Friday, September 28, 2012

What would you do with $100?

What would you do with $100?

Lets just say you hypothetically wrote a blog (how many readers do I have that actually do?) and you hypothetically made $100 off advertising, what would you do with the money?

Yes. It's me. Big secret. No secret is that it has taken me almost 2 years to make that much. I'm obviously not in it for the money. Having like 5 readers will do that. The length of time isn't my point. The point is you can't cash out Google ads until you reach that level, and while I haven't yet it may be soon (in my luck it'll be another year! ha) The point really is what would you do with a free $100?

To me this is play money. We have enough from my job & student loads to make do day to day and pay our bills. It's not enough to buy lots of shoes or go crazy in the organic food section at the grocery store. Because that's what I'd love to do.

Here are some fun options I've put together:

 +  = $95

Technically I've already preordered this book because I'm a huge fan.

 +  +  = $94

Because actually I love to sit on the ground in the living room and could use a good chevron poof. Really. Also organic mascara because I think it would rock.

 = $98

 +  +  +

  +  + Williams-Sonoma Demi-Glace = $92

I definitely could use all of these unnecessary, necessary cooking/food items. Some items vary price whether I'd buy used or new. Spatulas = new, book = used. Sad thing is? We used to own this demi glace. It got lost in our move last year. :(


 +  +  +


 = $101

+= $96

 = $100
I'd say huge shopping spree in the organic section of the grocery store, but we actually have a lot of food in our house. Like a lot. We could splurge on a few things that would be nice I guess. Maybe stock up on items like this or this.

  + (probably) 3 local organic apples = $100

 +  = $105

I've had these earings on my mental wish list for agessss. Also I've been thinking about a new purse, this one caught my eye today.

 Approx 2-4 Audible.com books = ~ $100


1/2 an iPhone 5 = $99

Since my iPhone is now officially 3 models outdated is may be time for an upgrade. I've kept this thing running for 3 years! I found out I can sell my current one online for about $35 (just happens to be the price of the AT&T upgrade fee). Should I?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Firmoo glasses

Who's the coolest pretend hipster on the block? We are. Tony is. The company Firmoo offered to provide a pair of glasses if we did some rockin' self portraits. Challenge accepted.

Okay they didn't actually require self portraits, but it's still fun. These were totally unprompted by myself.

Our (my?... Tony's) review. Here goes. Searching the site was fun. They have a lot to pick from and have a wide variety of styles. Everything from normal middle age man to extreme hipster. Those are the extremes in my opinion. They have a cool feature where you can digitally try on each pair of glasses. It was easy since you could just snap a shot with your webcam. I tried a bunch on even though it was Tony who was going to get the pair (I had just gotten glasses recently).


We found a few pairs that we both thought would look good on. It's a little hard since it's all online but we went with it. The pair he got was #SD2312 Black. The shipping was fast.

T's first thoughts? They look pretty good, and feel pretty good. He noticed they felt a little front heavy, which is something another pair he got a couple years back is like as well. That means that after a long day of wearing them they make your head feel sore. Another reason long days are a drag. The quality is not bad, I mean they're not designer, 4 figure glasses, but hey they're about what you'd expect. Pretty good infact.


The look is just what we expected. Snazzy, and sorta hipster. I believe this pair is even unisex. It was really easy to input the prescription details and they came out perfect for Tony's special eyes. Also these came with a really nice glasses case. Not those flimsy fabric ones you get from Sears. It also came with a nice cloth wipe and mini extra screws and dual headed screwdriver. Great since they did need a tiny tightening the first day. Unexpected and very nice!


They even have a program to get your own free glasses. Check it out here.

--

*Although we did received a free product from Firmoo all opinions expressed are all our own.

Monday, September 24, 2012

VA Beach

I was so in love with this weekend. We had the blast of all last minute vacations. Well I did anyway.

Tony was speaking at a Nurse Anesthetists conference that was being held in Virginia Beach. Just a cool 2 hours down the road from us. A few days before we got confirmation that his hotel was paid for! No more crashing on a friends' couch for him plus free hotel for me. I decided on Thursday to join him for the weekend. No better decision has ever been made.

The conference and room was at the Hilton downtown. We had a great view, nice fluffy beds, oh and cable! I spent the weekend lounging, hanging out, trying to get the most out of the free stuff available. When am I not?!


I watched as much bad cable as I could, used the gym, the hot tub, the (freakin') roof top infinity pool and lounged on the beach. Sure I splurged on room service breakfast once but in fairness it was practically two meals. Yummmmm.

So so photos of me coming up...



The conference hosted a coctail hour that I was invited to on the roof top with the infinity pool patio. Don't mind if I do hang out for a while with free food and open bar! Margaritas all around!


Just to prove there was some professionalism going on. Here is a shot of the conference. Looks snooze-y in my opinion. Yet I don't care much about epidurals or putting people to sleep. Tony presented and I heard did great. I'm sure it was a good time by all CRNAs.



more beach. more room service.



Friday, September 21, 2012

Meals for the Week - It's Fall

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Since it's officially Fall tomorrow we're breaking out the crockpot and making some soup! It's actually getting slightly cool in the mornings and dark early in the evenings.

Coming up recipes for black bean soup w/special oil... yum.



Thursday, September 20, 2012

Last weekend of the summer

The last weekend of summer finally came and went. It was still warm and we took the Saturday as a joint birthday celebration with my parents. Can you tell I love summer?! They came to Richmond to take us out for lunch which was extremely nice. Tony and I's birthdays are just 3 weeks apart so we split the difference with them.

We ate at this cute little lunch place near the University of Richmond. Besides the food being awesome, somewhat local and organic, the desserts being tasty and big enough to split, the bill was surprisingly low for 4 people. Yumm.


To walk off all the food we went to Maymont park. A huge lovely park right in the middle of Richmond. It's seriously gorgeous. A private park that literally has everything! It's got vast lawns, Japanese gardens, Italian gardens, herb garden, cobblestone walkways, a historic house with tours, a new visitors center, horses, old carriages, brown bears, a bobcat, bald eagles, hawks & large birds of prey, foxes, cows, goats, full on petting zoo, bamboo forest, large hills, old mausoleums, ancient trees and more! Phew. In just a few hours we managed to see a lot of it.


This is in the Japanese gardens and that huge rock formation in the background is a natural waterfall where kids can play in the water. They can even stand under the waterfall and get soaked! Tony took some photos of the giant koi fish in the ponds (must post those). They were huge! Like 2 feet long! Also we saw tiny few inch turtles.

Last time we came there was a wedding right here. The bride came in one a cool old horse drawn carriage. Sorta awkward just by herself and the carriage man person, but still cool.


In the herb garden I even tasted my very first stevia plant. I knew it's what makes the sweetener you see on the grocery store shelf... but have you ever eaten (or even just seen) a leaf? I sorta licked it at first and knew instantly I had the right stuff! Woah it was sweet. One tiny leaf was like eating a teaspoon of straight sugar! Crazy. I could see putting a leaf in your tea along with some mint leaves. Hmm, herb garden next year?

And to sum up how we spent the last weekend of summer - two words - focaccia bread. We took a trader joes' dough and Tony made it into some yum bread with some thinly sliced onions, herbs, oil, & sun dried tomatoes. Perfect.



Friday, September 14, 2012

Oatmeal Ice Cream with Maple Brown Sugar

An alternative title for this post could be... The time we almost became blog famous.

Perhaps famous is a strong word. But the short story is we entered a food contest and almost won.

Long story here goes.

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There is a food blog called Food52. The site has many contests. A little while back they had a best homemade creative ice cream contest. Ding ding ding! We happened to have made up a recipe for a unique ice cream flavor about 6 months ago. It was just in our head technically so with this contest we knew we had to really create it. I've never really made up a recipe before (hint: you don't always win the first time around) but figured with my luck for winning things I'd be fun.

Yes I've won many things in my life. Mostly small. I can call one 'big'. As a child I won the grand prize in a Blue Peter art contest. For all those not familar it's a long time running kids/family afterschool TV show that does educational & fun stuff. It's was (is?) a national hit. I drew a poster that got plastered all over the London underground (subway yep), the Paris subway and in magazines. I got a free trip to Paris and was on TV.

Back to Richmond.
Our idea was oatmeal ice cream. I'm not sure who came up with the idea first. Tony or I. We decided to cook the oatmeal in the milk that would become the ice cream. Then in a final genius moment decided to make a maple brown sugar swirl. It's just like the breakfast meal except in ice cream form. Sound good?

We've made homemade ice cream plenty of times so that part wasn't hard. We use Jeni's Splendid Ice cream base recipe from her book. In fact part of the draw to this contest was that Jeni was going to make the winning ice cream into a limited edition release for her brand! My dream.

Here is the recipe we came up with. We posted it online the last day the contest was open.

This recipe makes about 1 quart
  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup traditional oats
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon tapioca starch
  • 1 1/2 ounce cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup 
  • 1/2 milliliter maple flavoring
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  1. Bring the milk to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan. Add the dry oats and cook for 5 minutes, then strain the cooked oats out and measure 2 cups of oatmeal-y milk. Cooked oats are not needed, go ahead and eat them!
  2. Mix about 2 tablespoons of the oatmeal-y milk with the tapioca starch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese in a separate medium bowl until smooth.
  3. Prepare an ice bath: Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
  4. Combine the remaining oatmeal-y milk, the cream, 2/3 cup of brown sugar and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Return to a boil to slightly thicken for 1 minute.
  5. Whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese. Do this a little bit at a time so that you can whip out any lumps of cream cheese. Pour the hot ice cream cheese base into a Ziploc bag and seal. Submerge in the ice bath until very cold.
  6. Cut the corner off the bag and pour the chilled bag into the ice cream machine with the machine running. Drizzle in the maple flavoring. When finished, transfer to a storage container and freeze until firm, about 4 hours.
  7. Meanwhile. In a small bowl, combine the remaining brown sugar with maple syrup to make a sauce. Once ice cream is done, pack with maple syrup mixture into container. Alternate layers of ice cream and sauce to create pockets and a swirled mixture. Pack quickly into a container, cover with parchment paper to seal out air, and let the flavors bloom while it hardens in your freezer for at least 4 hours.
Then we waited... I actually hadn't read the contest process so had no clue what we were doing. There were almost 200 entries. We ended up not winning, but got a 'Community Pick'!

I'm going to call that 3rd place! There were actually 9 that made it that far but whatever. We made it to the 3rd round! Ours was community tested by readers but not a finalist. See the entry here:


Photo compliments of Tony. Overall I'm glad we got as far as we did with a Community Pick, but bummed we couldn't win the whole thing.

The contest is still going on so you can vote for a winner here. Bet ya can't guess who I voted for?!

--

If any ice cream companies wants to contact me about taking our ohsospecialuniqueflavor idea. Email me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

late summer tomatoes

I thought I'd do an update on our tomatoes. If you remember we've had quite a bumpy ride with these guys. First, pots, then un potted, then re potted together, then in the ground... all over. Then we lost some, then we thought we'd loose some but they came back. Next year we'll do better. Story now is - they growing huge!

These photos just cannot do them justice. We have 3, just try to count just three tomato plants here. They take up the space of about 12' x 12'. Feet! not inches.

We always knew that we had no idea what we were doing. We knew there would be 'staking' at some point. Never sure when that should be or how to do it. By the time we realized it was necessary the plants had overtaken this area of the yard.


We had a few plastic straight, green, gardening, pin stakes. Those were fine, until about July when they were all finally in the ground and growing like weeds. When your plants are twice as tall as the stake, you're doing something wrong.

Over the last month or so I've found things around the house/garage/porch that'll do. We have random pieces of old molding, or baseboards hammered in the ground. We had a huge pack of those gardening twist ties and put them to good use. As you will see I also used a... get this... bungee cord, to hold the plant us.

Desperate much?


Sorry about the sunlight in these photos. I promise the tops of the plants aren't white.

You can see how big the area is. Huge. All in all we have 3 tomato plants, 2 basil plants and 1 pepper plants. The non tomato plants are tiny in comparison but I believe (and I could be wrong) but actually pretty accomplished for their size. The basil in the for ground of these photo above is doing really well actually. We'll need to just harvest it all to make pesto soon before it gets too cold.

ps. it's still summer.


My system for holding the massive branches off the ground include twist tying each branch to the next one. It creates a huge daisy chain of branches tied to one another, in hopes that some stability will hold the thing up. Really? Not really.

The branches are now so huge, and long and heavy that they droop on the ground. These here is another ingenious idea I had. Use bricks (we have a ton (literally a ton)) in the garage) to prop up the tomato branches from underneath. Probably marketable I say, working pretty good. The great tomato pusher upper.







I wish I had my hand in this photo for size comparison. The branches are thick. They droop since their so heavy, and now even heavier with actual tomatoes! The whole reason for growing this green thing in the first place! Speaking of...

Plant 1 is huge, and not super fruit full. Yet. It now has a decent amount of green tomatoes that will be ripe in the next couple weeks I estimate.

Plants 2 & 3 are amazing. They're big, long, thin, not so thick, and amazingly fruit full! We get so many small orange tomatoes from them! It's insane. Maybe not to a real farmer, but to me it's crazy! Every day now I pick about 6-12 tomatoes.


Also. Before anyone comments about what we should do differently next year, Yes we have been pinching the suckers. I know that much. Which isn't much. I pinched as much as I could. But after those suckers start growing flowers I just don't have the heart. I know this promotes the bushiness.

So. What helpful hints does anyone have? What should we do differently next year from the beginning?


(also what do we do with these plants when the winter come? pull them up? leave them?)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Birthday Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake

This weekend I celebrated a birthday and since it was my weekend I got to choose what to make for the dessert. I've honest to God had this recipe bookmarked for a year and a half. It's been on my radar for even longer. I even went so far as to put the link to this recipe on our shared Google calendar on my birth date so no one would forget. With this amazingness, you'll never forget. Chocolate mouse, ganache cheesecake 2012. Never forget.

I won't list the whole recipe out here. That wouldn't be fair to the original blogger. Please please go check out this site: http://www.mangiodasola.com/2010/02/chocolate-mousse-cheesecake.html.

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This was my birthday dream. You can see the photo that lured me in. Gorgeous! My other dream was that I could eat it all and not gain a pound. Doesn't every girl?!

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There are 4 large sections to make this cheesecake.
1. crust - with oreos
2. cheesecake layer - plain
3. chocolate mouse
4. chocolate ganache

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I made the crust. It came out well. I was proud. It was a great start to the cheesecake day. Oh speaking of the author recommends making this on 2 days. Day 1 make the crust and cheesecake, and day 2 make the mouse and ganache. The reason? In between steps 2 & 3 you need to let it sit 4 hours to overnight. I couldn't wait so I let it sit about 4 hours then got right back to work. In fact I started cooking step 3 about 30 mins before 4 hours so I'd be ready.

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In order to be a good cheesecake chef. Chef. You need to cook it in a water bath in the oven. Problem? We didn't have a roasting pan, or in a panic I though we didn't have any pan big enough. I'm a smart Robin since I realized we could use a large, round, oven proof saute pan. Still proud of my ingenious I succesfully cooked the cheesecake. Not even a single crack.

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After sitting in the open oven for another hour, now is where you have to let it cool down, then sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours. This was the hardest part of the recipe! Really. Luckily I started cooking around 8 or 9am so there was still plenty of time left in the day for eating cheesecake. Luckily, or I would have stayed up all night preparing this thing.

We happened to get some chocolate as a birthday gift so I used that for the ganache topping. We picked up some semi sweet chocolate for the mouse layer.

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Here are some more shots of ingredients. I used my my homemade vanilla extract. See those vanilla bean pods still in the liquid? It's still aging! We added espresso powder any chance we got. It's always an optional ingredient, but not for us! I love the way it brings out the chocolate flavor adding a slight coffee taste. Highlighted best in the ganache layer.

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The 3rd layer is the chocolate mouse layer. This part reminds me of the book where the American is living in France and (typically American) paranoid about eating raw eggs. She makes a similar mouse recipe with raw egg whites and yokes. All her French in laws tell her we're all un-neceassarily paranoid about such nonsense here and she should just go ahead and enjoy it. I did.


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Cooled melted chocolate + butter + raw egg yokes. Fold in whipped raw egg whites + sugar + cream of tartar. Then fold in whipped heavy cream + sugar + vanilla extract. It's amazing how well I memorized the recipe after making just once.

Side story: That reminds me of the scene in that Harry Potter book when he reads his parents' headstone just once and takes it all that one time. (not in the movie)

moving on...

More gorgeous photos of amazing chocolate. Hope you aren't hungry reading this.

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After a quick ganache layer of heavy whipping cream + chocolate the birthday cheesecake was done. It wasn't clear if you could eat it now or wait. I stuck it in the fridge while we ate dinner. That was torture waiting! We ate a salad dinner in prep of the cheesecake to come.

It was worth it. Every bite was amazing! It had a perfect combination of flavors and textures. Really not too sweet at all. This course depends on what chocolate you choose. I think it was perfect so not too rich but tasted like heaven.

It was a great success and continues to live in our fridge a dwindling happy birthday to me gift. Again for the full recipe please visit: http://www.mangiodasola.com/2010/02/chocolate-mousse-cheesecake.html

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