Thursday, November 11, 2010

Another B Dawson

This news is far overdue, but we are expecting another Dawson to join our family in February. Little boy Dawson is already feisty and likes to kick me constantly. I've had a lovely pregnancy so far, probably due to the fact that I take naps daily and learned pretty early on that fruit always calms my stomach.

My dear friend Jocelyn took some photos of Ben and I this past weekend in Old Town Alexandria to commemorate my new pregnant tummy.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

this is what happens

This is what happens when Ben leaves for a week work trip and I am left to my own devices.

I sew adorable blankets from random scraps of fabric (and a towel, which I used as the back). This is the very first piece quilt I ever made. I had to make some adjustments, since I rarely measure, which is required when quilting.

I am in love with the butterfly fabric that I got on clearance over Christmas. Utterly adorable.

I also made this girl's quilt, but I need to get some white fleece backing to finish it.

I also finished another baby blanket, and decided to put a caterpillar on it. I forgot to rotate the photo, so just rotate your computer.

I also learned why no one in their right mind makes swimsuits. Even when you working painstakingly slow and are really careful, you still get all sorts of bumps and unevenness. Man, that made me mad. But it still turned out well. I just hope the less than great sewing holds up in the ocean.

Diedra and I got this fabric on one of our trips to New York. I miss the fabric district. Who knew that an entire store of spandex would be so awesome?

And last, but not least, I take pictures of hilarious billboard signs in our small town. I absolutely love this sign for Hair Prophecy International. Garrett, I think you need to visit me just so that you can go there and get your hair cut.

beach cruiser

My beautiful mint green beach cruiser. It arrived last week, and Ben took them out for our first ride last weekend before he left for a work trip. Boy, is it mint green.

(Parents: that is our apartment in the background.)

Me taking a test drive down our street.


Proof of the bug problem. We kill all the large cockroaches too fast to photograph, but I did manage to take a picture of this 4 inch long centipede while Ben grabbed a paper towel and a chair in order to kill it. We included Ben's hand to give you an idea of the scale.

I saw this guy last Sunday after we were eating dinner. He had crawled onto our drapes and was at the very top. This has since taught me that no piece of furniture is safe, hence checking the coach before I sit down. Ben calls this paranoid, but I think I am perfectly justified.

Monday, June 21, 2010

the beach, more bugs, and bikes

This weekend Ben and I headed to the beach, in hopes of some waves. Unfortunately the surf was down, so there were no waves to ride, but we did get to visit a few beaches (Emerald Isle and Indian Head). At the first beach we went to, we saw a skate right near the surf. It was pretty small, but fun to watch. Then at the second beach we saw three dolphins pretty near shore right as we got to the beach (at first I thought they were snorkelers, but then one jumped out of the water). I've seen dolphins before on the East coast, but never that close to the shore. We played Frisbee, boche ball, and went swimming.

This post is titled "more bugs" because that is the daily battle in our home. After Ben showed me the mole crabs that live right on the sand you walk on (and you can feel them under your feet...gross), I am even more grossed out by things with lots of legs. Like the four-inch long centipede that we found crawling on our curtains one night, or the 1.5 inch long cockroach that Ben chased down and killed. I probably kill 4 large bugs a day, which is about 4 over my limit.

And last Thursday I went to girls camp for the day to help one of the leaders make fires. A few of the girls needed to learn how to make fires and cook on them, so I showed up at 8:30 am to get this started. Once our fire was going and some coals were started, I showed the second year girls how to make ash cakes. All of them were pretty grossed out, but we made them all cook one and try it, and most of them really liked it. Maybe ash cakes are a family thing, because no one had ever heard of them before, never mind eaten anything cooked directly on the ash and coals. While I was cooking some ash cakes, I managed to step into a fire ant nest, and my ankles are still itchy.

In spite of all the crazy bugs living in our apartment, Ben and I did get to take our new bikes out for a ride on Saturday. After a little test ride on our street, we went down a pretty big road to get to the next neighborhood (which is very quite and perfect for biking). The loop is about 5 miles, which was a good little tryout with our bikes (seeing as how I haven't been on a bike since I was about 15). I do love my bike thought, and the ride is so smooth. Now the only thing I need is a basket.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

avatar tree

This evening while Ben and I were out walking, I spotted one of the craziest looking trees I have ever seen, and I immediately thought of Avatar. The picture does not to justice to just how bright pink the puff balls were on the top.

Ben took these photos on his blackberry, so the color isn't great. But there were a few pink trees next to some white ones.

Oh, and this afternoon I learned that you can be allergic to fire ants, just like bee stings. Oh yippee. Right now we have fire ants all over our front yard, which means we can barely even walk on it. We have already treated them with some fire ant killer, so hopefully they will start to decrease in number, or at least not be all over the grass. Last night while we were putting up the hammock, we both got stung the feet just while walking on the lawn.

handy things that I love

I love decorating. A lot. In fact unpacking and putting together the new apartment was actually fun, since it meant I got to redecorate our new place. Okay, maybe not completely redecorate since we didn't buy any new curtains or furniture (no job = no purchases), but it still has a different feel than our last place. I really love our more open floor plan and that fact that we can actually put up curtains in this apartment.

I thought I would give a shout out to my facorite handy things in my apartment. I love for everything to have a place and to be organized. This first was was a present from my brother Garrett. He made these jewelry hanging frames for all of the sisters last Christmas, and I absolutely love it. I have yet to find a better way to organize all my earrings. Right now this is hung on the wall above a small bookcase in our bedroom.

To make, simply take an old wood frame, pop our the back and glass, spray paint black, and insert small hook and wire down the sides.

I also love my magnetic spice containers, which I keep on the side of the fridge. I can never find spices in cabinets, so these are a great way to keep your spices, plus the lids twist allowing you to either poor or sprinkle the spices as you cook. The only downside is that they are not labeled, so I have learned the smell of each spice.

And lastly, my flour/sugar jars. My mother always kept flour and sugar in tupperware containers, and it wasn't until I went to college and my roommates got all kinds of bugs in theirs that I understood why. This was one of the first things we bought when we got married, and I absolutely love them. I keep them on the top of the baking rack for easy access. Right now I have wheat flour and corn meal in the medium size jars, since I make so much homemade bread.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

early retirement, new apartment, north carolina

I should probably update my blog and explain why I have not been blogging as of late. Ben finished his third semester at MIT in the middle of May and then we moved to North Carolina for a 7-month internship as part of his master's program. This meant that I had to quit my job (hence, the early retirement) and we got to pack up the house, fit all of our belongings into 5 linear feet in a moving truck, and move to North Carolina for the rest of the year. Let me just say that it is a very good thing that most of our furniture breaks down, otherwise we would have never have fit it on the truck. We are excited about this change and a chance for a new adventure.

We have been here almost two weeks and are already loving it. Our apartment is really coming together, and we love that our rent is 1/5 our rent in Boston. Despite the large quantities of bugs that make their way into our apartment, I love it here. We live on a quiet street with lots of natural shade, which allows me to keep the windows open during the day and the AC off. We hope to spend the summer relaxing, going to the beach, avoiding all future run ins with fire ants, and making lots of friends in our new city. We have been to church twice and were completely shocked by how friendly they were (probably a result of not having new people move in in over three years).

Since my web cam tour with my mom was shaky at best, I thought I would give a little house tour. As much as I hate packing, I have loved putting our new apartment together and getting another chance to decorate. The walls are white and the carpet is off-white, so it is a good thing we have lots of colored furniture.

Our dinning room. This is the first thing you see when you walk in past our TINY kitchen. Sorry, there are no pictures of our kitchen. Just imagine a tiny room filled with panelled wood cupboards and an ancient stove.

Living room, complete with our "new" modern chairs and my wool rug that I found at a garage sale for $50.

The buffet under the window in our main room. Before I left Boston I bought a set of Anthropology bowls, which were on clearance, and let me tell you, I love them.

Some of the only books we brought with us to NC. And what is that awesome clock you ask? Just my Christmas present from my brother; a vintage edition of The Bridge of San Luis Rey made into a clock.

Since we have lived in only small kitchens since we've been married, we own a beautiful baking rack. I actually love having all of the pots and pans, bowls, and small appliances so handy. And yes, that is my disco ball on the ground. I still haven't decided where to hang it.....

The apartment also has two bedrooms and 1.5 baths. We love having more office space and a place for all of my crafts. I feel spoiled by all of the closet space and the fact that we bought our first washer and dryer.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

boston creme puffs

There are a million reasons why I love my husband and these last two years we have been married. But last Sunday I was reminded how thankful I am for Ben's love of Boston Creme Puffs, because they are a truly delectable dessert. It wasn't until Ben and I moved to Boston and were exploring the North End for the first time that he told me his favorite dessert was a Boston Creme Puff. I've had creme puffs before; no big deal. But I must agree that the Boston variety is incredible.

So to celebrate our 2nd anniversary, I made Boston Creme Puffs. I would like to thank my mom for the pastry cream recipe, which is incredible. For the creme puffs, I used the wonderful and standard Better Homes and Gardens recipe, which is classic and perfect. And for the chocolate ganache, I used dark chocolate with a little bit of cream.

Pastry Creme
6 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk or half-and-half or cream, heated
A little additional milk, if needed

Flavoring: 1 T. vanilla, or 1/2 T vanilla and 2 T. rum or kirsch
1 T. unsalted butter, optional

Whisk the yolks in the saucepan, gradually beating in the sugar and salt; continue whisking 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is thick and lemon colored (you can use electric beaters). Sift on the flour and whisk it in. Then, by dribbles at first, blend in the hot milk or cream.

Whisk rather slowly over moderate heat. As the custard comes to a boil, it will start to lump - beat vigorously to smooth it. Then change from whisk to wooden spoon, and stir over moderately low heat, reaching all over the bottom of the pan, for 2 minutes , to cook the flour. You will have a thick sauce that holds its shape softly in a spoon - if it seems too thick, set again over heat, whisking in droplets more of milk. Remove from heat and blend in the flavoring and the optional butter (I didn't use).

Stir up frequently until cool, then pour into a clean bowl, press a sheet of plastic wrap into the surface to keep a skin from forming, and refrigerate. May be refrigerated for 2-3 days. Whisk up the chilled pastry cream and taste carefully - you may want to correct the flavoring, or you may wish to lighten it by fold in a little whipped cream. 1/3-1/2 cup heavy cream (whipped) should be enough to whip for a moderate lightening.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

spicy beef with broccoli

Spicy Beef with Broccoli

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tablespoon salt
black pepper
12oz thin sliced eye of round steak
2 T oil for frying
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 tablespoon white cooking wine
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
7 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon chile paste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger root
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup sliced onion
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1-2 heads broccoli, cut up

Combine cornstarch, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Toss the steak slices in the cornstarch mixture and coat well. Warm the 2 T oil in a wok or frying pan and cook the steak on high until done.

In another mixing bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, rice wine and honey. Add sugar, chili paste, and ginger. Mix well and set aside. Steam broccoli in a separate pan until just beginning to be tender (do not overcook, because you want some of the crispiness to remain).

Heat a wok or deep frying pan over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, and quickly saute the onion, garlic and red pepper for 30 seconds. Add the sauce mixture, and cook another 30 seconds. Finally, add the strips of steak and toss to heat through and coat with sauce.

Monday, February 08, 2010

homemade lasagna

Ever since my summer stint with insomia when I was 16, I have loved making homemade pasta. Nothing beats the taste of homemade noodles, the amazing texture, and just how fresh they taste. So last night when we got home from church and I had my heart set on lasagna, I decided to make homemade lasagna noodles since that is one ingredient that I almost never have on hand. (Unlike ricotta cheese, which I always have in the fridge.)

So while Ben threw together the cottage cheese, ricotta, mozarella and spices, I made homemade pasta dough and rolled it out with my pasta maker. (Kim, if you are reading this, the pasta recipe in the Better Homes and Garden cookbook is amazing. Simple, and makes the best pasta.) I rolled the pasta to the level 6 and then cut each into a 3 inch wide strip and dumped into boiling water. The great thing about fresh pasta is that they only have to cook a few minutes for them to be perfectly done. Plus, homemade pasta keeps the chewy texture better, so the noodles don't rip or fall apart when you are trying to layer your lasagna.

After sauting 1/2 of an onion, we added 1 pound of ground beef and then a jar of spagetti sauce. Layer the lasanga noodles, cheese mixture, and then meat and redsauce, and repeat about 4-5 times. After baking at 435 for 15 minutes, the cheese was melted and the edges were bubbling. Sometimes lasanga comes out too runny or really dry, but last night's was perfect. The homemade noodles don't get too soft from the baking and the texture is unbeatable.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

just like my dad

My brother just sent this photo out to the fam, I think trying to get us to like a mustache. The hilarious part is that he looks JUST LIKE MY DAD, who had a mustache for years until he finally shaved it off in the 90s.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

fresh mozarella, butternut squash, carmelized onions pizza

Ever since I first tasted this pizza, I've wanted to recreate it in all its delicious glory. But it wasn't until last night that I really got the flavor right. Thanks so my obsession with squash (and having some pre-baked squash leftover in the fridge), I was able to throw together this pizza in a matter of minutes.

And if you have a favorite pizza recipe, please do share!

Fresh mozarella, butternut squash, carmelized onion pizza

pizza dough
corn meal (to keep the dough from sticking)
olive oil
gound sea salt
1/2 c fresh mozarella
1/2 c butternut squash, baked or roasted
1/4 onion, carmelized
1/4 c ricotta cheese

You can use any pizza dough recipe, but my favorite pizza dough recipe is a classic white european bread that I roll out very thin. The bread recipe (3 c water, 1.5 T yeast, 1 T salt, 6.5 c flour) is quickly stired together, covered and left to sit on the counter for 2 hours to rise. Then you stick it in your fridge in a container with a lid until read to use. I pulled off a grapefruit size portion, generously covered it in flour while rolling out and then placed it on my pizza peel covered in corn meal to keep it from sticking.

Preheat oven to 550 with a baking stone inside. If you dont' have a baking stone, use a baking sheet, although don't preheat. Or better yet, go out and buy a baking stone.

Drizzle olive oil on the dough and use a pastry brush to get it all over, including the edges (which will make the best crust). Next, sprinkle on either the grated or freshly cut mozarella. I like to cut mine in slices and then rip them apart in smaller pieces and spread on the dough. Then spoon little spoonfuls of the squash and ricotta all over the pizza. Sprinkle the carmelized onions (I sauted mine with a little bit of olive oil for 7-10 minutes over medium high heat). Lastly, sprinkle with salt (which the squash definitely needs and will taste amazing on the olive oil crust). Do not let the pizza rise. Put directly into the oven.

Gently slide the pizza off the peel onto the baking stone (this is why I put tons of corn meal on the pizza peel, because is you don't the pizza will stick). Bake for 15-17 minutes or until the cheese is starting to brown. If you are using a baking sheet, you may need to bake it longer to make sure the crust is done. Remove from the stone using the peel.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I finally have caved and started wearing flats. For the longest time I've worn small heals at work and tennis shoes around town. Over the last year my tennis shoes have been thread bare and I realized that I HATED most tennis shoe styles that are popular right now, so I decided to try something new: flats.

My first foray was a little berry-colored, faux-suede flat from Payless (man, I love that store) with little ruffles by the toes. They were super comfortable, looked great with bare feet, and were perfect with tights. (I should note at this time that I have flat feet, which makes wearing some styles of flat impossible. Meaning, impossibly ugly.) This was the first pair I have tried on in a long time that actually look cute on my feet. Encouraged, I decided to buy a few more pairs since my shoe collection was dwindling.
In a little pre-Christmas shopping with my husband, I came upon a pair of leather Rocket Dog flats that were adorable and only $15. Sold.

Over Christmas I came across an orange plaid flat from the Gap that was adorable and only $11. Sold again.

I also found my new favorite brand of shoes: Privo. They are the most incredibly comfortable shoes on the planet and come in really great colors. After shopping around I scored a $80 pair for only $30 (including shipping). I love the orange color and they are so comfortable it makes me want to cry (and wish it wasn't winter right now so that I could wear them more).

This week my last pair of flats came in the mail. My mom gave me a gift card to Lands End, which I have never before shopped at in my life. With free money in hand, I went to their clearance section and found the most adorable flats. I hemmed and hayed if I should get them in the grey plaid, but eventually went for the bright blue, and I absolutely love them. They are so comfortable, fit perfectly, and are an adorable color.

I am now officially won over by flats and so excited for warmer weather to come!