Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The past three months....

Wow! Has it really been three months since I blogged? That seems crazy, but many things have happened so let's get started with the chronicling.

The first weekend in April brought our dear friend Chris to Denver for a visit. We watched lots of basketball and had many cocktails. Oh my, many cocktails! We had friends over for a party and we were so hung over neither Chris nor myself had our first beer till around 5:00 that evening. When we dropped him off at the airport, we vowed to stop drinking like we were 21 year olds because we are definitely NOT! He has been in the states and due to knee surgeries not able to deploy with his unit for a third time to the Middle East, which makes me happy, but now he is being sent to S. Korea for two years. We have been so lucky to be able to see him so many times over the years and we will definitely miss him, but thanks to things like blogging and Facebook, you never feel too far away. He is my dearest and oldest friend, and we definitely have a close relationship like brother and sister. We are both only children so it's nice to know there's someone out there like Chris. I love him.

In mid-April we traveled to Nashville for this year's Big O Tires convention. We have good friends who live there who had a baby last year so we went a few days early to spend some time with them. Little Jagger is really adorable and it was nice to see Danny's daughter Shyla too. She is really growing up and is funny and smart and likes the Beatles and the Stones and who doesn't love that?! Danny is a musician and currently has a gig at a dueling piano bar, The Big Bang, downtown so we went to see him a couple of nights and brought some of our fellow tire dealers with us. The first night during a break in his sets, Danny and I went down the street to another bar to see what kind of action was happening there. There was a FABULOUS act playing, The Travis Mann Band. They have a totally cute singer who sounds just like Buddy Holly, a hard-hitting drummer, and a stand-up bassist. All making for a raucously good time! We were ultimately trying to drum up business for the piano bar, so I was really getting down and encouraging all to join us at the piano bar afterwards. Danny did a few shots, then it was time for him to go back on. It was so fun to see him perform after so many years, and to get to show him off to our friends. He isn't The Amazing Danny Smith for nothing. This guy plays just about every instrument you can come up and even at one time had French AND Italian accordions. Who knew there were two kinds?! He has a great voice and mad piano-playing skills. No offense to all the other performers at the piano bar, but Danny is far superior when it comes to tickling the ivories. I visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and the highlight definitely was seeing Studio B where Elvis recorded almost all of his music. The original studio space is still in tact, along with all the analog recording equipment, and even the piano Elvis played during sessions. It is reported that he wanted to take the piano to Graceland, but the studio execs wouldn't let him so there it sits preserved in its glory.We stayed at the Gaylord Opryland, which is so big it's practically it's own country. It is a cool hotel and you can even tour the place if you're not an overnight guest. Lavish gardens, indoor waterways, and glass atriums make you feel like you are outside. There are even 30 foot waterfalls! Sadly, about two weeks after leaving Nashville, the river flooded and most of the hotel was under water. There are many things still to clean up I'm sure even though it has been three months. One thing I was impressed with was that the company decided to keep all employees on the payroll through the reconstruction. Nice job Gaylord!

We have done lots of traveling in the last three months so there is much to talk about. I will stop there for today and hopefully get some pictures up from Nashville and then continue on with the crazy lives of the Storys tomorrow.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring snow is here and I have March Madness!

I look forward to the NCAA Basketball Championship Tournament every year, and despite the fact that my brackets are seriously in the red, I am still really enjoying it. Two of the Final Four teams in last year's tournament aren't even in this year, including my team the Tarheels. They are the reigning champions so it is unusual that they didn't make it, but when you graduate two of the best players in the college it is understandable, at least for this year. I am still looking forward to seeing who ends up the winner this year. There have been many upsets and fun games are in our future! Cornell, Michigan State, Maryland, Washington, Pitt...who will they beat?!

It is a snowy Saturday morning and I have been tooling around the house all day. I am doing dishes and laundry here and there. I have definitely been obsessively checking my brackets, and now blogging. It is the first day of Spring and we got a beautiful one. Blue skies, snow-capped peaks, winter grasses, weighed-down evergreen branches. The bulbs in the front bed are starting to shoot through the soil.

I have been making a lot of soups lately, but now that Spring is here I must look up some seasonal recipes. I have joined a cool, new recipe site called Tasty Kitchen and have actually posted some of my soup recipes.  I made chicken piccata recently and it always turns out so good. It is very light and the lemon makes it pretty Spring-y I'd say. I need to make sides...pasta or potatoes, which veggie? Must go foraging in the fridge. Yum, I my mouth is watering thinking about the creamy lemony chicken. Matt will be home soon and not sure when he'll be ready to eat, but I hope it's soon!

My left front contact is bothering me!

Matt has been working at a one of our tire stores all week, and just to show you how ingrained in the job he gets I offer the following quote from our couch last night..

"My left front contact is bothering me!"

Where's your left front eye?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Have a heart

A couple of weekends ago we were lucky enough to be invited to the Denver Heart Ball which is a charity ball supporting the American Heart Association. It was a black tie event so tuxes and gowns for everyone! Not having ever worn rented clothes, I really can't imagine having to wear rented clothing so we went ahead and just bought a tux. There was a really good sale going on and now Matt has one forever. I bought a dress online and much to my surprise it fit me like a glove and I didn't even have to adjust the hem. I am short people so this is pretty much a miracle in my world. I got to buy some AWESOME sparkly shoes and jewelry too. There were photographers at the event and we ended up on on the web! We had a great time and hope to do it again next year. We also won a great prize at the silent auction...

Isn't it awesome?! If you like the Denver Broncos then you will like it. It's Eddie McCaffrey in the middle, my personal favorite player ever, Rod Smith on the right, and Shannon Sharpe on the left. All excellent former players! The McCaffrey's live down the street from me so we see them occasionally, and he does commercials for a local store. Shannon Sharpe is more well-known now for his broadcast work on  Sundays during football season. Rod Smith lives in the heart of every Broncos fan and I think he is still here in Denver, but we see him less. He sometimes does commercials too though.

We went with good friends the Maratis, one of whom works for a local radio station enterprise and knows everyone who's anyone. One of the emcees for the event was sitting at our table and it was great tio feel so connected to the event. The emcee was Denise Plante and she co-hosts a local radio (KOSI) and TV show, Colorado & Company. She was so very nice and it was great to meet her. I hope we see her again sometime and get the chance to know here a little better. It was a great time had by all at the ball and I can't wait to wear that dress again!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Big Hairy 'Stache

I was surprised at work today by the sudden presence of a big hairy mustache at my desk. This person works in another location and only comes to my office a few times a year. He is an ex-military guy and has always been undeniably smooth-faced, clean-shaven to the point of shiny-ness. Today is the first time I have seen him in several months and I have to say, wow, that is NOT a good look! He sort of made his way down the row and said hello to everyone, he's VERY friendly. (Not necessarily a bad thing, but can be a bit creepy sometimes.) One of my female coworkers said upon its sudden appearance to her, "Oh! Mustache, huh?" To which he replied, while stroking it's longish handles, "Yep, trying something new." Oh my God dude, nooooooo!!

I was trying to figure out how I could convince him to let me take a picture under some other guise. That thing is impressive! Impressively BAD! I actually mouthed the words to another coworker, "What's with the porn 'stache?!" He said he didn't know but that it was bad and funny. We laughed quietly for a few minutes and the the previously-mentioned female coworker asked what she'd missed and so I went over to her desk and told her we were having a little chuckle about the 'stache. Her reaction was basically a disgusted face. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! It was hilarious. He will probably be in the office tomorrow so I'll see if I can come up with a reason to take his picture.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

What's for dinner?

This week I have made two pots of soup with much success and wanted to share them. I tend to think that making soup takes a lot of time, but every time I am surprised at how little time it takes to make a delicious soup. Probably an hour total. An added bonus, you can scour your pantry and use what's about to go bad. I had potatoes and broccoli that I needed to use, for instance.

The way I cook is usually by starting with an inspiration recipe and then tweaking it to fit my taste, ingredients on-hand, etc. This time was no exception. Here are the recipes after I tweaked them.

Creamy Potato and Broccoli Soup
**NOTE: This recipe calls for the soup to be pureed and I recommend a stick blender. It is one of the most useful tools in my kitchen, and it's fun to use! Be careful if working in a non-stick pot to keep the blades off the bottom and sides to avoid scratching the pot.

1 tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups chicken stock
1.5-2 lbs. potatoes, washed but not peeled, and medium diced
1 large head broccoli, chopped into small pieces (chop and use the stems too, yum!)
1.5 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
1.5-1.75 cups heavy cream (could sub fat free half and half)
2 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste

Add 1 tbsp. butter to stockpot
When butter begins to melt, add 2 cloves of garlic
When you start to smell the garlic, add stock and potatoes
Cook for about 30 minutes until potatoes are fork-tender
Remove soup from heat and using a stick blender, puree soup to your preferred consistency (I left some potato chunks.) If you don't have a stick blender, puree in food processor or blender in batches. Be careful, it's hot!
Add broccoli and cook for 3-5 minutes till broccoli is bright green and just al dente
Add cheese and stir to combine
Once cheese melts, add cream and stir to combine
Add salt and pepper
Simmer for 5 more minutes
Serve with a sprinkle of cheese and bacon, if desired

Stick (immersion) blender

I made white bean and kale soup on Sunday night. It is so good! Matt doesn't think he would like it, but I say he should try it because I think he would.

White Bean and Tuscan Kale Soup
**NOTE: You can use regular kale, but I prefer Tuscan kale.

1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper
1/2 celery bunch, diced
1 bunch Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed and roughly chopped into 1-2 inch pieces
2 cans canellini beans
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
3 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup heavy cream (could sub fat free half and half)
1-2 tbsp. sherry wine vinegar
1-2 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste

Heat 1 tbsp. oil in stockpot and add 2 cloves garlic, pepper, and celery
Cook veggies for about 8 minutes, do not brown them
Add wine and simmer about 7 minutes till liquid is slightly reduced
Add beans, broth, and herbs and bring to a boil
Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes
Heat a skillet with 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
Add kale and 1-2 garlic cloves
Saute for about 7 minutes so kale is still a bit crisp and brighter green, set aside
Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaves and add kale
Add sherry wine vinegar, cream, salt and pepper and simmer for 5 more minutes
Serve with crusty bread

P.S. Either of these soups would be good with any added veggies you desired, like carrots in either or tomatoes in the white bean soup. I just used what I had on-hand.

Sorry I don't have pictures today, but I will update with them later.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I love to be a hippy, but my hair won't grow that long.....

I am a hippy at heart for various reasons. I like trees and animals and other plant stuff...and as previously mentioned, I am trying to be more "green". The latest development in this endeavor is that I joined a food co-op. Unfortunately, I am not able to dedicate vounteer time to a farm these days, but much to my surprise there are other co-op options. I will be receiving my first box of organic fruits and veggies from local farms on Thursday. This great organization, Door to Door Organics, will deliver this hippy-goodness to your door!

They send a list of the items that will arrive in your box and you have an opportunity to swap 3 items. I am very excited to see how this will really work because I feel like the items we are receiving are ones we eat on a regular basis, but it does seem like a bit much for one week. It is definitely an experiment, but the great thing about this organization is that you can change your box size, frequency, or even skip a week.

By the way, the title is reference to a great band's song, "I Love To Be A Hippy" by North Mississippi Allstars.