Monday, October 24, 2011

Mississippi Sin Dip

If you are a member of the addictive site pintrest.com, you already know that the "pins" are so fantastic you could look for hours. That is, if you had hours to waste. I try no to spend more than 15-20 minutes searching unless I'm looking for something in particular. Like this dip. 

With a name like Mississippi Sin it has to be good, right? I saw the recipe a few weeks back and pinned it for a coffee with the HMH-462 wives. I'm always a little scared to try something new without a backup plan, but this recipe looked pretty amazing. Apparently it went over well because there wasn't much left after the coffee was over. This dip was super easy to make and pretty delish, so I wanted to pass it along to you! 

Don't you love my iPhone pics?

Mississippi Sin Dip
Ingredients:
16 oz sour cream
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped ham
1 green onion, chopped
1/4 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
French bread loaf
*These directions include baking/serving the dip in a bread bowl. I didn't do that, but the recipe is the same. 

Directions:
In a mixing bowl, combine ingredients, except French bread. Stir until well blended. Cut a think slice from top of bread loaf; set slice aside. Using a gentle sawing motion, cut vertically to, but not through, bottom of the loaf, 1/2 inch from the edge, to cut out center of bread. Lift out center of loaf. Fill hollowed bread loaf with the dip. Wrap loaf with foil. Bake dip at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Serve with reserved bread cubes, crackers, or potato chips.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Books

I've sort of dropped the ball on keeping up-to-date on the books I've been reading. I almost finished reading Decision Points, but put it down because I didn't want to travel with such a big hard back book (especially with the Nook color going with me) all the way across America and back. I think I'll pick it up tonight and finish the last 50 or so pages I need to finish it... 

While I was driving around America, I read Persuasion by Jane Austen. It was no different than any of the other Austen novels, in that it was fantastic. I'm now reading Emma by Jane Austen because I can't get enough. I may read Mansfield Park soon next for good measure. 

I also read The Carrie Diaries and Summer and the City by Candace Bushnell while we were on the road. I read them both really quickly because they are super easy reads and because I really didn't want to put them down. I'm a fan of Sex and the City, so I have heard about these books forever. I almost felt silly reading about a young girl in high school and then in the summer after she graduated, but at the same time I was in love with early Carrie, Miranda, and Samantha. I wouldn't call these literary books by any stretch of the imagination but they would be great beach reads.

Lastly, I also bought Always Something There to Remind Me by Beth Harbison while traveling. I almost finished it, but I put it down to travel back home, to Vegas, and to Oregon. Somehow in all the craziness I forgot all about it and started Emma. I'll either finish Emma and go back to this one or vice versa. It's a very light read like the Bushnell books, so I would recommend it for the beach. Basically a girl is totally in love with one guy during high school. Life happens and they split up. Years later she is with an incredible guy and when he asks her to marry him, she flashes back to high school. The story unfolds from there and follows what she does to reconcile her past love with her future happiness with the new guy. 

So there you have it. This is me jumping around from one book to the next (which I generally never do) and still reading even though I haven't mentioned it in a while. I'll be at 10 books once I finish the last chapters of Decision Points, Always Something There to Remind Me, and Emma so I think the 12 books in 12 months worked out. I'm sad it hasn't been more but I'm going to say it's because I'm so busy! Maybe next year I can set a higher goal...   

I think I'm going to read Jen Lancaster's If You Were Here and some other classic works after I finish up the three that are in limbo now. Are you reading anything fantastic that I should add to my list?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dirty Thirty?

I'll be the first to admit I was a little apprehensive about turning 30. First we celebrated New Year's 2011. As the months passed, the Class of '99 began to be composed of more 30-somethings than 20-somethings. I have always had one of the last birthdays in my class, but usually it wasn't something to be excited about. 

Until this year. 

As the last few months of my 20's kept getting closer, I thought it would be great to spend my 30th doing something memorable. 


The idea of going to Las Vegas became a real possibility when a few friends said they were in and excited about making the trip. As the time got closer I needed a head count, and a few friends had to back out for valid reasons. A child custody battle, surgery, taking care of businesses (as owners not employees), not able to get a babysitter (with a deployed husband), Marine Corps functions, etc. Seriously, six of my BFFs couldn't make it for one reason or another, and I was a little concerned that I would be spending the weekend alone instead of in Vegas with some of my favorite friends. In the end it worked out that only 3 of us were able to go because of the issues with 5-8 women deciding where to go, what to do, what to eat, and splitting hotel rooms up may have been more drama than it was worth. 

One friend flew into San Diego at the same time as Mom and I did, so we met in the airport. She and I headed out the next morning and picked up the third member of our party from the Vegas airport that evening. As I'm sure you have heard that "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." so I'll give you the short version...  

We stayed at the Paris Las Vegas. 



We had a great view of the pool and the Bellagio. 

Not that you can really see the pool, but I promise we had a great view of that too. 
We went out. We danced. Our feet hurt. I took incriminating photos. We went to bed really late. We saw a Cirque Du Soleil show. We gambled. I lost $4.75 (out of $5). We watched the Bellagio fountain 'show.' 


We had an amazing dinner at Fiamma in the MGM Grand. We made toasts with complimentary champagne. We toured the Strip. We came back to San Diego. 



My 20s are officially over but my 30s started in an amazing way because two of my dear friends put their lives on hold for one weekend to celebrate it with me (since Josh wasn't able to). I had a great time in my 20's. I had a lot of fun in college. I made tons of new friends. I earned a BS in Elementary Education, met Josh, and earned my MA in Speech Language Pathology. Josh and I got married, moved to Florida, welcomed Gray into our lives, moved to North Carolina, moved to California, and jumped out of a plane. 

I won't ever look back with sadness, because I lived it up in my 20s. I learned a lot about myself and the world. I developed feelings and opinions about all sorts of things. I grew up in so many ways big and small, but mostly I came into 'me' more than I have ever been in the past. I hope every decade is filled with as much happiness, love, and laughter. I wish that everyone could have as many positive experiences and even less negative ones, because in the end turning 30 for me was just another number. 

If you are as old as you feel, I'm still 23 anyway. Cheers to the next 30! 


Oregon

Mom came out to California to keep Gray for a weekend while I went to Vegas for my birthday. After I got back, we hit the road together to see the state of California via Sequoia National Park, Yosemite National Park, Napa Valley, San Francisco, and the Pacific Coast Highway. We also went a little further north to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. We started our drive north through the middle of the state up to Sequoia National Park. On the way there we passed tons of orchards with strawberries, olives, limes, lemons, oranges, and pomegranates. It was pretty neat to see all of the things that are grown in California within a fairly small area. We also enjoyed stopping to figure out what everything was along the way. 

Pomegranates! 
Enjoying his new computer on the road. 
I loved Sequoia National Park. It reminded me of Muri Woods (which we would visit again later in this trip) in that it was so peaceful and serene. I would really love to go camping in this national park... These old growth forests are so amazing to walk around in for several reasons. One big one is that these trees only grow in certain places and they are HUGE. Literally the biggest trees in the world. The sheer size and age of these trees make you realize how truly small you are in the world. I can't help but see God's hand in places like this. 

Gray is in the footprint of the General Sherman tree.
This picture doesn't really do it justice, as the General Sherman is the largest tree in the world with a 25 foot diameter.  
Sequoia NP is connected to Kings Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park, so we visited all three. Yosemite has some amazing views and would also be a great place to camp or use some of the walking trails to get better views of the waterfalls, etc. We drove through basically the entire park, with plenty of stops for photos. 


Our next stop was Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. We got there just before the sun set, so we had some pretty amazing views as we drove around the lake. The lake itself if pretty big (much bigger than I thought it was) and the drive around the rim is breathtaking. I have always wanted to see Crater Lake, so this was a pretty great national park as far as I was concerned. It was so much colder up there, there was still snow on the ground from the last snowfall over 6 months before our visit. This national park gets some crazy amounts of snow every year (averaging around 500 inches each year), so I would not recommend going in the winter months! Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States (9th deepest in the world) at 1,943 feet deep. 

The view from the rim drive. 
Next stop? Napa Valley! We stopped at a winery and shared a fruit and cheese tray with a flight of sparkling wine. With Gray, many places are limited in tours or samples so we drove through for more scenery than wine tasting. 



We stopped at Muri Woods National Park before going into San Francisco. The park was a little cooler than when Josh and I visited in the summer but still as amazing. I really love all of this clover in the park! Since I already told you about many of the things we did in San Francisco a few months back, I won't do that again since I'm bound to repeat myself. 


We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and headed to the Palace of Fine Arts. I've decided that it may be my favorite spot in San Francisco. 


While in San Francisco on this trip, we drove down Lombard Street, rode a few street cars, had ice cream from Ghirardelli Square, visited Alcatraz, and saw lots of other sights and sounds of the city. 

Lombard Street. 
We actually got to ride the street cars!  
Gray loved the 'trains'! 
Ghirardelli Square. 
Alcatraz! 
Mom in a cell during the tour. 
This part of Alcatraz can be seen in The Rock.
I only know that because I recently saw the movie on TV. :)

We left San Francisco and headed south toward Carmel. We decided to drive the 17-Mile Drive and see Pebble Beach. I'm not sure that I was all that impressed, especially with a $10 fee just to drive around the loop. 
Pebble Beach. 
We stopped in Big Sur at Nepenthe and had an amazing lunch with an amazing view. If you ever drive up the PCH, I recommend stopping in for a meal and the fantastic shop below. I'm sorry that Josh and I missed this place on our trip! 

We also stopped at Seal Beach near Hurst Castle. Gray needed to get out and stretch his legs, so this was a great place. It just so happened that he loved the seals anyway so that made it the perfect spot! We watched the seals for a few minutes and got back in the car. 


Our final stop for this trip was in Solvang, California. Josh and I also stopped here and Mom really wanted to see it. It's such a quaint little town and I love stopping there! We stopped in and got Gray some more Dutch chocolates and did some shopping. 

Stolling around Solvang with his duck. 
Overall, I would say this was a great trip! I loved the national parks and Mom saw a lot of things she has been wanting to see! 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bucket List

I'm not sure when I decided to make an actual 'Bucket List,' but I've always thought about the fun things I would like to see and do when I got older. When I got pregnant with Gray, people kept telling us to go out and do the things you have always wanted to do now "because you won't do them when you have kids."

Seriously? I can't have a life anymore because I gave life to someone else? That doesn't seem fair. 

Josh and I had a discussion about all of those people's "advice" and decided that wasn't going to be us. We wanted to continue to do things that we enjoy with our kids, or get a sitter for those times when our offspring weren't allowed. So far that is working out for us. Maybe we don't go to the movies as often, but we still do go watch movies. Maybe we don't have as much time to ourselves, but we still have some. Anyone who thinks children won't change their lives are just wrong, but we think that Gray can share our lives with us instead of holding us back. That's logical. Right? 

Anyway, I recently decided to write some things down that I was really interested in doing while I'm able to do them. I read a quote from an elderly lady who said something like we don't regret the things we do, we regret the things we don't do. I personally don't want to be on my death bed (be that at 35 or 95) and think about the things I always wanted to do and never got around to actually doing. 

These are the things I've added to the list so far, in no particular order. I foresee adding many more things, but this is enough to keep me busy for now!

1. Watch a MBA game.
*The Lakers aren't too far from home... I'm checking into tickets.
2. Watch a NFL game.
*Same goes for the Chargers.
3. Watch a MLB game.
4. Travel somewhere by train.
5. Read more classic novels.
6. Go to the Opera.
7. Visit Niagara Falls.
8. Run a race.
*Considering running another one (hopefully much faster) when Josh comes home.
9. See the Northern Lights.
10. Watch a play on Broadway.
*I'd like to do this again, because I'm sure I would appreciate it more as an adult than I did in high school. 
11. Sleep under the stars.
12. Write a letter to myself to open in 10 years.
13. Get a stamp in my shiny new passport.
14. Watch a meteor shower.
15. Buy/build a house with Josh.
16. Drive historic Route 66.
17. Travel more internationally! 
*I'd love to spend time in Ireland, Scotland, UK, Italy, France, Germany, Africa, Egypt, Australia etc. I have such a long list of places I'd love to see. 
18. Send a secret to Post Secret.
19. Visit Las Vegas to celebrate something!
*My 30th birthday weekend was awesome BTW. 
20. Do something nice for someone without telling them.
21. Go skinny dipping.
22. Go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
*Yes I'm from Louisiana, and NO I've never been to the real thing. 
23. Visit all 50 states.
*I only have 4 left to see! (Alaska, Washington, Indiana, and Michigan are the elusive four.)
24. Marry the man of my dreams.
25. Visit the pyramids in Egypt.
26. Invest more in the stock market.
27. Volunteer at a homeless shelter.
28. Wine tasting in Napa Valley.
29. Read the whole Bible.
*Getting closer to this one, but not quite there. 
30. Go skydiving.
*I never thought I would actually go through with this one, but it was totally fantastic.  
31. Ride in a helicopter.
*My husband does this every day. So. Not. Fair. 
32. Ride in a hot air balloon.
*Temecula, CA is an amazing place to do this. 
33. Go white water rafting. 
34. Go scuba diving.
35. Take a whale watching tour and actually see whales!
36. Stand up on a surf board for more than .5 seconds.
37. Wear a big hat at the horse races (or at least go to the horse races)!
38. Donate my hair to make wigs for cancer patients
*I've done this twice and I recommend it to all!
39. Attend Oktoberfest in Germany, just to see Josh's excitement.
40. Ride a mechanical bull.
*It would be awesome if I could say I did it as well as Sissy in Urban Cowboy, but I can't.
41. Be an audience member for a TV show.
42. Take a glass blowing class.
*We had so much fun that we are going back on Friday for round two! 
43. Get a Master's Degree.
44. Renew our wedding vows in Las Vegas. If Elvis does the ceremony it will be even cooler. 
45. Go parasailing
 *Morgan and I thought that was going to be awesome. It was a slight let down. 
46. Visit Alcatraz
47. Watch Tombstone in Tombstone, AZ
48. Take a pottery class. 
49. Walk 60 miles in three days for cancer research
*Wouldn't you know that was the coldest most miserable weekend anyone has ever spent in San Diego. :)
50. Have a baby.
*Gray is totally fantastic. This maybe the best thing I've done. :)
51. Go to the Angola Prison rodeo! 

I think I'm doing well so far with about half of these things already checked off the list, but have a long way to go! So tell me, is there anything you really want to do? 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mendocino Chicken Salad

I found this chicken salad recipe in my search for the perfect chicken salad about a year ago. I have now forgotten how to make any other kind because this one is so flipping fantastic! I found it on AllRecipes.com and have modified it to make my life easier (the recipe asks for some kind of smoked chicken that I couldn't find) and because I don't love celery. 

You can chop some celery up and throw it in if you want. I'll pass because I'm not a fan. I'll allow it in cooked dishes (like gumbo) because it belongs, but I never eat the fresh version. Don't let the basil in this salad scare you either. I was a little concerned at first, but after the first bite I knew it was the right thing to do. Just try it. You will see.

I usually toss the meat from the chicken into the food processor so I don't waste 30 minutes tearing it up into small pieces. I know you are shocked to know that my OCD takes over in this step, so it takes way too long for the chicken to be shredded uniformly. Who's got that kind of time? You do what you want, but I find letting the chopper do the work makes my life happy.

I also use more/less grapes, onions, and basil depending on the day. I never measure these, or the mayonnaise. The original used a small amount of chicken, so I've estimated these based on the use of a rotisserie chicken. Again, I've never measured so you may need more or less of the things.

Mendocino Chicken Salad
Ingredients:
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
2 cups of seedless grapes, halved
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
mayonnaise

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Chill and serve.

Super easy. Super tasty. Now go try it and thank me later.  I'm going to make a sandwich!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Back in Cali

I'm home from my month of vacationing, but have been trying to catch up on all of the things that get put on the back burner when you are out of town. One of those things is uploading (and backing up) photos. Once I get them all on my computer, I will be able to share them. 

At the moment, Gray and I have to go get ready for the day. My military ID expired while I was home and it has been causing me grief since then. I've got an appointment today, and I can't miss it! 

Promising to post something more exciting soon, but here is a picture of Gray for the road. 

Gray in St Louis at the Gateway Arch.