Monday, September 17, 2012

Adventures in Manual Photography--Commence!

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a photography class for novice DSLR users and I think it may have changed my life. Well maybe not my life but definitely my life as it relates to photography. I know most of you who are reading this blog (or who have read this blog in the past) remember this post that I wrote describing the incredible gift Erik gave me when we first started dating--the ultra new, super sweet Nikon D7000 SLR camera. I have loved photography for years and have always wanted to take my hobby a little further (i.e. beyond point and shoot) so I was very excited to get this new toy. However, despite my best intentions for learning the ins and outs of my fancy new camera, I had yet to advance past the "auto" setting (basically point and shoot). Well I am proud to say that I have (finally) taken the next step (we won't mention that it only took me a year and a half) and learned the basics of manual photography. Yay!

I have always been a visual learner so the books I had purchased when I first got my camera just weren't cutting it. I knew that I needed to actually have someone show me the basics. The class that helped me get there was taught by Jen Kolb through the Digital Photography Academy which is based out of New York but has instructors all over the country. I first found out about Digital Photography Academy via Living Social and a deal they were offering for a Composition in the Field class. The price was right and my friend Monique said she would join me so we signed up to see what we could learn. After signing up for the class, I got an e-mail from DPA with some additional classes I might be interested in taking, one of which included an Intermediate photography class for DSLR users. I figured since I knew essentially nothing beyond point and shoot it might be worth my while to take this class--maybe get a leg up for the Composition in the Field class. The cost was $65 for a 4 hour class which I thought was very reasonable.

I went to the class yesterday not really knowing what to expect and was blown away by my instructor and her knowledge. She combined a PowerPoint presentation with a lot of hands on instruction and a couple of breaks to go out and test the skills being learned in the classroom. We learned about Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO settings, and setting up/programming our cameras. The instructor had a lot of really helpful tips and tricks and was really good at answering our questions (there were only 4 people in the class including myself so I think everyone was able to get plenty of individual attention and instruction). She had us shoot in Aperture mode, shutter speed mode, and then finally (dun dun dun!) manual mode.

I will say right now that when class began and we were told that we would be comfortable shooting manually in just 4 short hours I was very skeptical. Imagine my surprise when 4 hours later I am bouncing all over the place shooting manually and completely LOVING it! Turns out, with just some simple instruction manual is really not so scary. Of course I have a lot of practicing to do but I think I can safely say that I will never be going back to auto mode again. Oh and I am really looking forward to the Composition class in a couple of weeks! So without further ado, here are some photographs I took yesterday in manual mode (my apologies to those of you who are my Facebook friends and have seen these already):

Friday, August 31, 2012

I Have A Book Problem

It will come as no surprise to those who know me well but for anyone who is reading this blog and has never had the privilege (yes, privilege I say) of making my acquaintance there is something you should know about me—I am a complete and total nerd when it comes to books. I love to read and always have. Ever since I can remember I have always had shelves full of books surrounding me. In fact, while most young children sleep with stuffed animals, I would actually sleep with my books when I was little (which, from the stories I am told about my childhood was probably one of my lesser oddities—thank goodness I am completely normal now--heh).

So before I could afford spending large amounts of money on books I used to love going to the library where my mom worked for a short time—browsing the shelves and always coming home with a stack full of books. I was so excited about the books I read that I wanted to share them with everyone and I even created a small library in room where my family and friends could “check out” books from my own personal collection. I was always getting free pizzas from the school BookIt program and one of my favorite shows was Reading Rainbow ("Take a look it's in a book of Reading Rainboooow...").

Perhaps one of the best childhood stories about my book-loving obsession that my mom likes to tell is how I totally (at least I think unknowingly) gave the figurative finger to some haters at the new school I started when we moved from Georgia to Pennsylvania in the first grade. See, the Pennsylvania educators didn’t believe my test scores were as good as they were since all southerners must be dumb hicks (which, okay, Honey Boo Boo Chile is not doing us any favors in dispelling that myth) so they gave me several of their own IQ tests. When they were finally satisfied that I wasn’t completely ignorant , I drove the I-told-you-so needle in even further by politely asking “now can you please show me to your library”?

Why tell these stories? Well I’m hoping that they will help you understand the confession I am about to make in that while (I admit) this problem I have is completely ridiculous it does have some historical bearing. It’s not pretty and I am not proud of it but I feel as if it is an omission I must make to control the madness.
Here goes.

I have a book buying problem. As of today I have about 80 books in my house that I have not read (but bought with the good intention of reading) and for whatever reason I keep buying more. I know what you’re thinking—I must be broke from buying books. Well no, not really. I buy most of my books when I am out thrifting at Goodwill so most of the time I get them for about a $1-$1.50 each which, you know, isn’t too bad in my opinion. A lot of the books I buy are classics that I feel I should be reading but there are also a lot of fiction books, some nonfiction books, and a few beach type reads that I think would be good guilty pleasures (in my crazy mind my unread books should have variety to accommodate whatever mood I might be feeling when I am never reading them).

I realize that there is a simple solution to this book obsession I have—stop buying books until I have read the ones I have--easy, right? Okay so I have tried that in the past and it lasted for maybe a couple months. The problem is that I am a slow reader and combined with work and everything else going on in my life I wasn’t making much progress. Then I would see a book at the thrift that I had remembered wanting to read and I would be like “it’s just one book, it’s no big deal.” Or “but it’s a classic—classics are different than just buying some trashy literature.” Thus the vicious cycle would begin again.

The whole problem really sucks –I like physical books and I like having them around me. There are worse things to be addicted to right? But in the sense of practicality and the fact that my current house does not have any extra room for a library (oh someday) I realize I have got to do something. I don’t really know what that something is but I am open to suggestions. One possible solution I have thought of is to publish my list of unread books on this blog so that you readers can give me the thumbs up/thumbs down on any that I either must read or ones where I shouldn’t waste my time. I purchased all the books on my list thinking they might be good so if there are any that you all out there have read that totally suck I would love to know. On the other hand, I would also love to get excited about any on the list so if there are some that are truly amazing must-read-right-away books, please do tell!

So, in all it’s glory I give you Ashley’s Unread Booklist (try not to be too judgey ok?):

Book Title Author
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie  Alan Bradley
The River King  Alice Hoffman
Made in America   Bill Bryson
Rocket Men   Craig Nelson
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius   Dave Eggers
Naked   David Sedaris
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle   David Wroblewski
The Age of Innocence   Edith Wharton
The House of Mirth  Edith Wharton
The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard   Erin McGraw
A Good Man Is Hard to Find   Flannery O’Connor
Love in the Time of Cholera   Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Middlesex   Geoffrey Eugenides
Waiting  Ha Jin
Atonement   Ian McEwan
The Grapes of Wrath   John Steinbeck
Freedom   Jonathan Franzen
The Postmistress   Sarah Blake
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies  Seth Grahame-Smith
Vanity Fair   William Thackeray
Their Eyes Were Watching God   Zora Neale Hurston
Innocent Traitor   Allison Weir
Saving Fish From Drowning   Amy Tan
The Pilot’s Wife  Anita Shrieve
Run   Ann Patchett
The Magician’s Assistant  Ann Patchett
The Shipping News   Annie Proulx
Nickel and Dimed   Barbara Ehrenreich
Animal Dreams   Barbara Kingsolver
The Stone Diaries   Carol Shields
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter   Carson McCullers
Lady Chatterly’s Lover   D.H. Lawrence
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress  Dai Sijie
Snow Falling on Cedars   David Guterson
Outlander   Diana Gabaldon
The Fiery Cross Diana Gabaldon
The Little Friend  Donna Tartt
Angela’s Ashes  Frank McCourt
When Everything Changed   Gail Collins
Madame Bovary   Gustave Flaubert
Collapse Jared Diamond
The Eyre Affair  Jasper Fforde
The Namesake  Jhumpa Lahiri
Strange But True  John Searles
A Civil Action   Jonathan Harr
The Kite Runner  Khaled Hosseini
The Inheritance of Loss  Kirin Desai
War and Peace  Leo Tolstoy
The Master Butcher’s Singing Club   Louise Erdrich
Tara Road  Maeve Binchy
The Blind Assassin  Margaret Atwood
Gone With the Wind   Margaret Mitchell
Stiff   Mary Roach
The Omnivore’s Dilemma  Michael Pollan
American Gods   Neil Gaiman
Ender’s Game   Orson Scott Card
The Cotton Queen  Pamela Morsi
The Good Earth   Pearl Buck
The Constant Princess   Phillipa Gregory
The Boleyn Inheritance  Phillipa Gregory
Watership Down  Richard Adams
A Reliable Wife   Robert Goolrick
The Satanic Verses  Salman Rushdie
Shalimar the Clown   Salman Rushdie
The Birth of Venus  Sarah Dunant
In the Company of the Courtesan   Sarah Dunant
Affinity  Sarah Waters
The Little Stranger   Sarah Waters
Fingersmith   Sarah Waters
Adam and Eve  Sena Jeter Naslund
Jane Slayre   Sherri Browning Erwin
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell   Susanna Clarke
The Bell Jar  Sylvia Plath
The Once and Future King   T.H. White
Sarah’s Key  Tatiana de Rosnay
The Things They Carried  Tim O’Brien
The Girl with the Pearl Earring   Tracy Chevalier
In Cold Blood   Truman Capote
Life of Pi   Yann Martel
White Teeth   Zadie Smith

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hello blog world! I realize I have been on a bit of a hiatus for the last 5 months and whether anyone really cared or not, I don't really know (crickets?) any rate I have decided to attempt to blog regularly again so woo-hoo and here we go...

The Top 10 Things That Have Happened in My Life While I Have Been Too Lazy To Blog:

1. My grandmother (on my dad's side) passed away at the end of April. Although my family was deeply saddened by the loss of such a wonderful lady we had the great opportunity to visit with her up until the very end and create some truly beautiful memories. We sang songs, looked at old photos, and made sure she knew how much she was loved. It was hard to let her go, but I know she is dancing with my grandfather somewhere and watching over us all.
My grandmother on her wedding day

Reading love letters we found that my grandfather had
written to my grandmother during WWII

2. My cousin Veronica graduated from the College of Charleston in May and Erik and I were able to visit with her, my aunt, my uncle, my other cousin, and my mom's parents. This was the first time Erik met my aunt, uncle, and cousin Carter, as well as meeting my my grandmother and grandfather. It was also his first time visiting the family beach house in Isle of Palms.

First time at IOP! Ahhhhhh...
3. My washer decided to breathe it's last breath in June and my kitchen sink sprouted a leak in the same weekend. Therefore, I spent a small chunk o' change to buy a new washer and new sink. 

4. A good family friend got married at the end of July here in Atlanta and my mom and dad came down from St. Louis so we could all go to the wedding. We had a great time (maybe a little too good of a time--Erik ended up passing out on the couch and sleeping with one eye open! Seriously, I have the video to prove it).\

5. Lulu turned 1 in May, but we have officially been her parents for 1 year as of July 31st.

First "Family" hiking trip
6. I finally bit the bullet and joined a new kickboxing gym in Atlanta. It is expensive, but has totally been kicking my butt. Definitely worth it.

7. Lots of babies being birthed! Erik's sister had her second baby, a son named Parker in April and my best friend Lauren had her second baby, a daughter named Charlotte on August 6th. Although they are both super cute I can't say I am anywhere close to wanting one of my own yet--I'm having quite enough fun being a doting aunt!
Erik and Little P
8. Erik almost died from an infection as a result of a chipped tooth. I am not exaggerating. OK, well maybe a little--but it was really, really, bad! After an ER visit, a couple shots, a serious round of antibiotics, AND  a root canal he is doing much better now. A lesson to all--do not neglect your teeth!!

9. Erik and I have been participating in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) so we have been getting all kinds of farm-grown, organic veggies every Wednesday. While totally awesome, it has also been quite the challenge for me cooking-wise as I have had to be inventive with some of the more random vegetables.
A summer vegetable saute I made up with some CSA veggies!
10. My sweet nephew Regan turned 1 in July and is currently riding out his first hurricane in New Orleans (stay safe everyone!).
Regs! Always ready to party! : )
So that about gets you all caught up on the recent happenings in my life. Hopefully you will forgive me for being gone so long (those of you who noticed of course) and I promise to be a little better about keeping things updated!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Finally Free (Happiness is NOT Overrated!)

I read a lot of blogs. Some are written by close friends of mine and others are by people I have never met before in my life. Some of the blogs focus on home improvement, some on family and marriage, some are just hilarious encounters occurring in everyday lives, and of course we cannot forget the juicy gossip blogs (I know gossip is bad but whatever—everyone has their guilty pleasures). The variety of blogs out on the interwebs is endless, I tell you.

Recently I stumbled across a blog that has really touched me and made me think. While perusing one of my favorite gossip blogs Laineygossip, I discovered a blog called His Giant Mistake. Lainey was discussing the topic of cheating and whether it’s ever okay and if one ever happens to fall into that circumstance of my-partner-cheated-on-me if it is ever really possible to forgive. The author of His Giant Mistake, Cleo, is experiencing this situation as we speak and she is blogging about it in real time. Last fall she discovered her husband was having an affair which all started with what she calls “the pocket call” while he was out of town on business. Her blog details every emotion she felt as she has felt it and focuses on how she is dealing with the situation today. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop—the way she writes about her experiences is so beautifully expressed and I have to say that I felt immediately connected to her, this person I have never even met.

See, a lot of the emotions she writes about were the exact same emotions I felt when breaking up with my ex. Yes, technically he may not have cheated on me but the betrayal and hurt I felt by him were very, very, real. Here was this person I trusted who kept feeding me with false information of a proposal year after year and despite warnings by family and friends I made excuses for him. What I failed to realize was that he had checked out of our relationship a long time ago, he just couldn’t bring himself to let me know. He lied to me and others—giving me false hope when deep down I know he knew the truth all along.

For a while I was very bitter and angry about the situation. Angry that he had wasted my time and angry with myself for putting up with it for so long. I commented on one of Cleo’s posts on HGM, telling her my story briefly. She responded and it felt good to communicate with someone who understood what I had felt. She also brought up a good point—how do we let ourselves get strung along in these relationships that are so obviously toxic? There are always warning signs. Why do we choose to ignore them?

For me I think the blindness initially began because of my love for this person (which I believe is very common) and eventually I think it just turned into this personal quest to prove to everyone how wrong they were to question if a proposal was ever going to happen—to question “our” love. Of course I realize now that I was deluding myself and I almost laugh at the hilarity of it all. I mean, what the hell was I thinking???

At one point in her blog, Cleo states that her ex-husband, “The Genius,” probably gave her the greatest gift by having an affair in the end because she was able to re-discover what it meant to love herself and be true to her wants and desires. I cannot agree with her more on this point. I almost cry when I think about what my life would be like today if I had stayed with my ex. The fact is that no one should have to put their lives on hold to wait for anyone. Relationships are meant to be experienced together and if you are not on the same page as your partner (and it doesn’t look like you ever will be) for god sakes move on!

I cannot even begin to express the difference there is in being in a relationship where you genuinely love and care for someone and a relationship where everything is focused on selfishness. Relationships don’t work when there is someone who is constantly saying “well this is what I want” and “this is what I need” and “why can’t you just change.” It seems so logical but, take it from me, you would be surprised what you can convince yourself of when the mind is willing.

I still see myself bracing when I’m with Erik whenever I say certain things or do something silly that would have gotten eye rolls or started some dumb fight when I was with my ex. Instead he just jokes back or does something equally as silly. Even though we have been together for over a year I am constantly amazed that he doesn’t find my sense of humor corny and annoying or see my playfulness as “too cutesy” and “not sexy enough.” Everything is about our future and our wants--our desires. With my ex everything was always split right down the middle—this is yours and this is mine. Whenever we bought something it was always split in half even though we had lived together for almost 3 years (this is a huge red flag btw ladies). I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to be with someone who actually sees the future as “us”, “we”, and “ours.”

So today I say thank you to my ex. Thanks for letting me be free. I am so much happier than I was 2 years ago and I am pretty certain you probably are too. I forgive you for your selfishness and your cowardliness because it has allowed me to finally know what it feels like to be truly loved and desired. I think I have finally gotten to the place where I can wish you the best (a year and a half is what it takes I guess). And to Cleo (if you ever find my tiny blog)-- thank you for sharing your story. I think it is so important that everyone know how to love themselves first because, ultimately, you are the only one responsible for your own happiness. Don’t ever wait on someone else. It’s cliché but life really is too short!  

If you want to check out HGM you can find Cleo here. I suggest starting from the beginning.  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

State of the House Address 2012

So I know it's been awhile since my last post--please forgive me--and I don't even really have much of an excuse. I guess you could say I've just been living life. Suffice it to say I missed documenting  my 1 year "blogaversary" (oh the shame) and the 1 year anniversary of when I moved into my house. Oy vey! I am indeed the worst blogger ever.

So to make up for missing this auspicious time in (my) history I thought I would give an update on the state of my house. This time last year I had just finished painting inside and out, was finally clearing away all the boxes from the move-in, hanging pictures, patiently waiting for my new couch to arrive and preparing for my sister's baby shower. I had also bought a couple of new appliances (a sweet Kitchen Aid dishwasher and an over-the-oven-microwave), installed new gutters, and cleaned up my horrendous backyard. Looking back, I realize now that I did quite a bit up front. Unfortunately that meant I exhausted my "home improvement" budget pretty early on. Therefore, other than buying a lawnmower, adding some weather stripping to the doors and planting a couple of flowers here and there not much in the way of home improvements have really happened in the cottage over the last 6 months.

Thank goodness it's another year and with it comes some extra fun money in the form of a government tax return. Yay for owning a house and getting money back! After paying off a couple of credit cards (Macy's you are the devil) I have a small pot of money to put into completing some much-needed house projects. Number 1 on the list was adding some insulation to the attic. I've known since I moved in that this needed to be done (it was noted in my home inspection) but after a year of ridiculously high energy bills and what is looking to be the beginnings of a hot summer I figured I would go ahead and get 'er done. So, Erik and I made a trip to Home Depot today and picked up about 20 bags of cellulose insulation and were able to rent the blower to install the insulation ourselves for free. We decided to go with cellulose because it is a "greener" option (made of 85% recycled material) and it is more fire-retardant than fiberglass. We also learned that rodents don't like it as much as fiberglass so that's always a good thing.

It took us two trips to get all the equipment back to the house but the set-up was pretty easy and once we got started it went pretty quick (I would say we did all 20 bags in around 2 hours). The process is a 2 person job--Erik was up in the attic blowing  the insulation while I stayed outside and loaded the bundles of insulation into the machine. I have to say that both jobs were quite messy and if you are attempting to do this at home do not ignore the warnings to wear a mask and safety goggles. This stuff is dusty!

My job was to load these 20 bags into the machine (right) while
Erik blew it into the attic

The attic before

Another before. It is recommended here in GA
that you insulate to the R30 mark. As you can see
we were nowhere close with the current insulation.

This paper indicated the last time insulation was blown in was in 1999.
I'd say it was about time for the update.

The machine at work. I unwrapped each bale and broke it into big chunks
which the machine then broke up into smaller bits.

Very dusty job, but unlike fiberglass this doesn't irritate your skin.
I also found it smelled like old books.

The attic after 20 bags of insulation. We are now close to the R38 mark!

Another after shot. So much better!
As you can see from the before and afters there is a significant improvement. I can only hope we put enough down and that we start seeing some lower energy bills soon. Fingers crossed!

Next up on the to-do list (currently in progress actually) is re-grouting in the bathroom shower and gluing back some loose tiles. This is just a temporary fix until we can get together some kind of guesstimate as to the cost of re-tiling the shower and floor because in addition to the shoddy work the previous renovators did (we have discovered rotting boards and some other construction errors) there are several cracked tiles that just look like crap.
Erik working on the tile

Gross rotting wood that will need to be replaced when we re-tile

Luckily Erik is pretty experienced with laying tile so in the end we should be able to do the whole re-tile fairly cheaply. I just need to decide what I want to put in (be ready for some tile selection posts in the near future). Fun, fun, fun!

So those are the top 2 things on the priority list right now. Other things we would like to do in the near future include re-painting the exterior of the house (the guy who did it so I could get FHA approval did a complete shit job but I didn't really have a choice in picking who did the work), fixing some woodwork on the laundry addition, cleaning up the flower beds in the front yard and building some raised beds for the backyard. I would also really, really, REALLY, love to build a patio or deck in the backyard but limited pool of money=only the necessities right now. Boo.

We've had some squirrels scurrying up into the roof of our laundry addition
so we are going to have to remedy this situation. Luckily this portion is not attached
to the rest of the roof so as far as I know we don't have any critters there. 

Broken board under the bathroom window

Dry rot and crumbling drywall under the loose board. Gross. 

Obviously need to fix this. Who knows what happened.

Just a little something the painter left. Nice, huh?

Erik plans on redoing this section of the roof on the laundry addition.
It looks pretty rough.

More shoddy paint work. Le sigh.

Had to sneak a Lulu pic in here. She kept me company  while
we were trying to get the insulation done. 
She brought me lots of sticks.

And there you have it. The state of my house as of today, March 24, 2012. Here's to lower energy bills and a newly tiled bathroom! (I hope!)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Reason #108: Why I Love My Boyfriend

Because we can exchange Valentines like these on Valentine's Day:

Erik's Valentine to me. Courtesy of this link

My Valentine to Erik. Courtesy of this link

Weird, yes, but strangely romantic. Don't you think? Nothing beats a Valentine greeting with the word "shit" in it--especially when combined with a cute and cuddly honey badger.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pinterest Recipe Reviews

I know I said back in January I would try incorporating some Pinterest inspired forays into the blog and so here goes the first of what will more than likely be many posts on this glorious website  (because I, like probably all  females with internet access, am addicted to Pinterest. Admittance is the first step right?).

*By the way if you don't know what Pinterest is click here (just don't blame me when you look at the clock and begin to wonder where the last 4 hours went. Just a friendly warning).

Two of my favorite categories on Pinterest are the recipe boards and the DIY boards because I love to cook and love to craft on occasion. Since I have been more successful in trying out recipes that is what I will be sharing today.

Because I'm trying to be healthy (re: back on Weight Watchers) I have been testing mostly low-cal recipes. The bulk of these have been dedicated to my new best friend quinoa. If you've never had quinoa before it is what they call a "superfood" which means it is a whole grain packed with all kinds of nutrients and protein. To me it looks kinda like couscous and you cook it pretty much the same way you cook rice. The best thing about it is that 2 cups of dry quinoa makes about 6 cups of cooked quinoa. So if you make a batch at the beginning of the week you can use it for all kinds of things throughout the week.  Simple and quick. Oh and I should mention that these recipes are all boy approved (Erik was forced to go vegetarian with me the week as I tried these recipes out).

*Just an FYI, all of these recipes can be found on Pinterest or you can click on the recipe name below and it will take you to the website that posted the original recipe.

Recipe #1: Quinoa Burgers--This recipe was delicious! I served the burgers with this creamy greek yogurt style dill and feta dip (made by Marzetti I believe) and they were amazing. Highly recommend.

Quinoa Burgers

Recipe #2: Quinoa "mac and cheese"--I had high hopes that this would satisfy my lusting for mac and cheese but alas, I was a bit disappointed. It tasted great but there really was no confusing this dish for old fashioned mac and cheese. I would say go ahead and try this recipe if the idea of quinoa and cheese excites you but if you are really carving mac and cheese just bite the bullet and eat the real thing. You will probably be much more satisfied.

Quinoa Mac and Cheese

Recipe #3: Broccoli, Cheese, and Quinoa Casserole--Another very good recipe. I added chicken to mine to add a little extra protein. It was filling and was very comfort food-like.

Quinoa Broccoli and cheese casserole

Recipe #4 (moving away from quinoa) White Bean dip--I made this dish as a healthy alternative to take to a superbowl party and I was very pleasantly surprised. It was very easy to make (uses two cans of cannelloni beans + various other ingredients) and had the look and consistency of hummus. I served it with the Special K crackers but it also tasted very good with baby carrots or you could even use pita bread or pita chips.

White Bean dip

Recipe #5: Lemon Dill Chicken Breasts--I made this last night for dinner and served it with whole wheat orzo and mixed veggies. I really loved the lemony-dill sauce that goes over the chicken. It has a nice flavor and for under 200 calories it was a very satisfying dish. Both Erik and I took leftovers for lunch today and it re-heated nicely.

Lemon and dill chicken breasts

Recipe #6: Slow cooker corn and potato chowder--So this recipe may not technically be healthy but it was damn good--especially on a cold winter night. Not to mention you make it in the crock pot which is the most amazing invention ever (well...almost). This is a must-make blog friends. Try it very soon and you won't be disappointed!

Potato and Corn Chowder

Well there you have it. I could go on but six is a nice even number so I'll stop there for now. Hope you enjoy these and let me know if you've tried any good Pinterest recipes lately.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Filing This One Under: "Yes, that really just happened"

Happy Valentine's Day all you friends, family members, stalkers, etc! Hope it is filled with flowers, candies, jewels, sweet cards, romantic moments, and lots of love.

My Valentine's Day agenda includes bowling this evening (Erik and I are members of a bowling league sponsored by my company. We even have our own custom made bowling balls! It's super klassy.) followed by me trying to force Erik into watching one of my favorite movies of all time: When Harry Met Sally. Or maybe we will watch something else I haven't decided yet. I have been joking the last couple of weeks about making him take me to see The Vow but then I don't really want to be THAT girlfriend dragging her guy to a sappy movie on Valentine's Day. So Erik honey, at least you lucked out on that one.


The real reason I am posting is to tell the story of how I realized this morning that I am fully capable of taking down criminals in my sleep (even if they turn out to be imaginary). This realization proves to me that 1) I need to watch less violent shows before bedtime and 2) you can feel like a complete badass and a complete dumbass at the same time.

Let's rewind to about 6:45 this morning.

I'm in the midst of a dream where I have just been robbed. Everything in my house is gone except for some things in my bedroom. I am pissed and completely freaked since this robber stole virtually everything of value that I own. All of a sudden I have this realization that I may have hidden some of my valuables in my closet so I am on my knees tossing things around before I happen to see that yes! I did hide away a few precious things.

Just when I have this realization I feel this thump to the middle of my back and the air rushes out of my lungs. I know immediately that the robber has come back and has just seen this secret hidden stash. In my head I am thinking "fight back" but at the same time I am hurt so I'm having difficulty moving. So with all the strength I can muster I roll my body backwards seemingly to hit the robber with my arm and try to hurt him when...


I find myself tumbling over the side of my bed and crashing onto my hardwood floors scaring the crap out of my poor cats (and myself for that matter). For a second I couldn't understand what was happening and I thought that maybe I had accidentally hit Erik when he was trying to kiss me goodbye as he left for work but thankfully he was nowhere to be seen. I may have muttered "oh god, oh god" a couple of times before I crawled back into bed a little bewildered by the fact that I had  believed what I was dreaming so much that I literally flung myself out of bed.

It's still one of those things that I am remembering now that seems so hazy and foggy like "did that really happen"? But oh yes, blog friends I am afraid that really did happen and I am pretty sure I will have the bruises to prove it later. The funny thing about all of this is that Erik was in the house when all this was happening but he didn't hear any of it. I can't decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing because I could have really hurt myself but it was totally mortifying when I realized what had actually happened as I was sitting on the floor. At any rate I told him that he should be careful because I am now prone to physical violence of suspected imaginary robbers in my sleep, to which he replied, "It's okay. I think I accidentally hit you in the face last night."

Now that's love.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Blue February

I have hit that point in the New Year where I just want to boycott life-as-usual. They say that the most depressing day of the year is about the 3rd Monday in January (“Blue Monday”) but this isn’t so much of a problem for me. Since my birthday is January 21st I am usually feeling pretty darn good come that Monday (we’ll see how that one changes as I get older heh). For me, Blue Monday was February 6th—and it has just carried on into the rest of the week. 

Right now I have ZERO motivation to do anything. I stayed home from work on Monday, I refused to go to my Weight Watchers meeting on Tuesday (mostly due to post-Super Bowl food guilt but it did feel strangely good and rebellious to boycott the scale for the day), and I just can’t seem to get my ass off the couch to make it to the gym. To top it all off I [willingly and/or stupidly] went and had a lipids profile done today only to find out that I definitely fall into the “needs improvement” category. Oh yeah and my cats have fleas (most likely brought in by the dog) which have been feasting on me as of late—so there’s that too.

Gross. Gross. Gross.

I have, however, managed to write this blog post so hooray for small victories?

Needless to say, I am ready for this week to be over and maybe try to dig up some motivation this weekend. Anyone else having a “blue” February so far? Any suggestions for perking up?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Post January Re-cap

So now that the hoopla of turning 30 is behind me it's time to focus on some real issues like who do these mortgage people think they are and why can't they estimate my taxes and insurance correctly??? But we'll get to that.

First, here are some photos of how my 30th birthday went down. The day involved horrific rain and thunderstorms (and more than 1 tornado warning)  here in Georgia along with Erik and I attempting to leave the house for a few hours to grab some breakfast, run some errands, and then make it to dinner reservations in the evening. It wasn't quite the day I had planned, but what can you do?

*Bear with me--all of these photos were taken on my iphone*

My parents surprised me with a dozen roses at work

Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes at Stone Soup Kitchen

One of my fave stores The Beehive in Edgewood was
having a warehouse sale just for my birthday (think Etsy in a store)! 

Scallops at Tantra Restaurant 

Erik and I after dinner--welcome to 30!
(I have a cake photo or two that I will post eventually when I stop being lazy and actually download pictures from the Nikon. My brother made me a super yummy red velvet cake that didn't last long between my friends, Erik, and I).

So now that I am 30 and officially an adult (haha) I had another first-time homeowner moment. I got a letter from my mortgage company letting me know that I had a shortage in my escrow account and that I owed them $102. They also informed me that my mortgage payment would go up and I had the option of it either going up $1.33 if I paid the escrow shortage in 10 days or $10 if I wanted to pay the shortage in 12 installments.

I'm dumb when it comes to stuff like this so I asked my older and wiser co-workers about it and they informed me that yes, this happens when the mortgage company does not estimate taxes or insurance payments correctly. Sometimes there is a shortage and sometimes there is an overage (and they cut you a check). I grumbled about it a little (c'mon peeps--get it right!) but I sucked it up and went ahead and paid the $102. It could've been worse I suppose but it was irritating that I had to spend money I wasn't planning on spending just so my mortgage payment could still be increased.

Guess this time around it is mortgage company: 1 and Ashley: 0. Guess I'll know better for next year.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thoughts on Turning 30

It’s Friday the 13th and among other potentially scary thoughts this marks the 8 day countdown to my 30th birthday. Hard to believe.

But as I sit here and reflect on this “milestone” birthday I feel more happiness than sadness in saying goodbye to my 20’s. This might be a strange thing to say considering most 20-somethings consider 30 to be “old” (I could include myself in that category. When I was 25, turning 30 couldn’t have been more frightening), but I can safely say that the older you get the less scary these things seem.

The new definition of scary to me now is trying to find that first job, struggling financially, and going through dating and relationship hell—all of which occurred in my 20’s. Sure I had a great time in college but there is a whole lot of uncertainty that comes with being young, immature, trying to assert yourself and determining just what you want from life.

I can’t say I have it all figured out now (not by any means) but I definitely feel as if I have a better grip on who I am and who I want to be as I enter into my 30’s and to me that is a very comforting thought. 30 isn’t old to me anymore, it’s the beginning of living my life as a fully capable adult.

If you were to ask me when I was 20 where I would be when I turned 30, I would’ve said that I would be married with at least one kid. As you readers know, neither of those things have happened to me and honestly I couldn’t be happier. I am so glad that I didn’t get married young (not to say there is anything wrong with that of course) because if I would have gotten married to the person I thought I should’ve married I know it would have more than likely ended in a bitter divorce and who wants that? I know way too many people who are my age and have been married/divorced and have kids in the whole equation and it’s just one big nasty mess. When people tell you that you should wait until 30 to get married it really is no joke—and I am not just saying this because that happens to be my current situation, I’m saying it because I have seen it first hand with people who are close to me.

But I digress.

So what am I looking forward to in my 30’s? Here’s the shortlist:
  1.  Being able to take care of myself financially
  2. Feeling comfortable and capable in my chosen career
  3.  Being in a relationship that is based on love, not selfishness
  4. Getting married and possibly starting a family
  5. Taking every opportunity to be the best aunt ever
  6. Traveling
  7.  Living healthier than I did in my 20’s
  8.  Finding balance with life and who I am as a person

I guess you could say that I’m an optimist. At the very least I hope that I can look back on this list when I am 40 and know that I set some goals and tried to live the last 10 years as meaningfully as possible.  It seems to me that the future doesn't appear so scary if you are hopeful.