Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How I Met Your Father: The Finale

It was probably two weeks between our amazing pre-date date at Philips and the Cadaver Ball, and while we had chatted a few times, I had not seen Mark since he dropped me off at the dorms after I had said yes to his invitation to the ball.  Meanwhile, I had seen his brother, B, every day.  We sat next to each other in class, had lunch at the same table, hung out at the same bars, and not once did either of us mention that in just a few days, I'd be going on a very important date with Mark.  I assumed he knew because they lived together, but for some reason we never talked about it.  And that was fine by me.  I think I felt like if I talked about it, somehow the past would undo itself, and Mark would have never asked me in the first place.  So we went about our days pretending like nothing new was going on.

Given our little charade, you can imagine my surprise when I stepped off the elevator in my charcoal gown to find Mark waiting there for me - with B.  Oh, Mark was a sight for sore eyes.  He looked so handsome in his dark grey suit.  But I couldn't figure out why they were there together.  Mark told me "Gal you look beautiful, and by the way B is going to be our chauffeur for the evening."  That cracked me up.  Here we had been skirting around this hot topic for weeks, and Mark had planned all along to get B right in the middle of it.

Where we were headed I had no idea, but really we could have gone anywhere that night and I would have been happy.  I was just so glad to be with Mark.  He made me feel beautiful and smart and funny.  I had always wanted to be funny, and he made me feel like I was.  When B pulled up to Bacco's in the French Quarter, I almost squealed with glee.  I mean I had been to fancy restaurants before, but I hadn't expected that we would go somewhere sooo nice on our first date.  He was pulling out all the stops!

We were seated at a lovely table in the back room.  I just remember how beautifully lit it was.  I felt like I was dreaming. As we began talking, Mark mentioned that he chose Bacco's because this was where he had come to celebrate his acceptance into medical school, and that it was a special place to him.  And I melted.  He ordered the carpaccio to start and we both laughed because neither of us new it was raw beef.  I ordered a steak for dinner cooked medium rare, and he said that I was a girl after his own heart.  And we laughed and talked and shared stories and memories and I had had so much fun I couldn't believe it could get any better.  We hadn't even gotten to the ball yet.

I was so nervous as we arrived at the aquarium for the ball.  Getting along with Mark was one thing, but getting along with his friends, you just never know!  What if they dismissed me as being some silly girl? What if I said something stupid?  And while I know we must have spent time with them, the funny thing is, I don't really remember anyone else being there.  It was like we were all alone there.  Just the two of us.  We danced under the twinkling lights of the dance floor surrounded by people, but seemingly alone in our own world.  Everything else was simply a backdrop to the beginning of our story.

As the band was playing their last song and the party was coming to a close, he took my hand and we walked together up to the levee overlooking the river.  We stood there for a while just watching the boats go by.  We talked about everything and nothing at all.  And it was there overlooking the city I loved so dearly that he kissed me sweetly on the cheek and said how much he really liked me.  And I liked him too.  Ohhh, I really liked him.

And while the details of that night have begun to fade with time, when I think about it, I still get a wave of anticipation.  Of excitement.  Of wonder at what will come next.  I feel like I am looking down on the two people standing on that levee, and I just want to tell them how special this all is and how amazing the next ten years will be.  I want to grab the girl that is standing there and impress upon her that it all goes so fast.  Take it all in, every minute of it.  Enjoy the big moments like this one, but cherish the small ones too.  Cherish the sweet emails, and the take out dinners from Nirvana, and the Saturday afternoons at the racetrack, and the Sunday nights in watching the Sopranos.

Enjoy every moment with him.  He is special.  He is The One.

And how and when would I know this.  I don't think I knew in one magical moment, or that I woke up one day and thought - this is it, he's IT.  Over time, I began to see that I was better with him than without him.  He made me a better version of myself.  Better than I even knew I could be.  He didn't do this by completing me.  I was complete on my own.  He did this by complementing me.  He was the ying to my yang.  In him I found someone who brought balance to my life.  Who brought joy and kindness and laughter and compassion.  Most of all, Mark taught me how to love.  How to love someone wholly and completely.  To love with every fiber of my being.

While saying The End seems fitting to a story such as this, I feel like I did ten years ago.  Our story is still just beginning.

How I Met Your Father: Part Two

So where were we?  Ah yes, we had just run into each other on a very random Saturday night at F&M's  (which by the way is the second greatest bar in NOLA, after the Gold Mine, of course).  You see the funny thing about being at F&Ms that night was that it was the first time I had ever been there.  It was the place of legends, and I had been dying to go, but my fake id said I was a five foot three Latina girl from San Diego.  It worked on the few occasions I needed it, but I had never tempted the fates with trying it at F&Ms.  But that night with my high school friends I decided to give it a shot.  What do you know, they knew the bouncer and we walked right in.  Higher powers at work, I believe!

As you know from part one of this story, while we seemed to enjoy each others company in the late night joints of New Orleans, I took from the fact that Mark had not asked for my number to mean that in the light of day he figured a 19 year sorority girl had no place in the world of a 24 year old medical student.  That just seemed so old and mature to me.  I figured his friends were debating what color beige to paint their dining rooms while I was debating whether our party tees should be light pink or bright pink.  Two different worlds we lived in, or so I thought.

I had lots going on to distract from this dreamy guy I was hoping would come my way again.  The Thursday night following our night at F&M's, my friend Heather's BF was competing in the student activities version of "Who Wants to be a Thousandaire."  My roomie Sarah and I were not going to miss his big chance at fame and fortune, so we headed to the Danna Center for dinner and Heather's BF's gameshow appearance.  Such fun is college!  After it was over, the three of us mosied on back to our room where we figured we'd get to studying.  I remember Sarah walking into our suite first with Heather and me following behind.  The door to our room was open so I couldn't see that a message had been left on our dry erase board.  Sarah very calmly says, "Jen, Mark Allen called."  I stopped and scolded her for being the meanest friend a girl could have.  "Sarah, that isn't even funny!!!"  And she angled the door so I could see the board and said, "No, Haley left a message on here that Mark Allen called and would like for you to call him."  WHATTTT!!!  The three of us stood there with our mouths gaping open and we began jumping up and down silently at first until it really hit us.  And then the squealing began.  In my mind we were holding hands and skipping in a cirlce singing "Mark Allen called, Mark Allen called."

But what do I do?  I had been taught that girls don't call boys.  Did your mothers teach you that as well?  Do I call, do I not call?  I was so nervous, I was clammy and sweating.  And when I finally decided not returning his call would be rude and silly, I did it.  Of course, I did it with Heather and Sarah sitting on the couch watching, but I did it.  I told him I had received a message that he called, and I was just politely returning his call.  He said that he wanted to know if I was busy that evening and was free for a drink.  As I'm mouthing this to the girls, my head was racing.  A drink?  Do I say yes?  What does this older boy want from me?  I mean, I watched Friends.  I knew what older guys were like.  But, I found myself casually accepting and pretending like it was no big deal and that I was often accepting requests for drinks with boys of all ages.  "Good, he said.  I'll see you at ten." 

After much searching for an outfit that said "I like you, but I'm really not trying hard" I was off to meet Mark Allen at the front desk.  He assumed that since I had recently been at F&M's my id was solid and took us to Philips (also one of the legendary bars that the older DGs talked about).  I was so nervous they wouldn't let me in.  How awful would that have been?!?!  But they did and we proceeded to the bar.  We started talking and before you know it, it was well after midnight.  It was the craziest thing because I had expected to have little in common to talk about, but instead the conversation was so smooth and so natural.  And it was the little things that made me like him so much more than I thought I already did.  For instance, he kept calling me gal.  I thought that was the funniest thing.  He talked about his family and school and growing up in North Dakota.  And when it was time to leave I felt like I had known him a lifetime. 

Right as we were heading out, he said, "Well, gal, I didn't just ask you here to have a drink."  My heart stopped.  What is he going to say next?  What could it be?  "The med school is having their annual formal, The Cadaver Ball, and I wanted to know if you'd be my date."  HOLY COW!!!!  Are you serious?  I could barely stand the excitement.  I very aloofly said, "Um, sure that sounds like a lot of fun,"  but inside I was doing the cirlce skippy dance from earlier! 

And with that we left Philips.  And in all of the excitement I tried to get into the wrong car!!!  So embarassing.  But we had a good laugh, and now it just seems like a fitting part of the story.

I got back to the room and was basically doing cartwheels.  I called my mom the next morning and explained that we had a very important shopping trip to schedule.  I remember telling her that he was just so nice.  He was the kind of guy you married.  I don't think I thought I would eventually be married to him, but I knew that he was the kind of guy you settled down with. 

That Saturday my mom took me to Saks and we tried on a million dresses.  I wanted it to be just right - not too young, not too old, not too flashy, but something really special.  We landed on a BCBG charcoal satin ball skirt paired with this beautiful light grey sweater with a hint of beading at the top.  I loved it!  So much so that every day (alright, maybe every other day), I would put on my outfit and parade up and down our hall stopping by my friends' rooms singing "I'm going to the Cadaver Ball."  I'm sure this got old to everyone on our floor, but to me it was just as exciting as it was the day before.

It was a fairy tale dress made for a fairy tale evening.  I couldn't wait to go on my first date with Mark Allen! 

Tomorrow, I'll fill you in on our first date and get to the part about knowing he was "The One."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How I Met Your Father

I mentioned here that I would tell you all about how Mark and I met, and when I knew he was The One on the tenth anniversary of our first date.  Well, as April 1st is just a day away, I thought I'd give you a little background to our first date by telling you about how we met.

Mark went to Loyola and graduated the year before I arrived there.  He was a Sig Ep, and I was a Sig Ep little sis, so I had heard all about this Mark Allen guy.  He was beloved by his fraternity and held in such high regard that he was talked about so much I felt like I knew him.  I had gotten to be good friends with Mark's brother who was a Sig Ep too and an accounting major like me.  But for all of this talk, I had never met the mysterious Mark Allen.

That is until my sorority had it's semi-annual mixer with the medical school students from Tulane (yes, we had one each semester and they were highly attended, as you can imagine).  I had heard through the very active Loyola grapevine that Mark would be at the mixer.  Peaked my interest!

I will never forget getting ready for that mixer.  I was so excited.  I can still tell you exactly what I wore that night, mostly because I kept the outfit until Katrina came.  I think I would have kept it forever.  I wore a black skirt with a pink camisole and a black translucent top over it and black leather boots.  I don't think I ever wore it after that, but that night I thought it was perfect.  At this time in my life, I was really into this MAC glitter.  Not sure I have an explanation for that, but I loved it.  I had it sprinkled all over my cheeks.  I mean all over!!

So there I was a 19 college student with super glittery cheeks arriving at Fat Harry's for what would be the night that changed my life.  I remember the second I met Mark.  He was talking to my big sister in the sorority, and she called me over to introduce me.  But you see, I had no idea who she was talking to.  Mark's brother is about 6'3" and has light hair and light eyes.  The guy she was talking to wasn't near six feet and had dark hair.  When she said, "Jen, this is Mark Allen.  I think you know his brother."  I wasn't ready.  What do I say?  I was supposed to have something smart and witty and clever to say.  I don't think anything came out at first.

We began chatting, and I was very impressed.  I remember how sweet and genuine Mark seemed.  Most of the guys at this mixer seemed kind of skeezy and probably had no good intentions for being there.  But Mark seemed different.  I remember sitting at one of the booths with a few other people and he told such funny stories.  I think I laughed the whole time we were in each other's company.  I remember introducing him to one of our new members who didn't drink, and about thirty minutes after the introduction he got up to get another pitcher and asked, "Annalisa, would you like something from the bar while I'm up."  I was impressed not only that he asked, but also that he had remembered her name.  It told me that he didn't just dismiss people.  No, he really was interested in taking the time to remember them.  I just knew then that there was something special about this guy.  I couldn't place my hand on it, but I knew he was one of the good ones.

I left that night kissing him on the cheek and telling him I enjoyed meeting him and wondering if I'd ever see him again.  And would he even remember me?  I mean, the glitter was pretty unforgettable, but I was a 19 year old kid, and I felt certain that a guy like that must have a million girls calling him.

I saw Mark again at a party a few weeks later, and while I was very excited about seeing him, we went our separate ways, and that was that.  On a random night in the middle of March, I was out with my guy friends from high school at a bar I wasn't old enough to be in.  And in the middle of a conversation, I felt a tap on my shoulder.  "Yeah?" I said as I turned around.  There he was.  Smiling.  Such a cute smile.  We talked for a while and had a great time, but when I left without him asking for my number, I assumed that once again we'd have to wait until our paths crossed to talk more.

To be continued...

Tasty Tuesdays: Penne with Chili-Rubbed Flank Steak and Pineapple Salsa


Like any good Italian girl, I L-O-V-E pasta.  I recently told my trainer that I thought he should come up with the Beaufort pasta diet to take the place of the Hollywood cookie diet.  Have you heard of the Hollywood cookie diet?  Crazy, right.  Well, if they can make a diet around cookies, then they must be able to create a pasta diet!!  
We eat pasta about once a week in our house, and it is usually based around a tomato sauce of some kind.  Sometimes its jarred tomato sauce to which we add Italian sausage and red wine, and sometimes it's a mixture of cherry tomatoes, basil, spinach, and garlic.  But every once and a while, I find a recipe for a pasta that is totally different than our norm.  
This dish is super easy to make, and it is completely packed with flavor!  We choose to grill our steak rather than broil it mostly because Mark is convinced I'm going to burn down the house when I broil.  It never fails that I set the fire alarm off when I broil things. 
As you can see, this dish is a quick one to make.  I take a different approach to this dish though.  I am turned off by the sharpness of raw red onions, so I add all of the ingredients listed in step two (except for the cilantro) to a saute pan and cook them until translucent and a bit sweeter.  I also add a can of black beans for a little extra texture, flavor, and protein.  Then I stir in the warm salsa with the pasta and top it with some fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. 
This dish is wonderful served hot, but it could easily be chilled and served as a pasta salad.  
Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 1  pound  flank steak
  • 1/4  cup  plus 1 teaspoon cooking oil
  • 3/4  teaspoon  chili powder
  • 3/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  cup  crushed pineapple, drained (from an 8-ounce can)
  • 1/2  jalapeño pepper with seeds, chopped
  • 1  small red onion, chopped
  • 1  tablespoon  lime juice
  • 1/4  cup  chopped cilantro or parsley
  • 1/4  teaspoon  fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/2  pound  penne

Preparation

1. Heat the broiler. Rub the flank steak with the 1 teaspoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Broil the meat until medium rare, about 4 minutes per side. Let it rest for 5 minutes and then cut it diagonally into slices.
2. In a large glass or stainless-steel bowl, combine the pineapple, the remaining 1/4 cup oil, the jalapeño pepper, onion, lime juice, cilantro, black pepper, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon chili powder. Stir in the sliced steak.
3. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the penne until just done, about 13 minutes. Drain and toss with the salsa and steak.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pink and White Polka Dot Cake

I have mentioned before that my sister is a pastry chef in New Orleans.  She was asked to make a cake for a baby girl baby shower this past Saturday.  And this is how it turned out...



Isn't it adorable!!!

Feeling Swamped

We have reached that point in tax season where the light at the end of the tunnel is not yet visible, and while you want the 15th to come, it is coming to quickly.  There's too much to be done.  I'm feeling completely swamped. 

When I think of feeling swamped, I think of this...







There is something just so peaceful about the Louisiana Swamp.  I used to drive to Houma to spend time with Mark when he was on call at Chabert.  I loved driving over the the 310 split.  It was amazing that just minutes from the city was this vast swamp.  It was quiet and peaceful.  The sun twinkles on the water and the moss sways in the breeze.  It is nature at it's finest. 


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Socialite Saturday!!!


Hi yall!  I hope you are having a great start to your weekend!  I'm here at work reviewing tax returns, but I had to stop for a minute to post how excited I was to wake up this morning to a sweet comment and fabulous Preppy Mofia prize from one of my favorite bloggers, Shopaholic in Alabama!  I will admit I have seen this fun Socialite post on a few blogs, and I had my fingers crossed that I'd get a turn at answering the ten questions that come along with the crown of Saturday Socialite.

The rules-
Click on the above button and paste onto your blog/website
Answer the below questions
Pass onto 10 bloggers that you Love, go to their blog and let them know they've been tagged

1. Who is your style icon? Without a doubt Audrey Hepburn.  Perfectly stylish, classy, and socially responsible.  What a lady!

2. What is your favorite socialite lit book? I have to say I really liked Bergdorf Blondes, but from what I've read recently, I must get my hands on Social Climbers and The Devil in the Junior League.
3. Favorite party theme? Do I have to choose?  I am dying to have a Mad Men party!!!  But I think a glamorous SATC II martini premiere party would be fabulous.
4. Go to Halloween costume? Hmmm.   I prefer the subtle Halloween costume.  Something humorous over sexy.  This year I wore a blue dress and devil horns and was "Devil with a Blue Dress On."
5. Extravagance you cannot live without? Designer Handbags.  I love them.  I really really do.  So much so that when we evacuated for Katrina, they were the only things (other than our wedding albums) we took.  Good thing too!  My favorite of all is my Fendi Chef bag.  Mmmmm.  It's heaven.

6. Living person you admire? Well, there are many, but I truly admire my sister.  She is a pastry chef and a darn good one.  She has followed her own path in life and does what she truly loves.  I'm not sure I'm that adventurous, but I wish I was.  She is making her dreams come true.
7. Greatest Fear? I am trying to be less afraid of things since there really is no point in it, but I am very afraid of being bitten by a brown recluse spider. 

8. Trait you deplore in yourself? I am a grudge holder.  Ooooh - it's bad.  And I'm a terrible sport. 

9. Which talent would you most like to have?   There are so many, but I would love to be able to decorate cookies that look as beautiful as they do in a Williams Sonoma catalogue.  I mean seriously, whose cookies look that pretty? 
10. Greatest Achievement? Does it count as my achievement that the Saints won the Superbowl???  No?  I guess I'll go with passing the CPA exam on the first try.  That thing was a nightmare!  I studied flashcards at redlights!   Seriously.  But when I got my scores back, I felt like I could conquer the world!

As for tagging ten great blogs - I'm going to save that for another day and hope you all crown yourselves a Saturday Socialite!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Product Review - Juice Beauty


This has NEVER been me.  I have never been someone who had a daily face washing regimen.  In fact, and please forgive me, I often went to bed with a full face of makeup.  It wasn't until two years ago when I started freaking out about getting wrinkles that I really began considering that maybe a little moisturizer would make a big difference.  The thing is - I hate face lotions and moisturizers.  They're gooey and sticky and oily.  Yuck.  I always felt like my face was dirtier after a coat of lotion than it was before.  I just couldn't find the right thing, so I couldn't get into a routine. 

And then two Aprils ago while in NYC with some friends we stopped in the Sephora on 5th.  I was wandering through the cleanser aisle when a lovely saleslady stopped to help.  I told her my predicament 
 - I needed to get into a routine but was turned off by heavy, weighty lotions and oily, scented moisturizers.  She steered me directly to the Juice Beauty aisle.  Ahhh!!  And I was in heaven!

She suggested the line because it is organic and pesticide free.  She said they used a unique combination of fruit juices in the product, and I could tell immediately by the very light citrusy smell coming from the samples I tried.  It was perfection!  She also said that I could get the moisture I needed from the moisturizer alone without having to add several additional steps to the routine.  Added bonus!  I was sold!

I start my routine with a good facial rinse using the Juice Beauty Cleansing Milk.  While they have other cleansers, I prefer the cleansing milk because of it's light and creamy texture.  It isn't soap based, so it doesn't lather which was an odd feeling at first.  But I will tell you that my faces feels fresh and renewed after washing it.  I have very dry skin, and it doesn't dry out my skin!!  Finally, a product I can't live without!!

After hopping out of the shower, I use the Juice Beauty Green Apple SPF 15 Moisturizer.  This has been the biggest step for me - I have committed to a moisturizer!  I mean really committed!! It is made from apple and lemon juices, and it adds a lovely fresh scent to the lotion.  I love how it feels rich and moisturizing without feeling heavy and oily.  I have used it every day for almost two years, and I am telling you it is wonderful!!!


The last step is one I don't always take, but when I'm feeling extra tired, I use the Green Apple Nutrient Eye Cream.  I decided after liking the other products so much, I'd take the plunge and see if I could add another step to the routine.  It's worked out well enough so far.  I will tell you on long tax season days, my eyes will take all the help they can get!!  And this product seems to do the trick!

This is my first product review, and I hope it has been helpful!!  I wish I could tell you more about how it works for all skin types, but I'd hate to steer you in the wrong direction.  I can tell you though, that it's worth checking out!!!

Do you have a favorite cleanser or moisturizer?  What's your beauty routine?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sick and Tired

Hi bloggers!

Sorry for skipping out on Tasty Tuesdays, but yesterday around lunchtime, I started feeling kind of funny.  I knew the tax season gods wouldn't be letting me get sick in the middle of March.  Boy was I wrong.  I will skip out on the details for you, but let's just say that talking about food was the last thing on my mind.  I thought I'd be better this afternoon and could head to work around lunch, but after eating a little bowl of noodles, the bug struck AGAIN!  I feel a little more rested now and am hoping to enjoy a Cup o Noodles this evening for dinner.

Hope to get back to blogging for real tomorrow with a full review of Juice Beauty's cleansing milk.

Yall have a good afternoon!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Some things

Something I'm missing - Juice Beauty Cleansing Milk
With my no shopping during Lent policy, I can't get another bottle of this amazingly light face cleanser for a few more weeks.  Ahhh!!!  I can't wait to get more.

Something I'm trying to really enjoy - Running
I ran for 20 minutes straight Friday morning.  That's the longest in my whole life I've ever run.  I am not at the point yet where I really enjoy running, but I'm hoping to get there.  Listening to the Glee soundtrack helps!

Something I can't wait for - Sex and the City II
We'll be in Paris when it premieres, and while it might be a little lame, I really want to find an English language theater and watch the movie while we're there.  I have missed these girls!  And don't you agree that if anybody could do the 80s right it would be Carrie Bradshaw!

Something I love watching - Modern Family
This show cracks me up.  It is funny, and real, and very touching too.  I love a show that can put so many different emotions into an episode.  It makes me remember how great tv can be.

Something I'm reading - Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
I love Jennifer Weiner's books, and I don't know how it is that I hadn't read this one.  I have read all of her others.  She has such a great writing style, and she develops her characters so well.  I am about a quarter of the way through and am loving the story.  I know some people dismiss chick lit, but I spend my day reading tax legislation, so a dose of light reading is just what I want when I get home.

Something yummy to leave you with - Overnight Easy Bake Caramel Rolls
This recipe posted on my blog friend Heidi's blog, Cherry Blossoms,  looked too yummy not to pass along.  Don't you agree!  I think it's the perfect recipe to have ready when you have company.  I love that you get it ready the night before and let the rolls rise overnight.  Then in the morning, you can just pop them in the oven and let your guests wake up to the smell of yummy goodness!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Up in the Air

Well hello there.  I hope yall had a wonderful weekend.  Mine was busy, but very nice!  I worked a bunch, but I also had dinner with friends on Friday and walked in the Beaufort Twilight Run last night.  Today I spent a few hours at work and went to the commissary to get everything we need for the week.  After an afternoon of flipping between college basketball and meaningless reality tv, Mark and I decided to watch Up in the Air.

Have yall seen this Oscar nominated movie yet?  I really didn't know what to expect as I had only seen a few bits and pieces during this year's awards shows.  I have to say I have mixed feelings on this movie.  While I thought the characters were all very interesting, there was just something so sad about them as well.  Mark reminded me that a depressing movie can be a good movie too, and while I know he's right, this one just came out of nowhere for me.  I guess I should have expected it to be something other than a light airy love story - those never get nominated, but it really just bummed me out.

The lead character in this movie travels all over the country, and spends more time in a plane than he does in his own home.  It reminded me of the very short time I spent traveling when I worked for one of the big four accounting firms.  While this character felt more at home in a hotel room than in his own room, I hated traveling for business more than anything in the world.  I can remember feeling this deep pit in my stomach when I would open the door to the empty hotel room.  I hated how quiet everything was.  I didn't like feeling unsettled and unfamiliar with my surroundings.  Watching this movie reminded me of how much I enjoy having a job where I go to the very same desk every day.  It also reminded me how much I like coming home to two funny little puppies and one wonderful hubby.

Do you travel for work?  Is there a trick you have to feeling at home on the road?  If you don't travel, do you ever wish you had a job that took you around the globe?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Happy St. Joseph's Day

Well hello blog friends, I hope you are having a fantastic St. Joseph's Day.  What?  You mean you don't celebrate St. Joseph's Day?  Well,you must not be a Catholic New Orleans Italian girl, like me!  Today is the day we take time to celebrate and give thanks to St. Joseph, who is the patron saint of workers, for protecting Sicilians from the worst famine in their history.  Given that New Orleans has a large population of Sicilian immigrants (my maternal grandfather's family being among them), the traditions that surrounded the feast of St. Joseph are still vastly present in New Orleans today. 

In many churches, parish halls, and even personal residences, you will find elaborate St. Joseph's Altars all over New Orleans on March 19th.  Placed on the altar or at the feet of the St. Joseph statue are breads, cookies, and other pastries that are so beautiful, it's hard to imagine wanting to take them home to eat.  If you were to tour one of the many Altars, you would leave with an Italian cookie and a lucky bean.  The Fava Bean was the only crop that grew in Sicily during the famine, so each year at the Altar you are given a new fava (lucky) bean to keep until the next year.  I have the one my mom mailed to me last year in my wallet!  It seems to be the luckiest Lucky Bean I've ever had - the Saints won the Superbowl!!
Weeks of work goes into putting together these beautiful Altars.  It is a tradition that has lasted for ages, and one that I hope we can continue.  If you want to learn more about the Altars and where you can find one today, click here.

I wish we were home to visit one of the Altars!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It's Madness, I Tell You


I L-O-V-E March Madness!!!!!!!!  At the firm where I worked in New Orleans, some of the directors would take us all to lunch and we'd watch some of the first Thursday games before heading back for a long day's work.  It was so much fun and renewed our readiness to work through tax season.  I really missed having those kind of work outings, so last year, Mark surprised me and picked me up and we watched LSU play in the lunchtime game on opening day.  It was so fun that we're going to do it again today.  Only this year, we won't be watching the Tigers. 

Isn't March Madness so awesome?  Do you have your brackets ready?  Mark only has one "sheet of integrity."  I, on the other hand, have many sheets of no integrity.  And I like it that way!  I have a sheet where I pick based on the region where the teams are playing - sort of a home field advantage bracket, if you will.  Then I have a combo Upset Special/Because I'm a Catholic bracket where I have teams like Sienna, UTEP, and Cornel coming out of the first round and Catholic school teams like Gonzaga, Notre Dame, Villanova, and Georgetown, going a little further than they probably will.  Finally, I have a cold hard cash bracket where I pick the favorites to win out - how boring.  The best part about March Madness is a good Cinderella story.

Do you get into March Madness?  Do you prefer to see a Cinderella Story or the sure thing win?  Who's your favorite this year?  Mine is Kansas, but I'd like to see Kentucky respresent the good ole SEC!!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

I won my very first blog giveaway!!!!  The lovely shopgirls from my favorite neighborhood gift shop Joli were sponsoring a Loo-pouri giveaway, and I was the lucky winner.  How exciting!!!!  I can't wait to stop by their shop this weekend during Habersham's Beaufort Twilight Run and Oyster Roast benefitting Riverview Charter School to pick up my prize.  Here's a picture of the cute little package they  put together.


It'l like shopping but without breaking my Lenten promise.  How wonderful!  18 days left until Easter and I can shop again.  Whew!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tasty Tuesdays: Lemon Pie with Raspberry Coulis


I have been putting together a little dinner get together for a few of the girls from my office and their hubbies.  Because it's scheduled for Good Friday, I am planning on making a meat-free meal.  We will have basil roasted veggies with couscous and Mr. B's BBQ Shrimp, which other than a healthy dose of butter, calls for several nice squeezes of lemon juice.  I thought since that was the case, this lemon pie recipe (also from the Mr. B's cookbook) would compliment the BBQ Shrimp well.

When I tell you this is the most delicious pie recipe you have ever tasted, I am really not being dramatic.  It is AMAZING!  I love the buttery crust and the rich lemony filling.  The raspberry coulis adds a nice  tart flavor to counterbalance the filling.  What's best about this pie is that you can make it ahead of time and chill it.  It only gets better and better!

Lemon Pie
Ingredients
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I usually add the grahams to the food processor and crumble in a few easy pulses)
3/4 cup melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 cups sweetened condense milk
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla
whipped cream as a garnish (I prefer it made from scratch)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar (you can also add ground pecans too) and spread into and up sides of a 9 inch pie plate, pressing down.  Bake crust for 10 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.

In a bowl whisk together condensed milk, yolks, lemon juice, zest, and vanilla.  Pour mixture into crust.  Bake in oven 20 to 25 minutes, or until set.  Serve with whipped cream.

Raspberry Coulis
2 pints strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cornstarch

In a small saucepan combine raspberries, sugar, and lemon juice and cook over a low heat 5 minutes, or until raspberries soften.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing down on berries with a rubber spatula.  Return strained puree to saucepan and stir in cornstarch.  Bring to a boil.  Once thickened, chill.

I think it'll be a BIG hit!!!

What's your favorite pie?  

I simply cannot wait for...

April 11th to be here for the premiere of HBO's Treme!  They have released an invitation to the set where you'll see some familiar faces - John Goodman, Wendell Pierce, Kermit Ruffins.



I am just so excited to see what's in store!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Answers to Ask Away Thursday

From Nola to Beaufort and Back (in the Fall)

Where did you live in New Orleans?  How did you like it?  Where did you go to college?
    I grew up in Lakeview (click here for more).  I loved growing up in Lakeview!!  It was as close to perfect as you could possibly get.  We lived in "the big peach house on the corner" which was a converted shotgun double that had these loooooonnngg hallways.  We would get a running start and do grande jetes (ballet terms for jumping splits) all the way down the hall.  I loved that darn house.  It breaks my heart when I pass by the empty lot it once sat on.  
    I went to Loyola University New Orleans, and I wouldn't trade my collegiate experience for any other in the world.  I lived Uptown for my four years in school with the best roommates you could imagine.  Fours weddings and two and a half (my roomie Haley is due in May) babies later, I consider each of them still my very close friends.  I learned so much about life and love and friendships during those four years.  Most importantly from the Jesuits I learned to be a woman with and for others.  AMDG!
    When we head back home, our plan is to live downtown.  Fingers crossed we'll be living in this amazing condo in the Central Business District.  It is fabulous!  We'll be a block and a half off the parade route, a few blocks from the Quarter, and just a minute from the Superdome!!!!  I am already picturing the Saints pre-game brunches!!!


Why did you leave New Orleans and why and when will you be returning?
    I had never in my life imagined living outside of New Orleans, but my sweet hubby had a Naval scholarship to medical school.  So, while he would finish school and residency with no school loans, he would owe the Navy four years of his service.  We were notified in the spring of 2006 that we'd be heading to Beaufort, SC for four years starting that summer.  Mark moved here in July and I came just a few months later.  
     It took a few months for us to get adjusted to life in a whole new place, and when we did, we found that life in the great wide Elsewhere could be quite nice.  Mark's contract with the Navy ends September 30th, so we will be heading home in the fall.  When we first left New Orleans, I could not have ever imagined loving a place outside of it, but four years of life in the Lowcountry makes our impending move bittersweet.  On one hand, I am looking forward to starting our life together at home (I feel like it got cut a little short with Katrina barging in on our first year of marriage), but on the other hand, I just don't know how we will leave our wonderful family of friends here.


Foodie Facts

What is your favorite New Orleans restaurant?  Favorite dish at the restaurant? Why?
    This is such a tough call!!!  I have been thinking about this question all weekend!  And while Commander's Palace is my absolute favorite New Orleans restaurant, I can't quite put my hands on a signature dish (I don't count the garlic cheese toasts as a dish because if I did, they would be the best thing I have ever eaten) of theirs that I'd say makes it my favorite. I just love the feeling of celebration that is all around you when you dine there!!!  If I had to pick my favorite New Orleans dish, I think I might have to go with the crabmeat cheesecake from Palace Cafe.  It is the perfect bite of food.  It starts with a buttery, savory, pecan crust and is filled with the most amazing, sweet crabmeat filling.  All of this is sitting nicely on the most incredible meuniere sauce I have ever tasted.  I get it every time we eat there, and every time it is as good as I imagined from the time before!

What is your favorite meal to make - something that tastes the same every time and makes you happy?
    This is easy.  I love making both my roast beef po-boys and Gumbo Yaya.  There is nothing like the smell of a cooking roux - butter and flour.  Dear me, it's heaven!  And those roast beef po-boys are such a crowd pleaser.  I think the reason I love making these dishes is that I feel I am sharing a part of myself and my city when I make them.  I feel like my friends can sense the love and care you put into these dishes and it expresses the pride and love I have for the food culture of New Orleans.  When we celebrate, whether it's the Superbowl or a birthday or the start of the Carnival season, these are the dishes we share.  There is a great book about the food culture of New Orleans, Gumbo Tales...  Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table, and in it the author describes the relationship of food to the people of the city.  It's not about the food itself, New Orleanians love food because of the care it is prepared with and the people it is shared with.  I love sharing these meals with the people I care about.

What is your favorite dessert?
    My sister is a pastry chef at Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse in New Orleans.  Everything she makes is my next favorite dessert.  I love her coconut cake, and I love her strawberry shortcakes (out of this world!!!).  But I think my favorite is her signature dessert - red velvet cake truffles.  These are bites of heaven.  The center is a soft, gooey red velvet cake blend coated in cream cheese frosting and covered in hard chocolate.  Mmmmm!!!  

Favorites

What is your favorite color?
    PINK!!!  Without a doubt - in any and every shade!  When I was a little girl, I would say I wanted a pink house with purple insides and a purple car with pink insides.  Then I became a Delta Gamma where my favorite color combo became bronze, PINK, and blue.  

If you could trade lives with any celebrity who would it be?
    No questions asked Lea Michele from Glee.  Where did this girl come from?  She is on the brink of complete stardom, and unlike the reality tv stars that have taken over People magazine, she's actually talented.  I would give anything to be able to hit just one note that she can hit.  I would want to be in the Broadway version of Chicago as Roxy Hart.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
    It would be in an antebellum mansion on St. Charles Avenue on the parade side of the parade route.  I would throw the most spectacular parties every Mardi Gras and you'd all be invited.  And since I'm playing this game, I'm imagining I have all the money in the world, so I would also have a condo overlooking Central Park!!

If you could listen to one song for the rest of your life what would it be?
    Great question!!  I thought I could listen to the Ying Yang Twins Halftime for the rest of my life during the Saints season because it brought such awesome memories of the games, but then we got home for Mardi Gras and we actually did hear it every five seconds, and wow, it got old.  I think I could listen to Better than Ezra's This Time of Year forever!  I love this song!!!!  It brings back such great memories.  

What's your favorite thing to do when you come home?
    Other than see family and friends, I would have to say walk down Royal Street in the Quarter or Magazine Street Uptown.  I love browsing through all of the little shops and boutiques.  


A New Orleans Weekend

What time of year do you recommend visiting New Orleans and what would we do if we had a weekend together there?
    There is no better time to visit than Jazzfest.  You get to see the city in its best light at the fest - through culture, music, and food.  So we'd spend Friday at Jazzfest snacking on all of the best foods the city has to offer.  Friday night we'd get BBQ Shrimp at Mr. B's and go to Pat O's and finish the night with some late night dance partying at the greatest bar in the world - The Gold Mine.  Saturday we'd get po-boys at Parkway Bakery and head Uptown for some shopping along Magazine Street.  We'd get drinks at The Swizzle Stick Bar and have dinner at Cochon.  Then we'd head to the Marigny to listen to some live jazz at DBA.  Sunday morning we'd walk through the Quarter, maybe take a a carriage ride, and then go to Commander's for their jazz brunch.  We could walk off brunch by heading to St. Charles Ave to meet the streetcar line where we could take a ride up and down the Avenue.  Sunday we could have a low key dinner at Luke and head to bed a bit early.  Monday before you hopped on your plane, we'd stop at Cafe du Monde for coffee and donuts (cafe au lait and beignets).  Sounds fun right!

If you are planning a trip to NOLA any time soon, email me and I can help you put together a nice little itinerary!

I hope you enjoyed this crazy long post (I'm long winded if you haven't noticed).  I'll be posting the answers to the questions about how I met Mark on April 1st - the tenth anniversary of our first date!!!  Keep your questions coming in the mean time!!


Friday, March 12, 2010

Mmmm... Smells like heaven in here


We are staying in tonight.  I did a little exercise DVD when I got home from work and Mark grilled a delicious flank steak which we paired with pureed cauliflower and a tomato basil salad.  Now we're watching Couples Retreat as some YUMMY Blondies bake in the oven.  I have had the baking bug recently, and I thought it would be nice to bring a little treat to everyone at work tomorrow.  Saturday workdays can get kind of long, and what makes a day better than an ooey gooey blondie.  NOTHING!

These are delish and SUPER easy to make.  Here's how...

1 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8 inch square baking pan lined with greased parchment paper.

Sift flour and salt together and set aside

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine butter and sugar.  Heat, stirring often, until sugar has dissolved, and then cook about one minute more.  It will bubble, but not boil.  Set aside to cool for ten minutes.

Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla to the sugar mixture and stir to combine.  Sprinkle flour and salt over sugar mixture and blend together.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake until center is springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25-35 minutes.

Run a knife around the pan to loosen blondies.  Invert over a plate and peel back the parchment.  Cut into 2 inch squares.

**I added walnuts and toffee bits!!!  I think they'll love it.

DON'T FORGET TO ADD A QUESTION TO ASK AWAY THURSDAY!!!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ask Away Thursday...

I so enjoyed all of your sweet comments yesterday, and I especially loved your helpful tips!!  I will keep updating you as our plans continue to develop.  We're debating a trip to Champagne, but are feeling a little crunched for time.  There's just so much to do!!  I also might be asking for some fashion advice as the trip gets closer.  I know it's incredibly vain, but I want to look cute and fashionable while we're there.  I am at a loss for comfy but stylish walking shoes.  Do they exist??  I have some Tory Burch Revas, but I think they are the least comfy shoes ever made.  So those are out.  Have you found some you like? 

What's with all the questions, you ask?  Well, I was just thinking it would be fun to have an Ask Away Thursday.  I have seen some other bloggers do this and I always find it interesting to see what questions readers come up with and what answers the blogger has.  So I thought I'd give it a try!  

Feel free to comment with whatever questions you have for me, and I'll post later this weekend with my responses. Should be fun!!!   So go for it, ask away!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Planning for Paris - It's Coming Along

There are days where I feel completely overwhelmed planning our fifth anniversary trip to Paris.  I sit on the couch with the laptop and three travel guides cross referencing hotspots, must sees, don't bothers, etc!  My head is spinning from all of the choices.  I wish I was a fly by the seat of her pants kind of gal, but I'm a planner.  I will say though, for me, the planning is half of the fun.  And we're getting there...

We have our arrival day planned.  A casual lunch by our hotel (the Hotel des Grandse Hommes near the Pantheon) when we check in, off to the Champs-Elysees where we will stroll down this beautiful boulevard taking in all of the sights.  We're going to take a boat tour of the Seine that evening before we head to dinner at Hidden Kitchen.  Yay! 

We're still mapping out Monday and Tuesday, but we're going to get a two day bus pass on the L'Open Tour - bus tours of Paris.  They let you hop on and off all over the city, so we thought that'd be a good introduction to our trip.  Wednedsay is my cooking class and food tour day. I think we might also have a late night date with The Mona Lisa since the Lourve stays open late on Wednesdays!!

I am very excited to announce that we have our Thursday plans all set!!!  I am so looking forward to our plan to stroll through the St. Germain!  We will start with breakfast and hot chocolate at Les Deux Magots.
We plan to spend the morning walking through the neighborhood before we set off on our picnic lunch in the Jardin-du-Luxembourg.  I had read about all of these great little places to make the perfect picnic lunch, so we'll be stopping at a few different places to gather all of the things we need:
And off to enjoy some sunshine is such beautiful gardens!

That evening we will be going to the Yves St. Laurent exhibit at the Petit Palais which I am so excited about.  We've decided to try to have dinner close to the hotel to avoid zig zagging across Paris, and we found the perfect little spot  called Chez Dumone - Josephine.  It just looks like the kind of bisto I imagined dining in from the day we starting talking about making this trip.

And so there you have it.  Our Thursday in Paris.  I guess the only thing left out of my little travel planning hands is the weather.  Hope for a lovely day!

Are you like me and plan every detail of your trip?  Or do you spontaneously take in the sights? 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tasty Tuesdays: Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole

Busy season.  Hmmm, that sure is thr right way to describe this time of year.  Sometimes I feel like I'm pulled in a million different directions and by the end of the day my limbs look like Gumby's.  It's this feeling that usually has me pretty resigned to eat whatever boxed rice dish we can find in the back of the pantry when I get home from exercising or a meeting after a long day at work.  It's also this feeling that makes me want to say heck with dieting, let's just order a slice from the pizza spot in our neighborhood.  But even that takes planning and energy.  Ugghhhh!

This is when a good old fashioned casserole comes in handy!  And for you very efficient home cooks, a casserole that comes with its own make ahead tips like this one from Cooking Light.  I made this Sunday evening knowing we'd have plenty for the week ahead when cooking just wouldn't be a priority.  It was delish with a capital D!!!  I skipped on the margarine and just used some olive oil cooking spray when I lightly toasted the rice-and-vermicelli mix - you might as well cut out any additional fat if you can, right!  I also picked up a rotisserie chicken (BBQ flavor for its smokiness) from Bi-Lo and Mark shredded it for me skipping the entire saute the chicken for six minutes step.  I don't really like the texture of reheated cubed chicken, so if I'm making something I know will generate leftover, I use a rotisserie chicken.  I found that by the end of the baking time, the topping wasn't as crispy as I would have liked so I broiled it for a few minutes.  I am telling you, you will not feel like you're eating light when you try this dish.  It was creamy and hearty and just truly yummy!

What's your favorite casserole?  Aside from this one, mine is my dad's tuna casserole.  Mmmmm!

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 1/3 cups)
Ingredients
1 (6.9-ounce) package one-third-less-salt chicken-flavored rice-and-vermicelli mix with chicken broth and herbs
1 tablespoon margarine
2 1/4 cups hot water
Vegetable cooking spray
1 1/2 pounds skinned, boned chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup presliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 cup nonfat sour cream
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can reduced-fat, reduced-sodium condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1/4 cup crushed multigrain crackers (about 6 crackers)
1 tablespoon margarine, melted
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

Preparation
Cook rice mix in a large nonstick skillet according to package directions, using 1 tablespoon margarine and 2 1/4 cups hot water. Remove mixture from skillet; set aside. Wipe skillet with a paper towel.

Coat the skillet with cooking spray, and place over high heat until hot. Add chicken, mushrooms, and garlic powder; sauté 6 minutes or until chicken loses its pink color. Combine rice mixture, chicken mixture, sour cream, pepper, and soup in a bowl; stir well. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart casserole coated with cooking spray. Combine cracker crumbs, margarine, and poppy seeds; stir well, and sprinkle over chicken mixture. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Make-Ahead Tips: You can assemble the casserole ahead of time, omitting the cracker-crumb mixture; cover and chill in the refrigerator or freeze (thaw frozen casserole overnight in refrigerator). Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes; top with cracker-crumb mixture, and bake as directed.

Nutritional Information
Calories:334 (18% from fat)
Fat:6.8g (sat 1.6g,mono 2.2g,poly 2g)
Protein:32.2g
Carbohydrate:30g
Fiber:0.2g

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Blogger BFF Award - I'm so excited



So the rules to receiving this award are simple- see below:

1. Blog about your award and the person who sent it to you including their link.
2. Tell 7 things no one knows about yourself
3. Pass the award onto 6 new blogs that make you smile and give you inspiration. Don't forget to let them know about their new award! Then sit back and know you just made someones day:)



Jessica over at Kitchen Belleicious was so incredibly sweet to pass along this award to me.  I LOVE her blog and feel so special that she appreciates mine.  Jessica posts the most amazing recipes on her blog!!!  You must go over and check it out!!
  1. We were required to take Home Ec in high school.  I loved it so much that I took the second level of classes including an advanced sewing class.  When I was a freshman at Loyola, I sewed my own formal dress for my first Delta Gamma formal.  It was a black one shoulder satin gown with an extra high slit because I had to take it up and forgot to account for that when I sewed the slit.  Oops!
  2. When I was in eighth grade I asked for a subscription to Bride's magazine.  I would trace all of the dresses and then imagine that I was a wedding and formal wear designer.  
  3. I took a speech class in high school where we had to give an extemporaneous address.  I gave an Oscar acceptance speech holding a baseball trophy and shed real tears through  my speech.  If your interested, I won for the role of Katie Raspanti in the adaptation of the book Night Jasmine (my favorite book of all time).
  4. I love accents!!!  I played a character from Boston in a play once and had to listen to hours of tapes on the Mid-Atlantic dialect.  Since then, I have developed a knack for accents.  Now if only I could develop a knack for learning to speak French.  
  5. If choosing between a pool and a beach, I would always choose the pool.  I don't actually like the feeling of sand between my toes.  I know, I know.  
  6. I have a collection of perfumes.  For each birthday and Christmas, I ask for a new perfume.  I love waking up each day and looking at all of the pretty bottles and how different they all are.  I also love deciding what scent I feel like that day.  I know some people have a signature scent, but I love that every day is a little different.
  7. I would like to one day be the mayor of New Orleans. 
The fabulous girls receiving the BFF Blog Award are none other than: 
Grow  

Thanks to these bloggers, I am constantly inspired!

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