2013 Year In Review

This honestly is one of my favorite posts of the year. I love looking back at both the highs and the lows (honestly, without the lows, how would we know how great the highs were?) and just reminiscing about this crazy thing called life. Each post will have a link embedded into it, so if you’d like to read a little more about that experience, click the link to go to that post. Enjoy and Happy New Year!

January

January 2: My 32nd birthday. It was a mellow day – the best kind! We hit up trivia night at our favorite place (they’re closing today!!!) and had a blast!

January 16: Finished Random Acts of Kindness. I did 26 random acts of kindness in honor of the 26 people killed in Newton. I learned a lot about myself and regained some faith in humanity!

January 27: Rock of Ages. This was my birthday present from Mike and musical did not disappoint! Even Mike liked it!

January 31: George Strait concert. I am so happy I got to see the Cowboy on his last tour! He was awesome! Martina McBride opened for him and she was phenomenal as well!

February

February 2: SuperBowl. My 49ers do not win. That’s all I have to say about that.

February 23: Snowshoeing with Shadow. Mark, Mike, Shadow and I headed out for an adventure in the snow with Shadow. He did so well – it was really fun to see him frolic in the snow!

February 24: Chloe’s Baptism. I became Chloe’s godmother… I’m so proud to call that baby girl my niece and goddaughter!

March

March 2: Behind the Cellar Door. Our annual wine tasting trip. We rented the van again this year and had so much fun with the Blankenheim clan!

March 6: I lost a good friend, Carol Hawk. She passed away unexpectedly after a short battle with cancer. It came as a shock but I’m happy she was surrounded by her family.

March 24: First visit to daffodil hill. It was absolutely beautiful and it was so fun to see Chloe take it all in!

April

April 28: Tore a ligament in my foot. Fun times in the boot ensued.

May

May 10: Miranda Lambert concert. This was the first in the country mega ticket series and was so good! The Pistol Annie’s were there (Miranda Lambert’s girl band) and Blake Shelton came out for the last song! I had a blast rocking out with Brigitte!

May 12: Mother’s Day. We had brunch with Mike’s family, then a BBQ at my parents house. It was great!

May 19: Sharkfest. Mike and I hopped on a ferry boat, rode it out to Alcatraz, jumped off, and swam back to shore!

May 24-26: Memorial Day getaway. We spent the weekend with the Debenedets and Waters families at their cabin in the Sequoia National Park. It was a beautiful cabin and we had a wonderful weekend with friends!

June

June 11-16: Newport vacation. We headed down to Newport Beach for Kayla’s graduation and to spend some time fishing on June Lightning. We had a wonderful time with my brother & sister in law and niece and nephew.

June 21: I get a beehive. Not the hairdo… bees. Lots of them. It was a really cool adventure and I learned a lot in my short tenure as a beekeeper!

June 26: The Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.

July

July 13: Mike does the Death Ride. Yup, he’s a stud.

July 26: Justin Timberlake & Jay-Z concert. I joined Adam and Eva for this one at Candlestick. We had an absolute blast laughing, dancing, and just enjoying the people watching!

July 30: Dinner with the Dennys. My college roommate and her awesome family were passing through town and stopped for dinner. It was so great to see her, Chris, and Abby!

August

August 1: A bear ate my bees. A mere two months into my career as a beekeeper, things came crashing to a halt. A bear decided that he wanted some honey, so he tore down the fence and ate the hive. RIP Queen Latifah.

August 17: Straight No Chaser concert. I have been waiting for years to go see SNC. I was joined by Mike, Adam, and Eva. The boys did not disappoint… it was an awesome show!

August 23: Brad Paisley concert. I love this guy. I’ve seen him before, but he’s good every time. He can play guitar like crazy!

September

September 9: Dave Matthews Band concert. Apparently summer concerts are not meant to be for Mike – he was once again on a fire. I went with the Waklees and we had a blast.

September 22: Keith Urban concert. Amber and I went together and, as always, had a great time. I was actually more impressed with Little Big Town than I was with Keith Urban, but the music was all good!

September 23: Falconing with Mom. We took a falconry lesson which was absolutely amazing. We learned how to call the birds and how they feed and live in the wild. So much fun!

October

October 1: US Government shuts down. Absolute embarrassment to our people and our country.

October 11: Jason Aldean concert. Amber and I went together and had a fantastic time singing and dancing!

October 19-28: East Coast Road Trip. As usual, we did a road trip for our anniversary and covered New JerseyPennsylvania, Washington DC, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. It was absolutely beautiful and I got to check off “see the fall colors” from my bucket list!

October 22: Our 2nd wedding anniversary. Still love the man!

November

November 17: Zac Brown Band concert. This was my final concert of a very busy year of music. Brigitte and I had the pleasure of watching the show from the Intel box at SleepTrain Arco Arena

and it was an absolutely amazing show! I will see them time and time again!

November 23: Raymond’s retirement party. Ray’s my father-in-law and we threw a hell of a party for him. There was a roasted pig, lots of beer, and a ton of people who came out to wish him well!

November 28: Thanksgiving. Mom, Dad, and I did the Run to Feed the Hungry this year and had so much fun! Then Mike and I had Thanksgiving dinner with the Blankenheim clan, which was fun and delicious!

November 30: Mike’s 40th birthday party. Chaos ensued.

December

December 5: Nelson Mandela dies. While not altogether shocking (he was pretty old), it was sad to hear that someone who did so much good for the world was gone. Hopefully his legacy of peace and love lives on in South Africa.

December 7: First snow of the season – we got 7 inches at our house! Shadow and I headed outside to run and play in it and generally had a fun morning!

December 8: Ran the California International Marathon, my 2nd marathon. PR of 2 hours, 42 minutes! It was a really great experience and I’m so glad I decided to do a 2nd one. Definitely different than the one that I had in San Diego, but I wouldn’t change either one!

December 28: My first ever riding lesson. I had the best time!

First Riding Lesson

Yesterday I took the first real step in my journey towards fulfilling my lifelong dream of owning a horse. I took my first riding lesson. During my marathon training I ran past Oak Hill Stables every long run and always thought it was a beautiful place. Yesterday morning mom and I headed out to talk to the owner about boarding and training. I love the owner’s philosophy – it’s all about being in tune with the horse and making sure that horse and rider are well matched. I’m starting off with lessons – each time I’ll ride a different horse so that I can start to get a feel for what I like or don’t like in a horse.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of riding Nike, a 16 hand Appaloosa. The measurement of a horses height is in hands with 1 hand = 4 inches. You measure from hoof to withers (basically the shoulder). That means Nike was 5’4″ tall, which is a big boy. Appaloosas are known for their very smooth gait, and let me tell you, this one was wonderful. He was smooth and easy to ride.

Me on Nike
Me on Nike

Mom got to ride a pretty little horse named Missy. We both had the best time – the lesson lasted two hours! We were shown how to saddle the horses, then we trailered them and drove to nearby Lake Tabeaud. We rode the whole three-mile loop around the lake and Dana (my trainer) taught me a bunch of the basics. When we were done we took them back to the ranch, unsaddled them, brushed them, and turned them out to the pasture.

By the time we were done, I was utterly exhausted from the excitement of it all. I honestly feel like this is something I was meant to do… I can’t even begin to explain how right it feels for me to be on a horse. I can’t wait to continue my learning experience and to then find the horse that is a perfect fit for me. I loved brushing Nike after we were done (his head got all droopy and he looked sleepy) and can’t wait to have my own horse to bond with. I’m so happy my mom came out to ride with me… I had such a wonderful time spending the day with her and sharing this milestone!

I can’t wait for next week’s lesson!!!

Christmas Musings

This year Christmas seemed to fly by. Part of that was because I missed half of it… Monday night I came down with the dreaded stomach flu. It was a pretty miserable night, but I was fortunate to only have the 24 hour version of the bug. It left me exhausted and I skipped Christmas with the Blankenheim side of the family because I didn’t want to share the sickness with anyone, especially with Mike’s grandma.

Since my gift from Mike this year is a horse, I didn’t have a lot of presents to open. Most of my gifts were either money or gift cards to the local tractor supply company for tack and such. Which makes me completely happy. I did get some cool stuff that I wasn’t expecting – Mike got me a cool pair of argyle riding gloves, my parents got me the most comprehensive horse care book I’ve ever seen, and Kati & Nate got me cowboy boots!

New Cowboy Boots
New Cowboy Boots

What I realized the most was how much I love giving gifts. It was so neat to see the excitement in Chloe’s eyes as she opened presents and I realized how much I missed seeing my Blankenheim nieces and nephew open their presents. Chloe got her first Cabbage Patch Kid from us… it was absolutely adorable to watch her give it kisses!

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas and got to spend time with your family!

Cowboy Flank Steak with Sweet & Smoky Beans with Garlic-Roasted Broccoli

This is another Cooking Light recipe that I decided to give a try – Mike actually did the cooking on this one and it was delicious! He said this is possibly his favorite way to cook broccoli!

Cowboy Flank Steak
Cowboy Flank Steak

Ingredients

1 tablespoon  olive oil

1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper

3/4 cup lower-sodium tomato puree

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon molasses

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 (16-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, undrained

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound flank steak, trimmed

Directions

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat. Add onion and red bell pepper; sauté 4 minutes or until slightly tender. Stir in tomato puree and next 6 ingredients (through green chiles). Cover and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Heat a grill pan over high heat. Combine paprika and next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a small bowl; rub spice mixture evenly over steak. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add steak to pan; grill 6 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across grain into thin slices. Serve with beans.

For Garlic-Roasted Broccoli

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place 6 cups broccoli florets and 3 minced garlic cloves in a large bowl. Coat generously with cooking spray; toss to coat. Arrange mixture in a single layer on a jelly roll pan. Roast at 400 degrees for 12 minutes, stirring once.

Orange-Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Tabbouleh with Snap Pea Sauté

Now that my marathon has passed, I’ve been trying to be a little more mindful about what I’m eating. I’m still starving, but am trying to be careful to eat a little more balanced. I subscribe to Cooking Light magazine and while I don’t always love their recipes, I sometimes find a gem. This was definitely one of those… it was flavorful and Mike loved it! I’m not a huge fan of the tabbouleh… the consistency was a little chewy for my taste, but I might play around with different recipes using bulgur to see if that’s just how it is or it was just how it was prepared here.

Orange-Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Orange-Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients

1/3 cup orange marmalade

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 tablespoon peanut oil

1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin

1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup  dried cranberries

1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder (I substituted cinnamon and ground ginger)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup bulgur

2 tablespoons minced green onions

2 cups sugar snap peas

2 cups snow peas

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add pork; cook 6 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Brush pork with half of marmalade mixture. Place pan in oven; bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until a thermometer registers 145°, turning and basting with remaining marmalade after 10 minutes. Place pork on a cutting board; reserve sauce in pan. Let pork rest 5 minutes; cut into 12 slices.

While pork cooks, bring broth and next 3 ingredients (through salt) to a boil in a saucepan; stir in bulgur. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Stir in green onions.

Place 3 pork slices on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 2 tablespoons reserved sauce. Serve each with 3/4 cup bulgur mixture.

Snap Pea Sauté:

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon sesame oil; swirl to coat. Add 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger to the pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add 2 cups trimmed sugar snap peas and 2 cups tripped snow peas. Add 1 tablespoon rice vinegar and 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce to pan; cook 30 seconds.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

A couple weekends ago Mike and I actually went out to the movies (gasp!) which we haven’t done in a really long time. We went to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Director: Francis Lawrence

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth

Runtime: 2 hours 26 minutes

Plot Summary: (from IMDb) A year after winning the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and her partner, Peeta Mellark must go on what is known as the Victor’s Tour wherein they visit all the districts. But before leaving, Katniss is visited by President Snow who fears that Katniss defied him a year ago during the games when she chose to die with Peta. With both Katniss and Peeta declared the winners, it is fueling a possible uprising. He tells Katniss that while on tour she better try to make sure that she puts out the flames or else everyone she cares about will be in danger. But unfortunately she fails to do that. So Snow decides to enact what is known as the Quarter Quell, the right to make a change to the Hunger Games, which he is allowed to do every 25 years. He decides to hold an edition of the Hunger Games wherein previous winners will compete again. Their mentor Haymitch thinks their best chance to survive is form an alliance with some of the others. They decide to align themselves with Finnick and his partner, Mags. But Snow is secretly hoping Katniss will be killed.

Rating: See it in the theater!!!

This movie was absolutely awesome – I loved it. I am always a little skeptical of sequel movies because often times they don’t live up to the original, but this one definitely was as good, if not better, than the first Hunger Games. It also doesn’t feel as long as it is (2 1/2 hours!). I can’t help but hate the Peeta character, played by Josh Hutcherson. I don’t think it’s the acting, because I hated him in the book too. I just got tired of him being hurt and needing rescue. I also loved Jena Malone as Johanna Mason – she was really bad ass! Go see this one!

Ratings Explanation:

  • Theater: This means the movie is awesome. Go see this movie in the theater – well worth the $100 you’ll spend for a night out to see it on the big screen!
  • On Demand: Since no one actually rents movies anymore, this category has changed to On Demand. This means it’s a great movie, but it is as good at home as it is in the theater and worth seeing a little sooner.
  • TV: This means the movie is ok. Wait for it to show up on HBO and see it for free.
  • Skip It: Movie sucks, don’t waste your time.

Love It: Boogie Wipes

Normally snot is not something that I would talk about on my blog. But let’s be real, we all deal with it. And let’s also be real about the fact that I am a self-professed oversharer (remember this post about losing my toenails?).

Boogie Wipes are just about the best thing ever to happen to my nose. I’ve had a cold off and on over the last month or so and by chance grabbed one of Chloe’s Boogie Wipes because there was nothing else around. My best friend had recommended this a long time ago. Seriously, if you have any nose blowing to do, these things are amazing. They’re gentle and keep you from actually getting too raw.

You can use them as is from the package (they make a great big package as well as purse/diaper bag versions) which is cooling or you can warm them up. With cold and flu season upon us, I highly recommend these lifesavers!