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Life’s a Beach. Or Something.

So if there’s one thing I’ve learned from traveling with a photographer, it’s that you better be prepared to have your picture taken.

A lot.

And when you travel with a photographer who married a technology geek, you’re really in trouble.

When we went to Hawaii 2 years ago with Scott and Leah, Scott liked to play with the camera remote.

Hence:

And let’s just say we haven’t matured since last time.

I swear I’m just trying to put my camera in the bag.

Anyway, the lesson?

2 martinis, an aversion to footwear, and a little black dress do not a Baywatch babe make.

But I’m okay with that.

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Something Went Right

I just made a salad with this:

I grew it myself.

I accidentally touched the cilantro when I went out to cut this.  Now my hands stink.

Note to future self:  Don’t grow cilantro.

You Know You’re Blogging Too Much When…

At work I’m writing an instructional packet for new contract employees so they can get their bearings when the arrive.  The hardest part about working for the government is… actually getting started working for the government.  So this guide is intended to provide step-by-step instructions to take new employees through the rigmarole of acquiring all the things they need (ID card, background check, email access, etc.) in order to actually become valid, useful contractors who are actually allowed to use a computer.

This little project of mine has been set aside for the past month or so, and when I looked at it again yesterday, I realized my approach was slightly… unconventional.

Case in-point:

So I think I might be calling new employees kleptomaniacs with an uncontrollable affinity for chocolate and peanut butter.  Oh, and apparently they’re also coffee addicts whom I’m encouraging to slack off on company time.

Here’s another:

Okay another coffee reference.  And now they’re clumsy, to boot.  I can explain this…

And again:

Uhhh…. Am I not-so-subtly suggesting – in a work document with my name on it, no less – that the acronym CAC sounds uncomfortably close to another “c” word?? (Hint:  rhymes with clock but then say it with a Boston accent.)

I can just hear the questioning now…

“So, were you actually intending to call our new employees junk food kleptos when you wrote this?”

and

“Accidents happen, but do you really think it’s wise to imply that all new employees are clumsy, over-caffeinated oafs who are bound to destroy any original documents we give them?”

and

“Do we really have to tell you that it’s inappropriate to allude – even subtly – to anatomical objects in a professional document?”

But I can explain all of this.  Really, I can.  See, in college the writing professors always tell you to “write what you know,” right?  Well:

  • I have already divulged in my side-bar that I’m a sucker for all things chocolate, peanut butter, or a combination of the two.  Well put it an egg shape, and I’m helpless to resist.  Everything tastes better when it’s in the shape of an egg.
  • Coffee?  I try not to like it.  I really do.  But I just can’t seem to stop the Starbuck’s spending spree.  And do I spill?  Only once or twice a month.
  • And is it immature to think that CAC sounds like another word when you say it out loud?  Think about it:  “Insert your CAC into the keyboard.”  “Make sure you don’t leave your CAC sitting out on your desk.”  How could your mind not be in the gutter?

All-in-all, I’m pretty proud of the document.  I will justify my unorthodox writing by stating that we actually want new employees to read and understand what’s written there.  If it’s not at least slightly entertaining, they’ll never get through it.  Since this isn’t an “official” company document (a disclaimer that is prominently displayed at the beginning of the guide), this should be okay.

Right?

Right??

Parmesan Tilapia & Asparagus in Balsamic Butter Sauce

This is one of my favorite recipes for 2 reasons:

1.  It’s VERY simple to make.

2.  It doesn’t look or taste very simple to make.

It’s not like it looks fancy or anything – in fact when I make it, it looks quite sloppy – but put it in a fancy restaurant-style dish and slap some fresh parsley on top, and you have a meal fit for company.

For those of you who might not know, tilapia is a white-looking fish.  It can be semi-fishy tasting (but not too bad), but this recipe covers that “fishyness” right up.  I highly encourage you to try it if you’ve never had it.

I made it a couple of nights ago because I happened to have some frozen tilapia fillets and all of the other ingredients on-hand.  I also had some leftover asparagus from this recipe, so I decided to make one of my favorite side-dishes to go with the fish.

Here is the link to the original tilapia recipe.

Here is the link to the original asparagus recipe.

First, I thawed my tilapia fillets in the sink under running water.

Actually, first I poured a glass of wine.  I always cook with wine – sometimes I even use it in the recipe.  (Ha! No, I can’t take credit for that… heard it somewhere.)

While that was happening, I got the asparagus baking.

1.  Preheat your oven to 400-degrees F.

2.  Rinse your asparagus and clip off the fat, woody ends.

3.  Spray a cooking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and spread your asparagus evenly onto the sheet.  Spray cooking spray over the top.

Balsamic Asparagus
Asparagus with Balsamic Butter

4.  Generously season with salt and pepper.  Just go for it!

I keep my kosher salt in a small, covered container next to the stove for easy access.

Okay, I might have gone a tad overboard with the seasoning…

5.  When the oven is preheated, just pop ‘em on in on a middle rack.  Let ‘em bake for about 10 minutes.  They should be somewhat floppy, but to me they’re good if they retain a bit of a snap.  You just don’t want them too tough.

While your asparagus is baking, you can start working on your Parmesan sauce for the tilapia.

By the way, I make these recipes so often that they’ve ended up in my “special” cookbook.  It was a gift from my sister.

Kate's Cookbook

Okay back to the Parmesan sauce.  I didn’t halve the recipe for the sauce, even though I probably only used 1 lb. of fish (the recipe calls for 2 lbs.).  What I’m trying to say is, doubling the sauce is perfect.

You will need:

  • 1/2 c. Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 c. Butter, softened (softened – not melted! ~10 seconds in the microwave worked for me)
  • 3 Tbsp. Mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 tsp. Dried Basil (I used fresh from the garden)
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. Onion Powder
  • 1/8 tsp. Celery Salt

The pepper was feeling anti-social.

All you need to do is measure this stuff out and mix it in with your softened butter.

Then realize your bowl is too small and switch to something larger.

And that’s all there is to it!

Take your asparagus out of the oven if it’s finished and set it aside.

See my art?  Yeah… still in the kitchen.  Home might be where the heart is, but the kitchen is where the art is.

Sorry.  The cheese-factor is unforgivable.

Immediately set your oven to broil.  You’ll want one of your oven racks to be up near the top of the oven (if your broiler is at the top).

Line a baking sheet with tinfoil and set your fillets on top.

Stick ‘em under the broiler for ~2 minutes.  Leave the oven door open a couple inches!!

Meanwhile, get your balsamic butter sauce for the asparagus going.  Things are really rolling now…

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter on the stove over low heat.

While the butter is melting on the stove, check your fish.  When the 2 minutes are up, flip over your fillets and stick ‘em back under the broiler for another 2 minutes.

Once your butter is melted, remove from heat and add 1 Tbsp. of Soy Sauce and 1 tsp. of Balsamic Vinegar.

Pour the sauce over the asparagus, and that’s DONE!

Take out your fish (so far they’ve only cooked 2 minutes on each side) and spoon the Parmesan sauce over the top.  Remember that halved the amount of fish but not the sauce – that’s why mine looks extra gloopy.  It’s still very good with less sauce and will form more of  a not-quite-crust.

Put them in for 2-3 more minutes.  Watch closely, because things can darken under the broiler fairly quickly.

Take them out when the look about like this:

Mmmm… melty, cheesy goodness.

This would look even better if I’d remembered to add the chopped, flat-leaf parsley from my garden.

But the fish is nice and flaky – kinda like me – and the balsamic butter sauce on the asparagus is oh, so good.

Poll Update

If you haven’t voted in my “Choose My Own Adventure” poll yet, it’s not too late. 

You can choose whether I should take a carpentry class… 

How to Install Door Trim

 

…or learn how to mountain climb… 

Photo by: Leah B Photography (click photo for link)
Photo by: Leah B Photography (click photo for link)

 

…among other things. 

Since I included an option where people could type in a unique adventure, I thought I’d share with you the options some people thought I should do: 

  • “Write a book.”
    Okay, just give me a plot and I’ll work on that.
  • “All of the above!”
    That is a distinct possibility.
  • “Find Matt a girlfriend from afar.”
    Anyone interested?  Matt is one of the hubs’ best friends and really great guy.
  • “Go mountain climbing in Colorado.”
    Tell you what.  If I take a mountain climbing course, I just may do this.  I have people there.
  • “Learn to speak German, so when you move to Germany, you can be my fluent guide!”
    I would love to move to Germany, and I already know a little bit of the language!  Ich mochte kartoffelsalat, bitte.
  • “Stripper pole class!  Do it for Justin!!!”
    Thanks for the suggestion, but I’m already living here for Justin.  Isn’t that enough?  Although, our anniversary is coming up…

So there you have it.  There are some good suggestions in there, but I get the feeling that some of you might have some selfish motives.  Let’s not forget that this is all about ME.  :) 

I’ll admit I’m a little disappointed only one person (so far) thinks I should move to Hawaii. 

See how happy it makes me?? 

Photo by: Leah B Photography (click photo for link)
Photo by: Leah B Photography (click photo for link)

 

 Now go vote!

Scene of the Crime

For right now, I’m keeping my “Choose My Own Adventure” poll open.  Thanks to those of you who voted so far, and for those of you who’ve stopped by but haven’t, why the f*** not??!  Please go vote immediately.  This is my future we’re talking about.  (Dramatic, much?)

We remodeled our guest bathroom about 2 years ago.

Here’s what it looked like when we moved in (unfortunately I didn’t have a wide-angle lens at the time – or for that matter a DSLR camera – just my little point-and-shoot, so you only get snippets):

Kate's Guest Bathroom Before

The above picture was taken while standing in the bathroom doorway facing slightly left.  The doorway you see ahead/to the right leads into the laundry room with the lovely forest-green aluminum blinds.  (By the way, if you’re ever showing your home for sale, please do not leave the toilet seat up.  It’s unseemly.)

This is looking straight into the bathroom and through to the laundry room.  You can kind-of, sort-of see the fugly, almond-colored bathtub with brass shower doors to the right.

Kate's Guest Bathroom Before

Here’s a better look at that bathtub/shower combo:

Kate's Guest Bathroom Before

We removed the confining shower doors almost immediately after moving in (that tub is tiny), but we were left with an extremely unpleasant shower door residue/fungus/mold-like substance, the likes of which I will share throughout the progression of this remodel.

And we can’t forget the huge-bulb brass light fixture with the charming paisley maroon wallpaper:

Kate's Guest Bathroom Before

The whole thing took us maybe 6 months to complete, and that’s NOT if you count the attached laundry room.  Which is just about done.

Oh, and we still have to paint all of the trim (in the ENTIRE HOUSE!).

Ahem.

Anyway, if you compare this to our kitchen remodel, the hubs and me taking 6 months to complete a project is not a shocker.  In fact, it’s almost timely.

So, did a gruesome murder happen in my bathroom?  Not exactly.  But, here’s what our guest bathroom looked like for probably 5 out of those 6 months:

Kate's Guest Bathroom Crime Scene

As one friend put it, “This looks like a crime scene.”

I promise you I’m not embellishing.  We seriously had guests stay at our home and shower in this bathroom while it looked like this.  It looked like this for a long, long time.

I have no shame.

Kate's Guest Bathroom Wallpaper Removal

What can I say?  We were naive, enthusiastic first-time home-buyers when we made this purchase.  We were excited because only one room had wall paper (this room), and our master bathroom just had a wallpaper border.  We thought we were getting off easy.

But this. room. was. hell.

In all its fury.  In my version of hell, I would be removing paisley maroon wallpaper for all of eternity.

Kate's Guest Bathroom Wallpaper Removal

Here are the tried – and failed –  methods with which we attempted to remove the wallpaper:

  • Dry peeling (simply using a putty knife and our fingers to pull off the stubborn paper)
  • Spritzing with water and then peeling
  • Spritzing with a vinegar/water mixture and then peeling
  • Spritzing with Dif Gel wallpaper stripper (two different formulas) and then peeling
  • Using an electric steamer (borrowed from our neighbors) to harness the power of heat and moisture and then peeling

Nothing worked.  Nothing.

Finally, the hubs ended up taking an orbital sander to the bathroom walls.  He quite literally sanded the whole mess off the surface.  This worked, by the way.

I realize this doesn’t fall withing the traditional code of wallpaper-removal methodology, but you can’t blame us.  We were at our eye-twitchingly wits-end.  My fingernails were navy/maroon paisley.

You. Can’t. Blame. Us.

So no, a murder did not happen in this room (that we know of).  But a double-suicide?

Almost, my friends.

Almost.

Monday Poem

A Poem, inspired by my current surroundings. 

From stock.xchng (click photo for link)
From stock.xchng (click photo for link)

 

My cube is cold, 

My coffee’s old, 

But that is life – 

Or so I’m told. 

Unrest, it grows. 

My mind, it knows. 

A windowless world – 

It really blows. 

How’s that for a rainy Monday?  

Don’t worry, I’m working on some solutions to my boredom, which I will share as they (hopefully) come to fruition. 

I’m a Model, You Know What I Mean?

For some, striking the perfect pose just comes naturally.

You want some of this?

I’m a sexy beast.

I do my little turn on the catwalk.

But others… others need a little help.

It’s not like she doesn’t try…

She’s just not that into herself.

And that’s okay, because I’m all about letting her be express herself…

…in whatever way she chooses.

Sophisticated Kate

I finally did it.  Bit the bullet.  Achieved a dream (other than this) that I’ve had for awhile. 

I bought some art in Hawaii.  Three pieces, to be exact. 

And for someone as fickle as me, this is quite a big deal.  See, until this point, there are 2 things that have held me back from ever buying art (other than bookstore posters during my college years and mass-produced prints from places like Kirkland’s that end up getting shoved in a corner of my closet because I can’t bring myself to hang something meaningless): 

1.  Money.  Original paintings (since that’s mainly the type of art to which I’m referring), can be gastronomically expensive.  Understandably.  You’re essentially buying a piece of a person’s soul to hang over your mantel for your friends to discuss its merit over a glass of merlot.  Talk about putting yourself out there… 

2.  Indecisiveness.  I can’t decide on a meal to cook more than 3 hours in advance, let alone art that will represent my personality, mood and taste (or lack thereof) for the rest of my life.  It’s too much pressure.  That, and I tend to love practically everything I see.  Who am I to decide which is better than the next? 

But then I realizedmost collections start small.  I don’t have to have a huge original oil painting the size of my mattress in order to be moved.  And my art doesn’t even have to be original, for that matter.  And the indecisive part of me is never going to change.  If my tastes/desires/moods change over the course of my life, then what I buy today will simply represent who I was at that particular moment in time.  And that, my friends, is the point. 

(Am I deep tonight, or what??) 

Okay, two of the pieces are actually very inexpensive prints of real art, but hey.  We’re not made of money. 

I think I was drawn to the first for its colors. 

Kellie MacQuoid Print
(Click photo for link to artist's website)

 

It’s surreal, almost dreamlike, very calming… with just a hint of trippy.  Perfect. 

Kellie MacQuoid Print
(Click photo for link to artist's website)

 

I love the detail with the birds (seagulls?) in the background and the horizontal texture running across the sky and trees.  I love that the flowers look like pink artichokes and the leaves of the ferns aren’t attached to the stems. 

Kellie MacQuoid Print
(Click photo for link to artist's website)

 

It doesn’t scream Hawaii to me (at least my experience of Hawaii), and that’s okay.  In fact the artist, Kellie MacQuoid, lives in California.  The palm trees… the ocean… the lizard… the inspiration is still clear.  Exotic, coastal beauty.  On acid. 

I would LOVE to own a real one some day.  Or maybe even a giclée (I use this term to try to sound art-smart, which, I assure you, I’m not), if an original is beyond my reach.  It never hurts to dream, right? 

The second print will completely take you inside my head. 

(Ha-ha, no I’m not about to show you a photo of a blank picture frame.  I know what you’re thinking, and you’re mean.

The style seems like a dream.  No details, just memory. 

But really, it’s the subject itself.  The surfer girl… she’s in one of the most beautiful places in the world, she’s got this big ocean in front of her, and all she has to do is jump in.  She’s free to do anything she wants. 

Heather Brown Print
(Click photo for link to artist's website)

 

I would love to be the girl in the painting.  Heather Brown, the artist, seems like a phenomenal person.  She lives on the island of Oahu, surfs and paints for a living, is absolutely beautiful, and is basically living the dream.  I saw a few of her originals and several giclée prints in some of the Oahu galleries.  I drooled.  But only a little. 

It looks like she signed the matte of the print, although I’m not sure if that’s just a stamp… 

Heather Brown Print
(Click photo for link to artist's website.)

 

I want to be there again.  And since I can’t (or won’t?), this print might get me close. 

Heather Brown Print
(Click photo for link to artist's website)

 

Because these prints were a standard size, all it took were some inexpensive frames from Target to complete the look. 

Target Picture Frames

 

I removed the mattes that came with the frames and used the ones that came with the prints: 

 

 

Now all I have to do is hang ‘em!  Give me another year or so and I might find the perfect place (ha). 

For now, they’re both in my kitchen, sitting up against our (finally) completed backsplash.  I actually kind of like them in here, because I see them every day. 

And finally, the real painting. 

Ican’tbelieveIownarealpainting!!! 

It’s an original.  (Imagine me saying that with my nose stuck up in the air.) 

I walked into this little gallery in the small, beach-front town of Hale’iwa on Oahu’s North Shore.  Inside the owner displayed works from several artists, including her husband, the local candle maker.  It was the art of Dennis McGeary, however, that caught my eye. 

I was initially drawn to a a large, abstract piece, very similar to those in the top 2 rows of this page.  It appeared different every time I looked at it.  Once I saw a waterfall.  Then an ocean.  Then the wind as I fell from the plane.  Then the mountains.  It was continuous, and I loved it.  I can’t describe it. 

I realized this piece, while extremely reasonably-priced for an original oil painting, was just more than we could justify spending at this point in our lives.  But then I was drawn to a much smaller piece, more decipherable (and less interpretive) in its subject, but still intriguing. 

Dennis McGeary
(Click photo for link to artist's website)

 

An Oahu coastline.  Tropical forests.  Jagged mountains.  But, when viewed a little differently, a serene underwater-scape.  Colorful coral.  Reflections off the surface. 

Dennis McGeary
(Click photo for link to artist's website)

 

And look!  Brush strokes!! 

Dennis McGeary Original

 

I own something with brush strokes besides my painted window trim! 

Dennis McGeary Original

 

And it has a signature.  A real signature. 

Dennis McGeary

 

Is it weird I’m so excited about this? 

I’m sorry to get all artsy-fartsy on you tonight, but I can’t help it.  I just finished a glass of red and I’m too sophisticated for words. 

All of this is still made worse by the fact that I still want to move to a van on the North Shore.  I’m still working to convince the hubs it would be a good idea.  We can survive on some rice, our wits, and our passion for life, no?  (Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have read Into the Wild during our vacation.  The combination appears to have been toxic.) 

But I figure first we’ll finish remodeling this place… one thing at a time, right? 

One thing at a time.