Sunday, August 26, 2012

Here Comes the Bride

Fourteen years ago last month I received a letter in the mail from Virginia Tech providing me the name and contact information of my random roommate assignment.  'Maliha Yasameen Nowrouz,' the letter read.  Huh?  All of my friends' names were Kelly, Lyndsay, Danielle, Lori, etc.  Who was this chick from northern Va?  I looked up her address on AOL (Was Google as popular yet?  I don't remember.).  I called her that week.  I found out she goes by Molly, likes soccer, and was easy to talk to.  We talked accessories.  And carpet sizes to accommodate our 8x10 dorm room.  I had a Winnie the Pooh lamp I could bring.  Really?  I was 18.  I bet she thought I was awesome.  One of us had a fridge.  The other person had a hot plate  We were all set.

My parents and I moved in the first day the dorms were open and I was all set up, loft assembled, computer up and running by the time Molly arrived with her family on Saturday.  I was wearing a blue tie-dyed Brew Threw t-shirt and cut off shorts.  My hair was in a sloppy ponytail on top of my head and my 'cool' VT lanyard was around my neck, screaming 'freshman!'  I don't remember what Molly was wearing, but I could tell it had been a long ride for her family of five and they just wanted to get her crap moved in and be on their way.  We stayed out of their way and let them get things organized.  When all was said and done, her loft was wobbly and the computer guy (seniors who volunteered to help new freshman...hhhmmm?) visited us a few times before her PC was working properly.  But as I got to know Molly, I learned that this was her normal.  Hectic, chaotic, and stressful, but it all always gets done.  A glass of wine, a deep breath, and a small smile when it's all over sends the stress out the window and we're all better for the experience.

We survived freshman year  and learned a lot about each other.  I borrowed her sweater one weekend and accidentally shrunk it to infant size in the wash.  She got me hooked on General Hospital.  I puked in her trashcan and she didn't get mad at me when I didn't clean it out very well.  She even made me the best mac and cheese ever when my hangover slowly carried into day #2.  We watched the Columbine shootings unfold on the news.  We ate cookie dough in the 6th floor lounge almost every Sunday morning.  We helped wax each others eyebrows and curl each others hair along with our corner neighbor.  We got to know each others friends, boyfriends, and siblings when they visited.  We loved to people watch in the dining hall and never ran out of things to talk about.  And then we started apartment hunting for the following year.  That random roommate assignment turned into a sweet friendship and we lived together majority of our college years.

Fast forward to 2006 and Molly was a bridesmaid in my wedding.  She provided comic relief, quick thinking, and a calm head as my mom and I ran around like crazy ladies.

We've always lived in different cities and worked in different fields, but caught up whenever time allowed, usually as she was passing through town or I was in her neck of the woods visiting other family, and never missed a beat picking up where we'd last left off.  Molly's sister was right when she explained in her maid of honor toast that Molly has a way of listening carefully and always making you feel that what you have to say is important.  Then one time she visited with her boyfriend and we went out for dinner and drinks.  He was a cutie and Molly glowed.  They met at work, but when she started medical school he soon followed her to avoid a long distance relationship.  Before long I got THE phone call.  A wedding was in the works!  And last weekend the celebration was fantastic.

I'm a sucker for weddings and it's quite appropriate that Molly and I used to regularly watch A Wedding Story on TLC in college.  But when it's a dear friend that's the bride, the wedding is even more special, more fun.  Her family is huge and they throw a great party.  Her dad's side is Afghan, so the menu followed suit and was delicious delicious delicious.  Her best friend, mom, and aunt made and decorated the wedding cake and her mother in law and sister in law grew the wild flowers that topped it.  They also created all of the centerpieces and bridal party bouquets.  Cousins gathered to do the girls' hair and makeup and Molly's brother officiated the ceremony.  It was a true family affair and a few cultural traditions made it quite personal.  The weather was sunny and breezy, so the outdoor ceremony was a smooth success.  Molly's mom admitted that quite a few things didn't get done in the week leading up to the big day, but none of us noticed and I think everyone breathed easy when all was said and done.
The bride was beautiful, the groom handsome, the atmosphere sweet.  Congratulations to the Mr. and Mrs!!!

Monday, August 13, 2012

PLAYDATE Grown Up Style

Last Wednesday was quite out of the ordinary.  Joe and I both had the 'day off' for some playtime.  Last time we enjoyed a free day together, but this time we went our separate ways to do some grown up playing to each our own.  Joe and a buddy finally redeemed their vouchers for the "NASCAR Experience," where they got to drive a race car.  Joe hit 108 mph and over the phone I could practically see his beaming, ear to ear smile as he told me, "WOW, THAT. WAS. FUN!"  To top off the day the guys squeezed in 9 holes of golf and had lunch at Hooters.  Boys will be boys. 
Thank you, Corey, for this shot.
 My play day wasn't quite as exciting, but then again, that depends on who you ask.  I'm not one to splurge on frivolous things for myself and any of my friends can tell you I'm a pretty cheap frugal shopper.  So when my mother in law gave me a gift card to a massage and facial spa for my birthday a couple months ago, I almost felt guilty accepting it, let alone taking a day to enjoy the services it offered.  I hadn't made the effort to schedule an appointment until I got a welcomed email from my in laws offering to watch the boys.  For an entire day.  Morning, noon, and evening.  So the day before I called the spa to check for open time slots and the receptionist had no problem convincing me to add on a massage after my facial was done.

I dropped the boys off at Oma and Opa's, grabbed a coffee at Starbucks, and headed to the spa.  Let me say that again.  I got a coffee alone and went to the spa.  One more time.  I enjoyed an iced coffee in a quiet car while on my way to the spa.

I'd never had a facial before and that night before bed I almost felt guilty washing all that good stuff off.  I couldn't bring myself to pay over $100 in skin care products before leaving, so whatever I can find at Target will have to serve a close 2nd for at home facials provided by yours truly.  I'm pretty sure I dozed off once or twice while my head, shoulders, hands, and arms were rubbed while a hot wash cloth draped my face.  The massage was just as relaxing and offered welcome relief to some tight muscles.  Maybe the best way to explain how good all of this felt is to describe what my mind was doing while laying on a warmed table under a fleecy blanket while steam was blowing on my face and zen like scents and sounds filled the room.  On a normal basis when I close my eyes to regroup during the day or fall asleep at night I see something like this:

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But as the facial got started and the relaxation of the massage continued, the images in my mind started to look like this:
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And by the end I'd reached this:

To say the day was a success would be an understatement.  After the spa I grabbed lunch at Panera, visited the Dollar Store and Old Navy, and browsed cards at Hallmark.  I ate lunch in front of the TV, straightened the house, and ran the vacuum without the fear of waking a sleeping child.  The boys were great with their grandparents, enjoying a visit to the mall to ride the train, napping well in big boy beds, and playing a lot both inside and out.  I can't deny the fact that I missed them and every time I checked the clock I thought about what they were probably doing, but this mid-week break was a real treat.  And maybe spending a little money every now and then for another facial isn't so frivolous after all.  :)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

In the Kitchen - Summer Salads and a Quick Entree

My kind of cooking these days involves throwing together what I can while the boys nap, which is a few hours  before we actually sit down to eat.  So if something can marinate, be served at room temperature, or easily reheated, I'm all for it.  Enter some easy summer salads...especially the kind that get even better if they sit for a while.

I'm kind of obsessed with this newest salad.  It's the perfect balance of sweet, salty, crunchy, and soft.  I adapted it from a recipe I found in People magazine. 

2 t olive oil
8 slices bacon
3 sweet potatoes (Yukon gold or red potatoes are fine too)
1 red bell pepper
3 cans corn
1 small red onion
1/3 c rice and/or cider vinegar
crushed red pepper flakes

Cover a jelly roll pan/cookie sheet with foil and lay a wire rack on top.  Lay bacon slices across wire rack and bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes until bacon is crispy.  Let cool and then chop into 1 inch pieces.

Peel and chop sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch squares.  Cook in boiling water for 10-11 minutes.  Potatoes should be soft on the outside, but not too mushy all the way through.  Drain water and let potatoes cool.

Thinly slice the onion and cut the red pepper into small chunks.  Saute in olive oil and a little bit of drained bacon grease until translucent and soft.  Add corn and heat through.  Remove from heat and add potatoes.  Pour vinegar over veggies and season to taste with salt and red pepper.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

My goal during nap time each day is to accomplish something productive and then veg for a few mintues to mentally recharge for the next chunk of the day.  It's a win win when I can do both at the same time, i.e. fold laundry while watching Food Network.  When I watched Giada a couple months ago make this Forbidden Rice Salad I decided that come peach season I was definitely giving it a try.  Well peach season is in full swing (and they're oh so yummy), so we enjoyed this as a side dish the other night.  Even the boys scarfed down a bowl of rice before I added the dressing.

If you've not tried this type of rice, it's a must!  Soft yet crunchy, delicious, nutty, and packed with good stuff.  I found a bag for $4.99 at Fresh Market. 


3 1/2 cups water

2 cups black forbidden rice (recommended: Lotus Foods)

1 (1 1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped(I used minced ginger from a jar...a little over 1 tablespoon)

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 1/2 cups (8 ounces) snap peas, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 peaches (or more if you like), pitted and sliced

1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar (I came up a little short on rice vinegar and red wine vinegar worked nicely)

1/4 cup grapeseed oil (I acutally didn't have any, so I used walnut oil and olive oil and they worked great)

3 tablespoons honey (I actually added 4 T...we love honey around here)

1 tablespoon soy sauce
1-2 teaspoon minced ginger (The original recipe did not call for this, but I thought it worked great in the dressing)

For the rice: In a medium saucepan, bring the water, rice, ginger, and salt to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook until the rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and place in a large serving bowl.

For the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, honey, ginger, and soy sauce until smooth.  Top rice with peas and peaches.  Pour the dressing over the rice mixture and toss well. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

The original recipe actually said to saute the peaches and peas in some oil, but I just kept the peaches fresh, steamed the peas, and then stirred them into the rice.  It was also suggested in the many reviews to substitute mango for the peaches.  I plan on trying that next time, but to be honest, my favorite way to eat mango is with sliced avocado and a drizzle of olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper.  Oh man, yum.

And while we're on the topic of foods that often don't get enough credit like the aforementioned rice, let's talk about eggplant.  One of the running girls recently brought this to girls' night, and I couldn't even go a week without NEEDING to eat it again.  One of the best's ready in less than 10 minutes!

Slice eggplant and saute in olive oil until seared, softened, and browned.  Season with salt, pepper, and garlic to taste.  Top with toasted pine nuts and crumbled goat cheese.  Seriously, that's it.  Serve with a spinach salad (dress it up with the leftover nuts, cheese, and maybe bacon bits if you made the above salad earlier in the week) and you have a complete meal.  So, so, so good.

Monday, August 6, 2012


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Tonight we're celebrating.  The grandparents are here and the good food is ready. 
And Joe is the life of the party.

In Joe's "pre-Krissy' life he was part of the chaotic rat race just outside Washinton, D.C. working as a broker for Smith Barney.  He was putting his undergraduate degree from American University to good use.  But the cold calls were tedious, the days were long, pressure was intense, and despite having an awesome mentor, he gradually moved into the IT field with self-taught expertise and coding skills.  Then came five years in Milwaukee, WI where he owned a house, bought a boat, lived with the ex-girlfriend, and refined his IT skills.  By 2003 he was single again and living here in town.  He had a solid job working for a global assistance insurance company, another new house, and life was stable.  In 2008 after lots of nagging urging from his mom and me, he started working on his MBA.  It was time to up the ante, make himself more marketable, and have more specific training in his field.  To move up, you have to keep up.  By 2010 he had his degree in hand, some kids at home, and wife that was no longer working.  However, his job stayed the same; his boss moved on; pay was stagnant; frustration levels grew; work load increased; turnover at the office was frequent; and opportunity for professional growth looked grim.  But Joe's a thinker (ok, maybe just plain complacent sometimes) and stuck it out a while.  At the start of 2012, though, he was motivated.  Motivated to move on and look hard.  There was a lot of contact with recruiters, dead end interviews, and networking happy hours.  And just when he thought another door had closed, the call came.  He was wanted at an IT consultant firm to start on a project within three weeks!!!  Next week that three weeks is over and today Joe started orientation.  At his new company.  For his new job.  Which is the first professional change he's made in 9 years.  Way to go, babe! 

Today is your day.  
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away! 
-Dr. Seuss 

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