The New Nest!

Okay, okay, okay…

I know I’ve been getting a lot of flack because I haven’t told you all what happened with the house. Well, here’s the deal:

My husband and I bought a house.

I bought a house with my husband.

There is this house, right? And my husband and I bought it.

So, um, basically…

WE GOT THE HOUSE!!!

I had to write that first part three times. This is for a couple reasons. First, because it doesn’t quite feel real, and secondly, because… this can’t really be real, right? The last few weeks have been INTENSE. We made an offer, he countered the offer, we accepted his new offer. We had a home inspection, and we had an appraisal. We’ve been signing loan docs for so long, we step outside and forget what the sun looks like. We negotiated repairs, and got denied those repairs. We had professionals come out and inspect all sorts of things, and with those opinions, we made more repairs requests. And then those were accepted! So here it is, my lovelies…

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The Halter Hacienda! She needs a little tender love and care, just the way I like ’em. Big dreams are coming true everyone. Big dreams.

Let the countdown to closing begin.

Crossed Fingers, Beating Hearts, and Held Breaths

It’s 5:30 a.m. and I can’t sleep. In fact, any endeavor to fall back into dreamland would be rendered totally useless at this point, so I’m up and at my computer telling you all about it. I’m a hot mess.

One of the reasons we decided to move to Florida was that the ridiculously affordable housing market (compared to California *sniff*), hit hard in 2008 and hopefully on its way back up, would allow us the opportunity to buy our first house.

Fingers crossed.

So after 8 months in Florida, we have a loan pre-approval letter and are in DEEP with the house hunting. I’ve been maintaining high alert on the MLS, constantly flipping through pictures and favorite-ing and possibly-ing and running down the hallway from my office to that of my coworker-slash-real-estate-agent Jessica. We’ve seen who-knows-how-many houses, probably over 20, and none of them have really done much for me. Until last night.

One house has been on my mind from the beginning of this darn search. I’ve looked at the photos over and over, oohing and ahhhing over all the fun things to be had and the upgrades to be made. I’ve driven past it on 3 separate occasions, and I’ve begged Jess to get us in to walk through it. Every attempt to view it was declined due to something on the seller’s end. But then came yesterday, when Jess worked her magic, and even though Bill was at work, I got in it last night.

Be still my beating heart. I am in love.

I loved everything about it. As I walked through it, I saw my family staying in the guest rooms. I saw our Christmas tree in the front room. I saw myself cooking in that kitchen. I saw the potential to upgrade and invest in every room. And for goodness sake, I saw our (currently non-existent) baby in the den off the master. I want this place.

After a stock exchange-style evening, during which I was at home alone (as per usual) and on the phone with the alternating line-up of Bill, my dad, and Jessica, the stars seemed to be aligning in a little ways. My morning was unexpectedly cleared for today before this mess even appeared, and the selling agent agreed to let us in again with less than 24 hours notice before Bill goes to work. We calculated out our monthly mortgage payments, discussed our options, and debated long and hard. This was doable.

But in true Florida fashion, the listing agent informed us that he is expecting two offers – one last night and one this morning. This puppy is about to get swept off the market like every other stinking house in this joint. As with all the other homes out there, it could quickly slip through our trembling little fingers. So what do we do? Well, we are going to make an offer, which in every way is both excitingly adult-like and absolutely terrifying. I don’t want to like you so much, little house. I’m afraid I’ll get my heart broken.

But if we want this little big dream to come true, we’ve got to carpe that diem. So today is the day.

I’m holding my breath. Maybe you could too?

♥♥♥

Mama Rapin In The House

Like, my house. My mom. In my house.

Pretty much the best thing ever to happen to Florida happened last week: my mom came to visit. Sweet little Mama Rapin hopped off a plane late Tuesday night to finally see what my new life is like, and it was pretty much the only thing I ever could have asked for. Homesickness is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I think I’ve mentioned before that one of the weirdest things about moving across the country is that I still chat with my friends and family all the time, BUT… I can talk and talk and talk and tell them that I went here and I hung out there and I saw this person and I went to the market and yoga and the weather is hot and know one really knows what I’m talking about. Even when I say I’m in my kitchen or about to go to bed or I’m sitting on the couch watching Orange is the New Black, they can’t possibly picture it. I can only describe so far, and it feels very lonely. 

So believe me when I say I was a whole mess of excitement and nerves and energy as I scrambled around our new house unpacking the last few boxes, finishing the guest room, and making sure everything was better than perfect. If I’m going to live this far away, I was determined to make Mom’s stay as nice as possible to ensure that she will want to come back quite frequently. I started a list of things to do weeks in advance, since she and I would be exploring together. I ran to Publix to get her Honey Maid cinnamon graham crackers for breakfast, her favorite Cheddar Munchies for the car, and her Chips Ahoy for a late night snack. I was determined to give her a great vacation and was seriously worried about everything. She had to love it here.

Well, she did. And there was no need for me to freak out. Obviously.

In fact, I can’t think of a time that my mom and I haven’t had best days ever when visiting each other. It just kind of happens. So let me let you into my world a little bit, just like I did for my mom touring her around Florida.

Here is our airport, and here is my mom being a great mom with a priceless face.

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I wasn’t the only one excited to see her.IMG_6329

The first day she was here, I took her down to Fort Myers Beach, which is about 10-15 minutes from my house. Since I was in awe the first time I put my feet into the warm bath waters of the Gulf of Mexico, I knew she would be too.IMG_6328

Bill had time for a nice dinner with us, so I also showed her the sunset from our little downtown River District, which overlooks the Caloosahatchee River and the bridges to Cape Coral and North Fort Myers. Although this area seems to be pretty dead in terms of people out and about, the view is always alive and well.
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One of the biggest planned events we had in mind was a trip down to Naples, which is one of the wealthiest resort and retirement communities in Florida. We, of course, were going all the way to Naples to get in a workout, as you can see below. If you’re wearing your brand new Fitbit, it’s not shopping… It’s exercise.IMG_63320

After so much exertion, we had to stop to recharge. Brio in the Waterside Shops offered tasty flatbread for Mom and a salmon salad for me off of their – wait for it – gluten-free menu. I have to admit, we mistakenly thought that we were a little beneath this place, but the great food was matched with the most welcoming service, and Naples demolished any uppity stereotype we might have brought along for the ride.IMG_6324

Well, except for the stereotype that we were going to be tempted to spend a shit-ton of money. Anthropologie was the demon of the day, gladly draining of us the most time and money. Why the photo of the multi-colored dish towels below? Because I’m a ninja, that’s why. My mom had pointed out that she had always wanted these but would never buy them for herself, and with one set left I wasn’t about to let a prime gift-giving opportunity pass me by. Let’s just say that I felt compelled to go up to the sales girl at the register to explain that she relay the message that the shiesty girl performing covert moves on the security camera was not, in fact, stealing their merchandise. Rather, she was simply buying surprise kitchen paraphernalia for her adorable little mom innocently studying a sweater to the left of the cashwrap.IMG_6323

Friday was a bit more relaxing, and it gave my mom a chance to familiarize me with the gallons of essential oils she brought. She has found her calling healing people through Young Living, and it makes her so happy to help everyone (including her daughter) with all that she has learned.IMG_6306

That afternoon we headed off to the Gulf Coast Town Center, and I took her to HomeGoods for the first time ever (for shame!). We then lazily retired to the lanai to watch the sudden downpour from the safety of a covered patio.IMG_6326

But the highlight of this day was by far the best example of just exactly how my mother and I roll. Before heading home we stopped at Grace and Shelly’s Cupcakes (and mayyyyybe Saks Fifth Avenue) at our funky little Bell Tower Shops for a sweet treat. Of course we couldn’t decide on a flavor (although the decision for me to cheat on my eating habits was easy), so we came home with twelve minis to split while parked on the couch watching HGTV. No, we didn’t eat them all in one sitting, but we might have in three.IMG_6242

Saturday was a big day, since Bill was finally off work to hang out with us. My mom couldn’t wait to go to Sanibel and spend more time at the beach, so we got going as quickly as we could. But before we could take off, I had to marinate the london broil for dinner that night, and I was caught in a rare poised moment that might fool you into thinking I have it together…
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…only to set the record straight immediately. I wouldn’t dare cook my mother a meal without making sure all the ingredients are of the highest quality and up to strict standards. Including the wine.IMG_6321

After all of that red meat marinating, we all realized we were starving. When our original plan of Sanibel’s Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille fell through with a sign on the front door declaring they were closed for lunch (the nerve), we headed to Captiva Island toward the highly recommended Bubble Room. Best change of plans ever. This place is a must-see.IMG_6315

The outside was a candy-colored explosion, which made my rainbow-loving mom beyond happy.IMG_6319

The inside wasn’t any less bizarre, with five dining rooms draped in Christmas lights, chandeliers, antiques, toys, and animatronics. Not to mention that my honey and pineapple-glazed salmon was delicious.IMG_6318

With full tummies, it was on to the main event of the day: shell-hunting on Sanibel. Knowing my mom would squeal with joy (at least on the inside) at the mounds of seashells piling the shores, I was looking forward showing her how gorgeous our new home in Florida could be.
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Don’t mind the overdue pedicure.
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I was right, of course, that my mom would truly appreciate the area. With her inner peace on overdrive, I think I may have convinced her to move…IMG_6310

And if I actually hadn’t persuaded her already, I think I may have hammered it home with views of the working lighthouse from the white sand beaches at the end of the island.IMG_6308

And so we headed back home, where Bill blended up some piña coladas…

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I whipped up a little dinner…IMG_6341

And Mom ended her little vacation with a fruity drink with an umbrella in it, as promised.IMG_6343

We went to bed happy for the days we got to spend together, but sad for the goodbyes of the next morning. Mom finally got to see my new world, which surprisingly makes it easier to be here knowing that someone understands what I mean when I talk about my daily life. It makes everything a little more real, a little more doable, and little more like… home. 

Just a little. But that’s something.

Moving Update

Well, reality officially hit. I got back home on Saturday night after 8 days out of town – first in San Diego with my best friends Jen and Amanda and then in Long Beach at a conference for work. Immediately upon returning everything became a blur as we rushed to pack as much as possible as quickly as possible to prepare for the actual move.

After the moving company informed of us some logistical problems regarding securing a driver, we inquired about potentially having them come a day or two later than scheduled. This would give us some wiggle room to actually get everything together before they arrived, which we most certainly had not yet accomplished. We hadn’t heard back from them yet, but we both had a feeling that it wouldn’t be a problem, so Bill and I both went to bed on Sunday night at the end of our exhaustion rope, simply unable to do/pack/handle anything more.

Monday morning I woke up in a panic, certain that we had not done nearly enough for the movers that may or may not arrive. Knowing we hadn’t yet received a call informing us what time they would be here, I did my best to calm the eff down and tell myself that I needed to sit down, shut up, and eat a good breakfast to get through the day ahead. So I sat down, I shut my brain up, and I tried to eat. But as soon as I brought my toaster-ovened frozen waffle from my paper plate to my mouth, I heard Bill’s phone ring upstairs. “ASH, THE MOVERS ARE COMING IN 20 MINUTES.” It was 7:30 in the morning. Instant anxiety attack.

After shoving my uneaten breakfast in Bill’s face, obviously so panicked that I lost my appetite, the movers proceeded to arrive in less that the 20 promised minutes, and we were nowhere near ready. But the day happened anyway, and we got it all done with the help of two more sets of hands, a lot of sweat, and a run or two to Home Depot. I went to work, Bill went to work, I came back from work and signed the papers, the movers pulled out… and then I sat in the middle of the floor of our big empty house and stared. Indy sat with me, and she stared too.

This is really happening.

20140626-054413-20653322.jpgWith so little time, we literally just threw anything we thought we might possible want with us into the guest room closet and hoped to goodness that we had everything.

20140626-054414-20654037.jpgIndy was so nervous we were going to leave her that when Bill and I stepped outside to order lunch, we turned around to find her lying at the base of the ramp into the moving truck. She was determined to go with us, no matter what it took.20140626-054412-20652937.jpgSo then there was nothing in our house, and dinner looked like this: homegrown tomatoes, which I picked out of what was left of my destroyed garden, mixed up with whatever the hell I could find on the counter. That included a little balsamic, a little olive oil, and some shredded parmesan from the fridge for a makeshift caprese. Sort of.

20140626-054414-20654840.jpgBreakfast looked like a plastic bowl of cereal with the last of a carton of milk and one piece of microwaved bacon, all served up on a cardboard box.

20140626-054410-20650511.jpgFree time looks like this: so many activities to be done in all that empty space.

20140626-054409-20649761.jpgSince our bed is on a truck someplace, we are having a regular old campout on the floor to sleep.

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I guess that makes two of us.

Brunch Me: Kale, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Goat Cheese Frittata

I know that Mother’s Day was more than a week ago. However, I hope that this is more of a testament to how much what I am going to write about is so freaking delicious that I’m still thinking about it 12 days later and less of incriminating evidence as to how long it took me to actually get my act together to write this.  Benefit of a doubt here, my friends.

So what the hell am I talking about? Well, my lovelies: THIS.

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Kale, Sun-Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Frittata!

Many of you know that I live too far from my family to visit for a typical weekend, what with a 7-hour drive either way and no financially feasible flight options between San Luis Obispo and Redding. Seriously, check it out. It’s absurd. What this means around this particular time of year is that I miss my mom terribly on Mother’s Day. I call her multiple times, I send her plenty of cards, and this year I ordered her a curated album of our wedding pictures. I’m sure she feels the love, but something is still missing here on the lonely mom-less Central Coast. So what’s a daughter to do? Well, that’s where the extreme kindness that is my beautiful friend Danae comes in.

Danae grew up in the area, so she is lucky to have her own family close and local. Her husband Matt’s parents live a few hours south, and a quick drive up the coast is all it takes. Knowing that my family is ridiculously far away and that Bill was going to be at work, and being the amazing event/wedding planner that she is, Danae extended an invitation to join her family’s Mother’s Day celebration at their home. The theme: Brunch for dinner!

The only stipulation (which let’s be real, if I hadn’t complied I still would have been let through the door) was that I make something to contribute. Wanting to put my new cast iron baby – I mean, skillet – to good use, I immediately blurted the word “frittata” so loudly that I would have elicited concerned stares had I been in public. Being gluten-free myself (and note: we’re trying to work certain types of dairy back into my diet, including cheeses and goat milk products), it was easy to tailor the project to the other dietary restrictions and preferences present, which let me tell you, was quite a few. I figured that I couldn’t go wrong with eggs, kale, sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese, so I threw them all together and headed over to the Pearce’s house for an evening of gourmet brunch food, champagne, and the love of family – even if it wasn’t “my own”.

We started off by gathering in the kitchen, which as per usual was styled to the nines for the occasion. Danae had brought home roses from her event the night before and laid out the most beautiful table setting in soft feminine pinks and whites.

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No brunch would be complete without champagne, of course. But to be honest, it seems that no matter where I go I find the stuff, since my general affinity for bubbly has transformed from a preference to a lifestyle. Good thing Danae and I are extensions of one another – or soul mates, as I prefer to call us – so she was ready, bottle already chilling and incorporated into the decor.

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A special occasion calls for unique touches, so leave it to Danae to offer a splash of St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur in our glasses to class the champagne up further, it that’s even possible. Magnifique.

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I have mentioned before that Danae and her husband own their own businesses with Danae Grace Events and Old San Luis BBQ Co., respectively. So while Danae had set the scene, Matt was chopping, whipping, and sauteing up a storm in the kitchen. In addition to my frittata, he created a custom crepe bar, which included ordering up Bacon + Spinach + Feta, Caprese, Chicken Curry, or Sweet Nutella and Strawberry crepes. And go figure, he preceded to pour the batter, fill her up, and fold it right before your eyes before plopping it directly on the plate in your hand. Add into the mix roasted red potatoes and homemade ebelskivers, and we found our eyes and our stomachs in a bewildered state of pure bliss.

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So while I totally and completely wish I was capable of assembling such a fete on my own, I most definitely cannot. But I can tell you that I already have plans to recreate my frittata this weekend so that we may devour the whole thing ourselves in the Halter household. You’ll find my recipe below!

Kale, Sun-Dried Tomato & Goat Cheese Frittata

Ingredients

  • 2 cups torn fresh kale
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 9 eggs
  • Few dashes salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup drained oil-packed julienned sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 oz. crumbled goat cheese (such as Trader Joe’s)

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet (or nonstick, oven-safe skillet) over medium heat. Add kale and onion and cook about 10 minutes until onion is tender, stirring frequently.20140523-093923.jpg
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, salt, and pepper in medium bowl.20140523-093903.jpg
  4. Pour over cooked  kale and onion  mixture in skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low heat and cook.
  5.  While egg mixture begins to set, use a spatula to run around the edge of the skillet, tilting the pan so the uncooked egg mixture flows underneath. Continue lifting edge until egg is almost set but still shiny and moist.
  6. Sprinkle sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese over eggs.
  7. Broil in oven close to heat until eggs are set (about 1 to 2 minutes).
  8. Cut into wedges to serve.Voilà! Free-tah-tah.

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So there you have it! An easy-peasy frittata that can be whipped up in minutes BUT will bring in the accolades of hours spent in the kitchen. Believe me, I know… I could not for the life of me convince the entire party that my contribution didn’t take much no matter how hard I tried, and I’ve been told on more that one occasion that I could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves – er, something – sooooo….

Anyway, this was a great choice to bring to a party…

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… and it’s just as good for a quiet breakfast at home the next day. Happy frittata-ing!

Caught In The Act

One of the rules I had to establish very early on with our little mouse Indy was that she is NOT allowed in our bed. And let me tell you, when a small dog has a face like hers and the persistence of a true fighter, this is not an easy task.

When I first brought her home, I made sure to crate train her. Once we passed that phase, I was excited to curl up and fall asleep with her every night, satisfying some silly dream of having her slumber on the end of the bed for the rest of my happily ever after days. No such luck. The monster insists on having as much of her surface area as possible up against mine, making it impossible to roll/kick/flail in an uninhibited manner, as I am wont to do. Good thing we have a California king-sized bed, right? Wrong. If I scoot over to claim some breathing room, she scoots as well, and it’s not long before I’m stuck in one minuscule corner and she’s sprawled out like the Queen of Everything. If you give a mouse a cookie.

Once she got the boot, it took a long time and a lot of creativity on my part to break her new rituals of sitting and staring, letting out high-pitched whines, clawing the mattress, and half-assed jumping in hopes of getting permission to full-assed jump, all at the side of the bed at ungodly hours. Like when I turned out the light. And at 2 a.m. Ten minutes before my alarm went off. My most intimidating “NO!” didn’t stop her. Neither did the spray bottle. Locking her outside the bedroom entirely ended with lost sleep and claw marks in the paint on the door about Indy-high. Finally, my research and exasperation came to an end when I discovered the miracle that is a slightly crumpled soda can filled with pennies and with tape over the hole. Give that puppy shake, and Indy is out the door and in her place.

Which is here:

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IN HER OWN BED.

Lately, though, I’ve had the sneaking suspicion that the rat has weaseled her way into the bed again, this time through the pure weakness of my man’s man of a husband’s affinity for small furry creatures (this one in particular). However, despite my inklings, which have been so far backed by spotty evidence, Bill has gotten away with full-faced denial of any treachery of the dog-spoiling sort. “No, she doesn’t run straight upstairs the moment you leave for work.” (I’ve seen her do it upon re-entering the house.) “No, that strange noise is not her snoring under the covers while you are getting dressed.” (I heard it, I swear I did.) “No, the fur in the bed is not from Indy herself but from our pajamas.” (Ooooookay.) “I don’t know WHY Indy keeps waking me up before my alarm goes off.” (I do, BILL.)

Well, this morning, I was vindicated. BEHOLD.

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CAUGHT. IN. THE. ACT.

There may be consequences, even though this is so stinking cute. And the best part about all this? Bill has no idea that I have hard evidence, so he’s going to find out the same way you are: BY READING THIS POST.

I just wish I could see his face when he does.

My New Favorite Toy

Okay, so my mom is a genius.

I’ve gone on and on about a certain breakfast food item in the past few weeks, and you’ve generally heard it all in the form of whining/general sadness in the disappearance of said deliciousness from my diet. Well, GUESS WHAT EVERYONE. The only thing better that waffles is…

Mini. Waffle. Sticks.

Boom.

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Unsure of how exactly one makes a cake sans dairy or gluten, my mom rolled my celebratory dessert into an amazing little gift. So amazing, even, that I’m still giddy about it 16 days later.

Here it is: My Bella Waffle Stick Maker. (In purple here.)

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Little red masterpiece.

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We started with the most  basic gluten- and dairy-free waffle mix to be found.

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The Cravings Place All-Purpose Pancake and Waffle Mix is SO easy (just add water until the consistency of batter… no measurement required!), but also the perfect start for making fun addition to simple straight-forward waffles. As you may have picked up from the first picture, I love to douse my waffles in gallons of honey, which was a great addition. However, next time I would love to play around with adding vanilla or cinnamon or banana or pumpkin spice to the batter or topping with something fun like berries or nuts.

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Obviously I didn’t put enough batter in the first time, but they still came out crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, which is my general definition of waffle… well, PERFECTION.

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Beauties, if I do say so my carb-loving self.

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Again – and you knew this was coming – everything always tastes better when you make it with someone else. New waffle-making memories with my mama! The other best part? This little machine was so easy and mess-free, I can produce a not-your-run-of-the-mill breakfast in 10 minutes, tops. This will be happening. Often.

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So good. George wants waffles, too.