Valentine’s Day 2014

Valentine’s Day was full of good food and love for us this year.  My mom gave us a heart-shaped egg cooker, so Friday morning Andrew fried us some heart eggs to go with our banana muffins from earlier in the week:

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I met my good friend Kate for lunch at The Daily (the restaurant where Andrew and I had our awesome date night last week).  Kate and I realized that, for various reasons, we’ve had lunch together on Valentine’s Day for the last three years.  New tradition 🙂  We went to The Daily because I really needed some more of those Brussels sprouts:

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Mmm 🙂

After work I went for a 30-minute run–the first in my new running shoes that I bought last week!  I’m not usually a pink girl, but these are the best shoes for me, and this is the current color.  It’s tough sometimes, but I never pick running shoes based on the look!  It was festive for a Valentine’s Day run, anyway.

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Friday was a beautiful day here–I’m pretty sure the temperature was in the upper 50’s when I ran, but not all the snow had melted yet.  It feels a little funny to run in shorts with snow on the ground, but I’m not complaining!

After my run I took a quick shower and was getting ready for our Valentine’s date when Andrew arrived home with these goodies:

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Beautiful flowers and all-natural chocolate:  he knows the way to my heart 🙂

We turned to the Frank Sinatra station on Pandora and began prepping dinner.  While cooking, we enjoyed some festive pink cocktails that were quite delicious: cranberry-pomegranate juice, passion fruit rum, and lime (plus tonic water for Andrew).  Amazing.

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We tag-teamed the cooking and ended up with this very tasty dinner: steak, garlic green beans, and baked sweet potatoes.

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(I only ate about half of that giant steak :)) 

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After taking our time and really enjoying dinner and good conversation, we started watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Netflix.  Neither of us had seen it, and it was so good!  Midway through the movie, once our food had digested some, we brought dessert to the living room:

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Dark chocolate fondue with strawberries, marshmallows, bananas, and rice crispie treats

We made the fondue in our Crock-pot “Little Dipper”– chocolate chips + almond milk + vanilla.  We plugged it in while we were making dinner, and it was ready to go by the dessert course!

Overall it was a fantastic Valentine’s Day.  Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, the day before V-day we did fulfill #4 on this list:

IMG_4104We built a very lovely snow woman in our neighbors’ driveway. 😀

Have a great Monday!

-How did you spend Valentine’s Day?
-What was the highlight of your weekend?

-When buying running shoes, how much does appearance affect your choice?

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A Valentine’s Day Survey

…because everybody likes taking surveys 😀  Feel free to re-post and answer for yourself…or answer any/all the questions in the comments section!

1. Valentine’s Day:  Love it, hate it, or something in between?
I don’t have super strong feelings towards the day.  If you have a significant other, celebrate together;  if not, it’s not a big deal.  I really don’t get the whole, “Singles Awareness Day” thing, and I didn’t when I was single either!  It’s like Mothers’ Day.  We childless women don’t turn it into “Childless Awareness Day”–the holiday simply doesn’t apply to me at this point in my life.

2. Most memorable Valentine’s Day you’ve had so far (good or bad)?
Two years ago Andrew had to have a minor surgery… on Valentine’s Day.  I spent the day in the waiting room, driving to the drug store, and playing nurse while Andrew came down from his pain medication high.  Yaaay. 😉  He did think ahead and bring me flowers and chocolate the day before.

3. Do you have a Valentine this year?  If so, who is it?
Andrew, my handsome husband.

Catherine & Andrew Storey

4. Favorite love songs (cheesy or not)?
“I’ll Stand by You” by The Pretenders
“(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” by Bryan Adams
So good.  So cheesy.  Don’t care.  😀

5. Worst pickup line you’ve ever received or used?  (And did it work?)
-A (very inebriated) guy walked up to me at a bar one time and said, “We’ll have to think of a different story to tell the kids.  We don’t want them to know we met at a bar.”  It didn’t work.
-My junior year in college I was studying at Panera one afternoon, and a guy walked up to me and said, “Excuse me, I don’t usually do this, but I was just noticing you from across the room…”  Once I realized he was serious, I was flattered and went on a date with him.

6. What’s your favorite gift to receive on Valentine’s Day?
Flowers.  Cliche?  Maybe, but I love flowers.  Chocolate is a close second.

7. If you were a conversation heart, what would you say?
I think I’d just be a winky face:  “;-)”

8. Favorite flower?
Tulips.

9. Favorite candy?
I’m a chocolate girl.  I love anything mint chocolate or sea salt caramel chocolate.  Mmm…

10. Most meaningful way someone could show you they love you?
Quality time.  Simply taking time to do something with me is better than any gift in my book!

11. How are you planning to spend tonight?
Andrew and I are having a nice dinner at home–we are making steaks, sweet potatoes, and green beans, with chocolate fondue for dessert!

IMG_4043Rice Krispie treats for the fondue… but we may have already eaten a few 😀

Happy Valentine’s Day!

-Tell me your answers to any or all of the questions above!

10 Good-for-Your-Heart Valentine’s Day Ideas

Valentine’s Day is approaching quickly, but who says it has to include huge, artery-clogging dinners and blood-sugar-spiking desserts?  The way I see it, the day is about spending quality time with your significant other.  Here are 10 ways to strengthen your love and your heart this Valentine’s Day:

1. Take a new-to-both-of-you class together at the gym.  Last year Andrew and I tried a yoga class on V-Day (well, technically the day before V-Day).  We had a great time laughing at ourselves because we were both horrible, and it was the start of healthy routine that we both really enjoy now.

2. Take a walk together at a local park.  V-Day is on a Friday this year, so this is probably a Saturday activity unless you both happen to have the day off work.  Hand-holding is optional, but recommended.

3. Visit an indoor trampoline park.  These places are popping up all over the country, so chances are there is one near you (we have two in Richmond now.)  Jumping on trampolines is an insanely good workout and so much fun.  For any guys reading this, make sure you know your girl before surprising her with this;  while I would enjoy it, I realize that some girls need something slightly more romantic.

4. Build a snowman in your neighbors’ driveway after dark.  This is a personal favorite of ours any time it snows, and there’s a good chance we will have snow on the ground Friday!  Building a snowman requires some physical exertion, plus, doing it sneakily is inherently fun and gives you a bonding experience.

5.  Run a Valentine’s 5-k together.  Festive.  Good for your heart.  Good for your relationship.  Bonus points if you run in coordinating costumes.  (I don’t foresee Andrew ever wanting to do either the running or the costume part of this.)

6.  Cook dinner together.  Chances are you’ll cook something far healthier than what you’d order at a restaurant, plus it gives you the shared experience and probably costs less than going out.  Cooking dinner together has my vote every single Valentine’s Day (Andrew, you’re welcome.)

7.  Go ice skating.  It’s a classic winter activity with lots of potential for romance–hand-holding, leaning on each other for balance, helping each other up when you fall, etc.

8. Go to your husband’s basketball game and sit in the bleachers with the other wives.  Wait, don’t plan on that.  That’s what we did last Valentine’s Day.  If you have an activity like this scheduled for Friday, maybe plan something special for Saturday instead. 😉

8.  Take a cooking class together.  Preferably one that utilizes a lot of whole, fresh ingredients and not a deep-fryer.

9. Go skiing or snowboarding.  Bonus romance points if this is out of town and you book a cabin for the weekend.

10. Go dancing.  Even if it’s just the two of you in your living room.

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Andrew and I are planning to cook dinner together, and we will probably play in the snow at some point if there is any on the ground. 😀

Have a great Wednesday!

Do you have any heart-healthy activities planned for Valentine’s Day?
-Anything you’d add to the list above?

Snow Day Cookin’

Greetings on this beautiful, snowy morning!  Is anyone snowed-in, legitimately or otherwise?  Richmond is notorious for shutting down at the first suggestion of flurries.  I was thrilled this morning to see that my office is closed today; sure, we only have about two inches of snow, but I gladly rolled over and fell back asleep!

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Yesterday was my day off, and I don’t know if it was the cold temperatures, anticipation of the snow, or procrastination of the cleaning projects I’d planned to do, but all I wanted to do was cook delicious food!  And cook delicious food, I did. 🙂

First up was a batch of Raspberry Orange Muffins:

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I started with this basic muffin recipe from 100 Days of Real Food, but used gluten-free flour rather than whole wheat.  I used a cup of chopped, previously-frozen raspberries and mango-orange juice in place of the regular OJ.  Delicious.  They aren’t super sweet, but they are healthier than your average muffin.  Each one of these guys contains roughly:

-150 calories
-5g fat
-3g protein
-2g fiber
-5.5g sugar

Not bad!

Next up was dinner, and I was feeling ambitious.  For the first time in my life, I cooked a whole chicken.  You culinary pros are probably thinking, Yeah, so?, and my vegetarian friends probably just closed out this window (sorry, guys :)), but this was a big deal!  As someone who regularly reevaluates her stance on eating meat (you can expect a post about that in the near future), this was huge.  Aaand it was delicious.  I mean, seriously… how beautiful is this? :

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I basically used this recipe from The Pioneer Woman.  Inside the chicken I put a lemon (quartered) and about four cloves of garlic (crushed).  After looking at a few other recipes I decided to cook it at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400 degrees.  I took the chicken out of the oven after it had been on 400 for an hour just to check it, thinking it would need more time, and the internal temperature was slightly above where it was supposed to be, so I just let it rest!

With the chicken we had roasted beets, carrots, and red potatoes with rosemary

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When Andrew came home from work, the chicken was in the oven, and I was prepping the veggies.  He peeked in the oven, and was clearly surprised/impressed.  Because we still had about an hour to go until everything would be ready, Andrew decided to go to the gym for a quick workout.  When he walked back in the door, he was holding these:

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Me:  Flowers?? And wine??  What are these for?

Andrew: You made such a fancy dinner, and I wanted you to know that I appreciate it.

Me: I don’t know if it’s that fancy; I just felt like cooking!

Andrew:YOU COOKED A WHOLE CHICKEN!  That’s FANCY!

Love that guy. 🙂

So we ate our fancy chicken and roasted vegetables, and we drank our fancy wine, and we watched our fancy show, The Biggest Loser.  (Okay, I may be overreaching with my use of “fancy” ;-)).

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Andrew’s taste-test of the chicken went something like this:  “That’s good.  Whoa.  That’s like really good.”  I must say, I was not at all disappointed by how it turned out either!

Now that we have enough food to last us a few days, I’m afraid I actually have to use this snow day to do some house-cleaning…after I go to the gym, perhaps. 🙂

-Any snow outside your window today?
Have you ever cooked a whole chicken?

The Weekend: Family, Vegetables, and a Police Report

What a weekend!  I may need a few days to recover from the busyness.

I kicked things off Friday evening by filing my first police report after being stalked in the grocery store and parking lot.  I’ll write a full post on this either later today or tomorrow, but suffice it to say that it was a very scary experience, and I’ve been a little bit on edge ever since.

On Saturday, we held a memorial service for my grandmother, and it was all that we wanted it to be.  After the service and wonderful reception put on by the Bereavement Committee at church, family gathered back at our house.   We had a veggie tray with a lot of goods from our garden, as well green salsa that Andrew made from our tomatillos!  It was a lot of fun to show off the garden to our family members who had heard about it but never seen it.  After the weight of the day, it was so nice to relax with family, share the Grandma Tudor stories that weren’t appropriate for non-family, and laugh.

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The nieces and me before the service 🙂

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My brother and brother-in-law passed out in my living room 😀

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Andrew, Ross, and my dad in the back;  Aunt Ann, Kendall, Lauren, Whitney, and me in front (Charles behind the camera!)

On Sunday, we slept in and skipped church (I know.  Sometimes you just need to be a recluse for a day, and yesterday was one of those days for me.)  Andrew and I went for a walk, then spent a few hours working in the garden–harvesting, weeding, pruning.

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We finally harvested our beets and carrots and had a good laugh about it:

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Five tiny carrots and a toothpick, and a bunch of beets… the largest of which is roughly 1.5-inch in diameter 😀
(Side note: I just started using Instagram!  Follow me @ctstorey)

You win some, you lose some, right?  Well, what we lost in root vegetables, we are winning in squash, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers…

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Yesterday’s harvest (minus the beets and carrots) + the crazy-tall tomato plants (those are 6-ft stakes!)

After gardening, lunch, and a few episodes of New Girl, Andrew went to the gym, and I stayed home to lift weights in the living room (again, the recluse thing.)

In the evening we went to Bonefish Grille to celebrate my mom’s birthday!  We love Bonefish.  Four of us split an order of Bang-Bang Shrimp (which I’d never had before because I always go with Andrew, and he can’t eat it… it’s delicious!) and an order of Saucy Shrimp.  (My mom’s friend Bill then ordered another Bang-Bang Shrimp for himself…before his entree. ;-))  For dinner I had the grilled scallops and shrimp with steamed broccoli and garlic whipped potatoes.  Mmm. 🙂

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We loved celebrating with my mom (and we missed you, Whitney and Charles!)

The weekend was a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but held more smiles than tears.  I was able to see so many of my favorite people all at once, and for that, it was awesome. 🙂

What did you do this weekend?
Any tips for growing full-sized carrots and beets? 😀

Celebrating Grandma Tudor

Yesterday we had a service to celebrate the life of my grandmother, Sarah Tudor.  The spirit of the day was precisely what we’d hoped it would be, and I am tremendously grateful to all who helped make it happen and all who attended!  My dad, aunt, brother, sister and I all spoke, plus a former neighbor who was like a daughter to my grandmother.  Based on my emotional stability when writing and rereading my speech, I felt fairly confident that I would not make it through the talk without going into ugly-cry.  Thankfully, I was only a little shaky at the beginning and the end.  (I think the pep talk Andrew gave me in the car on the way there helped:  “You just need to lock it up.  You feel those tears coming, just lock it up.” ;-))

Here’s what I said at the service, for anyone interested:

Many of you who knew Sarah Tudor probably knew her as the hardworking CARITAS leader, or a committed Sunday school teacher for the Mastin class– always willing to help where she was needed, always feisty enough to get the job done.  I am fortunate to be one of the few who knew her as “Grandma”, and, as my Aunt Ann said recently, “Of all her roles, I think ‘Grandma’ was her best!”  (So, my apologies to most of you in this room for not getting to know her at her best. ;-))

Although she was only “Grandma” to a few, it’s clear to me that she loved anyone standing in front of her with the same sacrificial love that Christ speaks of in John 15:12—“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  From the time I was an infant, she did just that for me, my brother and sister, and as I’ve learned over the years, countless others. 

When I was a baby and both my parents had to work, my grandmother moved to Richmond to be our full-time nanny.  One of my earliest memories of her was during my nap time as a toddler.  Years later, she’d tell me what a good baby I was, but I distinctly remember her holding me, rocking me in a chair, trying to sing me to sleep.  I would lie still on her chest for a minute, then lift up my head and ask if it was time to get up yet.  Time after time, she would tell me, “Shh…just rest,” and continue to rock me, but never leave me alone. 

On school days throughout my childhood, Grandma Tudor would drive to our house early in the morning, start a load of laundry, wake us up for school, cook us breakfast, pack our lunches, and see us off to the bus stop.  After school she’d fix us snacks, help us with our homework (sometimes more than others—like in second grade when my dad made me rewrite my paper on James Monroe, after correctly suspecting that the 5-page, single-spaced one I turned in may have been mostly Grandma’s work.)  Most days she’d cook us dinner before our parents arrived home.  It wasn’t until middle school that I realized other kids ate cereal for breakfast because their grandmothers didn’t make them pancakes, eggs, cinnamon rolls, or whatever else my grandma made us at 6:30 in the morning.  The love she showed by serving us was just a normal part of life for me, and at the time I didn’t realize how special that was or what an impact it would have on my life.

But as sweet as Grandma Tudor was, she had equal parts sass and wit, and she was fierce in her convictions.  Intentional or not, she was always making us laugh.  Even today I have friends who, when we get together, say, “Tell me a Grandma Tudor story!”  So in the spirit of making this a time of celebration and remembering the happy times, I have a few Grandma Tudor stories to share with you:

-One year when I was in college, the family had gathered for Grandma’s birthday.  All weekend she’d been talking about cake, “There probably won’t be a cake.  No one needs to make me a cake.  We don’t need to make a big deal about my birthday.  Oh, I hope no one goes through the trouble of baking a cake for me.”  So after dinner that night when we brought her cake out and sang to her, she said, “My, my, my…there IS a cake.”

-Later that night my sister and aunt were discussing their Pashminas—hand-woven, fine fabric shawls.  I didn’t have one, and neither did Grandma Tudor.  After they spent a few minutes saying how great they were, how everyone needs one, and so on, Whitney said, “Mine isn’t real;  it’s just a lookalike.”  At that, Grandma Tudor leaned close to me on the couch and whispered, “Hers isn’t even a real cashima.”

-Grandma was above many of the frivolous things in life, and not afraid to say how she felt about them.  A few years ago when the social networking website Twitter had just emerged, she asked my brother, “Ross, are you on the Tweeter?”  We chuckled a bit, and Ross said, “No, Grandma.  I’m not on the Tweeter.”  Then, with no trace of a smile, she looked each of us in the eye, back and forth, conveying the seriousness of what she was about to say, and said, “America… is going to Hell.”

-When Andrew and I had been dating less than three months, our family gathered in Raleigh to celebrate my niece Kendall’s 3rd birthday.  Grandma had met Andrew prior to this and liked him very much, though she never could retain his name and called him, “What’s-his-name.”  With all the family and Andrew gathered, Grandma said, “So Catherine, when’s the wedding?”  I laughed and said, “Well, Grandma, we just started dating.  We really aren’t thinking about that yet…”  She looked at me, in complete disbelief at my insensitivity, and said, “Well, I’m not going to live that much longer!”  How dare I?

She did live that much longer, and she made it to our wedding two years later.  In the months leading up to the event, when Alzheimer’s had set in, whenever we’d speak on the phone she would ask about the wedding.  “I can’t wait for the wedding!  Is it this week?”  “No, Grandma, not this week.”  I wasn’t sure she knew exactly who I was, but she could associate my voice with the upcoming wedding.  When the day came, Grandma Tudor arrived at the site while I was getting ready.  My hair was done, complete with a veil, but I was still in my regular clothes.  I went out to meet her, and when she saw me, a look of delight crossed her face, and she said, “Oh, I didn’t know it was you who was getting married!”

It meant the world to have her present at my wedding.  The woman who rocked me until I fell asleep during naps, who would cook to order whatever I wanted for any meal, who sent me $5 bills when I was in college with notes to, “Buy myself a latte or something,” who spoiled me in every way for as long as she was able…  Grandma Tudor loved deeply and actively—her family, friends, and anyone she met.  She showed her love by putting herself aside to serve.  I know people tend to become “sainted” when others speak of them after they pass away, but Grandma Tudor really was this awesome.  A coworker told me this week that he used to call her “Mother Theresa,” and he was not the first person to draw this parallel.  I know that my life and the lives of so many others are not the same because of the constant love she demonstrated. 

Although I miss her tremendously, I know she is free and dancing with her Heavenly Father these days, and for that, I cannot be sad.

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Family gathered at our house after the service…I love these people so much! ❤

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My daddy and me 🙂
(My hair was flipped over my shoulder in this photo, but it looks like I had it chopped off;  seeing it that length, I may actually get it cut…)