2014 Summer Bucket List {check-in time}

My summer will unofficially end in two weeks.  It seems like the unofficially start of summer was just yesterday.  That means that I have two weeks to complete my 2014 Summer Bucket List.

This post is a check-in.  I need to know what exactly I have to accomplish before the end of August 29th.  Because once the Pirates kick-off on August 30th, my summer is over.

Use fresh herbs from the garden as much as possible, especially in cocktails.  CHECK!

I have been so good about using all the produce in the garden this year.  I have started to give away some tomatoes but I’m also eating them by the handful.  Hopefully our fall garden does well and I won’t have to say goodbye to homegrown produce just yet.  Look at my spinach growing (below) – I can’t wait to be able to make huge salads for lunch right from my backyard.

Read five books.  The One and Only by Emily Griffin is on the list.

I am almost finished with Save the Date and I know this will be finished before the weekend is over.  I’ve also read Wild, Fault in Our Stars and Ladies’ Night.  I better purchase The One and Only pretty fast since I only have two weeks left of summer.

Take a last minute weekend trip with Big Guy.  We’re not spontaneous enough in life. CHECK!

Probably the most fun item to check off the list.  I will never forget our weekend in Savannah.  In fact, it may be in the top 5 weekends ever.  It was amazing and exactly what we needed this summer.

Experiment with gin.  Because I can put cucumbers and mint in my drink with gin. CHECK!

I’ve tried a couple of recipes with gin and I’ve also ventured out and ordered a gin cocktail a few times this summer.  It’s so refreshing!

Make homemade ice cream.  Twice. CHECK!

Plan our next BIG vacation. 

This is currently in the works.  2015 is going to be amazing when it comes to us and traveling.

Enjoy cookouts gatherings with friends. CHECK!

We’ve enjoyed everything from double-dates to brunches to a girls weekend at the beach.  We even have a fun night planned with friends for tonight.  We have some of the best friends here and we always have a blast.

Make a trashy and/or gourmet hot dog and call it dinner.

This is totally happening on Sunday and I am more excited than should be allowed.

Plan a fun weekend with family at our house. CHECK!

While we never had a huge group at our house, we did manage to have my parents in town one weekend and then my sister another weekend.  We were also blessed to spend some time with family at OIB last month.

  

So here’s my to-do list for the next two weeks:

Read.

Finalize a few vacation plans for 2015.

Eat a hot dog.

That’s the most fun (and random) to-do list I’ve ever had.

What I’ve been reading lately.

Let me catch you up on some books I’ve recently finished.  And I promise lots of killer recipes coming your way – including one crock-pot dinner that’s will please anyone sitting at your table and a vegetarian soup/stew that Big Guy went crazy over.

I have to be honest – I’m not sure where I left off with my book recommendations so forgive me if I repeat myself.

Take an instantly recognizable social dilemma—attending a wedding alone—add a good laugh (and maybe a cry), and meet The Singles, the warm and witty debut by Boston Globe “Love Letters” columnist Meredith Goldstein.

Beth “Bee” Evans’s first vow as a bride is that everyone on her list be invited to bring a guest to her lavish, Chesapeake Bay nuptials. When Hannah, Vicki, Rob, Joe, and Nancy one by one decline Bee’s generous offer, the frustrated bride dubs them the “Singles,” adrift on her seating chart as well as in life.  -Amazon Book Description

I enjoyed reading this book.  It’s not in my “top 10″ but it was an easy read and got me through a few steady cardio sessions at the gym.  I found myself getting some of the characters confused but overall, a good read.

What do you do when you’ve just graduated from college and aren’t sure what your next step should be? Jenna Weber, whose Eat, Live, Run blog has a huge following, turned to culinary school–but to become a food writer, not a chef. Jenna’s charming coming-of-age story follows her ups-and-downs as she confronts the rigors of training, gets her first job, deals with a family crisis, and enters into a love affair.
-Amazon Book Description

I adored this book.  It took me 3 days to finish!  I’ve been following Jenna’s blog for years now and I simply love her style of writing and the recipes she shares with her readers.  This book is honest and not full of fluff.  I want to go to culinary school after reading her book.  The best part about reading this book – it doesn’t have to end once the book ends…you can keep up with her on the blog!

I’m currently trying to decide what book to read next!

I do have my eye on a book that comes out April 23th – it will definitely be a honeymoon read!  Which is fitting…

Lottie is still licking her wounds from a failed relationship when Ben, an old flame, calls and reminds her of their pact to get married if they were both still single at 30. She jumps at the chance, and after a quick march to the altar, they are Ikonos-bound, for a honeymoon on the sun-drenched Greek island where they first met years ago. But the Gods — and a few friends — are trying hard to save them from what they see as a catastrophic mistake.

Have you read any good books lately?

Finally Friday Favorites.

All week I’ve been one day ahead…meaning yesterday was supposed to be Friday in my mind, but it wasn’t.  But it is today!  Hurray.

Here are my favorites for the week:

Favorite Fake-out:  How cute are these sand dollar cookies on a bed of brown sugar?!?!?!

Favorite Beach Accessory:  Speaking of sand, I want need these wine glass and bottle holders.  Now if only I could get Big Guy over his hatred of sand…

Favorite Must-Read:  I love all things food-related.  So of course I’m a fan of Top Chef and want to read Gail Simmons biography.  I would love to be a professional eater.  Just sayin’.

Favorite Dog:  And I don’t even like animals…

Favorite Pizza Combo:  Butternut squash, sage, goat cheese, prosciutto. 

Favorite “Splash” of color:  leopard with bright yellow

Favorite Addition to Thanksgiving Dinner:  Pumpkin Pie Shot.

And on that “strong” note, I’m out.  HappyFridayGoPirates.

HappyweekendgopiratesTGIF

1.  Cold weather is coming.  Boohiss.

2.  I just finished reading One Day.  Now I need to see the movie.

3.  Speaking of movies, I really want to see Bridesmaids.  I’m determined to make this happen on Sunday.

  4.  Other things on the agenda for Sunday…carving pumpkins!

5.  Big Guy loves carving pumpkins.

6.  Big Guy also loves these muffins.  Sour Cream Chocolate Chip muffins. They were super simple to make.  According to Big Guy, they’re best when served warm.

7.  Speaking of treats, I think I’m going to make these for the tailgate tomorrow.

8.  More sweet talk…there’s a new fro-yo place in town!  I went with a few of the girls Wednesday night and had fro-yo for dinner.  Yum.

9.  See, we do more than “read” books and drink wine. ;)

10.  I just started Sarah’s Key. 

11.  HappyweekendgopiratesTGIF!!!!!!!!!

Oh.My.Waffle.

1.  It’s National Waffle Day.  Of course I celebrated.

2.  TJs Wheat-Free Waffles are my new favorite thing.  Waffles, you see, are my true breakfast love.  I like ‘em crunchy on the outside.  And a plop of almond butter doesn’t hurt either.

3.  Did I mention it’s Friday?  Well it is.  And I have a date tonight.  And you’re not invited (well, you are Big Guy).

4.  The nutty noodles are even better leftover.  And cold.

5.  I started reading Hush last night.  I love it because it’s already got my attention and I want to keep reading but I hate it because there are typos left and right.  Where’s your editor?

6.  We’re “co-hosting” a paarrrr-taaaay on Saturday night.  Wanna get leid?

7.  I had a very disturbing dream last night.  Thankfully waffles make everything right in the world.

8.  29 days ’til Pirate football.

9.  Is Meat Head home from Aruba?

10.  Let’s get this party started.

picture from centurynovelty.com


Noodles and Books

Let’s talk food first.  (P.S. I almost called this post “Double O” because “noodle” and “book” both have “oo.”  Lord help me I’m random.)

Food.  Noodles with Asian Vegetables and Peanut Sauce.  

You’ll need bok choy.

I’ve never cooked with bok choy.  Well, until now.

Gather the rest of your veggies.  Snow peas and carrots.

Instead of Udon noodles, I used brown rice spaghetti pasta from TJs.  These noodles get 5 out of 5 stars.  They didn’t fall apart in the water and I loved the “chewy” texture once cooked.  Way to go, Joe. 

Now let’s get saucy.  Water, PB (I’m against reduced-fat PB, they take away good fat and add sugar – stick with the full-fat PB – or any nut butter for that matter), brown shhhhuga, soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, sesame oil (so fragrant!), cornstarch, chili paste and gaaaahhhhlic (I went with 3 cloves).

Simply whisk all of the saucy ingredients together, bring to a boil and whisk for one minute.  It thickens up, kids.

That’s it!  Add the sauce to the noodles and veggies and dinner is ready.  (Note:  I added the bok choy to the noddles during the last 30 seconds of boiling.)

Noodle Bowl.  A super sticky noodle bowl.  Deeeelicious.  And of course, my little toucan chop sticks.  Love those things.  They make eating fun.  Wait, eating is always fun.

Let’s talk books now.

I just finished this last week:

 

I love Jennifer Weiner’s books.  This one was no exception.  It was an easy read and kept me wanting to read more.  I found myself saying, “one more chapter and then stop” and then I would still be reading three chapters later.

Last night I finished this:

This cover of this book cracks me up.  In no way did I read this for political reasons.  I simply think Tina Fey is funny and I heard this book was a hoot.  And it is.  I was reading it while ellipticaling away a few mornings ago and I found myself laughing out loud.  “Absolutely delicious.” – a guy that eats books

I finished this book in about 4 days and if you need a laugh or two, I recommend this book.

Sooooo, what are you reading these days?

And I want a nook.

 

Another “single-girl” dinner.

I finally snapped a picture of one of my latest “single-girl” dinners.  And this one is actually worth making for yourself and someone else, if you so please.  Or you can be like me and eat this “single-girl” dinner while watching The Real Housewives of Orange County (or New Jersey).  I can’t hide it – those two shows are my guilty pleasure when Big Guy’s out-and-about.

A plate of deliciousness.  Bottom layer:  arugula (home-grown, might I add).  On top of that:  quinoa (1/4 cup dry cooked with 1/2 cup agua).  Then a layer of red peppers.  Lots of red peppers.  I sauteed the red peps with a little onion.  I also love onion.  Feel free to leave out of the onion if you’re scared.  Then we have a sprinkle of Parmesan.  Nice and salty.  Oops – I forgot to mention the fresh cilantro I threw on this plate.  Finally we have guacamole.  My new obsession.  I lied – the finally touch was fresh cracked black pepper.  This was super filling, super fresh and super yum-worthy.

Another thing I like to do when Big Guy’s away?  Read.  I just finished Nora Roberts’ The Bride Quartet.   I really enjoyed this series.  Very easy to read and I want Vows (their business) to plan my wedding some day.

penguingroup.com

And up next, Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang.  I can guarantee this will be highly inappropriate yet highly amusing.  Just what our book club needs.

bn.com

Weekend excitement:  Smokey and BQ are going on a little road trip!!!!

What books are you currently reading?