Friday, December 30, 2011

A little Friday afternoon redecorating

Well, thanks to my new found obsession with Pintrest, I came across a pin yesterday that I looooved and had pretty much all the pieces for!  This morning i just went out and got a floating shelf (why are those things always so hard to install?!) and some spray paint.

Before of the wall:

Voila!  It's hanging over the chest with my TV on it...

The colors are a little off in the pictures, thanks to my crappy camera, but what do you think?  Success or unnecessary holes in the wall?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Soup, Stew, oh I love you!

It’s a rainy day in the neighborhood…  so that means I’m spending the day in my sweatpants inside!  I got tired of sitting in front of the TV, so I decided to get up and do a little cooking.  I’ve officially depleted my homemade frozen soups, so I needed to make more.  I made the squash soup I wrote about back in November, but this time I subbed plain Greek yogurt for the cream to make it a little healthier.  This is probably the best soup I’ve ever made!

To keep the cooking trend going, I decided to tackle a beef soup recipe I’ve had my eye on for a while now.  This recipe is from William Sonoma, The Weeknight Cook cookbook (slightly modified).  If anyone is looking for a cookbook with easy to make and very delishious meals, I highly recommend this!  There is a hardback version with main and side dishes and a binder version with starter recipes (sauces, doughs, etc), mains, sides, and desserts.  You will have people thinking you’re a gourmet chef after making something from here!

Hungarian Beef Stew (4-6 servings)

2 Tbs Olive Oil
2 lb Boneless beef chuck, fat trimmed, and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
2 large yellow onions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic
1 ½ Tbs paprika
2 Tbs tomato paste
4 cups chicken broth
1 lb new potatoes
1 cup baby carrots, cut in half


  1. In Dutch oven or large pot over high heat, warm olive oil.  Add beef and onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until the beef is browned and onions begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes.

The beef & onions braising!

  1. Stir in garlic, paprika, and tomato paste.  Add the broth, bring to a boil, reduce heath to low, cover and braise about 1 hour.

Baby new potatoes & baby carrots!

  1. Add the potatoes and carrots, and continue to braise covered until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.  Serve or cool completely and freeze.
Cooling down!  This isn't the best picture, but it's the best my cell phone camera could do!

Now, for the beef I used the already cut up “for stews” beef chunks, rather than a whole slab of beef, just seemed a lot easier.  As for the tomato paste, seems like all you ever need is 1-2 tablespoons, but you have to buy a big can or tube.  I don’t use it enough, but I hate to throw away good food!  So, I store the leftovers in 2-3 tablespoon portions, I put portions in separate corners of a baggie, then freeze.  Then when I need some again, I just pull out the one chunk and thaw.

Tomato paste ready to be frozen!

The mailman just dropped by a gluten free cookbook I ordered ($2, heck yeah Amazon!), the new Better Homes & Gardens magazine, and a Burpee catalogue… I think I’ll spend the rest of my afternoon deciding what new recipes to make next and creating hypothetical dream gardens!

T minus 2.5 hours until trivia, Goooo Clark W Griswold, Jr. you can do it!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Internet heaven

Hello, my name is Anne and I am a pintrest addict!

Seriously, whoever invented Pintrest is AMAZING! I get lost on that site for hours on end and have to force myself to put the computer down.  I won't let myself start a board, because I know I'll just spend more time than I already do on there, but I love browsing others!

If you haven't tried Pintrest, check it out!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?

Is your house on fire Clark?  No, Aunt Bethany, those are the Christmas lights!

I just love Christmas movies... Christmas Vacation, Elf, Love Actually (ok, not completely a Christmas movie), and the original Grinch Who Stole Christmas are my favorites.  I love putting on a holiday movie or music and decorating!

The one thing I really miss in a house is a fireplace.  Not only for the warm and cozy glow, but mostly because I have no mantle to decorate! So I gotta figure out something else instead.

Now, I don't go all out like my man Clark W. Griswold, Jr., but I like to have a touch of something in every room.  Behold

My (fake) tree!

My Hokie Tree!

Arraignment on my coffee table

My dining table (I need a table cloth or something)
A little snowman and jar of ornaments for the guest room

A Santa hanging on the mirror in my room

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Those turkeys were wobblin down the field!

Well, my Hokies tried.... sort of.  I guess I can't whine about it too much, we did lose to Clemson once already this year, I was just hoping for some redemption.  Instead, we got a slaughter!

Until next year (or the bowl game in a few weeks!) Gobble Gobble bitches :o)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gobble, Gobble, Pepper Spray!

I was so full from yummy Thanksgiving food, I couldn’t even make it to the computer to blog about it!!  For the past couple of years we have had a pretty small Thanksgiving family (small because there are only like 15 out of 1039230943409582304 family members present).  Well, this year we had a bit of change… up to Greene County (looks sophisticated, pronounced like gray-na kay-nee as the locals do it).  Got to start off the day by listening to the “shoot-em up house” (as my mom calls it) hunt for their turkey (or squirrel or sister/wife or whatever they were after).  Nothin’ like some shot gun blasts to start off the day!  Long story short, had a great feast with some great Marshalls and Thompsons! 

Best part?

TOY STORY! Yahzee with Bailey.

Fully tummy, lots of sleep, final hour of Gone with the Wind, day is done!  Then Black Friday happens… Black Friday is what I think hell is like.  A bunch of people fighting each other over crap that doesn’t matter and totally forgetting any sense of decorum and humanity.  I don’t care if the 300” Plasma is free, you will never find me in line at Walmart at midnight (or ever anyways…).  No siree!
About mid-day I had a massive need to decorate for Christmas, an activity I refuse to do before December 1st.  I decided it would be morally appropriate to put up some lights outside (after all, they just say “shiny and pretty” not “Jesus season”) and make some kind of winter festive center piece.  Being that I had neither, I thought I’d venture out to find some lights.  I figured I’d drive by Target and if they were crazy I’d just go to Ben Franklin or somewhere less “black Friday mania”.  Well, Libbie Target at noon looked like Libby Target any old day, so I ventured in!  Not only were there plenty of their big ticket sale items left, but the store was so nice and calm!  I skipped over the electronics and just went for the Holiday Décor section (with a short detour through kitchen goods).  I made it out with being beat-up or pepper sprayed... I guess the Commonwealth really does have more class than those crazy Californians (they are lovin some pepper spray in LA this week!)  I got some outdoor lights, a sparkly table runner, some random festive décor, and candles to make a holiday centerpiece.  Lights are up, center piece is made, now I just need to get y’all some dang pictures!

(Come back later peeps for some pictures, dang!)

I’m now officially excited for Thursday night when I can watch my main man Dwight Shrute while I decorate the house!

For now, I think I’ll get back to work before I get caught blogging on the job J

Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's a BEAUTIFUL day in the Commonwealth!

If you don’t live in Virginia… you have no idea what you’re missing this time of the year!  Sure, the weather can have Bipolar features at times (80 one day, snowing the next)… but it’s days like today that remind you why Virginia is the best state around!  I think those Jamestown folks settled here because of the weather (or maybe the friendly natives, fertile soil, and flowing rivers could have had something to do with it too).  It’s 70 degrees outside, a subtle breeze, and sunny skies!  The trees that still have leaves are on fire with color and look amazing.  Then there are the leaves on the ground, not so amazing :o(

So, I figured I’d capitalize on this nice day and rake and bag those unsightly dead lives on the ground.  Nice way to spend the day outside, but boy am I tired now!!  I only did the backyard- 7 bags worth… the front yard is an entirely different story… I’ll save that for another day.

After a hard day’s work, I needed to refuel in preparation for my difficult afternoon nap (haha!).  Yesterday I slaved away in the kitchen for a few hours and made Gluten Free Banana Nut Bread (yum yum yummy!) and a HUGE pot of squash soup.  IT IS AMAZING… between the soup and this weather, I’m in fall heaven today!  Here’s the recipe, I highly suggest giving it a whirl, it’s more than worth it!

Creamy Squash Soup, serves 8

1 butternut squash, cut lengthwise
1 acorn squash, cut lengthwise
4 tsp olive oil
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
   salt & pepper to taste
¾ tsp cayenne pepper
6 cups vegetable broth
8oz whipping cream
3 tsp fresh cilantro, lightly chopped

1.   Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Drizzle insides of squash halves with about 2 tbs olive oil, place face down on baking sheet, and bake for about 35 minutes or until tender.  Remove from oven to cool.  Scoop meat from squash when cooled (this part can be done well in advance, just refrigerate until ready to make the soup).

2.   Sauté carrots, celery, and onion in remaining olive oil in large stock pot until tender.  Add garlic and season with salt and pepper.  Add cayenne pepper.  Sauté 2-3 minutes.

3.   Add squash and vegetable broth to stock pot, stir.  Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
4.   Use an immersion blender, food processor, or regular blender to puree entire pot.  Return to pot and stir in whipping cream (or leave this out for a lower calorie/fat version).  Keep on low heat until ready to serve.  Top with cilantro.
5.  Package and freeze the remainder for yummy goodness 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Okay, so my neighbors have really gotten into the Halloween decorating this year.  I’m not so much into the fake spider webs and gianormous ghosts and zombies hanging from trees- it’s all a little sadistic for my taste… I prefer something less gory and more fun and crafty!  So, I decided to make a little wreath for my front door in Halloween colors.  Behold:

(sorry for the crummy lighting, I just couldn’t get a crisp great picture, but you still get it!)

So if you want to make your own, it’s pretty simple, here goes:

  1. Wrap foam wreath in ribbon (I chose black).
  2. Attach little do-das and such to one side (I chose a black small feather boa and some glittery balls)
  3. Make the “flowers” for the other side:

Making the flowers was pretty easy.  I started with 3 silk gerbera daisies (2 black and 1 orange).  Added some ribbon curls onto the back and front, a little round cut out of some scrapbook paper and bam!  On one I also added some of the leftover boa to give a little variation.

     4. Add some ribbon and tie in a bow to the door knocker or wreath hook!

Since it's not waterproof in any way, I put it between my main door and storm door.  I wouldn't suggest hanging this where it can be rained on...

Pretty easy craft! I think I’m going to try something similar in Christmas colors when the time comes.   

Sunday, October 9, 2011

10/9/11 Trip to CVS!

So, I’ve decided that CVS is officially da-bomb!  Not only do they regularly have great sales, but they tend to have things for cheaper than at the grocery store, Target, etc!  Last week’s P&G Brand Saver insert had a TON of great deals and many of them coordinated with the CVS sales of the week.  Here’s what I got:

CVS 4pk D batteries- $6.79 on sale for $3.99

CVS Tissues (1)- $1.99 on sale for $0.88 (over half off!)

CVS 20ct fabric bandaids- $3.59 on sale for $2.69

Neutrogena face products current buy one get one 50% off:
Naturals Facewash- $7.99 less $2 off P&G coupon= $5.99
Neutrogena lip balm- $3.49 (50% off= $1.75) less $1 off P&G coupon= $0.75

            Pressed Powder- $7.99, Powder Blush- $4.99, Professionals Mascara- $5.99
= $18.97 less $8.00 off 2 covergirl face P&G coupon, $3.00 off $10 cosmetic store coupon, $3.00 Covergirl Professionals store coupon.
=4.97 total!

Tampax Compak (2) -$7.98 less BOGO P&G coupon and $1.00 off= $2.99

Vasoline Lotion (1) 24.5 oz= $6.89 plus (1) 10oz FOR FREE ($3.39 value)! Thanks to P&G BOGO coupon

Crest Complete Toothpaste 4oz= 3.89 less $2 off coupon= $1.89

Grand Total before coupons: $64.88
Grand Total after sales/ coupons: $31.04
Less Extra Care Bucks rewards to use: $5

Final Price= $26.04 (plus tax)

WHOA! That’s about a 60% savings

When I was done at CVS, I ran across the street and spend $4.20 on some Halloween decorations and trinkets at Dollar Tree.  Just over $30 spent and PLENTY to show for it!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Summery Spring Rolls

Summery Spring Rolls

So this is a combination of various recipes I’ve happened upon, modified to fit what I had in my fridge last night.  You could add and remove other ingredients as you see fit and easily make them vegetarian.  They are actually very easy to make, keep well for a few days, and can be made with leftovers (as mine were).  I happened to have a cooked chicken breast and some leftover plan brown rice, so that’s where I started!  Here’s the rest of the recipe.  It makes for a really great lunch sandwich alternative!

Prepare the different pieces first and have them set up in a “station” so you can just go down the line and assemble quickly and easily!  Makes 6-8 depending upon the size!

In a small bowl, mix:
2 cups shredded chicken
1 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs sugar
1 large carrot, grated length wise
season lightly with a dash of salt and pepper

Set aside in separate bowls:
1/3 cucumber, julienned
4 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (can use mint or basil as well)
½ c cooked rice (white or brown)
Boston lettuce (or butter lettuce is fine too if you’re grocery store is as unfancy as mine)

6-8 Rice papers (found in the Asian section of the store usually, or an Asian market)

2 Tbs soy sauce
1 ½ Tbs chunky peanut butter
2 tsp sugar

  1. Fill wide bowl with warm water.  Soak 2 rice papers for 15 seconds.  Remove papers and place on clean work surface.  Lightly pat dry with clean towel.

  1. Assemble roll in this order: 1-2 pieces of whole lettuce (or pinch of cut up lettuce), 1-2 Tbs chicken mixture, several pieces of cucumber, pinch of scallions, pinch of cilantro, 1 Tbs rice. (basically just divide up the veggies to about 1/6 their amount per roll, or more if you like.  I definitely went with an extra pinch of cilantro).

  1. Gently roll like a burrito (I guess this is basically the Asian equivalent of a burrito, right).  Place on plate and cover with damp paper towel while assembling the rest.

  1. If eating right away, you could drizzle sauce over mixture before wrapping, otherwise just set in a dish on the side to dip!

(I forgot to take a pic of my own, this is from the interwebs, but looks similar to my rolls)


You can make these ahead of time as well, just be sure to lightly wrap in a barely damp paper towel and store air tight in the fridge until you’re ready to eat!

I guess if you really wanted to go crazy, you could bake or fry these up as well, for that “traditional” (and by that, I mean the corner Chinese take out) version… but they are fabulous as-is and a heck of a lot healthier!  If you’re into spicy foods (I’m not so much), you could add some Asian chili sauce into the sauce mix and kick it up a notch!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wanna bite of my bear sandwhich?... and other favorite movies

I’m one of those people that finds interest in odd things and remains fiercely loyal to stuff others think is ridiculous or they’ve never even heard of.  This holds true with my favorite movies.  Most people haven’t heard of the first 2, most know the 3rd.

The pseudo-autobiographical story of country singer Loretta Lynn.  It’s such a great story and if you like country music (old school country that is), you must see this flick!

It’s about 4 girls who just graduated from high school and head off to Myrtle Beach for the weekend to “dance and meet boys.”  It all centers around the Pavilion where everyone dances the shag all night.

 What a classic!  Enough said.

I’m waiting on a guy to come stand in my driveway with a boom box playing “In Your Eyes”, don’t hate.

I could watch this a million times… and I think I probably have.

Everyone has their favorite vignette… mine is the Jamie and the Aurelea.

 I have a mild crush on Jason Segel… either because he’s not afraid to be naked in everything he’s in or maybe it’s just because he seems like such a “normal” guy… I want to be his friend/wife, haha.

 “I also have an important announcement, there’s a colonial woman on the wing!”  While my girlfriends and I have never been this tragic, we’ve come pretty close a time or two.

 Not the movies, the show on DVD… so it’s not exactly a “movie”, but watching episode after episode (particularly season 4) is a fun way to spend a lazy Sunday!

 These last two tie for me, they also feature the same actress as the leader character.  Such cute stories!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Today's Couponing

Well, I stopped by CVS on my way home today and scored the following:

Venus Spa Breeze razor kit $17.99 for $0.99!
On sale for 9.99
-$2 off manufacturers coupon from paper
- $7 ECB (extra care bucks)
*Even without the ECB, this is still a good deal, only $7.99 if you can find the coupon online!

Garnier Curls Gel/Cream $5.79 for $0.99
On sale for $2.99
-$1 off manufacturers coupon from paper
-$1 off CVS Beauty Club coupon (join this online if you haven't!!) 
 - ECB

2 Dawn Dish Soap, 9oz. $3.98 for $1.98
On sale for $.0.99 each

 Skintimate, 2.75 oz travel size $2.19 for $1.24
 On sale for $1.99
-$0.75 printable coupon exp 10/7/11

 Reeses Dark Chocolate Cups $1.19, no discounts

This comes up to a total of $30.94 before discounts.  After store discounts, coupons, and another $4.00 worth of ECB to cash in, I paid of total of $1.78 after tax!

Also, I went to Kroger today and had a pre-discount total of $90, with a final price of $70.  Having to restock my fridge post-Irene hasn't really helping in the savings arena, but $20 is still pretty damn good!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Designing Woman

So, to rip-off my sister, today’s blog is about interior decorating (check out her blog, Cheer's Yall!).  For those who don’t know, my first major in college was Interior Design.  I really enjoyed the design aspect, but I was unhappy with the program and professors so I decided on a change and wanted to let my creative and artistic ventures be a hobby rather than a job.

Well, I never stopped loving design and now that I have my own house, I turn some of my ideas into real life…. Or try to at least, decorating is expensive, y’all!  I think I need to sign up for some of those classes at Home Depot that teach you how to do stuff with power tools so I can really do some of the things I want in a most cost effective way!  Until then, here are some of my favorite things in my house, my decorating ideas, and some of the pictures that inspire me and I hope to bring to life one day.

Off the back of my house, I have a small addition that’s half a utility room and half a sunroom.  Right now the sunroom part is pretty empty, but I’m really going to get working it once I get the roof leak fixed for good!  No sense in ruining my decorating with my current “water feature.”  Here’s what the room looks like right now (I’m going to move that chair back to my living room eventually):

Here’s the inspiration look I’m going for:

Credit: Better Homes and Gardens Online

It’s a little more of a formal look than I’m going to implement, but I really liked the neutral basics and the suble vibrancy of color in the room’s accents.  The room is so sunny, I figured this would make a soothing retreat to relax and read or just watch the crazy birds that dive bomb the bird bath in the yard!

Much like my sunroom, my living room is still a work in progress.  I tried to strike a balance between a warm, homey feel (like the mission style rockers and oriental rug) with some non-cheesy beach inspired elements (the wall color “Southern Breeze” by Behr and woven trunk coffee table).  Even a few vintage touches aquired from my great grandparents, including a restored chest I use as a TV stand, some artwork from Paris, and a very old small chest I use as a side table.

Some of my favorite ideas for decorating:

Use an old found mason jar as a vase and wine corks to make an interesting flower arraignment.  Just take out the fakes and the corks and exchange for the real deal every once in a while!  Use other found or rarely used objects to build upon the display.  This is a sliver service tray that I never use, but brings a little shine and touch of formality.  Add some shells from the Eastern Shore of VA and a small finger bowl with a candle in it to round out the display. 

Repurposing old items is a great way to salvage things you’re tempted to toss in the trash! The lamps on this desk were originally a fabulous 80’s style swirl paint mess!  Well, I spiffed ‘em up with a little decorative paper, paint, and bead trim.  It makes my hard work (or Facebooking) at the computer a little more fun.

Finally, I did some work on my kitchen last fall, and I’ll blog about that another time, but my inspiration stared with 2 cloth napkins I found at World Market for less than $1.  I got the only 2 I could find and knew I’d find a good use for them.  One is draped over a tension rod as a curtain and the other I glued to a plain cork board that holds menus and other trinkets.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Let there be light... and savings!

So I’ve started a little couponing adventure lately.  In the past I would clip them every once in a while, but I never remembered to bring them to the store and didn’t pay attention to the weekly sales and try to match them up.  Well, on my time off this summer, somehow I found myself watching Extreme Couponing on TLC and I thought I’d see if I could get some extreme savings for myself.  Now, I’m not going to go buying 2348234 arthritis creams or cat foods because I can get them for a penny, but I am going to try to see how much I can stretch my savings on the things I do need.

My first couponing trip was about 3 weeks go.  I got something like $60 worth of stuff from CVS for just under $20 and a grocery bill down to $70 from $120.  Ain’t too shabby, huh?!

Well, yesterday I took another trip to CVS and was able to get 2 24-count Ibuprofens, 1 8-pk AAA and 1 10-pk AA Duracell batteries, John Frieda Shampoo, Conditioner, and Frizz Serum, Venus razor blade refills, Orbit gum, lady things, Covergirl foundation and concealer for only $50.  The total retail prior to coupons and extra care bucks was about $75.   If you’re interested in trying couponing at CVS, be sure to scan your Extra Care card at the Red Kiosk/Price Check thing. (Martins has these too).  It’s usually straight ahead when you walk in the door.  You can scan 2-3 times and get all kinds of coupons.  Some are good only for that day, some for a few days, and some for a week.  Lots of good free item coupons.  For a while, I was getting coupons for things for free that I don’t want or need, but I decided to get the stuff anyways (I mean, it’s free!) and I’d donate it to a shelter when I collect some more.

A blog I check for coupon information a lot is Young and Frugal in Virginia.  She's a RIC local so most of her info is based on our stores (which I love!!), but check her out for information on freebies and printable coupons on national brands.

My next trip is going to be to Kroger.  They are A LOT of great Kroger sales this week that coordinate with some good coupons I have.  I haven’t been able to make the trip yet since my power’s been out, but…  MY POWER IS BACK TODAY!!  I don’t want to go full on shopping until later this weekend because I’ve heard that a lot of people’s power has been on and off intermittently while they continue to make repairs.  If figure it’s better to wait until the power is back on for good.  But then again, this is only the start of hurricane season, so I think I’ll be slow in the restocking of my completely EMPTY fridge!

On a final note, I’ve weathered the storm and come out alive on the other side.  I didn’t let go of all technology over the past 6 days, but I didn’t/couldn’t watch TV and I’d consider that a situational triumph.  I’m not a major TV watcher anyways, but I do have my shows.  It feels weird to be sitting on my couch right now with the lights on, the TV on and having internet access.  I think I might pick a week every year and make it a “No TV week.”  It felt good to get outside a little more, meet some new neighbors, and read read read!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Weathering the Storm

Wednesday Morning
Still no power this morning, but I had to return to work.  I guess that's not too bad a thing, at least work has power and internet.  Getting work-ready in the mostly dark this morning was interesting.  I didn't turn out half bad though my hair looks a hot mess right now.  I decided to get a hair cut this afternoon, because at least that blow out can last a day or two and I won't have to worry about washing my hair!!  Still no Dominion truck sighting in my neighborhood... not even a city truck.
Okay, off to do some actual work... maybe.

This is from yesterday when the power was out and no internet access anywhere, so I couldn't post, but I thought you'd want to know my nonsense thoughts of the day...

Tuesday Morning

Still no work today, the two schools I work at had no power when I drove by yesterday, so who knows when we’ll be back.  Yesterday, the whole neighborhood got a call from Dominion around 3 saying our power was restored… oh the lies they tell!  No only was our power still out, but the trees and the power lines were all still on the ground, and no Dominion truck had even showed face in my neighborhood.  Oh well, here’s to hoping we get it some time this week.  They said by Friday everyone in this area should have their power back.  Well, it’s only Tuesday and Friday feels like a lifetime from now!

All that aside, I consider this my personal challenge in self-sufficiency.  Last night I fired up the grill and had a small feast (no I didn’t eat it all, I shared).  2 Omaha steaks, about 2 dozen shrimp, and some fresh tomatoes.  Paula Dean would be proud of me, I even melted a little butter for my shrimp in a can on the grill!  That was the last of my cold food that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away, so grill it I must!  Now I’m left with chips and salsa, cereal, and power bars.  Thank you jebus that the shopping center a few blocks away has power, an open Starbucks, and a fully stocked grocery story.  Looks like I’ll be making some trips up to the store this week!

I decided to venture up to Starbucks (after dropping my car off for some repairs next door) to get a little Java Chip Frapp, charge my electronics, and people watch.  And what good people watching it is! So far I’ve seen The Grandtastic Billy Hupp, a teacher from work, my neighbor, and made a new friend.  Unfortunately that new friend happens to be an old lady and no some hot young hipster dude.  Never the less, Starbucks friends always make for randomly good conversation.  Then enter the douche in the seersucker suit. PIC.  I’m all for seersucker, how classic southern, but to me, a full seersucker suit is for weddings and dressier occasions, not a Tuesday at the office (or Starbucks with your kids).  Jim Duncan (one of our local weather men) was here just now.  I wanted to go up to him and demand to know why they made this storm out to be NBD… but then I realized it’s not his fault the weather does what it does, so I let the other patrons accost him instead. 

I’m so bored, I feel like I have nothing and everything to write about today!  Since there’s no internet access anywhere, this is still being written in a word document to be posted later!  As I’m writing I keep thinking about that Office ep when Ryan sets Creed up with a “blog” that’s really just a word document on their server.  My thoughts aren’t as shocking as Creed’s, but they are equally irrelevant to life.

Okay, I’ve been sitting here for an hour, time to sign off!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I can't stand the rain...

How do you know Missy Elliot is from coastal Virginia?  Her first song, "I Can't Stand the Rain," is clearly about this dang hurricane!  Well, maybe not, but I sure can't stand the rain!  Oh Irene, what are you going to do to us?

All this hurricane bid-ness got me thinking about storm essential kits.  The last time we had a significant hurricane in Richmond, I was living with some friends in the West End and I think we just got hammered and partied and didn’t realize we might need to get some essentials.  Well, being the forgetful person that I am, it didn’t occur to me that I should get some extra batteries for my flashlights, extra candles, or water until yesterday.  Well, I went to 5 stores and either none had any at all or were so crowded I couldn’t even get in.  Oh well, hopefully the batteries currently in my flashlight will last if need be and I guess I’ll just light all of my small scented candles and my house will smell like a Yankee Candle store.  Luckily I have a case of bottled waters that I bought a while ago and never really touched and plenty of non-perisable easy to eat foods.  So to hell with a proper storm kit… here’s an Anne’s Storm Kit:

1 Bottle Firefly vodka
1 package powdered lemonade mix
A few bottles of water (for mixing the lemonade, duh!)
Large Tervis tumbler

Charged iPod and laptop and collection of funny movies
A good book

Jar of peanut butter
1 Package chocolate chips
Chips & salsa

A good pair of wellies (bought the last pair from Target on Thursday)

I might be stuck in the dark or whatever meager light my flashlight can put out, but I’ll be entertained, fed, and drunk!  It’s 11:30 and the wind has started to pick up, the lights have flickered a few times, we’re completed soaked, and the eye of Irene isn’t even supposed to get close to Richmond/VA areas until late this evening.  I woke up thinking this was no big deal, but I’m a tad nervous for what the day might bring.  Oh well, at least if the power goes out, I’ve got several friends within walking distance from my house!

Stay safe everyone!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Go DJ, cuz that my DJ...

 So this morning I arrive at work and go through my usual motions: pray for the caffeine to kick in soon, check some emails and try to come up with a coherent and semi-intelligent response, and figure out what else I’m going to do for the day.  I’m not quite ready to settle into the “doing” for the day, plus it’s Friday and who actually works on Friday?  I decided blogging would be a more effective use of my time at the moment.

I am blessed to have an office right behind one of the bosses and one chatty secretary.  My iPod and earphones are a necessity when I’m working out of our office instead of one of my schools.  If not, I’ll end up in some convo with the secretary about her elation and my disdain for Sarah Palin, school board politics, or her grandson’s latest finger painting.  So, I plop down in my windowless office I share with 2 other social workers and fire up the tunes.  It got me thinking (I know, watch out!) about my love for music.

If I could have any job in the world, I would want to be the person who makes soundtracks for movies.  I just love music and I love making play lists.  I like to think I make the best play lists and mixed cds (tapes back in the day) and I’d be really good at putting a soundtrack together.  My other choice of dream job would be to be Chelsea Handler’s sidekick (step off Chuy!).  Maybe one day….  In the meantime, I thought I’d give the world a list of some of my favorites and current obsessions.  For your viewing and listening pleasure:

The Best of the Best:
The Detroit Spinners- I’ll Be Around (my all time favorite)
Guns N Roses- November Rain (a very close second)
Al Green- I’m Still in Love with You
Barry White- Can’t Get Enough of Your Love

The Songs that remind me of the Super ’77 Crew and Growing up:
Average White Band- Pick up the Pieces
Boz Skaggs- Ledo & Georgia (controversial song, but Boz is so underrated, he’s da man!)
Bruce Hornsby- Mandolin Rain & That’s Just the Way It Is (good ol’ Virginia boy makes me wish I’d not dropped out of piano lessons)
Carol King- It’s Too Late (I remember listening to my mom’s old record as a kid)
Chairman of the Board- Give Me Just a Little More Time
Four Tops- Baby I Need Your Lovin
Freda Payne- Band of Gold (who knew a song about divorce could be so peppy)
Gladys Knight & The Pips- Midnight Train to Georgia
Isley Brothers- This Old Heart of Mine
Jacki Wilson- Baby Work Out
Elvis- Kentucky Rain
The Temptations- Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, Na na na na Hey hey hey Goodbye
Van Morrison- Mama said There’d be Days Like This, Bright Side of the Road, Domino

Beatles- Come Together (the only Beatles song I like, everything else is overrated crap)
Peter Gabriel- In Your Eyes (yes, I’m still waiting on my Lloyd Dobbler moment)
Doobie Brothers- Black Water (I love that pseudo-swampy sound)
Eagles- Hotel California
Foo Fighters- Best of You (because Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins are just hot!)
Janis Joplin- Take Another Little Piece of My Heart
Kenny Loggins- St. Elmo’s Fire
Live- I Alone
Red Hot Chili Peppers- Under the Bridge
Rolling Stones- Angie
Stone Temple Pilots- Interstate Love Song

Eminem- My Name Is (I mean, he’s white and he raps, what’s not to like)
Naughty By Nature- OPP
Snoop Dogg- Ain’t Nothing But a G Thing (welcome to the world gangster rap, you’ve found an unlikely place in a preppy white girl’s heart)
Trey Songz- Say Aah (another VA boy)
J-Kwon- Tipsy (‘Erbody drunk out on the dance floor…)
504 Boys- Bling Bling (my first taste of Weezy, I fell in love)
50 Cent- In Da Club
Jay Z- Money Ain’t A Thang, My First Song, On To the Next One, 99 Problems
Weezy- On Fire, One Way Trip (say what you want, the man is an innovator and he’s a hell of a lot smart than most people think… plus, he’s got face tats, fierce!)

Country/ Bluegrass:
Hank Williams, Jr- The Blues Man
John Fogerty- Blue Moon of Kentucky
Johnny & June- Long-legged Guitar Pickin Man
Little Feet- Dixie Chicken (saw then in concert with Doobie, it was awesome)
Loretta Lynn- Honky Tonk Girl (her first and best!)
Lynard Skynard- Simple Man
Mark McGuinn- Mrs Steven Rudy (I remember blasting this song with my sister Courtney and I still love it)
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band- Fishin in the Dark
Ralph Stanley- Mountain Dew
Trace Adkins- Rough & Ready
Travis Tritt- Love of a Woman
Willie Nelson- Songbird
Zac Brown Band- Free (live remix)
The Band Perry- If I Die Young (very touching and sad song)
Jason Aldean- Dirt Road Anthem, Amarillo Sky
Alabama- Mountain Music (I love when that fiddle fires up!)
Allison Krauss- I’ll Fly Away (I’m not one for religious music, but I love her version)
Jack White- Wayfaring Stranger

The Best of the Rest:
Bob Marley- Could You Be Loved
EW&F- September (reminds me of my girl Les-a-leeeee
Michael Jackson- PYT
Oasis- Don’t Look Back in Anger
Adele- Someone Like You (love love love Adele!)
The Darkness- I Believe in a Thing Called Love (just gets you pumped up!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Trauma and Trivia

Yesterday when I woke up, I thought the worst part of my week was going to be the hurricane that’s supposed to hit us on Saturday/Sunday.  Little did I know…  Earthquakes aren’t exactly unknown in VA.  At least once a year we get a little split second shake that feels like a big truck rumbling by.  It’s always over before you even realize something happened and you don’t realize it was an earthquake until you flip on the news and catch the 2-second sound bite.  Well, yesterday was a completely different experience. 

There I was, standing in the office talking to a secretary and a teacher and I felt something weird… I thought I had vertigo again for a second…. Then a noise came and I thought something was going on in the cafeteria below us…. Then the entire building started to shake and sway.  I didn’t have a clue what to do.  See, in VA we know what to do in a fire, a hurricane, even a tornado, but how in the world are we supposed to know what to do in an earthquake?? So there I was, yelling “I don’t know what to do!” and someone yelled to go outside… so I did.  According to reports, it’s the first earthquake of a sizable magnitude in Virginia since like 1897.  It was a very surreal experience.  Later I learned that you’re supposed to get in a doorway if an earthquake hits.  Well, if I’m still around in 114 years and it happens again, I now know what to do!

Thankfully, nothing much happened at school… I just had to pick my pen up off the floor when I got back to my office area.  At home everything was okay too.  Pictures on the wall were a little crooked and things were shifted out of place on side tables, but all and all, okay!  My heart goes out to those people in Louisa (about 40 minutes from me) who had more extensive damage.  It’s weird when something so scary happens so close to home. 

I was still a little frazzled all day from it, so I decided a post earthquake drink (or 4) was highly necessary.  A little vino with my gal Stephanie and then some Live Team Trivia with Steph, Zig, Lindsey, Greg, and Scott!  No, we didn’t win. No one ever listens to my “wager nothing on the final question unless you’re 100% certain you have the right answer” theory… if they had, we would have come in 3rd!  I watch Jeopardy, I know what I’m talking about!

Now it’s T minus 3 days until Hurricane Irene makes her appearance in Virginia (I mean seriously, do we need another act of nature this week?!).  Richmond has an interesting history with hurricanes.  Sometimes they are harmless and sometimes they cause a lot of devastation.  Eight years ago (damn I’m getting old!) Isabel struck Virginia and hit Richmond really hard.  Our downtown flooded severely and lot of iconic Richmond businesses (Bottoms Up! and the River City Diner) were destroyed.  The floodwalls that were supposed to keep the James River from flooding downtown ended up holding in all of the runoff storm water.  It was a really sad day when you see cars floating through the streets past 2nd and 3rd story windows.  I guess you can’t fight Mother Nature though! We spend too much time and money over humanizing the earth and maybe it’s time to stop!  We can’t keep destroying the earth and being surprise when she starts to destroy us in return.  You get what you give, I guess.  So, off to the grocery store after work to stock up on bottled water, canned goods, and charcoal for the grill… because when you live in a 61 year old house in a 100 year old neighborhood, your power tends to go out with only a stiff breeze!

Oh, and for the regular followers of my white trash neighbor drama… they are officially psycho.  They have installed a security camera at their front door.  Like convenience store video recording security camera.  What the hell are you doing in your cozy, quite, family oriented, crime free neighborhood that you need a security camera?!  I think I’ll call the cops… just to piss them off.

Final thought!  I’ve been very sad for the past 6 months, but alas, my mecca is returning:

Hook me up to a vodka limeaid IV, stat!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gluten leads to tootin!

Over share, smover share.  It’s been a little over 4 months now without gluten and I feel amazing!  However, the downside is my cookbooks have been collecting dust as I learn to make new recipes and adapt some of my favorites.  In some recipes, where flour isn’t the stand out component (like a sauce), I’ve found it easy to just substitute a little Gluten Free (GF) flour for the regular stuff.  I like Bob’s Red Mill and Gluten Free Pantry All Purpose brands the best. 

When it comes to baked goods, it’s a whole different ball game.  One day, I thought I’d make some cupcakes and figured that GF flour substitution would work.  WRONG!  I popped the tin in the oven, set the timer, and sat down with a magazine.  Before long, I smelled burning.  I figuring it was just some drippings that fell onto the coil, I didn’t expect it to be a problem, it would burn off in a few minutes.  Wrong again!  The smell turned to smoke and I went to see what the problem was.  When I opened the oven door (after turning it off of course) it was like a chocolate bombshell had gone off! There was gooey mess everywhere in there!  A few tears and a lot of clean up later, I decided I’d better consult the internets, surely Google would know what I do.  I stumbled upon several GF blogs and so far my favorite is  After a lot of reading from GF girl and others, I had gathered enough advise to help turn my gooey nightmare into proper cupcakes.  The draw back?  They were calling for all these crazy flours and measurements in grams.  I’m not that sophisticated in the kitchen, this wasn’t going to work for me.  I figured out how to convert the grams into cups and figured I’d start from there.  Making several small batches and playing with proportions I was finally able to come up with a basic cake recipe to build my baked goods from.

Basic GF Cake Recipe
1 ½ cups all purpose GF flour
1 ¼ cups sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
4-5 tablespoons of canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup water

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Add all wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well by hand or with a mixer on low speed.
  4. Spoon into cake pan(s) or cupcake tin filling about ½ to ¾ of the cup.
  5. Bake 30-35 minutes for a cake or 20-25 minutes for cupcakes, adding time in 5 minute increments if needed
  6. Remove when toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  7. Cool completely on a wire rack and frost with your favorite icing!

The sugar seems like a lot, but the cake tends to be a little bitter without it.  Just go for it dude, that’s what sweet treats are for!  Now, like I said, this is a basic recipe.  You can add about a ½ cup of cocoa powder to make them chocolate or various treats in the batter to spruce it up.  My first batch was chocolate cupcakes with a chocolate, peanut butter, and Nutella frosting!  For the frosting I just followed a basic chocolate butter cream recipe and melted the peanut butter and Nutella with the chocolate.  AMAZING!  I wish I had taken a picture, but alas, I didn’t and now they are all gone.  These are just for inspiration:

Timing seems to be everything when it comes to GF baking.  No matter what recipe you’re following, I recommend checking about half way into the baking time and then checking again every 5-10 minutes so as not to over dry the finished product! 

Mamma Mia, I want a pizza!
Anyone who knows me knows I love 2 things: pesto and pizza.  Combine the two and I’m in heaven!  No really, a little pesto, fresh mozzarella and feta, and some sliced tomatoes on top of a semi-thin crisp crust, I think I’ll die now!  Wait, if I eat that, I might die (figuratively of course).  What’s a girl to do?!  Well, I’ve tried I don’t even know how many GF pizza crust recipes.  Some from scratch, others from mixes bought at the store.  They just aren’t quite the same.  As I was about to give up on my dream of a homemade GF pizza I happened to glance at the bottom self of the GF section in the grocery stores.  Could it be? Bob’s Red Mill makes a pizza dough mix!!!  I’m not sure what my local grocer’s dysfunction is, why is this at the bottom of the section?? This should be in the middle surrounded by streamers and flashing lights!  So, I’m going to give this stuff a whirl…. And on my first go ‘round I was a little disappointed.  Now granted, I expected the GF stuff to taste different, but this didn’t even taste like a pizza crust to me.  Never to fear, I will fix this!  A dash of sugar (yes, just do it!) and some herbs (a little oregano, salt, and pepper…. Much improved!  The bitterness was gone.  Mixed it up, let it rise, set, and finally it’s time to flip and fly that dough in the air to make the perfect round (imagine Snooki in this season’s opening episode of JS).  I realized it would be a disaster, so I took the responsible route and just pressed out the dough into a pizza shape.  Topped it with some leftover shredded herbed chicken, fresh spinach, tomato slices, a little feta, and a little motza!  Baked and devoured!

Minny Jackson isn’t the only one to serve questionable pies…
I come from a long line of precious young gals… most of them before me are fiery redheads (mad love to my gingies!) however somehow my dark brown hair is the mark that breaks that mold!  One of my favorite stories about my great grandmother is her infamous mud pies.  Apparent this little girl could just “bake” up a storm.  Well one day (in like 1906) as her mother was hosting bridge club, little Hope Gravely was hard at work on her last mud pie creation.  Picking things out of the yard, carefully mixing her concoction and laying it out in the sun to dry, er um bake.  When it was finished and ready to serve, little Hope marched right on into her mother’s game and started to serve slices to the ladies.  Much like Minny’s surprise for Hilly, Hopie had a surprise for those bridge playing ladies too… thankfully hers was much more harmless and funny!

Well, I may not make mud pies, but just like baked goods and pizzas, I love some thing with a crust and a gooey filling!  What was I going to do now that gluten was out of the question?  Again, more websites with 10,000 different flours and weird measurements.  This wasn’t going to do and like the cake recipe, I’d have to figure out my own!  Behold:

GF Pie Crust
1 ½ cups all purpose GF flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
½ cup ice cold water
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Combine flour and butter, as you would to make any other crust, using a pastry cutter or forks until pea sizes pieces form.  Don’t over do it!  Mix in the water, salt, and sugar until just combined.  Form into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.  When ready to use, let rest on counter for 5 minutes and roll out carefully.  GF dough seems to fall apart more easily, so don’t over do it.  If you find that you can’t get it rolled out within breaking it, I suggest just “pressing” it out directly in the pan.