Late-night food (with recipe!)

Post adjustment: This night, I also managed to set off the smoke alarm. Watch out.

And no, I’m not talking about grabbing a huge heat-lamp warmed slice from I Heart NY Pizza on Franklin Street. I’m talking about the kind we’re making right now in our oven on Chapanoke Rd. It’s almost 10 p.m. and we’re working on dinner. And I don’t want to forget it. :)

This happens more often than not at our house. No matter how hard I try to get things prepped ahead of time, we always manage to eat deep into the evening. One day, I hope I don’t look back and pretend everything was perfect and that all my meals were well-plated and served with a smile by 7 p.m.

In this fantasy, I’m also wearing a cute apron, pencil skirt and heels, because that’s what they do in the commercials. Oh, and I have arms like Kelly Rippa. And my dog is well-behaved.

The point is, life isn’t perfect and I like that our dinners take time. I hate that I apologize incessantly for how late we eat (to my audience of one, Adam), so I guess this is my way of saying I’m not really that sorry. I like that we eat late-night food because sometimes it means we have one more glass of wine than we ought on a weeknight – gettin’ crazy in my late twenties. Look out.

And, it makes our evenings together just the two of us (well three, hey there Otis I love you too) just a teensie bit longer. These days are precious, why not make them last?

So, in short, we eat late. And I make a mess. But it’s a mess I love.

Pizza with brown sugar veggies and prosciutto

  • Pizza dough ball (I buy mine at the grocery store – one of these days I’ll give it a go of making it myself. But that day ain’t today, sister.)
  • Olive oil
  • One half a red onion
  • One red bell pepper
  • One green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • 10 ounces, weight fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced (TIP: put it in the freezer before slicing. It makes you not want to curse at a ball of flimsy cheese.)
  • 8 slices prosciutto (you can add more cause this stuff is delicious)

How to make it:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees (put your pizza stone or pan in the oven as it preheats).

Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions, peppers and brown sugar and toss/stir for several minutes, or until onions are brown and cooked. Set aside.

Roll out pizza dough on a pizza stone covered with cornmeal. Drizzle on olive oil, sprinkle on a little salt, followed by a little Parmesan.

Lay slices of mozzarella evenly over the top of the crust. Arrange caramelized onions over the top of the mozzarella. Randomly lay slices of prosciutto over the onions. Om, nom nom.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and cut into squares. Serve immediately and delight in your amazing ability to be awesome. You Italian goddess, you.

Simple steps to achieve a perfect, lazy Sunday afternoon

Alternate title: The afternoon I wish I had every week

Ah, Sundays. They’re always so full of promise. The last day before we go back to the grind, and, as the good Lord says, they’re meant to be a day of rest. I’ve had my fair share of lazy Sundays after church, but here lately, I haven’t had too many. There’s always something I need to clean, an errand I need to run, a project I need to tackle. That’s all well and good, but this post is all about achieving rest on Sundays.

Step One: Get all of your ducks in a row the week prior. Make grocery lists, get supplies for any projects and shake all your stress out before the weekend hits. Note: this is something I hardly EVER do. I tend to throw my grocery list together on Sunday, and the later it gets, the more I hate getting out of the house. By getting things together a few days early, I can give myself more unplanned time on Sundays.

Step Two: Pray for rain. Nobody wants to stay inside on a pretty day. If the weather is good, pray you have a cold or something like that.

Step Three: Stake out your spot on the couch. One thing I’m VERY excited about for our new house is that we’ll have TWO living room couches. Adam, I’ve loved splitting a couch with you over the years, but I ain’t gonna lie – I’m pretty pumped about having my own sofa space soon.

Step Four: Throw a bunch of tasty things in a crock pot. Since our crock pot is out of commission for a few more weeks (packed up in storage until we move), I had to settle for a hearty shepherd’s pie today. Too much work. What’s awesome is chili or something that ends with shredded chicken and other delicious flavors. All while you’re on the couch. Breathing in the goodness. Now, that’s afternoon delight.

Step Five: Throw that to-do list you had out the window. If you didn’t get it done on Saturday, it’s probably OK to save it for a weeknight or next Saturday. This is something I rarely am able to do. If laundry isn’t running and I haven’t bleached something, I just don’t feel right. But, I think it’s important to have a lazy Sunday every now and then, so I’m hoping I can achieve the elusive step five sometime soon.

Step Six: Kick back. Relax. And stop stressing! It’s Sunday, and yes, you have to go back to work tomorrow, but why wish the day away when you’ve got it?!

Now, where’s that rain…?

Winning the worst lottery ever

Earlier this year, I entered a lottery. And I won! Hooray! The prize? Running 26.2 miles in and around our nation’s capitol.

Running a marathon has always been (very low) on my bucket list. It’s one of those aspirations I get after a successful half-marathon or long run. Or, when I meet someone who has run one and they say what a great experience it was. Side note: these people are probably big liars. Either way, I won an entry to the Marine Corps Marathon and I’ve been going through a pretty grueling training regimen over the past few months.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past few months:

1. I don’t know if I can trust people who say they love running marathons.
2. I. Can’t. Stop. Eating. Hungry. All. The. Time.
3. I actually can run pretty far if I put my mind to it. This means I’m more stubborn than I thought I was – joy.
4. I previously thought that running while listening to a book on tape sounded about as appealing as chewing tin foil. It’s actually quite pleasant. Go ahead and buy Tina Fey’s Bossypants and try not to laugh so hard you pee yourself.
5. Words of encouragement from friends are like gold. Seriously, I don’t know if I could do this without the supportive group of people I have around me.
6. Chafing. It happens. Thank you for Body Glide.
7. Foam rolling is God’s gift to legs. Hurts so good.
8. I used to secretly laugh at people I overheard at races talking about socks. I understand why they were so obsessed with them now. The right socks make all the difference!
9. I can rock a small fanny pack. Amazon says it’s a running belt, but it’s definitely a small fanny pack.
10. I am honestly not sure what I was thinking when I signed up for this. But, I just keep telling myself there are thousands of other crazy people who didn’t know what they were thinking either, so we’ll all run together in a big group therapy session in October.

50 more days until I do my best to conquer this thing!

Something old with something new

What is it about the past that makes us feel at home? Do things with a history provide us with a sense of place? As we’re prepping for our new house, I keep finding myself going back to an article I read in Southern Living a few months ago. It was written by the former editor about redesigning his home. “Take care to put an antique in every room of your home,” he says. Granted, I’m sure he had access to a wealth of antique finds with his job title. His antiques ranged from a gorgeous round French marble-topped gueridon table (see below) to mirrors and small gilded accents.

Lord knows what that costs.

Adam and I both love things with character – and oftentimes those things are old. Some of my favorite old things that I look forward to incorporating into our home:

  • Antique maps of Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon – National Parks that are near and dear to our hearts.
  • An old furniture cart that we’ve re-purposed as a coffee table.
  • A gorgeous vase from Adam’s grandparents’ house that goes with most any color.
  • Two gorgeous blue lamps that my mom and I found in an Asheboro store earlier this year – just need to find the right shades to set them off!
  • An antique window that a friend repainted and distressed – it displayed photos at our wedding and hung in our bedroom at the condo!
  • A bar cart that my parents found in a dumpster at the beach – yes, a dumpster. This is going to be a project for a future post…
  • A church bench that my parents purchased from the church after a remodel – we’re going to use this in our breakfast area, but it definitely needs a little paint, sanding and a cushion. Another project for a fun future post!

A few things that I’d love to (eventually) find:

Pretty plates to hang on an entryway wall or in a bedroom:

I love this arrangement! http://christineringenbach.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/wooden-bench-with-pilows-and-blue-and-white-china-plates-on-wall.jpg

Plate Wall-entryway

Some sort of brass piece – love these little giraffes!

Brass Giraffe Set

I’m sure there are other cool things out there – I’m just not the best antiquer. We’ve got a lot of awesome stuff already that we can incorporate, and I’m excited to bring our character to our new place! :) Chalk paint and YouTube tutorials, here I come…

 

Consumed by Pinterest, hit with graciousness

I had a great conversation with a friend this morning about money – something that’s always fun to talk about. It’s no secret, but building a house is expensive. And, let’s not forget my hunger to get it decorated and perfect within a few days of closing.

She reminded me that money is never an easy thing to talk about, and it’s often difficult to reconcile desires with what’s actually needed. In just a few weeks, we’re going to have a brand new, beautiful house in a neighborhood we love. We’ll move in, and hopefully stay for a long time. God willing, we’ll start raising a family there, host friends around our table, and enjoy the evenings on our back porch.

And, it’s OK if we don’t have the place put together from top to bottom by December. It’s OK if we don’t exhaust our savings to ensure every room has the perfect accent piece. And, it’s OK if I don’t drop $800 on this painting of a COW I’ve been obsessing over for a few weeks (yes, I get fixated on things). Moo.

The thing I have to keep reminding myself of is that our house doesn’t become a home when it looks like every page of Southern Living, even though I want it to! We’ll be lucky to have a fridge that keeps our food cold, walls that keep our toes warm, and a soft place to dream at night.

But, here’s the catch. We are going to have to spend some money, and we have to spend it (and save it) wisely. Which means I need to dial back on the impulsive purchases (sorry, Kate Spade), and dial into saving for things I’d really like to have for our house. I may not buy the $800 cow painting, but heck, if there’s a print on art.com that looks the exact same for around $50, I’d probably like to have that.

The challenge with saving is to stop thinking of it as deprivation. It’s being grateful for what we have, and responsibly thinking about what we really need. It’s easy to write this, but I’m not actually saving money with each keystroke. There’s going to be some action involved, and it’s probably not going to be easy. But, it’ll hopefully be worth it when all is said and done.

Time to ease up on that credit card…

Pikes on the move

If you had asked me four years ago (heck, four months ago!) if we’d build a house, I probably would have laughed at you. Now, we’ve got a foundation, walls and a roof – my how quickly it all came together!

The next couple of months will undoubtedly be filled with excitement, stress and questions. I’m blowing up on Pinterest and watching way too much HGTV. Soon our stuff will be in boxes to move to our sad little interim apartment where we’ll wait (and hope, and pray) for our house to be ready on schedule. Underneath all of this stress I’ve fabricated lies a grateful heart. A heart that’s full of memories from our tiny little condo downtown, and full of gratitude that we were able to sell it in just three days.

We pretty much started our relationship in the condo. We had fun parties, sweatpant nights and ACL recoveries. We made it through our first year of marriage without throwing each other off the balcony. We got our first dog. We argued over the sensibility of the most beautiful draperies from Pottery Barn (which now hang in our bedroom), and we laughed – a lot. It’s a place we’ll always cherish and be glad for, and while it’s time to move on, it’ll be hard to let go.

The thing I’ll miss the most, you ask? The view, of course:

Best view in the city!

High five to the grocery store daisies

I love buying flowers for myself at the grocery store. After fighting soccer moms and college students of Raleigh in the parking lot, the flowers are my solace. My happy place before the chaos of my list. My treat to me. That small bundle of yellow daisies (or, more lately, colorful tulips) is something that never ceases to please. I buy  flowers on the four for $12 VIC deal on the regular, but I’m not sure I ever stop to appreciate the way having fresh flowers in my home improves my every day.

Last week, I was honored to hear one of our leaders at the YMCA, Bruce, talk about work/life balance at our annual directors’ retreat. Bruce has an amazing story (see his incredible blog here). He also has great perspective on establishing priorities and creating a more balanced life. I was deeply moved by what he’s been through, and how he’s turned an incredibly difficult time in his life into positive change.

He talked through eight tips on how to improve life balance. They ranged from things like evaluating priorities and making time, to saying no/cutting out things that sap us, to improving prayer life and others. In true Mary Cole fashion, I immediately started to devise a plan in my head about how to tackle them all at once. But before I could create my very own perfect life of balance, he gave us a directive: just start with one thing. Focus on one thing. Y’all know I love multi-tasking, so this was a little hard to swallow. But, it makes sense.

I decided to tackle his suggestion to appreciate the small things more. The little things like my grocery store flowers, or the way that wrinkly dog of ours runs to me when I come in the door, or simply the fact that I wake up in an incredible city that I love every day.

I’m convinced the small things are God showing us more about who He is. I see His sense of humor when I look at our dog, Otis, because nobody would ever make a dog like that and not laugh about it later. I see the humbleness of Christ in my Harris Teeter special flowers – knowing that something so simple as a flower actually has a really complex and deep structure that just works. The small things are part of something bigger, and it’s high time I started recognizing that.

Beauty