Monday, June 27, 2011

Life post-Valentine's Day

Thanks to a much-needed, super-encouraging, and tongue-in-cheek chastising! ;) email from my muse Mrs. E-Parrish, I realized I needed to post an update on life since Valentine's day...

Without going into extreme detail, in the past 4 months we have: visited D.C. for a long weekend in February, trekked up to Banner Elk, NC in March to visit Kate and Jeremy, celebrated 10 birthdays (Bo, Daddy, Megan, Erica, Ursula, Papaw, Nathan, Mike, Me, and Jared), attended or been involved with in some way six weddings (Jon and Rachel, Jay and Shannon, Kendall and Travis, Drew & Tiffany, Beth and Billy, Zaheer and Sara), attended about 8 million bridal and baby showers (not listing these), survived my last round of law school exams EVER!, graduated from law school, and celebrated our first anniversary. Plus, studying for the bar and getting ready for Erin and Bo's wedding has consumed my life right now.

Did I mention we were without power all week last week? Thank you, weird Knoxville weather.

We did have such a fun weekend this past weekend in Chattanooga celebrating Jared's 30th birthday! We had some delicious pizza from Lupi's on Friday night, spent Saturday afternoon on the lake (I've got bruises to prove it!), and then had a delicious grilled dinner Saturday night. I'm still stuffed from all the food we ate!

Here are a few (and by "a few" I mean "many") photo highlights over the past several months:
Rachel & Jon's Shower!
On our weekend up to D.C. to visit Bo, it could NOT have been colder/windier. We had on so many layers it was ridiculous, but with Bo as our guide, we survived.

Watch out, looks like someone wants your job :)

Rachel and Jon's wedding in March was beautiful! And such a fun reception!
With my own handsome groom (of - gasp! - over a year now!)
The next weekend we headed to Banner Elk, NC to see Kate and meet Jeremy - they were wonderful hosts!
It was my first hike since I had dislocated my kneecap, and boy was I out of shape.
In April we started the festivities for Beth and Billy's wedding with her first shower at Mom and Daddy's :)

Then we celebrated the next weekend with a Derby Party at Connor's - we had such fun with our dresses, sangria (not mint julips!), and hats!
The next week we celebrated Kendall and Travis' upcoming wedding with a fun Lingerie shower at Libby and Ursula's. Yummy food and a really fun evening :)
And finally, it was time to graduate...the day before graduation (and, notably, the day of the evil awful, horrible, no good, very bad Secured Transactions exam) the law school hosted a BBQ reception. We made it, albeit looking quite bedraggled after the weeks of lack of sleep and brain drain.
Then, after 3 years - we FINALLY graduated! :)
With the next future attorney in the family...except he'll probably just show up and they'll give him the degree. That's how Bo's life goes these days ;)

The first weekend in June we celebrated more wedding festivities with Beth and Billy!
Nathan and I were one of like two couples that actually danced at the reception...but seeing as how we only knew about 5 people there, we didn't care!
The new Mr. and Mrs. Kilbey.
And despite having millions of pictures from everything else we did in the past 4 months, we managed to have NO pictures of either of our birthdays or our anniversary. Guess we were just too tired from everything else to bother!

And finally, the weekend spent celebrating 30 years of Jared. He doesn't LOOK old??!
The delicious raspberry chocolate cake from Sugarbuzz - Ahmazing!
On Saturday we clearly worked hard out on the lake.
So hard, in fact, that our hair took on new personalities...
Our blonde boys...before they spent the evening smoking their cigars and before Lochlin turned green.
We enjoyed a DELICIOUS dinner that Lilas and Jared put together. Everything from Bon Appetit Ribeyes to Saffron chicken...and we can't forget the "fruit salad" sangria that Megan could not get enough of ;) As Megan said so appropriately to Lochlin, "I may be drunk, but you're stupid."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

On this, one of the most commercial holidays of the year, I have to admit - I love Valentine's Day. Always have. Even when I didn't have a Valentine, so I feel like that disclosure makes my love of the holiday legitimate. I wish I could say it was because I'm such a loving person, or that it's because I love to buy cards and flowers for people, but I really think the main reason is because it is associated with my favorite color: RED.

Now, before you go mentioning other holidays that also play pretty heavy on the "red," I want to point out that for Christmas and the 4th of July, Red is only one of a series of celebrated colors. For Valentine's Day, however, Red takes center stage. You may want to argue that pink is also equally celebrated, but I maintain that as a derivative of the color Red, pink takes a back seat. Valentine's Day is a day that completely revolves around Red. And I love it!

So does anyone have really exciting Valentine's plans? I know a lot of our friends celebrated over the weekend by going to dinner/movie/the usual. We're going out to dinner tonight, although the exact location has yet to be disclosed (Nathan's good at surprises!). I'll make sure and update in a later post, especially if the food/service is particularly good or particularly bad. Those are really the only instances in which I feel compelled to comment.

Speaking of restaurants, we celebrated Mom's birthday yesterday with lunch at the Chop House. Rather than ordering a delicious Magpies cake this year, I decided to try to be resourceful and bake one on my own. Nathan may need to guest blog - like Steve Liadis - to fill you in on the event. Following in my recent pattern of using my new Bon Appetit cookbook, I asked Mom what she would like. She suggested chocolate, so I found a Chocolate Crunch Layer Cake with Milk Chocolate Icing. Because the "Crunch" part is made out of toffee, I immediately pounced on this recipe (Mom and I both LOVE toffee). It was a disaster. I'm about 99% certain that I would have come out better off just spending the $45 on a Magpies cake. When you take into account the time I spent searching for "cake flour" (which, by the way, Kroger, Food City, and even Fresh Market do NOT have), the 3 hours I spent making the darn thing, the hour it took to clean my kitchen afterwards and scrape the tiny little bits of toffee off our kitchen sink, floor, stove, walls, etc... At my effective billing rate right now of $75/hour...I probably "spent" about $300 on that damn cake. Now, I don't take home $75/hour - that's what the firm bills me out at - but I still came out in the hole, especially considering the fact that the cake was dry and the icing set up like cement.

Anyways, if you feel like wasting half a day, just try this recipe. Here's a look at the final product.

Don't I look joyful? Thank goodness there isn't any audio accompanying, otherwise it would be, well...not PG.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Happy Birthday!!

To Mums...who is still less than a half-century old (at least for one more year...then we start holding at 49)! Her birthday was actually yesterday (Friday) but my computer was having issues posting, so this post is to be read as if I posted it last night :)

After going into the office this morning only to realize that I was literally the only one there, I decided I would follow suit and work from home. Except that working from home always ends up mean working at home, which is a very different thing. It ends up meaning laundry, grocery shopping, errands, etc... All that fun stuff I don't get paid to do. So in essence we went backwards today. Instead of increasing the bank account, we went in the opposite direction.

So instead of hanging out at the office, I called Mom to see if she wanted to grab lunch (since it is, after all, her birthday). I met up with her and Daddy at Panera and enjoyed my usual favorite "You-pick-two" combo. While we were eating lunch, I all of a sudden feel someone's strong hands on my shoulders, and I immediately jump and turn around, only to be facing a giant sea of blue jacket...leave it to Mr. Hammaker to come up behind me and no one else in my family let on that he was there. I'm pretty sure that Nathan and I see Erica's parents more frequently than she does...and we see her more frequently that they do. - Oh, and sorry, Erica...I mentioned you had a blog, which was a complete surprise to your dad.

After a long lunch, I had my second PT session, which kicked my butt. Leg presses are not cool when your left knee is less than happy to bend for you. It's also never a good sign when your new therapist remarks "wow, your knee cap is REALLY mobile..." I took that to be a bad thing. I don't like when I hear surprise in a physician's voice, as if "wow, we've never seen this before." Novelty is never a good thing when you're the patient in a physician-patient relationship.

After PT, I met Erin to drop off Bo's (or, should I say "George," as he's now referring to himself) LSAT packet for his LSAT tomorrow morning. Only my brother would fly in from DC on Friday night, get in at 11:30 and then get up and take the LSAT the next morning. Being the resident LSAT guru (aka, the only person to have done this before), I volunteered to get his ziplock bag full of permissible items together. I came seriously close to putting all my old Tri Delta #2 pencils or some of my Kate Spade pencils in the bag for him, but I didn't think he'd find that as amusing as I did. So being the thoughtful sister I am, I refrained.

The real fun began as I made my way to pick up Earth Fare's free dinner for 4. While Earth Fare is no Whole Foods (and it's borderline sacrilegious to even compare the two), I love their weekly freebies. As a constant coupon-cutter and a lifelong lover of great deals and organic food, this week's Earth Fare deal is by far my favorite. With a $10 purchase, you get a free whole fryer chicken, one bag of baby carrots, and a container of rustic mashed potatoes. Since I get my 10% student discount, I walked around until I found my $9.99 deal that also had a coupon. It took all of 2 minutes to pick out a bottle of virgin olive oil for $9.99. that also had a $.50 off coupon attached to the shelf. I ended up paying $9.72 including tax. All together, I saved $14.82.

I'm making Lemon-Herb Roast Chicken from a recipe out of my new Bon Appetit Cookbook that my WONDERFUL secret santa got me for Christmas - thanks, Barbara! This is the second recipe that I'll have tried out of this fabulous cookbook, and the other one was divine. Hopefully, I'll manage to pull this one off as well.

It starts with an herb butter. So into my kitchen-aid standing mixer (maybe my favorite kitchen appliance, apart from the Vita-Mix) went 1 stick butter, 2 tsp rosemary, 2 tsp thyme, and 1 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest.

Next is the fun (read: icky) part. Preheat the oven to 450* and then rinse the chicken; pat it dry, and then slide your hand under the skin of the chicken breast to loosen the skin from the meat. reserve 2 tbs. herb butter for gravy (YAY gravy!). Rub half of the remaining herb butter over the chicken breast under the skin. Spread the remaining half over the outside of the chicken.This is a lot harder than it sounds. The butter tries to stick to your hands, rather than the chicken, so it just ends up kind of in lumps. Maybe my butter should have been more melted?Sprinkle the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together to hold the shape. I didn't have any twine, so I used a rubber band...we'll see how it goes.

Doesn't that look yummy? I'm hoping it will later... Place the chicken in a heavy large roasting pan. I love this recipe because it means I get to use my Le Creuset Oval Cocotte - thank you, Lindsay McDonough & family! - which is also another favorite kitchen staple. Then roast for 20 minutes. At which point, the chicken looks pretty much the same...

After 20 minutes at 450*, reduce the heat to 375*. Roast the chicken until juices run clear when chicken is pierced in the thickest part of the thigh (about 1hr. 15 minutes). ** Note: The directions say 1 hr. 15 minutes for a 6.5 to 7 lb chicken and the one from Earth Fare is only about 2.5 lbs. However, I found that it still needed the full 1 hr. 15 minutes, as after 50 minutes it was still not fully cooked. Lift the chicken and tilt slightly, emptying any juices from the cavity into the roasting pan. Transfer the chicken to a platter and cover with an aluminum tent.

While the chicken was cooking I got started on the carrots. Again, another yummy-looking recipe from Bon Appetit: Carrots Glazed with Balsamic Vinegar and Butter. One thing I love about this recipe is that all of the ingredients are things I already have in my "staples." 1 Stick of butter, baby carrots (cut in half), 6 Tbs sugar, 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, and 1/2 cup chopped fresh chives (ok, so I don't have the chives, don't really care).

After cutting the baby carrots in half (the recipe calls for 3.5 pounds, so I halved the recipe), melt the butter in a heavy large pot - again, love the Le Creuset - over medium heat. Add the carrots and saute for 5 minutes. Cover and cook until the carrots are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally (about 7 min.). Stir in sugar and vinegar. Cook uncovered until carrots are tender and sauce is redued to glaze, stirring frequently (about 12 more min.). Season to taste with salt and pepper - we thought it tasted fine without any additional salt/pepper since we like the taste of balsamic vinegar and sugar. Add chives and toss to combine.

I think the carrots were actually Nathan's favorite part of the meal - they tasted a lot yummier than they look in this pic. While the carrots were still simmering, I took the Roasted Mashed Potatoes and stuck them in the microwave since they came already prepared. Final product:

After taking the chicken out of the oven, you have to let all the juices drain back into the pan. Then put the chicken on a platter and cover with aluminum foil and set aside. Take the pan juices and pour into a measuring cup. Spoon the fat off the top and add 1/4 cup dry white wine to a sauce pan. All we had was a left over bottle of Yellow Tail Chardonnay (since I wasn't about to open a bottle of wine just to get 1/4 a cup) which seemed to work fine. Add in the chicken juice and add enough chicken broth to measure 2 1/4 cups liquid. In a separate sauce pan, melt the remaining 2 Tbs herb butter on medium heat. Add 2 Tbs (or I used a bit more) of All Purpose flour to the melted butter and whisk until smooth and beginning to color (about 3 min.). Gradually whisk in pan juices. Boil until thickened to sauce consistency, whisking occasionally (about 7 min.).

Next, remove the foil from your chicken and place the lemon wedges around it.

So this is what our table ended up looking like:

Everything was delicious - the only problem was that the bird did not exactly come packed with a ton of meat. Or really, any meat. I'm fairly certain that Earth Fare gave these chickens away because they died of starvation... I can't really complain, because it was free. But just in case you're actually planning on feeding a family of 4 with this chicken, make sure you have other options on hand. We barely got enough meat off of it for 2 people, much less 4. Otherwise, Enjoy the free meal!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

They're Here!!

I finally get to share the first half of the photos that Elizabeth did a couple of weekends ago...and while I realize I might be a bit biased, I think they're amazing! For those of you who haven't had the extreme pleasure of meeting Lex, this is his modeling debut, so you can finally put a name with a face :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mista Lex

Ok, so I thought this posted earlier, but apparently my computer was having some connection issues...

As promised from last week, here is another sneak peak of some of the photos that Elizabeth took last weekend! This one may actually be my favorite of all of them. I mean, just think how hard it is to capture both of us with our eyes closed AT THE SAME TIME! Not to mention all of the other amazing elements of the photo...

Chocolate Crackles & More

This past weekend was a busy one! We had activities Friday night through Sunday night, and I think we really needed a weekend to recover from the weekend.

Friday night Cedar Springs had a congregational service as part of the South Eastern Presbytery conference, followed by a reception at the church. So as soon as Nathan got home we headed to church. I expected it to be more of a worship service (there was a bluegrass band, so fun!), but John's sermon really crammed a lot in a short period of time. While I've really been enjoying his taking us through Romans on Sunday mornings, he spoke on Matthew 16 and 17 Friday night and wow... What really stuck out to me was the fact that unlike our traditional view of evangelistic Christianity, Jesus didn't go around telling everyone who He was. He was with the disciples for THREE YEARS before he even asked them who they thought he was. And then when Peter figures it out, Jesus tells them not to tell anyone. John's point throughout the sermon was that Jesus discipled...he didn't evangelize in the way that we think of the traditional Bible-thumping "if you died today do you know where you'd go?" evangelism. And I love that, because that is such a turn-off for me. I've always been so skeptical of the push to get us all to go door-to-door hounding people about Jesus. Even Jesus didn't do that. He lived by example. Anyways, just a little food for thought :) I think I'm probably going to have to listen to the podcast again to process everything...

Saturday started off with a rather interesting field trip to the East Tennessee Crematorium. Yes, I said "Crematorium." For my Elder Law course we had to go and tour the crematorium in Maryville. In theory, it's supposed to help us know how to advise our elderly clients about their end-of-life reality, it was just kind of creepy. I had no idea that we would be actually seeing bodies in a furnace. I'll spare you the details, but lets just say that not everything burns up to ashes...

The day got exponentially better, however, around noon. I got to spend the entire afternoon Saturday baking all sorts of yummy goodies at Mom and Daddy's for Jon & Rachel's shower Saturday night. Nathan helped make Congo bars, Mom helped with various dishes, and Ursula came over and helped make the mint brownies. SO yummy! The favorite by far - and my new dangerous obsession - is Martha Stewart's Chocolate Crackles. The first thing I noticed was that these came out looking EXACTLY like the picture in the cookbook (which is a big thing for me...presentation is key). Second, they are like dark chocolate heavenly goodness that melts in your mouth. Enough said. Since a picture's supposedly worth a thousand words, I'll stop gushing and show you (see bottom of picture for recipe).

For the recipe, check out Martha's website!

The final list of goodies ended up being so much fun to make. Brown Butter Toffee Blondies were another hit, along with the Mint Brownies and the Congo Bars. I may have to post some more of the recipes later (and hopefully I can steal some pictures from Rachel's mom since we managed to not take a single photo!). We had over 40 people Saturday night who came out to celebrate Rachel & Jon, and it was so much fun! The bonfire was a big hit, too :)

Since neither of us are used to staying up past oh, 10:00, we ended up crashing at Mom & Daddy's after the party Saturday night around 2:00. We slept through Sunday School first hour and then finally made it to second hour where I fell asleep in John's thing I know we're saying "thanks be to God" and everyone's awake. But me. We had SOO much food left over from Saturday day night, so the crew headed over to our place for the Super Bowl Sunday afternoon. I think Lochlin was our only Steeler's fan, but we all crashed on the couch, stuffed our faces, and cheered for Greenbay. Monday morning was rough...and we're still struggling!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Have to Share

This wonderful post from Elizabeth's blog. A) because I love the pictures, but B) (and more importantly), I love the honesty and being able to admit that I don't have to have it all together, all the time. My small group girls can attest to the fact that some weeks, I'm just a complete mess...

So click on the link :)