Thursday, February 20, 2014

How My Garden Came To Be

**please note, I am not an expert and the below was my first garden and how it came to be, if you have tips for improving, let me know!**
**also note, this is a long post, sorry!**

The thought of a garden was intimidating to me.  Kind of like shooting in the dark. I didn't know anything about plants and how to take care of them. How much food do they need, how much light, etc? Is there a rhyme or reason to how to plant or do I just throw my seeds out there and hope for the best? But sometimes, you just can't let the unknown stop you.
My first step was to get on my local agriculture website and see what veggies grew best in New Orleans climate.  Once I saw all the options, I had to whittle it down as I was only going to have a 4' x 8' raised bed (and maybe a few pots depending on how it went). Let me tell you, its hard once you see all the possibilities, you can get really excited. But, I did it. Painfully. We ended up going with: Lima beans, bell peppers, okra, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower, basil, lettuce, rosemary, and thyme. Once I got what I wanted, I dug a little more. I took a piece of paper, wrote each item and then listed the following for each one I needed to plant (I used google and my local agriculture center website for this info)
  • When to Start Planting
  • Space between each plant/seed
  • Days to Harvest
  • How much Sun
  • How much water
  • *and any other info I thought I would need (like you should stake tomatoes and pole beans, etc)
In my research I came across what is called "companion planting," Do you know what companion planting is? I certainly didn't. I didn't know some plants can hurt each other while others can help.  But, they can. So I wrote down what I wanted to grow and went one by one down my list until I had each item with a list of what would harm it and what would hurt it. Kind of like this:
  • Lima beans
    • No -Onion, tomatoes
    • Helps-Carrots, cucumbers lettuce, rosemary
  • Carrots
    • No-None in my garden
    • Helps-Tomatoes, onion, lettuce

 And so forth.

Once I did that I wrote on tiny pieces of paper each item and moved them into a column accordingly.  Moving them up and down as I went down my companion list. For my garden, I ended up with the following layout scheme: 

Lima Beans
*Tomatoes-in pots
*Basil-in pots
*Rosemary-in pots
*Parsley-in pots
**I realized these things required a lot of space that I just didn't have and knew they would do well in their own pots.
Next step was to see how many seeds per row I should do. Each plant requires so much space between each one.  On a piece of paper I drew a big box and vertically listed my items down (just like above). Knowing I had around 48 inches (minus some since you can't plant right up to the raised bed) for each row, I took 48 and divided it by the amount of space each plant needed. This gave me a rough number of how many to plant per row.  I went with the largest space needed, just to be on the safe side. I didn't want anything to be squished and not get the right nourishment. 

So for an example (Lettuce  4-12 inches apart): 48 in / 12 in spacing = 4 plants.  I knew I also had to leave some room from the edges, and this is what I came up with:

 6 IN --> LETT --> 12 IN --> LETT --> 12 IN --> LETT --> 12 IN -->  LETT --> 6 IN

 I did this the whole way down on my page.  Since I only had 8 ft in length to work with, I went with 12 inches between each row, just to be on the safe side. 96 in total / 12 plants (not including potted ones = 12 in. spacing. I thought 12 inches was a good number to keep between each row. So, this would give me one row of each item I wanted.

 On the left side of each row, outside the box, I wrote down the days I could plant. Ex: 3/1-3/15. And on the right side of each row, outside the box, I wrote if it had to be trellised. Here is a copy of my example.
(This is not to scale obviously. Each item is only one row in reality and each row should be evenly spaced)

After all this Josh built my bed and we started our process based on my final page. So far we can only plant lettuce, cauliflower, carrots, onions, and herbs. Come 3/1 we can plant everything else.

It's a little time consuming on the front end, but much easier once you go to plant everything because you have all the information you need at hand. No guess work! Ours is slowly, but surely showing some signs of progress.

Guess my thumb isn't as black as I thought. But it's probably still a little to early to tell.

Hope you plant a garden of your own and enjoy it as much as we do!


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Love the Quirks

I love taking weird pictures of my dog. I can't help it. I just love his tiny ballerina feet, bulbous nose, and puppy eyes. He is a weird one. But I love him all the more for it! 

He's my favorite!

Hope you have something you love for all it's quirkiness!


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

St. James Cheese Company-My Slice of Heaven

There is nothing better than cheese. Furthermore, there is nothing better than eating cheese with wine, fruits, and nuts. Going even further is getting to do all of these things in my favorite spot in New Orleans, St. James Cheese Company

It is a little slice of heaven. The place is stocked with what feels like your own personal cheese mongers. Have a recipe that needs cheese, ask em'. Have a question on how to create a cheese plate, ask em'. Want to know the best blue cheese, just ask.  It's wonderful. They even let you try some things if you are unsure before you purchase. You can choose from a variety (what feels like hundreds) of cheeses to take home. They even have a whole refrigerator case dedicated just to blue cheese. You can also find a vast array of goodies to go with your cheese. Anything from jam, jellies, crackers, cheese boards, books on cheese, some cured meats, and so much more. It's simply just wonderful.
      (this is just a side view. The real view if from the other side. That's the view with all the cheese!)       

But wait there's more!

You can also eat at this place too. Yep, right there in view of the cheese counters. They have a daily selection  of artisanal salads, artisanal sandwiches, the occasional mac-n-cheese, and even meat and cheese plates. You can't go wrong with anything here. I crave it constantly. They also offer a good selection of wines to go with your meal, either by the glass or by the bottle. The interior is a real cute teal color, with modern chairs and tables and modern cheese artwork all over the walls. It's got a really light and airy feeling. You can even eat outside under the somewhat covered patio as you enter the place. Or you can eat outside overlooking Prytania Street. This is what Josh and I do on a Friday night when the weather is nice. If you get there around six, the place isn't very crowded and you can just unwind from the week while enjoying some really great cheese and wine.

Are you hooked yet? Just wait, I'm still going!

They also have events all the time.  Basically like fun socializing cheese classes, usually with wine. Anywhere from $30-50 a person. Each class is different! They do classes on Irish cheese, or New World wind and cheese, Monastery Madness and SO many others. Their website offer a lot of information on their classes (under events). They make for a great date night if you are looking to change things up a bit.

I know, I'm hooked to.  It's why it's one of my favorite places in New Orleans. I wish I was there now. Definitely try it out if you ever get the chance!


Monday, February 17, 2014

Sunday Dinner

Josh has basically been begging to cook beef bourguignon since we watched Tyler Florence cook it about 2 weeks ago on food network. He can't help himself. The guy loves a one pot meal that he gets to break out the dutch oven and dump a whole bottle of wine in. Since we like to cook, I personally like to try things we haven't attempted before, but yesterday I just didn't have any other ideas. So Josh won the Sunday dinner argument.

We have made many many many beef bourguinon over the course of our marriage. We have made Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon and Food and Wine Magazine's Own Version. I have even re-created my dad's beef burgundy (which is my favorite, but very labor intensive) a time or two. Ill try to post that recipe soon. All of these are wonderful recipes and always an arms reach away for my go-to weekend recipes. But since Josh saw Tyler Florence re-create a version that didn't seem to be as near time consuming or have a huge laundry list of ingredients as some, that was the overall winner last night.

          (It was so laid back for beef bourguinon, Josh had ample time to torture our poor fur child)

And a winner it was. This version is served over butter parsley pasta and topped with the crumbled bacon. It will definitely be added to my one-pot go to recipes.

Adapted from: Tyler Florence-Beef Bourguignon
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 bacon slices, cut into 3-inch strips
  • 4 pounds beef chuck or round, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 can beef consume
  • 1 bottle dry red wine, such as  Burgundy (we used Bordeaux)
  •  5 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • Bouquet garnit (2 fresh rosemary sprigs, 8 fresh thyme sprigs, 2 bay leaves, tied together with kitchen twine or tied in cheese clothe)
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 pound white mushrooms, stems trimmed
  • pinch of sugar
  • 3 cups blanched and peeled pearl onions (we used a bag of frozen ones)
  • package of egg noodles
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons parsley
  • sea salt
  • Put a large Dutch oven over medium heat and drizzle in a 1/2-count of oil. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove it to a paper towel; crumble when cool and set aside to use for the garnish.
  • Season the beef with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Add the beef to the pot in batches. Fry the cubes in the bacon fat until evenly browned on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. You want a LOT of color here. Don't worry about the stuff sticking to the bottom of the pan-its flavor. Remove from the pot to a plate.
  • Add the tomato paste and flour to the pot and stir to combine. 
  • Add in the can of beef consume and whisk unit all combined.
  • Whisk in the red wine and beef broth; add the beef back into the pot along with the bouquet garni.
  • Stir everything together and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook until the liquid starts to thicken and has the consistency of a sauce; this should take about 15 minutes. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour.
  • In a small skillet, over medium-low, heat a little olive oil. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms start to brown, about, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the pearl onions and cook until onions are heated through.
  • Uncover the pot and add the mushroom mixture along with the pinch of sugar to balance out the acid from the red wine.
  • Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Turn the heat up slightly and simmer for 45 minutes longer, until the vegetables and meat are tender. You want the sauce to be like a thick gravy. Not like soup, or even stew. Gravy consistency.
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt and egg noodles and cook until done.
  • Drain and add to a bowl. Add the butter and stir gently until butter is completely melted. Add the parsley and a pinch of good coarse seal salt. Stir to combine
  •  Remove the bouquet garni from the pot.
  • Add pasta to a bowl. Add a few chunks of meat on top of the pasta. Add a few spoon fulls of sauce. Place onion and mushrooms around the meat and shower with chopped parsley and the reserved crumbled bacon before serving.
Hope you like it as much as we did. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Garden Void

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My garden desires are getting the better of me.

When we originally set out and got our garden up and running, I thought we would be spending hours with upkeep. Between watering, weeding, pruning, and feeding I thought for sure I might be feeling a little overwhelmed at this point. I now see overwhelmed would be a large exaggeration. Underwhelmed is more like it. Truth be told my expectations were probably a little off seeing as we only planted a 4'x8' raised bed, not some huge acre garden. But that's neither here nor there. 

It's just that I got myself all psyched for really getting into my new project. I was ready for it. Inspired almost. So instead of hovering over my bed like some crazy person wishing for something to happen, I decided to plant some herbs in some pots to fill my garden void.

Rosemary, basil, and parsley.

I'm hoping these babies provide some sort of garden entertainment for me until the other things really come in. 

At the least, maybe I can make some pesto?

Wishful thinking ahead, 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Take A Seat

Well our 65 year old, plastic bubbling, grimy, pink toilet was laid to rest today. And I could not be more excited! I can't believe it even lasted that long. It kind of sicks me out if I think about it to much.

A few weeks ago, every time you flushed the toilet, it would leak into a good sized puddle. We have tile floors, so we would just wipe it up, sanitize, and keep on movin'. I finally reached the end of my rope though. It was the moment I walked into the bathroom and saw josh sopping up the freshly made puddle with the bath mat. That's right, the mat my clean feet step on each time I get out of the shower. How many days/weeks had he been doing this? I know I hadn't washed the bath mat lately. And let's be honest, I know Josh wouldn't have washed it. Have I mentioned how fun it is to try to figure out how to live with a guy? Needless to say, we needed a new toilet...and bath mat maybe. So that's what we did Saturday. Nothing says bonding like installing toilets. 

We mulled seriously over the options of toilets (if having a tape measure on your jeans doesn't scream serious, I don't know what does)

We picked out our new one
......and a few herbs to be planted, because let's get real here, no way was I actually gonna be involved in touching all parts of a 65 year old toilet...I had better things to do. Like plant. I definitely got the better end of the odor job here.

Then we installed it. Well, Josh installed it and I laughed as he moaned about blue plastic gloves and kept making vomiting sounds. 
I didn't last long. I just came back at the end to see the new piece of beauty.
And what a beauty she is! No more pink. And certainly no more plastic that would bubble up. Pure toilet bliss.

I guess I can look past my now nasty bath mat and appreciate Joshy for saving us a few bucks by replacing the toilet himself. I guess I'll keep him around for now. The bath mat, not so much!


Friday, February 14, 2014

Strawberry Valentine

Happy Valentine's day. That means sweets galore. Chocolate things, tart things, fruity things, and so much more. The possibilities are endless. Which is great for me since that is Josh's favorite food group of all time. Have I mentioned all the king cakes and pies? I'm pretty sure on his death bed, sweets would be his last meal choice.  Needless to say, his Valentines day wouldn't be complete without a little sweet treat. And what kind of Valentine would I be if I didn't indulge him a little? It is a holiday after all.

This year I opted for the tart route. It tends to be a preference of his for candy. So a big box of "sweet-tarts" is what I got him. Nothing fancy and sadly, nothing homemade. There was just no time this year. Let's be honest though, as long as it's a sweet, he doesn't really care where it comes from. Bonus for me!

In previous years though, when I can make something home-made, one of my bigger hits was a heart shaped strawberry pizza. It was gone by the end of the day. I'm pretty sure pink icing was caked in his beard for the better part of the day. Not a crumb was left. 


-adapted from Pillsbury
1 roll of Pillsbury sugar cookie dough
1 8 oz package cream cheese, at room temp
1 tub of cool whip, at room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1 box strawberry gelatin
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 quart strawberries, cut into slices
*optional-strawberry extract

  1. Spread the cookie dough on the bottom of a pan (heart shaped pan, jelly roll pan, really just any low pan with sides.
  2. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. (I do mine for 9-10 cause I like my cookies chewy)
  3. Let cool completely. Otherwise, you will have a runny stick mess on your hands. And a cookie that doesn't look to appealing.
  4. Beat the cream cheese and sugar together (either with a hand mixer or stand mixer).
  5. Add the vanilla extract and beat again.
  6. Gently fold in the tub of cool whip
  7. Add half of a bag of strawberry gelatin to the icing mixture and give it a good stir. It will turn a pretty shade of pink.
  8. Since I like my icing to really taste like strawberries, I add about a 1/4-1/2 tsp of strawberry extract. Just a small splash. And mix it in
  9. Spread the icing mixture over the cooled cookie.
  10. Top with strawberries. However you want to arrange them. Don't worry about it being to pretty, the whole thing will be gone before you know it! No one will even remember the design.
I'm pretty sure if Josh thought this was an option for his V-Day sweet this year, he would have been disappointed in the sweet-tarts. But what he doesn't know won't kill him. There is always next year!

It's always such a hit item that I often make it in a regular round pan and bring it to all kinds of events. Just make sure you have the recipe on hand as you will be asked for it. Multiple times. You will quickly turn into someone's favorite person. Someone even told me that they now ask for that on their birthday instead of cake.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Oysters and the Locals

You shuck them, then you rear your head back and put the tip of the shell to your mouth, and finally tip the whole thing (liquid and all) so it basically slides down your throat all in one fell swoop. Trust me, you do not want to be chewing on an oyster. I mean they do kind of emulate a loogie. A really really salty loogie. Sorry, I had to say it. But boy do Josh and I love em'.

We don't however, love them when they are the size of our hands. On those instances, we choose to go the cracker and cocktail sauce route. A little chewing involved, but manageable with some substance of a cracker. Definitely a good route if you're trying these things for the first time!

Sometimes, we wake up on the weekend and just have a hankerin' for them. Nothing fancy and definitely not a full meal. The best place in town for such a hankering is Felix Oyster Bar.

                                                                 oh how handsome he is!

Across from Acme Oyster house, there is nothing pretentious about this place. You can wait for a table and have a dozen or more delivered to you. You can blend in with the tourists and just enjoy. Or, you can be like a local and just stand (or sit) at the bar. That's right, an oyster bar. Behind the counter they have men shucking oysters right there in front of you. There is whole trough filled with unopened oysters waiting to be eaten. They shuck em, you shoot em, and just lay the leftover right there on the counter. You can even ask them to give you small ones if you want. You can have one or you can have fifty. Just wherever the day takes you.

It was at this very bar we were called "locals" for the first time. It was an exciting, thirlling time! Oh the little things in life. Oddly enough, it wasn't because we chose to eat at the bar or that we were walking out and about in the rain without ponchos. It was actually because of the alcohol. Or lack there of it, it turns out. We had parked our butts up at the bar and ordered a few oysters when the guy behind the counter said "can I get you a beer or anything?". We just wanted oysters, so we declined telling him just that. That's when he said it. I wish I could have recorded it!  "Oh, yall must be from here. All these tourists just want to get drunk and the oysters are a side thing." Our ears perked up and we smiled at him a bit and said, "why yes we are actually." For the next 45 minutes or so (now that he had figured out we were not crazy tourists) we chatted with the local Felix oyster shucker. We talked about his family, the food, the Saints, and he even told us a few crazy stories of some of the things he had seen on Bourbon Street.

Things are different when you're a local. What can I say, it's just a matter of fact. Well, that day at least! Other times you can DEFINITELY tell we are not from here. But, after 2 years of living in the Big Easy we are certainly well on our way. I will take the small successes wherever I can get em'!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"Get On The Rug"

We woke up yesterday morning to rain. Lots and lots of rain. Fortunately for me, I have a fur child that actually likes the rain and will willingly go outside to potty without me having to entice him. No dragging or pushing happening here. Just the opening of the door. Unfortunately for me, he tends to stay out a fuzz longer than I prefer in the pouring rain. Knowing this (and being ruled by my dog), I just go and grab an old grubby towel we can use to wipe him down when he decides to come back in.

Mornings with Drake is the hub's responsibility. He feeds him and let's him go potty. Well, he was running a little late and I thought I would chip in. I let him out and then go and grab the towel from the laundry room. I even take the effort to lay the towel out close to the door. Good thinking I thought! Since I know Drake will be out there a bit, I mosey my way back into the bathroom to finish my hair. By this time Josh is in the kitchen and I can hear him let Drake back in. And that's when I hear it. Like clock work. "Drake get on the rug".

 I IMMEDIATELY know what is going on. I come flying out of the bathroom, arms flailing, and immediately start yelling, NO drake, come here!! I look at Josh dumbfounded, and sadly enough he was giving me the same stare back, as if I were some crazy person. I'm sorry I thought, why are you giving me the look? He looks at me and casually says "at least the rug would catch some of his dog prints instead of our wood floors." "It can't be that hard to clean, its a cheap rug." I just look up at him, feeling defeated at this point, and say- "that's why I laid the towel out, so you could give him a quick dry off before letting him run through the house." His reply, "Oh, I didn't think about that."

My shoulders drop and my head sinks. Another classic moment of men and women trying to live together (or maybe just Josh and I?).

Same logic, just different outcomes.

I'm probably never going to alter Josh's way of thinking about the towel, just as he will never (ever ever ever ever) alter my way of thinking about the rug. No use in yelling. So that leaves only a few things to do....

1) Shake my head and laugh (mainly at how men think....I mean really?!)
2) Keep an arsenal of cleaning supplies around  the house just for instances like this. (and occassionally make Josh do the clean-up...still hoping this helps alter his thinking...)
3) Continue to buy the cheap decor so it can get dirty and the hubs can justify it.

Oh men. And Dogs.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lola's - A Taste of Spain

This weekend Josh's cousins asked us to go to dinner with them. And boy am I glad we did! They suggested Lola's, which was a restaurant we hadn't ventured into yet. They also said to go ahead and bring our own bottle of wine. Not that uncommon I thought, being that a lot of restaurants down here don't have liquor license, so instead do a "corking" fee.  Having not heard of this Lola place, I decided to do a quick google search to see what was in store. To my surprise, they had wine by the glass and the bottle? Weird? Why would I want to pay $5 for a corking fee when I can just buy a cheaper bottle of wine there? But, who am I to complain.
We went to the nearest Whole Foods and grabbed a bottle of red wine from Argentina thinking it would pair pretty nice with our menu options.  Then we hoped in our car and drove to our dinner destination. As we approached this tiny restaurant there seemed to be quite a few people standing outside.  Pretty happenin' place I thought, which is always a good sign!
After our initial hugs and greetings, and wine in tow of course, we go to put our name on the list. Two hour wait. That's right, two hours. By the time we would even sit down it would be 9:30, and this old lady is usually in bed by then.  Surely we are not going to wait here for two hours. I'm not sure I have ever had any food worth a two hour wait time. And that's when everything came together for me. The light bulb went off and it was clear as day.
The wine was not to be enjoyed with dinner. No, the wine was to be enjoyed in the sitting areas around the outside of the restaurant while you wait your two hour turn (dangit, we should have gone for the cheapo wine!) So even though you may have to wait, at least you get to wait with wine in hand and in good company. We parked our butts on the available chairs, enjoyed our wine, and caught up on lost time. Three bottles of wine and six chatty mouths later, we were finally ready to be seated. And let me tell you, the wait was well worth it. Well, I hope so at least! Maybe it was the wine talking or my grumbling stomach? I can be easily swayed when those things get paired together.
Needless to say the food is wonderful and the atmosphere is charming. Turns out, they are known for their paella, which comes in various sizes big enough to feed an army if you want. There is nothing better than sharing wine with good company and a big plate of paella. Everyone reaching in and grabbing at things. Food falling all over the table as if we were a bunch of 5 year olds. Even the occasional fork right into the dish and straight to the mouth moments-we're family, we don't care. At 25 years old, you would have never thought we had never seen food before by the way our table looked. We were actually kind of embarrassed. Another testament as to how good the food was I guess.

That night as a table we had:
Garlic Mushrooms
Grilled Calamari
Fried Poblano rings
A medium seafood paella
A medium seafood Fideuas
Flan and Cappuccinos

So if you're ever in the mood for Spanish food or just a long casual night out with friends, put this on your list. The wait can be well worth it, just bring the right company and the right bottle of wine.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dirty Dishes or Dirty Grill

After a long weekend of attending a business trip out of town, the last thing I want to do is cook and clean once I get home. I hardly want to unpack my suitcase yet alone do the dishes. I can be lazy, what can I say. And let's be honest here, the hubs (although he tries bless his heart) just doesn't clean the way I do. So when the one question I've been trying to avoid all day comes up, I panick! Josh loves to cook and it's something we enjoy doing together. Sunday's are our big all day cooking days after all. Just not Sundays after a long business trip. So then, what's for dinner he asks? Beef bourgnon? Pasta bolognes? Coqauvin? He just keeps pulling out his favorite Sunday one pot meals, and after each one a bead of sweat starts to form. I can just visualize all those dishes. It's not like we cook with pristine ease here. We are more like Texas tornadoes sweeping through the kitchen with wild vengeance. So I begin to rack my brain for a solution he not only will like, but enjoy cooking.

And then it comes. The best idea I had all day. Beer Brats. Bratwursts covered in peppers, and onions and then slow simmered in beer on the charcoal grill-it was pretty close to perfect. Maybe not his favorite Dutch oven recipe, but he sure does love that grill. Lucky for me he took the bait! The only "dish" it requires is a throw away aluminum pan, and plates if you choose not to use paper. Paper of course was the only way we were going tonight. Yes, pure bliss. No dishes, and I got to observe the grill master (a pretty handsome sight) instead of having to assist in anything. Genius I tell you. I should start keeping a list of all those easy, but fun for the hubs to cook recipes close by just for days like today. Happy hubs and even happier (and much relieved) wife.

Charcoal Beer Brats
Bratwursts of your liking (use toothpicks to remember each kind-one on one end = a certain kind)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp minced garlic
Half a stick of butter (I never said this was healthy!)
A few dashes or Worcester sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
At least 2 beer of your choice
Buns for your dogs
Disposable aluminum pan

Slice the red bell pepper and onion. Place in the aluminum pan. Nestle your brats (poke em all over with a toothpick) in the pan. Throw in the garlic, butter, and worcester sause. Season with salt and pepper. Then pour in your beer until the brats are almost fully covered. Too easy!

Heat grill over medium to medium high heat. Place aluminum pan on grill and bring the beer to a boil. Simmer the brats 15 min. Take the Bart's out and place directly on the grill grates. Give em some nice grill marks (about 5 min turning once). Place back into pan and let the juices soak back in. Cook another 5 minutes. Heat your buns and serve!

***we like to put hot Dijon mustard, creole mustard, or my personal favorite-a shallot butter worcester sauce (2 tbsp minced shallots 3-4 tbsp soft butter, 4 dashes Worcester, salt and pepper) on our buns before piling them up with the brats, onions, and pepper. Man food heaven, wife food happiness! You will definitely want to keep these recipe close by.

Sadly, I didn't cook, clean, or do the laundry today. I still haven't unpacked (Josh is so lucky I know!)  But at least my stomach is full. There is always tomorrow after all.

Happy wife,

Friday, February 7, 2014

10 Things About NOLA

10 things I've Learned so far living in New Orleans

  1. They have some of the best food. Beignets, crawfish, gumbo ,etc. Yum!

  1. You can occasionally see women's underwear hanging from rear-view mirrors of drivers cars. Think I'm kidding, I'm not. Supposedly it has something to do with Mardi Gras, but I would need a refresher course on that before giving details.

  1. Speaking of Mardi Gras-King Cakes pop up during Mardi Gras season. My hubs has declared this his favorite time of year. According to him, there is nothing better than starting your day with a black cup of coffee and a sugary filled treat. (Our favorite is Randazzo's!) Try one sometime. I've been told it's been known to change lives.

  1. The coffee of preference down here is coffee with Chicory. Chicory is the root of an endive plant. Supposedly it's added to coffee to soften the bitter edge of dark roasted coffee. Jury is still out on this one for me.

  1. It's not only hot here, it is also extremely sticky. Not a good combination most days for this Arkansas girl.

  1. Crawfish is a wonderful, glorious mud bug I can't seem to get enough of. I live for crawfish season. Sometimes I wish I were a crawfish. Until I really think about all that mud. I think I should choose something better to be.

  1. People describe themselves as "passionate" down here. Often times, I think to myself-"or maybe you are just a little crazy intense?"

  1. The pronounce street names funny down here and take offense to the miss pronunciation. Hellooo, cant they tell by my lack of accent that I'm not from here!

  1. New Orleans does not believe in left hand turns. You have to literally pass your turn, go down a block or two and then make a u-turn just to get on the road you need. Does this seem crazy to anyone else?

  1. We live in " The animals world" down here. Roof rats that want to escape from the heat and take up shop in your attic. Cock roaches that grow to the size of rats and lack any fear of humans (plus I heard they fly..YIKES). You even have massive rats, called Nutria, that grow to the size of small beavers. They sometimes hang out around the levees near my house. Some days I'm a little worried they will start thinking like the roof rats.
Nola love,

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Dog is My Master

My fur child has my heart. And here's why....

he starts his day by bounding into our bed at 6:45 a.m, nuzzles his way up the length of my body, and eventually ends up on his back where he expectantly waits for you to give him a belly rub...

his whole body wiggles when he sees me coming through the door..

and he always brings me something to greet me after a hard day's work...

he loves me when I give him his food....

and even more when we go to play with his ball.....

he is a big dog trapped in a small dogs body and always finds a way to cuddle up on the couch next to me, knowing full and well he shouldn't be up there...

but, he has these eyes. These big pouty, chocolate colored, round puppy eyes. He gives them to me all the time. Sadly, I'm not strong enough to resist them. They melt me. They make me feel like he is piercing my soul. Lord help me!

It's even more sad he has these eyes because he knows he rules me. He thinks he is my master and I live for him. "Why of course he should be on my couch". And "absolutely I want to give him table scraps". And my personal favorite, "what would I want to do more than play ball with you in the pouring down rain."  Ohh my internal agony. As a result, my house is usually filled with 25 balls waiting to be stepped on, muddy dog prints that take basically a commercial mop to get up, drool covering most of the places we try to eat, and dog hair in almost every place imaginable. Sometimes I even wonder why I waste my time cleaning knowing it's just gonna be a disaster come the next round of puppy eyes.

But look at those eyes. How could anyone resist? Melts my heart. Always has, always will.

I've been duped,

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Tale of A Basketcase

It would have been too easy for Josh and I to just get engaged and plan a wedding. You know the old saying "Go big or go home", well that's just what we did.

In less than a year's time he put a ring on it, got a 6 month internship in NOLA, temporarily moved to NOLA, was so awesome the firm couldn't bare to let him go so he got a permanent position and then called me to tell me the good news. I cried, like a small child, a little out of happiness and a lot out of sadness for leaving my hometown and family. But, I bucked up and dried my tears (momentarily), went looking for a job in NOLA and then landed my job. We then decided to buy a house. We found a house that needed a little work and then also decided to do the work ourselves. Oh, and did I mention we were planning our wedding that was taking place back home, almost 10 hours away  (thank goodness for my mom for going to all my vendor appointments and making sure everything was perfect)!

We can do this we thought. Won't be a problem. Piece of cake. I can handle the pressures of a new city, new job, hometown ties, and renovating a house. It would be fun to put our blood, sweat, and tears into making a home to start our lives together. WRONGOOOOOO. The blood came, the sweat came, and the tears came. But they were not fun and they were certainly not pretty. Josh was much better at it than I was. I can promise you, you wouldn't find him balled up in a dark closet crying from frustration and exhaustion. Sadly, that is where you could find me…..most of the time. At least I  know all the intricate details of our closet now? No, that statement didn't convince me either that I wasn't a complete basket case. Poor Josh. We weren't even married yet. Trooper for still going through with the wedding (or just plain dumb?)

Our 1960's home came complete with our very own pink master bathroom.  Pink sink, pink counter, and pink toilet-original might I add. It came with kitchen drawers that didn't have backs. It even came with pink tile floors through the main living areas of the house. Geez someone really liked pink. Overall, the house wasn't bad. Definitely a manageable goal. Lucky for me, the hubs is an architect and worked construction for 3 years. Unlucky for him that I had a major tendency (more like a hard-core habit) to treat him like a paid worker instead of a life partner. What can I say, my basket case abilities got the better of me. I'm still finding ways to apologize for it. Pie anyone? After two years of owning the sucker we have put our own touches into it and have really made it into something we love. There is still work to be done (sadly the bathroom is still pink and the original toilet now leaks), but we are well on our way.

Here some of the before pics. I know, it could have been a LOT worse. By no means a "gut", just a little sprucing up!

Still having basket-case tendencies,

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Garden Vs. Thumb-The Battle is On

I have a black thumb. I could kill any living plant I can get my hands on. And sadly, I have. I have killed orchids, ferns, shrubs, and even cactuses. I mean who can kill a cactus. They don't even take an effort to keep alive. They don't even have pretty flowers that will wilt or stems that will start to slump over. Its like I go to get my cute new plant and the minute it sees my thumb reaching for its container at the Home Depot, it decides to start dying right then and there. The black thumb of death. Won't even give me a chance. So logically, what do me and the hubs decide to do this year.....plant a garden. Yes, you heard me right, a plot of soil to grow a variety of hard to grow vegetables that take a lot of knowledge of how to cultivate and also constant maintenance. Do you water it every day, or just when the roots begin to feel dry? Do you put it in full sun or partial sun? Do you give it fertilizer or nutrients? Compost or regular soil? Don't worry, I am thinking the same thing. What have I done? If I can't keep my ivy, that sits in a windowsill and requires no maintenance alive, how am I suppose to care for a garden?? To be honest, I still don't know. I just know I refuse to let this black thumb of mine get the better of me!

And so it's begun, our journey through the trials and tribulations of a vegetable garden.

After a ton of research (even companion planting---that's right, I'm getting hard core about my efforts), for our early season planting we went with red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, cauliflower, carrots, onion, and a strawberry plant.

My hubs got out his trusty tools, carpentry skills, and sweat and put them to good use building this beautiful raised bed.  He is a handy thing. I think I will keep him around.

To bad I couldn't get him to carry the 40 lb mulch bags by himself from the truck to the back yard. Im now rethinking the whole "keeping around", or at least my arms are. About 30 bags of top soil, mulch, compost, and fertilizer, we were ready to go. Got out my row planning guide and we sowed our seeds. A day and a half later we had ourselves the making of a small garden.

Fingers crossed my seeds didn't react to seeing my thumbs the way the plants normally do....or that Josh's thumbs are a form of a green goddess!

Wishful thinking,

Monday, February 3, 2014

Restaurant Ventures

New Orleans is known for their gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and the occasional fried chicken. But, did you know they have a wide range of other wonderful options?? Barbecue, American, Vietnamese, French, Greek, Creole, Italian, and so many more.  My poor waist line cries at the thought of all these new things to try (and occasionally my bank account)!

There are around 1400 restaurants in New Orleans (Foodies Paradise). After two years of living in the Big Easy, we have discovered a number of mouthwatering restaurants as well as some we probably won't venture into again. We have been committed upscale diners and regulars in the "neighborhood joints." Let me tell you, it doesn't get better than the food in New Orleans.  Gluttony is always rearing its head around the corner. I'm still just trying to figure out if it’s a pretty head or an ugly one I should run from.

Take a stroll with me as I go through some of our hits. (I'm not really into slamming places…could have been a bad night for the chef, a crummy attitude for me, or a lot of other things…so you only get our hits…sorry!) Your stomach won't be sorry you did. 

 Restaurant Venture: La Provence-A John Besh Restaurant

I don't know if it was the small town homesickness getting to us,  craving of French food, or desire for a little adventure that had my hubs picking this place for a date night. About 35-40 minutes away from New Orleans in Lacombe, LA is this enchanting old house made to look like It was plucked right out of France. It is nestled on the right hand side of a densely wooded road with nothing really standing out as you approach that would lead you to believe it's a restaurant.  If you aren't paying too close attention, it could pass you right up. Especially if you are taking the adventure at night. And trust, me you do NOT want to pass this gem up.  You enter though and old carved door into a warm and inviting atmosphere. Low lightening, fire place burning (if you go in the cooler months), and lots of wood chairs and tables that give it a French country feel. The menu selection is absolutely fabulous with a wonderful selection of fresh home-grown ingredients.

 That night we had:
-Road Heirloom Beet and Smoked Shrimp Salad (one of the best things we've ever tried)
-Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Chestnuts and Apples
-Pasta with oysters and shrimp in a butter olive oil sauce
-Grilled Rack of Lamb with ricotta cavatelli, black Tuscan kale, and roast lam jus
-Sweet potato beignets with coffee ice-cream
-Meyer  Lemon Souffle Tart

 Put it on your place to try. If anything, it's a nice change of pace from the busyness the big city typically has.

Guilty of Gluttony,

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Easy as Pie

Whoever said the way to a man's heart was through his stomach? I think they forgot the other variation to this saying. Yep, it definitely should read-the way to a woman's heart is through the man's stomach. Scratching your head yet? Are you feeling a little mislead? Let me enlighten you then! 

You see, you can make an apple pie to land the guy (do you like me ability to rhyme). You get the ring, have a big ole wedding, move into a home together, and then start livin' your lives. Love grows as fast as the dirty dishes, or laundry, dog hair tumble weeds floating around the house, or even the grime in the bathrooms. This happened to me you see (there I go again with my rhymes). And here we are, a year and a half  later. I no longer desire flowers on a whim or a candlelit dinner. What gets me happy is seein' my hubs with a vacuum, and sometimes with the rubber gloves! What a glorious sight it is, some days it even brings a tear to my eye. 

So, back to pies now that you have landed the guy.  A year and a half later, pies are no longer made to make my hubs heart flutter. They are made to make my heart flutter-and here's how. Let's be honest if your guy is anything like mine, the chances of the hubs "willingly" or even "wanting" to do housework is about as "willingly" or "wanting" as my desire to gut a fish. Here is where it dawned on me.....he may not like housework, but he sure loves pies. He may not want to clean the bathroom, but he might for pie. BRILLIANT!! Nobel peace prize material right here. So here is what you do.

1) Casually tell him you have been looking at new pie recipes (gets his stomach thinking)
2) Tell him about all the fabulous recipes you have found and how delicious they look (show him a picture---his mouth is likely to water by now)

**By this point, he is hooked. You got him. He is gonna do anything for that glorious piece of pie

3) You bring out your bargaining guns. "OK honey, if you clean the bathroom, I will slave away over the stove making you apple pie." He wants that pie bad enough..his hatred of cleaning bathrooms will wash away.
4) You bake pie and he makes your bathroom sparkle. His heart is happy and now, so is yours.

**Disclaimer---after many time doing this (our poor waistlines) my hubs has begun to catch on. He now says, "I will clean the bathrooms for pie." So I begin to make the pie and he doesn't make a move for the bathroom. "Something" will come up. Now he has pie and I still have a dirty bathroom. Don't worry though, I am trickier than he is! I lovingly cut his piece of pie, top it off with ice-cream, and let him eat in glorious delight. I don't even say a word about the bathrooms. I don't have to. I know tomorrow he is gonna remember that pie and want it again. Only this time I will hold it hostage until the bathroom is clean. There is nothing worse than a man who has tasted the pie, craves the pie, has it in arms reach, and then its snatched away. Plus, his conscience will kick in and he will begin to feel guilty that he has already had a piece and he hasn't done his end of the deal. Again, you win!

So do you see how they left out this vital piece of information?? Better breakout your cookbooks, and maybe your running shoes, and get to it. Here are some of my go to recipes:

Land the Guy Pies: (these are a bit more labor intensive and impressive)
Martha Stewart Homemade Apple Pie
Allrecipes-Grandma Ople's Apple Pie

You Got the Guy Pies (very rustic and SO easy to whip up-a winner since it's probably harder to clean the bathroom)
John Folse Skillet Apple Pie    **this one is by far our favorite anyways!

Happy in Pie