Friday, June 29, 2007

Garden Oasis?

I'm well aware that what I'm currently calling my "garden" is 6 different pots and containers on my deck that is all of 9' by 5'... but living in a condo in the DC area, you learn to make the most of (VERY) small spaces. And except for harboring the occasional dove (though they look like pigeons to me!), it's been going pretty well!

What I'm MOST proud of, though, as part of my relatively new-found love of watching things grow is my herb garden (you might call it an herb "pot"). Not only has it been really fun seeing them mature from the seeds I planted, but I also have had tons of fresh rosemary, basil, parsley, chives, cilantro (crucial for our guac!), and the latest addition of mint, to complement some tasty, fresh summer cooking and grilling! AND, what could be more cost-effective than having your own stock just outside your door?!

I'm still holding out hope for my tomato plant... I may have learned my lesson that tomato plants just aren't meant to start from seed if you want them to flower within the season; mine is growing tall and strong but no flowers or fruit just yet.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Quick Klippin'

Going through my weekly ritual of "koup klippin'", I realized that many people probably miss out on the opportunity to save some of their hard-earned money simply because they think it's too time-consuming to thumb through the weekly paper.

I'll be honest and admit that I haven't done any long-term studies on this, but I am a strong believer that the time it takes me to find a few "koups" every week is absolutely worth it. I set aside a mere 10 minutes (or less!) a week to "klip" and organize my coupons; then, usually every other week, I go through my stash and toss any that might have expired.

One major pitfall that I'd be remiss not to mention is the "buy something just because you have a coupon" or as my dad has been known to say "buy more to save more". *I am careful when selecting "koups" to only cut those that advertise products I need to purchase regardless.

A few other tips...

  • check your mail for valuable coupon books like the Dunkin' Donut book pictured here (you'll notice that gems like these aren't quite as regularly occurring as the others but they are definitely worth seeking out when available)...

  • often amidst the weekly circulars, there are koups from specific stores in their fliers that you are handsomely rewarded for seeking out... this weekend, perfect timing for Chris, Sports Authority rewarded us with koups for both $25 off a purchase of $100 or more and $10 off $50 purchase

  • try and double your savings... often "koups" are timed with your local grocery store's sales so use both if you can!

Call me crazy and obsessed (it won't be the first time), but my Sunday "koup" hunt is a vital part of my week... and I actually have fun doing it! Don't take my word for it, try it out yourself - you just might be surprised!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Family Reunion 101

In California and Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri... somewhere in the "middle of America", the Rohrbach family gathered for their semi-regular family reunion this past weekend. Family in from all over the country including Florida, Minnesota, and the DC-area, came back to where it all started... for a weekend of memory-making and remembrances.

And what did I come away with? A renewed appreciation for family gatherings, in some form or fashion... and I certainly learned how the pros do it.

I also learned a lot about the Midwest and really liked it! We flew into St. Louis and drove just over 2 hours towards the middle of Missouri and the Lake of the Ozarks. Throughout the drive, we were very intrigued by numerous "lettered" signs - such that I started recording them in an attempt to figure out what they stood for; it turns out they were just very small local roads (such a disappointment) but they kept me amused (and awake!) for the drive!

Our first order of business, however, was up in California, about 30 minutes north of the lake. Talk about small-town USA!

We spent the afternoon strolling down memory lane and learning about all of the different relatives who once lived or now live in many of these homes. I was only sad that they weren't able to come out and give us a live history lesson!

Did someone say history lesson? The matriarchs of the family had something in store later in the weekend after much pool time, fun on the go-kart paths, and a dive-in movie or two. The grandmothers dressed up like American Indians and Mennonites to tell the family history dating back way past the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Everyone had a good laugh and learned something, too!!

Sunday morning, though, the fun was over and everyone packed up promising to do this again sooner than later. It's such a rare occasion when you can bring together so many people with nothing but reminiscing on the agenda!

We had some time to kill as we headed back "east" to St. Louis so a quick tour of the city was in order. Chris has a now famous picture of him and some friends beneath the Arch that we vowed to replicate but it wasn't meant to be as the skies opened up during our first lap of Busch Stadium, with a Cardinals' game in progress.

Every moment of the weekend was a wonderful new memory. Thank God for family and the occasion to celebrate them!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

We Could Learn a Thing or Two!

If you know me, you know I'm always rooting for the underdog... at ANYthing, whether it's American Idol (I loved Chicken Little in the 2006 season!!), sports, in movies... anywhere.

I'm always keeping an eye out for those who might need my encouragement... and while these two seem to be doing just fine without me, I had to take the time to applaud them publicly.

The first is this year's US Open champion, Angel Cabrera. He's the first-ever Argentinian US Open champion, and when asked whether he or fellow countryman Manu Ginobili (of the 2007 World Champion Spurs) were more popular now with their recent claims to fame, he modestly and quickly responded, "Manu". He also had to be the cutest little man sitting in the clubhouse nervously waiting the results of Tiger's final round. And, since the tournament finished up on Father's Day... at the end of his award presentation, he made some quick but very touching statements about his family and his father back in Argentina. I LOVE that!!!

As for my second "mention", I really don't think he even needs an introduction, but I was just introduced to Paul Potts, the winner of "Britain's Got Talent" and since his operatic singing brought tears to my eyes, I thought it only fair to share his talent. He is absolutely amazing... what a come from behind story!

These men prove that nice guys DO finish first!!!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Blame It on the Dads

After the zoo and a couple of fun evenings with friends, and in between daydreaming about the details for my friends' upcoming "Dessert and Drinks" couples' wedding shower that I'm hosting, the inevitable happened... my oven was turned on and out popped two new dessert recipes. I must also admit that I was otherwise inspired... it is Father's Day, after all, and my dad and brother (he's a dad, too!) love sweets AND I recently stumbled upon some new cooking blogs, one in particular.

*Blog-world question... I don't THINK this blog is "foodie" enough to enter the world of real "food blogs" but I'm tossing around the idea. What do you think?

So, in honor of all the dads who love sweets (who am I kidding... because I had a craving), enjoy!

Chocolate Picnic Cake (thanks to Confabulation in the Kitchen for the recipe and hints... though I substituted chopped up Butterfinger bar for Heath bits)

Jumbo Oatmeal Craisin Cookies (I tried Craisins instead of raisins in the original recipe)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Why Do Zebras Have Stripes?

Pretty much anything with my nephew is better and more fun... and today at the National Zoo was no exception.

Jacob, Robyn, Charlie and I shared a pre-Father's Day celebration with the animals... would Charlie's "Baby Einstein" training pay off?

Charlie recognized the cute baby elephant right away, promptly renaming him "l'phant".

The Giant Panda was a "bear"... definitely close enough for us.

The apes were one of our favorites... Charlie got up-close-and-personal with an orangutan in the ape house... and even did a little chest pounding of his own in what I interpreted as an attempt at communication.

At the "Great Cats" exhibit, we were all impressed with the lions and tigers... and Charlie, well, in his true sympathetic fashion was concerned about the little "duckies" wading in the water nearby.

What a perfect day to spend at the zoo. HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!

*What's Kookin' note - Admission to the National Zoo is free! Bring your own lunch and snacks for a great family day that's educational at a very low cost!

Friday, June 15, 2007

New Toys

Thanks to Megan, I have a great tiered steamer basket to play with! I'm so excited!

Between my new grill pan and now, the steamer basket, I'm ready for some delicious, healthy cooking!

Any recipe suggestions?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Everyone Loves...

Grandad and Nana!!

Much to my absolute delight, my parents got a rare full day of Charlie during their recent visit... and I think it's safe to say that much fun was had by all... especially by our favorite little guy.

The only thing left up for debate is who was the favorite... Nana, who brought Charlie's dad's old red wagon and Tonka toy truck...

Or... Grandad, who accompanied Charlie on his first merry-go-round ride.

Thanks, Mom & Dad, for visiting... we can't wait to see you in July!!!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Break a Leg!

It's not everyday that you have the opportunity to see a Broadway (Junior) production on a neighborhood stage for such a reasonable price of admission ($0)...

Tonight, my mom (in town visiting for the weekend!), Chris and I went to see Annie, Jr. at Claremont Immersion Elementary School (as an aside, I think the idea of immersion schools is so great). Rachel and Cloe, two of the 5th graders on the girls' fastpitch softball team that I help coach, attend Claremont and had been selected to be in the musical. Rachel stole the show as a fantastic Miss Hannigan, and Cloe was one of her sidekicks, Lily St. Regis.

The music program at the school did an absolutely amazing job with the production - from preparing the students in the cast to the publicity and the ideas for sponsorship to the actual day of the shows; the "stars" even met the audience after the show for autographs and a photo shoot!

Overall, we were floored by the talent of these 4th and 5th graders... and I was so proud of my Rachel and Cloe! On and off the softball field, these two are rising stars!!!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Summer's Here!

My new "find" in the cooking and food world... thanks to Giada and my friend, Andrea, is grilled fruit!

Tonight I was motivated by 3 things to break out my new circular grill pan (thanks, Andrea!!!).

1) Giada's Grillin' & Chillin' episode that I saw while working out yesterday
2) My brand new grill pan
3) Delicious fresh summer fruit, like strawberries, on sale and just begging to come home with me

After selecting your favorite fresh fruit (strawberries and bananas are great!), the "recipe" is simple and produces results both delicious and with endless possibilities! Tonight, I just quickly cleaned, hulled, and halved a few strawberries, tossed them with about 1 1/2 TBSP of sugar, and poured them onto my grill pan on medium heat. About 3-5 minutes later (depending on how much fruit you start with), the strawberries will start to carmelize and sizzle. Turn them, if necessary, and cook for another minute or two and then remove from the grill.

I'm going to try Giada's complete recipe this weekend... she pours a simple syrup with mint over both the bananas and strawberries, but tonight we just ate the grilled fruit plain. For another easy and pretty dessert, try your grilled fruit over vanilla ice cream.

However you prepare it, you just can't beat fresh summer fruit!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Take Those Left-overs Home!

You know it's bad when you're sitting around, trying to think of a casual restaurant to head out to on a lazy Saturday evening and the only restaurants you can think of are Mexican... but then, one of the main reasons why I continue to invest in the Entertainment coupon book every year is exactly this, to broaden my horizons (*tip... wait about two months after your local version is released and buy it at 1/2 price).

Not that there's ANYthing wrong with Mexican, but sometimes it's good to change it up - especially when you eat out as rarely as we do.

Tonight, not surprisingly, was an "only if we have a coupon" night - meaning we'd only go out to eat if we could find a new place to try and if we had a coupon. We ended up heading down to Old Town and Bugsy's Pizza Restaurant right on King Street. We enjoyed the beautiful night at a table outside under an umbrella... the perfect setting, but would the food be worth it - even with a "koup"?

One of their specials lured me in so I started with a cup of summer gazpacho with garlic croutons and a dollop of pesto. Occasionally, I think gazpacho can be hit or miss but this was well worth my $3.50 - fresh and light, a great beginning to the meal.

We shared a medium, thick-crust, Bugsy's Power Play Deluxe. Our waiter was flexible enough to accomodate Chris' dislike of mushrooms and when the pizza came out, steaming in a cast iron skillet, all of the 'shrooms were waiting for me on "my" side - YUM!

The final word
... Chris felt the crust was a little bland but for the price, he'd do it again. In our newly developed rating system, we say: definitely take the left-overs home and they are most likely gone in no more than 24 hours. All in all, for $18.25 (total for the pizza and soup) minus our $4 coupon - we were glad to have ventured out to Bugsy's.

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