Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Not Again

I have been feeling, how you say...craptacular lately.

It's been one of those weeks, months, whatever. End of September = end of my firm's fiscal year (i.e. better get in yo' rush of billables and required non-billables, lest you miss your bonus *cough*). End of September = end of third quarter at many of my clients (i.e. better close about 39825729 deals so they're booked this quarter and not next). End of September = my pretty-much-annual change'o'seasons cold.


Yesterday I was frazzled and crazy all day at work, busting my butt to get some (really not interesting) stuff closed while fielding a lot of (really frustrating) pressure and demands and questions from clients. Add to that a couple of other projects that need to get done NOWNOWNOWNOWNOW, plus constant sneezing and coughing, and I was ready to kill someone.

I got home around 6:30 or so after packing up a redweld of stuff. I was miserable. If I didn't have to get home to let the dogs out, I would have probably stayed at work for a couple more hours. I was grumbling and cranky and sick and frustrated.


I simply CANNOT spend another month letting my life get in the way of taking care of myself. I spent a whole lot of August feeling sorry for myself, eating like crap and not running or working out. And then work kicked up like mad in September and it was more of the same. Not surprisingly, there were consequences. I gained back a few of the pounds I worked so hard to lose over the spring. My skin is looking awful. I'm constantly crabby. I couldn't run the Rock & Roll half because I didn't train right.


I knew I didn't have a lot of time to work out, since I really needed to get another couple hours of work done last night. With the way I've been going recently, I would have just skipped the gym altogether. Instead, I went anyway - so what if I couldn't spare an hour. I could do a half hour. And I did. I sweated my BUTT off on the treadmill doing "speed" intervals for three miles, alternating each half-mile between 6.3mph and 7.0mph. I covered three miles in about 28 minutes, including a couple of walking breaks, because WHOO that kicked my butt.

And you know what? I felt a THOUSAND times better for it. Thanks to my cold, I wasn't at all hungry when I got back to the house around 8, but I knew I should eat. I threw together a quick salad with spinach, raspberries, feta, mushrooms and some leftover rotisserie chicken.

I topped it with a tiny bit of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. I used the good stuff:

Thick, syrupy, aged balsamic that my mom got me for Christmas last year from Olive Oil & Co.

I settled in to watch my DVR'ed episode of Glee (woohoo, Britney! I loved having a more Brittany-centric episode. She cracks me up. And also? "How can you get lost between the moon and NYC? Aren't they like a hundred miles apart?") and grumblegrumble review more documents and do more work grumblegrumble.

I'm SO looking forward to this weekend. Fun plans with some blog friends, a "diaper BBQ" for some friends having a baby soon, and -- most importantly -- time to CHILL AND FREAKING SLEEP.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Weekend Project Part 2, and SCONES

So, first things first. You saw the sad state of my BEFORE. About twelve (total) hours of painting and a little more cleanup later, here's the after:

I have to admit, I was more than a little "over it" about halfway through, but I am SO GLAD I bucked up and did this. I love the way the room looks now.

Tonight, I embarked on another little project. I've been seriously bitten by the baking bug lately, and over the weekend all I could think about was pumpkin scones. For a couple of reasons, really - one, I love, LOVE all things pumpkin (see pumpkin centerpiece on kitchen table and vanilla pumpkin scented candle on bar, above), and two, I'm obsessed with the scones at Cafe Lutecia. I figured if I could learn to do scones the right way, I'd have REALLY accomplished something.

Well, you know, that and seeing this seasonal obsession on blogs everywhere.

I was so intimidated by the almighty scone that I really researched this bad boy. I cobbled together tips from all over the 'net, but generally followed this recipe, which claims to be a double for Starbucks pumpkin spice scone. I've never had one from Starbucks, so I can't speak to the truth of that, but MAN, these are good.

Cinnamon, ginger, clove and nutmeg.

Whisked together with the other dry ingredients (except for salt. I omitted the salt - not intentionally, I just forgot about it, and the scones don't seem to have suffered for it) and then cut in six tablespoons of COLD butter until just dry and crumbly.

In a separate bowl, I combined the pumpkin, an egg, and a couple tablespoons of half & half. True story - while doing this, I put the butter/dry mix in the freezer. I do not know whether this made any sort of difference, but I was paranoid about getting my little butter nubbins into the oven without melting first.

Take the dry out of the freezer. Fold the wet into the dry.

Knead juuuuuuuust a bit on a floured surface. Spread into a rectangle, cut into triangles. Leave the triangles together while you bake.

Mine needed about 17 minutes total at 425. Would have probably been closer to 14 or 15 minutes, but I accidentally closed the oven mitt in the door, so it was open a crack and let some heat escape.

While they were baking I mixed up the plain glaze. Recipe called for milk - I only had half & half, and I felt I needed to add about twice the amount called for to get the right consistency.

I also ended up using about half the glaze I made, which was plenty. I brushed it on with a pastry brush in two layers. One to melt beautifully all over, and one to thicken the coating a bit.

I used the leftover plain glaze as a base for the pumpkin spice icing drizzle. I just about doubled the spices called for in the recipe and mixed them into the plain glaze, together with a few more shakes of confectioner's sugar until I had the consistency I wanted.

The result?

OOOOOH. I like these.

Even with twice the spices, I didn't really taste a strong pumpkin pie flavor in the icing. I would probably add even more next time, or skip the plain glaze altogether.

I'm kind of in disbelief that I actually made scones. They aren't tough, they aren't dry, they aren't bland and floury. Holy crap. But really? Someone GINA said the other day -like, REALLY RECENTLY AND IT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY BECAUSE I CANNOT REMEMBER WHO (thank you e!) - "if you can read, you can cook." And, well, would you look at that.


Pumpkin Spice Scones, adapted from

- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 7 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 6 tablespoons COLD butter, cut into chunks
- 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
- 3 tablespoons half & half
- 1 egg

Whisk together dry ingredients.
Using a pastry cutter, two knives or food processor, cut in butter until dry and crumbly.
(If paranoid, put butter crumbles into freezer, bowl and all.)
Mix together pumpkin, egg, and half & half with a fork until blended.
(Remove paranoia bowl from freezer.)
Fold wet ingredients into dry until the dough just comes together. The mixture should stick together, but the wet/dry separation still evident.
Flip dough ball onto lightly-floured surface and knead lightly until dough resembles, well, dough.
Form dough into rectangle about one inch thick. Cut into three equal pieces, and cut each piece in half diagonally to form six triangles.
Leaving triangles touching one another, bake at 425 for 14-16 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

While cooling, make glaze.

Plain Glaze:
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons half & half

Add half & half gradually, and whisk together with fork until the texture is as you like it. Less half & half will give you a more spreadable icing; more will give you a brushable glaze. Use whichever method you prefer to coat the tops of your still-warm scones with plain glaze. While it sets, make pumpkin spice glaze.

Pumpkin Spice Glaze:
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon clove
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon half & half

Add half & half slowly and mix, as above. This glaze should be thicker, but still thin enough to drizzle. TASTE the icing as you make it - add a few extra shakes of each spice if you want a stronger flavor. Drizzle over scones.

Salivate. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Weekend Project Part 1

Thursday or Friday I had the bright idea that I should paint my living room.

That part of my house has an open layout with my kitchen. Which means, of course, I can't paint the living room without painting the kitchen.

Last year I painted my downstairs hallway. I had a friend help for a couple hours and one portion of it, but I did the majority of it solo. I figured the time commitment would be similar, and as a bonus, I didn't have any two-story walls to deal with in the living-kitchen-room.

So. I started the day with a legitimate breakfast - sauteed up some mushrooms and spinach with a slice of ham I snagged from PhillyGuy's lunch meat stash.

I also decided I wanted some bacon, but didn't want to deal with (i) the dishes or (ii) the house smelling like bacon So I did something I've never done before (and, frankly, will never do again): microwaved bacon.

I didn't know how long to cook it for, so I googled "how to microwave bacon." I found an EIGHT STEP TUTORIAL. Considering one of the steps was "find a microwave-safe plate. The plate will usually say in small print on the back of it whether or not it can go in the microwave," I guess it was designed for a different audience.

Verdict? Not so great. I mean, it satisfied my bacon craving, but I ended up feeding most of it to Cosmo. I'll stick with the frying pan from now on.

Scrambled eggwhites with the sauteed veggies were delicious, however.

I really needed that breakfast to get me through the next SEVEN FLIPPING HOURS. I severely underestimated some things - like the fact that it's been a thousand years since I've wiped down the baseboards in that room. And how much stuff I had on the walls. And how many outlet covers/switchplates/vent covers there are to be unscrewed from the walls. And how my dogs shed like mad and I had to clean the floors AGAIN. And how there are a WHOLE LOT OF EDGES IN THAT ROOM OH MY GOD THERE ARE A LOT OF EDGES. I went through a massive amount of blue painter's tape.

Before (pardon the awful state, I didn't think to take these pictures until I was halfway through the setup):

The prep took close to two hours. Then I went around with my trusty little angled brush and a hand-held bucket of paint and did all the cutting-in and edges. Yeah. There are a LOT of edges. That took an additional THREE AND A HALF HOURS. That means that, five and a half hours after I started, I was ready to pick up a roller. Thankfully, the walls went much faster than the edges, though I still really underestimated how much longer it takes when you don't have even a couple hours' worth of extra hands.

Sophie was unnerved by the whole process and went to hide down in the hallways. Cosmo was not bothered, and supervised by napping on my drop cloths.

Seven hours later (including a couple short breaks to take the dogs out), the first coat was on the walls, and I was more than ready to break for dinner. Coat number one:

I had spent the last 90 minutes or so dreaming about my dinner. I ordered delivery from the pizza place across the street from me, which also happens to have a great (for fast food) Middle Eastern menu. I ordered the chicken kabobs, with hummus, tabbouli, and garlic sauce, served over rice (which is only okay - I usually don't eat the rice):

and a "falafel and veggies platter," with more hummus and baba ghanoush.

Do you see any veggies? No? Neither do I. Unless stuffed grape leaves and a wilted piece of lettuce count as veggies. Whatever, though - the falafel was actually REALLY good tonight, even though it looked burnt. They must have changed their recipe.

When I was painting, I felt like I could have gone forever, and intended to do the second coat last night. But once I sat down and got some food in me, the exhaustion started to set in.

And so here I sit, ready to pick up a brush and put that second coat on. I am SO looking forward to this being done (and also to leftovers of last night's takeout for lunch). See you all later with "after" pictures.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I love fall.

(really, I love the "big" change of seasons - from the two cold seasons to the two warm seasons and vice versa - because I get to change up my home decor. Last weekend I replaced the pretty vase of white flowers on my kitchen table with my big wax pumpkins.)

I've been in a "baking" kind of mood lately. Last weekend, I treated my football-watching dinner guests to Jenna's AMAZING chocolate chip cookies. This weekend, I was grocery shopping and randomly decided to attempt another Eat Live Run recipe: BLONDIES.

These are particularly great for compulsive last-minute impulsive bakers like me, because they are very quick to make and take almost no preparation.

Unlike the amazing cookies, which require you to pull the butter out of the fridge hours ahead of time, so that it can softed, these call for melted butter. Which means that someone like me, who almost NEVER uses butter, can just pull the butter right from the freezer into the saucepan. I melted mine on low to medium heat and poured it right over the brown sugar.

Combined well and added my egg, vanilla, and salt:

And then stirred in the flour.

It had kind of a yin-and-yang effect with the dark brown sugar/butter/deliciousness mixture.

It was SO, SO easy. So easy, in fact, that when I popped the first glass pan into the oven, I thought to myself "you know, one stick of butter and half a package of brown sugar can't possibly be enough dessert for MY family. I'd better make a second batch." And I did.

My only drawback is that I did not HAVE an 8x11 pan, like Jenna did. I used a 9x9 pan instead, which required me to adjust the cooking time. A lot. Like, "oh, five more minutes" about four thousand times. After spending what felt like the entire afternoon in the oven, I finally got this.

and this.

They were a hit with my family. They were almost TOOOOOO rich for me - I needed a glass of milk or some nice cold vanilla ice cream to go with it, but alas, I had neither. Didn't stop me from eating two, though.

(And it probably wouldn't stop me from eating the entire bowl of raw dough next time. Confession? As much as I love to bake, I can really take or leave completed baked goods. I'm more of a savory person than I am a sweet person...but give me raw cookie dough any day. Salmonella? What's that?)

Friday, September 17, 2010


Too long since I've posted!

Let's start with the bad news. That I've already gone sort-of-public with, on Twitter, and I've known in my heart for a while.

I'm not running the Distance Run this weekend.

I'm very unhappy about it, but the fact is, I let my emotions get the better of me and neglected my training far too much over the month of August. Could I fake it? Probably. But I might actually hurt myself, and I know I'd be disappointed with my performance. I know myself, and the last thing I need is to spend 13 miles ragging on myself for failing to train.

The good news? I still get to hang out with a bunch of blogheads coming into town this weekend for the race!

The BETTER news? The (inadequate) amount of training that I DID do leaves me in a good place. My knee is OK, my endurance is OK, and I'm ready to start training for the Philly Half in November, which I just registered for!

On to the fun stuff. It's been a while since I've posted. Part of it is that this has been an insane week at work, and I just haven't had time. Part of it (the BETTER part) is that it was an equally insane weekend - but I was too busy HAVING FUN. Saturday we made an impromptu decision to have some of my siblings over to watch the Penn State game and make dinner. Sunday we hung out with some friends from law school who I haven't seen in forever. Add to that the cleaning and house-prepping, and the gym-ing and grocery shopping, and BAM! that's a full and fun weekend.

Last Friday (god, has it seriously been that long?) PhillyGuy and I went out to celebrate our anniversary. Yup - Monday marked two.freakin'.years since we got all dolled up and said "yup, you're the one" in front of our friends and family.

To celebrate, PhillyGuy made us reservations at R2L, a restaurant at the top of Two Liberty. We started with a drink at the bar while they got our table ready -- and he managed to snag us a very private, corner table that looked out over the Western part of the city.

Frankly, I expected this place to be decent food and all ambiance. I was blown AWAY - it far exceeded my expectations. We started with a braided loaf of pretzel bread while we perused our menus.

Appetizers were bacon-wrapped scallop potstickers and crisp cheese risotto.

Risotto balls might be up there with the greatest decadent treat inventions.

We split a bottle of wine with dinner. After seeing Murphy-Goode Liar's Dice zinfandel on Jenna's blog so many times, I was very excited to see it on the wine list. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the world's worst picture of a delicious bottle of wine:

PhillyGuy also had french onion soup. The presentation was fun, but the soup itself was pretty "meh."

We also split two entrees. The veal, served five ways - including a meatloaf, a brisket, tenderloin, sweetbread and a gravy - tossed with potatoes:

and the halibut, seared and served over a smoky corn salad:

Un.Be.Lieve.Able. I can't pick a favorite, but I guess I'm leaning towards the halibut? Or maybe the veal? Or the risotto...GAH I DON'T KNOW.

I ended with a cappuccino, and we shared two dessert plates.

I love artistic foam! Beignets (which were actually a variety of fried pastries, including donuts, beignets, and an apple fritter) and a trio of dipping sauces:

and the "Cinnamon Toast Crunch." you had me at "donut ice cream."

I would HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend this place for a swanky night out. The view was amazing, the ambiance was fun (if a little slick), but the food far surpassed my expectations.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering what we did on our ACTUAL anniversary?

Sweet Lucy's BBQ in the northeast.

I may love me some sweetbreads and cappuccino, but ribs and messy, vinegary Carolina BBQ sauce is where it's REALLY at for me.