Friday, March 7, 2014


it's been such a while since i've posted - if i were on top of life, i'd post all the things we've done with our new home.  however, we got a puppy (!!!!!!) in december, and life has been fuller than ever!  so, i'll post about her.

please meet gypsy raine decarlo.  she's a purebred akita, and we received her 12/20/13.  she's now 4 1/2 months old, and has completely captured our hearts.

below is a picture of gypsy while still with her breeder.  knowing her as we do now, mike and i are sure she was grumbling when this shot was taking - our gypsy always has an opinion!

gypsy and mike, the first afternoon we had her - she was so scared, poor little love!!  that night, she cried almost the full 8 hours....i was texting my mom almost in tears, because her cries were so very sad.  it took over a week to get her accustomed to the crate, and almost a month to get her to sleep through the night.  two months later, we are SO glad for all that training - we say, "place" to gypsy, and she trots right over to her crate (place) and sits down to wait for her treat.  now, if only i could train her to help scrub potatoes for dinner....

mike thought of the shot below - very artistic!  we were preparing for an informal house-warming party, and i'd asked mike to fill our bucket with ice for the white wine and beer.  a few moments later, i popped my head out to see mike alternatively coaxing and forcing gypsy to stay in the bucket - and she looked so darn cute, i had to take a picture myself!

here we are holding our sweetie in our very own backyard - a year ago, i never thought by january we'd have already bought a house and own a dog!!!  

gypsy actually looks way bigger in the picture below than she actually was at the time (3 1/2 months) - but what a big puppy to be as long as my torso!!  now (at 47 lbs), she no longer likes for me to pick her up - she senses that i'm not quite strong enough to hold her well, and wraps her paws around my arm to hold on for dear life.  it's ok, gypsy - i gotcha!

 and lastly, a picture from earlier this week - 4 1/2 months, 47 lbs.  we are happy every day to have our powder-puff, and excited in this stage to see the pay-off of months of training.  we are currently taking her out to a new place each weekend (downtown alexandria, national harbor, etc.), to work on her responding to us even through distraction....and i am always so proud to be the girl walking with my hottie husband, next to the most gorgeous dog i've ever seen.  once gypsy's trained, maybe we'll work on cutting through my thick biases?  ;-)

that's our puppy!  we just love her to pieces.  you are such fun to have, gypsy raine!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Laundry Room Remodel

In the continuing saga of bettering our little cottage, we have begun work on our laundry room.  Our whole house is small (welcome to NOVA!), but the laundry room takes "small" to a whole new level - if one of us is standing in the room, then the other cannot walk through to get outside.  Yikes!  However, when you haven't had a waster/dryer in your home for a few years, even a squishy space seems like a dream come true.

We're in the process of replacing our water heater, going from a 30 gallon to a tankless (reclaiming that room, one square inch at a time!).  The first step was to remove the sink in the corner....follow along as Mike demolishes this relic (originally installed 1949):

After the first (very loud) hit.

He's so happy to be using his 10-lb sledgehammer on something.  :-)

Making some damage.

First of four sides gone.

 Annnd, second of four...


Flat bottom.

Suddenly we can see the skeleton!

 ....see it clearly!

It's gone!

 The remnants, piled up outside.

The most amazing thing about this demolition was that Mike did it all in the time it took me to clean up from dinner and prep tomorrow's smoothies and coffees - VERY impressive, babe!

Stay tuned for the next pieces of this mini remodel - removing the old water heater and converting / installing the new tankless one.  Get excited!  ;-)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


We bought a house! The past several months have been crazy for us - but the long and short is, we are now officially home owners! And we are incredibly happy to day that.....we love our little cottage. :-)

We got possession this past Friday night, and have been cranking out projects ever since. Refinishing the floors; digging up and re-mulching the front and side gardens; constructing a compost pile; touch up painting.....on and on.

Mike applying a coat of polyurethane to the floors.

Perhaps most exciting of all, though, was building railings for our back deck. Mike was the genius behind this, planning out ahead all the state requirements, geometry for the angles, cuts for the wood, on and on. Even I learned a bunch in how to construct a wood structure! It was a crazy ride, and we were so when it was done.

"Before" face

Before, facing deck

Before, from the side

Getting the posts up

The posts took a while....

And them I started helping, and we skipped ahead without pics - missing some of the slats and the railing here

It's done!!!

And by "done", I obviously mean except for the paint job. ;-) I'll post a pic of the true "after" once that's done.

We're tired, and very grateful!

Friday, June 14, 2013

CSA Recipes!

hello summer!  for a while, i've been wooed by the idea of CSA's (community supported agriculture, for the interested).  however, it wasn't until i found out that earth spring was going to have a drop point at my friend laura's house that mike and i started discussing the idea seriously.  it's intimidating to not know ahead of time what veggies you will receive - and what if you get super weird veggies that you've never heard of before, let alone seen in a recipe???

obviously, since i'm writing this blog post, we decided to go for it!  i wanted the extra push to keep trying new things (one of mike's biggest requests when it comes to meals - second to meat and ahead of pasta - is variety!), and when spread over 20 weeks of deliveries, the cost is reasonable.  we also got the fruit share - go big or go home, kids!

we got our first box yesterday, and i was ecstatically excited.  radishes, collard greens, lettuce, spinach, spring onions, and KALE.  and a quart of strawberries, which i shamelessly snacked on while cooking up the other stuff!

so, over the course of the summer, i'm going to post here the recipes that i've tried and would recommend for these veggies.  enjoy!!

i used this recipe for whole foods on a budget for our radishes.  even though i greatly respect christy as a blog writer and cook, my hopes were not high - these are RADISHES.  my experience with radishes was low, but my judgment was high.....they always seemed like such odd vegetables.  however, i loved the idea of using the whole radish, and decided to give the recipe a shot!

we didn't have sunflower seeds, so i added a little bit of extra parmesan to the pesto.  also, i used a little extra butter (~1/2 T) while sauteing the diced radishes, and allowed them to brown.

IT WAS SO YUMMY.  the butter really did neutralize the radishes, giving them such a wonderful flavor and texture - we didn't have any meat, but you didn't need any!  i was so nervous about whether mike would go for this.....again, no meat......but he ate his in record speed, and started in on mine!  he reiterated his love for this recipe so much that i'm really hoping we get more radishes next week!!!  i plan to use the rest of the pesto on second batch of pasta with sliced steak over it.  i think that the pesto does need something "fatty" to offset it.

i'm so behind the curve on this, but we made our first batch of kale chips!  i was torn between that and a kale salad recipe that my sister-in-law rocks at the family gatherings....but no regrets in trying this first.  annnnnd, mike loved this recipe, too!  we were like a couple of delinquent kids, standing at the stove, munching them straight off of the cookie sheet.

one tip: if they don't all crisp up (for us, the ones in the middle were piled too much on top of each other), pull out the crispy ones and spread the others back out - stick back in the over for ~3-5 minutes longer.

hurray for summery and healthy eating!

Monday, April 15, 2013

spring 2013

view of the monuments from gravelly point

spring!  we are so glad you are here.  i officially have my first sunburn of the season, so i think it's safe to say that winter is over.

what's new with us?  mike's applying to grad school, for a masters in applied economics!  he's been an absolute champ about studying for the GRE, which he'll take tomorrow afternoon.  while he would clearly be an asset to any masters program, the programs he is applying to are very competitive.  if he doesn't make it in, we'll be savoring our free time together even more, for having almost given it up.  and if he does.....hold on to your hats, because it will be a crazy ride!

my love, studying diligently.

we moved again, to a larger apartment within the same building (the new space is luxurious).  we've taken fewer trips in the past few months, but have had more home projects.  annnnd, we've become poser health-nuts!  ;-)  i'm doing the insanity work-out, and mike has started doing P90X again.  plus, we're into the world of smoothies.......and what a world it is, kids.

overall, we continue to be so blessed.  i'm not saying that there aren't disappointments and pain in between the highlights here....because, there have been.  the smiles don't capture it all.  but i can truly say that God was there in each of those low points....He keeps His promises.  it is an incredible honor to be one of His children.

lastly, a few pics from the last few weeks:
us in front of devils' den at gettysburg - my big smile is entirely due to mike holding me rather than the tragic story of that battle.

st. patty's day - green beer!!

cuddles during car ride home from king's dominion trip with andrew and suzanna.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

new england clam chowder

this is it!  the last thursday soup post!  i'll continue to post recipes as i try new things, but this is my last recipe in queue.  thank you for reading, and for your comments as you tried them!

mike and i have had a bumpy road of communication within the cooking realm.  when we were first married, he never wanted to give me any negative feedback on my cooking.  later, we had to work on our communication - i always asked him to rate the dishes we ate on a scale of 1-10, but that wasn't the easiest way for him to tell me his thoughts on them.  we're continuing to learn how to talk to each other about cooking........i've learned better questions to ask, and mike is proactive now in giving feedback that i can assimilate.

which leads me to this chowder!  during one of my "i'm tired of cooking the same-old, same-old!" bursts, i asked mike to flip through my cookbook with me, and give me unfiltered thoughts on the soup recipes.  it helped me to learn my husband better!  i would not have guessed the recipes that he would be most excited about.  the leader of these is this recipe.  i made it first, because he was so anxious to try it.  it's lovely cooking for a man who is excited to eat what you're making!!  :-)

overall, we really enjoy this soup.  mike really likes it!!  i enjoy that it is not very fatty, and thick enough to be a filling lunch.  i would be more enthusiastic in my praise, but i want to be real!  i think that the zuppa toscana and chili are still our faves, and the chicken noodle is so healthy that i can hardly beat it.  but this is a fun one to toss into the mix, and is very tasty.  and what an easy way to do seafood!  ;-)

note 1: i use russet potatoes for this chowder; because i blend the majority of it, it has some similarity to mashed potatoes.  don't take that analogy too far, but russet potatoes lend themselves better to the texture i want.

note 2: i received an immersion blender for christmas, and it works like a DREAM with this chowder.  i made a fresh batch monday night, and with mike's help chopping the potatoes, it took less than 30 minutes, start to finish.  however!  if you don't have an immersion blender, you can easily get by without - just use a fork to mash the potatoes against the side of the pot.

note 3: i added 50% more clams than the original recipe called for.  also, my recipe below is double the original - feel free to halve!!

new england clam chowder

6 russet potatoes, cut into 1/2" - 1" cubes (if you have an immersion blender, you do not need to peel)
6 cans oysters (6.25 oz each)
1 large onion, diced, or 2 T onion powder
2 cups half-and-half
4 cups milk
1 T worcestershire sauce
2 t black pepper
1 T crushed thyme
2 T flour

1.  drain oysters, preserving the claim juice.  in total, you should have more than 3 cups liquid.  set clams aside.
2.  add potatoes, onion (or onion powder), claim juice, worcestershire sauce, pepper, and thyme to a large pot.  bring to a boil.  decrease heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, ~15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
3.  while the potatoes are cooking, combine milk, half-and-half, and flour in a large, microwave-safe bowl.  heat on low power (i used defrost) until the milk mixture is warm.  this step is not necessary, but will speed up step #5.
4.  once the potatoes are soft, blend the mixture in the pot with an immersion blender to desired consistency (if you would like no lumps in your chowder, blend entirely.  if you would like potato chunks, then blend 1/2 or 2/3 of total mixture).
5.  add milk mixture to the pot; bring to a low boil.
6.  add clams, and decrease heat to medium-low.  continue stirring for 1-2 minutes, until clams are heated through.

enjoy!  this recipe allows for half to be frozen; it freezes very well.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

mom's chili

when mike and i were dating and engaged, i spent a lot of time at his parents' house - mom and pop were always welcoming.  so this story won't make sense unless you view it through the lens of a girl newly dating this great guy, with all the silly insecurities that can come with a new relationship.

i remember one evening i was hanging out in the basement with mike while he finished his stat homework.  when we came upstairs for dinner, the entire floor smelled fabulous!!!  mom had made chili.  not just any chili - HER chili.  and the reason i remember all of this so particularly was because it was the first time that i was "brave" enough to go for seconds......for some reason, i felt comfortable to bring my slippers over and wear sweats - but somewhere in my brain, going for seconds at dinner was intimate enough to be taboo.

not that night.  the chili was tooooo good.  i think my only concern was that andrew would finish off the pot before i could finish my first bowl and dash across the kitchen for more!

naturally, i begged mom decarlo for the recipe, and it has been my "safe" meal ever since.  you know, when you need to make something for company that you don't want to take any risk on??  that's this for me....especially since it lends itself easily to making large batches.  i now make this annually for dinner the night before thanksgiving for the black family, because they're as in love with it as i am.

note 1: the first time i made this recipe myself, i made a weeeeeee little mistake.  i swapped cayenne pepper in for chili powder.  fortunately, i halved the amount i added because it was becoming so much spicier than i'd remembered.  i've experimented a little bit since then, and the recipe below is as i make it now.  however, because mom's original version is golden, i wanted you to have the opportunity to make it purely based on that - to do so, swap out the cayenne pepper below for 6 t chili powder.

note 2: this chili is sweet and tangy; if you prefer your chili to just be beefy, this probably won't work for you!  it has a slightly sweet taste on the front end, with the spice heating you about a second after.  depending on how much cayenne pepper you use, it can be a powerful blaze!  ;-)  when serving to my family, i have my brother bring some of his favorite hot sauces so that everyone can "heat" it to their preference.

mom's chili

1 medium onion, minced
2 lbs ground beef
2/3 c ketchup
1/2 c water
2 T lemon juice
1 T sugar
1 1/2 t worchestershire
1 1/2 t salt
1 t apple cider vinegar
1/4 t dry mustard
45 oz. kidney beans (drained)
3 c tomato juice
2 t cayenne pepper

1.  in large pot, saute onion until it is clear.
2.  add the ground beef to the pot, and cook fully.
3.  add all other ingredients.  adjust heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer.

this soup freezes well - i can't remember the last time that i didn't double or triple this recipe.  enjoy!!