It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Can you believe Christmas is so close? I sure can’t and I feel completely unprepared. The move that we are in the midst of has totally thrown me off this year. We have no tree (boohoo), no decorations, and I’ve barely done any shopping. Next year I intend to make up for this with a giant tree and copious decorations, although maybe not as many as Clark Griswald… The snow this weekend has at least made it look a little more festive outside, and I’ve been watching tons of Christmas movies this weekend to put myself in a holiday spirit, so it’s finally feeling a bit more like Christmas to me!

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Here are some decorations and craft ideas I’ve been eyeing that I’ll be saving for next year when I don’t have an apartment full of boxes and packing supplies to contend with!

Snowy Winter Wreath

via creativegreenliving.com

via bhg.com

Rosemary placecards DIY

via spoonforkbacon.com

Christmas Centerpiece DIY

via justagirlblog.com

Christmas Place Setting

via pinkfrilly.blogspot.it

And I’m loving all these creative ideas for gift-wrapping!

Pretty wrapping with twine and pine

via odessamaysociety.com

Kraft Paper and Red Ribbon

via Pinterest

Kraft paper and pine

via Pinterest

Gift Wrap

via hgtv.com

DIY Gift Wrap

via the lilypadcottage.blogspot.co.uk

I’ve also been checking out Etsy of course to see what holiday related goods there are to buy out there. Here are just a few of my favorites!

This monogrammed burlap tree skirt:

Burlap Tree Skirt

from The Burlap Cottage (via etsy.com)

This cute “Let it Snow” garland

Let it Snow garland

from Crafty Belles (via etsy.com)

This adorable dachshund Christmas card!

Dachshund card

from Doggy Design (via etsy,com)

This lovely Advent calendar:

Advent calendar

from Good Wishes Quilts (via etsy.com)

This snowflake-adorned pillow:

Snowflake Pillow

from Low Country Home (via etsy.com)

A visit to Washington, D.C.

Last weekend we took a much awaited trip to visit my brother, Jeremy, and his fiancee, Michelle, in the Washington, D.C. area. We originally were going to go a couple of months ago, but then my boyfriend (old man that he is) broke his hip, and so we decided it would be best to wait until he could walk around, as I feel that’s what you do when you visit D.C… and we did do a lot of walking around, seeing the sights!

We headed out from CT last Friday afternoon, and right into torrential rain. It pretty much rained heavily our entire trip down due to the force that was tropical storm Andrea, and I don’t know whether it was the rain, or the construction, or some accident that we didn’t see, but we were in traffic pretty much the entire length of NJ. What should have been a 6 hour trip ended up being 9. Next time we go we are thinking of taking a route that avoids NJ all together- I swear that state has the worst traffic… although I know a lot of people who would say the same about Connecticut.

Anyway, it ended up being totally worth it. We had such a great trip, got to see my brother’s great new apartment, see some of the sights in DC (the Jefferson Memorial, the WWII memorial, and the Library of Congress among others), and of course we ate some great food!!

I wanted to share some pictures from our trip, and also some recommendations for places to eat! Eating at new restaurants is one of my favorite things to do on vacations- because of course calories don’t count when you are on vacation, right?!

The sights!

White House and Washington Monument

A great view from the roof of my brother’s office!

Jefferson Memorial

The Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorlal

The Rotunda

George Mason Memorial

George Mason Memorial

The George Mason Memorial

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Herb Garden

I loved this ornamental herb garden in front of the Library of Congress!

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court under construction

The Capitol

Washington Monument

The Washington Monument under construction

WWII Memorial

The WWII Memorial and Lincoln Memorial

WWII Memorial

The Mall

White House

The Eats!!

Pho 75

Mmmmm…. noodle soup!!

We ate at Pho 75 for an early lunch on our first full day of our trip, and it was soooo good! I am a huge fan of soup, pretty much any kind, but I have to say that pho probably ranks up there as one of my favorite types. I’ve only had it a handful of times, but every time I’ve been blown away by the deliciousness. It’s a little messy to eat, and I haven’t completely mastered the technique of using chopsticks and a spoon at the same time (although I did better than my brother, who dropped his spoon in his soup and just left it there), but it’s totally worth it! Pho 75 has won the “best cheap eats” title for many years in a row, and while I haven’t eaten at a huge amount of places in the Arlington/DC area, I have a feeling that this place would get my vote too. I mean, you get can get a large bowl of delicious, filling soup for less than $7.00 a bowl!! The menu consists of a selection of meats that you can add to your pho, mostly beef, but they do have a chicken option as well. Michelle, Ron and I all opted for the skirt flank, while Jeremy customized his with meatballs and brisket (I believe). The only thing we were iffy on were the meatballs. I tasted one of Jeremy’s, and while the flavor was good, the texture was a little strange. I assume that this is how their meatballs are supposed to be, but when you’re used to American-style meatballs, it’s just a little unexpected. I’d say the texture was a little spongy, and reminded me somewhat of the texture of dumpling filling. The broth is so flavorful, and I love the condiments and add-ins that you can add to your soup to make it suited for your own taste. I added in bean spouts, jalapenos, thai basil, and sriracha to mine. Michelle and I both ordered Vietnamese coffees. They are so cute! You get a little cup of coffee, with a little coffeepot on top, which contains the ground coffee, and drips into the cup. They also gave us a glass of ice. When these arrived we weren’t sure exactly how to approach the coffee. Do we drink it straight? (It looked very strong). Should we pour it over the ice? (We said coffee- but not “iced” coffee.) I ended up sipping on mine, and finally, when I got down a ways, I realized that there was condensed milk in the bottom…. apparently you are supposed to stir before drinking! I finally understood 🙂 Michelle graciously poured some of her remaining coffee in my cup, and I happy drank the rest, feeling a bit foolish, but wiser! I still think the cup of ice was optional. Anyways, great food! Very fast service ( I swear it took mere seconds for the waiter to take our order), but cash only, so be prepared!

Pho 75

Pho 75

Good Stuff Eatery

Last year when we visited DC we ate at the Good Stuff Eatery, and loved it! Their burgers are great, and their village fries are among the best I’ve ever eaten! This time we decided to stop and get some milkshakes after our visit to the Library of Congress, instead of getting a whole meal… we wanted to save our appetites for dinner. I got the toasted marshmallow milkshake which is seriously amazing. I had had a taste of Michelle’s shake last year, and just needed to get a whole one for myself. If you like toasted marshmallows, then you will like this shake, as that is exactly what it tastes like. Ron got the Cookies and Cream shake, which was also very tasty, and was perfect for him, as cookies and cream is one of his favorite dessert flavors. I loved the presentation of the milkshakes- mine had a toasted marshmallow on top, and Ron’s had an Oreo cookie…. and the whipped cream the milkshakes are topped with is just incredible… and definitely tastes like it‘s freshly whipped. I feel like going to the Good Stuff Eatery should be one of our traditions when we visit DC, as their are just so many things I want to try on the menu. Both times we’ve gone it’s been pretty busy, but understandable for food this delicious!

Good Stuff Eatery

Good Stuff EateryGood Stuff Eatery

El Centro D.F.

When my brother made reservations at El Centro D.F. for dinner on Saturday night, he did not realize that it was on the Pride Parade route, and so we had to fight some terrible traffic to find parking (seriously, what was happening at the Holiday Inn?!), and then park several blocks away. That gave us a chance to walk around an area of the city that I’d never been in before though, and that was very beautiful. We got to see lots of brownstone houses which have been beautifully renovated. The restaurant seemed very busy when we go there as the parade had just wrapped up, and many people were still hanging around and enjoying themselves, but we got seated promptly, even though we were late for our reservation due to the traffic situation. We started with a pitcher of delicious margaritas, and some fresh guacamole (made right there at your table), and awesome queso fundido. If you’ve never had queso fundido, you should definitely get some at your next opportunity… how can you go wrong with melty cheese?! The queso fundido was served with a couple of different salsas- one was a chipotle salsa, and the other seemed to be a green avocado salsa. Both were delicious. They also served tortillas alongside so you could make cheese tacos, but we opted to just eat it with the tortilla chips that we ate with the guacamole. Michelle and I decided that since we were both debating between the same two dishes, we’d each get one, and then swap halfway through. This was a great idea! I got the Jalisco Shrimp and Crab Enchiladas, which were so tasty! They were served alongside fried plantains, and a creamy cilantro rice, which was out of this world. I really need to figure out how to make that recipe… or write into Bon Appetit and see if they can get it from the restaurant. So awesome! Michelle got the Crispy Shrimp Tacos which were also delicious! They were served with Mexican rice (good, but not as good as the cilantro rice) and black beans. Ron got the Queso Enchiladas which he devoured in record time, and which he loved. I’m pretty sure I would have enjoyed anything on the menu- it was hard to make a selection because everything sounded incredible. Our service was great too- and even though the restaurant was busy and we took our time eating and hanging out at the table after we had finished, we never felt rushed! Definitely recommended.

El Centro DF

El Centro DF

El Centro DF

El Centro DF

El Centro DF

El Centro DF

Lyon Hall

On Sunday morning we went out to brunch at Lyon Hall, which is in Arlington. I really loved the walk there, as the section of Arlington that Jeremy and Michelle live in is so beautiful. There are a lot of unique houses alongside very fancy, expensive apartments and condos. It was a very nice morning, so we decided to take advantage of the weather and eat outside. Looking at the menu, I had an extremely hard time making up my mind about what to get. Should I try the Lyonnaise potatoes and eggs, sausage and eggs (according to Jeremy and Michelle, their sausage is incredble), crabcake poached eggs….. We decided to start with an appetizer of fresh donuts. They give you a selection of four, and our selection included a glazed donut with strawberry frosting and chocolate chunks, a chocolate donut with strawberry frosting and filling, a glazed donut with pineapple frosting, and a glazed donut with a citrusy frosting. My favorite was the glazed with strawberry frosting. We also got a carafe of French press coffee which was great- smooth and not bitter at all. I loved the presentation of the carafe, and would love to have one of my own someday! For my main meal I ultimately decided on the Smoked Salmon Poached Eggs. House-smoked salmon on a croissant, with spinach, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce. This was incredible! This was my first time having hollandaise sauce, and it definitely won’t be my last and the house-cured salmon was fantastic. I loved everything about this dish!

Lyon Hall

Lyon Hall

DC-3

We went to DC-3 to grab a snack before packing up to go on Sunday afternoon. I had heard a lot about this casual restaurant from Jeremy and Michelle, due to an unfortunate incident involving an extremely spicy hot dog. That one didn’t seem to be on the menu this time (it seems they have different special hot dog concoctions every now and then), but we had been warned, and wouldn’t have been tempted to try it anyway. You can customize your own hot dog at DC-3 if you’d like, and like Five Guys, all the toppings are free, which is awesome! We opted for getting a couple of their specialty dogs. Ron got the West Virginia Slaw and Sauce dog, which has chili and coleslaw on it, and while he had actually ordered the NY Coney dog (chili, raw onions, and mustard), he decided to just eat what had been given to him instead of getting the correct one, and he really enjoyed it. I got a corndog, as I’ve actually never eaten a proper one (only a mini one from Walmart which doesn’t really count). I ate mine with mustard, and it was so good. I don’t know how I’ve gone so long with never trying one, but I loved it and that definitely won’t be my last. We also got fries to go with our hot dogs, and they were excellent. The prices are very reasonable, and I loved the casual atmosphere of the place. We will definitely go back at some point!

DC-3

DC-3

32 Below

Our last stop before we left was the frozen yogurt shop, 32 Below, which we stopped at after eating our hot dogs. I’ve never been to a self-serve frozen yogurt place, but I’ve seen that they have been getting more and more popular, and I’ve really been wanting to try one out. There were many types of frozen yogurt to try, so I got a concoction of chocolate, peanut butter, and cookies and cream, and I topped mine with cookie dough, reeces pieces and cookie crumbles… I guess my affection for chocolate and peanut butter shows. Ron got chocolate and cookies and cream frozen yogurt, with lots and lots of cookie crumbles. I loved the customization process (you can try whatever without having to tell anyone your crazy order), and paying by weight makes things so simple!

Frozen Yogurt

Frozen Yogurt

We had such a great time in Arlington and DC and can’t wait to go back. It’s such a fun place to explore, and there is just so much to see, do and eat!

Chincoteague Island, Virginia

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve been back from my wonderful vacation but for some reason it’s taken me a little while to settle in as I jumped right back into work, and then we were hit by hurricane Irene.  Thankfully it only left me in the dark for less than 24 hours with no other damage done, but it’s still taken a little while for things to get back to normal.  I actually have yet to do a real shopping, as with the hurricane coming up we tried to use as much randomness in the fridge as possible, and then we had to go shopping afterwards to replace things that had spoiled in the fridge during the outage.  So it’s been a lot of basic cooking during the past couple weeks- I did make a great pesto though with basil from my garden which I will share shortly.

I wanted to post some pics of my vacation as I jump back into blogging, a lot of which are pictures of things I ate on vacation, because of course that was one of my main enjoyments.  Unfortunately I didn’t get pics of a lot of things, such as an awesome soft-shell crab BLT I devoured, or any of the delectable sandwiches I enjoyed from Woody’s Beach BBQ (definitely a highlight of the trip- that and a small seafood store called Gary Howard’s, were rivals in the places-I-ate-at-most tournament).

Oh by the way, my vacation was in Chincoteague Island, Virginia- a very relaxing and wonderful small town famous for it’s wild horses- some of which I did see, including some pretty close up grazing in a field while kayaking.

Morning reading on my dream porch.
Assateague Light

Full Moon

A new friend
An incoming storm
Our neighbor
Our dock
The beach
Great Blue
Baja Shrimp Taco from Woody’s Beach BBQ
Shucking Corn

Roasted potatoes, corn on the cob, and flounder with chile lime butter
Loot from the Farmer’s Market
Steamed clams
New England Clam Chowder

Great Gazpacho

Fresh crabs caught off our dock

Bloody Marys

Pasta with tomato, basil, and Parmesan and Homemade Crab Cakes

Root Beer Floats

Awesome Crab Frittata,  Asparagus Beans, and Fried Eggplant