Thursday, June 30, 2011

How Does your Garden Grow?

As you might recall, I'm not exactly known for my green thumb. I've written about my weak attempts at gardening a few times, but most of my attempts have ended in a big, fat FAIL. Regardless of my less-than-fortunate luck, I decided to clean out and redo the garden in our front yard. I originally wrote about the project in this post and then updated a few days later with these after pictures.

Here is what the yard looked like after I dug up the old shrubs and cleaned up the dead leaves:

After a weekend of digging, planting and mulching, I ended up with this:

It's been exactly one month since I last updated you, so I bet you're just dying to know if anything survived. You are? Well then consider this your lucky day! :)

Let's start with the Celosias. These flowers are amazing! I love their vibrance, and the best part is that their blooming season can last up to 3 months. Here's what they look like now - still going strong!

The new shrub that we bought - to replace the dead shrubs - is called Japanese Euonymus. I was worried that I didn't bury the roots deep enough in the ground, but it appears to be doing alright, so I'll keep my fingers crossed.

The last thing I planted were the Impatients, which weren't quite blooming when I bought them. I knew I'd have to water everything pretty frequently if I wanted them to bloom, but I won't lie, I skipped several days of watering this month. If it weren't for a very rainy June, all of the Impatients would probably be dead right now. Thank you June for helping me water my needy little Impatients!

When I originally picked out the Impatients, I decided that I wanted all white so they wouldn't compete with the very vibrant Celosias. I was really happy to watch the white Impatients coming in, but one day when I came home from work, I saw this ....

Ummmm ... that doesn't look white to me! As it turns out, one of the containers had red Impatients. No big deal, right? I decided I was lucky that the red one was all the way in the back, making it much less noticeable.

So I kept watering it kept raining on the impatients and I kept watching the little white blooms pop-up.

And then just a few days ago, I looked over at my garden and saw this:

Doh! As it turns out, I also picked up a pack of violet Impatients. :)

So here's my best attempt at staying positive and making myself feel better about my mistake.

I'm lucky that all of these flowers have lasted as long as they have, and in most aspects of my life I live by the motto "the more, the merrier," so it looks like that will be my new gardening motto, too.

Bring it on multi-colored Impatients - the more, the merrier!

How does your garden grow? Do you try to coordinate everything to create a cohesive look, or do you plant everything before it blooms without much thought to the color? While I tried to lay out a plan for our front yard, I've had just as much fun finding little colored surprises whenever I come home from work!

This post is linked up to HOUSEography's Room-by-Room party:

HOUSEography House Tour Link Party

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Spicy Thai Chicken with Mango Basil Salsa

I love Thai food. It's one of my favorite cuisines, second only to Italian food. The perfect balance of spicy and sweet lures my taste buds every time. My favorite dishes are the curry dishes - spicy curry, balanced perfectly with sweet coconut milk - but I also love the classics, like Pad Thai, Drunken Noodles and Pad See Ew.

As I plan our meals each week (I always plan before grocery shopping), I try to incorporate at least one new recipe into the cycle. By doing so, I feel like dinner is more of an adventure, and it allows me to push myself into new flavor profiles. Last week's adventure involved a lot of prep work, but the results were so worth it. In fact, even though I managed to use three-quarters of the dishes in the kitchen, Jesse said he would eat this meal again. (read: it was a hit)

But before I share this fabulous recipe, I owe a HUGE thank you (and hug) to my friend, Kelsey, for showing me the recipe. In my original post about Buster 2 (see his story here), I mentioned that I'm looking forward to a summer full of basil. Kelsey commented on my post and said that she had an amazing dish for me to try. As soon as I saw that it was Thai food and it called for basil, I was hooked. I went out to the store, bought all of the ingredients, and tried it right away. Now it's your turn ... go buy these ingredients and make this dish. You won't regret it.

I sliced up a mango for the first time ...

and used fresh ginger, too ...

And after combining all of these wonderful, fresh ingredients (along with a few more), I ended up with this amazing creation.

Spicy Thai Chicken with Mango Basil Salsa
Inspired by: Good Deal by David Lieberman & Can You Stay for Dinner

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

1 mango, peeled and finely diced
3 scallions, sliced
5 basil leaves, julienned
1 lime, juiced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 fresh jalapenos, sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2–inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 lime, zested
1/4 cup coconut milk
Small handful basil leaves, torn
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
15 grinds pepper
1 lb. chicken breast, sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced

Rice: (optional)*
2 cups Jasmine Rice, pre-cooked
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/2 lime, zested

For the salsa: Combine all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Make up to a day in advance. Keep covered in the refrigerator.

For the chicken: In a mixing bowl, combine jalapenos, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, soy sauce, lime zest, coconut milk, basil, vegetable oil, salt and pepper. Set aside a quarter of the marinade in a separate container. Add the meat to the remaining marinade and refrigerate both containers for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Heat a nonstick skillet over high heat. Use tongs or a fork to remove the meat from the marinade and place in an even layer in the pan. Flip the meat after about 3-4 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute peppers, mushrooms and onions until tender.

Let the chicken cook for another 5 or so minutes, until cooked through. Stir in the vegetables.

In a separate saucepan (I used the vegetable sauce pan), add the reserved marinade, bring to a boil and cook until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.

For the rice: Pour the marinade over the cooked chicken or shrimp and serve with coconut-lime Jasmine rice*. Top the plate with the basil-mango salsa.

* If using pre-cooked rice (I use Trader Joe's Thai Jasmine Rice), cook the rice according to the directions, mix coconut milk and lime zest into the rice, and serve. If using traditional rice, cook according to the directions, using half coconut milk and half water with zested lime.

Today I'm linking up to Tasty Tuesday over at Balancing Beauty & Bedlam, Cast Party Wednesday at Lady Behind the Curtainand Hearth & Soul Blog Hop at A Moderate Life.

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Week in Photos

This post might get a bit confusing, but today's "week in photos" is a compilation of the last two weeks' worth of fun. It's been busy around here, but in a good way. Summers in DC are the best. There are so many things to do and see in this city and everyone around here seems to be up for an adventure. On any given weekend, I'm trying to juggle plans to see how much I can cram in before Monday. Two weekends ago turned out to be no different than the rest. But before I get to the weekend, let's not forget that leading up to it, I had a 3-day work retreat (read: two days of hell and one day to "retreat").

Days 1 and 2 looked a lot like this:

Are we having fun yet?

However, being out of the office meant that I didn't have to pack my own lunch!

Crab Cake Burger from Bull Feathers

The best part of the retreat was Friday morning when we went on a tour of the US Capitol. I feel much more legit now that I can say, I live in near DC and I've been in the Capitol. Next on my DC bucket list is the White House. That one might take a bit longer, and a bit more networking. 

Anyway, back to the Capitol Tour. Words can't describe what we got to see. An overwhelming amount of thought, planning and workmanship went into our beautiful Capitol's history. While these photos don't do it justice, here's hoping they at least give you a glimpse into the amazingness.
They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, right?

The next morning, Jesse competed in a Spartan Race. It's a 3-mile run with 18 obstacles/challenges interspersed throughout the course. The obstacles ranged from barbed wire covered mud crawls to scaling a 10 foot wall. I had no idea that it would be such an intense race, but all of the competitors seemed to enjoy it. I on the other hand, had a lot of fun being the cheerleader. Jesse did a phenomenal job, and I was so proud to watch him cross the finish line!

The completion of his first Spartan Race called for a Pinkberry celebration. Pinkberry is a newer frozen yogurt chain in DC. FroYo seems to be the newest trend to hit the east coast. I think we're only about 10 years behind the west coast on this one! But, better late than never, because this stuff rocks!

The last major event of the weekend was the soccer Gold Cup Quarterfinals on Sunday. USA took on Jamaica (and won!) and El Salvador took on Panama. Both of the games were at RFK Stadium (where the Washington Redskins used to play), so we went with another couple to watch the double header.

While I love watching Jesse play soccer, I quickly realized that watching people I don't know, play a sport I don't know much about isn't quite as entertaining. I might have slept through half of the game ... oops! At least I can say I was there, right? Oh, and the post-game tailgating was a blast! :)

After a jam packed weekend, last week was a bit sluggish. That being said, I did try out a few new recipes and work on a few projects, so it wasn't a complete waste.

I made a Fiesta Chicken Salad (get the recipe here):

I also made Spicy Thai Chicken with Mango Basil Salsa, which as it turns out, is delicious! (recipe coming this week ... hopefully!)

And from the Rooney files ... 

We've started to let Rooney spend more time out on the deck. He loves to watch the birds and bugs and I think it's good for him to be outside. The only thing that makes me nervous is that he's getting braver by the day. His new favorite spot is up on the railing. Could he get any closer to the edge?!

Something in the picture below doesn't belong ... which one could it be? He knows he isn't supposed to be up on the counters, but apparently, the folded towel seemed like an open invitation.

The picture below is my favorite this week! After a rainy walk, Jesse and I left the umbrella open to dry out. Shortly after we got home, we looked over the ledge to see Rooney hanging out underneath it. It immediately made me think of my favorite childhood books, Winnie-the-Pooh, "Tut tut, looks like rain."

I hope you all had a good weekend! And here's to another busy, but fun week ahead!!

I'm working on a few projects right now, so I'm hoping to have more updates as the week progresses. Here's a teaser of something I'm hoping to start soon. The buffet is about to get spoiled!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tired, But Still Inspired

I'm tired today. Not the kind where you fall asleep watching a movie, but the kind that makes your mind feel like mush and your body feel like jelly.

It causes you to start telling a story, but forget the point of it halfway through, so you wrap it up with a "sooo, aaaa-ny-wayyy ..." and then the person you're talking to chimes in with a "how you got your job ... remember, you were telling me how you got your first job," which prompts you to say "oh, right, so my first job ..."

That happened to me today.

If you've never done that, maybe this will sound a bit more familiar ... I came home after running a marathon two miles tonight, and I was so hungry that I needed a little snack while I cooked dinner. After I was done chowing down on my hummus and crackers, but before my husband came back in from watering the flowers, I quickly put everything away. Here's where the tired part comes into play. As Jesse was cleaning up after dinner, he opened the cabinet to put away the tortilla chips and the next words out of his mouth were, "Why is the hummus in here?" To which I replied, "Oh s*** ... I put the hummus away with the crackers!"

Yep, that's the kind of tired I am today.

I have an exciting story to share, a new recipe that I tried this week, and a few pictures of my newly decorated bookshelf, but what I'm trying to tell you is that I'm too tired tonight. 

teaser for the recipe that I'll be sharing soon!

I hope this doesn't make me lazy. 
I had good intentions. 

Soooo, since I don't have any delightful treats or fabulous makeovers to share with you, why don't I share a few inspiring rooms instead? I would hate to make you feel like you stopped by for nothing. :)





Until recently, I couldn't identify my personal design preferences. I think a lot of rooms are gorgeous, but they're not always my cup-o-tea. As I spend more time reading all of my favorite home design blogs, magazines and websites, I find so many inspiring spaces that draw me in. 

With the help of Pinterest, I've been able to save all of these spaces in one place, which helps me visualize my style and see what catches my eye. 

I've learned that I like layers, a lot. I also love color - lots of color. I tend to lean towards bright, energetic rooms, but nothing too overwhelming. Oh, and I love gold (but that's not a new revelation). I know that matchy-matchy is not so much my thing. I prefer the pieced-together-over-time look.

Learning what I like has been a fun process. I find that I spend more time looking for the right item, and less money settling on junk that I don't love. 

I know I still have a long way to go, but I'm enjoying the learning process. Putting our house together in stages is much more fun than buying everything at once without any rhyme or reason. :)

Don't know what Pinterest is? Check out my Pinterest write-up from a few weeks ago and then request an inviation ... asap!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Squealing with Excitement & Happy Blog-iversary to me!

As a novice blogger, I check my stats just about every time I login. The Blogger Stats tell me things like how many people click on each post, where they were referred from (i.e. other blogs or google searches) and what part of the world they live in. I like to see how many people are reading my blog each day, along with which posts are most popular. Whenever I link-up to a blog party, I get about 30-40 more hits on my blog than usual. It's always exciting to see my numbers increase, and I feel good knowing that people are reading my blog.

This Saturday, I did my usual stat check, and instantly noticed that I had a significantly high amount of page views. I haven't linked-up to any parties recently, so I was a bit perplexed. When I checked to see which posts were popular, I noticed that my Sounds Pinteresting... post had 60 hits! Wait a second ... how could that be? I jumped over to their blog to see if I could find anything out, and here's what I saw (check out the 3rd paragraph!):

{link to article}

In case you can't read it, here's a zoomed in version:

That's right, Pinterest mentioned my write-up (they called it a write-up -- it sounds so legit!) on their blog. I couldn't believe it. Not only did I run around squealing to Jesse, I immediately called my parents to tell them how excited I was! This is the first time that my writing has been featured on another blog, so for it to be the Pinterest blog is even more exciting. I was on Cloud 9!

Ok, they did call me Suzy, but who can blame them? It's the name of my blog. For the record, if you read this blog and don't know me, my real name is Susan. :)

I still can't believe that I was featured, and I'm so grateful for the whole world of blogging. It has started a new drive in me, that I've never felt before. I'm constantly dreaming up new projects, recipes and posts - all because I love sharing my world with everyone in the blog-world. I hope that you guys are enjoying my blog as much as I enjoy writing my posts. Thanks again for stopping by, and I can't wait to keep forging ahead in this adventure!

Update: I called myself a novice blogger, but I just realized that today is the one year anniversary of my blog! Can I still use that term? Well, I'm going to for now. It makes me feel better about any anxieties I have about blogging. :)

Back to the exciting part - Happy Blogiversary to me!

We should eat cake to celebrate ... too bad I didn't make one. Let's share a virtual cake instead! :)


And, just for fun, lets take a look back at year one:

Readers from 10 different countries
16 new followers
74 posts published
100 comments received
2,857 page views

Most Popular Project: Prepping for the Prep Work
Most Popular Makeover: Sunroom Makeover: Before & After
Most Comments Received: Craigslist Find of the Year

It's been a fabulous first year and I can't wait to see what's around the corner. I'm hopeful that year two will bring new ideas and projects, more followers, and most importantly, happiness!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fiesta Chicken Salad

With summer in full swing, I find myself looking for lighter, more refreshing menu options. I love anything that I can make on the grill, as well as anything that I can make in large enough batches to have leftovers! Jesse, from Good Girl Gone Glad inspired me with her recipe for Fiesta Chicken Salad last week. It's an easy recipe, and it leaves plenty of room for modifications and substitutions.

I have my own recipe for homemade chicken fajitas, so I'll break my version of the recipe into two parts. You can have chicken fajitas for dinner one night and fiesta chicken salad as it's own meal later in the week.

I couldn't wait to try Jesse's recipe, so I skipped fajita night and made the chicken specifically for the salad. I got two full dinners out of it, plus I froze a small portion of the chicken, in hopes that we can use it in a few weeks. It was raining the night I made this, so I had to cook the chicken inside, but it was still delicious!

Chicken Fajitas
Inspired by Cook This, Not That: Kitchen Survival Guide

Serves: 4 (or 2, plus leftovers for salad)
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

1/2 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp. chopped chipotle peppers
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. ground cumin
salt and black pepper to taste
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 onion, sliced
8 small (6") flour tortillas, warmed
1 cup shredded jack or cheddar cheese

1. Combine the orange juice, chipotle peppers, lime juice, cumin, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper in a sealable plastic bag. Add the chicken and marinate in the fridge for an hour.

2. Preheat a grill or stovetop grill pan until hot. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard what's left in the bag. Grill the chicken for 5 to 6 minutes per side, until lightly charred and cooked all the way through. Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

3. While the chicken cooks, heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Cook the bell peppers and onion until charred and caramelized on the outside, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper

4. Slice the chicken into thin pieces. Serve with warm tortillas, guacamole, and cheese.

Fiesta Chicken Salad
Inspired by Good Girl Gone Glad

Serves: 2
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

2 chicken breasts (leftover from fajitas)
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
2 ears of corn, boiled (kernels sliced off the cob)
1/2 cup salsa
1 (10 oz.) package mixed salad greens
1/2 small onion, diced
4-6 cherry tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, pitted and diced
1/4 cup Southwest Salad Toppings (optional)
tortilla chips (optional)

In a large saucepan, mix chicken, black beans, corn and salsa. Heat over medium heat until warm.

Meanwhile, prepare the salad by dicing onions, tomatoes and avocado.

On dinner plates, prepare a bed of lettuce and surround it with tortilla chips. Top salad with chicken mixture, onions, tomatoes, avocado and salad toppings.

Today I'm linking up to Tasty Tuesday over at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam &  Hearth & Soul Blog Hop at A Moderate Life.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Photo "Friday": June Photos

I got a bit behind on Photo Friday this month, but I've still been taking plenty of pictures! I guess preparing for our friends to come stay with us took more time than I expected. Either way, I want to fill you in on what I've been up to, so I figured this is the best way.

Let's start with last weekend. Jesse and I spent Saturday afternoon on a 7 mile walk along the Potomac River. We started out without a plan, but ended up trekking halfway across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which is the bridge that goes over the Potomac River, giving drivers access to Maryland from Virginia. After I begrudgingly made it to the center of the bridge, we stopped to take a few pictures and enjoy the scenery. I didn't realize that we'd be able to catch such a scenic view on our walk, so I didn't bring my regular camera. That being said, we managed to get a good picture of both of us.

And after 5 miles of walking, we treated ourselves to these wonderfully greasy burgers from BGR in Old Town. I'd usually feel pretty guilty about such a splurge, but realizing that we still had to walk another 2 miles to get back to our car, I wasted no time digging in! :)

That night, Jesse and I decided to enjoy the perks of being a homeowner, by sitting out on our deck, drinking beer and listening to music. We even brought Rooney out with us to enjoy the summer breeze.

Sunday was spent enjoying a wonderful Sunday dinner with the boys - Chicken Parmesan.

Oh, and in case you're wondering ... Buster 2 is still kickin'. I've had to move him around at least twice a day (to prevent Rooney from eating him), but he spends most of the time out on our back deck. I'm planning to try a new recipe this weekend that calls for basil, so I'll let you know how it turns out soon.

A majority of this past week was spent preparing for house guests. Our biggest accomplishment was finishing a batch of homemade sauce (Jesse's family's recipe). Jesse has made the sauce several times before, but this time around we wanted to make meatballs, so we both pitched in. I think we both really enjoyed making it, but enjoyed eating it even more!

Our other "accomplishment" of the week was stocking up our liquor cabinet. Apparently, when three guys are staying at your place, it requires mass amounts of alcohol. A good time was had by all. :)

I also took a few pictures this month with the intention of working on my photography skills. I've really enjoyed looking at everything from a different angle and then playing with Instagram to get the mood I want to represent in each picture. Here's a sample of what I mean ...

Racing home to beat the storm at the end of my workout

yellow squash at the Farmer's Market

Waiting in line for the roller coaster at Hershey Park

Beautiful barn in York, PA

deer sighting in my neighborhood

But at the end of the day, I think my favorite subject to shoot is the Roon-dog. He is always getting into something new and I've really enjoyed the challenge of capturing him in action.

rolling around

his best "begging" face - trying to get a bite of turkey from me

rolling around in the media center ... again!

"helping" me sand the buffet

I have a few more pictures to show you, but I'll save them for tomorrow so I can get back on track for Photo Fridays.  Oh, and speaking of Friday, I get to go on a private tour of the US Capitol Building tomorrow. I'm really excited to cross that off my Things-to-do-in-DC list and I'm hoping that I'll be able to take some neat pictures! Do you have big plans this weekend?

Photos edited Instagram, an iPhone app. Follow my photo feed at lilsuzy.