Thursday, April 30, 2009

From the Channon Test Kitchen ...

Today's recipe comes from Elizabeth, a copy editor, blogger and cook extraordinaire. She shared her recipe for chili, which intriguingly includes chocolate and beer!

Liz's Awesome Chili
About the recipe: Liz calls the recipe "super easy and super tasty." She also notes that canned chipotles in adobo sauce may be too spicy for some people, so it's up to you how to handle the spicy quotient.

  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 3 or 4 cans pinto beans
  • 3 or 4 cans black beans
  • 1 or 2 large cans of dice tomatoes
  • 2 jalapeno peppers
  • 1 or 2 mild peppers, like poblano
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 square baker’s chocolate
  • 1 beer
  • 2 tablespoons (ish) of grocery store chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Pinch of oregano
  • A little salt and pepper.
  • Consider using some finely chopped dried peppers for deeper flavor. Or, use a single pepper out of a can of chipotles in adobo. But then you may want to use just one jalapeno.
  1. Open the tomatoes, dump them in a vat, and squish them with fingers or potato masher.
  2. Open the beans and add them, liquid and all, to the vat.
  3. Dice the onions and chop the peppers and garlic and put aside, separately.
  4. Brown the ground beef with the spices. Transfer to the vat with a slotted spoon. Keep the fat content sensible by smooshing the meat in the spoon with a spatula before transferring to vat. Greasy chili does not have a lovely texture.
  5. Fry the onion in the meaty grease. Mmmm! It’s done when it’s brownish and the bits are translucent. Spoon into the vat.
  6. Discard the meaty grease, but don’t wipe out your skillet.
  7. Now, turn on the fan, open the window or at least warn the people in your house before you do this: Toast the garlic and peppers in the skillet. You’re done when you’re coughing. Add that to your vat.
  8. Now, pour half a beer into the skillet and drop in a square of baker’s chocolate. You’re going for a sort of thick liquid. If the beer boils down too fast, add some more. Maybe you don’t get to drink the rest. Too bad. You’ll live. There’s more in the fridge.
  9. Pour your chocolatey beer into your chili.
  10. Get it all a-bubble, then turn it down as low as possible and don’t do anything but stir it every now and then for a couple of hours.
  11. If you want to be super smart, put a tortilla in the bowls you serve your chili in. You can also consider the possibility of corn bread. Don’t be afraid of sour cream and cheese. Cholula is the hot sauce that has the awesome when paired with this recipe. 
"Don’t mess with any of that cinnamon nonsense. That’s for hipsters and people who watch too much 'Seinfeld.' Enjoy. Put on your sombrero and eat some food!"

Tightly wound, but open to possibility

Today wasn't so good. I meant to finish off that strange half of pork tenderloin but after a series of EPIC FAILS, I had to give up and just whip up some farfalle with vodka sauce.

But I did have something to cheer me up (aside from delicious chicken stir-fry cooked by my friend Chanelle): $6 worth of gorgeous yellow and gold ranunculus from Trader Joe's.

I think ranunculus is one of the most beautiful blossoms — tightly wound, but unfolding delicately to reveal lime green centers. Much more elegant than thorny roses, in my opinion.

In other news, I'm trying to readjust myself to Sean's Nikon D70, so expect many a slightly blurry picture in coming weeks. I trained on a Canon Rebel film camera and what's nice about film is that it will just let you make mistakes. The digital camera won't let me take a picture if it's unwise and I just find that frustrating. I took this picture of the buttons that fell off my throw pillow. As you can see, the button has two holes, rather than four. Not quite sure how to fix that problem.

Extra Extra!

I'm finding, as I get more into wedding blogs and magazines, that no idea I had is completely original. Google any creative thought you think you have, and you'll find someone who had it first. But I keep telling myself that's okay; as long as I don't steal from someone I know personally, I think we're good.

I had the idea to have a slight newspaper theme to our wedding, and the best way to apply that, I thought, would be with the Save-the-Dates. Ceci New York did this amazing fake little newspaper for a couple named Pam and Bryce, seen here. I love the little crossword puzzle and "coupons" for local hotels and vendors.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pork Not-Quite-Medallions

I purchased this lovely, frightening chunk of meat last week. It was destined to become Balsamic Pork Medallions, from the recipe in (as always) "Anyone Can Cook." 

But to our horror, when Sean went to trim the fat, he found that the tenderloin was split down the middle. Is this normal? Do they always come like that? 

As devoted readers would know, I often get annoyed with Sean for questioning everything I do when I'm following recipes. He's always saying stuff like, "You probably don't have to drain the meat" or "Why don't you make that skillet sauce in something other than the skillet?" Usually this leads to me losing my mind. 

Today, he says, "How thick do I cut these medallions?" I say, without looking at the recipe, "I dunno. I think it said 1 1/2 inches or something. Just make them look like pork medallions." 

People, as I'm sure you know, 1 1/2 inches is way too thick.

We ended up with pork chunks instead of those lovely, elegant "medallions" that I love so much. And when fried in the skillet (as prescribed in the recipe), they ended up looking like mini-pork chops. Also, a note on the recipe, if you ever feel motivated to try it: Too much balsamic. The recipe calls for broccoli and bite-size pieces of ham to be added, along with balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. It was way too sweet, and the broccoli soaks that balsamic up like a sponge. The ham, however, was a delish addition.

My pork chunks. Sean says we need rice next time. Thanks for the tip, honey! 

Things fall apart

I have a favorite velvet tufted throw pillow that I bought on super sale at World Market years ago. Yesterday, I picked it up and noticed to my dismay that a button had fallen off. Not knowing what to do, I stashed the button in a jewelry box nearby and figured I'd tackle that problem later.

Now, this is where anyone with a working brain would say, "Amber, if the pillow is tufted on both sides, doesn't that mean the other button fell off, too?" And I would say, "Person, why don't you shut up? I don't know nothin' about these things." Long story short, the other button fell off and left this unsightly thread.

The thing is, I don't know how to sew. Like, at all. I was much more domesticated in middle school, when a regime of Girl Scouts and arts camp kept a needle and thread in my hands, but I haven't picked either up since probably 8th grade. I used to know how to cross-stitch, basic embroidery, basic stitching, etc. But that was when I was designing dresses for my Barbies. So this is beyond me.

Does anyone know of a simple fix? Even better, is there anyone who could physically show me how to fix this situation?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In my wildest dreams ...

This inspiration board from Snippet and Ink is basically what I had been picturing. But alas, I haven't yet found the right spot. And damn, planning something that outdoorsy seems like a good way to court trouble from the skies.

One-month status report: Still Undomesticated

It has almost been a month since I moved in with Sean and a lot has changed.

I got engaged! So that's big.

I cooked three types of meat!

I unpacked most of our stuff, and organized the closets.

I got really good about washing dishes immediately.

I broke my camera. That's not a good one.

But a couple big things have not changed.

I still get too lazy to cook, but at least I'm trying to eat at home. Today I had an Italian sandwich — ham, salami, pepperoni, provolone, lettuce and balsamic vinegar. I've had pork tenderloin in the fridge, ready to go, that I've been putting off for days. I'm kind of a bum.

But more importantly, I never, ever put the laundry away. Does anyone else do this? It's a weird strain of laziness that makes no real sense, but seems to afflict many. I think part of the problem is the urgency associated with laundry; you're out of underwear, so you have to do it ASAP. You know it'll take a long time, so you pop it in and when it finishes drying, you know you have to fold it ASAP to avoid wrinkling. And by the time you've gone through this with two or more loads, you're just too worn out to go hang it all up. If I did all of that, laundry would be a full-time job! So when I ran out of hampers to stash my clean laundry in, I just laid it on top of the washer and dryer. I HAVE A PROBLEM HERE, PEOPLE! But sigh, it's just so nice outside. Too nice to hang my laundry up.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I can't have nice things

Busy week, busy weekend on our end. How about you?

We started wandering around looking at wedding venues this weekend, trying to find the dream: outdoor, with an indoor component in case of rain; room for dancing; not too expensive; not too big; not too small.

This place does not exist. But we've ventured forth to some lovely places; some by car, some by foot.

We drove by the lovely Inn at Warner Hall in Gloucester, which looks awesome and perfect and maybe wayyyyyyyyy out of our price range, and also maybe out of driving range for our revelers.

I'm in loooove with the Hermitage Museum in Norfolk, a 1930s mansion with amazing grounds. It was almost Secret Garden-like. BUT, we would have to rent everything (chairs, tables, tent — the whole shebang) and there is no indoor option in case it rains.

We visited the Norfolk Botanical Garden, which was just a little out of our price range and didn't feel quite as intimate as I wanted.

We also looked at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center and Mariner's Museum grounds; haven't met with anyone yet, so I don't have a good grasp on how weddings would work there. Sigh. So if you have any venue suggestions from, say, Richmond eastward, please share! I'm betting I have barely scratched the surface of what eastern Virginia has to offer.

But in other news: I destroyed my digital camera.


I bought my Sony Cybershot TWO MONTHS AGO to go to California and I loved it. I was still adjusting to it! Sean and I stopped by the river bank in Gloucester to wade into the warm water and at one moment the sun hit him in a particularly pleasing way and I thought I would snap a shot. As a reached for my camera, it tumbled from my pocket into the saltwater, which apparently short-circuited the software. And of course, my warranty only covered the hardware. I am incredibly angry with myself for this; it does not feel like something a grown-up would do. Tears.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

From the Atkinson test kitchen

Today's recipe (and photo) comes from Joe Atkinson, a Newport News copy editor and bacon connoisseur. I think it sounds amazing, and was relieved when Joe told me I don't have to use a dutch oven (since, of course, I don't have one). I'm pretty sure if I made this, Sean would ask me to marry him. Oh wait ...

Joe's Beef Stout Stew (adapted from "The River Cottage Meat Book"):
Joe says: "This is the absolute best thing I know how to make, and I won’t lie: IT’S AWESOME. Seriously, it’s especially great on a chilly day, although I’d totally eat it in the middle of the summer, too. And you should have enough to eat leftovers for a few days, which is great when you’re eating on a budget. Also, this is one of those dishes that actually tends to taste better after a night in the fridge. It freezes well, too. You don’t have to like beer to like this, either."

  • 3 lbs. stew beef (You can usually find packages of pre-cut stew beef at Food Lion or Farm Fresh. If not, you can always buy a chuck roast, trim off the biggest hunks of fat and cut it up into 1-inch chunks. But yeah, buy the stew beef if you can.)
  • 5 or 6 strips of thick-cut bacon (I highly recommend buying the Smithfield Thick Sliced bacon. It’s the best. Alternately, if you’ve got the money to spend, you can use pancetta)
  • 2 small-ish yellow onions (shallots would be a fine substitute)
  • 1 container of button mushrooms (This recipe can be made without the mushrooms, but they are a good addition.)
  • 2 cans warm Guinness Draught (you may choose to use more or less beer, or even a different beer. Guinness is fairly bitter, and you’ll get some of that bitterness in your stew, which I like. I’ve made this recipe with Newcastle Ale, though, and it was equally delicious and a little more mellow. Any hearty ale or stout or porter would probably work.)
  • 1 16 oz. carton of Beef Broth (You shouldn’t need more than one, but it can’t hurt to have a second one on hand)
  • A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme (buy a container of the fresh stuff in the produce section and freeze what you don’t use)
  • Fresh parsley (you’ll have to buy it in a bunch, but you’ll only need a couple of sprigs of this, too)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
1. Preheat your oven to 275.
2. Mix together about a cup of flour and some salt and pepper, and coat your beef in it. Set aside.
3. Peel your onions and slice them in half.
4. Chop the bacon up into little pieces and fry until crispy in a 12” frying pan (a cast iron pan is preferable here, but not absolutely necessary). Transfer the bacon to a large, lidded casserole or dutch oven.
5. You should have lots of delicious, hot bacon grease in that pan now. Keep the heat on and put your onions in the hot grease, face-down. Fry until they start to look a little brown and crispy, then transfer them to the casserole.
6. In small batches of 5 to 8 pieces, fry your floury stew beef in the remaining bacon grease. You want your beef to get good and brown. And don’t worry if little bits of it stick to the pan – that’s good. As your little batches of beef get browned, transfer them to the casserole. If during this process you begin to run out of bacon grease, it’s not a bad idea to have some olive oil on hand to keep the pan from completely drying out. Just pour in a little as you need it. Ideally, though, that won’t be necessary.
7. OK, you’ve got all your beef browned and transferred to the casserole. Keep the heat going on your frying pan; you’re gonna deglaze it now. Crack open a can of that Guinness and pour some in. It’ll make a lot of noise then settle down a bit. Scrape all the good stuff off the bottom of the pan and pour the beer and beef bits into the casserole.
8. Put that casserole on high heat now and start pouring in your beer. You need enough liquid to cover the meat. Use whatever combination of beer and beef broth you want. I like to go heavy on the beer – I’ve used as many as three – and use maybe a half-carton of the broth, but whatever … some variations of this recipe call for as little as one can of beer and mostly broth or water. I say the more beer, the merrier.
9. Drop in your herbs. If you have kitchen twine, you can tie them together, which makes it easier to fish out the stalks and bay leaves later on, but I never have kitchen twine, so I just drop 'em in and go fishing when it’s done.
10. As soon as this concoction reaches a boil, put a lid on it (slightly ajar) and transfer it to the 275-degree oven.
11. You’ll want to let the stew cook for a minimum of three hours. After about 30 minutes, your house (or apartment) will start to smell like magic. Check it occasionally (every half-hour or so). If the liquid level drops below the meat, pour in a little more broth. This would be a good opportunity to give it a stir, too.
12. If you choose to use mushrooms, here’s where you’ll add them. About an hour before your stew is done, melt some butter in a pan and sauté the mushrooms till they shrink. Add this, butter and all, to the stew. Stir. Then pop the stew back in the oven.
13. After three hours, your stew should be ready. You can break it out and give it a taste test. You may find that it needs a little salt or pepper. The beef should pretty much melt in your mouth. And the onions will have disintegrated. Fish out the bay leaves and thyme and parsley stalks.
14. If you’re not happy with the thickness, put a little cold water in a bowl, add a teaspoon or two of flour and whisk until you don’t see any lumps. Stir this into the stew. It should get a little thicker. If not, just repeat the process.

"Serve with mashed potatoes or on top of a nice hunk of fresh, toasted bread. And just try not to cry."
Doesn't that sound super-delish? And really manly? I told Sean I'd make it when he has some man friends over. He said, "Mmmkay," so I know he's really excited.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ready for a challenge?

I feel like I've been slumming it this week, cooking-wise.

For dinner on Thursday, I made:

Cheese tortellini a la vodka. It doesn't get easier, seriously. I'm almost embarrassed to call that cooking, even if it is delicious and simple.

For dunch today, I made:

Tacos! Out of a box! With nothin' fancy!

And they were just as delish as I remembered them, but still, super easy. Even if I did have to call my dad to double-check how to drain meat (seriously, I'm a cooking dunce). He definitely laughed at me, but I just wanted to make sure I did it right.

When I was in high school, my dad made me these same Old El Paso tacos probably once a week. It was, hands-down, my favorite meal and still serves as a comfort food. I love the smell of the packet of spices (who knows what's in there?) and the packet of mild sauce. Once, my friend Jamie's parents served the exact same tacos and I remarked to our friend Sarah that they were good, but they weren't like my dad's. She asked if he put something different in my tacos. I said, "I don't think so. Probably just love."

But now I think I'm ready for more of a challenge, which is probably why it's good that either tomorrow or Sunday, we're having balsamic pork medallions! I love pork medallions, but I won't lie, that tenderloin scares the bejesus out of me. I was heading toward the meat section to pick it up, chatting on my cell phone with my friend Chanelle, when she said, "The grossest thing EVER to touch is pork tenderloin." Great. Let me just pick some up right now.

Even in the package, it feels like those slippery water-filled toys they sell at dollar stores. So gross! So scary! EEEK!

If I were a rich girl ...

Anyone who knows me well knows that I've been planning my wedding since I was three years old.

And I don't mean abstractly.

I mean, I've been casting and recasting my bridesmaids at all the different stages of my life; planning the music; imagining my first dance.

And as time has marched on, my taste in wedding gowns has shifted radically and now I can't seem to find my dream dress at all. So for now, I'm playing "If I were a rich girl ...," where I figure out exactly what I'd wear if money were no object.

I'd wear this sweet column by Giambattista Valli. It reminds me of Jackie Kennedy's inauguration dress.

Or this Grecian goddess dress by Carolina Herrera.

Or this fluffy Oscar de la Renta.

Or, my all-time dream dress, this Melissa Sweet tea-length gown.

Or this Big Bird-gets-married Angel Sanchez. (I mean that in a good way!)

And no fantasy ensemble would be complete without the Louboutins. Sigh. A dream deferred.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


The writer and journalist in me will never get enough of typography-inspired decor.
Ceramic letters, "Verb," $12.99 at Noun, found via Oh Joy!.

Paging Dr. Amber

Two days ago, I felt a little phlegm in my throat and I told Sean I was going to get sick.
Yesterday, my throat was a little sore.
Last night, my neck felt like it couldn't support my head and I was rapidly developing a sinus headache.
This morning, I felt like my body was its normal size and my head was a Goodyear blimp. Stuffy, achy, sneazy, runny — you know the drill.

So I did what I always do. I broke out the patented "Amber Cure-All for Common Head Cold." Now, I don't think any of this is enlightening, but I swear, I always follow this regimen and I'm never sick for longer than two-to-three days (just watch; I'll be sick for a month now that I said that).

When I wake up with a sore throat, I start small. These are practically industrial-strength Vick's cough drops, and they really do soothe fairly quickly. Now, that doesn't mean I can turn around and eat Tostitos or popcorn. It just means I can swallow slightly better.

If I have to go somewhere, or stay alert for most of the day, then I pop a Sudafed. I hate swallowing pills, so the teeny tiny Sudafed is awesome for me. Funnily enough, whenever I give Sean a Sudafed, he gets worse. Whatevs.

If I don't have to be anywhere important, then I bust out the Dayquil. Supposedly, Dayquil is non-drowsy. But, as my friends and family can attest, there is no such thing as "non-drowsy" for me. EVERYTHING knocks me out. I used to have fever dreams on Dimetapp!

I once came home from school, gave myself some Dimetapp and laid down on the couch for a nap. When my mother woke me up at 8 for dinner, I freaked out, insisted we were missing school and demanded she make me breakfast because I thought it was 8 a.m. the following day. She literally had to talk me down. So that's why I can only take Dayquil when I don't have to be at work. I took some today and multiple times, my head just kind of collapsed backward while I was sitting on the couch. But it works; my neck and throat still hurt a little, but I feel way better.

ALSO: If you're like me, and you get insanely achy, try the Thermocare heating pads for neck and shoulders. It really works, at least temporarily, and they sell a sample size for $2.99.

This part is crucial: tomato soup (I like mine with a little parmesan). Forget chicken noodle; tomato soup is smooth, creamy, filling and can easily be dressed up or dressed down. It also doesn't have creepy, tiny chunks of chicken that you have to go fishing to find. If you're really stuffy, try chicken tortilla soup (I especially love the soup at Cheddar's); the spices will definitely clear those nasal passages.

Finally, I skip the herbal tea with the honey and lemon that everyone always suggests. That's all fine and well, but chai is so much more decadent and deliciouso. ESPECIALLY when served in my beloved "Elvis Lives" mug from Graceland.

The only other tip I have: double fist orange juice and water throughout the day. I don't know why I think that works; it just makes me feel better, like I have control over the situation.

So, what are your superstitious get-better-quick tips? What did mom always do for you when your throat hurt or your tummy ached?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Almost ready for improv

Remember your first date? You wanted everything to be perfect; you packed your juiciest peaches 'n' cream Lip Smackers gloss, pinched your cheeks and tousled your hair the way girls do in movies. You primped and you preened and you obsessed.

That was me, getting ready for my first dinner guest. Forget that Ashleigh, my guest, came to this apartment before we even brought in furniture. It was going to be hard to blow her away since she helped pick out the dining table. But I still wanted to set a gorgeous table with Anthropologie napkins and my grandmother's trivet, serve a delish meal, wow her with my cheap wine and serve perfectly chilled chocolate raspberry mousse.

Here's how it really went:
I decided to serve baked three-cheese pasta, a recipe from "Anyone Can Cook." It is basically a glorified Mac-N-Cheese; it calls for pasta, butter, milk, American cheese, cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese.

I had hoped to attempt to make chocolate raspberry mousse, but that takes two hours to chill, and since I was busy from 9 a.m. this morning, that didn't happen.

I had barely dropped the ziti in the pot when Ashleigh came in. My timing was epically off. I preheated the oven too early, turned it off when I realized that, and forgot to preheat again. I underestimated the time it would take to: Make the pasta, preheat the oven, add the cheese and milk and butter, bake the pasta, stir it, bake some more and then cool for 10 minutes. I was practically buzzed off wine by the time we served the pasta!

Me, serving up my concoction.

Ashleigh, getting ready to enjoy my concoction.

The pasta was good; it was cheesy and filling, but not too much. But even though I followed the instructions to the T, it definitely needs some kick. Maybe chicken, or tomatoes, or bread crumbs on top, or ham, or bacon, or chives. Just ... something.

And Ashleigh was a great first dinner guest. She wasn't disappointed at my utter failure to wow her and surprise her with mousse and luckily, she enjoyed two scoops of Haagen Dazs Fleur de Sel caramel ice cream (OMG so good), so I felt like I was a good date.

Back in the saddle again

Okay, okay, I'm finally cooking again. Today was kind of insanely busy; we moved all our furniture around, got help with the insanely heavy couch, moved more furniture, ran errands, cooked dinner for Ashleigh, looked at wedding magazines and now, at 11, I'm finally free to write. 

Here is the day, in pictures:

This is the "before" picture. Utter chaos. Not that it's much better now, but I think we all know apartments are ever-evolving.

Made mini pizzas for lunch. I can't really say this was a huge step forward in my cooking experiments; making pizza with those awesome Boboli crusts is about as easy as putting together a Lunchable. Sean's was plain pepperoni and mozzarella; mine was mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan, pepperoni and salami. Delish.

Our apartment is newly IKEA'd. Cheap Swedish design now fills my home and it's awesome. For anyone who has never been to IKEA, it is a wonderland emporium of modern fantasy furniture fabulousness. We are now the proud owners of a: Bjursta dining table and IKEA Stockholm TV bench. And now we can't spend money ever again, cause we's poor.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The proposal story EXTRAS!

So, I realized I forgot to include some super-cute details about the proposal and now I feel like I didn't do Sean justice.

So here's the DVD extras to my awesome proposal story:
  • I asked Sean how long he'd been thinking about getting married and he said, "A year, two years. Something like that." He said once he found out I was moving in with him, he decided he wanted to do it on our anniversary.
  • The day before he proposed, Sean called my father, my mother and my grandmother to ask their permission. He called my mom, who was totally surprised because she had seen him last week and he didn't say a word. Then he called my grandmother (to get my dad's number) and she said, "Well you know, I think she's going to say yes!" hehehe. Then he called my dad and got his voicemail. By the time my dad called him back, Sean was at work and dad was in the parking lot at the grocery store. Dad said Sean kept mumbling and saying, "Mr. Lester" and he felt really, really old. Needless to say, my dad had a very reflective trip to the grocery store!
  • I asked him how long he'd had the ring, and it turned out he had it for one day. I was like, "Whoa!" and he said, "Well, I wanted to be engaged!!"
So that's the man I'm marrying. He may not talk as much as I do, but deep inside, he's plotting awesomeness.

back to life, back to reality

I don't know how you guys (and our mothers and grandmothers) do it.

Cooking every night is hard. It's amazing to me that housewives don't wear epaulets, because the amount of planning it takes to orchestrate a week's worth of meals at home seems on par with planning an attack.

And seriously, groceries are SO expensive. Does anyone have any tips for how you remember to actually use the coupons you save? I save them and when I finally remember them, they're out-of-date. Tough business.

All this boils down to the fact that I haven't cooked since Friday. Sean and I were basically out of food by Saturday and we knew we were going out of town, so we decided to put off buying groceries. Sunday we had the cookout, yesterday we ate a frozen pizza and today I got a callback on an interview, so I had to cancel our grocery shopping. Which means I went alone. Without a well-planned list. Which means I spent way too much money. Plus, I might have wandered down the magazine aisle to buy some wedding magazines (insert squeal here).

Which leads me to a word on weddings and how my impending one will impact this blog: Male readers, I'm sorry. I wish I could say that I'll definitely keep the gushy wedding planning to myself, but since I've been dreaming of this since I was three years old, I can't do that. But don't worry: I still plan on writing about cooking, decorating and other trials and tribulations.

Many people have asked me what ideas I have for my wedding. Seeing as how I used to watch "A Wedding Story" twice a day, every day in high school, I have TOO MANY IDEAS. I could, right now, probably plan six radically different weddings based on the things I've said in the past. And now that it's really time for what should be my one and only nuptials, I'm second-guessing everything. But here's what I DO know:
  • The wedding will not be in 2009. At the earliest, it could be late 2010. At the latest, late 2011. I know that sounds ludicrously long from now, but when you're unemployed like me and trying to figure out your new calling, planning a wedding sounds like an insane amount of additional stress.
  • The vision I have in my mind right now (which may change in a year or two) is chic, antique-filled garden party. Kind of country chic with a mix of Grey Gardens, a pinch of Sense and Sensibility and who-knows-what. So I know I would like a large part of it, if not all of it, to take place outside.
  • Many people know exactly where they want to get married; they have a beloved home church or a relative's backyard or a beautiful estate near where they grew up. I don't have anything like that. Wise, though I love it, would be convenient for about 5 people. The DC metro area, where Sean grew up, is very expensive. So I think we're leaning toward Hampton Roads. I guess the next few months will be a perfect excuse for Sean and I to really explore the area while looking for venues. Sweet!

When I picture my wedding, I picture it kind of like this scene from "Big Fish."

or this picnic scene from "Sense and Sensibility." Something like that.

Tomorrow, back to cooking. For dunch (what my mother and I call a late, dinner-like lunch), Sean and I will make our own pizzas. For dinner, my friend Ashleigh is coming over and I'm specifically making her something Sean would never eat: baked three-cheese pasta.

Tomorrow is also exciting because we will set up our inherited sofa, so expect decor updates soon, too.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What the what?!

So sorry for my absence. I had several posts planned about eateries I love, shopping at IKEA and other domesticated-related events. But then Sean had to go and ruin everything — by PROPOSING!!!

On Sunday, we drove up to Sean's parents' house to pick up some furniture they were planning to give us and also, to host a cookout with some college friends. It was awesome; we hung out with friends we hadn't seen in years and got all caught up and when almost everyone had left, except our dear friends Will and Ashleigh, Sean suddenly started pontificating.

He said, "I don't know if you know this, but today is our four-year anniversary." And I said, "Sean, why are you giving a speech?" And then I saw the stricken look on his face and he said something like, "Amber I love you..." and reached toward his pocket and suddenly I knew what was happening.

He pulled a ring out of his pocket and I said, "You are f**king kidding me! OH EM GEEE!" and then he bent down on one knee, took my hand and said, "Amber, I've loved you so long. Will you marry me?" At that point, everything went blurry and I looked at Ashleigh, who was crying, and Will, who was giggling, and suddenly noticed Sean's dad standing there and then realized I hadn't said anything. I said, "Yes!" really emphatically and had this out-of-body moment where I was thinking, "Omigod, this is my engagement. I just said yes. OMG." Then he tried to put the ring on my finger, but because my fingers are built like sausage links, he couldn't push it past my knuckle. (Don't worry, I shoved it down there eventually.)

It was lovely and shocking and surreal and out-of-body and just what I wanted and not what I was expecting AT ALL. So, it was great.