Friday, January 31, 2014

Waiting Game

My interview went really well (at least in my opinion!). Before the actual "sit down and be interrogated" portion of the interview, I was shown to an office with a computer & printer and had thirty minutes to read a scenario and write a letter in response to the situation set forth therein. I also had to proofread and edit a 4 paragraph press release. I was a little nervous at first but it was pretty simple. Since the position involves responding to requests from the public and interacting with executive members of the organization and other groups, it only makes sense that they want to make sure the person they hire can actually read and write. You never know these days!

After I completed those exercises, I interviewed with three women and, while it was all very proper and by the book, I wasn't too anxious and thought I did well. My only *negative* is that one requirement was for an applicant to have "knowledge of the policies, practices and procedures" of the organization. Well, as I said to Kevin, the organization is so unique (and there aren't all that many of them) that, really, unless someone employed by them applies for the job, there aren't too many people who would possess that particular set of skills and knowledge. However, I have enough similar experiences and knowledge from other prior positions that I should be okay. 

I sent my references in this morning and they hope to make a decision by the end of this week (today!) or early next week. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I hear something (and that it is positive) soon. The office was very professional and everyone was either in a suit or or very dressy business clothes. I would love to be in that environment and wouldn't be too upset about only wearing yoga pants on the weekends. Overall, the job sounded very interesting, it is definitely within my capabilities and I don't think I would ever be bored. 

Then, I came home to this...
Seriously, if you walked into our home on any given day at any given time, you would think we have a toddler (or two) running around. I need to train Chester to put his lovies back in the basket after he is done playing with them.

The itty bitty bit of snow we had prevented me from running on Wednesday so I won't make my goal of 110 miles for January. However, I ran 5 miles yesterday to put me right at 100 and plan to go out later and run at least 5 miles. Although I didn't meet my goal, it is still more miles than December and much better than my totals for last January! 

It is 25 degrees right now and, although that is *so* much warmer than what I ran in yesterday (12 degrees), I am going to wait until mid-morning when the sun will be out and it will be above freezing. Since it was so cold and the ground was covered in snow the last two weeks, I have had a really hard time with my toes freezing up almost as soon as I stepped outside - which then made for some very unpleasant runs. While the temperatures in the 10 day extended forecast are still not "warm", they are well above freezing which makes me very happy!

Have a great Friday and enjoy the last day of January! Spring is one day closer!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

It Has Been A LONG Time

Today I have a job interview. As opposed to my last few job interviews (including the one where I took my children and they played in a corner while I was being interviewed and the one where I followed the owner/interviewer outside while she took a smoke break), this interview is *real*. Meaning I have actually thought about and prepared responses to questions I might be asked (thank you, Kevin and Pinterest!), I have researched the organization that I am interviewing with and I did a complete dress rehearsal of what I plan to wear. I had to dig way back in my closet to find a suit. Always buy the classics, people, always! Fortunately, I did (10+ years ago!) and wasn't faced with the additional stress & expense of going out and having to buy something new. Although, if I do get this job, some new outfits might be in my future. (Just a little advance warning, Kevin!). After some back and forth texts & wardrobe consultations with my friend Jane in Miami, I think I have the perfect outfit and and am ready to go. 

I am not too nervous about whether or not I get the job - I don't *need* to work right now (at least not for the money, maybe for my sanity) so that should make my interview anxieties a little less stressful. My plan was to not even think about going back to work until after the summer (when both kids would be in high school) but this great opportunity sort of fell into my lap and I had enough "signs" to know that I should apply. If nothing else, I will get a modern interview experience. I have been out of the game for so long, I really don't know what to expect and that is what makes me anxious. Although I have held a variety of jobs over the last 10 years, they were very casual, flexible and part-time gigs. Yes, I had responsibilities and things got stressful at times but it was nothing like what I did back in my pre-kid life. And certainly not at that pay level. Even the sporadic consulting work that I currently do is done at home and either on the telephone or by email. I can be in my pajamas and no one would ever know! 

The position that I am interviewing for is the real deal. The job description reads like it was written for me, the position is for only 20 hours a week and I would be doing something very interesting while working for a prominent and very high profile organization. It would be so wonderful to use my brain for something other than menu planning, balancing the checkbook and organizing the kids' schedules and carpools. I will share the details if I am offered the job but let's just say it would be amazing to get this position. However, if I don't, life goes on and you will soon be reading about my next DIY-project as I have some dining room chairs to re-cover.

Oh, and my new love...

Ridley is so sweet and would make your heart melt in an instant. She had a very good first night with Jim and Jan. Although she was happy to climb on/sniff/investigate me, she clearly knows that Jan is "hers". I am going to take the kids over to meet her this morning before she heads off to her first vet appointment.

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A New Addition!

Introducing Ridley...
 Isn't she just the cutest?!?
Now, I may be crazy but I am not stupid and we are definitely not adding a third dog to our family! This precious golden doodle is Jim and Jan's recent addition, not ours. However, we have already called first dibs on puppy-sitting and I know our dogs are just going to love this little girl. I can't wait for them all to meet and see what they think of such a little puppy. As large as Chester is, he is deathly afraid of his own shadow and will probably cower in terror upon meeting Ridley. Sonder, although 7 years old, still acts like a puppy and I am sure he will be happy to run and play with her. 

Our dinner last night turned out well - too well, in fact, as I ate a little more than I should have and will now have to run an extra mile or two at some point to make up for it. I took a lot of liberties with this recipe. 

After I split and cut the chicken breasts in half, I did not pound them. My right elbow has been bothering me for a couple of months now (I have self-diagnosed it as vacuum-elbow-itis) and it is too painful to even lift and hold the rolling pin, much less pound the heck out of the chicken breasts. I  sliced them in half and just dredged them in flour, cooked in the skillet as directed and then arranged in the baking dish. 
I also added almost double the amount of mushrooms than what the recipe called for. What can I say, I love mushrooms!  

The chicken literally smothered in mushrooms. 

Topped with grated mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and ready for the oven. After Christopher told me that his favorite thing about this dish was the cheese, I added a little more. 
Out of the oven, sprinkled with sliced green onions and ready to serve.
Our usual steamed broccoli. Boring but the kids like it and it is easy and quick.
And mashed red potatoes with garlic. 
It was all very good and, since Kevin is out of town, we do have a lot of leftovers so I might be excused from kitchen duty for a night or two.

Well, today was going to be the first time in about 10 days since I have run with the dogs. Although it is still cold, as of last night, the streets were clear of ice and enough snow had melted from the sides of the streets that I thought it was safe enough to take them out with me this morning. Unfortunately, we woke up to this now familiar sight. 
More snow. We didn't get  very much (maybe an inch?) but enough to cause a 2 hour delay for the schools (Fairfax County Public Schools seems to err on the side of caution, not a bad thing) and to prevent me from running. Ugh. 

I notice that it is getting lighter earlier each morning and, even though I do wear a reflective vest and the dogs leashes are reflective, I like knowing that cars can see me a little bit better with the increased light. 

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Another Shot Of Cold

Another (or maybe still the same one?) polar vortex is affecting us and it is very cold and very windy this morning. 
Fortunately, I planned my running schedule while studying the extended forecast and I have run the last 5 days (!) so today is a scheduled rest day. I have run 95 miles so far this month and hope to reach 110 miles for January. If the weather cooperates, that should definitely be doable between Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Since the snow from last Tuesday (which is still on the ground and, until yesterday, was still on the streets), my runs have been short (3-5 miles) and not all that fast. I have run a few times over at the hospital and, although it is boring, at least I can get out and run there safely. Temperatures are supposed to rise by the end of the week so maybe this Arctic Blast will be the last for this winter. Wishful thinking!

Sunday morning, Kevin left for a week in Bangkok. The political situation there continues to be very unsettled and I hope his work and his trip home are not affected. After living in Bangkok during the 2011 floods, I am so relieved that we have moved and do not have to worry about the political unrest and violence now occurring. The lack of news and the availability of accurate information during the flooding made for some very stressful weeks and I did not like living in a perpetual state of anxiety and uncertainty. I can only imagine how it is now with what is happening. I am keeping a close eye on the news and worry about all of our friends who are still living there and are impacted. 

The kids have been asking and I have been promising so this dish will be our dinner this evening. One of the best dishes ever.

Chicken Breasts Lombardi (aka Mrs. Turner's Chicken)

2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons butter, melted
12 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup butter, melted and divided
3/4 cup marsala wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup green onion, chopped

Cook mushrooms in 2 tbsp butter in a large skillet, stirring constantly, just until tender.
Remove from heat; set aside. Cut each chicken breast half in half lengthwise. Place each piece of chicken between two sheets of wax paper; flatten to 1/8" thickness, using a meat mallet or rolling pin.
Dredge chicken pieces in flour.
Place 5 or 6 pieces of chicken in 1 to 2 tbsp butter in a large skillet; cook over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden.
Place chicken in a lightly greased 13x9" baking dish, overlapping edges.
Repeat procedure with remaining chicken and butter.
Reserve pan drippings in skillet. Sprinkle reserved mushrooms over chicken.
Add wine and broth to skillet. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in salt and pepper.
Pour sauce over chicken.
Combine cheeses and green onions; sprinkle over chicken.
Bake uncovered at 450 for 12 to 14 minutes.
Broil 5 1/2" away from heat 1 to 2 minutes or until browned

When we lived in Bangkok, one year we joined with some friends for a very low key dinner club. When one couple hosted, she (Mrs. Turner) made this dish and that is the name it has taken on in our home. It is fancy enough for a dinner party (I made it for our New Year's Eve dinner this year), the recipe can be easily increased to accommodate more servings and is not difficult to make at all. While it is not low-fat, if you keep the side dishes simple and low-fat, I figure it all balances out. I am not sure what I will serve on the side yet. Maybe a trip to the grocery store will inspire me. 

Have a great Tuesday!

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Miles Don't Run Themselves

Early this morning, I ran 3 miles in this...

7 am
Fri - Jan 24

8°F, Clear




WIND:  WNW at 7 mph

Yesterday morning, I managed to get out for a 3.5 mile run around the neighborhood. Since the roads were snow-packed and covered with sand, it was actually a decent surface to run on. All things considered. I dressed very warmly, ran very slowly (and carefully) and stepped off of the road if a car passed. This morning our street looked pretty icy so I drove over to the hospital and ran around there. I am not going to lie - I really would have preferred to have been anywhere but out in the bitter cold but I needed to get my miles in. Tomorrow it is supposed to be above freezing for a couple of hours (!) and then we won't see temperatures get above (or really anywhere close to) 32 degrees until next Friday. Kevin is traveling to Bangkok and I am almost jealous that he gets to escape this cold. 

After a two hour delay this morning, the kids are finally back in school. What a weird week it has been! I am anxious to get back into our routine but since the weekend is almost here and Kevin will be traveling next week (and the kids are off next Thursday and Friday), it will be a while. 

I made the Loaded Baked Potato Soup again last night for dinner. This time I used fresh broccoli crowns and I would make that a permanent change to the recipe. I didn't like the frozen chopped broccoli because there were too many pieces of the stalk and not enough of the healthy dark green stuff. Next time I would just chop the fresh broccoli crowns smaller than what I did last night and I would also cook the broccoli before adding it to the soup. Last night, I just threw it in about 5 minutes before I added the cheese and cream mixture. I made buttermilk biscuits to serve on the side and called it a day. Or a dinner. 

A few Friday photos of the pups... 

The boys snuggled together.  Sonder looks like a little dot next to Chester!
I feel badly that I cannot take them with me to run but it is just too dangerous with the icy roads.

This is the best photo I could get of the bluebirds at the feeder yesterday afternoon.
 Have a great Friday!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cabin Fever

This was my view yesterday morning.
It doesn't look that much different this morning and the kids have yet another snow day off from school. We were all beginning to go a little stir crazy yesterday afternoon so today we are going out for sure. Even if it is only to the grocery store or to the mall. I wonder how Caitlynne's high-school will deal with all of these snow days and mid-term exams which were scheduled for next week. Loudoun County Public Schools, the school district immediately west of ours, has already cancelled school for the rest of the week and mid-terms for next week as well. 

I didn't get out yesterday morning to take an official measure of the snow accumulation (it was beyond cold!) but I did take this photo of the patio tabletop from the comfort of the sun-room. 
As soon as I open the door to the backyard, Chester immediately runs out, buries his head in the snow and starts eating it. 
What a goofball. But we love him. Most of the time. 
I really did not feel well all day Tuesday and we ended up having hamburgers for dinner and not the "You Won't Be Single For Long" Vodka Cream Pasta. I felt much better yesterday and finally got the dinner together.

I turned this...
Into this...
I didn't make bread (I thought that the pasta was enough) and just served a salad on the side.
I need to come up with a nice dinner for this evening and might even recruit the kids into helping with the grocery shopping and doing some prep work in the kitchen. We have plans for Friday and Saturday nights and Kevin leaves for Bangkok on Sunday so I better make tonight's dinner a good one. 

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I think we got about 6" of snow yesterday. When I go out to take some more photos, I will take an official measurement from our patio table.

The snow  began shortly after 9 am...  
 and continued throughout the day. 
Chester spent a lot of the afternoon outside, playing in the snow. Sonder was more than happy to hang out in front of the television with the kids and I. We alternated between watching The Weather Channel and the Food Network. 
 I took a last set of photos before dinner. 

Once we had about 3" of snow on the ground, Kevin rolled out the snow-blower (thanks Mom and Dad!) and got to work. It is so lightweight and easy to maneuver that even Christopher (much to his dismay) can use it!

( Yes, the kid needs a pair of boots!)

Before the snow began, Mimmo stopped by to begin work on building out the closet in our guest bedroom/office. It is a quick and easy job but because some of the hardware is on order, it won't be finished until Thursday or Friday.

Before photos.
Yesterday, Mimmo installed these floor to ceiling shelves in that little nook to the right of the filing cabinet. 
There were already similar shelves (not as many and not as long) built in on the other end of the closet and they really provide a good amount of storage. Installing them on the other end as well will eliminate a lot of wasted space and give me more places to put stuff.
Mimmo also hung the brackets for a shelf and a closet rod that will run the entire length of the closet. I will finally be able to get rid of that rolling clothes rack! It was a good temporary fix but definitely not sturdy or practical enough for a permanent fixture. The shelf and the rod are scheduled to be delivered Thursday so I hope, by Friday, I have a new space to organize. The previous configuration of the closet just didn't make good use out of the huge amount of available space. 

The kids are off again from school. They have already blown through the County's allocated snow days and, at this rate, they might still be going to school in July. Kevin will go into work after a two hour delay. Although our street is still covered in snow, it has been plowed and sanded many times. I have seen several cars driving in and out of the neighborhood without any troubles. Unfortunately, although the sky is blue and the sun is bright, it is bitterly cold outside and is expected to remain so for the next several days, so the snow isn't going anywhere!

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

This Might Be A First

Yesterday afternoon, Christopher came down with a little stomach bug and somehow passed it on to me overnight. While I don't feel completely horrible, I feel bad enough to not go out for a run. What is rather unusual is that, for the first time EVER in my long coffee-drinking life, the smell of coffee is making me very nauseous and unsettled. After taking a few sips this morning, I just couldn't take feeling that feeling anymore and dumped it down the sink in favor of a glass of ginger ale. Very weird! I hope I at least drank enough to keep the caffeine headaches at bay. 

The kids' and Kevin's three day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend has been extended by another day as both Fairfax County Schools and the Federal Government are closed today in anticipation of the winter storm that is heading our way. 
We watched the predicted snow fall amounts begin at 2-4" yesterday morning and climb to 3-5" to 4-6" and finally up to 6-8" before bedtime last night. This morning, the predictions are for accumulations of up to 10". It should be interesting! Kevin has the snow-blower all ready to fire up and go so I hope we get enough to at least use it.

If I feel well enough (and probably even if I don't because the rest of the family has to eat), this is going to be our dinner this evening. Yes, it is a few days later than I originally planned to make it but life got in the way.

"You Won't Be Single for Long" Vodka Cream Pasta
Courtesy of Rachael Ray   |   January 01, 2006
Vodka Cream Pasta
 It's Rachael Ray's most romantic dish!
Servings: Serves 4

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil , once around the pan in a slow stream 
1 tablespoon butter 
2 cloves garlic , minced 
2 shallots , minced 
1 cup vodka 
1 cup chicken stock 
1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces) 
Coarse salt and pepper 
16 ounces pasta , such as penne rigate 
1/2 cup heavy cream 
20 leaves fresh basil , shredded or torn 

Crusty bread , for passing

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic and shallots. Gently sauté shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan (3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup). Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.

Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves. Pass pasta with crusty bread.

I first found this recipe in one of my "Rachel Ray 30 Minute Meals" cookbooks a few years ago and have made it many times since. According to Rachel Ray, if you are single and make this dish for your loved one, it is so amazingly delicious that your loved one will be inspired to immediately propose marriage. Obviously, that doesn't apply to me right now (nor is it how I managed to snag such a fabulous husband) but we still love the dish! 

I follow the recipe as written but, at the same time as the cream is stirred into the sauce, I also add a few handfuls of raw shrimp (peeled, de-veined and tails off) and continue to cook until they are done. I find the addition of shrimp makes the dish a little more substantial. I would imagine chunks of pre-cooked chicken could be added as well. I am going to make french baguettes (using the bread machine for the dough) and will also serve a green salad on the side. We might be snowed in but at least we will have good food to eat!

Have a great Tuesday! 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Great Wins

The sun, the moon and the stars must have been in perfect alignment this weekend because, quite surprisingly, all of "our" teams won. American University defeated Lafayette (very close and very exciting game), Denver beat New England and Seattle held off San Francisco. Even more surprising is that Kevin, Christopher and I were all cheering for the same teams. That never happens! However, I guess if you take the Redskins and the Giants out of the equation, the main source of conflict is removed.

Although it was too short, we had a very nice visit with my housemate from college and her family. All of our kids (she has two girls and one boy) get along really well. In fact, we joke that her son, Matthew, and Christopher could be twins because they look and act so much alike and have so many similar interests. 

As it was in my day, student attendance was pretty sparse at the game.

It was very cold and windy out so we gave the kids and husbands a very quick tour of the campus. Not much has changed in 22 years but I was still surprised that we could find our way around the student center and the sports pavilion.  I always forget how close I am to my alma-mater (it took us just about 30 minutes to drive to the campus from our home) and I really need to make a commitment to participate in a few of the symposiums and workshops that are offered to School of International Service alumni. It was a little sad to be on campus and reminisce about our friend, Peter, and all of our shenanigans back in the day.

As a requirement for his Civics class, Christopher needs to perform 15 hours of community service by the end of April. This weekend he accumulated most of his hours by volunteering for a local organization that provides resources and services to those in need. Friday afternoon/evening, he prepared and delivered complete bagged lunches for 60 residents of a homeless shelter in Reston. 

Thursday afternoon we went shopping for all of the supplies and Friday evening, our dining room table turned into a sandwich making/lunch bag packing assembly line. 
He made 120 ham/cheese/turkey sandwiches and then packed 60 brown bags with two sandwiches, granola bars, a container of applesauce, utensils, a box of apple juice and a bottle of water. It was a big effort on his part but, when we delivered everything to the shelter Friday night and saw the need for and appreciation of our donation, it made it all so worth it. Caitlynne was even inspired to plan to organize members of her crew team to prepare a similar meal soon. Yesterday afternoon, Christopher volunteered to help set up and prepare for the dinner for the kick-off of our church's Hypothermia Prevention Week activities. Our church is expecting to host 70 homeless people each day this week from 5 pm - 7 am and will provide each person with a place to sleep, a warm dinner, breakfast and will also give them sandwiches to take for lunch. This assignment has certainly been an eye-opener for Christopher and made him so much more aware of how many people in our area need so much.

My flowers for the week...

I have a feeling that I am going to appreciate their brightness even more this week as we are forecast to receive 3 - 5" of snow tomorrow. Agh! I am so done with winter. I wouldn't be too unhappy if the kids have a snow day as Caitlynne could really use a day to focus on and study for her exams. All but one of her projects have been completed but a lot of studying remains to be done. 

In anticipation of the snow and possibly not being able to run for a couple of days, I ran 6.5 miles this morning and will try to run 7 or 8 miles tomorrow before the snow begins. If I am forced to take a day or two off because of weather/road conditions, at least I will have gotten a good number of miles in already. 

Have a great Monday!