Six Years and a Weekend in NYC

This weekend Eric and I celebrated our 6 year wedding anniversary! I can hardly believe it. In some ways it feels like our wedding was yesterday and in others it feels as if we’ve always been married, like I can’t remember a time when we weren’t married, but we’ve made it 6 whole years and I can honestly say they’ve been the best of my life. Have they been easy? Definitely not. But we’ve had some amazing times, been to some incredible places and shared meaningful memories.

I still love looking at our wedding photos! They never get old, although we seem to have…we look so young here! I can’t wait to see what the next 6 years bring.

To celebrate our anniversary, since it was on a Saturday, we decided to take a trip to NYC for a night. We love New York City, in fact we got engaged there and used to go there often while we dated and were first married, but over the last few years, our trips became more infrequent and then non-existent. We were looking forward to going back to a city we truly enjoy.

This trip of course was centered mostly around food, like all good trips, right?! We got the chance to eat at some great places including Balthazar, Brasserie Les Halles (made famous by Chef Anthony Bourdain) and Pastis. You may notice that all of these are French brasseries or bistros, that wasn’t on purpose but just sort of happened. I didn’t complain! We also hit up this amazing brunch place called Peels; roasted tomato eggs benedict, need  I say more? Yum, even thinking about it right now makes me want to go back. Here’s the pastry selection at Peels:

Slide 1

Some of our other highlights were shopping in Soho and visiting the Museum of Natural History, neither of us had ever been there before. Here’s one of our favorite exhibits, from Easter Island:

Although it was pretty crowded, we enjoyed walking through the museum and seeing the exhibits. Plus, if you’ve watched the movie Night at the Museum then it’s even cooler.

Saturday, we made the trip to Chelsea Market, a place I’ve wanted to go for a long time (Food Network studios is in the top of the building). All the food there was incredible but the most amazing was the fish market. You could find anything and everything possible at this fish market, take a look at some of the things we found:

Yes, those signs say baby octopus, sea urchin and squid!

There was a big line for some of these crustaceans! Don’t they look delicious bright red and steamed up? The fish market was like the aquarium, except you could eat everything! Maybe not appropriate for small children…

We had a blast in NYC, it was nice to get away for a night and we decided at the last minute to take the train which made the whole trip so nice and easy. We can go right from Lancaster to Penn Station, NYC and it only takes about 2.5 hours. It is more expensive than driving but the time and headache you save from driving are so worth it, especially if you’re only going for one night.

So that’s our anniversary weekend in a nutshell, what were you guys up to? Any fun weekend trips?

While the Cat is Away, the Mice will Play

What have you all been up to this week? I can tell you one thing I haven’t been doing…cooking. I know, I know quel horreur! But, Eric is out of town on business for the whole week and this is the 3rd week in a row. When its just me and Bailey, I don’t cook a lot. The desire to fill my days with baking is strong but then I think to myself, who will eat all those baked goods? The answer is me, I will eat them all. So its best not to make them at all for fear of turning into a cupcake (you are what you eat, right?).

Instead of cooking, I’ve adjusted to this new state of unemployment by going over every square inch of my house and making To-Do lists. I currently have 4 lists compiled. One of cleaning tasks to be completed this week. One of deep cleaning tasks that will be spread out. One of smaller/cheaper projects that require less time and finally, one of major projects to be completely that require planning and saving.

I figure, this house is now my job, I’m going to make sure it looks great! Plus, projects make me happy and keep my occupied. Eric works really hard and his job takes him away from home a lot. This means that when he is home, he isn’t all that excited about helping me paint the spare bedroom or hanging a light fixture. He’ll usually give in to me and do it, if asked, but I like accomplishing things while he’s away that he can come home to and relax with.

Here is my run-down on projects. Last week I gave an old night stand a makeover. This was an old IKEA night stand that Eric purchased for his apartment before we got married. I was keeping it in the living room, purely because I didn’t have anywhere else to put it. You can see it in between the two chairs with picture frames on it.

I was also searching for a new night table for our office/guest room. While walking through the house last week it occurred to me that I could simply paint that night stand white and use it in the guest room. So I primed and painted that bad boy, purchased some cute new knobs and voila!

 

 

Also note the lamp on the night stand. That used to be painted with blue and gold flowers, not my style. So I took a can of glossy white spray paint to it last week and then covered the lampshade with some sale fabric I picked up at the fabric store. Bam! New lamp! I love how it turned out.

While I was spray painting, I had a bunch of different color picture frames that I couldn’t really use anymore, those also got a fresh coat of white spray paint and now I’ve got 4 new white frames that I can fill and hang!

The next project was also simple and cheap. I’d seen images on Pinterest of china hutches with the backs painted or stenciled in neat patterns. I knew I wanted to do something to spruce mine up, but mine is an antique so I needed whatever I did to be removable and temporary.

 

 

I found some textured wallpaper at Lowes and used some poster putty to attach it to the back of my cabinet. I reloaded the cabinet (in a more organized fashion) and the end result was this:

 I like its subtlety and the way the white backing really shows off my glassware and brightens up the whole china hutch.

These all happened last week. This week, I’ve given an old desk a makeover and painted our spare bedroom. They’re not fully complete yet, so I’ll wait to show you those photos next week.

What about you guys, any DIY projects going on at your houses? Do you get into mischief when your spouse is away? Spill it.

Cooking School

I hope you’re all enjoying your week! I have been trying to keep busy as Eric is away on business again but its become quickly apparent how quiet this house can get when he’s away. Good thing I have my cute puppy to keep me company! She has taken up her place on Eric’s side of the bed now and I’m afraid Eric may have to fight her for it when he gets home. I can’t imagine what I’d do without her though. Here she was this morning when  I woke up.

But I digress, the point I’m trying to make is that when Eric is away, I plan more social things for myself to do so that I don’t go crazy being alone (though to be fair I am an introvert and enjoy being alone quite a bit). Wednesday night I decided to finally take some friends up on their requests for me to teach them how to cook something or in this case bake something. Recently, one of my girlfriends expressed an interest in pies and, just her luck, pies are one thing I have conquered. I invited her and another friend over for pie making and instructed them to bring two things: a pie plate, so they could take their creation home, and a pound of butter. Pies require lots of butter, maybe that’s why I like them so much…

I love that the evening meant spending time in the kitchen getting covered in flour and being chatty girls. I also loved the fact that each one of us wanted to make a different type of pie. I like to think people’s taste in pie is another facet of their personalities and find it fascinating what people favor in their pie flavors (this is the type of question that I love asking, “Hi, nice to meet you, what’s your favorite kind if pie.” I could almost decided if I like you or not based on the answer to that question alone).

After a simple tutorial on the Do’s and Don’ts of making pies, we got down and dirty making our pie crusts, rolling them out, making the fillings and putting the entire pies together. We had three pies in total; I made a peach, raspberry and blueberry pie, one of my friends made a blueberry pie and the other made a triple berry pie which include red raspberries, strawberries and blackberries.

I was so proud of our pies! Here they are before going into the oven:

Blueberry

Triple Berry (check out the gorgeous lattice top!)

Peach, Raspberry, Blueberry

We had such a nice time together. I love feeding people and using food to bring people together, to make them feel welcome in my home, but this was a whole new way for me to share not only food, but the passion that I have for making food with people I love. It was so fun to see the pride my friends had in their creations!

Here’s shots of the finished products:

Blueberry

Triple Berry

Peach, Raspberry, Blueberry

My friends have now declared that I am giving cooking lesson and have named it “Marah’s Cooking School” and we’re already discussing what we’d like to cook next. I for one, can’t wait!

Blueberry Ice Cream

Before I get into my latest recipe adventure, I just wanted to thank everyone for the kind words and support after my last post. Sharing personal details about your life on the internet isn’t for everyone, but I have been overwhelmed with the encouraging words that have come my way since I shared my latest unemployment news with you all. Your kind words were exactly the kind of boost I needed, so thanks!

I’m sure you’re all wondering what I’ve been doing with my new found free time and I’ll tell you one thing, I haven’t been sitting around eating bon-bons, though I wish I could…bon-bons are delicious, but I’ve been cleaning my house, doing small projects that have been on my To-Do list for ages and of course cooking. I never realized how much I missed the idea of Summer vacation and to be honest, its nice to get some time to do horrible tasks like wash your windows or paint the spare room. I promise to give you updates on all my little DIY projects, too.

Today, however, we’re back to food. It is the middle of July and naturally, its hot. On top of the seasonal temperatures, we’ve also had a bit of a heat wave. My morning run this morning felt like I was running inside the sauna at the YMCA. When it gets this steamy and sticky you only want one thing, besides ice water that is, ice cream! My handy little Cuisinart ice cream maker has been hard at work the last two weeks creating all sorts of flavors of ice cream.

I’ve been searching for a blueberry ice cream recipe for the last two years. I had a wonderfully fresh blueberry ice cream at the Strasburg Creamery a few years back and have never been able to forget it. My mission last week was to replicate it. This ice cream was not the typical blueberry one might think of. Most people think of blueberry ice cream that looks like this:

It’s a beautiful violet color and is packed with blueberry flavor. This kind of blueberry ice cream is flavored from making a blueberry puree after cooking the blueberries with sugar until they burst and make a syrup. This method is rich and delicious but the kind of blueberry ice cream  I was going for was less intense in flavor and color. It’s almost white and is filled with whole blueberries that have not been cooked at all. Oh! And its creamy and light.

After scouring the internet looking for the “right” kind of blueberry ice cream recipe, I finally came across this one from a fellow blogger at Catsandcasseroles.blogspot.com. The recipe was perfect. No cooking blueberries and a no cook ice cream base!

To start the ice cream (after you’ve already chilled your ice cream maker drum in the freezer over night, of course), combine the fresh blueberries and 1/4 cup of sugar in a bowl.

Cover it and put it in the fridge for a few hours, getting it out and stirring it every 30 minutes or so. I squished a few berries with a fork and stirred them up.

After the berries are ready, mix up the ice cream base. Sugar, heavy cream and half and half, mix in the blueberries.

The base will be a light lavender color. Since you used cold cream and half and half, the mixture is cold and you can put it in your ice cream maker immediately. Churn is as directed by your ice cream maker instructions. Chill in the freezer to harden it a bit more. Once its the desired firmness, scoop it and enjoy!

See how light the ice cream is and how it has big whole blueberries right in it? This ice cream is so yum. I learned from the Cats and Casseroles Blog that this style of preparing ice cream is called Philadelphia Style because there are no eggs in it and requires no cooking, like most custard based ice creams. The ice cream gets its rich flavor entirely from the high butterfat content of the cream.

This blueberry ice cream is simple and quick to make and is creamy, light and delicious; perfect for those hotter than hot Summer days.

Here’s the recipe from Cats and Casseroles:

Blueberry Ice Cream
Print
Author: Cats and Casseroles
Prep time: 5 hours
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 5 hours 30 mins
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 c. (half-pint) blueberries, rinsed and any stems removed
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1/3 c. half-and-half
  • scant 1/2 c. sugar
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, toss blueberries with 1/4 c. sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Keep refrigerated 2-3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so.
  2. Mash sugared blueberries in the bowl, using a fork. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together heavy cream and scant 1/2 c. sugar. Whisk in half-and-half. Add blueberries (and the syrup they’ve created) into cream mixture. Whisk for about two minutes.
  3. Churn according to ice cream manufacturer’s instructions. Enjoy right away, or store in freezer in an air-tight container. This recipe yields about a pint of ice cream.

 

Becoming a statistic and other “fun” life experiences

I’ve been in the weeds, as they say, these past few weeks and I apologize for my absence. I promised all these fun posts and then vanished but it wasn’t for no reason at all. Two weeks ago, I joined the ranks of many unfortunate Americans today and acquired a new label, I became unemployed. I know I’m not alone in this, especially among my age group, in fact I think I’ve lasted longer than most of my friends from college; I’ve seen them all take this label on for months at a time over the last 5 years since graduation. Yes, we all had the unfortunate luck to graduate into a floundering economy in which jobs are scarce, let alone good jobs, those are almost non-existent. Gone are the days when employers take care of those people who work so hard to keep them in business, the sad truth is that the American economy now puts the almighty dollar first in each and ever scenario, hence the enormous unemployment numbers.

I was one of these people 2 weeks ago. Blindsided by the fact that my position had been eliminated and not even given the chance to make my case.  As I sat in the very short meeting, where I was told that I no longer had a job, my first thoughts were, well sheer panic, then disbelief, then anger that this had apparently been discussed weeks beforehand by the board of directors and no one thought it would be a good idea to mention to me that my position was being evaluated, and then finally came the hurt. My pride and ego were bruised and battered, I wasn’t given the chance to say good-bye to the co-workers I had spent 35 hours a week with for almost 2 years, I just packed up my stuff and vanished.

Why is it that HR departments always think its most human to treat people like they are not in fact human at all? That is one point I’ll never understand. Sure, we expect you to make this work place a priority in your life and spend most of your time here for the duration of your working here but when it comes down to dismissing you, lets not treat you like a human, instead lets treat you like we would a computer. Shout all the policies in your face, make you sign forms as you quietly cry in their office and then ask you if you have any questions. In my head I wanted to scream, “Questions? Um, you just ruined my life 5 minutes ago I haven’t heard a word you said after, “your position has been eliminated.”"

So now what? That was the place I found myself last week. Depressed, unmotivated, confused and lost. Family and friends have been so supportive and this week, after taking time to be sad, I’m looking forward. I’ve been given a chance to re-evaluate things and make a choice to do something I’m passionate about. Was I passionate about my job? Nope. It was a good job so I stayed safe and worked there dreaming of what else I might dare to do someday but now I’ve been given a second chance to go out and do it. Follow those dreams and maybe, end up back in the kitchen where I’ve always felt the most at home and at peace.

No longer and I allowed to wallow, but instead I’m weighing my options and making the hard choices. In the end, I think I’ll look back on this time and be grateful for it. Not everyone gets a push into a second chance. But here’s to mine!

The best news in all this is for you guys. No job = Lots of time to blog! You’ll be hearing from me more and I’ll keep you posted on what’s going on with me.

As always, thanks for reading! (Oh, and if you’re hiring, let me know!)