely feels like fall.

Depending on what part of the state you are in, the leaves start changing colors anywhere from mid-September through to early October. Forests of green turn into bright oranges, reds, yellows, and even some deep purples.

Can you believe this is the only picture I can find of me in a hoodie? The Harley isn't that bad either. Tom, you need to start taking the camera from me or something
I love the fall weather, when the air gets a slight crispness to it, but it's not yet cold. The kind of weather where a hoodie and a warm pair of socks will do the trick and it is still possible to enjoy the outdoors.

Apple Picking
Definitely a fall staple out here, along with picking up pumpkins and squash. This brings about another favorite thing about fall, the beginning of baking season. Fall means I can turn off my air conditioner, open the windows, and bake without heating the house up. My house permanently smells of cinnamon, baked apples, and pumpkin during fall.

Country Fairs
I have been going to fairs since I was a little kid. I remember holding my infant cousin in the back of my grandmother's car while my mom gave her her first taste of cotton candy. When I was a kid, it was all about the rides. As a grown up, I love seeing the animals, the exhibition halls, and, of course, the carnival food.

It would be impossible to do a blog post about fall without mentioning Halloween and all the fun that comes with it. Tom and I consider ourselves fairly accomplished pumpkin carvers, for any nerds in the audience, yes, that is Cthulu carved into a pumpkin. Two of our best friends have started the tradition of holding a halloween party every year where we get to dress up and have a good time. I am also looking forward to taking our children trick-or-treating and bobbing for apples, and everything else that is fun about being a kid during Halloween.

And finally, it's not fall without football. Before Tom, I could not have cared less, and I still have a lot to learn. I do enjoy snuggling with the hubby and watching a game, even if I'm often scrapbooking while he is attempting to coach from the couch. It is also fun to pick on people that cheer for different teams, after all, we are Chicago Bears fans living in Patriots country.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Letters

Dear Tom, You set the gold standard for husbands. Thank you for all that you do, especially working over time so that we have extra money to play with. Thank you for all of your support through my emotional mood swings this summer. This was probably the roughest summer of my life, I am happy that fall has finally come.

Dear Fall, Thank you for finally making your arrival, the leaves are pretty. The cooler weather is putting me in a baking mood.

Dear Weather, Thank you for clearing up a bit on Tuesday so that we could go to the fair. Tom and I had a blast and it was a much needed outing.

Dear Acupuncturist, I cannot say enough good things about you, people have commented that I seem calmer. If you keep this up, I might be able to stop taking medication for anxiety.

Dear Insurance Company, Please give us the yay or nay about IVF. As of Monday it will have been three weeks.

Dear Chicago Bears, Awesome job on Monday night football! Keep up the good work! I love having a happy hubby.

Dear Customer, Please learn the difference between your television and your microwave.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

And so it begins...

As of 7pm, Wednesday evening, Tom and I have started our first IVF trial. Well, I started medication to prepare me for our first IVF cycle. We are still waiting on insurance approval. It should go through. Right now I'll just enjoy my weekly acupuncture appointments, gummy prenatal vitamins, and medication. With any luck and half a prayer, we will be the parents of twins in August of 2013.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Learning to Relax

Source No, this is not my bathroom, I wish
I have several health issues, I will spare everyone the details, and just say that the primary issue is anxiety. I worry about everything, silly things. It's like my brain gets stuck on something and that is all I can think about until I get myself into a tither. As a result of this anxiety, my body is in a constant state of stress. Long story short, when the body is under stress, health issues develop. It's a dangerous cycle. As a result, I have had several medical professionals tell me that I need to learn how to relax. There is only one problem with this. I don't know how to relax. The concept of just turning off my brain and not worrying about... something... is foreign to me. I cannot sit still, I feel as though there is always something to do, a room that needs to be cleaned, paperwork that needs to be dealt with, food to be prepared. On the positive note, Tom and I rarely buy prepared food, and our home is, for the most part, tidy and company ready at any given time.

On Saturday, I had a rough day at work. Our billing system was down for the weekend for a planned upgrade. As a result, I had the opportunity to spend eight hours with countless customers that were either grumpy or down right mean. Like I said, it was rough. I got home, prepared to start cleaning a room in my apartment, when Tom sent me to the bathroom. We have a claw foot tub, the old fashioned iron kind. Tom had drawn me a bubble bath, lit a bunch of candles, and had Dave Matthews Band playing on my iPod. I put on a chocolate masque and soaked in the tub. I tried meditating while soaking, just to keep my mind busy. Then I focused on the music. About an hour later, I emerged from the bathroom in a much better state of mind than when I went in.

This morning, I had my second acupuncture appointment, which was just as amazing as my first one. I asked the acupuncturist how acupuncture worked, and she explained that pains and health issues are the way the body responds to being out of balance. She then explained that things like acupuncture and baths help center the body, restoring a sense of calm. I'm not really one to follow energy stuff, but the acupuncture is definitely helping.

This is the dilemma, as relaxing as my bubble bath was, and as wonderful acupuncture is, I can't exactly spend an hour in the tub every night, and I definitely can't visit my acupuncturist on a daily basis. How do I just relax? Are you able to "turn your brain off" and just think about nothing? What do you do to de-stress and relax?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Restaurant Review- Fajita Grill or Food that Makes Me Nostalgic

Tom here, posting in the blog about something or another.   As the people who are around me can attest,  I'm rather homesick.  Its something that I've come to accept will likely never change, so I in turn have taken to seeking out ways to take that edge off. One of them is food. Good food at that.  I keep saying I'm going to throw some recipes up here, but that's for the future. Right now, lets talk food, and nostalgia.

For those of you who are unaware I'm a Midwestern boy. I'm sure this revelation will come with more then a bit of mocking, and jokes; however, the joke is on everyone else.  I'd tell you, but then it would ruin it for us. I digress however.

The food nostalgia moment came when we decided to get Mexican food.  Mexican food in Maine is by and large either Taco Bell or frozen overcharged microwave burritos. Back home, in Kansas City there's is a plethora of real Hispanic restaurants.  In a city with a population of 463,202 people, 10% of them are of Hispanic descent.  What can I say, Mexican restaurants are right up there with BBQ and fried chicken joints.  They are everywhere, it's as close to authentic as you are going to get without heading south.  I've missed it, a lot.

We happened upon an authentic Mexican restaurant in Lewiston, called the Hacienda del Patron. It met everything that I had missed about food from home, and provided speedy, efficient service. When it closed down for inexplicable reasons, I was disheartened, and we thought it was back to microwave burritos and Taco Bell until vacation time came about. Then, one day, the rumor mill at work started, as it turns out, Hacienda del Patron was a branch of a Mexican restaurant in Westbrook, the Fajita Grill, which, thankfully, remains open.

 Now I good go into long descriptors about how this was your typical hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant, complete with Mexican decorations on the wall and beer pennants across the ceiling. I could tell you about how before we even received menus, the standard bowl of chips and salsa was placed on our table. I could help you understand the creaminess of the cheese enchiladas or the crispiness of their tacos. Instead, I will describe for you my love affair with chile relleno. In a nutshell, this concoction is a poblano pepper, filled with cheese, dipped in batter, and deep fried. Like a giant jalapeno popper. The subtle heat from the pepper spread to everything on my plate, providing a delectable level of warmth. The pepper was cooked perfectly, just long enough to make it soft and non-offensive, but lightly enough that it did not lose its texture and become mush. It was a combination of creaminess from the cheese, chewiness from the pepper, and a crisp crunch from the coating. I asked my wife, who devoured her chicken burrito, cheese enchilada, and chalupa, if her cheese tasted spicey, to which she responded "no." I offered her a bite of my cheese enchilada, and she even noticed the "slight kick" to it.

All in all the food was fantastic. So good in fact, that combined with pricing, we decided to continue our adventure to the one dish that is 100% hit or miss, in every Mexican restaurant I have ever been to in my entire life, the tamale. I couldn't find anything negative to say about the tamale if I wanted to, it was perfect. Except, maybe, for the ground beef garnish. That was a bit different than usual.

All in all, if you find yourself in the area, and you are craving Mexican, and you don't want to deal with the shenanigans of trying to park in Portland's Old Port, head on down to Main Street in Westbrook. As far as the pricing goes, you are looking at between $7-$8/plate for a combination of three different items. Their menu is included on their website
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