Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fun Times in NYC/CT/Jersey City

The first week of our trip has flown by! We've seen so many friends and had mostly great experiences. 

The first two nights, we stayed with my friend Jen on the upper east side. We spent a day at the MET, and we got to see her and friends Corley and Max. On our second night in NYC, I came down with a terrible case of food poisoning, but thankfully, Jen is a fourth year med student and she was able to put all of her knowledge to work. I had to be a trooper because we needed to get to CT. 

I had been sick all morning, but a cab ride, and two trains later, we were in CT to see Annie's play. Annie is Brendan's sister and she did a fabulous job as Essie in the Kate Theater's production of You Can't Take it With You. The next day Brendan's parents hosted a lovely gathering and we were able to see lots of friends and family. Brendan's mom ordered adorable engagement cupcakes for us. My friend Rita came in from Boston for the day, and it was super great to see her. 

The following day, we were off! We left some clothes at Brendan's parent's house to lighten our load. A car ride, two trains, a subway, and a path train, and a couple of walks later, we were with friends Peggy and Eric in Jersey City, NJ (Very close to NYC). We had amazing pizza for dinner, and I definitely was like "why don't we live here?" The food around here is SO good. We also went to the marina to watch the sun set over the city skyline. Incredible. The next day, I went to a bridal show with my friend Lauren, and finally was able to meet her fiance, Steve (I am in their wedding in October). After the bridal show, we met up with about 10 friends. Brendan was able to meet everyone, so that was great. Yesterday, we walked around the city (Union Square, The new park "the high line," and Chelsea Piers--I was tired).  Then, last night, my friend Melissa came in from NJ and a group of us saw Batman at the i-max dome theater. It is restaurant week here in Jersey City, so today we had a fabulous lunch. Not sure what is up for tonight, but I wanted to write and say we've been having a great time. Tomorrow, we leave for D.C.! I'll have to post pictures of everything when we come home. 

Traveling is one of my favorite things. I'm just enjoying seeing everyone and absorbing all of these experiences. I know we won't always have this much energy, so we're doing these crazy trips while we can! 
<3 S, B, and (Still with "the grandparents" in Austin L&Z)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Packed & Ready

We're all checked in for our flight, and ready to go in the AM.

I even have a new pair of flats to sport on the trip, much to Brendan's satisfaction.
Thanks Erica for the Modcloth birthday gift card :)

How do you fit outfits, shoes, and stuff for 2.5 weeks in NYC, Connecticut, Washington DC, Boston, and a weeks worth of clothes for Maine, along with dress clothes for a black tie wedding into two carry ons?

I have no idea, but I know you can cram everything in if you are motivated enough to not pay a $25.00 bag fee. You fill your allotted plastic bag with travel size bathroom stuff (and you ask your fiance pretty please can you have some of his plastic bag space too?) And you plan on doing laundry. You also cram your purse into your backpack. (Note: Brendan has two of his own carry ons too). The laptop was too much superfluous weight, so whether I update or not depends on if I find a computer to use, but I promise to post pictures from the trip when we return.

Lola and Zoe quickly forgave me for being gone for 10 days and made doing errands today pretty difficult (between the two of them, one of them wants to be in my lap 24/7). I LOVE my cats, and the hardest part of traveling is having to leave them for long stretches, but at least I know they are being well cared for!

We're totally excited for our big adventure. Wish us safe travels!

<3 S, B, L&Z

PS-We received a sneak peek of our engagement session over at Amy Kate Photography's blog. Click here to see it. We love them and look forward to seeing the rest of our photos soon!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Heading Northeast: Our Itinerary

View Larger Map

Tomorrow, Brendan and I leave by car for Austin, TX, where we'll spend two nights before an AM non-stop flight on Wednesday from Austin to NYC. Here is our itinerary:

July 18- Arrive in NYC; super shuttle to the upper East Side to reside with Stacy's friend Jen for two nights (and celebrate because she'll have just passed a big exam--Jen is in med school).
July 19-At some point today we'll see Max, our friend from grad school.
July 20-Leaving Jen's and catching a train to CT, where we'll see Brendan's sister, Annie, perform as Essie in You Can't Take it With You. 
July 21-Hanging out with friends & family in CT
July 22-Back to the city by train, Jersey City that is, to reside with friends Peggy and Eric (and maybe Steve and Lauren too).
July 23-Lauren and Stacy to the Bridal extravaganza and dinner with Stacy's friends from college.
July 24/25- Just going into the city and being awesome basically.
July 26-Brendan's family will pick us up in by car and take us to Washington, D.C., for the wedding weekend of Becky and Jack (Brendan's cousin). The bachelor and bachelorette party is tonight!
July 27-Being in D.C., hoping to meet up with Stacy's friend (from Midland) Heather, who just moved to the area.
July 28-The wedding!
July 29-Back to CT
July 30-Good times in CT--maybe I'll get to do some laundry?!
July 31-To Boston, MA for the Red Sox game with Brendan's Aunt Carol and Uncle John. It will be cool to see my first pro baseball game during the 100 year anniversary of Fenway Park.
August 1-Back to CT, staying here for a few days!
August 4-Headed to Wayne, Maine, for a week of swimming, kayaking, cooking, blueberry picking, and falling asleep to the sounds of the loons.
August 11-Flight back to ATX (unfortunately not non-stop, Maine>Boston>New York>Austin)
August 12-Drive back to Midland with the cats!
August 13-Wake up and discover it was all a dream?

We'd like to thank everyone who generously offered us a place to stay! I'll be blogging intermittently, but we'll be completely "off the map" in Maine (which is the whole point of Maine). We'd also like to thank my parents for taking care of the cats for 5 weeks!

Time to pack!
<3 S&B

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Stacy's Favorite BBQ Baked Tofu

Well, Brendan and I have made BBQ Tofu many times, using many different methods. I think we just can't agree on what the best way is, so I'm going to share my favorite and then do a separate post on his favorite.

My favorite is by far the easiest method. It's a recipe that's so easy, I cannot even call it a recipe, however, it's my blog, so I can call it whatever I want!

I recommend using "Firm" tofu.

This is my method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Press your Tofu by draining the package, setting your tofu on a plate, putting another plate on top, and putting a heavy book on top of the top plate. Doing this for 20 minutes allows the liquid to drain.

Cut the tofu into 4 square pieces.

Then, take a paper towel in your hands, put the tofu square in, fold paper towel, and give tofu a little squeeze to remove any remaining liquid.

Put the four squares in a baking dish (or use 2 baking dishes if they will not all fit) and cover them with BBQ sauce. If store bought BBQ sauce wasn't so good, maybe I would have been motivated to make my own, but I just use store bought, and usually a variety of 2 or 3 kinds just for the flavors. Make sure to turn your tofu over, and get all the surfaces really, well, saucy!

Bake the tofu at 350 degrees for one hour. Serve with your favorite side dishes, like so:

BBQ Baked Tofu, shown here topped with chili and served with steamed green beans and rosemary boiled potatoes.

Total Prep and Cook Time- 1 hour, 20 minutes (however, most of that time the tofu is either pressing or in the oven, so it's very easy).
Deliciousness Factor: 4.5 out of 5 stars (Brendan says 4, I say 5). I prefer tofu baked, I just love the texture of it. I think this would be a great recipe to use to introduce kids or other tofu novices to eating tofu. The tofu just soaks up the BBQ sauce and tastes great. It's packed with protein and just darn healthy and tasty.

In other kitchen news:

Things I learned from organizing my pantry: We never need to buy rice again. Seriously, we have probably 12 different kinds. Also, if you ever want to come over for tea, we have 12 different kinds of that too. Pantry organization was pretty quick and fun though, and better yet, now we actually know everything we have (and more importantly, we can find it). 

Also, check out this amazing engagement present that came in the mail today from our friend Erica

A personalized cutting board! "From the Kitchen of Stacy, Brendan, Lola & Zoe." Needless to say, we love it! A really nice cutting board is something we really needed too (Erica had memories of cooking with us using a small plastic cutting board, which yep, we've still be using). This will last forever, and I love that she put the cats' names on! 

The card was so cute too: 

It said, "I couldn't imagine a better pair. Here's to all the chilis, pastas, and stir-frys to come." 

We are pretty floored by all the support our family and friends have shown us. The fridge is covered with cards of congrats. We feel very, very lucky that we have so many wonderful people in our lives. This unexpected present just made us smile :) 

Thanks Erica! 

Here's to you, yours, and your kitchen! 
<3 S, B, (and still content in Austin L&Z--I miss them so much! I hope they remember "home" when they finally come back).

Friday, July 13, 2012

Homemade Biscuits & Gravy

This morning was lovely, with both of us in the kitchen creating a delicious brunch.

Following this recipe from my friend Krista's blog, I made biscuits. They came out so flakey and delicious. I did the recipe exactly as stated, only I used my Kitchenaid mixer, which made the process fast and easy as cake. The only thing different was I found my biscuits needed about 20 minutes in the oven instead of 15-17 minutes.

Brendan made the gravy (and we obviously don't keep bacon around, so his gravy was created like this):

Melted butter on a skillet using medium/low heat setting
added a few tablespoons of flour
stirred in some milk (a few tablespoons)
cracked some pepper into the mix
and added a little bit of salt

Biscuits and Gravy 
He also cooked eggs and made us some Morningstar vegetarian "sausage." I prefer my biscuits with jelly (and used the peach mimosa kind we bought at the farmer's market), but I had a taste of his gravy and it was good. 

Brunch, a great way to start the day! 
Brendan said, "Will you make me biscuits every morning?!" I love using that mixer so much, I just might! 

We are making BBQ Tofu for dinner tonight, and I feel guilty because we've made that like 5+ times, and I keep promising you the recipe and need to get it on here. We've been perfecting it! Also, we have a recipe for Fried Eggplant with Tomatoes, which we will also get on here soon.

Well, it was a lovely morning. We've both been reflecting on how wonderful this summer has been. We have had so much time to just be together and enjoy being newly engaged. We're also being productive: yesterday we cleaned both closets and took a backseat full to Goodwill, and today we'll sort through the pantry and try to get it better organized. Plus, we went to the gym everyday Monday-Thursday (it isn't open Friday-Sunday, but there are always free online workout videos).

I hope all of you can get some much needed time this weekend to do the things that matter to you.

<3 S, B, (and a still with their grandparents L&Z)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Homemade Pizza & Rain

Today was a special day. We opened our Kitchenaid Mixer and made homemade pizza dough! Essentially, we followed this recipe from our dear friend Krista's blog (a regular must read by the way, her recipes are great and there are always step by step instructions with pictures).

The only things that were changed were based on the tools we had. We disolved the yeast in 1 cup of warm water first in the mixing bowl...we used speed 2 and the dough hook attachment to mix the ingredients...then we took the dough out, kneaded it, made it into a ball, and left it covered for about 2 hours so the dough would rise (we went to the gym in the meantime). 

With the delicious sauce recipe, we cooked everything as instructed, and then used the food processor to blend the sauce. It was so delicious, and as promised, we had enough for leftovers. We LOVED our pizza, which we served with mozzarella cheese (made at HEB), tomatoes (farmer's market), and basil. Thoughts for next time: we might aim for thinner crust and we might use all white flour (instead of mixing white and wheat--a texture thing, not a taste thing). Overall, we were very pleased with our first pizza making experience. No disasters (unless you count a broken pizza wheel-no biggie). 

We served our pizza with farmer's market fresh salad: lettuce, lemon cucumber (I love them!), and fresh tomatoes. Enjoy the pictures from our pizza success: 

The dough (we put it in the oven about 3 minutes before adding the sauce and cheese) and sauce (pre-blended). 

Brendan, all smiles over the final product. 

Close up, final product. 

Eating greens daily is one of our newest commitments. 

As we were making the pizza, we actually got rain. It has smelled like rain all day; I love that smell. Wish we had gotten more though! 

A few random thoughts: 

  • I miss my cats so much! Even though I know leaving them was best for them, it's weird being at home without them. 
  • I keep checking my email hoping maybe the engagement photos will be ready. No such luck yet. 
  • I watched this documentary and stayed up until 3am last night reading oral histories about this place. It was a haunting movie, and I'll never forget it. The older I get, the more empathy I develop, as I realize what a complex place our country is and how many factors have and continue to shape it. Empathy is the number one thing I try to teach my students (besides writing, obviously). Trying to see the world from a different perspective than the shoes you're standing in is essential if we're all to survive together. This is definitely something I developed over time. 
  • I love summer...setting our own schedule and also having plenty of time to just think is really making me feel like a much saner person. I'm enjoying it while I can. 
  • Today, we unpacked and did laundry...and we're leaving it all folded on the guest bed, so we can re-pack it basically (we leave for Austin on Monday and fly from there to NYC a week from tomorrow). As Brendan said, "This is our life!" 
  • I cleaned out my purse today, and it is weighing about half as much now. Things I found: a million old receipts, membership cards, ticket stubs, lip glosses, groupons, bobby pins, random keys, peanuts and popcorn (Ew), empty medicine bottles, and way too many pens. 
  • The Kitchenaid Mixer is even more awesome than I thought it would be. I felt like such a pro! 
  • This will make you smile. You're welcome :) 
Well, that's all I got for tonight! Happy Tuesday. 

<3 S, B (and a distant but ever-present L&Z)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Farmer's Market Kind of Day

This morning, Brendan and I finally made it to the Midland Farmer's Market. My friend, Heather, had told me not to expect much, but we were hoping to at least get some fresh tomatoes to make this stellar dish. 

We were very pleased with what we found. The market is open on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm, and it is located at 501 Texas. We arrived a little after 10am and would probably go earlier next time, just to see if there is even more for the early birds.

We spent a total of $25.50.

Tomatoes we wanted...

And tomatoes we found! (A whole bunch are under the potatoes--they are red, orange, and yellow, so pretty!). We also scored: potatoes, several types of peppers, and onions.

Plus, we found eggplant, corn, cucumber, and lemon cucumber. And a jar of Peach Mimosa jam (not pictured).

The "cherry" on top was this delicious Pecos cantaloupe. We ate some with cottage cheese this afternoon for a healthy, yummy late breakfast:

All of this got me so excited for going to the farmer's market in Maine with Brendan's family later this summer. Until then, I'll just enjoy these local gems!

Happy produce shopping!

<3 S, B (L&Z remained with my parents in Austin...since they are going to stay there while we're gone for 3.5 weeks this summer, we figured it would be better to let them adjust than to have them make two 325 mile car trips in 10 days. We miss our little fur friends! But they are happy with their "grandparents" and being well cared for.)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Husband-to-be and Registry?

Ah the wedding registry, one of the most mystifying parts of the planning process. What do you want? What don't you want? And more importantly, how do you get your husband-to-be involved in helping you decide?

We've basically finished our registries. My motivations for starting so early were simple:
1.) I wanted to finish before we head back to work and work on them while we actually had time to really think about what we want.
2.) One of the stores is not located in Midland, so I wanted to go while we were in Austin.
3.) By picking out things early, I am hoping some of it may go on sale by the time anyone is actually purchasing (I also realize some things may no longer be carried, but we'll deal with that on a case-by-case basis).

This isn't the story about what we chose for our registry or why, but rather, how to involve your fiance in the decision making process. It was really important to me that Brendan likes everything on the registry. After all, it's our registry. I don't want our future home to reflect just my style, but ours. He has okay-ed everything...and here is the story of some of our compromises, or, rules for registry, if you will.

1.) Decide---how much do we really want to put on here? 

One of Brendan's concerns was that we would end up with tons of stuff, and that a lot of it would be stuff we couldn't use for a long time into the future (or things that would take up too much space). We have multiple sets of friends well into their marriages that have yet to open their china or crystal (and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that). However, as Brendan was quick to point out, we live in 964 sq ft. apartment. We definitely compromised about how much we would register for and how big the actual items were...every time we added something, I would think a.) do we have the space? and if not, what are we going to give up to make space?

2.) Ask Family First--What do they wish to pass down?

My dreams of registering for 12 place settings of fine china quickly vanished, and then my mom and Brendan's mom both offered up full sets for when we're ready. Plus, Brendan's mom has a set of silver to give us. These offerings immediately eased my registry worries. We could still choose place settings for everyday, upgrade our flatware...but Brendan was right, we didn't need a new china gravy boat, and I'm glad we investigated before registering for a lot we won't use for several years. 

3.) Scan Gifts That Will Matter

Brendan's mom gave me good advice...she said, a lot of the stuff people put on registries just isn't that special. As a result, we came up with a new question to ask ourselves: "Will this really matter to us?" We tried to make our registries personal. Above all, we tried to fill them with things we could imagine ourselves using and caring about. We tried to pick gifts that we would remember as wedding presents and gifts that would last a long time. Hopefully, we'll even remember who gave us what. I tried not to go too overboard with the monograms, but I can't promise I didn't monogram a bunch...personalizing, right?

4.) Make Room for Each Other's Hobbies 

Brendan really wants to do more camping, and the one thing holding us back has been a lack of gear. We put camping stuff on the registry. I love to entertain, so we asked for some fancy updates like napkins, napkin rings, and place mats (I know some of the stuff I'll have to put aside for a while...until we get a bigger table. Good thing that stuff takes up very little space!)

5.) Find the Things You Know He'll Care About & Let Him Take Over

At first, I was bummed that I couldn't find a ready made spice rack, but then, I realized it was an opportunity for us to pick out our own spices together. I really gave Brendan full control (since he's the one that is adventurous with spices). We picked the rack together, and I read him all the spice names, and he picked the best 12 for what we cook. Any opportunity to let Brendan make choices, I welcome.

6.) Have a Discussion About What Should Be Upgraded

Deciding together what you wish to replace is essential to making both people feel involved. If one of us felt what we had was good enough, we didn't ask for upgrades. We also agreed on a plan for what we would do with the stuff we currently have that we'll be replacing. Trips to Goodwill are in our future, and those will hopefully help out some other area families.

7.) Choose Colors Together

Remember: it's his kitchen, bathroom, and bedding too. Brendan actually had the best idea for everyday place settings. His eye for color is genius.

8.) Go Shopping Together

It sounds obvious, but going to the stores together is essential. We made a fun outing out of examining flatware and choosing a tent. We spaced trips about a month apart so it didn't become a "chore." Registering is more fun and stress free when both people are hands on.

9.) Know Something You Want? Have Him Research To Find the Best One

Brendan spent 30 minutes finding us the ultimate Crock Pot. I wouldn't trust my research (or our kitchen) to anyone else.

10.) Find Out What He's Excited About 

If I hadn't of asked, I would have never known that Brendan was super excited about a cold brew coffee system. Now, it's on the registry. Ask your guy to think about the things he really would like. I bet pretty much everyone could think of at least several gifts they'd love to receive. And I'm looking forward to finding out what makes cold brewed coffee so special.

Well, now you have my 10 tips :)
Happy scanning!
<3 S, B, L&Z

Thursday, July 5, 2012

One Year From Today...

Today is Brendan and I's future anniversary. In exactly one year, we'll be married.

Some people have inquired why we waited so long (13.5 months from becoming engaged) to say "I do." The answer is simple and pretty unexciting: we're both teachers, so we want to get married in the summer when we're both off of work. We have a lot of out of town guests that will need advanced notice (including Brendan's family), and we already had a lot of plans for this summer, so this summer was never on the table. Once we talked to the venue, July 5th is a date that kind of picked us, but I love that we'll always get fireworks for our anniversary :) Plus, having a year to plan isn't a necessity, but it sure helps!

I'm very excited and have checked many wedding related tasks off my list. In addition to all the accomplished tasks I mentioned here, we have now also found a florist, and I purchased my dress. I also found a potential bridesmaid dress, and Brendan and I had our engagement photos taken (we don't have them back yet).

In some ways, the anticipation makes the wait hard, but in most ways, I'm really glad we have a year. I'm ready to enjoy the year and embrace it fully, rather than wishing time away. There is SO much to look forward to this year, and once we're married, I know we'll always have great memories from our engagement year. Plus, I fall in love with Brendan a little more everyday, so just imagine 365 days from now?

I'll definitely talk about the wedding on this blog and have some related posts, as it is a part of my life, but I don't have any plans to make this a "wedding blog." I'm still going to stay dedicated to all the avenues I love to explore like books, recipes, and musings on life. If there is something you're curious about or want to hear about, please drop us a line at

So today, I'm dreaming of the wedding and future anniversaries :) In case you've missed the stories from the last 632 days, here are some links:
One Year with My Best Friend 
The Proposal 

Here's to the next 365 days + the rest of our lives, Brendan. I know I'll appreciate each day a little more because I'll be sharing it with you. I love you. 

<3 S

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Books I Read in June

Happy 4th of July!

It's a good day over here. We just returned from a visit to Houston to see my grandma, and soon, we're headed over to see Elda and enjoy some fireworks.

But before we leave, I'm behind on these book reviews! As you may recall, I didn't read any books in May, and I was feeling pretty guilty about it. So, I made up for it by reading two books in June.

The first book was Swamplandia! by Karen Russell.

I think everyone needs to go read this book. Here's why: Karen Russell writes the most beautiful prose, and still creates an imaginative world and plot driven story. Her young protagonist, Ava Bigtree, is proof against some of the worst writing advice I ever got (that young people are not "fully formed" enough to center a story around). Here's the exciting premise: Ava's family, the owners and alligator wrestlers of Swamplandia!, is falling apart. After her mother's death, her father and siblings try to cope in their own disastrous ways, leaving Ava to rescue them. For Ava, that means forging through a deadly swamp in search of a ghost. Swamplandia! is outstanding. A masterful follow-up read to St. Lucy's Home For Girl's Raised by Wolves. I found the story spellbinding and jaw-dropping. Karen Russell is officially on my list of iconic role models.

The second book was Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

I'm afraid this book has a much narrower market than any I've ever shared on my blog...women who read the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series in their young adulthood will love the throwback. Everyone else...not so much.  The story catches up with Bridget, Lena, Carmen, and Tibby when they are 29 years old. A tragedy changes the course of their friendship and forces them to confront their past mistakes. If it sounds cliche, it is! But it was also a lovely break and a nice, easy summer read. I put it in my pool bag, and I didn't regret it (I'm one of those saps that read all 4 books and cried at both the movies).

Well, I'm sorry for the May hiatus, but I'm back to reading now. I've already finished my first July book (a birthday gift from Brendan), and I'm onto the second book (a birthday gift from my brother). I will look forward to sharing those with you in August!

Before I leave, check out our engagement gift from Brendan's parents that we found on the porch upon arriving back in Austin.

They wrote that we were a "perfect blend" in the card. I was overjoyed! (And I think Brendan's pretty excited too!). Expect more recipes from us soon :) Thanks Sharon and Tim!

Happy reading, and cooking, and 4th of Julying.
<3 S, B, L&Z

Monday, July 2, 2012

Happy July, and Save the Date Crafts

July, July, time is going by! It's hard to believe we have already been on summer break for an entire month. Brendan and I have been in Austin for 10 days, and today, we're taking a short trip to Houston to visit my grandmother. 

Here's what we've been up to:

Hard to decide who is cuter...Brendan, or my Aunt's soon-to-be kitten, Etta? 

It's here, the long awaited Kerbey Lane Summer Tomato menu! Tomato pie? Fried Green tomatoes? Yes! 

Yesterday, we headed to Michael's to pick up some supplies for a save the date craft. We took our engagement photos this morning, and we wanted to bring some props. We bought wood and paint and used a pencil to create an outline, like so:

Then, it was painting time. Brendan told me I had to try and stay in the lines. This was very difficult; I had to concentrate really hard:

We used some white paint to "highlight the letters" (I just followed Brendan's directions), and the result was something like this:

 So there you have it, a cute/fun craft perfect for your engagement pictures. I'm very proud of Brendan: he successfully survived a couple of hours worth of being photographed; he is a great sport :) I can't wait to share some of the pictures.

Time to pack! But before I go, I wanted to say...

Thank you for making June the blog's biggest month yet with 1,989 page views!

<3 S, B, L&Z
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