Saturday, September 29, 2007

Breakfast At Laura's




We were invited to have breakfast this morning at the White House as guests of Mrs. Laura Bush. This was the second year we were invited to this event, and I have looked forward to it for quite a while! She hosts this breakfast as the kick off event for the National Book Festival. All of the authors that attend the National Book Festival are invited to breakfast. The guests included Jodi Picoult, Mercer Mayer, and Mrs. McLaughlin (Sarah Plain & Tall).



Breakfast was in the East Wing where a buffet was set up in the State Dining Room. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of it, but it was very glam! We ate miniature raspberry pancakes, mini croissants, smoked salmon hors duerves, eggs benedict, mini quiche, candied plums, assorted miniature danishes and sugar cookies in the shape of books. Yum!


After eating our breakfast in the Blue Room (last year we ate in the Red Room so we decided to switch things up...ha ha) we went into the East Ballroom to listen to remarks from the First Lady, the Librarian of Congress, and assorted authors. It was very fun!
After the event we lingered in the China Room and the WH Library (trivia: this is the room FDR gave his radio addresses from). I decided my favorite presidential china belonged to McKinley...it looks like something you could buy at Anthropologie. Also fun to see the china from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.


(President McKinley's china)



...and a peek at the Rose Garden on the way out.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

You're Going To LOVE Me For This!!

I debated about putting this recipe up for a long time. Selfishly I kind of liked the attention of being the best cookie maker around (since my cousin Jo shared this recipe with me). But then I talked some sense into myself...I mean it's not like I wrote the recipe...what right do I have to keep it from the world? So here you go...my early Christmas present to all of you:

The BEST Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 18 large cookies

These oversized cookies are chewy and thick, like many of the chocolate chip cookies sold in gourmet shops and cookie stores. They rely on melted butter and an extra yolk to keep their texture soft.These cookies are best served warm from the oven but will retain their texture even when cooled. To ensure the proper texture, cool the cookies on the cookie sheet. Oversized cookie sheets allow you to get all the dough into the oven at one time. If you are using smaller cookie sheets, put fewer cookies on each sheet and bake them in batches.

2 cups plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted & cooled until warm
1 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Adjust oven racks to upper & lower -middle positions & heat oven to 325. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Whisk dry ingredients together; set aside.
3. With electric mixer, or by hand, mix butter & sugars until thoroughly combined. Beat in egg, yolk and vanilla until combined.Add dry ingredients & beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in chips.
4. Roll scant 1/4 cup dough into ball. Holding dough ball in fingertips of both hands, pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join halves at their base, again forming a single ball, be careful not to smooth uneven surface. Place formed dough onto cookie sheet, leaving 2 1/2 inches between each ball.
5. Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft & puffy, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets. Peel from parchment when cooled

*Note: step #4 is very important...it sounds odd but this process makes it so that the cookies look kind of ragged on top...they will look like you bought them at a bakery!

I promise...you will never use another chocolate chip cookie recipe as long as you live.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Waiting On Pins And Needles

Our Sunday this weekend seemed like just a regular Sunday. Brendon and Nate got together to study Sunday evening, so I told Melanie I was going to come with Brendon so we could get some sewing and mending done together. The boys were out in the foyer of the apartment complex studying, and I was holding a pin between my teeth ironing a seam. Neither Melanie and I can remember what was said, but I must have said something exciting because the pin got sucked into my mouth and down my throat.

I looked at Melanie with wide eyes and she ran to the foyer to get our husbands. Brendon was a little scared, but mostly I think he was excited to have an excuse to drive like Mario Andretti to the emergency room.

I could still feel the pin in my throat. It didn't hurt...but I could feel it there. Brendon kept telling me not to talk or swallow in the hopes that it wouldn't move down deeper. It's much easier to resist swallowing when you're not concentrating on it. When we got to the emergency room Brendon tried to make them understand that maybe if a doctor saw me right away he could just simply pull the pin out since it was still in my throat. They called me into triage right away, but the woman in there insisted it was just lodged where it was and they would see me shortly. Shortly turned out to be a whole two hours later (at least they were playing "Remember the Titans" on tv). We finally made it to a room, but it was another hour before we were seen by anyone. Very busy emergency room!

We finally saw a doctor and he ordered x-rays. The wait in the x-ray line was another 45 minutes, and then another hour before the doctor came in to tell us about the x-rays. It felt like the pin was still in my throat (looking back it was probably just a scratch or something I could feel...because the pin was long gone from my throat). The doctors said they had poured over the x-rays and could not find the pin. There was something in my stomach but it was too small to be the pin so they assumed it was a glitch on the x-ray. They asked if I was sure I swallowed a pin. By now it was 2:30 am and I was exhausted and doubting myself so I started to wonder "did I not swallow a pin?" The doctors left to call the G.I. doctor (who Brendon insisted on calling G.I. Joe) and discuss with him what to do next.

All this time, much to my amusement, Brendon had been using the hand sanitizers on the wall every five minutes and shuddering at the thought of how many germs are in the hospital, proving to me that he has most definitely inherited the Lundberg paralyzing fear of germs.

At around 3:00 am the Respiratory Therapist came to give me a mask of Lidocaine to breathe to slightly numb my throat. Then the nurse, resident, and attending doctors came to administer the scope. The doctor warned me it would be "uncomfortable to say the least" and I would say that was a gross understatement. They doused the long black tube in Lidocaine gel and shoved it up my nose and it curved down my throat, stopping around the collarbone area. I had to use every ounce of concentration I could muster to not throw up on the doctors. They left the tube in there for minutes and they all looked through the camera at my throat; I thought I would get used to the feeling and it would be easier, but actually the longer it was in there the more I thought I was going to lose it. As they were pulling it back out I thought, "How embarrassing...I'm going to barf on doctors". Thankfully it was just dry heaves (probably because I'd had nothing to eat but a pin in 8 hours).

My Grandma Betty has a saying that my mom would always tell me to remind us to keep the Sabbath day holy: "Every stitch sewn in on Sunday, will have to be pulled out on Monday". But my mom and I always thought sewing was fun rather than work so we didn't really abide by Grandma's saying. But when Brendon called my parents to update them after the scope through my nose incident Mom said, "Every stitch sewn in on Sunday will have to be pulled through your nose on Monday". Good one Mom.

Anyway, they still couldn't find the pin, but they reassured me that I could probably just let nature run it's course. Only a rare 10% have problems passing things. I was so annoyed they hadn't told us this earlier...we wouldn't have sat for 7 hours in uncomfortable chairs in the emergency room if we had known. Still, they wanted to consult more doctors and run more tests.

The G.I. doctor arrived about 45 minutes later. He talked to us about the options, and let us know that they might just have to let it pass (if it was beyond the reach of their tools) but that there were possible side effects of that. If something went wrong with nature taking its course worst case scenario they would have to cut out parts of my intestines or I could die. Ha. Over a pin. He wanted to do a CAT scan and then possibly an endoscopy, and he left to call his attending for approval. He came back to inform us that the attending wanted to do an endoscopy and she was on her way into the hospital. He left us to wait.

A while later he came back to tell us that he wanted to do more x-rays, because he saw a spot in my stomach that looked like it could be the pin. He realized that the spot the doctors had seen earlier was most likely the pin, but it was rotated in such a way that it looked small. He said if that spot were in fact the pin, it looked like it was beyond their reach so he started giving me instructions as to what complications to look as nature took it's course. He said I would have to check my stool to look for the pin until I found it(AACK!!) and I would have to check in with my primary care physician for more x-rays.

So then we went back for more x-rays to see if we could get a better view of what might be the pin. When they got those x-rays back, they realized it was the pin and it was still in the stomach so they would be able to surgically remove it. Finally! A solution. They said after the surgery we would just have to hang around for an hour then we could go home. I was so worried about Brendon because by then I knew I was calling in sick the next day, but he didn't have that option with a big speech on Tuesday.

The attending doctor arrived and they prepped me for surgery. A nurse, two doctors, and two anesthesiologists; I looked around the room and felt so embarrassed that all these people were here at 4 in the morning because I swallowed a pin. The gave me the dreaded I.V. (I hate needles!) and then I was out.

When I woke up Brendon told me that during surgery they realized that the pin had punctured through my stomach and they wanted to keep me there for the day at least, maybe a few days, to monitor me. I kept saying "You're joking!" but after he said "beep" (a Merkley thing) I knew he wasn't lying. Darn! I was so looking forward to going home and sleeping!

Brendon said that I had been talking for quite a while as I was coming out of sedation, and that they all thought I was awake. He said any time a nurse or doctor would come in the room to ask how I was doing I would say, "Thank you! Thank you so much for everything." And I also told Bren "I love you" like fifty times before I finally came to. He was like "ok, ok I get it!" Ha ha. Apparently I'm a very loving, grateful person when I'm unconscious. What a nerd.

Brendon finally left after surgery (6:00 am) to get a two hour nap in before he had to be at work. The nurses promised me I would be moved to a hospital room by 7:00...8:00 at the latest. The room I was in had no t.v., and it seemed to be a storage room/passageway for every doctor and nurse in the hospital. I wasn't able to sleep because of that, I wasn't allowed to eat yet, there was no t.v. to keep me occupied, and my phone battery had died. I literally had nothing to do but twiddle my thumbs and read the labeled supply drawers (with the exception of Melanie's fun visit) until 1:00 pm when they finally found a room available for me.

They let me eat lunch around 2:00 (YAY!!!) and then discharged me around 4:30. Needless to say, by the end of the hospital stay I had heard more pin cushion jokes than I hope to hear in a lifetime.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Little Culture Infusion


Bren emailed me Wednesday wondering if I wanted to see La Boheme in the President's box seats at the Kennedy Center. We hesitated since we had just been to the President's box the week before and we weren't sure if we would like opera (and poor Bren is sick and not really feeling up to weeknight dates).


After much deliberation I told him I thought we should go so at least we could find out if we liked opera or not. I appealed to his frugal side by telling him we might as well try opera while it's free (as are the food and drinks in the President's box). Bren can rarely refuse a free date. And I am always up for ways to squeeze a little more culture into my redneck self :) Brooke will recall that when we were touring Europe we saw an opera house and I thought maybe we could go see Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables ... silly me!


Anyway ... La Boheme was not really what I expected, and nor do I think I am a huge fan of opera (let's just say I'll still pick a musical over an opera any day!) but I was pleasantly surprised that it was not nearly as boring as I had thought it might be. It was set in modern day and the costumes and set were very impressive, and of course the musicians and singers were beyond talented. All in all I am glad we went.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mix 'N Match

Brendon teases me because I have a bad habit of combining words and/or catchphrases. So far this week I've said "stringing me through the mud" (a combination of "dragging me through the mud" and "stringing me along") and "half-hazard" (a combination of "half-hearted" and "haphazard").

It's a quirk I have that I should work on fixing. But in my defense...I do get so much more meaning across in fewer words. :)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mahalo

Two of my best girlfriends (Brooke & Kayla) went to Hawaii last week...and they brought me back this adorable hawaiian pin cushion (and of course chocolate and caramel covered macadamia nuts...yum!). They know me so well! Thanks girls!




Friday, September 14, 2007

Baby Booties For Baby Gracie



I had a random urge to make make baby booties for my unborn niece, Gracie, yesterday.

I think they turned out pretty cute.

Click here for the pattern

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thou Shalt Not Covet

Too late. I've been coveting items in the J.Crew sale all day. I coveted a beautiful shirt the first half of the day, but I coveted too long and now it's gone. Sad story.


Now I've moved on to coveting this:





Please Brendon? If Fall has to come (which I am so not happy about) I might be happier in this...and a cute bright scarf!

And while we're at it ("it" being creating adorable Fall outfits)...these would match. Ok...ok...I'm getting carried away. Thou shalt not be greedy.



Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My Newest Creation

Just so you know I'm not a TOTAL dolt when it comes to sewing...here are some pictures of the dress I finished yesterday. Ironically, it was a harder pattern than the skirt, but I just breezed through it without any problems. Well, the pleats did give me some stress, as long as we're all being honest with ourselves :) But all it took was part of a "Sewing Saturday" afternoon with Melanie and part of two glorious real estate free evenings.


*Side note* - I decided this morning that, other than the obvious reasons like (1) I am not six inches taller and (2) fifty pounds thinner, I could never be a model. It would be so awkward! Just smiling in front of my husband while he took a picture of my new dress is super awkward. I only like to be in pictures with other people. He he.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Skirt That Tried To Kill Me

Last night I finished a sewing project that took way longer than it should have! Sometimes I just do dumb things that I cannot explain (like the way I got lost the other night going home because I thought I was smarter than Miss Garmin). Anyway...back to this skirt.

Piecing it together and cutting out the pattern was easy enough. When I got to the zipper, however, I had a few hangups. I spent no less than an hour trying to put in an invizible zipper like it was a regular zipper and topstitching around it. DUH! After ripping it out for the 3rd time I boinged my head and said "What are you doing, Taryn!?" Once I actually stopped being dumb, I put the invisible zipper in beautifully in about 15 minutes.

Error #2...after spending a good amount of time making a beautifully precise rolled hem at the bottom of the skirt I again boinged myself on the head and wondered aloud how I could possibly make two super dumb mistakes. Then I ripped out my work and did a more appropriate blind hem stitch in much less time than the incorrect rolled hem took.

Sometimes I just don't know where my brain goes. It takes little mini vacations without warning me.

Just so you all know, there is a happy ending to this story. I finished the skirt last night, and surprisingly it turned out great. Maybe one of the best items I've sewn. But I still am a slight bit resentful toward the skirt. Ha ha.


Friday, September 07, 2007

WYNONNA WE LOVE YOU!



*Parking at the Kennedy Center...$10

*Tickets to see Wynonna Judd in concert with the National Symphony Orchestra...$0

*Sitting in President George W.'s exclusive box seats at the Kennedy Center eating his favorite munchies (like boxes of M&M's with the presidential seal on them)...priceless.
Every once in a while Brendon gets Presidential box seat tickets from work to different events at the Kennedy Center and it's always a really great time. I love getting dressed up to go. I love handing our tickets to the usher and watching their faces light up as they see that we're sitting in the President's seats, and then they always make the same joke: "I think you'll prefer the right wing of stairs". The presidential box seats 12, so it's always fun to meet the other politicals attending. Usually everyone starts talking politics and my eyes kind of glaze over, so I head for the fridge to get some Milano cookies and Jelly Belly's.

This event was BY FAR the best I have ever seen at the Kennedy Center! Wynonna just has the most amazing voice ever - and so much of it. She had the cutest personality too...I didn't expect her to be so funny. One time she was singing "I Can Only Imagine" and she stood there for a while while the introduction kind of lapsed and she turned to the National Symphony Orchesta director and said, "Can you start over - I got a little too excited?" Ha ha.

She sang a lot of cover songs, and only sang about 3 or 4 of her own songs. It sounded so great though. She covered "At Last" and it fit her voice so well. She also sang "I Wanna Know What Love Is" and just belted it.

She seemed so excited/flattered to be at the Kennedy Center singing with the National Symphony Orchestra - like she had "arrived". She said she had only ever been here before with her son on a field trip, and when her concert bus pulled up this time her son was with her and he said, "Wow, cool Mom". Wynonna said she thinks it the first time he realized his mom is kind of cool. Ha ha. She also said, "Wow...the Kennedy Center. I wonder what Mom and Ashley are doing tonight" and she explained in a family like hers it's hard to top the other person and demand the attention at the dinner table. Ha ha.

I can't even explain how giddy I was to be there...like a kid in a candy store. Brendon kept laughing because every time he would look at me I had this HUGE grin plastered across my face. It felt so good to get back to my country roots. I was probably the only true redneck in that audience :) For her last song (the encore song) she sang "No One Else on Earth" - who would have thought it would sound so good played by an orchestra?! Anyway...in the middle of the song in true concert style she shouted "Sing it back to me". I think about 90% of the audience was cute little senior citizens with Kennedy Center annual tickets that had no idea who she was, so I was probably the only one singing the chorus back to her - but you can believe I was singing it as loud as I could. And Melanie was singing all the parts she could remember the words to.
All together it was a pretty amazing night!

video
video

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

We Heart Our Bank

We bank with USAA.com (rated #1 in customer service) and have just fallen in love! We used them to book our cruise last year and they were amazing and helpful, not to mention the best deal we could find. They completely refund our ATM fees, so we can withdraw from any ATM in the world without a fee. The list of things we love about them goes on and on...

Anway...last night Brendon checked our mail at like 10:00 at night (we were both exhausted from a long day at work) and he opens a piece of junk mail about car insurance with a promise for great rates. So at 10:00 at night he calls them up and spends half an hour on the phone (I find these kinds of phone calls torturous!) and then ends the phone call with a big smile on his face and says, "I knew it! We're getting a better deal with USAA!" At first I was confused...I thought he had been on the phone to find better rates on car insurance...but lo and behold he had spent half an hour of his precious free time answering dumb questions just to reassure himself that he is getting the best deal possible, not expecting them to have better rates that would convert him. I just couldn't believe it! He really is the king of comparison shoppers.

Tag...You're It

I was just reading Rissa's blog about being so happy to be tagged, and then when I got to the bottom I realized she'd tagged me. I guess I should be flattered since she considered it such an honor. It is kind of fun...but I'm kind of boring :) Here we go...

4 Jobs I've Had:
1. Realtor
2. Dance/Vocal Teacher
3. Janitor & House Cleaner (loved it!!)
4. Personal Shopper

4 Places I've Lived:
1. Phoeniz, Arizona
2. Rexburg, Idaho (brrrr)
3. Laie [Oahu], Hawaii
4. Arlington, Virginia

4 Foods I Love:
1. Chocolate Chip Cookies!
2. Tres Leches
3. Anything from "Top Thai" or "La Piazza"
4. Cafe Rio Pork Salad (toooo long since I've had one!)

4 Websites I visit:
1. USAA.com (we have the BEST bank ever)
2. Anthropologie.com
3. Thesuperficial.com
4. Drudgereport.com (just so I don't feel shallow after reading thesuperficial. ha ha)

4 Places I'd rather be:
1. Home in California...preferably on Lake Oroville
2. Visiting my niece and nephew in Phoenix
3. Backpacking Europe again
4. On a cruise...anywhere tropical

4 Movies I love:
1. Grease
2. Hope Floats
3. Pretty Woman
4. Gone With the Wind (more my favorite book...but it works)

4 TV Shows I watch: (not a big TV person...I'd rather read)
1. CSI
2. Law & Order
3. Designed to Sell
4. Army Wives

4 People I tag:
1. Melanie Williams
2. Brooke Berger
3. Melissa Stevenson
4. Ashley Hollis

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

One Last Hurrah

I have been very pouty/whiney about the fact that Summer is ending. I am not happy about it. This summer went by way too fast! Already the "no white after Labor Day" rule is in effect, and I feel like I didn't have enough days to wear white in the first place (good thing I'm not actually a fashion rule follower!)

To send out Summer with a bang this year, we went to Ocean City, Maryland with Nate & Mel and Jason & Rachel. We stayed in Nate's parent's beach front condo (thank you Kris & Bruce!!) and got some R&R in. We did lots of sunning and swimming, lots of reading and being lazy, and LOTS of eating! We rode some rides at the boardwalk, and got in our fill of greasy boardwalk fries and corndogs. We were all very bummed that we ran out of room in our bellies before we fit in funnel cakes and caramel corn. Maybe next time!




Rachel, Melanie & Taryn


Taryn and Brendon getting some thrills on the carnival rides.



Bruce and Kris lighting Brendon's candles. That is getting to be a lot of candles...they had a hard time lighting them all before they melted all over the cake. Ha ha. Jk Bren.