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.

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The Life of a News Wife

So this is what it feels like.

In a post that went up a little while ago, I wrote that Bill and I were staring down the barrels of two vastly different paths, and each requires some major life changes in the form of a hard, massive, aneurysm-inducing decision. And then I didn’t tell you a thing about what I was talking about, like a big jerk. Well, I finally have permission to announce that we have in fact pulled the trigger, there are some major life changes underway, and I actually am about this close to have an aneurysm.

In five days, Bill and I are moving to Florida.

Yes, you read that right. FLORIDA. Just about as far as you can get from my lifelong home – my beautiful Golden State of California – without leaving the United States. It is exactly 2846 miles – or a 42-hour drive (39 with no traffic) from our home in San Luis Obispo, CA, to the front door of our new townhouse in Fort Myers, FL. That is so ridiculously far that I simply cannot handle it.

It has been a long while since I’ve posted something on this little heart-of-my-heart blog of mine, and that is because the process has been overwhelming, exciting, stressful, and exhausting.  It has been so hard for me to sit down and gather my thoughts enough to write anything coherent, and I’m pretty sure that I still can’t so bear with me. We also made the decision not to share until contracts were signed and everything was officially official, which was excruciating for me. There is nothing I wanted more than to fill you in, but I couldn’t. So here we are now, and I’m probably smacking you in the face with this news in exactly the same way I was smacked in the face two months ago.

When I chose to marry Bill, I knew that I was choosing more than just a partner in life, but a specific lifestyle as well, and one that was very different from anything and everything I’d ever known. The lifestyle of someone working in news has its glamorous side, which most of you probably recognize. Being a “local celebrity” as people often put it, people saying “hi” on the street, never having a dull day at work, the perks that come with it, and the like. These are all great, and Bill handles each of these so humbly and kindly that my face nearly falls off just watching him sometimes. However, there is a side of the business that not many realize, and that is the nomadic nature of moving up and being successful as a journalist. When Bill and I first met, I wasn’t too aware of this commitment to this imminent upheaval. I was, however, committed to him from the start, and I soon found out that he was to me as well. Going way back to one of our first dates, I divulged a secret. I told him that even though I had just started my job at the station where we both worked, I had recently been accepted to grad school and had made the decision to go. I was so nervous about telling him, mostly because I worried for the security of my paycheck for the rest of the summer and the possibility of severely disappointing my new boss, who took me under her wing and called me her little protege. What I didn’t realize until he told me later in our relationship was that my committing to a two-year grad program could have also meant I might lose Bill, squashing any dreams of marrying the hunk of a man sitting across from me. That was because the end of his first two-year contract was fast approaching, and he had just recently gotten his reel and his resume together to fly off to the next opportunity. Luckily, I didn’t lose him, and he chose to quit his job search and re-sign a new contract for another two years, allowing us to date and eventually get engaged while I finish my grad program.

Within three months of meeting, Bill took me home to Minnesota to meet his family and attend a college teammate’s wedding. It was an incredible whirlwind of a trip, but I will always remember a specific conversation we had while he drove me to the airport to catch my flight back to California. (I was leaving a few days earlier than he was for work.) After such a crazy weekend, we finally had a moment to ourselves, and Bill took the chance to address a giant elephant in the backseat of the car on that Minneapolis freeway. He explained that his business came with interesting circumstances: the promise of relocating with no promise of where. Basically, an agent, if you are lucky enough to have one, manages the job search, blasting out feelers and resume tapes all across the country, incessantly checking openings and communicating with potential landing pads. If the materials catch a station’s eye, the correspondence begins, the journalist is flown out, negotiations get underway, and – BOOM – new station, new city, new life.

As a career counselor currently working in the liberal arts, I knew this, and I explain this process to many, many students in the journalism department at my university. “It’s a difficult business. You have to work your way up from station to station. You may have to take a job in an obscure market and live in a small town for awhile to build up your experience.” It’s a fact of life. I lay it out, no fluff. In fact, Bill and I have always joked about Bangor-freaking-Maine, as the place we could end up, settle down, and live forever until we died in our sleep of old age in that god-forsaken New England town. (I apologize to anyone in Bangor, Maine. I have never been there nor known when to take my foot out of my mouth.) However, despite all this unemotional real talk, it is another beast entirely to live it. Enter into our lives Fort Myers, which I had no idea existed until about two months ago.

It’s such a strange thing, to have someone else take control of the job search, if you can even call it that, as it really should be called more of a “job wait”. Once Bill got his reel and his resume together (with a little help from his personal career counselor), he simply sent them off to his agent in Chicago. After a few edits, he continued to chug along at his current gig, sometimes going weeks without talking to the big man in Chi-Town. Then all of a sudden, things changed. Quickly. Too quickly. So quickly that almost two months later, I’m still not sure what’s happening. It was as if Bill was a fish, swimming through silent water filled with fishing lines and hooks ominously hanging still all around him. Every once in a while, one would twitch slightly, causing panic but ultimately being dubbed a false alarm. Then, in the eerie quiet while Bill and I were looking left at the hook at the end of the line from, say, Minneapolis or Las Vegas, one snapped into his gills from the right and shot us both up and out of the water into a strange foreign world, where the sun was too bright and we didn’t know how to breathe the air and the noises were deafening compared to peace below the surface.

“Where in the hell is Fort Myers, Florida?” was likely my verbatim answer, the only possible deviation being the choice of expletive I used.

So fast forward a few weeks, and here we are. Bill flew out on his own and spent two quick nights there, mostly with the station. These days were agonizing for me, as his “interview” and “orientation”, for lack of better words, lasted 13 hours without a chance to call and update his poor little bird of a wife at home. Drawing up an offer seemed to take weeks, but when it landed in Bill’s hands it was all happening way to fast. We deliberated and anguished and lamented and marinated in this crazy idea, letting our imaginations run wild with the infinite possibilities (him) and the imminent crumblings of all that is good and holy in this world (me). We talked about our life plans for careers and a family. We hashed out logistics for three grueling hours at a time. We created pros and cons lists and talked to our parents and lost sleep. I rattled on about alligators and hurricanes and humidity and nile monitor lizards eating our dog and giant-ass bugs flying into my newly frizzy and unmanageable mess of hair. We almost made a decision, and then we didn’t. We got close to saying the words, but they got stuck in our throats. One day we knew we had to go, and the next we were sure we couldn’t. And then one morning before Bill went to work, he addressed what we had discussed so many times before: that the news business can be inconducive to having a family and a home and a steady and secure life. We knew this. While some of his colleagues had made it work through the flexibility and willingness of their spouses and others simply love their careers too much to be anything but truly happy, many of our other journalist friends had faced the difficult music in this area, and we had heard their regrets firsthand. Bill confessed that he saw his soon-to-be-expiring contract as an opportunity to get out of the business, to settle in San Luis Obispo, and to allow me to shine in my dream job, and honestly, a HUGE part of me wanted that more than anything. However, part of my very nature – and one of the reasons I love my job so much – is that I can fully see the light in someone’s eyes and feel the heat radiating from the fire in their bones when their work and their passions are one in the same. It was clear that one of the most vibrant examples of this was staring me in the face with his big, beautiful blue eyes. Bill had wanted this career since the day he came out of the womb, and I knew what I had to do. “You’re right, this might be a great opportunity to get out of the business. But look at us. I have my master’s degree, you’re done with your job, we don’t have kids. There’s nothing holding us back. Maybe this is the time to lean in, to really give this business a shot, and to take this opportunity. This doesn’t happen every day, and maybe we can’t let this slip away.” I didn’t want Bill to spend the rest of his life wondering “what if?” and regretting his decision or resenting me. The next morning I sat on the edge of the bed just after Bill had woken up, swallowed hard, and said, “Let’s go to Florida.” And then we cried.

So here we are, five days from moving day. Our house is utter chaos, and our belongings have been reduced to brown boxes. Goodbye parties have happened (with a few more on the horizon), and I’ve seen some people that I love nearly and dearly for the last time for what could potentially be a very long time. I have two days left at work before I leave a job and an office that have felt more like a dream and a family than work. We have a site unseen townhouse waiting for us in a gated community we don’t know in a city I’ve never been to. I have panicked and sobbed and grieved in sadness, and I have laughed and squealed and hugged in hope.

I do have pictures and tips and ridiculous anecdotes from the journey so far, but for some reason, this doesn’t seem like the time to include those. Thank you for letting me share this with you, and I hope you know that writing this and sharing this has helped me immensely, knowing that some of you are in this with me. Please know that you are invited to follow along on our adventure of a lifetime, from the roadtrip across the southern United States to the new house to the amazing new friends and opportunities we are about to find in our tropical paradise. And even though I waver between wondering what the hell we have gotten ourselves into and feeling the thrill of an uncertain future, one thing is for sure: we’re doing this.

This is the life of a news wife.

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!

Cinco de Mayo, As Told By The Halters

You may or may not be throwing back margaritas, inhaling a burrito, and busting out your sombrero in celebration of Cinco de Mayo today.

I know I would like to be doing those things.

But if I were to be doing those things today, they would also be in celebration of another very, very important day, and that is the 3 year anniversary of the first date de Ashleigh y Bill. In honor of such a day, I dug up what I believe is the very first picture we took together:

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This picture wasn’t taken on our first date, but it is at “our spot”, a local surf bar by the name of the Creeky Tiki, and this was our first night socially debuting as a… whatever we were at that time. (Please note: This is also the first night I met Shelby, the blonde Minnesotan to my left, who you may recognize as one of my bridesmaids. Big things were happening.) But back to the program, the Creeky Tiki was also the site of both of our second dates, which, I know, sounds confusing. Just for funsies, if you haven’t heard the story of how we met, here is the Cliff Notes version, in the form of an excerpt from our wedding website.

“Are you the new sales gal?”

Not the words you would expect to flip your world upside down, but this is the question that changed our lives for the better.

Bill and Ashleigh first met on April 29th, 2011. This was Ashleigh’s second day as an Account Executive at KSBY in San Luis Obispo, CA. Slightly overwhelmed and determined to have a weekend beginning precisely at 5 p.m. that Friday, she made a flustered beeline for the back entrance to the station. Unbeknownst to both of them, Bill was rushing through a connecting hallway at the same time. As Bill rounded the corner, the near collision that resulted may have been a mere blip on the 6’7″ sports anchor’s radar, but Ashleigh’s entire past flashed before her (comparatively) little eyes. Little did they know that their futures, however, had been changed forever.

Fast forward to a few days later on May 5th, 2011, when KSBY was throwing a Cinco de Mayo party at the station. As Bill arrived a little later than most, only a few seats were left at the tables – one of them near the new sales gal. Over Mexican food enjoyed on paper plates with plastic forks, the two bonded over teaching and working with at-risk youth and children with special needs. Bill asked for Ashleigh’s phone number at the end of the party, and the two made plans to grab drinks after work.

That first “date” lead to two. (The word “date” is in quotation marks because what Ashleigh arrived to was more of a test of character: Bill’s friend Casey was along for the ride, and he is SASSY.) Ashleigh left to meet some friends downtown at San Luis Obispo’s Farmers’ Market, but by the time she was about to leave, Bill called saying he was very close by at a local hangout, the Creeky Tiki. Saying goodnight to her friends, she headed back to Bill. Two first dates in one night later, the two had plans to talk soon.

That’s part of the story, in which the first second date is explained. The other part is that for our second second date, we also went to the same spot. This time, however, he picked me up in true Midwesterner fashion and took me out, just the two of us. He would be mortified if I told you that he revealed just how little he knew about getting around our tiny town by parking at least a mile away from where we were going and that I graciously saved him by repeating that “No seriously, I LOVE walking”, so I won’t tell you that. But by the end of the night, it was pretty clear we had hit it off.

So here we are, on May 5th, 2014. Today wouldn’t be complete without reminiscing on just how much has happened in the fastest years of my life, including meeting each other, meeting the families, renewing contracts (him), starting AND finishing grad school (me), moving in together, job hunting, getting engaged, planning a wedding, tying the knot, getting eye surgery, just being married, all the craziness that is happening right this very minute… and wow. Hard to believe that just three years ago, I woke up and went to work having no idea how my life would change that very afternoon… that I would meet “The One”. Funny how a single unexpected moment can change the course of everything. We never saw it coming.

It’s been great knowing you, Billy. Let’s do it again sometime.

And as for the rest of you: nice sombrero, and it’s burrito time. Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Caught In The Act… Part 2

Remember in Tuesday’s post when I mentioned I wished I could see Bill’s face as he read it? Well, I got him to record it for me.

I am victorious.

 

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.

Scavenchiladas!

Have you seen that new Taco Bell commercial featuring Kevin Love for the XXL Steak Nachos? The gist of the commercial is that the nachos are normal-sized for 7’6″ Minnesota Timberwolves player Kevin Love, making them outrageously huge and beyond enormous for the rest of us.

If you haven’t seen it, here it is.

Yeah, that’s kind of what trying to feed Bill is akin to. The other day I watched him eat two turkey burgers for lunch in less than ten minutes. I bought him a large box of Raisin Bran Crunch on Saturday night, and it was gone by Monday night at around the same time. There were ten servings in that box.

With that said, planning a wedding was incredibly fun, but we often hear about the need to plan for a marriage. Now, this means a lot of things, including some very serious ones. But in the name of all that is holy matrimony, one of the things I was entirely unprepared for when tying the knot was the amount of time, effort, and money it takes to feed someone who is a) male and b) 6’7″. Bill is both of these things, bless his abnormally large heart.

All of these things add up to a lot of income-generating, grocery-shopping, and food-preparing work to fill his stomach. So when the universe drops a miracle in your lap in the form of pounds and pounds of leftovers from a taco bar at a work event, you grab it. When this happened the other day, I felt embarrassed about my urgency to pack up as much as I could for about 7.2 seconds, and then I didn’t anymore. I soon learned that the catering company would just trash it when they got back to their operating headquarters. The first thing that struck me was how sad that all that food would go to waste, as the event could easily have served another 15-20 people. The second thing was that this could potentially feed Bill for multiple meals. MULTIPLE MEALS! Scrounging around the office for any type of food-transporting materials turned up absolutely nothing. Since there was no way I was going to let this opportunity slip out of my hands, I actually mustered up the audacity to ask the catering staff to wait for me while I literally sprinted across campus to the university market and returned with a box of gallon-sized Glad bags and a few extra to-go containers meant for soup but perfect for salsa, guac, and black beans. Fast forward to the end of the workday, and if you had seen me lugging the tote bag I used to pack my hoarded treasure to the car, you would have absolutely zero doubt that I had taken not an ounce less than the max I could possibly carry. No shame, and SO not sorry.

That night, a Wednesday, Bill ate three burritos when I got home. On Thursday, he and one of his basketball buddies put away another huge portion after a couple (plus or minus a few more) beers. Friday, lunch was again provided. By Saturday, however, I knew that the Big Man would soon tire of the same meal, no matter how much he loves Mexican food. I needed to get creative. Determined to use what we had in the house, I threw together what ultimately became a hit according to Halter standards, and my Scavenchiladas were born.

What I found tearing through every food-storage area in my kitchen was a mix of things I always have on-hand (canola oil, olive oil, a clove of garlic), leftovers from my small Super Bowl get-together the weekend prior (half an onion, some shredded Mexican cheese, a handful of sliced olives, cilantro, light sour cream), some freebies from a food company who came to a career fair last year and gave our office the leftovers they didn’t want to ship back (a can each of tomato paste and crushed tomatoes with pesto), and of course, the gift from taco bar heaven I had scored earlier in the week (corn and flour tortillas, leftover salsa, shredded chicken, black beans, and salvagable-but-slightly-browning guacamole).

Now, I used to be so Type A that baking was more my thing – you know, the precision, the neatness, the following of strict rules. Things easily go wrong when baking when you don’t go by the book, and I am good at going by the book. However, I have always been secretly jealous of anyone who could just go through the kitchen and make something out of nothing, or so I thought. In fact, this jealousy flourished as numerous roommates with such a gift rotated through my house during college. (Amanda, Katie, Kaitlin, and Emily, I’m talking to you.) As we tend to do when we feel entirely inadequate at something, I had relied  on self-deprecating tendencies the last few years when it came to cooking, but I’ve had just about enough of that, let me tell you. I was determined to make a Mexican food masterpiece out of my misfit ingredients. Now with that in mind, I’m going to tell you what I did, and then I want you to throw out anything that does not apply to you and add anything you damn well please.

Scavenchiladas

Serves… however many can get their hands in before Bill destroys it.

(Adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients:

  • Canola oil
  • As many corn + flour tortillas as you can find (about 12 in my case)
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of salsa
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Fully cooked shredded chicken
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1 package light shredded Mexican cheese
  • A few cilantro leaves
  • Light sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Whatever you have in your kitchen that sounds like it has any potential whatsoever to go in enchiladas

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What To Do:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Coat a large pan over medium-high heat with canola oil. Add a single layer of tortillas to the pan. Cook for a few seconds or until very slightly browned to reduce the chance of crumbling the corn tortillas upon rolling. (Flour tortillas will be more flexible.). Using a spatula, lift up the first tortilla, stack on it the second, then lift both to add another layer of new tortillas underneath. Cook for a few seconds, stack and lift again, and add another layer underneath. Repeat the process until all tortillas are heated, adding a bit more oil if needed. You can place the tortillas one by one on a paper towel to remove any excess oil (read: calories and fat), or don’t and have even yummier enchiladas.

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3. In a large saucepan, sauté the chopped onion and garlic in olive oil until tender and the kitchen smells amazing, then turn off the heat. Add 1 cup of salsa.

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4. Using a spoon, drop 3 tbsp of tomato paste into 1 cup of water until dissolved, or if you get impatient like I did, stir until the everything mixes together. Add the tomato paste water to pan. Finally, add 1 cup of crushed canned tomatoes, and stir to combine.

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5. Coat the bottom of a large glass casserole pan with some olive oil. (If you don’t have enough ingredients to fill a large pan, use a smaller one!) Lay a tortilla flat on a separate plate, sprinkle it lightly (or not so lightly) with cheese, followed by shredded chicken and a small scoop of black beans.

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6. Roll up the tortilla and place it in the casserole pan. Continue until all tortillas are rolled, and your pan is filled.

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7. Pour sauce to the top of the rolled tortillas, making sure all are covered.

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8. Now the fun part: cover the whole thing with the rest of the grated cheese, plus more cheese and then maybe even a little extra cheese for good measure. I mean, who doesn’t love cheese? I love cheese.

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9. Put the casserole in the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts.

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10. Garnish with cilantro, sour cream, guacamole, or whatever your perfect little heart desires, you pretty young thing.

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11. Hand to happy big man of the house. And maybe have one or two yourself.

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Big guy smiles.

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Clean plate club! Happy scavenging, everyone.