Kickin’ Up Route 66

After Vegas, we headed down to the Grand Canyon. Um, wow.

GCGrand Canyon

Yep, we went there. We stuck around til the sun went down, and saw one of the most beautiful night skies on the planet. Sadly, I’m not skilled enough in photography to have captured it, but this is the idea:

stars

We didn’t see a whole lot of wildlife on this trip, but one thing we did see was…. Elk. One one of the heavily populated walkways at the Grand Canyon, a big ol’ Elk was just hanging out, people-watching. At night as we drove through the Coconino National Forest en route to Flagstaff, we had to slow down twice for Elk crossing the road.

Flagstaff was FREEZING. Seriously, between the cold and the reindeer I could have sworn we were at the North Pole.

For breakfast, we decided to warm up at Brandy’s, a wonderful local restaurant and bakery that was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. What a place! Just a small hole in the wall place with great people and absolutely delicious food. The best pancake of my life. And the best pumpkin spice latte I’ve ever had. I ordered a chipotle scrambler (eggs, chipotle, cheddar, and a tortilla). James had eggs and a pancake. Oh. my. gosh. I would almost move to Flagstaff just to be close to this place.


Brandy's
Brandy's insidePumpkin Spice LatteChorizo Scrambler
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

And with our stomachs full, we hopped in our car and headed for the Pacific!

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Celebrating Family

We have so much to be thankful for this year. We’re finally married, we’re finally together in our perfect little house, and we’re finally living the life we’ve always dreamed of. I never thought life would be this beautiful.

November morning at home

November morning at our home in Maryland

One of the biggest things we are thankful for this November is our enormously huge family. Each of us brought roughly 30 first cousins with us into this marriage, along with dozens of aunts and uncles. We love our new family more than anything. We’re looking forward to celebrating this with our second annual Day-After-Thanksgiving Christmas Movie Night.

Last year, we rounded up the cousins/aunts/uncles. Everyone brought their leftover desserts from Thanksgiving (which was a LOT of food).  I made my mom’s apple cider and my Italian grandmother’s Pastorelli cookies, both of which were a big hit with James’s family. The movie list? We went with family favorites: Charlie Brown’s Christmas and Elf.

It was the most fun I have ever had at a party that I was hosting. It was simple to put together and tons of fun for all involved. We can’t wait to do it again this year!

Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes

We’re finally MARRIED!! James and I tied the knot on June 1. After a beautiful wedding and a fabulous honeymoon on St. Thomas, we came home and had our first week in our house together. Pure euphoria is what inspired this breakfast from our first Saturday morning in our new home.

blueberry pancakes

I started with the standard Better Homes and Gardens cookbook recipe for regular pancakes (not buttermilk). It’s actually a pretty runny recipe on its own. Once you have that batter, add:

1 1/2 cup ricotta cheese

zest of 1 lemon

1 pint of blueberries

First mix in the ricotta and lemon, then gently folded in the blueberries. Cook them on a griddle at medium heat for about 4 minutes on each side. Serve immediately.

Zen, yo.

The other night, James and I decided to try the new(ish) Zen Asian Grill and Sushi in Burtonsville. James had been resisting for a while because they market themselves as a sushi joint. He doesn’t do raw.

I looked online, and it turns out they do some standard Chinese American dishes as well. Once future hubby knew he would be able to eat, he agreed to come.

The first thing you see when you walk in the door is a glittering waterfall. Love it. All at once I was whisked away to a mountain pagoda in some nondescript Asian locale.

We were greeted by a host of smiling faces, and quickly seated. The decor was absolutely amazing. Zen all the way. Open, yet warm and cozy. Whoever designed it was a genius. It didn’t feel like Burtonsville. It felt like Georgetown, or Dupont Circle, or Bethesda. It was like going downtown without the traffic.

The menu was fairly large, considering the size of the establishment, but everything looked as though it belonged. I was very hungry when I arrived, so I quickly picked two items off the very long sushi list. Baltimore roll and California roll. Ok, stop laughing at me. They had a lot of lovely looking, more “authentic” choices, but I wasn’t feeling very adventurous, and I was going to have to eat everything myself since James isn’t a sushi sharer. By the way, he ordered sweet and sour chicken along with chicken fried rice.

Dinner was almost over when I remembered to take a picture. I was lost in the moment. :)

Dinner was almost over when I remembered to take a picture. I was lost in the moment. 🙂

Extremely yummy. I mean it was delicious. I’ll have to go sample more of the menu to give you a more comprehensive review, but everything I tasted was delicious. The feel of this place is the real reason to go, however. It’s a great date location, if you’re interested.

The Cheese Log Ratings:
Food: 4.5 cheeses
Atmosphere: 5 cheeses
Service: 5 cheeses
Date-worthyness: 4.5 cheeses
Would I return: DEFINITELY! Can’t wait!!

How to Teach a Man to Cook

Before I met him, James’s cooking expertise extended to frozen pizzas and scrambled eggs. Yesterday, I came home to the sweet comforting smell of a whole chicken simmering in the slow cooker. I took a deep breath and thanked God for giving me such an awesome man to marry. He made it all by himself, and it was perfect.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been emailing him 4-step directions for making barbecue chicken thighs, tilapia, and baked salmon. He’s done an awesome job with all of them. A+.

That’s the secret really. Clear and direct directions. Don’t blabber. Tell him where the pans are located. Draw a picture of which way the chicken is supposed to face. And let him do it.

I’m so excited. Either tonight or tomorrow, we’re making chicken soup. And soon, maybe even tonight, I’ll teach him how to sauté. I can’t wait to see him this evening! Amazing how the level of my happiness is directly related to the amount of time I spend in cooking-related activities. It’s going to be an awesome weekend!

Aside

“Put Some Windex On It”

I hate going to the doctor. I always have.

Recently, I had the dreadful situation of having an afternoon appointment with a doctor in downtown Chevy Chase, not far from the DC line. Dreadful because an afternoon appointment gives me more time to revel in my nervous shakes.

On this day, I left work early enough to find lunch on my way down Rockville Pike. I stopped at Mykonos Grill, which looked so inviting with its sidewalk tables surrounded by a white picket fence and twirling vines. I had never eaten alone at a restaurant, but now was the time to try something new. Feeling like myself, I entered the building.

“One, please.”

“To go?”

“No, I’d like to write.”

“Oh! Right away, of course. Where would you like to sit?”

The wonderfully friendly hostess let me choose any of the pretty tables I wanted. This is the view that I chose:

Instantly, I was lifted out of my misery. After ordering, I pulled out my favorite notebook and pen. I felt like a real writer. No, I didn’t break any serious literary ground, but I enjoyed acting the part.

It was an inspiring meal. Being alone and loving variety, I only ordered appetizers: tzatziki and pita, spanakopita, and spinach stuffed mushrooms. All at once I was whisked away from the stifling tense mess of Rockville pike. I was sitting on an island in Greece, soaking in the warm Mediterranean sun. All my worries were gone, and I was myself, writing, dreaming, and thrilled.

The food was delicious, but the real reason to come to Mykonos Grill is the inviting atmosphere and the wonderful people. This wannabe writer will be returning for the instant teleportation to a sweeter, warmer place.

Italian Market Adventure

This weekend, my fiancé and I went to Philadelphia. We both love it. He’s a huge fan of the Philadelphia Soul (Arena Football), I love colonial history, and we both love cheesesteaks. So of course, Philadelphia has a special place in our hearts.

This weekend, our excuse to drive 3 hours to Philly was a Soul game on Friday night. Saturday, we spent the better part of the day roaming around South Philly and the 9th Street Italian Market.

Di Bruno Brothers, 9th Steet

May I just say that for the first time in my life, I was sad I had eaten a huge hotel breakfast? This place smelled AMAZING. So much cheese, meat, pasta, olives, sausage, you name it. After about 5 seconds, I was fantasizing about moving to Philly and shopping here every morning, then going home to our cute historic row house and making dinner for James.

South Philly Row House

In one of the shops, I ran into the longest spaghetti I’ve ever seen. It was about 2 feet long in the package, but it had been folded before it was dried, so each strand was about 4 feet long. Then, for the first time in my life, I came across Candelone pasta- tubular pasta about 1 inch in diameter, and (again) 2 feet long.

I was starstruck. Right away I picked it up and said “I’m buying this.” James laughed at me and said “How are you going to cook it?” “I don’t care, I’ll find a way,” I said. “Even if i have to boil water in the bathtub.”

my souvenir

Luckily, I didn’t have to use the bathtub. In a pot of water with a serious, rolling boil, the spaghetti softened up and shrunk down in about 20 seconds.

It was delicious. I love Philly. Next time I’m going to bring a cooler, a lot of ice, and come home with a serious supply of cheese and sausage as well. We actually did have a cooler with us this trip, but we were planning on spending the rest of the day out around town and didnt want to chance losing the meat. It’s ok though. There will definitely be a next time!