28 October 2009

happy ibclc day!

I (Marcus) hereby declare October 16th, 2009 to be IBCLC Day (Federal holiday coming soon to a calendar near you)!

It's official. Julie passed the lactation consultant Exam to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. She didn't just pass, she happened to crush the exam (90%). Atta girl. So, many months of neglecting a certain husband, studying harder than a med student with more concentration than a carton of orange juice, it finally paid off.

Now that passing is official, Julie has a two-phase plan of attack for celebration: 1)Immediate action by ingesting the best pina colada at Mango Mike's and 2) Julie has picked the relaxing destination of....Boston, MA. Well, to be exact, we're headed to Rockport, MA just outside of Boston, to a bed and breakfast by the shore. We don't really know what we're going to do there, but you can be sure it will be celebratory.
Picture of Julie sipping said pina colada alongside another drink of tasty goodness.

Post celebration, Julie can now pick up LC shifts at the hospital (it's about time she bring home some bacon). In all seriousness, she's been working toward this for 4 years, ever since one lecture in grad school. It's taken a graduate degree, a 500 hour internship, more connections than a mobster, and a ridiculously stressful exam. Still worth it.

Congratulations, Julie, I'm proud of you, and I love you!

27 October 2009

harper's ferry and apples

Last week my mentor and friend, Margaret, invited me to join her and a co-worker on a trip to Harper's Ferry to pick up a bushel of apples. I wasn't one hundred percent sure what a bushel of apples was or what all this adventure would entail, but my schedule is very free these days so I figured what the hay.

This is Margaret at the Apple Farm. She's from South Africa and is also a Lactation Consultant. She may be a granny, but this woman has more energy and passion for humanity and life than anyone I have ever met. Margaret is always on an adventure of some sort, whether she's heading to another state to campaign for a politician she's passionate about, visiting orphanages back in S.A., or taking Spanish classes. When every I hang out with Margaret I always feel inspired to conquer the world!
I bought a pumpkin from this patch...carvings coming soon!
...and here's my 1/2 bushel of apples...

...and this is my first treat to be made with all these apples - baked apples in the crock pot. Cook on low for 5 hours and serve with vanilla bean ice cream - Yummy!

It turns out that Harper's Ferry is a little hidden piece of adorable! It was such a fun Fall day - the sun was shining and there were brilliantly colored leaves everywhere. Here's your history lesson for the day: Harper's Ferry was the hometown of John Brown. Mr. Brown was an abolishionist best known for John Brown's Raid in 1859. On a lighter note, for those of you who are fellow Gilmore Girls fanatics...there's a bed and breakfast downtown called "The Dragonfly." That's right, you can guess who will be planning a romantic get-a-way to Harper's Ferry soon :-)

15 October 2009

carmel apple cupcakes

Mmmm...I love the idea of turning a fall favorite into a little scrumptious wonder that fits perfectly into my hand. The first time I tried to make Carmel Apple Cupcakes was two years ago for a tailgating party at a Penn State with Marcus and my now brother and sister in-law. I poured my heart into these beautiful treats just to have the carmel melt off the top and make everything a soggy mess! I must admit I was slightly embarrassed by my carmel apple cupcake sludge. In order to redeem myself or this recipe I decided to go for a round two.

This recipe has 3 steps:

(1) Cupcakes - I use a white cake mix and used apple juice and apple sauce in place of water and oil. I add 2 granny smith apples, peeled and chopped, and sprinkle in some cinnamon (ok, lots of cinnamon), ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
Mixing the cake batter...

(2) Cream Cheese Filling - Beat 4 ounces cream cheese and 1/4 stick butter; add 2 cups powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla and beat until smooth. To fill the cupcakes, cut a cone from the top and cut of excess. Fill the cavity and cover with top of cone.

(3) Caramel Icing - Melt 20 carmels with 2 tablespoons of milk over low heat until smooth. Allow this cool a little bit and spread on cupcakes. You can coat with nuts or sprinkles.

Note: I know it looks ghetto, but I line the pan with aluminum foil for easy clean-up.
The verdict is... These cupcakes put a whole new twist on eating carmel apples. However, they only stay in a nice pretty state for about 48 hours and need to be in the fridge to prevent the carmel from melting. Not the best treat for traveling, but great for a nice fall day at home!

13 October 2009

surprises & castles

Ladies and gentlemen, here is the birthday princess!
For my mom's 50th birthday we had a little surprise party followed by dinner at Ravenswood Castle. I planned this little shindig with the help of family and friends - and thank you much to all those who were involved! Mom was suspicious of the event, so I'm not sure how much of a surprise it was, but I think she still had a great time.

The crew at Ravenswood Castle
Now for some food...
This is my brother, Alex, and his wonderful appetizer creation. I left him in charge of food and he certainly was a crowd pleaser. Here's pictures of his food and his recipes:

Oven-roasted Bruschetta
Slice ciabatta bread
Saute 3 cloves of garlic and 1/2 onion with 3 tablespoons olive oil
Soak tomato slices and fresh spinach in this mixture
Spread pesto on bread slices, add mixture, and top with Parmesan cheese
Bake for 10-15 mins until crispy

Warm, Sweet Brie
Heat Oven to 350 degrees
Put a whole wheel of Brie in until it puffs up completely (approx 10 mins)
Remove from oven, cut open and add brown sugar (or your favorite jam)
Serve with bread

did someone say "red" meat?

Can you believe it? I actually cooked red meat... In my search to thoroughly enjoy my time off, I got several cooking books from the library. One of these books (Simply Delicioso by Ingrid Hoffman) has a Latin flare and everything in it was yummy to me, even if I don't normally eat all the ingredients. Plus I felt like being generous to my husband who is graciously supporting me through my career change and entertaining my hours spent baking and reading instead of bringing home a paycheck. The guy deserves a STEAK right? Well at least steak in salad form!

Does it look delicious? That's because it was - even to this non-red meat girl! In case you wish to replicate this manly, but healthy, meal I've included the recipe. I plan to make this again, but with chicken or fish next time.

Churrasco Steak Salad

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons course salt
1 tablespoon dired oregano
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

Mix all these together for the dressing

1 pound skirt or flank steak (I don't know much about steak and Trader Joes had tip steak, so that's what I used)

Season steak with salt and pepper. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet or grill pan and brown steak for approx 3-4 mins on each side. Allow to rest on cutting board.
6 cups romaine lettace
4 cups baby arugula
12 cherry tomatoes (halved)
1/2 red onion, diced
4 ounces Gorgonzola, coarsely crumbled

Combine above ingredients and toss with vinaigrette to lightly coat it. Cut steaks crosswise into thin slices and drizzle more vinaigrette over steak.

11 October 2009

aussie vs. american

This weekend we went back to Ohio to celebrate my Mom's 50th birthday (more on this to come) and my good Aussie friend Bethnie joined us on our trip home. I met Bethnie summer 2005 when we worked as Summer Camp Counselors in the DC area. I hated it, she loved it (ok, so that's a bit of an exaggeration). She loved it so much that she came back from Australia to work full-time and has been here since. Beth has cracked me up with her odd phrases. I can still remember her walking around my apartment saying "coorn", "kern", "coorrrn" trying to get her "American" accent down. Here's some of the topics of confusion we've had to clarify over the years:

Trolley vs. Shopping Cart
Lollies vs. Candy
Sunnies vs. Sunglasses
Bathers vs. Bathing Suit
Arty Farty vs Artsy Fartsy
Booze Bust vs. Sobriety Check Point
Busting for the toilet vs. I need to go to the bathroom
How ya going? vs. How ya doing?
Boot vs. Car Trunk
Barbie vs. Barbecuing
Bonnet vs. Car Hood
Petrol vs. Gas
Pram vs. Baby Stroller
Dummy vs. Pacifier
Nappy vs. Diaper

Here's a pic of me and Bethnie from a different adventure...
(An addition by Bethnie) Yes, Julie and I have had many discussions regarding the differences between our languages, even though we both speak English! And it's true that I am always working on my American accent, always trying to perfect my 'r's and 'o's, it's quite funny! Julie has always graciously explained things to me, for which I have been very thankful!!

06 October 2009

to the julie/a's of this world

Have you seen the movie Julie and Julia? Of course, it's the heart of all fairy-tale-world-bloggers. Thanks to the persistence of my dear friend, Sarah, I finally splurged and spent the $10.50 to see this movie that spoke directly to my heart. I related not only to the name, but to the spirit of this character. I may not enjoy cooking as much as the Julie/a(s) (don't get me wrong I do enjoy the kitchen), but I do have my passions in this world...a.k.a. breastfeeding (I know it's odd, but true). I have been on the mountain top highs, I have identified, I have been pathetically week and sobbed, and I have poured myself into this passion. I have married an amazing man, who has been a "saint" through it all, who has amused me, encouraged me, reminded me, and supported me every step of the way. And at the end of the day I'm not perfect, just like Julie - and thank God for the concept of "grace"...oh amazing grace, how sweet the sound...!

In the midst of this movie I came to the realization that I have grown from an independent go-get-er, plan A, B, & C, to a person who because of her role in education, training, and passions, now is uber comfortable in a new role. I love my role as a wife. I know, it's crazy, but I want to announce to the world that I just love it. This once femi-nazi has made a 180. I pack my husbands lunches, bake yummy treats, and do the laundry. The Engineer expects none of this and is appreciative of me in any form, which is probably why I am so secure in my 180 turn. Mrs. Ellinger you were right. My plan A at the tender age of 15 was to marry a rich man and be a stay at home....well Marcus isn't exactly rich in the monetary sense and we're not quite to the baby stage yet, but you get my drift. Mrs. Ellinger is my childhood BFF's mom who recalls my crazy plan A, B, & C's and reminds me of them. She ever so politely repeated my embarrassing plan A for marriage at my Bridal Shower. However, in her defense, she put up with a lot and included me on lots of fun family vacations, so she's earned rights :-).

So, here's to Julie and Julia, blogging, baking, and supportive husbands!

05 October 2009

anniversary, cont.

To add to Marcus' post, here are the razzle dazzle flowers he gave me:

And to emphasize the excitement of these flowers you should know that these are one of 2 bouquets I've ever received from the Engineer. No, he is not a flower person. Yes, I am a flower person. And I think it might have finally clicked that throwing away money on something that will die in 5 days is actually a good move in this game called marriage.

Now on to mountain biking! Have you ever thought you might die ever 5 seconds for an hour straight? Well that was my experience. Oh yeah, that's kinda how I felt zip lining in Ohio or anytime heights and speed are involved. My middle name is neither "danger" nor "fast" and when Marcus said we had no business going mountain biking he was referring to me! However, I must say the repeated near death experience was a blast and I will be going again, except next time lets find a hill, please!

04 October 2009

one year of marriage

Ok, so after 365 (mostly) great days, our 1st anniversary has arrived. It's time for me (Marcus) to follow through with what Julie really wants as a present...a blog post. I've been saying "I'll get around to it" for about...however long this blog has been up.

We celebrated the day by doing things that we generally have no right to do, first by going mountain biking in Fountainhead Regional Park in Occoquan, VA. We took our 12 year old mountain bikes (that we paid way too much to have tuned up...) and proceeded to struggle in riding what any actual mountain biker would consider a joke of a trail. Back in the good ol' days of my youth, I used to bike somewhat frequently, but those skills apparently disapeared quicker than an Arby's roast beef sandwich and a thing of curly fries. Gotta start somewhere, I suppose. Although, it proved to be a lot of fun, not really in spite of the challenge, but because of it.

Mountain biking adventures
Anyway, we followed this up by canoeing in the Occoquan Reservoir and taking along a dinner we had in a cooler. As is the standard in most relationships, I proceeded to paddle about 3 to 4 times more than Julie. I am, however, ok with this arrangement, since I'm the dude, although a heart attack may have been imminent.

Me resting to avoid the aforementioned heart attack.

And we figured out a new trick our camera can do, so I'm obligated to post an example.

It proved to be a successful anniversary, and an appropriate way to celebrate one year of marriage (by falling down and getting back up again). I'm looking forward to many more years of adventures with Julie that will probably include traveling, cooking, random exercising, and presumably blogging.

Unfortunately, I realize that this post has become what I feared most about blogging...that I ramble about things that nobody really cares about. Well, in the future, I'll try to keep it to posts that may actually have a point, like the joys/challenges of marriage, the joys/challenges of working for a small business, the joys/challenges of living in the DC area, and the challenges of attemping to get in shape. Until next time...

02 October 2009

endings and beginnings

"...beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will, too... " -Birdee, Hope Floats

I ended my job of 4 years about a hour ago. No, not my inspiring hospital job where I work as a breastfeeding educator, but that one where I worked for the American Psychological Association processing research and paving my way through grad school and lactation consultant classes and internships. The APA was good to me, but now it is time for this chic to move on!

I had the most anti-climatic "last day" of work today. I worked from home today, as I often do, and I finished up, logged off, and decided to spend my first hours of freedom baking pumpkin cheesecake brownies. No one to share it with... Although, I should be honest and confess that I had a wonderful goodbye party and happy hour on Tuesday, which was my last day at the office. Thank you, friends/coworkers and drinks that taste like pineapple upside down cake! I'm getting quite excited to begin this new journey I've been dreaming of for so long. My to do list is growing with items ranging from books to read, to organizing the condo, to baking a cupcake shaped cake, to job hunting (btw, I'd love suggestions on these, especially books). Watch out Public Health and Lactation - I'm on my way!

P.S. Engineer, if you don't post something soon I'm going to have to kick you off here and go totally girly.

01 October 2009

friendship, parties & paintings

Last weekend's focus was on my lovely 8 month pregnant friend, Kristen. Sarah and I made the mecca to Norkolk, VA to visit our Navy wife friend. I should preface this post by sharing that Sarah, Kristen and myself have been friends since elementary/middle school. We get along about as well you would with your sister who constently bickers with you and isn't afraid to call you out on your crap in life. Marcus is actually amazed that we keep getting together, but it's like your family - they drive you crazy, but you just keep going back for more :-). There are three guarentees in these visits: 1. someone (ok, I mean everyone) is going to end up offended or hurt at some point in the weekend; 2. someone is going to have a beverage shoot out of their nose and/or pee themselves because of a perfectly timed, hilarious remark that brings much needed comic relief; and 3. we realize that we've all changed even more this year, but we remember our commanlities - our faith, our love, our silliness. Anyway, we conveniently arranged our 3rd anual girls weekend for this momma-to-be and celebrated it in style. The activites ranged from an authentic tea party to a neighborhood surprise party to belly painting. Here's some pics of all the fun:

Ready for our day of celebration.

Royal Tea treats - A tea party for the 3 of us.

Babycake - A surprise party thrown
by Kristen's neighbor.

Baby Belly Painting with African symbols
of fertility, love, femininity, etc.

Isn't she glowing?

80's ring pop bling Adios for now mi amigas...