Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Shoe Giveaway!

A Shoe Givaway is going on on Donald's blog - he's giving away a pair of women's minimalist shoes, which happen to be very similar to the shoes I was eyeing at REI a month ago. With reading so much about barefoot running, it would be fun to give these a try.

(Image courtesy of Donald's blog)
Go check it out if you're interested!

Afternoon Tea

Lately, when I've come home from work, I've enjoyed a lovely pot of tea. I bought a few new flavors last week, so I've been switching off between my regular Earl Grey, Chai, and Peppermint. There are few things as relaxing and comforting (especially with the weather still being cool) as a pot of tea. And, perfectly, one pot makes three cups - just about the perfect amount.

One of the especially lovely things about the tea is getting to use my cup and saucer. Now, when I registered for these, I don't think anyone really got that these would be an item used more than just when I hosted fancy dinners. We were only gifted two sets of these from Ed's brother, Tom, and had to buy the rest ourselves. Ed did question whether it was worth to make this purchase, but I think that it's been totally worth it. Between dishwasher loads, we generally go through 2-4 cups and saucers, and I do look forward to also using these when we have people over.

While I've never gotten into drinking coffee, I'm very happy that I love drinking tea.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lemon Sugar Cookies

I've gotten into the (probably not the greatest) habit the last few weeks of baking on Sunday nights. Last Sunday's was a bit of a disaster (hence the dearth of a blog post), as the cookies were the wrong consistency and consequently very thin and crispy, in the way a cookie should not be. We were trying to use up some margerine that we had lying around that had been bought by accident. Now we know why we hadn't used it up before.

This week, I had some lemons that needed a home in a recipe, so I decided that this recipe for lemon sugar cookies would be the perfect use for them. This time, we had real butter, so I felt much more confident about the cookies. I also did a good job of leaving out the butter to let it soften (rather than microwaving it). Ed has a bit of a bad habit of putting away the butter when he sees it out of the fridge (not realizing that it was there on purpose), but this time he caught himself and left it alone.

The recipe starts with a "healthy" serving of butter (obviously I'm using healthy to mean large, not actually healthy :) ), blended with sugar and lemon zest. 

After adding in the rest of the ingredients, we had lovely (and delicious) dough to work with!

Each ball is rolled in sugar (though I think that the cookies were made a bit too big - the cookies spread out more than they should have) and baked for 8 - 10 minutes. 

They came out golden and delicious!

In reading so many cooking blogs, I decided I really wanted to try to make frosting (and thought these cookies could be tasty with it), so I "made" powder sugar (blended normal sugar). Unfortunately, this didn't really powder the sugar like it should have, so the frosting was a bust. It did look pretty, though!

These ended up being the only two that got frosted (and the back one got the frosting wiped off). 

Still, these cookies have a great, light flavor, and are such a nice treat!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Continuation of Spring

As the days are continuing to get nicer, it's been fun to watch our garden "wake up" even more!

Our cherry tree has gone from this...

To this....

To this!

We probably have close to 40 cherries on the tree, and can't wait for them to turn red. 

These pretty flowers are also really starting to grow. It's fun having the pinks and yellows among the other white flowers in the box.

And, apparently, this azalea is blooming for the first time since it was planted over 3 years ago! Ed thinks it's because of all the rain plus all the sunny days. In any event, it's a beautiful addition.

Ed and I are looking forward to spending some warm days enjoying our patio. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Menu Planning Monday

It's that time again! Here's what we had for dinner last week:

Monday: Beef, Bean and Corn Tacos
This is one of those quick/easy meals that always hits the spot. Lately, I've been adding extra goodies to the tacos to make them more filling; this week we added in corn and black beans, as well as lots of onion and salsa verde. 

Tuesday: Orange Chicken, Green Beans and Rice
This was another pretty easy meal; A while ago, we bought a bottle of Orange Chicken Sauce (the Panda Express brand). It's sweet but tasty (though I generally go pretty light on the sauce and then add some soy sauce so that it's not overpoweringly sweet). Just a quick saute of onion and bell pepper and then added the chicken. The sauce went on at the very end. 

Wednesday: Linguini with Tomato Sauce
Ed offered to make dinner tonight, and we decided to go with this easy choice. Unfortunately, my understanding of pasta to sauce ratio was really off, and I convinced Ed to cook the whole pound of pasta, thinking it would work perfectly with one bottle of pasta sauce (I wanted leftovers for school lunches, plus Ed eats a lot :) ). Being the wonderful husband he is, Ed followed my instructions despite his doubt. So, we ended up with very lightly sauced pasta. The fresh parmesean that we had on hand went a long way to making this tasty, but it was a little too dry for my tastes (and totally my own fault on this one). 

Thursday: Pepperoni and Arugula Calzones

After telling Ed about having these calzones (made from TJ's Pizza Dough) at my sister, Ashley's, home, Ed was excited about us trying our hands at them. I think I let the dough rise a bit too long, as they were a bit harder to form into circles (the dough was maybe too warm?), but they still turned out delicious. Ed said he liked this better than making normal pizza!

This is such an easy chili recipe that I decided to make it again. I doubled the batch but, if it's any indication of how much we like the chili (and how much Ed eats), we're almost out of it already. I had hoped to freeze half of it for a later meal, but I didn't remember until too late. We ended up not only having it for Friday dinner, but Saturday lunch, Sunday lunch (for Ed), and my lunch today. 

Saturday: Out (Cheesecake Factory)
Since I already talked about our dinner out, I thought I would share our breakfast instead.

Ed and I have come up with a really nice system for making pancakes. Ed likes to make the batter (we make the good old fashioned kind, straight out of Ed's "Better Homes Cookbook.") and then I cook them. Even though I grew up making pancakes with bisquik, Ed and I don't seem to eat them enough to warrent a separate purchase. Plus it's pretty easy (and probably cheaper) to just make it with normal ingredients. 

I'm not sure what was different this time (perhaps letting the batter sit for a little), but the pancakes came up thicker and fluffier than they have in a long time. Ed also had eggs and canadian bacon to fill out the meal, and it was a lovely way to start a Saturday. 

During breakfast, Ed and I talked about breakfast traditions growing up. I was remembering that we were pretty self sufficient with breakfast for the most part - as a kid I often made myself pancakes and french toast (which is possibly why I'm a little better cooking pancakes than Ed; I used to make them probably once a week!). We generally didn't have a habit of all sitting down together to eat breakfast, and, if we did all eat together, it always either was a special occassion, or just felt special (like when my dad would make "Daddy Waffles" - Bisquick waffles on the waffle iron).  

Ed, in contrast, usually had weekend breakfasts together with his family. His mom usually did all the cooking, and Ed felt like his family did more special breakfasts together than other meals. On the downside, Ed didn't get as much experience cooking his own breakfasts. However, on the other, his family shared breakfasts together more often. 

I think as a married couple, Ed and I do a bit of a mix, but we've started to have at least one weekend day where we have a nice breakfast together, sitting at the table without any distractions (no paper, books, tv, etc.). It always feels like a special time (and it makes it easier to clean up right after the meal)., especially since during the week we never have breakfast together, since our schedules are pretty different. I'm hoping that a nice weekend breakfast is a tradition we'll continue!

Sunday: Shrimp and Fettucini, with Tomato Sauce; Green Beans, Artichoke
Tonight's dinner was designed to use up things we had on hand. I still had one artichoke from last week (good to know that these keep, cooked for that long) and green beans from Tuesday that hadn't been cooked. Ed was awesome and made dinner again and this time we didn't overdo it on pasta. The sauce ended up a little thin because of the water that melted from the shrimp, so we added some tomato paste to thicken it up. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Very Relaxing Saturday

After having a lovely run, I had such a relaxing afternoon. I spent much of it sitting curled up in a chair, enjoying the smell of our candles, drinking a pot of chai tea, and reading the new issue of Sunset. It was heavenly. 

Afterwards, Ed and I headed to the mall to take care of a few errands and have a date night. One story I haven't shared yet is the story about my engagement ring. So, while going on a run while visiting my sister and her family, I accidentally tripped. Usually, this isn't a big deal, but something different happened on this one. I landed, not unusually, on the palms of my hand (and my knee). Unusually, I also  more or less landed on my engagement ring. 

As I pulled myself off the pavement (and assured a worried couple who saw the whole embarrassing thing that I was fine), I looked at my ring and it looked off. As I stared, the middle diamond fell out! So, sad and somewhat humiliated, I kept a tight grip on my diamond as I took the "walk of shame" back to my sister's apartment. 

Luckily, Ed wasn't too upset about the whole thing, but I did need to go get it fixed, hence the mall trip. The woman at the Kays at the mall was very nice, but informed me that I would need to get the prong replaced. She told me that the prong was custom made, so it would be very expensive to fix; however, I could choose a simplet design that would be "less" expensive (still upwards of $180). 

She showed me the booklet of prong designs and I ended up finding one that was a "tulip" setting, which was what she said mine was. Not only was this one a match to what I already had, but it was only $118! Even better, the woman gave us a discount and only charged $110. She also cleaned and polished our wedding rings, my other ring and my necklace. The only negative is that I have to wait 4-6 weeks to get my ring back. 

After taking care of this, it was time to relax! So, Ed and I headed to Cheesecake factory for yummy drinks and dinner.

All in all a very nice day!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Foggy Run on Russian Ridge

Ed and I decided to continue with our trend of one trail a week (for me) by heading out to Russian Ridge today for a 3-5 mile run (though we'd end up doing 5.25!). Last year, we were blown away by the wildflowers here, so, though it was a little too early, we were looking forward to seeing what was out already. 


The weather contrasted pretty strongly with our last visit, when I remember it being very hot and bright. Today, it was cool, with a misty wind blowing on us pretty constantly, keeping it damp. Still, it made for fairly pleasant running conditions. 

The mountains and the distant looked beautiful, especially as they became more encased with fog throughout the run. 

The run begins with rolling uphill that I was only too happy to walk (Ed, perhaps, was not so happy, but he was a good sport about it). There were plenty of others out enjoying the day, but we still got some short stretches of alone time.

After climbing for a while, we broke out on a side trail that treated us with some nice downhill and then, some slightly uphill gorgeous singletrack. This was one of my favorite parts of the run; I think that sometimes I just can't resist a beautiful singletrack trail - they just seem very special. 

The singletrack became progressively more downhill, and that was the direction we headed for probably at least a half mile. We had a brief section where we headed through a forest, but most of it was the wide open space that I love so much about the Skyline Ridge area.

Finally, we hit another uphill section that took us to a familiar junction (The Vista Parking Lot).

From here, we climbed a bit further until we got to the ridge of the hill.

And, finally, the views that I remembered well

 Stanford looked small below us, and we could also see Moffet to our right (by where my old school was located)

A bit past here, we passed a group of trail workers on a lunch break, and then had one more up and down before we hit 3 miles, our turn around point. On our way out, Ed saw a way to make this a loop instead of an out and back. Since the back would be almost a mile shorter, our turn around point was actually at 3 miles, instead of 2.5.

In the far right of the picture below, you can just barely make out the platform where we had a picnic break on our twelve miler last year. Hard to believe I was in such good shape just a year ago...

On our way back, I took a moment to capture these beautiful purple flowers that were stealing the show on the side of the trail. They certainly stood out, with most of the other flowers not yet on display.

Taking the new trail back, we had some much more serious uphill, but after a half mile or so, we reached the "peak."

And then it was all downhill, all the way back to the car :). 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Menu Planning Monday

Monday - Coq au Vin
Ash and I made this Barefoot Contessa recipe, with a few edits to make it healthier. It was a tasty and delicious meal!

Tuesday - Fettucini Alfredo with Shrimp and Asparagus

While this looked tasty, the asparagus was a complete bust - not tasty at all. So I picked around it and enjoyed the rest. 

Wednesday - More Fettucini
We kept it easy and just remade Tuesday's dinner

Thursday - Soy Ginger Pork with Onion and Cilantro, served with Cous Cous

Ed threw this dish together, and it turned out great! We didn't want to go shopping, so he made a great dish with what we had on hand. 

Friday - Linguini with Lemon and Shrimp

I had some friends over for our monthly knitting night (though I'm certainly the least capable knitter of the group :) ). I took this as an opportunity to try out some new recipes (which didn't disappoint). 

For the main course, I served Giada's linguine recipe, which features making lemon infused oil and shrimp scampi. While I messed up and didn't realize my frozen shrimp had shells (which meant I had to take each cooked shrimp out of the oil and de-shell them), but they tasted great. The lemon flavor wasn't nearly as strong as I had thought it would be, but it was still good. I had freshly grated parmesean on top, which was a nice touch.  

With it, I served what is known in our family as "Jane's Salad," a delicious mix of lettuce, dried cranberries, manderin oranges, avocado, blue cheese and apple. It's topped with a sweet, light dressing, and is a wonderful spring/summer (and I suppose fall/winter, since we have it for Thanksgiving and Christmas more often than not) salad. 

And, as I already mentioned, I made fresh foccacia bread, which was exciting :). 

And of course, any good meal needs a nice setting. I picked out some pretty flowers from Trader Joes and got to break out our wedding presents (though, since we didn't get 2 sets of anything, our "nice" dishes are our everday ones as well). Still, it was nice to set a table for five!

Saturday - Leftovers
Despite the fact that the pasta was supposed to serve 4-6, the five of us barely ended up making a dent in it. So, Ed and I ate this for lunch and dinner the next day (which finally polished it off). We were going to go out for dinner, but saw no reason for it!

Sunday - Ginger Salmon with Artichoke, Brown Rice, and Salad
We cooked our salmon on out grill pan, with a bit of grated ginger and soy sauce added towards the end of the cooking. It's artichoke season right now, so we got them for 67 cents each! It was delicious. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wildflower Run at Quicksilver Park

Ed and I decided to take an advantage of my last day of spring break by going on a hike/run someplace where we could enjoy the beautiful weather and the wildflowers that have been coming up everywhere. 

Since I missed the wildflowers here last year, I decided we should head to Quicksilver to enjoy the green hillsides and flowers. 

Unfortunately, after less than half a mile, we realized an unintended side affect of the flowers - bees. Lots of bees. So, we turned around and headed out on a different trail, which ended up being even better. 

While it started with a pretty significant uphill, 

there were lots of poppies to make the climb more appealing. 

The oak trees looked gorgeous with the piercing blue sky as a backdrop.

I forced Ed to do some posing, since it was such a beautiful day; he was a good sport :).

He made me pose, too.

What ended up being different about this run, compared to other runs at Quicksilver, was that the hills were much more rolling. This meant that, after a mile, we got to start heading downhill!

At 1.7 miles out, I convinced Ed that we should take a break in the shady, secluded area off the trail that included a table, and a creekside view.

It felt lovely and peaceful to just sit quietly in the cooler air and listen to the flowing water. I realized while sitting there that there was a road just on the other side. It's amazing how you can feel so isolated in nature, only to discover that you aren't so far into nature after all. 

After about 5 minutes, Ed encouraged us to keep going; the goal was out 2, back 2, so we still had three tenths of a mile left.

Luckily, that last three tenths was full of gorgeous scenery. 

In not too long, we turned around and headed back up. While it was only 75 degrees, it was the first warm weather run I've done in a long time, and that direct sunlight felt hot! We rested in the shade once on the uphill, until finally, we made it to the crest, ready for some nice downhill to take us back to the car.

I stopped to enjoy the poppies one last time, and then we headed down.

Ed and I need to make a goal of making weekly trips to the trails for the next month or so to make the most of this spectacular wildflower season.