Sunday, July 31, 2011

#18 - Cooking, my Archnemesis

(Editor's Note: the 30 Before 30 is over!  I'm officially 30.  It feels great.  I made it through 26 of the 30 things on my list and the other 4, well, they were tricky.  But bear with me as I cross of the last items, I'm working up to fabulous pics from the past week.)

1. Host mah jongg night.
2. Make jam.  (Done!)
3. Host brunch. (Done!)
4. Go for a picnic. (Done twice!)
5. Go grocery shopping on my bike. (Done!)
6. Finish my year-end photo albums.
7. Take Fred to Lost Lake.
8. Rearrange the backyard.
9. Eat at the Space Needle.
10. Stay in bed all day.  (Done!)
11. <edited for privacy.>
12. Have a really girly slumber party.  (Done!)
13. Play a round of mini-golf. (Done!)
14. Get the craft room sorted and gorgeousified.
15. Go for a weekend in the San Juans. (Done!  Orcas at Memorial Day!)
16. Have an individual date with each NGS. (Done!)
17. Go for a hike.
18. Plan and cook a week’s worth of dinners. (Done!)
19. Go to Portland to see old friends.
20. Perfect a signature recipe (one slightly more nutritional than Bundt cake.)
21. Go to the drive-in movies.  (Done!  Harry Potter at the Blue Fox on Whidbey Island)
22. Get a mani-pedi every month. (Done for Jan, Feb, March, April, May and July)
23. Go ice skating. (Done!  Colorado with the parentals!)
24. Find the perfect shade of lipstick.
25. Host a big tea party in the back yard.
26. Make a quilt top.
27. Take six dance classes of any kind. (THREE down.  Love the Little Red Hen.)  (Done!)
28. Ride on a Ferris wheel.  (Done!  Puyallup Spring Fair!)
29. Organize our finances and filing system.  (Done!)
        30. Plan an awesome 30th birthday party.

Y'all, as noted above, I'm 30!  I'm ready to be done with this list.  So, I'm speeding through the last couple of items so I can get to the fun part of showing how awesome my actual birthday was!

#18 and #20 were both all about cooking.  Cooking is something I'm not naturally gifted at.  However, becoming a wifey last year somehow triggered some domestic impulse deep inside my brain and all of a sudden I'm trying to figure out the difference between Top Round and Bottom Round and exactly how many seconds do you pulse the pie dough in your Cuisinart?  

I have to confess, I actually completed #18 in the late winter/early spring.  I wrote those five dinners down on a list somewhere....and promptly lost it.  I also don't want to make this post insanely long by reposting all five recipes.  So I'm going to link to some of my favorite, tried-and-true recipes and postulate that these would make an excellent week of dinners, were you to make all five in a row.

1.) Loaded Guacamole with Chicken Kebabs


(Image from Mark Bittman but I swear mine looked almost this good.)


I heart Mark Bittman.  My husband gets full credit for introducing him to me, but I love how simple and straightforward he is.  He doesn't make you do extra steps if they don't add a lot of benefit and ditto for extra ingredients.  I'm so sick of recipes with 20 ingredients, it makes the overall price and complexity of the menu skyrocket without increasing your real enjoyment.  So for maximum joy and minimum hassle, go see www.markbittman.com.  This recipe can be seen here and it is totally delicious, easy and perfect for summer!

2.) Rachel Ray's Smoky Sweet Potato Chicken Stoup
 
(From Ray-ray but mine looks way better than that :))



Although I have to say very few of her recipes actually take half an hour, there are some Rachel Ray recipes that I really love.  She does some excellent hearty "stoups" (stew/soups) and this is one of them.  I love anything smoky flavored AND anything with sweet potatoes so this stoup is a win-win for me.  Although I still haven't ever figured out what to do with the other three adobo-soaked chiles you inevitably have leftover from this recipe, having that annoying little can sit around in your fridge is worth it because this always turns out delicious, hearty and healthy.  Double bonus, it is pretty dang hard to burn soup, so that's nice. 

3.) Moules a la Mariniere a la Julia Child




(From Smitten Kitchen, but yes, it really does look like that.)

This is one of those meals that can be really fun and impressive for a big group, but is actually simple enough to be just fine for a regular old weeknight.  Shellfish are in season now too, so get to it!  The husband and I have thrown a couple of memorable summer parties involving ten pounds of mussels, several bottles of white wine, a million baguettes and our outdoor propane burner.  It is that easy and it always turns out great.  Just make sure you get high quality mussels and enough butter to choke a horse.  The recipe can be found in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, or you can see it here.


4.) Southwest Salad

Remarkably fast, delicious and mostly healthy, this is a remake of a salad I get at my favorite deli in the Pike Place Market, so I actually have to type this recipe for you.  But it's so great for tired Tuesday nights, you can thank me later.

Cooked chicken (I like to shred roast chicken from the deli, but you could also roast your own or use it from a packet)
Lettuce or spinach
Can of sweet corn
Can of black beans
A bell pepper if you're into that

Cherry tomatoes if you're into that

Toss all these ingredients together.  Dress with either southwestern-inspired dressing, or make your own by taking some ranch, adding some mayo, chili powder, cayenne and Tabasco until it tastes like Tucson.  See?  So easy.  Exactly at my cooking level.

5.) Friday night?  Call Judy Fu's Snappy Dragon and get yourself some of these:



Sorry, they're hard to photograph because they keep running into your mouth!  Get the pork dumplings with extra dipping sauce and don't even think about ordering just 15, you won't have enough leftovers!  Get the full order of 32.  Yes, I know this isn't a real recipe, but who cooks on Friday night?  Judy Fu does, that's who!

Yay for #18, I'm no longer afraid of the stove, even if I do call in Judy Fu to sub for me once in a while.  It should also be noted that I almost never actually cook five meals in a row because A.) I have a lovely and talented husband who also cooks, B.) we entertain a lot which in the summer means we have burgers/dogs/anything grillable on the menu a lot and C.) we go out or to happy hour a lot.  So #18 was maybe a little optimistic but it's good to practice.  I'm down to burning things once every two weeks which is a vast improvement over last year and my list of weeknight suppers is slowly growing.  What's your favorite weeknight recipe??
 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

#29 - Organization, the Bane of My Existence

1. Host mah jongg night.
2. Make jam.  (Done!)
3. Host brunch. (Done!)
4. Go for a picnic. (Done twice!)
5. Go grocery shopping on my bike. (Done!)
6. Finish my year-end photo albums.
7. Take Fred to Lost Lake.
8. Rearrange the backyard.
9. Eat at the Space Needle.
10. Stay in bed all day.  (Done!)
11. <edited for privacy.>
12. Have a really girly slumber party.  (Done!)
13. Play a round of mini-golf. (Done!)
14. Get the craft room sorted and gorgeousified.
15. Go for a weekend in the San Juans. (Done!  Orcas at Memorial Day!)
16. Have an individual date with each NGS. (Done!)
17. Go for a hike.
18. Plan and cook a week’s worth of dinners.
19. Go to Portland to see old friends.
20. Perfect a signature recipe (one slightly more nutritional than Bundt cake.)
21. Go to the drive-in movies.  (Done!  Harry Potter at the Blue Fox on Whidbey Island)
22. Get a mani-pedi every month. (Done for Jan, Feb, March, April, May and July)
23. Go ice skating. (Done!  Colorado with the parentals!)
24. Find the perfect shade of lipstick.
25. Host a big tea party in the back yard.
26. Make a quilt top.
27. Take six dance classes of any kind. (THREE down.  Love the Little Red Hen.)  (Done!)
28. Ride on a Ferris wheel.  (Done!  Puyallup Spring Fair!)
29. Organize our finances and filing system.  (Done!)
        30. Plan an awesome 30th birthday party.

 I really want to be an organized person, but somehow its always a struggle.  #29 was one of my least favorite items but it's like drinking your milk, just pinch your nose and do it because its good for you.  I don't have any fun pics of this one, which is fine cause I'm going to keep it short and sweet.  (Also, how do you blog about something polite people aren't even supposed to talk about?)  Anyway, my personal steps for newlywed financial organization ran something like this:
1.) Agree on a bank.  (This was VERY hard because we had two different banks.  Finally, we went with the bank of the person who already had the bills in their name.)
2.) Actually go to the bank, get a joint account.  (This was hard!  Finding time during banker's hours?  Felt like a major accomplishment.  I had a hard time saying my own new last name!  I felt like I was going to be exposed as a fraud at any minute.  I'm not an adult!  Don't give me a bank account!  Eek!)
3.) Agree on how much goes in from each person.  (Prooobably needs to be adjusted on months where you throw six parties in 30 days.)
4.) Actually get direct deposit set up. (There's a form for this.  I hate forms.  It wasn't too bad.)
5.) Find a spot where bills and other important info go.  (Um yeah, I'm still working on that.)


So all in all, I'm calling this one a win.  We've made a lot of progress and we've got a system!  There were a couple of other bonus things thrown in like 401k's and next I've got my eyes on bigger fish, like a will and stuff.  OMG, it feels like adulthood all of a sudden, which is what you should be doing to warm up to 30, right?  Yay!  Adios #29!



Tuesday, July 26, 2011

#16 - Girltime is the Jam!

1. Host mah jongg night.
2. Make jam.  (Done!)
3. Host brunch. (Done!)
4. Go for a picnic. (Done twice!)
5. Go grocery shopping on my bike. (Done!)
6. Finish my year-end photo albums.
7. Take Fred to Lost Lake.
8. Rearrange the backyard.
9. Eat at the Space Needle.
10. Stay in bed all day.  (Done!)
11. <edited for privacy.>
12. Have a really girly slumber party.  (Done!)
13. Play a round of mini-golf. (Done!)
14. Get the craft room sorted and gorgeousified.
15. Go for a weekend in the San Juans. (Done!  Orcas at Memorial Day!)
16. Have an individual date with each NGS. (Done!)
17. Go for a hike.
18. Plan and cook a week’s worth of dinners.
19. Go to Portland to see old friends.
20. Perfect a signature recipe (one slightly more nutritional than Bundt cake.)
21. Go to the drive-in movies.  (Done!  Harry Potter at the Blue Fox on Whidbey Island)
22. Get a mani-pedi every month. (Done for Jan, Feb, March, April, May and July)
23. Go ice skating. (Done!  Colorado with the parentals!)
24. Find the perfect shade of lipstick.
25. Host a big tea party in the back yard.
26. Make a quilt top.
27. Take six dance classes of any kind. (THREE down.  Love the Little Red Hen.)  (Done!)
28. Ride on a Ferris wheel.  (Done!  Puyallup Spring Fair!)
29. Organize our finances and filing system.
        30. Plan an awesome 30th birthday party.

#16 was to go on a date with each individual NGS.  The NGS are..well they're an amazing group of ladies.  Some of my first Seattle friends.  The NGS is made up of Lisa, Jill, Paula, Krystal, Molly, Christyne and myself.  NGS stands for...well, its a long story.  Let's skip that!  Anyway, we're a hell of a group together.  Where to start?  We have seen a LOT of shenanigans together.  We go camping:

We go on an annual vacation that has varied from Lake Chelan:
 
To Long Beach:
And Mexico:


 
Clearly we like the water.


 
Ahoy there Skipper Christyne!



We're like peas in a pod.  It's never boring when the girls are out.  We've been known to get a little tipsy, break the rules, sing karaoke, accidentally start bar fights...ok that only happened the one time.  Anyway, mostly we like to hang out.
I don't have any pictures of the one-on-one activities, except for Paula, who helped me out with the wickedly fun mini golf which you already saw.  Krystal and I went to an amazing exhibit at Mohai on purses, and out to happy hour at Frank's Oyster House and Champagne Parlor.  (Yes, purse exhibit and truffle popcorn! Yum.)  Molly and I had dinner at my place, she put up with my experiments in salad dressing.  Christyne and I went to the Ballard Seafood Fest (twice!) and got to see Knut Bell, the band that played our wedding!   Jill and I had a slumber party in Portland which was super fun, girl talk late into the night.  And Lisa, pulling in for a heroic last minute save of the 30B30, took me out for drinks at a hip new bar in Fremont.  It felt great to get in a little extra girl time in the name of crossing things off the list.  So NGS, thanks to you all for helping me kick out #16, it was super fun.  Although lawd knows we could have fun hanging out in a cardboard box together so that's not saying a lot!  As a last NGS cameo, the below might have been the most fun day of my life.  Look at us.  Per the usual!!




 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

#22 - For Audrey

1. Host mah jongg night.
2. Make jam.  (Done!)
3. Host brunch. (Done!)
4. Go for a picnic. (Done twice!)
5. Go grocery shopping on my bike. (Done!)
6. Finish my year-end photo albums.
7. Take Fred to Lost Lake.
8. Rearrange the backyard.
9. Eat at the Space Needle.
10. Stay in bed all day.  (Done!)
11. <edited for privacy.>
12. Have a really girly slumber party.  (Done!)
13. Play a round of mini-golf. (Done!)
14. Get the craft room sorted and gorgeousified.
15. Go for a weekend in the San Juans. (Done!  Orcas at Memorial Day!)
16. Have an individual date with each NGS.
17. Go for a hike.
18. Plan and cook a week’s worth of dinners.
19. Go to Portland to see old friends.
20. Perfect a signature recipe (one slightly more nutritional than Bundt cake.)
21. Go to the drive-in movies.  (Done!  Harry Potter at the Blue Fox on Whidbey Island)
22. Get a mani-pedi every month. (Done for Jan, Feb, March, April, May and July)
23. Go ice skating. (Done!  Colorado with the parentals!)
24. Find the perfect shade of lipstick.
25. Host a big tea party in the back yard.
26. Make a quilt top.
27. Take six dance classes of any kind. (THREE down.  Love the Little Red Hen.)  (Done!)
28. Ride on a Ferris wheel.  (Done!  Puyallup Spring Fair!)
29. Organize our finances and filing system.
        30. Plan an awesome 30th birthday party.

#22, get a pedicure every month.  Well, this one is over, if not done.  I just couldn't make a pedicure happen in June.  And now June is gone, so unfortunately, I can't make up for it.  But I did manage to do it every other month.  Things that I have learned from this 30B30:
1.) Having cute toes makes you feel cuter all over, even in close-toed shoes.
2.) If you go barefoot at home, you stare at your feet enough to justify the cost of a pedicure.
3.) Getting in bed with your freshly pedicured toes feels awesome.
4.) If a boy ever buys you nail polish just because he thought you might like it, that is true love.  Or he's gay.  But in this case I'm hoping for true love.

The wonderful husband presented me with this color recently:
 
 It's called "For Audrey".  He knew I'd love it because it is my favorite color.  And damn if having toes that match my walls and teapot doesn't make me extremely happy.  It looks great in white sandals and is very summery as well.  So I'll go back to I'm-Not-Really-A-Waitress and Pompeii Purple in the fall, but for now, For Audrey is here to stay.  See you around #22, I think you're a keeper.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

#21 - Wingardium Leviosa!

1. Host mah jongg night.
2. Make jam.  (Done!)
3. Host brunch. (Done!)
4. Go for a picnic. (Done twice!)
5. Go grocery shopping on my bike. (Done!)
6. Finish my year-end photo albums.
7. Take Fred to Lost Lake.
8. Rearrange the backyard.
9. Eat at the Space Needle.
10. Stay in bed all day.  (Done!)
11. <edited for privacy.>
12. Have a really girly slumber party.  (Done!)
13. Play a round of mini-golf. (Done!)
14. Get the craft room sorted and gorgeousified.
15. Go for a weekend in the San Juans. (Done!  Orcas at Memorial Day!)
16. Have an individual date with each NGS.
17. Go for a hike.
18. Plan and cook a week’s worth of dinners.
19. Go to Portland to see old friends.
20. Perfect a signature recipe (one slightly more nutritional than Bundt cake.)
21. Go to the drive-in movies.  (Done!  Harry Potter at the Blue Fox on Whidbey Island)
22. Get a mani-pedi every month. (Done for Jan, Feb, March, April and May)
23. Go ice skating. (Done!  Colorado with the parentals!)
24. Find the perfect shade of lipstick.
25. Host a big tea party in the back yard.
26. Make a quilt top.
27. Take six dance classes of any kind. (THREE down.  Love the Little Red Hen.)  (Done!)
28. Ride on a Ferris wheel.  (Done!  Puyallup Spring Fair!)
29. Organize our finances and filing system.
        30. Plan an awesome 30th birthday party.

 #21 has been one of my favorite 30 Before 30's so far.  I looooove going to the drive in movies.  When I was a kid, my parents would take me to the drive-in and I'd hunker down in a sea of blankets in the back seat of our 1968 Mustang and be asleep well before the second feature.  When I was an obnoxious tween, my friend Kayte and I would take lawn chairs and sit out on the lawn in front of the cars, trying to pretend like we definitely did not have annoying things like parents.  Pah.  When I was a teenager, my friend Megan and I would roll up to the drive-in in her little Brat, back it up to the screen and sit in the jump seats with the funny ski-pole handles.  The drive-in was really wonderful, it was the best thing to happen to summer in Hood River since ice cream was invented.

Shortly after I moved away to college, the drive-in in Hood River closed, leaving a huge gap in the awesomeness of summer.  (C'mon Hood River, you managed to re-open the library, how about reinstating the drive-in??)  Luckily for me, I live in the great state of Washington now, which has at least two drive-ins that I know of.  We tried to arrange a trip to the Auburn drive-in (which I think is actually a 7 plex?  I'm still not sure how that works..) but couldn't make it happen.  I had almost resigned myself to the fact that this one thing on this list might not get done till after my big day...and then a 30B30 miracle occurred.  Fred and I were attending a wedding this weekend of some dear friends up on Whidbey Island.  Last week, the bride emailed everyone to say that one of the possible pre-wedding festivities would be a group trip to see Harry Potter at the Blue Fox Drive-In!  Saved in the nick of time.  The Blue Fox is a classic drive-in, really wonderful.  
(It was too dark for photos!  This photo brought to you by this wonderful website summarizing drive-ins!)
Harry Potter was no slouch either, although it was hard to really see all of the dark fighting and swirling with the lights of Oak Harbor glowing in the distance.  
 
Sic 'em Harry.

However, no one goes to the drive-in for the picture quality, let's face it.  The Blue Fox is a totally amazing spot for anyone going to Whidbey in the near future.  Tickets are a whole $6.50, the snack bar is totally legendary and if you get bored there is a really excellent arcade.  The tween in me thought this was a total score.  So thanks to Emily and Chris and the magic surrounding weddings for bringing me to the Blue Fox.  Totally rad.  #21 - Expelliarmus!

Monday, July 18, 2011

#17 - a Gun Emplacement?

1. Host mah jongg night.
2. Make jam.  (Done!)
3. Host brunch. (Done!)
4. Go for a picnic. (Done twice!)
5. Go grocery shopping on my bike. (Done!)
6. Finish my year-end photo albums.
7. Take Fred to Lost Lake.
8. Rearrange the backyard.
9. Eat at the Space Needle.
10. Stay in bed all day.  (Done!)
11. <edited for privacy.>
12. Have a really girly slumber party.  (Done!)
13. Play a round of mini-golf. (Done!)
14. Get the craft room sorted and gorgeousified.
15. Go for a weekend in the San Juans. (Done!  Orcas at Memorial Day!)
16. Have an individual date with each NGS.
17. Go for a hike.  (Done!)
18. Plan and cook a week’s worth of dinners.
19. Go to Portland to see old friends.
20. Perfect a signature recipe (one slightly more nutritional than Bundt cake.)
21. Go to the drive-in movies.  (Done!  Harry Potter at the Blue Fox on Whidbey Island)
22. Get a mani-pedi every month. (Done for Jan, Feb, March, April and May)
23. Go ice skating. (Done!  Colorado with the parentals!)
24. Find the perfect shade of lipstick.
25. Host a big tea party in the back yard.
26. Make a quilt top.
27. Take six dance classes of any kind. (THREE down.  Love the Little Red Hen.)  (Done!)
28. Ride on a Ferris wheel.  (Done!  Puyallup Spring Fair!)
29. Organize our finances and filing system.
        30. Plan an awesome 30th birthday party.

OK, #17 was a little trickier than I'd planned.  Schedules and weather prevented me from getting in the long, high quality hike I would have liked to send this one off on.  However, this weekend we were at Fort Ebey State Park to celebrate the wedding of two friends, and I managed to take a quick hike down to a gun emplacement on my way to find the showers.  Gun emplacement?  I know, sooo unlike me.  But the walk along the bluff was the really noteworthy part.  I took a couple of photos:
 
 Which in the way of all outdoor photos ever, don't even come close to describing the awesomeness of the vista.  In the true sense of the word, awe-inspiring.   
 
The sound is vast and serene, the geology of the sharp bluff rising out of the water is amazing, the mountains beyond the sound perfectly frame the whole thing in a show of nature's most impressive features.  Amazing!  I also highly recommend Fort Ebey State Park.  I didn't snap a pic of the actual gun emplacement itself, but the park is awash in scenic spots and awesome camping opportunities.  So thanks Fort Ebey for being awesome, and for Chris and Emily, being so awesome that they want to marry each other.  That's #17, brought to you by love and gun emplacements.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

#27 - Honk if you Honky Tonk!

1. Host mah jongg night.
2. Make jam.  (Done!)
3. Host brunch. (Done!)
4. Go for a picnic. (Done twice!)
5. Go grocery shopping on my bike. (Done!)
6. Finish my year-end photo albums.
7. Take Fred to Lost Lake.
8. Rearrange the backyard.
9. Eat at the Space Needle.
10. Stay in bed all day.  (Done!)
11. <edited for privacy.>
12. Have a really girly slumber party.  (Done!)
13. Play a round of mini-golf. (Done!)
14. Get the craft room sorted and gorgeousified.
15. Go for a weekend in the San Juans. (Done!  Orcas at Memorial Day!)
16. Have an individual date with each NGS.
17. Go for a hike.
18. Plan and cook a week’s worth of dinners.
19. Go to Portland to see old friends.
20. Perfect a signature recipe (one slightly more nutritional than Bundt cake.)
21. Go to the drive-in movies.
22. Get a mani-pedi every month. (Done for Jan, Feb, March, April and May)
23. Go ice skating. (Done!  Colorado with the parentals!)
24. Find the perfect shade of lipstick.
25. Host a big tea party in the back yard.
26. Make a quilt top.
27. Take six dance classes of any kind. (THREE down.  Love the Little Red Hen.)  (Done!)
28. Ride on a Ferris wheel.  (Done!  Puyallup Spring Fair!)
29. Organize our finances and filing system.
        30. Plan an awesome 30th birthday party.

#27 was to take six dance classes of any kind.  This shouldn't have been very hard, I love all kinds of dance.  I've danced ever since I can remember, beginning with ballet, ranging between everything from bellydance to swing.  This season, for whatever reason, dance classes were a little light on the ground in my life, but I managed to wedge in six classes at the Little Red Hen, my favorite local bar.  The Little Red Hen has amazing free dance classes on Sunday and Tuesday nights where the amazing MaryAnne teaches all the country partner dances from two-step to Schottiche.  I am very proud to say I can now do the Schottiche with the best of them, and although I still haven't learned to do the horseshoe, I can also do the traveling cha-cha, the barn dance, and the Texas two-step (although really I could already do that.) 

The Hen is an amazing hidden gem of Greenlake.  The beer is cheap, the decor is amazing, there is live country music five nights a week!  Did I mention that the dance lessons are free?  It's almost too awesome.  I don't have any pictures from my dance lessons because I was too busy taking the lessons to photograph them.  But they were awesome.  Here's what I look like at the Hen on an average night:
No, just kidding, that was just one of many awesome birthdays celebrated at the Hen.  Here's what it looks like.
 
It's dark, crowded, and I'm deliriously happy.  There's just something about a honky tonk bar in a yuppie city like Seattle that is so delightfully incongruous.  The wild-west mural that surrounds the whole bar is equally wonderful.  The tall bartender who's name is Shorty.  The mind-blisteringly strong vodka crans.  The really amazing prime rib on special occasions.  It is all wonderful.  So thanks to the Little Red Hen for making #27 such a dang good time.  See you on the dance floor!