Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Time MARCHes on...

So my title might be a little silly, but I just didn't feel like making it March Update. :) This was a good month with lots of time spent with good friends, many new recipes and other than twinges of pain now and then from extended standing no sciatic pain. Praise the Lord! We did our taxes this month and while I still trust and believe that God is in control, we were a bit tested when we realized that not only would we not be getting any money back, we actually owe a quite significant sum. There was some crying and reorganizing of finances and rescheduling of plans. The biggest issue was that we just won't be able to have the finances or the time (due to all my time off for sciatica) to take our planned trip to see Josh's family. We were quite sad about this as it had been something we looked forward to, but it won't be able to happen at this point. However, Josh's brother was able to visit while in CA for a conference and we truly enjoyed the opportunity to spend an evening with him - eating at Claim Jumper and Cherry on Top and driving around town looking at houses. The conversation was really great and I know Josh especially loved seeing his brother even for the short amount of time. Hopefully, Josh will be able to take a trip out to visit his mom later this year, though it may not be possible for me to join him. We'll have to see what our finances and vacation time looks like this summer or later. We celebrated Josh's birthday with a few fun things. The family went to lunch at his favorite taco place Taco Bender and we all enjoyed the delicious tacos, spicy hot sauce and crushed ice! He was able to take his actual birthday off from work and chose to make his own birthday dinner which was full of family favorites - tacos, chili relleno casserole, ortega rice and banana split cake. He was happily surprised to find that our close friends had finished paying off a 20-volume series of history books he had been making payments on for several months. He also received an electric screwdriver which he's been wanting, several Disney films and an updated DC Comics encyclopedia and a Star Wars encyclopedia. This month also included my best friends's birthday and I was thrilled to finally be able to give her the present I had made in February - a photo book from Snapfish which included photos of us from the beginnings of our friendship to now, scanned pictures of old notes from high school, letters and cards through the years and many quotes and stories of our friendship. She loved the book and we had a wonderful evening celebrating that included a fun art project. I had read about the idea of making a vision board, like a collage, that has words and images that are meaningful to you torn out of magazines and pasted onto 16 x 20 stretched canvases. We spent several hours on this project and ended up with very personal artwork that was a lot of fun and inspirational for both of us. We had the opportunity to see what it would be like to add a dog to our home when my parents went out of town for a week and we decided to keep their dog Belle at our house instead of just checking on her twice a day at their house. Belle is about 11 years old, a Jack Russel terrier mix and very sweet. She's already used to cats since my parents also have 2 cats, so she wasn't very disturbed by our three cats. However, our cats HATED her! None of them ever really adjusted to her - Cyrano and Talia basically hid upstairs most of the week and would hiss and puff up anytime they ran into Belle. Marilyn mostly ignored Belle and even sat on my lap to sleep in the evenings even though Belle was usually sleeping next to me on the couch - I think her lack of hearing helped her to be less intimidated. Belle did great all week and though it was obvious she missed home, she seemed comfortable with us and never had any accidents or problems. I'm not sure we'd add a dog of our own anytime soon since the cats are still adjusting to her being gone but at least we know it would work out fairly well. :) I did a LOT of cooking this month and tried many new recipes. My cousin had posted a recipe for Jacques Torres' chocolate chip cookies that uses dark chocolate and adds a hit of sea salt on the top and I'd been wanting to try it for quite awhile, but you have to let the batter chill overnight and I wanted to get this special 5 salt set from Cost Plus that I've been eyeing for months. I mixed up the batch one Friday evening and made myself wait until the next afternoon before baking up 2 dozen - 1 tray with French Fleur de Sel and 1 tray with Australian Murray River pink sea salt. The cookies were amazing and surprisingly I loved the Ausstralian salt topped cookies better which I think was due to the light flaky nature of the salt. The remaining batter was baked up on Sunday using all pink salt and they were a big hit with Josh and some of my coworkers. For St. Patrick's Day I wanted to make something Irish-like and found a recipe for Guinness Onion Soup with Cheddar toasts by Michael Chiarello. While I followed the basic recipe for the soup, I decided to adjust the toasts by adding a smear of Irish herb butter and thinly sliced Corned beef along with the Irish cheddar before broiling them open-faced. It was a quite tasty dinner and something I'd probably make again. Melissa d'Arabian has quickly become one of my all-time favorite chefs on Food Network since her food is fairly simple, French-inspired and always delicious. I tried several of her recipes and almost all were a big hit. An super easy recipe was for Garlic Spaghetti and Josh and I both really loved this vegetarian and delicious dinner. When a former student worker came to visit for dinner, I made her Mustard Chicken with Noodles and it was so delicious and made plenty for our meal as well as leftovers for three. I also served her Roast Carrots and Radishes and while I found the carrots perfectly delicious, none of us were fans of the taste of roasted radish. But it was something to try, and now we know we just like them raw and salted on buttered bread! :) I've been trying to read more this month and read seven books including Pioneer Woman's new love story Black Heels to Tractor Wheels which was great, a Wuthering Heights inspired novel called Here on Earth which I liked a lot though I disagreed with the interpretation of Heathcliff's character, and I started reading Francine River's series called Lineage of Grace which tells the story of the five women listed in the the geneaology of Christ and it has been wonderful so far. I also was able to watch the film version of Phantom of the Opera and it was really great and the music is still in my head weeks after watching.

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