31 May 2011

Weekend Update| May 31, 2011

This past weekend we headed down to Vero Beach for a weekend with my family. My little niece and I share the same birthday and my sisters birthday is this week. So we threw a birthday dinner for the three of us! There was tons of food to be had, including my mother's delicious homemade banana cake...a traditional 1st year birthday cake in our family! I'll let the pictures do the talking...


The stupid things you'll do for a kids entertainment...

"The Beast" in her cage...don't let those pouty eyes fool you.

Homemade spaghetti and meatballs

Banana cake...decorated with fresh flowers.

Miss grumpy-pants eating her first birthday cake!

Best gift ever- Me recieving my very own garden GNOME!!!

We had a really wonderful weekend and were able to head back home for a relaxing holiday off. We didn't do anything special, just a little grocery shopping, a little snacking, a little Twilight watching, and we even fit in a little running. It was a much needed day of relaxation with my most wonderful friend!

What did you do for your holiday?

P.S. I have a very exciting contest coming up called "Name my Gnome!" Get ready folks!

27 May 2011

Milk Squash

I have no elegant name for this recipe. I thought it was a common household side dish until I made it for John or tell people about it and get strange looks. My mom has been making "milk squash" my whole life, and I always look forward to the sweet flavor it offers a savory meal.

The name makes it sound like some special family of squash you've never heard before, but it's really made from your average yellow squash. I make this when the squash are in season and are small. The smaller the squash, the sweeter it is! And a sweet squash is exactly what you need for this recipe to turn out the way it should.

Milk Squash

6 small squash sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 tsp salt
a couple turns of freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp chicken bouillon granules
4 tbsp water
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup milk

Place everything but the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Allow butter to melt and simmer, cover, stir occasionally until the squash starts to cook through and go limp.

When the squash is on the verge of limp, add the milk and stir. Allow to simmer over med-low heat until the water, butter, and milk has come together in a very thin sauce and the vegetable has gone limp and breaks apart a little. Serve while hot.

Have you ever had yellow squash cooked this way? 


26 May 2011

North Korean Wedding Geese

A couple weeks ago we were given these as a wedding gift from some friends of ours that do business in North Korea. I treasure them. I'm fascinated by North Korea's closed political state, and hang on ever word when I hear little tidbits about the culture and traditions of the people, since so much of what we typically hear (if we hear anything at all) is the culture and tradition of "the Dear Leader." 

They told us that these geese were a traditional wedding gift in that country and that they are meant to always be looking at one other or swimming side by side (as pictured above) . Having one perpendicular to the other is not accepted because the couple should always be looking in love or swimming in cooperation with one another.

Though small, the geese hold a large place in my heart. Out from a place that seems so dark in knowledge and understanding comes a simple truth about what makes a marriage work. And every time I look at them I remember the wisdom of North Korea's people as traditions like these get handed down generation to generation.

25 May 2011

Hotel Review: Dar Zouhour, Rabat

We stayed in this lovely dar when we traveled to Rabat, Morocco for our honeymoon. It's tucked away in the old Medina of the city and was a little difficult to find were it not for a helpful old man that took pity on us as we stepped out of our taxi at the edge of the Medina's gate, our faces dripping with confusion. Once we arrived at the hotel and were able to explore a bit we found its location very easily and were happy to be right in the middle of the Rabat action!

Dar Zouhour is a small home consisting of three suites and three rooms. We stayed in the La Sultane suite on the bottom floor, and as you can see, the room was absolutely breath-taking.

La Sultane room

The service was top notch and very welcoming. When we arrived they gave us a tour of the house and gave us maps and literature on the city to help with our exploring in the following days. Everyone in the hotel was fluent in Moroccan Arabic, French, and English. 

The bed was very comfortable and the room was exotic. We loved waking up to all the beautiful tile work around us and the old wooden ceilings. It was a visual delight, and the colors exploded on the wall as sunlight spilled into the room.

View from bed

The bathroom in the suite was very large and well maintained. There was a huge walk in shower, perhaps 4x7 and even had a seating area on one side. So nice!

They had a TV and wireless internet access, but honestly, who cares? You're in Morocco people! If you're hiding out in your hotel watching Morocaan T.V. then there's something wrong with you!

The common area with view door to our suite

Each suite is built around a common area. It has huge glass ceiling so there is always natural light in the mornings. They serve breakfast here and it is such a feast! They cook up breads and crepes and serve fruit and teas. It was a great way to start the morning and got us off on the right foot as we headed out the door.

Like I had mentioned, the hotel is right in the middle of Rabat. You're staying in the heart of the Medina, within walking distance to the following sites:

The souk
Kasbah des Oudaias
The Oudaias
Mausoleum of King Mohammed V
Hassan Tower

Overall, our experience was fantastic. The lodging, the help, and the price were all great! If I were forced to make one complaint it would be that there isn't much privacy in the suites. The windows (above) of the suites are no more than worked metal, and sounds travels through them as if no barrier were in place. So if privacy ranks high on your Maslow's hierarchy scale, it may be better to rent one of their rooms instead of a suite downstairs.

24 May 2011

Vegetable Casserole

I know that when I post most recipes I claim that they are "my favorite." But when I say this is my favorite recipe of all time, I mean it. My mom has been making it since I was a little girl and now I make it in my home. This dish just tastes like home to me. It's the dinner I would request for my birthday meals, the times I was sick, any time I was at home visiting from college, and on special "girl nights" my mom and I would have in the rare event that my brother and step-dad were gone from the house.  It's super easy and re-heats very well. Long story short? I've got your dinner covered tonight...

What you'll need...

1 can cream of celery condensed soup
1 can french-cut green beans (drained)
1 can sweet corn (drained)
1/2 can water chestnuts, chopped
1/2 medium white onion, chopped
2 medium zucchini, halved and sliced
1 and 1/2 cups shredded carrot
1 sleeve whole grain ritz crackers, smashed
1/4 cup butter, melted
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss together everything but the crackers and butter. Lightly grease a 13x9 pan and spoon veggies into it in an even layer. Place the crackers in a gallon baggie and beat it with a rolling pin until crushed (or until you've gotten enough pent up anger out...) and sprinkle over top of the casserole. Melt butter and pour evenly over the top.

Bake, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.

What's your favorite home-cooked meal?


23 May 2011

Weekend Update| May 23, 2011

So, I'm not typically the kind of gal who goes around tooting her own birthday horn, but for the purpose of this post you should know... yesterday was my birthday. I'm now a young 24, and may I just say that life happens fast! I know that's something older people say and as you read it you probably rolled your eyes. But, in my 23rd year I got married, graduated, moved into a condo with a boy, got a big girl job, and a professional wardrobe. I think the phrase is warranted. :)

My husband was so sweet to save up his money so he could send me on a shopping spree. Ever since we got married I just feel bad spending money. Because I know it's not just my money, I'm extra cautious because I want to respect the money he worked hard to earn. Each week we both get $10 in fun money to spend however we want. John saved his up for the last 8 weeks so that I could go blow money guilt-free!  I bought clothes, of course.

Saturday we went out an did a little shopping in the morning and then went to a Lebanese restaurant we hadn't tried yet over in Winter Park. The place was called House of Kabob and was run by one old Lebanese man with crooked teeth and a grin that could melt your heart...

We both got a gyro and man were they delicious! It's the best gyro/doner/shawarma I've had in the states hands down! I ate the whole thing, and went into a gyro coma just as we were heading out to the produce stand and grocery store. I love trying new places, especially Middle Eastern joints, so it was a perfect way to enjoy my birthday day.

When we got home and unloaded out groceries we found this little guy outside. You may remember him from a previous post, but he hasn't been hanging around our patio like he used to. I can explain...

A few weeks ago we went out to the patio to start a load of laundry. When we opened the door this cat lept out of the tiny laundry space and ran for dear life. Somehow we had closed him in there and left him for an unknown amount of time. This explains his absence in our patio over the last few months. He must think we are cat torturers who take pleasure in abusing fluffy animals, denying them food and water. It's so tragic that any animal would think that of me!

But he came back, on my birthday. Deep down he must really love me.

For dinner we went to The Drunken Monkey. It's a real hip place downtown. The kind of place where people like us tend to stick out like a sore thumb because of the absence of tattoos on our skin, holes in our face, and grease in our hair. But yuppy-types enjoy good vegan food too, so they'll need to get over it. John got a bowl of their African Lentil stew and I got a the Lobster bisque, which was to die for! All their soups are on the pricey side, but I love how complex the flavors are in all of them. It tastes like a whole meal in one little bowl.

When we finished our meal I decided I would spend the remainder of my birthday money on a couple huge slices of cake from Too Jay's for John and I. We ate some for dessert, and I had the rest of mine for breakfast Sunday morning (see above.) Hey! I'm 24, I can do stuff like that without any major setbacks. However, my 24 year-old stomach is much less capable of digesting such things than was my 18 year-old one. My stomach felt a little sick all day!

Over all, it was a great birthday weekend. It was nice to relax and enjoy our time together and remember all the wonderful things I have to be thankful for in the past year, and look forward to the things I'll have to be thankful for in this year! Something tells me this one will be better than all the rest. :)

P.S. Sorry these pics are low quality. John accidentally broke the lens on our Nikon d3000. I had to use my Nikon Coolpix all weekend and it sucked. So, an added birthday gift is my new d3000 lens that comes in today with an added VR bonus!

20 May 2011

My Fat Cat

Meet Gree (a.k.a "Greezers," "Greester," "Greasy Gree," or "The Greezy-Wheezy"). He was my most beloved fat cat for six years. He was an awesome cat that suffered compulsive eating disorders and bi-polar disorder...I loved him dearly.

Gree was the kind of fat cat that would lay down to eat. You knew he was heading for his food bowl by the sound of his furry fat rolls dragging along the tile floors of the kitchen. He provided us endless entertainment, and watching him trying to squeeze, slowly but surely, through the cat door made for side-splitting fun. I'm pretty sure his hunger mechanism was broken because he always scarfed his food, even if he had been fed just one hour earlier. Bless his little heart...

As I said, he suffered a severe psychological disorder known as bi-polar disorder. My dear cat would become entangled in my arms, snug as a bug in a rug, one minute...and try to tear off my finger with his fangs the next. For some reason, no one else in my family ever learned to appreciate this unique trait. I loved his unpredictability.  I loved that we could go from a sweet nap on the couch to an all out brawl on the living room floor in a matter of minutes.

I guess you could say there was some co-dependence going on on my part. But you know, those sweet times made the abusive times fade away. He may have been ill-tempered, but he really loved me, ya know?

Our relationship ended, quite abruptly, four years ago while I was away at college and my mother gave him away without asking me. It was a sad year for me. I felt as though it was the end of an era. Some nights I wake up fighting for breath, imagining that just like the old days, Gree had perched his fat body on top of my chest and was watching me sleep as I struggled under his weight.

19 May 2011

Homemade Baklava

I've been looking forward to this day for a long time. Not only is it my chance to share my most favorite recipe with you, it's a time to celebrate my all-time favorite dessert! Baklava has been around for ages and making it is an art of labor and love. 

The first time I ever made this I was hosting international students in my home for a movie night. I had many friends from the Middle East coming and I was nervous to hear their judgements. They loved the recipe and argued for a good thirty minutes over which of them could claim its history! My Turkish friend was confident that Turks owned its past. My Persian friend spoke loudly and emphatically that "Perrrrrsians" had developed the tasty treat. Before I knew it my house was an all out war zone of Saudis, Turks, Persians, and Libyans fighting for rights. See? Everyone wants a piece of this action!

Anyways, having had it tested and approved by "the real deal" I'm confident you'll love it.

Simple syrup

I've adapted this recipe from DedeMed's Kitchen. You will need the following ingredients:

2 cups water

2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup honey
1 (16 oz) pkg. phyllo dough
1 lb. chopped nuts (I use walnuts)
1 cup butter (melted)
1 and 1/2 tsp cinnamon

To begin place the water and sugar in a medium saucepan over med-high heat until the sugar is melted. Add the vanilla and honey and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Then let cool on the stove top.

*While you are cooking the syrup set out the frozen phyllo dough to let it warm up enough for unrolling.

Next, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 13x9 pan. Place two sheets of phyllo dough in the bottom of the pan and brush on the melted butter lightly with a pastry brush. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. (Be sure to cover the unused dough with a damp cloth to keep it from drying out.) Working with the dough can be frustrating, but even if it tears and breaks it will still taste the same!

Sprinkle the 8 sheets with a small handfull of the chopped nuts that have been tossed with cinnamon. Top with two sheets of phyllo dough and brush with butter. Continue layering nuts, 2 sheets, butter leaving 6-8 sheets for the top layer as you did the very bottom (just layering 2 sheets with melted butter).

Once you've finished layering, cut the baklava into the shapes you desire before baking. I like to do the little triangles, but simple squares work fine to. Bake for 50 minutes, until golden and crisp.

Once the baklava is done baking, pour the syrup over each piece with a spoon while it is still hot. Even though it looks like too much syrup, be sure to use it all. It will make for a sweet, mouth-watering ethnic dessert! 

Let it cool, and be sure to lightly cover it with a cloth. Covering with plastic wrap or foil will make the baklava soggy.

Now play a little Nancy Ajram and enjoy the fruits of your labor! :)

18 May 2011

You Gotta Fight For Your Right, Pt. 1

We're all familiar with the plight of women in early American history. It was the fight to be seen as equals- to vote, to earn a fair wage, to pursue a career. But what about those small battles? What about the ones we don't even think of that had to be fought by some outstanding woman so that we can have the simple freedoms we women have today? Freedoms like the right to wear pants...

The following article was published in August, 1966 by Enid Nemy in the The New York Times: 

NEW YORK- Pants, tailored or formal, and the women in them, are being greeted with less than enthusiasm by the men who run many of New York's leading hotels and restaurants.

"It's easier to get into some places in lingerie," say some of the women who have tried both. "I've taken to calling restaurants to see if I'm allowed in," says Mrs. Nora Jaffe, an abstract painter who believes she looks better in slacks than she does in most dresses. "I've been turned away from several places, but I'm not discouraged."

Mrs. Jaffe, a tall and slender brunette, has no such problems when she wears a $35 pink chiffon nightgown. 

"I've worn it to several openings and its been taken for a Gres design," she says of her double layered nightgown that drapes to resemble a toga.

Giving Them the Slip

Eileen Ford, who together with her husband operates the Ford Model Agency, tells of going to the Golden Door at Kennedy International Airport with a model en route to Mexico.

"She was wearing a pin-striped pants suit in white flannel- really beautifully tailored," Mrs. Ford said. "They refused to allow her in so we went to the powder room and I gave her my black paisley half-slip, trimmed with lace and bows. She put it on as a skirt. It was the funniest sight you've ever seen, but we got into the restaurant."

Anthony Nardin, general manager of the Golden Door, says his policy of "no pants" is prompted largely by women guests who object to them. "If a woman wearing slacks is on a delayed flight and comes in with the crew from the airline, we have no way to bar her. But usually a group like that is put in a seperate room anyway," he adds.

A Matter of Respect

Thomas Clinton, assistant manager of the Plaza Hotel, says "Pants are pants, and if women wear them they'll be asked to leave."

"It doesn't matter what shape or form they take," he adds. "If we admitted one, we couldn't refuse others."

"We have a flat policy against them," says James Van Bortel, manager of the Top of the Sixes.

Mrs. Theodore Kwoh, the owner of the Mandarin East, believes it is a matter of respect for the restaurant. "You wouldn't wear slacks to a restaurant you respected," she says. "You have to draw the line somewhere- we might allow them in downstairs or late at night, but it's an exception."

Some restaurants disapprove in principle rather than in practice. "We  usually don't permit them, but all rules are made to be broken," is the opinion of Dee Lawrence, manager of the 54th Street branch of P.J. Moriarty. "If the restaurant isn't too busy, we'll put them in the corner, but 99 percent of the men who lunch here really don't like seeing women in pants."

"I'm Open-Minded"

"Evening pants are excepted anywhere," says Stuart Levin, director of the Four Seasons. "There's a difference between pants-pants and the feminine look."

Charles T. Carey. manager of the St. Regis-Sheraton, offers a similar viewpoint: "Formalized evening pants designed for parties are perfectly acceptable, but I'd have to look them over. We expect men to wear ties and jackets and women to be properly dressed."

One of the most receptive to the vogues and vagaries of fashion is Charles Masson, the owner of La Grenouille. a temple of fashionable dining. "I'm open-minded about the fashions of the times," he says, "but fashion is one thing and laissez-faire is another.

"I will not permit slacks, but if a woman wears a well-made pants suit and they fit her personality, that is good taste. Exhibitionism is something else."

17 May 2011

Old St. Augustine

St. Augustine is a must-see if you ever visit Florida. While we have many beautiful things to see in do in my great state, none are as full of history as St. Augustine. The city was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers and is the oldest continuously occupied European-founded city in the United States.

I've been to the city a number of times as I had originally planned on completing my bachelor's degree at Flagler College in St. Augustine. Though accepted, God had other plans and re-routed me to Orlando instead. Now when I visit, it's as a tourist- there to take some lovely pictures and enjoy it's delicious food!

One of the most historical aspects of the St. Augustine landscape is the huge fort built by Spanish colonialists called the Castillo de San Marcos. It was built in 1652 to protect against invaders when St. Augustine was still ruled under the Spanish flag. The British fought for the land, winning, eventually giving it over to the Spanish again in 1783 for their efforts in establishing the area. It wasn't long until, in 1819, St. Augustine was officially given over to the U.S. For a fee, you can go explore around the old fort and imagine what it must have been like to be the first people to colonize in the state of Florida. They say the explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles was in search of the Fountain of Youth.

The old downtown area of colonial St. Augustine is quite small, but has tons to see in do in the small area it covers. The city surrounds a main center of breezy, oak-covered gardens. It's a lovely place to sit down and find rest in the hottest parts of the day. Each section of the garden is complete with an old fountain to cool down in and plenty of flora and fauna indigenous to our tropical area. I recommend you go on a weekend to find tons of young college students out selling homemade knick-knacks, hand soaps, hemp jewelry, and local art in the gardens.

One of the things I love most about St. Augustine is the architecture. Each building is, of course, heavily influenced by Spanish culture and design. When we had the chance to travel around Spain I saw many commonalities between St. Augustine and the cities abroad. But St. Augustine definitely has its own flair and feel. The hot air of the Florida beach hits you like a brick wall, and the sounds of the city remind you that you've not stepped too far out of America and get the feeling that though the Spanish established their culture in the new land, it was not without a little innovation to set it apart from home.

Flagler College was originally built as the Ponce de Leon Hotel. It was built but millionaire Henry Flagler in 1887 and was state of the art for it's time. The design of it's buildings are breath-taking and I've yet to see anything else like it in the states. Believe it or not, Thomas Edison himself wired the electricity for the old hotel and the whole place oozes with history. If you're like me, your imagination gets the best of you in buildings like this. I walk up and down the regal halls or stare up at the painted ceilings and wonder what it must have been like to be so privileged in the early 1900's as to stay here for weekend. 

Now, for just under 20K a year you can walk it's regal hallways daily...as college student.  In 1968 the hotel was converted to an institution of higher learning as a private liberal arts college known for its business school and its quality Deaf Studies program.  Walking around campus it is unbelieveable to me that students study and eat their meals in rooms that were designed for decadent galas and 5-star meals. But, I suppose they pay the price for it. Surely "Sallie Mae" is a cursed word in those parts.

I can't wrap up any "city feature" without speaking of the local eats, of course! If you love local bakeries and mom and pop eateries this city will be your heaven. I'll recommend a couple of my favorites:

The Bunnery:  (Off of St. George St. and pictured above.) This place serves up some seriously awesome baked goodies and has a lunch menu to die for. I always be sure to check out this place for lunch when I am there visiting. Their homemade soups and chicken salad are heaven, and I tried a cool shrimp salad last time that absolutely knocked my socks off.

Harry's Seafood Bar and Grille: (Located off of Avenida Menendez) This restaurant is one of five in the state of Florida. They serve up New Orleans-style seafood and cajun favorites. The restaurant has a great outdoor seating area and overlooks the port of St. Augustine with a great view of the old Spanish bridge that crosses the Indian River. 

Cafe Del Hildago: (Off Hypolita St.) There are no words for this place. They serve some of the best gelato I have ever eaten; and that's from someone who has tried gelato all over Europe, people! This cafe has a wonderful atmosphere and a sincere staff. We enjoyed trying all kinds of gelato and though we didn't try their lunch or dinner, the menu looked top notch. This is a great place to cool off mid-day.

Have you ever been to St. Augustine? What were you favorite places to go?

16 May 2011

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

It's Monday! Are you ready for the week to start? I know I had a little bit of a hard time rolling out of bed. I had to get up extra early to make these for lunches this week since I failed to do so last night before bed. But now they are cooked and I'm ready for a week of healthy and satisfying lunches.  Am I the only one that cooks up meals in advance so dinners or packed lunches are a breeze throughout the busy week?

My apologies. I don't have the material for a weekend update today. Not a whole lot happened this weekend, and to be honest, I was just down-right lazy. In place of a weekend update I thought a really delicious and "oh so bad for you" dessert would be a fair trade. Because who doesn't love an unhealthy dessert? I don't classify "healthy" as "dessert". Only unhealthy options will do.


We've been making Strawberry Pretzel Salad  in my family on holidays and special occasions for decades. It's one of those special treats we only get a couple times a year (or when your husband requests, emphatically, that you make it.) The sweet strawberries paired with the salty and crunchy pretzels makes for a stunning couple. And the cream? It's just icing on the "cake."

The Crust: 
2 cups crushed pretzels
3/4 cup melted butter
2 tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 400. Mix together ingredients and press into the bottom of a 13x9 pan. Bake 8 minutes and then let cool. Once cooled, top with cream...


The Cream:
8 oz cream cheese (softened)
3/4 cup sugar
1 large container of cool whip

Whip ingredients together until creamy and then pour over crust. Spread evenly sealing off all edges around the pan so the jello mixture won't seep though.  Let cool for 30 minutes in refrigerator.


The Strawberry Topping:
2  3oz pkgs. of Strawberry Jell-O
2 cups boiling water
2 pkgs. frozen strawberries in syrup

Mix Jell-O powder in boiling water and stir in thawed strawberries and syrup. Spoon strawberries into pan and then lightly pour liquid over top (so as not to break through the cream). Carefully move to refrigerator and cool until firm.

11 May 2011

Travel Junkies Need Their Fix, Pt 3

This is the final installment of my Travel Junkies series! If you missed the first two installments read them here and here.  I'm a little sad to be wrapping this up because I had such a fun time writing it! But that just means new series are on the way and we are on to bigger and better travel things. After looking through some seriously awesome pictures of my past travels last night I think my next series will be city guides for Europe and North Africa! So keep a look out for that.

Today, we talk travel guides. There are three books that I  can stamp "tested and approved." So if you have some big trips coming up this summer, these books might help you on your way to adventure this season...

For the Fancy Traveler

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time I probably sound like a broken record- I am not a fancy traveler. When I travel I look to cut corners, save pennies, and get down in the nitty gritty of the city. But I understand that isn't for everyone, and to be honest I wish I could be the chick who struts down a Parisian sidewalk in Manolo Blahniks, a gorgeous Chanel bag perched on her arm, and a cape. Yeah...a cape would really bring that look together.  *day dreams*

So if that's you, get your hot self over to amazon and pick up one of these Luxe City Guides.  It will point you toward all the best places to be and be seen- the ritzy restaurants and the swanky hotels. If you are looking to indulge in a city- this guide will be your very best friend.


For the Adventure Traveler

So you're in your sophmore year of college and going on a backpacking trip through Europe? This may be the guide for you. Really, these guides are for anyone who's looking for a little adventure, a little push outside their comfort zone, and a decent beer. I think the night life aspect of this guide is what sets it apart from the other guides, and why I feel it's more geared toward your average college student. Lonely Planet Guides have awesome tips for inexpensive hotels and hostels, as well as restaurants. They will also make you aware of the most popular watering holes. They may not be the fanciest, but it will get you in touch with your average Joe who's looking to have some fun (in a completely platonic way of course). 

I've used this guide in the past and found it extremely helpful in getting around a city and finding good eats. So I highly recommend it if your in an area that calls for a little more fun and adventure. Also, their website has a travel forum that I have found unbelieveably useful in preparing and planning for our trips.

John with his Spanish phrasebook.

My favorite Lonely Planet Guide product are actually their phrasebooks. DO NOT leave for a country that speaks another language without one of their phrasebooks. The picture above was taken after a lengthy conversation, in broken Spanish, with an old couple from Malaga. The conversaton would have been impossible without it. You'll find all kinds of tips for useful and funny conversations. These books come complete with a "relationships and intimacy" section, which we found useful as we were on our honeymoon. (wink wink. nudge nudge.)

Me with Rick in front of the Palacio Real de Madrid.

For the Back Door Traveler

You guys know I have a crush on Rick Steves. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I look at all travel guides equally. That would be a lie. I think Rick Steves' Guidebooks are hands down, the best travel book you can buy...ever! I could fill a book with the times and ways Rick has saved me travel hassles the size of Texas. I could write numerous poems on the ways he has been spot on about things to be careful for and things I must see and do.

If you are looking to have a cultural experience in your travels, to have your worldview turned on its head and your paradigm shifted dramatically, pick up his guide and go get your feet soaked in whatever culture you have the privilege of visiting. Happy travels!

What guidebook can't you travel without?

10 May 2011

Roasted Veggie Pesto Pasta

So apparently all my recipes are the same. When it comes to vegetables, I know what I like. I'm considering pulling together a post called "101 Ways to Use These 5 Veggies." I branch out from my usual here and there, but how can one not monopolize when the veggies I like are a) inexpensive, b) very tasty, and c) extremely good for you?

For this recipe I took out my vegetable drawer and just started dicing. I threw in everything I had and decided to slow roast them to perfection. You don't have to use these particular vegetables, use whatever is in season, year-round!

Roasted Veggie Pesto Pasta

1/2 pound tri-color rotini 
1/4 cup olive oil 
3/4 pint cherry tomatoes,  halved 
4 oz baby bella mushrooms, quartered 
1/2 of a large white onion, diced 
1 zucchini, cubed
1 golden zucchini, cubed 
1 yellow squash, cubed
2 cloves garlic, minced 
Salt and pepper 
3 tbsp pesto (homemade or store bought) 
Freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375. Cook pasta according to box. Chop veggies and toss in a large bowl with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

Pour veggies onto a large cookie sheet and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes until they are cooked through and starting to wrinkle.  

Toss veggies with pasta, pesto, and Parmesan. Serve while hot.

What are your staple foods?

Linking up with the Wiegands today!

09 May 2011

Weekend Update| May 9, 2011

It's Monday again. I don't know how they get here so quickly. This morning our alarm went off at the usual 6:40 a.m. We allow ourselves to sleep through two more alarms until 7 a.m.comes and its time to get up. My beloved husband accidentally turned off the alarm this morning instead of hitting snooze. Next thing I know, my eyes are being pried open by the morning sun and the harsh reality that it was Monday...and I was late. But, by the grace of the God, I was able to get out the door on time, looking almost professional and with a packed lunch. Take that, Monday!

Clean porch!

 Our weekend was really good. How was yours? We got to spend a lot of time talking and enjoying each others company. We even sat down and read for an hour or so! I've started re-reading Princess by Jean Sasson. It is seriously one of the best books I've ever read, and I've read a good book or two in my time. Saturday morning we ran our usual errands early in the morning and then cleaned up our back porch. My tomatoes had become overrun with leaf miners and my peppers had mites so bad that their shoots were literally snapping off. It was a major garden fail. But I plan to continue on next year...more prepared for pests.

Apparently I have a knack for flowers and herbs though, my mandevilla is vining very nicely and my caladiums are ginormous!

Hot Dog Heaven

For Saturday lunch we decided to try out Hot Dog Heaven. I had a buy one get one coupon and thought that was a good enough reason to try this itty bitty hole in the wall joint. So glad I did, because it was the most delicious hot dog I've had in a while! I had no idea it was so popular. We walked in and were shocked by the line looping through the skinny restaurant waiting area. Check it out...

LONG line.

It was a 15-20 minute wait just to get to the counter, but it was so worth it! They offer Chicago-style dogs with any fixings you could possibly think of. John got the traditional dog with tomatoes, onions, relish, pickles and ketchup. I got this little beauty, my favorite hot dog in the whole wide world...

The CHILI AND SLAW DOG.  If you've ever lived in North Carolina and the surrounding areas, you know that chili and slaw go together like peas and carrots, or peanut butter and jelly. It's a hot dog masterpiece, and I have yet to find a place in Florida that served it. Hot Dog Heaven does. And for that they are my new favorite restaurant in town. PERIOD. John, if you are reading this...I would like to go there and get two chili and slaw dogs for my birthday! (Am I a cheap date or what?!)

It was the perfect ending to a really perfect day. On the drive home John looked at me and said, "that was a really fun time." And I couldn't agree more. There's nothing more exciting than getting to know your town a little better, and discovering a little gem on the side of the road that you never even knew about.

And, how about that picture of a human, huh?  I took that. I think it looks pretty good! I mean, as good as a handsome man stuffing his face with a hot dog can look.I discovered through this experience that it's not so much the fear or photographing a person that scares me. It's really more the silly looks I get when I take a million pictures of a guy enjoying a hot dog that make it difficult to be confident. So I'm taking pictures of this absolutely mundane moment? What's it to you fellow "Hot Dog Heaven patron who thinks they are too cool for school"?

Beth, Cindy, and I

On Sunday we went to church (we finally picked one to settle down in after a year of church-hopping...) and then went out to lunch at Brio with my step-mom Cindy and her daughter Beth.  My mom lives in Vero Beach, and my mother-in-law lives in Virginia, so it was nice to have a mom here close to hang out with on Mother's Day! We enjoyed our time at lunch, and it was so much fun to get to see Beth who's visiting from Michigan. I'm making this month Mother's Day Month since I will be celebrating Mom's Day with my mother-in-law on Thursday and with my mom when I go down to visit on the 30th. :)

For Mother's Day I decorated a clay pot with a paint pen. I focused on Proverbs 31:31 wrote the verse on it and filled the pot with all kinds of fun scribbles. I planted some Mexican heather in it and thought that would be a nice Mother's Day gift to go with their new patio furniture they bought. Gift-giving is not in my list of love languages, so buying something to show someone I love them doesn't make sense to me. If I give a gift it has to be something I made and put thought and time into, otherwise I don't feel I've done the gift any justice and it doesn't adequately show my affections. Is anyone else like that?

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. What gifts did you give for Mother's Day?