Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Virginia is for Lovers

This past weekend, the hubs and I took a trip to Northern Virginia. Instead of buying Mother's and Father's Day gifts, we decided to put the money into a get-away. I had researched the Blue Ridge Wine Way, so we had a plan to visit some of the wineries in the area. Before our trip, I ordered a Garmin GPS unit, now known as Louise, to assist us in navigating the Virginia countryside. Louise couldn't have been more helpful, despite getting a bit testy and insistent when we don't follow her commands. Before the trip, I had programmed all of the wineries into Louise. When we were ready for our next destination, I could look at my list of wineries and see which one was closest. It made it so much easier to get from one place to the next and plan our routes in a logical manner.

On Saturday, we visited four wineries. The first two shared the same owners. The third one was owned by a Greek fellow, Louie, who has been making wine since 1961. Some of the wines we sampled there differed from anything we've ever tried before. For example, way back when (I want to say the 1500s?), Grecians were traveling by boat between the Greek Isles and transported their wine in barrels lined with pine resin, creating a note of pine in the wine. Louie replicated this in one of his wines.

Our last stop was at a winery across from Louie's. While it wasn't listed on the Blue Ridge Wine Way, we figured that is was worth stopping. The wines were fabulous and the scenery breathtaking. We met the owner, Kate, who we learned from her new boyfriend is going through a bitter divorce. (Later at dinner, our server shared with us that Kate has supposedly stabbed her husband, but we were unable to verify this information via court records or local media sources.) Kate's boyfriend is also going through a divorce and seems to still be dealing with a lot of emotions related to it. We found out his youngest son is spending the summer in Fiji as a punishment for smoking pot. Fiji. That's a bitch. How did I learn all of this? Once I disclosed that I'm a therapist, the boyfriend just spilled his heart and soul out to me. I got a free glass of wine out of it, so all's well that ends well, right?

Then we headed to Sperryville, where we were spending the night at
Hopkins Ordinary B&B. The house and innkeepers, Kevin and Sherri, were delightful. Upon our arrival, Kevin asked if we had dinner plans and promptly made a reservation at the restaurant across the street. We had a tasty dinner on their outdoor deck.

The next morning, we had breakfast in the dining room. Kevin and Sherri served homemade muffins and three different kinds of frittatas, all made with fresh veggies and herbs from their garden. Shortly after we began eating, we were joined by another couple who shared that they were from the area and were enjoying a stay-cation in celebration of their 39th anniversary. They were a nice couple, but the wife was a bit odd. I think she can be summed up in one picture:

Since she and her husband were celebrating their 39th anniversary, she offered us newlyweds some advice: board your horses. Taking care of your horses on your own property is too much work. Ummm, OK. We don't have any horses. And even if we did, our 20'x14' yard would probably not be the best place to keep them.

After breakfast, the innkeepers asked what we were planning to do for the day. When they found out we were planning to check out some local wineries, they gave us a bunch of coupons and even a pass to get into a fairly exclusive winery. The pitchfork couple wife said she wanted to check out the pottery shop across the street. Sherri told her just a few yards farther, she'd find a yarn shop. I thought pitchfork wife was going to have an orgasm because she was so excited. She clapped her hands in merriment and shrieked, "Ohhhhh, myyyyyy, goooooodness!!!" Perhaps she was in the market to buy some yarn to knit sweaters for her non-boarded horses.

We headed out to the car to plan our route for the day. We wanted to be sure Louise was ready to take us to our first stop. Little did I know that I was about to experience one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.

Kevin came out to the car and said, "Is everything OK? Do you need directions anywhere?" We said we were fine and were just trying to decide which winery to visit first. Then Kevin said, "You left something in your room." "What's that?" I asked. "Your underwear," he replied, as he handed me a knotted shut plastic grocery bag containing said underwear.

Oh. My. Goodness. (This circumstance is much more deserving of an "oh my goodness" than finding out there's a yarn shop within walking distance.)

After that moment, we got the hell outta there. We toured several wineries and then headed back home. It was a fantastic weekend, and I highly recommend Northern Virginia as a vacation destination.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I'm not going to lie - I love to sleep. Even as a child, I never really fought my parents about going to bed because I was happy to visit the sandman. Although the experts recommend seven to eight hours of sleep for the average adult, I need nine to ten hours on most nights. When I was pregnant, particularly during the first trimester, I was so exhausted that I slept 10-12 hours each night and napped for three to four hours each afternoon.

I'm all for sleep. But it needs to happen only at appropriate times, yes?

Today I attended an all-day workshop to earn some continuing education credits to maintain my therapy license. During the opening remarks, the speaker disclosed that there were about 300 local teachers, counselors, nurses, and other professionals attending the conference. The focus of the conference was risky behaviors that adolescents engage in - drugs and alcohol, sex, eating disorders, and social networking. I found all of the presentations to be engaging and applicable to my work.

Apparently others did not.

I saw two women blatantly put their heads down and go to sleep. At a table with nine other attendees. In a room of over 300 people. And what takes the cake is a woman sitting across from me at my table. She fell asleep sitting in her chair and fell out of her chair! Yes - FELL OUT OF HER CHAIR! Who does that? She woke up when she hit the floor, and then chatter ensued around the room. I over heard one woman say rather loudly, "She fell asleep and fell on the floor," explaining what happened to her curious tablemates. Most of all, I felt badly for the speaker, who amazingly kept her composure during this disruption.

I have never fallen asleep in class, at a meeting, or anywhere else where I'm expected to be attentive. Other than as an infant, I have never fallen asleep at church. I can only think of two public places where I've caught some shut-eye: airplanes and buses. Because I am discretionary in my choices of where to sleep, I guess I assumed that other adults are too. I just couldn't believe grown, professional (and I use that term loosely) women thought that there was nothing wrong with going to sleep at a conference and were bold enough to put their heads right on the table! If these women are servicing at-risk teens, no wonder these kids continue to have problems. The people who are supposed to be serving as their mentors and role models don't even behave appropriately!

Enough for now. If I post this entry within the next four minutes, my sleep schedule will work out perfectly: two hours to read and watch TV and 10 hours to sleep. Woot woot!

Friday, June 4, 2010

What is a Justin Bieber?

For the past few days, The Today Show has been talking about Justin Bieber. Apparently, this Bieber person was coming to Rockefeller Plaza to put on a concert today. The cameras panned the sidewalks around the plaza to show tween and teen girls camped out with their perturbed-looking fathers just so they could be sure they got into the concert.

Perhaps I've been living under a rock (or I just have good taste in music), but I've never heard of this Justin Bieber person. I caught my first glimpse of him on this morning's edition of The Today Show, being interviewed by Matt Lauer. This kid is like 12 years old. And he has a bowl cut. A bad one at that. In his interview, he compared himself to the likes of Justin Timberlake and Usher. And then he disclosed that Usher bought him a Range Rover for his 16th birthday. WTF?!? Apparently the kid has driven it only once, and his mom had to be in the car with him because he only has a permit. Lame!

So, of course I had to to Google this Justin Bieber. I had no idea what songs he sings. And then I heard snippets of four of his songs. Oh. My. God. How is this kid such a sensation? He has NOTHING on New Kids on the Block, N' Sync, Back Street Boys, Justin Timberlake, or Usher. Yet dumb girls camp out for TWO nights - in the rain - to see this kid perform.

Perhaps what was most disconcerting is that when I was listening to the bits of Bieber's songs, the daughter was rocking out. She did some kind of version of the robot - no joke. This child has been raised with good music, yet she responded so positively to this teeny-bopper crap.


I guess what's most important is knowing that if you get in with Usher, you could get a Range Rover. I need to work on that.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Once Upon a Time, Anastasia Had a Party

Actually, it wasn't really once upon a time. It was just last weekend. And several of the party-goers have requested that I share the recipes from the fete. Some I just kind of threw together, so I'll give you a basic recipe, although I just do it to taste.


Sherry Vinegar-Marinated Shrimp Wrapped in Serrano Ham wiht Piquillo Dipping Sauce (from Bobby Flay)
3 T. sherry vinegar
1 t. Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 c. olive oil
1 T. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 lb. extra-jumbo (16-20 count) shrimp, shelled and deveined
Salt and pepper
12 paper-thin slices Serrano ham or prosciutte, sliced in half lengthwise
Dipping sauce (recipe follows)

1. Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, olive oil, and thyme in a large bowl. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Heat grill to high.
3. Remove shrimp from marinade and season with salt and pepper. Place shrimp on the grates of the grill in an even layer and grill until golden brown and slightly charred, 1.5 to 2 minutes. Turn the shrimp over and continue grilling until just cooked through, 45 seconds to one minute longer.
4. Remove shrimp to a platter and wrap each shrimp with a half slice of the ham. Serve with dipping sauce.

Piquillo Dipping Sauce
1 1/4 c. mayonnaise
1 T. sherry vinegar
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 piquillo peppers or 1 large jarred roasted red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 t. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
3 T. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Combine all ingredients except parsley in a food processor and process until smooth. Stir in parsley. Cover and refrigerate at least 15 minutes before serving. Sauce can be made 1 day in advance and refrigerated. Do not add parsley until ready to serve.

Baked Brie (from Food Network)
1 (7 to 8-inch) wheel brie cheese
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup sliced toasted almonds
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 sheets (12 by 18-inch) puff pastry
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Using a warmed sharp knife, or unflavored dental floss (See Cook's Note 1) cut the wheel of brie in half horizontally and separate the top half of the wheel from the bottom half. Sprinkle the bottom half of the brie with the dried cherries, toasted almonds, and brown sugar. Replace the top half of the brie and apply pressure to secure the stuffing. Working on a well-floured surface, roll out the puff pastry so that it will fully cover the brie. Place the brie in the middle of the puff pastry and fold the excess pastry around the wheel. Put the wheel aside. Roll out another piece of puff pastry and cut out a circle the same circumference as the top of the brie. Save the trimmings for decorations. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg on top of the brie in the puff pastry and place the circle on top. Brush the top of the circle with egg. Cut out decorations using cookie cutters or a small knife on top of the brie. Brush the entire top side of the brie with the egg and place the brie on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the pastry begins to turn golden brown, then turn the temperature down to 325 degrees F and bake for another 20 minutes. Serve on a pretty platter.


For the salad, I used bagged arugula and baby spinach. I tossed in pecans and walnuts, crumbled goat cheese, and Craisins. For the dressing, I put olive oil, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper in a jar. With the lid on, shake it until emulsified. You can also add herbs or garlic.

Pork Tenderloin (from Ina Garten)
1 lemon, zest grated
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 to 6 lemons)
Good olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Kosher salt
3 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each)
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, mustard, and 2 teaspoons salt in a sturdy 1-gallon resealable plastic bag. Add the pork tenderloins and turn to coat with the marinade. Squeeze out the air and seal the bag. Marinate the pork in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours but preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove the tenderloins from the marinade and discard the marinade but leave the herbs that cling to the meat. Sprinkle the tenderloins generously with salt and pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large oven-proof saute pan over medium-high heat. Sear the pork tenderloins on all sides until golden brown. Place the saute pan in the oven and roast the tenderloins for 10 to 15 minutes or until the meat registers 137 degrees F at the thickest part. Transfer the tenderloins to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Carve in 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices. The thickest part of the tenderloin will be quite pink (it's just fine!) and the thinnest part will be well done. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm, or at room temperature with the juices that collect in the platter.

Grilled New Potato Salad with Bacon and Buttermilk Dressing (from Bobby Flay)
2.5 lbs. small red new potatoes, scrubbed
Kosher salt
8 oz. bacon, diced
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 T. mayonnaise
2 T. sour cream
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 c. canola oil
3 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced

1. Put potatoes in a pot of salted cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender but not cooked through, about 8 minutes. Drain and let cool before cutting in half.
2. While the potatoes are cooking, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until golden brown and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. REmove to a plate lined with paper towels.
3. Whisk together the buttermilk, mayo, sour cream, and mustard in a large bown and season with onion and garlic powders, salt, and pepper.
4. Heat grill to medium.
5. Brush the potatoes on both sides with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the potatoes on the grill, cut side down, and grill until lightly golden brown, about 3 mintues. Turn the potatoes over and continue grilling until just cooked through, about 3 minutes longer.
6. Transfer potatoes to the bowl with the dressing, add the bacon and green onions, and toss to coat. Serve warm or cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.

Marinated Vegetables

This is one I don't use a recipe for. I chopped up yellow squash, zucchini, asparagus, and cremini mushrooms. You want all of the chopped veggies to be about the same size so they cook evenly. I put the vegetables in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped garlic, chopped fresh basil, and salt and pepper. They sat in the marinade for about 2 hours. Then grill them in a grill basket until done.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


The hubs has been at his current job just shy of four years. He began the job as a six month contract, and he was fortunate to have the contract renewed a number of times. It has been disconcerting, though, to see a number of people laid off each week because there were no new projects and thus no need for such a large staff. To give some perspective, the hubs' department began as a team of about 30 people, and it's now down to only seven. If you include turnover people, that's 108 total. So, the hubs was lucky to make it this far. Nonetheless, it's been pretty stressful knowing that he could be laid off any day.

The hubs went on a job interview yesterday. They called him today to tell him he was hired! Woohoo! The worries of a weekly menu consisting of PB&J and Ramen are no longer!

So to celebrate, we had a lovely dinner - a fancy steak sandwich. (Granted, this meal was planned and put on the weekly menu on Friday when I did the grocery shopping, but we can pretend it was a special meal planned in honor of the hubs' new job.) The recipe comes from Rachel Ray's 365: No Repeats cookbook. The hubs refers to RR as "the bitch," but even he enjoyed this meal.

Steak Sandwich...Knife and Fork Required
1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted, kept chilled
Salt and pepper
1.5 to 2 pounds flank steak
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
1 small bunch of thin asparagus
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 large bunch of arugula, stemmed, cleaned, and coarsely chopped (I used a couple handfuls of the bagged stuff)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Preheat a grill pan or outdoor grill on high.

With a sharp knife, cut the thawed puff pastry sheet into four squares, arrange on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Bake the puff pastry according to package directions, or until golden brown all over, about 12 to 15 minutes.

While the puff pastry is baking, season the steak with the 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Grill the meat for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove the meat and let it rest for 5 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. While the steak is cooking, trim the woody ends off the asparagus. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. As soon as the steak is off the grill and resting, add the asparagus to grill.

Grill the spears, turning frequently, until the asparagus is tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the asparagus from the grill and cut into 2-inch lengths.

In a bowl, toss together the grilled chopped asparagus, crumbled blue cheese, and chopped arugula. Season the mixture with balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Slice the steak thinly across the grain. Top each golden-brown puff pastry square with some slices of the steak. Top the steak with the asparagus salad and serve.
4 servings

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I'm back. Yes, it's been a few years. I bought a house, got married, had a baby, and all that jazz. But here I am. So for those of you who have been saying to yourselves, "Where the heck did Anastasia go?" this is your lucky day.

The most recent news in the life of Anastasia Beaverhausen is my first firing. Yep, I fired someone. I suppose I've never fired anyone before because I've never really been in charge of anyone. Well, unless you count the cleaning ladies that came to our house once. They didn't do such a good job, so I told their supervisor that we would not have them back. Not sure if that really counts as firing because I didn't say anything along the lines of "you're fired" or "termination effective immediately."

Anyway, my first firing was that of a nanny. Not a full-time nanny. The hubs and I provide the majority of the care for our daughter. But since we both work full-time, we thought it would be very responsible to hire someone to watch the daughter in our absence. Actually, before the nanny the daughter went to a daycare for four weeks, until we decided to pull her out of there after several incidents of diaper rash so severe that they required medical treatment and being fed cookies and crackers instead of milk. The daughter, six months at the time, hardly had teeth. Who would think that cookies and crackers were a good food option?

I digress.

So after we pulled the daughter out of daycare (that wasn't firing, right?) we were lucky to have some of our friends, such as Pretty, Pretty Princess Di, jump in to care for the daughter while we scrambled to find a new caregiver. We interviewed several candidates and decided on one, whom we'll call the nanny.

Things with the nanny started out great. Over time, though, it seemed that she was viewing her job as more of an inconvenience, despite the hefty salary she was being paid. The nanny made big bucks, especially considering the daughter slept about half of the time the nanny was "working." I put "working" in quotation marks because the nanny did very little. Unless you consider being on facebook, reading, and giving yourself manis and pedis work. The final straw was when the nanny left the daughter in her bed nearly four hours past the up-and-at-'em time. Unfed. The daughter hadn't eaten for 18 hours, but the nanny thought it would be better to leave her in her bed because she thought she was tired. Perhaps the nanny's nails weren't dry, so there was no way she could tend to the daughter. Who knows? Just a theory. Moreover, the nanny contacted the hubs' mother to defend her decision to let the daughter stay in the crib all day! Hello? Boundaries, anyone? Have you ever contacted your boss' mother because you were disgruntled about something at work? I doubt it.

So I fired the nanny. Sadly, it wasn't nearly as Donald Trump-like as it could have been. Rather, the nanny was given a clear and specific list of reasons why she was being terminated. Effective immediately. Yep, I said it. (Thanks PPP-Di for encouraging me to add that part.) The nanny's response was to un-friend all of our friends (most of whom the nanny had never met, yet she thought she'd like to be "friends" with all of them) on facebook.

We're glad to be rid of the nanny. We don't need that kind of drama in our lives. The daughter deserves better. I hope to never be in a position to fire someone again. Maybe Hallmark makes a card with Donald Trump on it, and when you open it, it says "You're fired!" That would be the way I'd go about firing people in the future. But hopefully I won't have to do it again.