Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sunday Slugday: The Random Tuesday Edition

Today may be Tuesday, but Brinks and I are kickin' it Sunday Slugday style.  We're lining up a marathon of Heroes Season Two while sipping strawberry banana smoothies like nobody's business.  Want one?

Strawberry Banana Smoothies
(serves 2)

2 cups ice cubes
1 cup halved strawberries
1 whole banana, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup french vanilla low fat yogurt

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Serve immediately.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Kyle's Polish Sausage and Potatoes...with Carrie's Extra Junk Tossed In

Kyle first made these potatoes for me last August just after we were married.  I quickly discovered that I like them best with some onions and bell peppers tossed in the mix.  Kyle thinks I'm crazy, but give it a try and jugde for yourself.  It's a one dish dinner that couldn't be any easier to whip up.

Kielbasa and Potatoes
serves 4

2 tbsp butter
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into uniform 1 inch pieces  (you can also use 6-8 medium sized red potatoes with the skins intact, but note that these cook a bit slower)
1/2 tsp italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 link of kielbasa, cut into 1/4 inch wide disks
1/2 large onion, cut into large bite-size petals (refer to photo)
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
water, as needed

1.  Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Then add the potatoes and seasonings, tossing to evenly coat the potatoes.  Allow to cook for about 5 minutes with constant supervision to ensure the potatoes don't stick to the pan.  

2.  Add some water to the pan (about 1/4 cup) along with the sausage disks.  Toss to combine.  The water will help ensure the potatoes and sausages do not stick to the pan.  Cover and continue cooking for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the mixture from sticking.  Add small amounts of water as necessary.

3.  Then throw in the onions and peppers, and continue cooking uncovered until the potatoes and vegetables are tender.  (About 10-15 more minutes.)  When the potatoes and veggies are tender, and the last of the water has cooked away, remove from heat and serve.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brinksy Boy Turns Three Months Old Tomorrow...

...and yet he is still shorter than the grass in our back yard.  Alas.

Bonus!  You can see what the apartment complexes here look like in the background of some of these.  I feel like we live in identical rows of Monopoly Hotels.  Except without collecting $200 every time we make a lap around post...  Oh, if only.

Monday, August 22, 2011

10 Reasons Why Getting a Puppy is Like Having a Baby

1.)  Random strangers approach you with creepy smiles to ask how old your little one is.  This has happened at least a dozen times since we brought Brinks home.  It's uncanny.  I get more questions about my dog than a friend with a three month old gets about her son.  Two days ago our pizza delivery man saw Brinks and said, "So this is the little dog everyone at Pizza Point has been talking about!"  You would think these people have never seen a small dog before.  Alas, our puppy is a local celebrity.

2.)  Puppies and babies both spend 70% of the day sleeping, and the other 30% demanding attention.  I swear, if Brinks isn't passed out somewhere, he's whining.  For my food.  For more of his food.  To be put on the sofa.  To be let off the sofa.  Because I'm in the shower and he thinks he's been abandoned.  For me to play fetch with him and Fred the bunny.  There is always something.

3.)  You find yourself telling people how well behaved they are, even though they drive you nuts.  "He never cries unless he needs something."  But he needs something every five minutes.  Refer to above.

4.)  Both will poo in your bed.  Diapers leak, and puppies can't hold it long enough for you to change out of your pajamas.  I have done more laundry since getting Mr. Brinksy than I have in my entire life combined.

5.)  Arduous potty training is required.  What a facebook friend said about her daughter:  "[name omitted] woke up and said she needed to pee so I was getting her diaper off to put her on the toilet and she peed all over the floor... As I was cleaning that mess up, she went in the living room and pooped on the floor!"  What I said about Brinks: "Brinks woke me up barking to go outside.  While finding his leash he peed in the kitchen.  After taking him out (where he peed some more) I cleaned up the mess, only to discover him pooping in the living room.  This house training is going no where."

6.)  Both puppies and babies call forth the strange urge to speak in nonsensical "baby talk."  Awe, who's a cutie?  Who?  Are you a wittle cutie?  Um.  I mean.  Uh.  Yeah, so how about you go chew your bone now. *cough*

7.)  You feel the need to tell them that they're cute ten million times each day.  After scolding Brinks for peeing in the house for the tenth time in one day:  "Oh, but you're so CUTE though."  After feeding Brinks a spaghetti noodle:  "You're just so cute.  I can't resist."  After bathtime:  "You make such a cute little rat."

8.)  Both will massacre your budget.  Total cost for Mr. Brinkles:  $900.  (That's almost the cost of an international flight, folks.)  Plus food and bones and toys and vet bills for the REST OF HIS LIFE.

9.)  Puppies and babies both develop annoying biting habits that must be broken early.  Brinks' favorite chew toy?  My fingers.  Alas.  (But he's so cute, though...)

10.)  Preparing a baby to leave the house tacks at least half an hour onto your "getting ready" time...and so does a puppy.  Preparing a baby:  Diaper check, diaper bag check, clothing change, bottle prep.  Preparing a puppy:  Half an hour outside waiting for him to find an appropriate poo spot, a few minutes of puppy-proofing whichever room we plan to leave him in, about thirty seconds to refill his water bowl, and ten minutes to track down Fred the bunny (pictured below) for his chewing enjoyment.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil, Take 2

Way back at the beginning of the month I posted about gas•tron•o•my's awesome spaghetti recipe.  After making twice more, I have tweaked the recipe a bit, cutting the serving size down to 4 and experimenting with the portions of ingredients.  This is what I've come up with, and I think it's pretty darn scrumptious.

Spaghetti with Homemade Tomato Sauce
(serves 4)

1/2 lbs dried spaghetti
1/4 cup olive oil
10 small tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp italian seasoning
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese + extra for serving
1 tbsp butter

1) Peel and seed tomatoes.
2) Heat olive oil in a large pan until hot and slightly smoking.
3) Add tomatoes.  Be careful!  The oil will pop.  Use the pan lid to shield yourself.
4) Add salt, pepper, seasoning, and pepper flakes.  Then crush tomatoes with a potato masher until the sauce is only slightly chunky.
5) Cover and continue cooking on medium high heat for 20-25 minutes.
6) Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to a boil and cook spaghetti three quarters of the way done.  (About 3-4 minutes.)
7) Drain pasta, reserving one cup of pasta water.  Add pasta to tomato sauce, and cook until noodles reach desired tenderness.  If the sauce is too thick, add a little of the reserved pasta water.
8) Add butter and cheese, stirring until melted and well mixed.
9) Remove from heat and serve immediately with extra parmesan.

Yum, yum, yum.  Brinks even approves.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

J'adore Paris (Part V)

The Eiffel Tower kept popping up everywhere.  Seeing glimpses of it down
alley ways and above buildings was probably the most surreal part of the entire trip.

My trip to Paris was rounded off with a trip to The Louvre...sans camera, unfortunately.  I'm almost relieved about it, though, because I know it would have been impossible to capture such an incredible place on film and do it justice.  The building itself is something to marvel at, having served as the royal palace until 1682, when Louis XIV chose Versailles for his household.  A few times I found myself distracted from the exhibits by beauty of a ceiling fresco.

(image source)
It has been said a million times that it is impossible to see The Louvre in a day, and it's true.  We only made it through one wing in our two hour stop, and even that felt rushed.  Walking through the exhibits I was surprised how many of them I recognized from my Art History courses -- it was a surreal experience, seeing things before me that I recognized my entire life through photographs alone.  When we made our way to the Mona Lisa, I was more surprised by the crowd than the painting.  There was practically a mosh pit of Louvre-goers, all pushing and nudging their way to the front, cameras held high.  It's also been said a million times that the Mona Lisa is smaller than one would expect.  Having heard that so often, I actually found it to be bigger than I imagined.  The painting, frame included, is just a bit smaller than an average sized poster.

(photo via my friend Amber)
My favorite exhibits, however, were the Egyptian and Greek ones.  I was amazed by a page from the Book of the Dead, shining Greek coins, and vases that looked like something straight out of Disney's Hercules.

(photo source)
Last but not least, here are my left over photos from last weekend:

Paris was everything I dreamt it would be, and I feel I've only experienced a tiny piece of it.  I cannot wait to go back and see more.  I want to browse the entire Louvre slowly, sample more of the amazing food, take the train out to Versailles, revisit the Arc du Triomphe, see Napoleon's tomb, climb the towers of Notre Dame, and so, so much more.  But if, in the end, these two days are all the time I had, I won't be disappointed.  I've come a long way from my tiny hometown in Kentucky; I am not the same girl I was when all I knew were winding country roads and sunsets over rolling hills.  When I am old, with a grandchild on each knee, these are the days I will remember most.  These are the stories I will tell - how I ran away to Europe with a full heart and heavy suitcase, delved into the ruins of ancient castles, and saw the world from the tip of the Eiffel Tower.  Who can ask for more than that?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

J'adore Paris (Part IV)

My second and final day in Paris was by far my favorite.  We were up for an early start, arriving at the Eiffel Tower at 8am, a full hour before the elevators make their first tourist laden ascent.  By the time we left around noon, the place was packed and the lines were insane.  Arriving early was definitely a good idea -- it only took about 10 minutes to reach the top after the Tower opened to the public.

The tower itself is beautiful, but the view from the top is even more so.  It was fun to pick out all the places we'd seen the day before on the ground below.  The ride to the top was nerve wracking -- I made the mistake of standing in front of an elevator window -- but thankfully the structure feels very sturdy and safe up top.  The entire top level is caged in, and the second level is surrounded by a pretty high railing.  Despite my antipathy for heights, the tower is the thing I am most impatient to visit again.  I'd love to go back and spend more time taking in the view.

The tallest structure in Paris, the Eiffel Tower stands 1,063 feet tall (about the same height as an 81 storey building).  When it was built by Gustave Eiffel in 1889 it was the tallest structure in the world, and held the title for 41 years until the Chrysler Building was raised in New York City.  Since its completion the Tower has become the most visited paid monument in the world, boasting over 200,000,000 visitors.*

(If you enlarge this one you can make out the Louvre and Notre Dame.)


I'll be wrapping up my Paris posts with a montage of street shots and a write up of my trip to the Louvre (no photos of the museum, I'm afraid, since my camera died upon returning to the ground below the Eiffel Tower).  Did you miss something?  Links to my first three posts are at the top of this one.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

J'adore Paris (Part III)

The evening of my first day in Paris was spent sampling a very French dinner at Le Bistro de Montmartre, and floating down the Seine on a boat tour of the city illuminated at night.  But before that, we checked into our hotel.  It has been renovated somewhat recently and was so cute I feel it deserves a spot in this post.

Our dinner at Le Bistro de Montmartre was very much what I'd imagined a meal in Paris would be.  We were ushered into the restaraunt by a very friendly gentlemen who I assume was the owner, or perhaps a manager.  Once seated, our orders for all four courses were taken immediately -- the service was prompt and attentive, and the food was delicious.  Live piano music set the upbeat and magical tone for the evening.

Our trip down the Seine took off parallel to the Eiffel Tower and looped around the island dominated by Notre Dame.  We didn't catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower's lights until the very end of the ride, but when we did I literally gasped.  Not only is the structure aglow, it sparkles.  It is the single most beautiful thing I have yet to see in my life.  It was impossible to capture the beauty of the city lights on camera, but here are the few decent shots I did manage.

Up next is our ascent to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and then a montage of Parisian street shots.  Use the links at the top of the post if you missed Notre Dame or the city sightseeing tour that included the Arc du Triomphe, Louvre Museum and other famous attractions.