Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year

Happy New Year to our faithful blog readers! Uh, I guess that means happy new year to our moms...

We're really excited about 2010--it's the first year we don't have any moves planned, we both have jobs (although there will be change this year r/e my job), and we have nothing major on our calendars. We are planning on a couple of great vacations, including 1-2 international trips, which I'm thrilled about, as usual! The plan is to settle into our house and make it look great, and spend quality time with our friends, here in Raleigh and in other parts of the country/world.

Also to come this year--I have a new blog project in the works. I'm excited about it, and will post an update here when it's live.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Packing Fun!

We're taking a little break from packing up the house to watch some of Final Destination 2 and chillax on the couch for a little while. I love that I can blog from my iPod now, so this post is kind of just for the heck of it. We've had a relaxing Sunday so far--pancakes for breakfast, Spanish cocoa for a snack, and miniature grilled cheeses for lunch. Yum!

Eric is packing up the bookshelf today while I finish wrapping Hanukkah and Christmas gifts, along with December and January birthday gifts. We only have three more thing to get before our shopping and wrapping is done, woo! Once I'm done with that, I'm going to be starting to pack up the kitchen and our dreser and summer clothes.

Snowflake has been a big help today, jumping in and out of boxes, sleeping on the books Eric was trying to pack, and being generally cute :). We love our little cats!

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Our new house!

In August, We decided that it was about time for us to buy a house. We had jobs, savings, money for a down payment, and the credit scores to do it. We met with the realtor we chose the third week in August, learned about the process, and set up a time to see our first five houses. Liked one, hated the others. You have to understand, though, we came into homebuying just like we do everything--lists for everything, a vision in our heads from the beginning for what the end result would be, etc.

After the first round, we set up a second round of showings, still in Orange and Chatham counties. Hated all but one of the houses again, and weren't too crazy about that one either. We decided we needed a new strategy, since the thing about the houses we had been looking at is that they all needed major renovations if they were in our price range. Discouraging! We didn't want to buy a house and then have to spend $30-$50K to make a house livable at the front end.

So we decided to expand our search to Wake County--including Cary and Morrisville, but not so far east we hit Raleigh. Still near our current home, great schools, not in Durham, etc. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for us, our realtor 's business didn't cross the Wake county line, so she referred us to a second realtor, Debbi. We love Debbi! Before our first day looking with her, she pulled listings for us, suggested places we never would have seen without her, but after an entire Sunday, we had only liked one of the homes--again! And it had ivy, which was a definite dealbreaker for us.

When we got back to her office, we were looking through the listings to see if we had overlooked anything, and noticed two listings for new construction that were at the absolute top of our price range. Actually a few thousand over, but the still showed up in our search. We had ignored both since we needed the house to close by 11/30, but both had an agent remark that they would close by that deadline.

Here's some backstory: last year, when we first came to visit Raleigh, we stayed with our friends, Steph and Brandon. They have a beautiful home in a polished, friendly, brand-new subdivision that is filled with young, professional married couples and young families. From the first time we visited, we had been in love with their neighborhood, but the homes, with the upgrades we would have chosen, were outside of our price range.

Well, you guessed it--the two homes under construction were in that neighborhood. Our new realtor was serious about homebuyers loving the neighborhood they were buying into, so she probably knew it was a done deal when we were driving over, but we were still skeptical that we could find our dream home in that neighborhood at the listed price.

When we were looking at the floorplans, we realized that it was even the same floor plan as S & B have. Then, as we were going over the specs and upgrades, we realized that aside from hardwoods, the house was exactly what we were looking for, and then some. We took a day to think about it, but in the car on the way home, after talking about everything we had seen, it hit us--that was going to be the house we put an offer in on. We were so excited!

We spent the next day getting prequalified with a mortgage, and put our offer in on September 1--for full asking price, some extra upgrades, and a chunk of closing costs. I got the call the next morning that the offer was accepted, and we were officially under contract!!!

The last five weeks have been a blur--we chose the interior finishes, and have been going through the underwriting process, which is tedious, but not impossible yet. We've been going by the house 2-3 times a week to take pictures and see the progress that's been made--last week the builders put in the doors and window trim, crown molding, baseboards, and finished painting. This week, they'll be installing vinyl, granite countertops, and starting on the fixtures, etc.

Closing is set for a month from today--we're so excited!!!!!

You can see all the photos, and from this weekend, a video tour, on facebook.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Pennsylvania Weekend...part 1, Penn State!

The weekend of July 31, we headed to Pennsylvania with Matt and Lan for Joe & Deanna's wedding reception. After 11 years together, they tied the knot in Hawaii, and came home to PA to celebrate with family and friends.

First stop was lunch with Marty and Rosanne (and the rest of the fam) at their house in Reisterstown.

Then we headed to Matt's parents' house, where we not only spent the night, but where I got to eat my FIRST PHILLY CHEESESTEAK! In the morning, Matt's mom made us a WONDERFUL breakfast--zucchini bread, baked oatmeal, and asparagus quiche. YUM!
The next morning, we drove to State College to meet up with Jack, Avi, Joe, and others for the Game Over Gugel Bar Tour. Before the bar tour, we had time to see Penn State!

In front of Old Main...

Waiting in line at the Creamery...
EATING at the Creamery...YUM! Definitely worth the wait!

Anniversary Dinner

August 5, 2009 was our second wedding anniversary. Wow the time has flown!

For our anniversary dinner, we went to Second Empire, a 4-diamond restaurant in downtown Raleigh. It was WONDERFUL. We started downstairs at the bar, where we ordered a bottle of Nautilus Marlborough (New Zealand) Pinot Noir, 2004.

After we were seated, we started with asian seared yellowfin tuna, over grilled eggplant with soba noodles and a horseradish vinaigrette, and a cheese plate that had a sharp cheddar, and both sheep's milk and goat's milk cheese, along with crostini and fruit.
For entrees, we both ordered the roasted pennsylvania duck breast, which was served with wasabi roasted sweet potatoes and a phyllo cigar.

Then for dessert, I ordered creme brulee, and Eric ordered the boston cream roll. YUM!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cooking Day

So Eric and I have been testing out a cooking method called Once a Month Cooking. The concept is that once a month (or for us, once every 2-3 months), I spend a day cooking, fill up the freezer with pre-made meals that require little in the way of future preparation (i.e. they need to be baked for 30 minutes, then served). The goal is both to save money by pre-planning meals, and have dinner be convenient, instead of something I have to think about every day--I can just reach in, pull out a dish, and it will be on the table in 30-60 minutes with no effort by me or Eric.

Last time we did this was the first week of April. We will finish the meals at the end of this week, so I thought it was high time to make more food!

This round's menu includes:
Grilled Eggplant/Squash/Chicken Lasagna (I made this recipe up!)-4 dinners
Barbeque Chicken Calzones-8 dinners
Honey-Lime Chicken Thighs-4 dinners plus lunch leftovers
Broccoli-Chicken Pesto Penne Casserole-4 dinners
Macaroni Turkey Chili-probably 6 meals' worth, there was a lot!
Bagel Pizzas-6 meals
Chicken B'Stila (see previous post on this one)-2 dinners (including one with friends)

For sides, I'm making Twice-Baked Potatoes (x38!). On nights we don't have these, we'll have steamed veggies, which are a staple at our house.

And I'm also making:
2 batches of chocolate chip cookie dough, frozen as individual cookie dough balls. One with mini chips, the other with normal-sized chips.
At least two loaves of Pa Bread to have on hand.

So far, I've made the chili, a loaf of Pa Bread (another is in the machine now), and have prepared all the chicken. I need to cook the chicken, cook the noodles, and then just assemble everything and find a way to fit everything in the freezer :)

Oh, and I have to get all the cooking done today, since tomorrow's project is going to be making Ka'ab Al Ghazal, or Gazelle Horns, along with Ambassl' del Gar'aa Hamra, or Baked Pumpkin with Caramelized Onions, Cinnamon, and Almonds. We're having Lan, Matt, Deep & Shana over for dinner tomorrow night. Should be fun!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!!!

Happy Father's day to our dads! Eric is in Atlanta, coming home today, and I'm going to meet up with some friends for a beer this afternoon. But here's a shout out to our dads with some pictures (yes, we realize they're older shots...we obviously need to get some updated ones!):

Wedding pictures of me & dad (2007)

Eric & Marty at our wedding (2007)
Eric and Marty at Captiva Island (2005)

And finally, here's Eric with the kids!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cooking lessons: Chicken B'stila

Yesterday, I made Chicken B'stila (B'stila B'djej) for dinner. It's a traditional Moroccan dish that I love (and so does mom!) When we were at Epcot earlier this year, she bought me a Moroccan cookbook, which I keep meaning to use...and finally had the chance to this week. It's almost like a middle-eastern chicken pot pie with WAY better flavor than Marie Callander's! :)

Here's the recipe (from "Cooking at the Kasbah," by Kitty Morse)

2T vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
6 skinned chicken thighs
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/4c. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2T minced fresh cilantro
1/4t. ground turmeric
8 threads Spanish saffron, toasted and crushed
1c. water
1t. ground ginger
1 1/4t. ground cinnamon
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1t. salt
1/2t. pepper
2/3c. powdered sugar

In a dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil. Saute the onion until golden, 6-8 minutes. Add the chicken, parsley, cilantro, turmeric, saffron, water, ginger, and cinnamon. Cover and cook until the chicken is tender, 20-25 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a bowl and set aside to cool.

Let the sauce continue to simmer in the pan and add the beaten eggs, salt, pepper, and sugar. Stir constantly until the eggs are scrambled. Bone and shred the chicken and add it to the eggs, set aside.

Mary's note: I doubled this recipe, and the chicken took about 35 minutes to cook through. I also used all thighs instead of adding the boneless/skinless breasts--I used 14 thighs for a doubled recipe, and it ended up being enough filling for at least three b'stilas, with generous amounts of filling. Filling can be made a day ahead and re-warmed briefly before assembling the b'stila.

Almond Mixture:
1/2c. whole blanched almonds
1/2c. powdered sugar
1t. ground cinnamon

In a blender or food processor, coarsely grind the almonds. Transfer them to a small bowl and mix them with the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

12 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
1c. (2 sticks) butter, melted
Ground cinnamon & powdered sugar for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425F. Remove 12 sheets of phyllo dough from the package and rewrap the remaining phyllo in its original plastic wrap. Refrigerate for another use.

Stack the 12 sheets on a work surface. Using a sharp knife, with a 12" pizza pan as a template, cut through the stacked phyllo sheets. Discard the scraps. With a pastry brush, paint the pizza pan with a little melted butter. Keep the phyllo leaves covered with a damp cloth as you work.

Layer 3 round phyllo leaves on the pan, lightly brushing each with melted butter. Sprinkle the third leaf lightly and evenly with the almond mixture. Layer and butter three more leaves. Spread the chicken mixture evenly over the top, leaving a 1.5" border of phyllo. Fold over the edges to partially cover the chicken mixture. Layer and butter 3 more leaves over the chicken, sprinkling the remaining ground almond mixture evenly over the top. Layer and butter the last 3 leaves of phyllo over the almond mixture. Tuck the edges of these last 6 leaves under the b'stila.

Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Place the powdered sugar in a fine-meshed sieve. Tap the sides of the sieve to cover the surface of the b'stila lightly and evenly with sugar. Using your thumb and forefinger, sprinkle ground cinnamon in 6-8 lines to create a diamond pattern, or make your own design. Serve immediately, before the b'stila becomes soggy.

Author's note: Can be frozen before cooking, wrapped in foil. Add an extra 10 minutes to cooking time when cooking a frozen b'stila. These will keep up to 2 months in the freezer.

Mary's Notes: I used 9x12" phyllo, and left it rectangular, using a rimmed cookie sheet instead of a pizza pan. I didn't tuck the edges, just left them squared, and the dish turned out really well. The original recipe (without doubling) will make 1.5 b'stilas easily, possibly 2. I'm planning to get at least three out of a doubled recipe.

Here's the b'stila before baking:

And here it is, on my plate!Definitely delicious, I'm so excited to have so many leftovers (and a couple of extra in the freezer!)

Next to come in cooking lessons is Once a Month Cooking Day--but not until the weekend!

Weekend Fun at the Driving Range

Eric and I decided to try out the driving range for some good (cheap) fun on Sunday. It ended up being a beautiful day to be outside--a little hazy, mid-80's. Neither of us are the next Tiger Woods, but between us, Eric wins for being the better golfer. I should probably take the short bus to the golf course next time we go!
Here are some pictures:

Before we got started...
Aren't I cute? Obviously if you answered yes, you weren't there to see my golfing...

Here's Eric looking vastly better than me :)

I'll try to put up some videos later, but they're moving slowly in uploading right now!

Homemade laundry detergent

Eric and I (mostly I) have been making our own detergent since the beginning of the year--partially to save $$, but mostly because even after using a plethora of "free" detergents, we figured out that they were the cause of my incessant itchiness. So here's how we do it!

First, the ingredients:

Mix 1c. borax, 1c. washing soda, and a grated bar of castille soap. Use a tablespoon per load, and put a cup of white vinegar in the fabric softener cup. Easy peasy! And even better, 1 batch is good for about 35 loads of laundry, at a cost of $1.82 per 35 loads, or 5 cents per load!

Here's the finished product:

Fun with Cats--May and June (Snowflake)

Along the same lines as having fun with Tiger, here's a post all about Snowflake!

Playing with paper towels (one of her favorite things to do!)

She likes toilet paper just as much as paper towels:

Helping Mary clean while Eric is at work:

Having a snack (yum, wet hair)...

Snowflake likes shoes too, just like Mary... so time for a rest...on them!

Fun with cats--May and June (Tiger)

So over the last couple of weeks, Eric and I have been having lots of fun with the cats. Here are some of our favorite movies & pictures of Tiger:

This is what cats do when their owners aren't looking--priceless!

Learning how to drink from the faucet:

Here's Tiger showing Eric who's boss when they're playing:

Helping Mary recover from her run:

We're behaving, we promise!

Hanging out with Mary while Eric works

Waiting for Eric to get home...

And finally resting. It was a long day!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Good Saturday!

Well, today has been a day of procrastination (not a great thing with an exam next week, but eh). I headed out for my scheduled 18 miles this morning (tried for early, made it out the door about 9:15...and the temperature was already in the high 70's). Ended up barely shy of 20 before the run was over. That's right, I ran longer than scheduled. I have a crazy watch tan line, and two new sets of tan lines on my arms and back, thanks to the shirt change in the middle. Even with sunscreen, I'm getting tan already.

After my run, I knew I had to take an ice bath, which is partly why I ran longer than I was scheduled to--I hate those things! Especially now, since Eric is off climbing at Linnville Gorge until tomorrow and can't count down from 10 minutes with me! Well, Snowflake turned into a great helper--she tried splashing around in the tub, drank from the ice bowl, and sat at the edge of the tub the entire time. Have to say, I didn't scream nearly as loudly (or as much) as I normally do--probably because our condo is about 90 degrees right now, and after a very long run, I couldn't get my heart rate down past 75%--which meant I was having trouble keeping my core temp down...so the ice bath helped get me to normal temperature too. I didn't even wear my puffy vest and hold cocoa during this one! Great improvement for my bath tolerance today! And as an aside, I am not turning the a/c on in APRIL!!! Eric is already starting to complain, but I will not start paying hella $$$ to Duke Power until we have to! Plus, it will be back in the 70's by Wednesday! :D

Yesterday, I got sworn in to the North Carolina bar. The Judge was quite nice, and everyone was introduced by their attorney sponsors. Lots of photos during and afterward, that I'll post later. First, I have to get on with studying already. I want to watch Spirit of the Marathon tonight, since I've had the movie for over a week, and haven't made time to watch it yet. But I have to get mega-studying done!!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

April Updates!

When I first set out to write this, I couldn't think of anything exciting that had happened. Then I realized that a TON has happened in the last three weeks!
--I passed the bar and got licensed to practice law in North Carolina the first full week of April.
--Eric moved to Raleigh! This is exciting! He got here on April 21, with a car filled with stuff that he had been hoarding at Michael's all this time.
--We hosted our first seder for Passover. It was lots of fun--our friends came over to eat with us. We served gefilte fish (from scratch), matzo ball soup, brisket, roasted asparagus, lemon cheesecake, apple-matzo kugel, chocolate-covered macaroons, and apricot squares. Big thanks to Rosanne for sending the macaroons, and a Huge thanks to Grammy for sending the haggadahs (haggadot?).
--We went to a black-tie dinner at Georgia Tech where Eric got to speak about his experience as a URS mentor. It was great to get dressed up and eat really good food! I even ate beets, and they were delicious!
--I'm still looking for a job, and am considering opening my own firm if nothing comes through by June.
--Eric met with his new advisor today, and has some reading to catch up on before he officially starts on May 4.
--My next final (capital transactions) is next week. :(

That's it! The rest of this week will be pretty busy--

Friday: Lunch with Lan, Matt & Ryan (in town for the week), then getting sworn in to the NC bar at the Durham County Courthouse. Studying the rest of the day, also planning to run 6 miles and shred.

Saturday: Eric leaving for his climbing trip to Linnville Gorge (with Michael). I'm heading to the trails for 18 miles in 90-degree heat. Also trying out new energy concoction--straight honey. Found a bottle small enough (I hope) to carry with me. Otherwise, studying, and making it a double-run day if I have any energy left at all after the first 18. The plan is for this to be my first really good trial before my race which is 7 weeks from now (see prior post about the hazards of the course!).

Sunday: 4-6 mile easy recovery run, or a bike ride early if I can drag myself out of bed! If I bike, I'll head out for 45 minutes around our neighborhood. Thankfully, only a little traffic on the weekends since we live in the middle of a lot of commercial zoning! The hills probably won't be a welcome addition to my I'm-sure-they'll-be-sore legs, but what do people call it? Character building? LOL.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

This week's training plan

Yikes, I'm turning into an end-of-the-week warrior this week! This is what's on the schedule:

Monday: Off--beach!
Tuesday: 3 miles (with Eric)
Wednesday: Strength, 100 pushups/200 situps program, yoga
Thursday: 14 miles; writing a paper for school, then class.
Friday: 6 miles, then blood drive and scrapbooking (busy day!)
Saturday: 6 miles, optional additional run with NC Roadrunners in the a.m. (Forecast is 72 and sunny, so my main run will be in the afternoon).
Sunday: 3-4 miles easy recovery run, 100 pushups/200 situps program, yoga

Total planned mileage for the week is 32, plus an optional 3-4 miler on Saturday. Goal is 100%!!!