Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Flower Box Starting to Bloom & The Reason Why Cats Love Spring

Spring is officially here. Things are no longer grey and cold, instead green is emerging everywhere and the frost has dissipated. This Spring is particularly exciting since it is our first in the house. Even though Antoine and I haven't started the bulk of our adventure into gardening, we're already starting to reap some green-thumbed rewards. Last year, just after we bought the house, we planted some bulbs in our flower box that sits outside our bedroom windows. And miracle of miracles they've actually started to bloom! Now, you should know a little something about me...I'm a notorious plant killer! I look at a plant and it withers up and dies. But this is the first time I've planted something and it's actually grown. There's hope for me yet!

Pink hyacinth starting to bloom.

We planted hyacinth, tulips and daffodils (some of my favorite Spring flowers).

Now, onto the part about the cats. Last night I came home from work and it was a pleasant 60 degrees and sunny. So I decided to open up all the upstairs windows and enjoy the sunshine. And the cats seemed to think this was perhaps the most brilliant thing I've ever done! They all scurried upstairs and hoped into a window to experience all the sights, sounds, and smells that early Spring has to offer.

Guillermo in the bathroom window.

Missy in the hallway window.

Buddy enjoying the bedroom window and the flower box.

Gui taking in the evening sunlight.

Speaking of's my favorite new addition to the livingroom. These three bottles were actually bottles of wine (a Riesling that was actually pretty decent). I figured why not recycle them, it seemd like the perfect idea since the colors coordinate with our livingroom decor. Even more proof that I am in fact a cat lady!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Adventures in Cooking

Yay, blogger decided to actually cooperated for me today! Finally.

Now...let's talk about pot roast and mashed potatoes (emphasis on the last part!). This past Sunday I took another stab at not one, but two more Pioneer Woman recipes (sited above). Antoine and I love pot roast, I mean who doesn't really!? But generally we make ours in the's easy and delicious. So right off the bat Antoine was skeptical about this pioneer lady's pot roast made in the a's maddness! But I couldn't resist trying it. Can you blame me?!? Look at that deliciousness....

Mmm, meaty goodness!

I followed PW's suggestion and decided to make mashed potatoes to go with it. Antoine was also perplexed by this since he's always had potatoes cooked in with a pot roast (along with carrots and onions). PW advocates that you not include potatoes in your pot roast as they tend to break down, lose their flavor and get "mealy". PW's mashed potatoes where very similar to mine, which a couple exceptions. I tend to add rosemary and garlic to my potatoes, generally infusing the flavors into some melted butter in a small saucepan. I simmer the rosemary, garlic (I cheat and use the minced jar stuff), and butter over a medium to med-low heat until the garlic slightly browns (but make sure not to let the butter brown/burn). Also, PW adds cream cheese to her mashed potatoes, which I found interesting and this addition was the key motivation for me to try her recipe. [She also puts her mashed taters in a casserole dish and then bakes them in the oven, I decided not to do this]. Result? BEST MASHED POTATOES I'VE EVER HAD!! Seriously, they were amazing. I left the skin on some small yellow potatoes, did my little rosemary/garlic trick, added some more butter, salt, pepper, non-fat milk and a 8oz package of cream cheese and I was in heaven!! Antoine and I actually stood next to the stove and just kept eating spoonfuls directly out of the pot while we were waiting on the roast to finish. They were so deliciously creamy and thick that Antoine requested that I only ever make THESE mashed potatoes in the future! I think that's a good sign.

Now back to the roast. It was a pretty straightforward recipe, not near as aggravating as the chicken piccata that I previously posted about.

Mmm, I do love me some carrots! I thought the carrots in this recipe turned out especially well. They were super sweet and the perfect consistency.

I ended up using an English roast (or cross rib roast) because that's what we had. I suspect that using a larger chuck roast (as PW did) would yield better results. The English roast has a lot of bone and not as much meat as a chuck roast, so I wouldn't suggest it for a pot roast.

Look at those beautiful carrots all shiny from being lightly browned in some olive oil.

I also didn't have a sprig of fresh rosemary or thyme, but I have an abundance of dried herbs so that's what I used. I can see where sprigs of herbs might be ideal for this recipe. I was worried that with the dried rosemary/thyme I'd find chunks of herbs in my teeth while eating the pot roast, but the 3+ hours the roast spent in the oven subdued and soften the herbs, blending them nicely into the broth.

Verdict: Delicious (and as with the chicken piccata, even better the next day)! The pot roast was yummy, not the best I've ever had...but good. The carrots were definitely the star of the pot roast for me. I found the onions to be a little too soft, they were on the verge of dissolving. Antoine and I decided that in the future, we'll continue to make our pot roast in the crock pot (old school style with a packet of french onion soup mix), but we'll exclude potatoes from the pot roast and make mashed instead. Speaking of the mashed potatoes...out of this world! Thank you Pioneer Woman...the cream cheese was genius! I wanted to crawl inside the pot and live there. Weird, I know! But you'd understand if you made them, which I highly suggest you do!

My money shot isn't as awesome as PW's (due to my lack of fancy camera skills) but it was still a pretty successful dinner!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Stupid Blogger!

Blogger is being an ass. It won't let me upload any pictures right now, which prevents me from posting what I had planned for today (spoiler: it was an Etsy post, hence the need for pics). Hopefully it'll be more cooperative tomorrow since I was planning on posting about my attempt to make more Pioneer Woman recipes. Hint, hint...we're talking pot roast and mashed potato!

See you tomorrow...hopefully!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

How Does 15 Minutes Turn Into 1 Hour (and a Half)?

So, the other day I decided that I was going to take on the task of making dinner for Antoine and I, which is slightly out of the ordinary for me. I had been perusing Pioneer Woman's recipes and found an "easy" Chicken Piccata recipe that looked delicious (see below):

Ree (aka PW) made it look and sound so easy, so I figured, what the hey I'll give it a go! I should note that while I can in fact cook (I'm not as good as Antoine, but I think my baking skills are a little better than his) I don't do it very often. What with our schedules and the fact that we got a super awesome grill for Christmas/housewarming our meals tend to be on the low maintenance side (i.e. steak/chicken on the grill, crockpot recipes, etc.). But I was feeling adventures and I really wanted to try one of PW's recipes. So, this past Wednesday I gathered up all the ingredients and began this "easy" recipe. You might ask yourself, why does Jessica keep putting quotes around the word easy? Good question reader! Well, because every time I type easy I'm making air quotes in my head. You see, PW listed this recipe as "easy" (come on, air quote with me now) listing that it took 15 minutes of prep time and 15 minutes of cooking time to complete the recipe. HA! 30 minutes!!?? More like an hour and 30 minutes! I did have some the cats who were circling the counter the second I unwrapped the chicken (it's a usual thing anytime there's raw meat in the kitchen)...

So, the cooking began and from the beginning I had a feeling that it might take a little longer than PW had of course, I poured myself a glass of wine! [Please note: the recipe actually does call for one cup of wine, so I had to open the bottle anyway! You could say I was just letting it breathe! Of course, you'll have to do me a favor and ignore the fact that it's a white wine.]

So I cooked the chicken without a hitch and set it aside, then I began making the sauce. Here's where I ran into some problems. Now, I followed PW's recipe to a tee, but my sauce just wouldn't thicken. What she says should take 5 minutes (the thickening) or so took me roughly 45 minutes or more, and still my sauce wasn't even slightly thick. I suspect it might have been the pan I was using...I think I would have benefited from using a broader, larger pan. Anyway, while waiting for my sauce to thicken (or not) I decided to go ahead and start making the breakfast casserole I was planning to make after dinner. I assure you, the breakfast casserole was not meant to be an after dinner snack, instead I was making it to serve as breakfast/lunch of the next couple days. Making large batches of things (i.e. casseroles, rot roasts, pots of chili) works really well for Antoine and I then we have lunches and dinners for the next couple days, which is particularly handy when we're working at one job and then going straight to another.

Look at me, multi-tasking! Top left: sausage browning for the breakfast casserole. Bottom right: sauce bubbling in an attempt to thicken.

While I was slaving away in the kitchen I can reassure you that Antoine wasn't sitting idly on the couch, beer in hand, watching tv and waiting for his woman to make him some dinner (that's just not how we roll). Generally, Antoine and I make our meals together, but this time I wanted to make dinner for him so he took the opportunity to do a little yard work in the backyard and assemble our new patio table. He also made a little time to make friends with our neighbor's dog, who occasionally wonders around our cul-da-sac saying "hello" to neighbors and making sure everything is as it should be.

After an hour and a half of frying, flipping, boiling, stirring and baking I was finally done! The piccata was cooked, the sauce was as thick as it was going to get (i.e. not thick), the breakfast casserole was in the oven and Antoine and I were more than ready to eat. Luckily, the piccata recipe made 4 servings which meant dinner for the next night (with breakfast casserole for either breakfast or lunch).

The finished product. Not as pretty as Pioneer Woman's, but not too shabby!

The verdict? It was good. The sauce was uber powerful (very lemony) and the chicken had dried out a bit while I was trying to thicken the damned sauce, but it was still good. Acutally, it was 50 times better as left overs. Somehow, the miracle of 24 hours mellowed out the sauce a bit and made the chicken less dry...leaving a very tasty dish.

The breakfast casserole, which took me no time at all turned out really well, even though I sort of forgot it was in the oven while we were watching How I Met Your Mother and it got a little too brown. I basically took a bag of frozen hash browns, let them thaw a little, 5 eggs, a container of egg beaters (equivalent to 6 or 7 eggs), 1 cup skim milk, browned sausage, cheddar cheese, salt, pepper, Spike seasoning and parsley and threw it all in a greased casserole dish. This is our third day eating it, Antoine's been eating it for breakfast instead of oatmeal and I've been eating it for lunch instead of a sandwich. It's pretty tasty!

After dinner, we cozied up on the couch to watch some tv (see above). And I de-stressed from the slightly aggravating non-sauce-thickening-took-way-longer-than-expected dinner by partaking in some wine. Now, when I say "some wine" I mean the rest of the bottle. So that's one whole bottle of wine (Antoine's not a fan of the vino) minus the cup I used in the not-so-thick sauce. Here's an account of how the next couple of hours progressed in Jessica drunkenness land: I got more and more giggly, started a laughing fit for no apparent reason that lasted 5 minutes while Antoine just stared with bewilderment, pushed Antoine off the couch, stretched out across the entire sofa while Antoine was exiled to the loveseat, passed out with Gui sleeping on my hip...

Antoine couldn't resist taking a picture of this. I, of course, was unaware he had taken this picture until I uploaded pictures this morning.

Horrifying and hilarious at the same time...that's me for ya! At least it is when I've downed a whole bottle of wine. My best friend could tell you so many stories from our glory days of living together in Mariemont when we'd drink a bottle of wine then stumble up to the Dilly Deli to buy another! [Spoiler: most of the stories end with me laying on the ground...either in the middle of the street or someone's front yard...laughing up a storm.]

[Awkward silence while you process that...]

I thought the night was pretty successful, even considering my giggly drunkenness. I tried something new (and got a little drunk) and now I can check chicken piccata off the list of meals I've made. I'm eager to try some more Pioneer Woman recipes and see if this "easy" one was just a fluke and if the other "easy" recipes are actually easy! We'll have to see. I think the next recipe up to bat will be PW's pot roast. Difficulty: "easy"....we'll see about that!?

**Update (6/3/2010): Last night I made probably my best batch of Chicken Piccata yet! I was out of wine so I just used chicken stock to deglaze the pan. The sauce turned out very rich and lemony...and THICK! From now wine (except for drinking), just chicken stock! This has become one of my favorite dishes to make!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hello, My Name is Jessica...

...and I'm addicted to taking pictures of my cat!

I just can't help myself! Every time Guillermo jumps into the bathtub, lays in some strange and adorable position on the cat scratcher, crawls up on me to cuddle, breathes, moves, etc. I just can't help but want to take his picture! I know, I'm a sad, sad person...actually, no, I'm a cat lady! Yep, that's what I am...a cat lady. I talk to my cats; not only in that strange baby-talk sort of way, but often in a normal voice and in a tone that suggests I expect to hear a response. I have favorites...obviously Gui is #1 in my book (come on, he's just so darned cute), followed by my sweet Missy and then Buddy brings in the rear because I think he secretly hates me. But, I will say, I am not alone in this...Antoine has a bit of cat lady (or rather cat gentleman?) in him as well! He talks to them, calling Buddy his "big guy", telling Missy she's pretty, and in that slightly high-pitched, baby-talk-esque voice dubs Gui his "handsome guy". We are sad, semi-pathetic people...but at least we have each other!

Anyway, here's some recent shots of Gui...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Where To Go, Where To Go?

In exactly two months it will be Antoine and my two year anniversary. So naturally, we want to go on a little trip somewhere to celebrate, but of course money is tight. The first place that came to mind was Chicago. Oh Chicago (swoon)...

In the fall of 2008, Antoine and I made our first (and sadly, only) visit to Chicago together. We have both been there on other trips (separately) and we really love the city.

Here's one of the infamous lions outside the Art Institute. It's one of the many places I usually visit while in I'm in Chicago, along with the bean (probably my favorite thing about Chi-town), the botanical gardens (when weather permits), and Wishbone (a delicious Southern Reconstruction style restaurant that has fantastic breakfast!).

Antoine and I would love another chance to explore the wonderous Windy City, but sadly the hotels downtown (where we prefer to stay) are just a little too pricey for us right now! Plus, there's the whole hassle of parking downtown, which generally runs about $30 to $40 a day! Insanity!! So we made our sad faces, then we told ourselves that we should really branch out and go to somewhere new anyway.

So, Louisville popped into my head. On a number of occasions I've heard friends rave about how wonderful Louisville is and it's so close, only two hours away (compared to the five hour drive to Chicago). And, neither Antoine nor myself has been there! Perfect! I started doing some hotel investigations and noticed that hotels in Louisville were considerably more affordable than those in Chicago. So I did some more searching and found some affordable rates, but no hotels that really wowed either of us.

Then Antoine, being the brilliant guy he is, suggested we go camping and go to Louisville. Genius! Let me give you a little bit of background here...I've never been camping (except in my backyard as a kid), but I've always wanted to go. Antoine has been camping many times and really enjoys it. Naturally, ever since we've started dating we've talked about going camping together, so why haven't we? Well, Antoine had a tent, air mattress and supplies but they were kind of "left behind" after his former relationship ended. C'est la vie. Now we are starting to collect camping gear of our very own. Last night we purchased an air mattress at Target and this weekend we're going hunting for a tent!

I can't wait, I'm so excited about our trip. I'm tickled pink by the idea of spending our days wandering through downtown Louisville or touring one of the several distilleries and spending out evenings around a campfire under the stars (eating smores and dehydrated ice cream like we're wilderness astronauts)! Sounds prefect. I think I'm a little bit more excited about the camping fare than the actual camping. For some reason, I seem to have it in my head that that camping is the only excuse to eat dehydrated ice cream (which I discovered they sell at Walmart in the camping section, not just at Cosi) as an adult, although that just isn't true! Also, I was purusing the Louisville South KOA's website (where we are planning on staying) and saw that one of their "Services" that they listed under their Amenities section was "Papa John or Domino pizza delivery". I was a little too excited when I read this! I quickly IM'd Antoine about it and the conversation went something like this (except with less exclamation marks on Antoine's part):

Me: That koa says that Papa John's can deliver to your campsite!!
Antoine: pizza? but that's not camping!!
Me: But it's Papa Johns! Wouldn't that be so tasty!?
Antoine: you're cute!

So, yeah, I'm pretty psyched! I just hope it doesn't rain that weekend!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bitch, Moan, Complain

I've decided that what with all the bitching and moaning (see title) going on about the health care reform as of late what I really should be posting about today, as any hardworking, red-blooded American should, is Etsy! I'm going to stay out of the debate (as is my tendency to do in these situations), but I will say I'm a little tired of hearing people complain, or seeing it all over facebook. Now, I know people are entitled to their opinions and the first ammendment states that "blah, blah, blah, freedom of speech and the right to bitch all they want on facebook" but frankly I'd just like a little breather. So, what better place to create my own little bubble of denial and figuratively yell "la, la, la, I can't hear what your saying" (with my fingers in my ears naturally) than here, at my own little blog away from home!?

*Please note that I was originally going to entitle this post "Etsy Earring Fantasticism" (which I thought was kind of cute), then I stupidly turned on the news this morning while getting ready (usually a mistake for me), hence the current title!

So, here's a variety of earrings I found while perusing Etsy. Little background info on my lobes and my earring wearing preferences before I dive into some cuteness. I myself am a post type of earring wearer...I have a total of two pairs of earrings that are not posts (they're of the dangly persuasion). I've included a variety here, in the hopes that I might branch out and start wearing "real woman earrings", instead of the brightly colored little-girlish ones I tend to wear now! Although, don't hate me now, I couldn't help but throw in a couple of cute post earrings for fun!

I couldn't help myself...this mannequin is freaking scary! It completely distracts from the earrings, which luckily are that great to begin with!

Damned Viruses!

I just want some freaking anti-biotics already! So, here's the scoop...I hate viruses! Well, obviously! But now I know (and knowing is half the battle, right?) that I hate viruses more than other forms of sickness...i.e. bacteria caused sickness! Here's a breakdown of just why viruses suck so much:

1.) They suck! Not just that, they super suck! They suck the life out of you. They suck the energy out of you. They suck your soul out like a vacuum cleaner sucks up a hamster. (Wow, now I kind of feel weird having said "suck" that much. Oh well!)

2.) There ain't shit you can do about it! If you get something caused by bacteria, say as a upper respiratory infection...[BOOM] Z-Pak! If you get a virus, umm, say viral meningitis...[BOOM] NOTHING! You're told to go home and rest and treat the symptoms if you can! Gee, thanks doctor! (Please be aware that I realize it is not the doctors fault, I'm just frustrated!)

So by this point, you might be scratching your head wondering where the hell I'm going with this OR your jaw might have dropped to your desk because I just blew your mind! Either way, I think I've pretty much made it clear that viruses suck and my recent bout with viral meningitis was less than pleasant. Well, here's a new bullet point to add to the rant...I think I might have pneumonia. I've been having trouble breathing for the last couple days, then last night I noticed obvious and sharp pain in my lungs that affected my breathing and my ability to do my Sbux chores. I talked to my mom, who's had pneumonia many a times (pretty much everyone in my immediate family has) and she said that's what it sounded like. Bummer!

Now, there's something you need to know about me...I'm an idiot! And being an idiot, sometimes I very stupidly will check WebMD when I'm not feeling well! Now, for those non-idiots reading who don't know the suggestive powers of WedMD, let me's evil! Yes, it's informative and [can be] helpful, but it has a way of making a person with a bladder infection think they've got some rare disease with a high occurrence of sudden death! It's happened to me several times, I'll admit it! But this time, I went in being practical, not paranoid, and [most importantly] I didn't use the symptom checker (i.e. "the evil death spawn of anxiety"). Instead I just read the overview for pneumonia (I know, so practical and non-hypochondriac of me). I was not suprised when a couple of the symptoms seemed familiar, and then I read that there's two types of pneumonia: that caused by bacteria and that of the (DUN DUN DUN!) viral persuasion. And surprise, surprise, suprise...for those poor suckers who have the viral kind (which is most likely what I have, if I have it, considering I just had a nasty virus) anti-biotics...just rest! Swell! Damn you virus, you suck! The end!

Monday, March 22, 2010

She Has Emerged

I can happily report that I am no longer a death popsicle (that's my favorite little phrase for when I feel utterly inhuman) and I'm on my way to feeling half-way normal again! I'm finally back to work, after a week of being exiled to the couch. And while I'm still a little wobbly, I'm positive that each day gets better! I'm even hoping that by Wednesday evening I'll feel up to doing a little bit of gardening prep-work with Antoine! Here's hoping!

Happy Monday folks!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Viral Meningitis: A Tale of Woe

BEWARE READERS!!! This is not a tale for the faint at heart! You will derive no pleasure from this post, instead, I hope to educate my fair readers and scare with you my tale of sickness in the hope that you may never experience such horror.

Monday: I found out that Antoine had the dreaded disease (aka Viral Meningitis). Soon I started experiencing symptoms. First is was a headache followed shortly by some dull neck pain.

Tuesday: I awoke with an earth-shattering headache and some intense neck pain (notice the change from the night before). That evening the diarrhea struck (I know, this is more than you wanted to know, but I must report the facts)...and with it the horrible stomach cramps. Now, I don't consider myself a baby when it comes to pain, but MAN those cramps were killers! They've got to be what contractions must feel like!

Wednesday: By 2am Antoine was running to the store to get me some Imodium, which helped slightly. My Wednesday was dominated by trips to the bathroom and naps on the couch waking up with said neckpain and said headache. I thought that was going to be the worst day...I was wrong!

Thursday: I woke up with nausea and of course, diarrhea. The naesea was so bad I sat on the floor of the bathroom at 5 am, Guillermo curled up at my feet, hugging the toilet. But luckily nothing came from the nausea, just an inability to eat or drink anything. My neck pain became worse, as did my headache and dehydration. At this point, Antoine and I decided it was time for me to make my visit to urgent care, to make sure this wasn't worse than I thought. At urgent care I received the same diagnosis as Antoine with the addition of a prescription for an anti-nausea medicine. That evening, while the nausea vanished, a new symptom appeared...chest pain. My chest tightened and it became difficult to inhale. I could only sleep sitting up and I barely talked at this point. I was sure Thursday was going to be the worst day...I was SO wrong!

Friday: When I woke up I felt a little less horrible than I had on Thursday. There was still the headache, the neckpain, the aches & pains, and the diahheria, but the chest pain and neausea had lessened. I was still pretty dehydrated and weak. Then in the afternoon, the vomiting began. Now, by this time I had pretty much nothing left in my stomach (due to the diahheria) except water and that's what came up! This was by far the worst I have EVER felt in my life! I was [this] close to asking Antoine to take me to the hospital. I could barely talk or walk! I didn't physically have the energy to lift my head half the time! It wasn't pretty.

Saturday: I woke up feeling the tiniest bit human! And hungry! At 4am Antoine made me toast (another reason I love him...I asked him if he could make me toast and he did!). I think today finally isn't going to be the worst day EVER and that's something to celebrate! Now watch, I've probably jinxed myself, but I hope not!

So there's the story of my sickness! I hope that it will serve as a reminder for you. The next time you hear someone say, "I have viral meningitis", you run screaming! And if that infected person is your partner, then at least don't kiss them or eat/drink after them! Lesson learned!

It was a horrible, horrible experience that was only made better by calls from my mom and dad, emails from my best friend, a care package from my sis (the movie Up with a smiley face balloon tied to awesome is she!?), and the nursing and love of Antoine! Thank you all for your caring!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Pros and Cons of Being Sick

  • Actually being sick
  • Not being able to kiss Antoine (because that's what got me sick in the first place)
  • Needing to do laundry but it physically hurts to get off the couch
  • Running upstairs to the bathroom every half hour or so (more than you wanted to know)
  • Horrible stomach cramps that feel like what contractions must feel like


  • Spending the day sitting on the couch
  • Watching Saved By the Bell, How I Met Your Mother and Office reruns
  • Angel food's what my mom used to feed me when my stomach was upset as a kid
  • Antoine stroking my hair to comfort me because I don't feel well
  • Kisses on the forehead (from Antoine, not strangers)
  • Snuggling with Guillermo

Why You Shouldn't Play Nurse

Surprise, surprise...I now have viral meningitis! And let me tell you, it's not fun! This is my second day off from work. My second day of kitty snuggling (Gui is snuggled up on my lap as I type). I've been drinking gatorade like it's going out of style (to try to keep hydrated). Another positive to being sick is not having to go to work! Antoine and I both stayed home yesterday and watched How I Met Your Mother and V for Vendetta. Now I'm watching Saved by the Bell! Still, work doesn't look half bad right now, I'd rather have that than a constant headache, neck pain, and certain mildly embarassing stomach issues! I'm really hoping I'm feeling significantly better by tomorrow, I don't have a ton of sick time left at work!

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Etsy Love: Ceramics

Set of 3 Micro Tiles
Unique decorative tiles (love these, but a little pricey)

Lovebird bowl duo

Ceramic Owl Bank Vintage Design Lemon Yellow, PREORDER

pink and black flower coasters (set of 4)

Funky red vase

How Do Real Nurses Do It?

Well, this weekend was not the funnest of weekends. I worked Friday night, which was busy and a longer shift than I'm used to on a week day. Also, we close at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays...not fun. Then I had to work at Sbux again the next morning from 8am to 4pm...also really busy and not fun. Then, to top it all off, Antoine was sick this weekend, with the flu! I tried to play nurse and feed him gatorade and chicken noodle soup but he still isn't feeling well. This morning he woke up at 4am shivering. Even with all the blankets on the bed on him (that's two vellux blankets and two down comforters) and me rubbing his arms to try to get him warm he was still shivering for the next hour or so.

But now, of course, I'm not feeling too hot! I don't know how real nurses do it!? They are around sick people all are they not perpetually ill!? Of course I'm sure, for the most part, they're not kissing the patients and cuddling with them on the couch... Maybe I should have been actually playing "nurse" instead of playing "empathetic girlfriend" who thinks hugs have healing powers!? Oh well!

**Update: Antoine just went to the doctor and found out he has viral meningitis! He's okay, just dehydrated. His neck pain isn't significant enough to warrant going to the emergency room, so that's good! Scary!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Language Barrier and Soup

Last night Antoine and I had dinner at his parent's house. They recently moved into a new house and live a little over a half hour away from us. I must admit that I always get a little nervous whenever we go over there for dinner or go out with his family. Don't get me wrong, they are fantastically sweet people and I really like them, it's more of a language issue. Antoine's parents came over from Vietnam in 1980, and in 1981 they had Antoine. Being a Vietnamese family they naturally speak Vietnamese almost 100% of the time in their household. This is where my nerves come into play...I don't speak Vietnamese (although I want to learn).

When Antoine and I started dating and it was about time for me to meet his parents (he had already met mine at this point), he warned me...he said his mom's English was so-so and his dad could speak nearly perfect English, but since he's had a stroke (some 5 or 6 years ago) it takes a little while for people to understand exactly what he's saying. This, naturally, made me a little nervous. But I was reassured on that first visit that everything would be okay when his mom greeted me with a "Hello, Jessica" and hug. And every time since then when I see them, that's what I meet when I walk through the door! Pure sweetness!

Generally when all of us get together there's a lot of Vietnamese being spoken and then some translating by Antoine. In the beginning it made me slightly uncomfortable (although everyone tried their best to make me feel at ease), but now I feel so much better about it. In fact, last night, several times during their conversations (in Vietnamese) I was able to get a general grasp on what exactly they were talking about! Other times not so much...but I'm always met with a smile from his mom or dad and usually a translation from Antoine (and a goofy "I love you" smile from him). Also, I'm getting a better grasp on understanding Antoine's dad. The first few times I went over he would say something to me (in English) but I wasn't able to understand him because his stroke has slightly affected his mouth and tongue and how he speaks. But that's getting easier with each visit!

Also, visits to Antoine's parents house for dinner generally mean...trying new Vietnamese cuisine. Antoine always gets nervous that I won't like whatever his mom makes. I'm known to be a slightly picky eater (I've come along way since when I was younger and pretty much lived on grilled cheese) but I'll try pretty much anything once (unless it's spicy or involves some sort of animal entrails or bunny rabbits...I don't eat bunnies!). I was actually really looking forward to last night's "Taste of Vietnam"...pho! Pho (sidenote: it's not pronounced "fo", it's actually closer to "fa") is a delicious and very American-taste-bud-friendly Vietnamese noodle soup that generally contains thin pieces of beef/steak but can also be made with chicken (which is generally how Antoine's mom makes it, since it takes like 5 or 6 hours to make the beef version).

(this is a generic picture of pho that I bogarted from the internet)
The soup is made with a basic beef or chicken broth that is created by simmering said meat in water for a number of hours. What makes the broth different and interesting is the star of anise that is added while it's simmering. Once the broth is done and the meat cooked, rice noodles are added at the very end. You are then able to personalize the dish according to your tastes by adding bean sprouts, cilantro, green onions, lime, hoisin sauce (a Chinese style dipping sauce) and Sriracha sauce (a spicy Thai chili sauce). For example, Antoine likes extra chicken, cilantro, a generous squeeze of lime and over a tablespoon of hoisin sauce. I, on the other hand, like bean sprouts, cilantro, green onions, a decent squeeze of lime juice and only a teaspoon (if that) of hoisin sauce (I'm not wild about the hoisin). Antoine's mom and brother love to use a good dose of Sriracha, which I told her would probably make me cry if I tried to use any of it!

I eagerly dug into the steaming bowl of pho with my chopsticks (Antoine's mom had offered me a fork to maneouver the noodles, but I declined wanting to be brave and more traditional). My chopsticks skills are okay, but not as good as Antoine's...but to be fair, he grew up using them and I did not! I struggled only slightly with the chopsticks and in an attempt to improve I tried holding them like Antoine (thinking it was my finger positioning that had me at a disadvantage)...but that little Intro to Chopsticks Form 101 was a failure. Then some Vietnamese words started flying between Antoine and his mom and soon she had pulled a pair of chopsticks out the kitchen drawer and said, "Jessica, look! I hold them like you!" Xuan (Antoine's mom) had noticed my embarrassment after Antoine's brief chopstick lesson and my doubt of my chopsticks holding form and instantly made me feel better by saying (in Vietnamese, later translated by Antoine) that everyone holds chopsticks differently and her and I held them the same. And then I realized, I would probably never be nervous to go over to Xuan and Tam's house again, because now I truly knew that they just wanted me to be comfortable and know I was part of the family! So, all in all, dinner was a success!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why I Love Etsy!

I love Etsy...I think most women nowadays do! I know that's a generalization, but they have so many different types of handmade items that appeal to such a wide variety of people, that I think it's probably a true generalization! It's a great place to ogle at a variety of different things, anything from hand spun yarn to one-of-a-kind jewelry. Custom wedding dresses to taxidermied insects! I could go on and on. Etsy is one of my favorite places to buy earrings (among other things) and I will admit I have a little bit of a problem...but I'm supporting crafters and artists, so it's okay!

Well, I was recently perusing Etsy when I came across the shop of Diffractionfiber. The lady behind this fantastic shop, Beth, is based in Chicago and makes some super fantastic pillows! My favorites include:

Unlock My Heart Pillow Set

Blue Bird Pillow

Mix Tape Pillow-- Perfect Gift for Your Music Addict Friend, Boyfriend or Sibling

Blam and other fun onomatopoeia

Another reason Diffractionfiber is so awesome is the fact that she uses Eco-friendly felt, made of 100% recycled plastic bottles! And she's willing to customize your order, using different colors or even personalizing a pillow with embroidery! I really wish Antoine and I didn't have pillows for our couches, because I would definitely buy some of these!

Little Known Fact

Unless you're my best friend, my mom or Antoine you probably don't know the in's and out's of my dislikes when it comes to food. It's not an easy list to memorize (exhibit A: my sister, who tries but still thinks I don't like eggs...when really I don't like egg salad because of the mayonnaise). In fact very few have committed the list to memory (i.e. the above mentioned individuals), and really, why should anyone [besides those three] know anyway!? Okay, back to where I was originally going with this...even if you don't know the exact foods I despise, you probably know (unless you're a you, my non-existent readers) that I'm not a fan of Mexican food. I don't hate it, I just very rarely say, "Ooo, I could go for some Mexican food right about now!" It happens every once in a while, I'll have a sudden craving, but usually only once a year or so. And I have an interesting theory as to why I don't care for Mexican food...and it involves me as an embryo.

When my mother was pregnant with me she had the normal strange cravings that pregnant women have, but more than anything else she craved Mexican food. And not just any Mexican food....Chi Chi's. Those were the good old days when there were still Chi Chi's restaurants and not just the chips and salsa that they sell in the grocery store. I don't know exactly how often my mother went to Chi Chi's when I was in the womb, but my guess would be A LOT! During the first three or four months of my mother's pregnancy her best friend and next door neighbor Cindy was also pregnant (and also craving Chi Chi's). What happens when you put two pregnant women together who are both craving Chi Chi's...a crap ton of Mexican food and some indigestion! Now, I'm told that they would go to Chi Chi's all the time together, stuffing their faces with chips, salsa, corn cake, and tacos. Now, at some point during the last few months of gestation little baby fetus me had had enough with all that Mexican food. I said (I obviously imagine myself to be similar to Stewie from Family Guy, fully conscious in the womb and able to talk...but without the British accent), "Alright already! Enough with the Chi Chi's! Give me a frickin' pizza! Extra cheese!" And in my little baby frustration I kicked my mom in the ribs, hard enough to break a couple! Lesson to be learned here...don't mess with a baby that's had it's fill of Mexican food!

So, I emerged from the womb, a bouncing baby girl...plump from all that Mexican food. And somehow my mother's craving for Chi Chi's didn't stop...and we continued to be avid customers at the restaurant throughout most of my early life. While my parents loved the food, I continued to rebel against it and ordered only grilled chicken sandwiches until I was in my late teens...and by that time Chi Chi's had closed. And while I rejoyed, my parents were quite saddened by the closing.

Now I'm a little less selective when it comes to what I'll eat when I go to a Mexican restaurant...tacos, fajitas, burritos, etc. And I will admit, I do love that corn cake stuff, it's delicious! And actually last night I tried enchiladas for the first time and they were okay...although I did scrape off some of the chili con carne sauce. Yes, I actually had a craving for Mexican last night and that's what prompted this post...the secret's out! I'm busted! Go ahead, call the authorities!

Anyway, happy Thursday! Only two more days to the weekend!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

As Usual, Antoine's Arms to the Rescue

Now, as you may remember from my previous post I was feeling very sucky yesterday afternoon. The consulting blues had gotten me down (again, and probably not for the last time). But as usual, I felt immediately better once I got home and Antoine wrapped his arms around me. Don't get me wrong, I've still got the consulting blues, but I realize now that this is just all part of our life together. If he ends up having to do consulting work it is just another chapter in our relationship...another test (one I know we can pass). And as much as I don't want to admit it, this is probably the best time for him to do consulting...he's young, we're not engaged, we don't have a family (except for those evil kitties). With consulting he'll learn so much more in one year than he did in two or three at his current job, and the probability of him moving up in the company is exponentially greater. As the practical one in our relationship I understand these factors. I understand them and what they'll mean for his future and our future. But as Antoine's partner and love I can't help but feel the urge to wrap my arms around his ankles and scream "Don't go! Don't leave me! What I'm I supposed to do without you!?" But I know what's right and what I have to do, and so does Antoine.

In other news, I made no attempt to go to the gym last night (surprise, surprise), but I DID clean the bathroom! It's about small victories for me right now, so I'll take it!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Not So Good

Well, I just got off the phone with my boss from Sbux not too long ago. I had left a note for her last night and told her to call me today when she had some free time. The note posed the hypothetical question, "if I had to could I possibly shift my availability to exclude Friday, Saturday & Sunday?" [Reminder: right now I'm working Monday, Thursday and one weekend day.] With the possibility of Antoine doing consulting work I want to throw all my nets in to the water and see what I come up with. If he's out of town (in some far distant city) from Monday to Thursday or Friday I'd really like to have my weekends free so I could actually see the love of my life (I don't think that's a strange concept!). Alas, my boss turned me down, saying, I need to work one weekend day. This news put me in a less than fantastic mood... don't be surprised if I spend the remainder of the evening on the couch crying my eyes out at the thought of never seeing Antoine again and shoving my face full of gelato!

Little Progress

So, you may or may not remember my non-New Years' resolution (that wasn't a resolution because I don't subscribe to those...just like no one subscribes to my blog...ZING!). Anyway, here and here I complained about how I'd gained weight and wailed about how I needed to go to the gym...well, not much has changed! I have lost a whopping total of nearly 2 lbs (not that much of an achievement, but it's something), but I still haven't gotten to the gym. I managed to buy new workout clothes and new tennis shoes that are the proper size, but life got in the, snuggling, running errands, snuggling, etc. Plus, lately Antoine and I have had opposite schedules so the little time we do have together we spend doing this. But that's got to change, I really need to move it!

So, I'm forming a little plan for myself tonight. An agenda, if you will: 1.) get home and snuggle with Antoine before he has to go to work! 2.) eat a sensible dinner (not sure what that will consist of, but hopefully I can find something!) 3.) clean the bathroom (because it REALLY needs it!) 4.) go to the gym (for the first time in maybe 6 months or myself...for the first time EVER) and 5.) spend the rest of the night being lazy, watching tv.

We'll see how it goes! I'm not hopeful that I'll actually follow through, but I need to!

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's Monday...AGAIN!!!

As the folks in Office Space would say, I've got a "case of the Mondays", and it's a doozy! I woke up this morning thoroughly disappointed that it was no longer Sunday and in fact we had moved onto the dreaded MONDAY! Now, Mondays are normally bummers for me anyway. Not only does it mean the first day back after a weekend off (at least from my day job), but it is also a back-to-back day. This means I have to be at [real] work at 7:30 in the AM and then I get off at 4:30, have an hour to pick up Antoine from work, drive to the [part time] job and find something for dinner and change into THE uniform before I have to start my usual 5:30pm to 11:30pm shift. Not the most fun of Mondays. But, what makes this particular Monday even worse is the awesomeness of Sunday (yesterday) in comparison! I had such an amazing day yesterday, one that it's hard to recover from and return back to reality! However, there's just no escaping reality! Instead, I shall daydream all day about my wonderful, glorious Sunday off and hope for a repeat in the near future.

In other random news, Antoine and I started watching the tv show How I Met Your Mother last night! We're liking it so far, although we haven't watched much yet, just a few episodes. The funny thing is months and months ago I took one of those silly quizzes on Facebook (because I was bored out of my mind), "Which TV couple are you?". I answered the nonsensical questions I was asked and in the end Antoine and I were most comparable to Marshall and Lily (from How I Met Your Mother). Now, at the time I didn't really know who Marshall and Lily were (although I had a friend of my sister's comment that we were definitely Marshall and Lily) and I frankly didn't believe Facebook because it's a ridiculous quiz that you merely take because you're bored and you're an easily amused human being! Well, I'm starting to think that maybe Facebook got it right! We were watching the How I Met Your Mother and the "Olive Theory" was mentioned. On the show, Marshall hates olives and Lily loves them, so it works out when they order something containing olives! Antoine and I have our own "Olive Theory"...except it's the "Pickle Theory"! I LOVE pickles (I used to drink pickle juice when I was little) and Antoine doesn't like any time we go for a burger or we get Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches I always get his pickles, yay! Besides the Olive/Pickle Theory there's also their general mushiness/can't-keep-their-hands-off-each-other-ness which Antoine and I are also afflicted with...we just can't help ourselves! I'm excited to keep watching the show and see if there are any more likenesses between Marshall and Lily and us! I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Funday

This weekend was amazing! Even though I had to work Saturday afternoon, I ended up having a blast both Saturday and Sunday! I spent Saturday night with my best friend for her birthday, which was good times. Awesome food at Emanu (one of my favorite restaurants), good HLP/girl talk and beers at Habits afterwards!

Me and Amanda...Happy 26th A!

Then today Antoine and I both had the day off (a rarity). And while we should have spent the day cleaning the house...instead we spent it having a fun, relaxing day together...and it was so worth it! We went and got crepes at It's Just Crepes (yum!) for breakfast, then we went to Findlay Market (I heart Findlay Market!) to buy some goodies for dinner and dessert, then it was off to Mariemont for a walk in the beautiful sunlight and some picture taking. We followed that up with a trip to Newport to see Alice in Wonderland (really good) and then back to the house for brats and gelato (aka "dinner and dessert"). It was such a wonderful I wish I could put on repeat for a month or more!

Antoine drinking a Mexican coke at Dojo!

We're goofy, but we can't help it! We kinda like each other!

The only downside to my weekend was the mysterious flat I got Saturday night.

Friday, March 5, 2010

I Think I'm in Love

Well, we got our new tv the other night! It's beautiful and I'm totally in love...umm, I mean...with Antoine...yeah, that's right...with Antoine! The tv is so awesome and big, but surprisingly not so monstrous that it takes up the whole wall, which I was afraid of. We've decided to name it Big Bertha. Oh, wait a second...I should explain something to you...I love to name inanimate objects! Each of my cars have been named (Sloop John B and Arthur), my ipods (Winston Maxwell I, II, & III), my bamboo plant that won't die even though I've pretty much stopped watering it (Sebastian) see how much of a freak I am!? So, of course, the tv needed a name and Antoine came up with Bertha (because she's so big). And then I decided the old plasma needed a name as well (you know, so it wouldn't feel jealous) we decided on Sammy (because it's a Samsung).

Now, I really can't tell you why I love to name things, maybe it stems from when I was little and I named all of my stuffed animals? And I just never stopped? Or maybe it's a result of my dad raising and breeding Great Danes when I was growing up? I lived for when a new litter of puppies were born and I'd get to name them! Who knows!? All I know is it makes me happy. And yes, I'm aware I'm a freak and I'm okay with that!

Anyway, that's it for now! Happy Friday people of the internet! I hope you have a great weekend! I will, I'll be celebrating my best friends birthday on Saturday and then enjoying the splendor of Bertha on Sunday!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Oh the Sickness...

I'm home sick today. And while I'm bored, I just woke up from a nap and I frankly just don't have the energy to write a post. Instead I'll leave you with some pictures I've recently photoshopped. Now, I'm new to photoshop and I'm just kind of feeling my way through it, so bare with me!

Jamaica (from our last night there)

A parrot from Jamaica who lived on the resort.

Rocky Mountain National Park (not edited! Yes, it's that beautiful)

Jamaica again (are you sensing a theme?)