Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Project 52: Week 1

Week 1 Theme: Nature

For the majority of the pictures I took for this week's theme, I visited the University campus to see what I could find.  The first picture was taken as the sun was starting to set in front of my house during the week, but the remaining pics are all from campus.


I'm very glad that one of the MANY squirrels that grace the campus was out and about when I was walking around central campus to find get some shots.  These little guys are everywhere and will let you get within a couple feet of them without taking off.  He stayed on the side of that tree for almost a good minute staring at me as I was taking his portrait.  Often times you begin to wonder if these little guys are plotting something with how they behave.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Gouda Cheese Sauce

The first time I heard of gnocchi, I was very intrigued.  Who wouldn't be at the thought of a pasta dumpling made from a base of potatoes?  The first time I ever tried this magical food wasn't at some Italian restaurant, but rather one night when my husband decided he wanted to try his hand at making some at home.  What was amazing about his is he just glanced at a basic recipe for the dough to see the basic ingredients and general proportions, and then he whipped up a batch of basic potato gnocchi with a sausage cream sauce to go with it.  Yeah... my husband is one awesome cook!  He's always been good at creating new recipes out of thin air and making them taste wonderful.  His palette for knowing good flavor combos really is amazing.

After this first taste, I instantly became hooked and have since ordered gnocchi any time I've seen it on the menu at a restaurant we visit.  I think the best one I've had so far was at this local Italian restaurant on the square in Dahlonega, Georgia -- it was a basic potato gnocchi with a Carbonara sauce, smothered in mozzarella.  Sinfully wonderful!

Since the invention of Pinterest, it has become much easier for me to discover appetizing sounding recipes that I would like to try.  It should be no surprise that I found this wonderful Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Gouda Cheese Sauce recipe via this widespread source of addiction.  Growing up, I never really ate sweet potatoes.  They just were not something my mom ever served.  But I have come to find that they are quite tasty.  It is amazing how a food that tastes so delicious can be so healthy for you.

I decided to make this for dinner last night, and I have to say it was mighty tasty.  One item I noted about this recipe is it calls for one pound of potato, however after cooking and then mashing up my sweet potatoes, they only equaled 1 cup, whereas the recipe calls for 1.5 cups of potato to mix with the other ingredients.  So that you do not do like I had to and reduce the remaining ingredients to 2/3 the quantity so that everything is still in proportion, I would recommend starting off with more than one pound of sweet potato.  The gnocchi itself was a little light on the sweet potato flavor (I could taste more of the nutmeg than the potato), but overall was really nice.  It definitely had a good texture to it.  And the Gouda cheese sauce was light yet flavorful.  I will definitely make this recipe again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

One of Those Days...

Have you ever had one of those days where not too long after starting your day, you wish you could just go back to bed and try again tomorrow?  Today, that describes me.  When my alarm went off this morning, my desire to not get out of bed was even greater for some reason -- I suppose part of me "knew" what my morning would have in store for me.
  • I took the dogs outside first thing after waking up like I usually do each morning, and Saki refused to go to the bathroom, even though he clearly hadn't puddled anywhere inside the house during the night.
  • I somehow managed to gain almost half a pound according to our oh-so-reliable scale between when I woke up and after I had used the bathroom.  I know this cannot actually be true, however it's frustrating to see when my weight has been sitting at a plateau for the past month.
  • When packing up my lunch for the day, my yogurt cup slipped out of my hand and splattered all over the kitchen floor.  At least the dogs benefited from this and got a nice, yet healthy, post-breakfast treat here when I asked them to clean up the mess.
  • I walked out of the house without my water bottle for my daily post-work gym time, remembering it as I reached the end of my street, and then got "yelled" at by the dogs when I re-entered the house to retrieve it, only to leave again 10 seconds later.
  • Upon walking into the office, I saw that my desk had been left a mess by our student worker who decided to hop over from the computer she was working at when I left yesterday to my desk, with copies of her resume strewn over the top of a table of mine, random software discs laying about, and one of my drawers left wide open.
Thankfully a phone call from the hubby combined with an intense pinning session on Pinterest this morning helped to ease my frazzled state.  But I will say, I am still sitting here waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I just hope when I get home today I don't discover that Saki has made a mess in his crate.  *Fingers crossed*

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Project 52

One of the items on my 101 in 1001 list has been to complete a 365 day photo challenge.  After viewing the photo challenge Ashley over at Love From Home has started, I have decide to change my task to complete a Project 52 photo challenge instead.  This task entails taking pictures related to various themes each week, rather than each day.

I would still like to complete a 365 day photo challenge one day, but I am thinking that I will save it for the day when I eventually become pregnant and have a baby and do it to document every day of my child's first year of life.  And since only God knows when that day will be and for all I know it might or might not fall inside of the parameters of my 101 in 1001 project, I have decided to make this change to my 101 list.

My plan is to take the pictures during the week listed below for each theme, and then share the relevant photos each Tuesday following the end of the week of the theme.  The themes I have set for myself have been inspired by a variety of lists I have found online, as well as some of my own ideas/desires.  I am hoping that this process will allow me to also become a better photographer while learning the various aspects of my new DSLR (though I'm sure some shots taken with my iPhone will also creep their way into this project too since my phone is perpetually glued to me, unlike the camera).

My weekly theme assignments are:

Jan 22-28: Nature
Jan 29-Feb 4: Architecture
Feb 5-11: Animals
Feb 12-18: Love
Feb 19-25: Comfort
Feb 26-Mar 3: Temptation
Mar 4-10: Work
Mar 11-17: Sunrises & Sunsets
Mar 18-24: Season Change-Spring
Mar 25-31: Sleep
Apr 1-7: Anniversary
Apr 8-14: Technology
Apr 15-21: Blue
Apr 22-28: Explore
Apr 29-May 5: Peace
May 6-12: Home
May 13-19: Shadows
May 20-26: Books
May 27-June 2: Fun
June 3-9: Toys
June 10-16: Clothes
June 17-23: Season Change-Summer
June 24-30: Green
July 1-7: Red, White, & Blue
July 8-14: Movement
July 15-21: Hot
July 22-28: Water
July 29-Aug 4: Sky
Aug 5-11: Beauty
Aug 12-18: Movies
Aug 19-25: Letters
Aug 26-Sept 1: Texture
Sept 2-8: Red
Sept 9-15: Town
Sept 16-22: Season Change-Fall
Sept 23-29: Spirit
Sept 30-Oct 6: Eyes
Oct 7-13: Five
Oct 14-20: Birthday
Oct 21-27: Orange
Oct 28-Nov 3: Family
Nov 4-10: Old
Nov 11-17: Reflection
Nov 18-24: Quiet
Nov 25-Dec 1: Thankful
Dec 2-8: Sunrises & Sunsets
Dec 9-15: Sweets
Dec 16-22: Season Change-Winter
Dec 23-29: Holidays
Dec 30-Jan 5: New Beginnings
Jan 6-12: Birthday
Jan 13-19: Small

Look for week one's image(s) next Tuesday!

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Design Up and Running

Friday afternoon I finally took the steps to uploading the new design template to this blog, and thankfully it went fairly seamlessly.  I like the scrapbook-ish cozy feel it has to it and enjoyed playing with the layering of various backgrounds and elements I downloaded, though I am also drawn to more modern designs as well, so who knows how long it will stay this way.  I'm hoping that I won't get the itch to change it up again for at least a good year or so, which honestly I think I should be able to stick to considering how busy life is going to start getting over the coming weeks and months.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Template

Over these last several days, when I haven't been busy slowly cleaning up the disaster that is our home or learning the ins and outs of my new camera, I've been working on creating a new template for this blog.  I made a few tweaks to the code of my current template back when I first published it, but for the most part it is still largely based on one of the standard Blogger templates.  This time around, I'm doing a lot more editing to all of the coding and doing more work to manipulate the HTML and CSS to create the layout and backgrounds I want, as well as having some more fun playing with Photoshop to create a new header and buttons to link to my pages.  I'm hoping to get all of the coding squared away and then imported into this blog by the end of this weekend, assuming I don't accidentally do something to completely wipe out all of my content.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me

I've never expected too much out of my birthday.  While growing up, my birthday and my brother's were always combined and celebrated somewhere in between the two weeks that separates our days (or were celebrated on his December 28th birthday date since it conveniently fell over winter break and was just easier to schedule), which means that my actual birthday was never really much of anything special.  The only real exception to this was in college with my group of friends and our habit of baking cookies or cakes for each other and getting together to celebrate each year.  This general lack of expectations however means that being apart from my husband for birthday number twenty-eight is not something that has bothered me as much as it could.

Free cupcake from Gigi's for my birthday

Over this past year, I've experienced a lot of changes, new experiences, and growth as a person.  This is one of the few years where I actually feel like I've gotten older.  I left the comfort zone of a job I had for almost three years where everything I did on a daily basis had become second nature to me and moved on to a new position that's given me more experience in some of the areas I'm interested in.  I became a mommy for the third time when we got Saki and had to learn how to balance two dogs who get very jealous of each other and a cat who is set in his ways.  I married my best friend and have never been happier in my relationship with him.  I've also had to deal with spending the majority of my first year of marriage away from my husband as we both adjust to our crazy new life with him in the Army.  I've taken on more responsibility on the home-front and have had to learn to be more patient while adjusting to military life (I don't have a lot of patience when it comes to the unknown -- I hate not knowing things as I am a bit of a planner -- which is probably going to be the hardest thing for me to learn how to handle).

This next year is going to be another one full of changes and new experiences as well as we adjust to life in a new city and I hunt for a new job, in addition to tons of other possibilities we could encounter.  I do have to say that this is one time when I am excited about the unknown ahead of us as I'm ready for the change that our move will bring!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy Birthday to My Babies

We have a habit of spoiling our dogs.  If we're ever faced with a decision as to whether to spend money on ourselves or our dogs, the dogs always win.  This also means that when it comes to their birthdays, they receive top-notch treatment.

As a whole we're pretty strict with the diets of our pets.  We pay more money to get them higher quality food, they receive treats on occasion and not every day (or even every other day), and very rarely do they get fed any sort of people food.  The one big exception to the people food rule is for their birthdays.  Ever since Kiba's first birthday, our "kids" have received a tasty dinner to celebrate the yearly milestone.  The dogs receive beef in the form of some nice stew meat or some steak, lightly seared and cut-up into bite size pieces, and the cat receives some tuna fish.

Saki's birthday was two weeks ago and our little boy turned 1, and Kiba's 5th birthday is today.  I have recently decided I also want to make them a little birthday cake each year as an added treat.  I found a website with some recipes for cakes for dogs that are okay for them to eat, containing mostly natural ingredients so they aren't eating a lot of processed and refined foods.

Since they received their steak dinner two weeks ago on Saki's birthday, I decided to make and give them their birthday cake today on Kiba's birthday and whipped up the Peanut Butter Delight cake into cupcakes.  The entire time the cakes were baking in the oven, Kiba was never more than a few feet away, just hoping I'd go ahead and give her some of the peanut buttery goodness she could smell in the kitchen, and the dogs absolutely loved it when the cakes were cool enough to eat and gobbled them up quickly.  Not a single crumb was left behind!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Toy

I just got a brand new toy that I am already absolutely in love with!

I've known for a few months now that I've been in need of a new digital camera, especially when I received my iPhone upgrade in November to find that it has a better camera than my old point-and-shoot.

Today I finally got my husband to agree with me about the purchase of a DSLR after finding a pretty good deal, and I am now the proud owner of a Canon EOS Rebel T3i!

I now have something a little more fun to help fill my time over these last two months in this town in the form of learning all of the in's and out's of using the camera and becoming a better photographer.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Back to Reality

It really is amazing how quickly two weeks can fly by.  Fifteen days ago the hubby came home for Christmas leave.  And now here I am, sitting back at my desk at work after yet again saying goodbye at the airport this morning.  I am just very fortunate that my job gives all of the staff 1.5 weeks off for the holidays each year, so I only had to add in another few more days of leave time in order to be off from work for the entire time he was home.

Much of our holidays were spent traveling to see family and was very reminiscent of our vacation we took at the end of the summer right before he shipped off to basic.  We had Christmas weekend down in Florida visiting his mom, step-dad, and two little sisters, then followed it up back in Georgia with a couple days seeing his dad's and step-mom's sides of the family, and then finished up the grand tour with an evening with my parents and brother.  All throughout, our time was filled with lots of shopping and lots of food, leaving our wallets a little lighter, and our stomachs much fuller.

We each were able to spend more on the other for Christmas this year and each got some things we had been eyeing.  This meant a lot to both of us because this was the first year of not living paycheck-to-paycheck at the holidays, so it was like we could reward each other for making it through the more difficult times from the past four years.  I got him several video games that he had mentioned to me over Thanksgiving that he wanted, and then we also ordered him a pair of prescription Oakley sunglasses that he has wanted for probably about two years now.  He got me a North Face fleece that I've wanted that matches the one he received last year, a really nice cookie sheet from Williams-Sinoma (I've been in need of new ones for a while), and then surprised me with a beautiful watch as well (I'm pretty sure my jaw about hit the ground when I unwrapped this one).

Overall we had a fairly chill time off together, including a very subdued New Year's Eve at home that had us in bed by 11pm and very fast asleep by the time the clock struck midnight and we entered 2012.  And I do have to say, I am kind of in love with how TSA has approved family members of Military who are arriving or departing to receive gate passes to get past security at the airport.  I was able to both meet the hubby at the gate as he landed two weeks ago as well as see him off as he boarded his plane back to AIT this morning.  Extra time together is wonderful and I will certainly take it however I can get it!  Now the countdown begins until he graduates in 2.5 months and we are finally reunited after getting to experience our first PCS and move out to Texas :)