July 31, 2012

Music, Movies & Munchies

The past two weeks have been crazy busy - but in a good way!  Work has been nuts and the weekends have been even more packed!  Two weekends ago I went to see the newest Batman movie 'The Dark Knight Rises' - we saw it in IMAX and even for someone who is not a huge Batman/DC Comic fan it was super entertaining!

 The following week started an intense week of concerts that included Conor Oberst at the Egg, Sharon Van Etten at Club Helsinki in Hudson, NY and then this coming Wednesday it is back to the Egg for Brandi Carlile!  This intense concert week is the first of two that will be happening over the summer!
Pre-concert dinner at Franklin Tower in downtown Albany - right across from the SUNY administration building.

Sharon Van Etten at The Egg
Conor Oberst at The Egg
  The show was awesome!  I had never really listened to either of the artists but now I am definitely a fan of both Conor Oberst and Sharon Van Etten!  The following Sunday we headed down to Hudson, NY to see Sharon Van Etten solo at Club Helsinki.  It was awesome to see her with a full band and performing a full set.  Here are some pictures!

Sharon Van Etten and her band at Club Helsinki
Not completely sure what type of instrument this is - but it sounded interesting!
 Tomorrow we see Brandi Carlile at The Egg which I am SUPER excited about!  That will end week one of intense concerts, of which the next one does not happen until September.

Other happenings as of late include manicures, pedicures and fro yo with a super cool 15 year old (yes there are super cool 15 year olds), completing  my Cornell University Benefits Practitioners exam for the second time, watching the Olympics pretty much non-stop, heading to Rochester, NY at the end of the week for work and becoming addicted to the Showtime show 'Homeland'.

Here are a few other pictures from the past week:
Historic church in Hudson, NY
Thank you co-worker for having awesome iced coffee making skills and providing it at just the right time during a stressful day!

I also mentioned 'cooking' in the title because over the past week I made two fabulous new creations and a few classics such as spaghetti and homemade meat balls, crock pot chicken and of course some mac and cheese.  

First up is a Warm Bean Dip which served as a great appetizer for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics!

Warm Bean Dip
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
2 cans of refried beans
1 of taco seasoning
1 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded monterrey jack cheese

Combine the refried beans, taco seasoning, cream cheese and sour cream and place in an 8 x 8 pan.  Top with cheese and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.  Serve with chips!  Yum!

 The second thing I made was an overnight french toast casserole!  It was super sweet and had the texture of a creme brulee; definitely not something for the everyday but very good nonetheless!

Overnight French Toast Casserole
1 stick {1/2 cup} butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 loaf French Toast bread
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
White sugar, to taste
Cinnamon, to taste

Melt the butter and combine with 1 cup of brown sugar, place the mixture at the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 pan.  Place the first layer of french toast bread on top of the butter/brown sugar mixture (about 6 slices of french toast bread), set aside and in a large bowl combine the 4 eggs, milk and  some cinnamon.  Pour half the egg mixture over the six pieces of bread and then top with some brown sugar and cinnamon.  Place six more slices of french toast bread over the original six and top with the remaining egg mixture and even more brown sugar and cinnamon.  Cover and let sit overnight in the fridge.  In the morning bake at 400 degrees for approximately 45 minutes.  Enjoy!

I failed to take my own picture so here is a picture from the website where I found the recipe.
Happy Tuesday!!

July 19, 2012

Things That Are Super Cool - Lately

This is the second edition of a post entitled 'Things That Are Super Cool'!  It's pretty self explanatory (and I may try to keep it up on a regular basis) but basically it is a combination of the little things that are happening in my life  that make me happy.  
So here we go!

Movies are pretty cool right now.  Tuesday night I saw 'Savages' - a movie that I would not ordinarily see but I was very happy that I did.  I would give it 1 and 3/4 thumbs up!  It was directed by Oliver Stone (of 'JFK' fame) and you could definitely tell.  It has some twists and turns, some pretty gruesome scenes (can you say an eyeball being taken out of its socket by a whip) and a good ending!  Definitely worth going to see or renting when it comes out on DVD.

I will also be going to see the new Batman this weekend - in IMAX - I'm pretty excited and I'll be sure to report back!

Working from home
 Working from home every now and then is really great!  About once a week (typically Thursday mornings) I try to work from home.  It is a great way to "sleep in", do work from my chair and a half while drinking coffee and just get a break from the general craziness of the ADC.  Working from home gives me a chance to catch up on my case notes, make calls without being interrupted and organize my work life.  And who doesn't love being able to work in their pajamas!

 Two big openings are happening in Albany within the couple of two weeks.  We are getting a NY style Jewish deli called Nosh and a Trader Joe's!  The deli is within walking distance of my apartment and it promises to be authentic and amazing - I'm definitely looking forward to giving it a try.  

Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE LOVE LOVE Trader Joe's and that I have been waiting for one to open in Albany.  For the past three years I have made the drive to the nearest TJs in South Hadley, MA many times or made it a point to stop at a TJs when I was out of town, but now I will only have to travel a few miles down the road!  Albany's very own Trader Joe's opens August 3rd and I could not be more excited!

 My new apartment is awesome - I absolutely love living here!  My old apartment was fine but I never realized how much light I didn't have until I moved here - now I have big windows and a bunch of them!  I am also on the second floor (previously I was on the ground floor) which not only makes me feel safer, it's quieter and I can also leave my windows 'open'.  My new apartment also has an office which is great for when I work from home, newer kitchen appliances and (in my opinion) a better location - and about $200 cheaper a month!

 Work is not always super cool - I have challenging clients, a supervisor who I have my differences with and I deal with a very sick yet very entitled population, but in the grand scheme of things I know I am doing good work and that makes what I do 'super cool'.

Having A/C right  now is pretty much the best thing ever.  It has been HOT and DRY up here - which is not the norm.  Most houses and apartments do not have central air and either rely on window units or no A/C at all.  Typically A/C is not needed THAT much in Albany - you may have a few hot weeks during the year, but it's nothing like what we are currently experiencing.  For that reason I A/C is super cool at the moment!  

So those are some things in my life that are 'super cool' right now!  
Happy almost weekend!

July 16, 2012

Carly Came To Town

One of my best friends from college, the fabulous Ms. Carly Morse came to town this past weekend and we had a blast!  Many nights were spent out on the town, we did some shopping and even hit up the "beach" (read: lake) at Lake Taghkanic State Park.

Our weekend in pictures!
Carly in a shoe.
Me in a shoe.
The Albany Pump Station for dinner!
Waiting to  be seated for dinner.
Visiting the Empire State Plaza.
Night out #1 on Lark Street - Lark Tavern
Cafe Hollywood
Apparently I look good in 'hats' or at least so said the man buying us drinks!
Saturday at Lake Taghkanic with a stuffed moose lifeguard - obviously a picture needed to be taken!
Lake Taghkanic
Or as Carly would say ... New York's version of a beach ... a lake.
Us at the beach!
Being gangster at the beach!
Night out #2 on Pearl Street - Carly dressed me!
Typical/pre - going out picture!
And Sunday we went to hot yoga, did a little shopping and I got my hair cut!
 Such a fun weekend!  Thank you Carly for gracing me with your presence!

July 5, 2012

Fabulous Fourth

Yesterday was awesome - pretty much one of the best days ever!  The most 'disappointing' part of the day was the morning; I ran the Saratoga Firecracker 4 Miler and it was more or less just a rough experience all around.  I will admit that I did not train for this race like I should have, I signed up on a whim and figured it wouldn't be too bad, well ... I was wrong.  It was VERY hot and VERY humid so between the heat, humidity, my lack of training and a couple other factors (such as either very warm or no water at the water stations) the race was not my best performance.  Oh well - there's always next year and I will be sure to be better prepared for my next race.

After the race we walked around Saratoga Springs, which is an awesome, yet very pricey town.  Main street was hoppin' after the race and they even had a little 4th of July parade.  After walking around downtown I was treated to a tour of Skidmore College which is also in Saratoga Springs and has a very pretty campus.  After completing the tour we headed back to Albany for some lunch, a shower and a little relaxation before the second part of the day.

For the rest of the day we headed down to Kinderhook Lake which is down near Hudson, NY for a cookout and an awesome time on the lake!  There was a fabulous mix of people at the lake house and we ended up chatting, eating, swimming in the lake and boating.  Get ready for an excessive amount of boating pictures! 
Kinderhook Lake!
Boat wake.
Cute houses along the lake.
Approaching a bridge/tunnel.
Look closely, it says 1914.
Adam on the boat.
Me - obviously very excited to be on a boat.

After a day of running, boating, sitting in the sun, swimming and eating lots of good food - by the end of the day I was completely spent.  The idea of going to see the fireworks in downtown Albany crossed my mind but we opted for watching the Washington D.C. and NYC ones on TV.  All in all - a pretty fabulous 4th of July!

July 2, 2012

A Week In Review

Last week was busy but also a lot of fun!  The week was kicked off by a Valley Cats game (Houston Astro's rookie league team) vs. the Lowell Spinners (Boston Red Sox affiliate), the night was awesome and the game was pretty good!  
Valley Cats
We had pretty good seats - second row on the first base side dugout.
Mr. Kirkman
That day I was also surprised with tickets to the Brandi Carlile concert on August 1st at The Egg.  Brandi Carlile is awesome and I really wanted to go to the show but the tickets were somewhat pricey and I had just been putting off purchasing them - well someone was listening and I am so excited for the show!

Friday I closed out my old apartment.  I have been moved out for about a month but I had been putting off doing the final cleaning and clearing out the few things that remained.  So Friday I went over, finished cleaning and turned in my keys - but not before enjoying the pool for one last time (with my kick butt new bathing suit)!
 And since I was surprised with those awesome Brandi Carlile tickets I was agreeable to making a requested dinner - lasagna, but not just any lasagna - meaty and what I like to call an 'epically epic lasagna' and boy was it good!  The recipe inspiration came from The Pioneer Woman which is an awesome website for food and beyond.  

Here's how it went down:
 1 pound Ground Beef 
1 pound Hot Breakfast Sausage (Jimmy Dean) 
2 cloves Garlic, Minced 
1 Onion
1 Green Pepper
2 cans (14.5 Ounce each) Diced Tomatoes 
2 cans (6 Ounce) Tomato Paste 
2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley 
2 Tablespoons Dried Basil 
1 teaspoon Salt 
2 cups Cottage Cheese
2 cups Ricotta Cheese 
2 Eggs 
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese 
1 pound Sliced Mozzarella Cheese
2 Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese 
1 package Lasagna Noodles

Cook the lasagna noodles - combine and cook the ground beef, sausage, onion, garlic cloves and green pepper - once the meet is cooked all the way through add the two cans of diced tomatoes, two cans of tomato paste and various spices (you can mix it up a bit - I think I added some garlic salt as well) and allow to cook - while the 'sauce' is cooking combine the cottage, ricotta and parmesan cheese as well as the two beaten eggs - once the sauce and cheese mixtures are ready begin combining - I like to place some sauce on the bottom of the pan initially to prevent any sticking, after that layer lasagna noodles, ricotta/cottage/parmesan cheese mixture, slices of mozzarella cheese and meat sauce - after the initial layer repeat two more times ending with meat sauce on the top and then top with the two cups of shredded mozzarella.

It turned out amazing!  I think the key is to make your own sauce, combine two different types of meat and use mozzarella cheese slices instead of shredded cheese for the 'inside' layers - this makes it extra cheesey!  I'd definitely say that it turned out 'epically epic'!
Meat and veggie combo
I also made some homemade garlic bread
This past week I also experimented with making homemade granola bars and man were they good, and filling!  

No Bake Energy Bars (Chewy Granola Bars)
1 cup old fashion rolled oats
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup wheat germ (or ground flaxseed)
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup craisins
1 tsp. vanilla 

Combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly - once mixed you can either roll them into balls or I placed them in a cupcake pan - let chill in the fridge for about half an hour - after being chilled I placed them in zip-lock bags and returned them to the fridge for a quick grab and go breakfast or snack.  You can also substitute the chocolate chips and craisins for any other variety of dried fruit or sweets and even add more!
Homemade granola bars!
Saturday was lovely with trip to the Delmar Farmer's Market and relaxing in Henry Hudson Park which is sits along the Hudson River.

And lastly, Sunday I attended the baptism of my good friend Tim at Terra Nova Church in Troy, NY.  It was a very interesting yet enjoyable experience, lots of good praise music - who knows, maybe I'll be going back!