Friday, March 4, 2016

Crockpot Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (& Enchiladas!)

Only five weeks since my last blog post, instead of five months! It feels like a great accomplishment! Really, I'm just procrastinating on finishing my taxes and various other adult-like things that I find myself having to do. 

We have gotten into a rhythm here in Seattle with work and exploring- typically we work one week on and then have one week off. A whole week on is draining, but there is plenty of time to recover on our week off! 

Seattle is beautiful on the days that it is not raining, though we quickly learned that rain doesn't stop people from being outside here! So we put on our raincoats and our boots (umbrellas are not a thing here) and hit the streets! 


We've enjoyed many trips to Pike Place Market, checked off many restaurants off our Seattle food bucket list, been hiking, and, this past weekend, took a skiing lesson!



















I've never been skiing before, and the good news is that I didn't take anyone else out when I fell. I'm still not convinced this is my sport, considering I felt out of control the majority of the time, but I only spent $10 on snow pants from Goodwill so I'm going to count this as a win. Try a new sport, don't get hurt- check, check.  

We also got a chance to head out of town and explore some of Washington's small islands to the north of Seattle. We took the ferry to Whidbey Island, probably standing close to where Meredith and Derrick stood on the ferry. There are many small lighthouses on the Washington coast and this little road trip took us by a couple! 




We stayed at a cute little inn with a view of the Olympic Mountains and spent a couple days exploring small antique shops and glass blowing studios. These are from the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum we visited this week!

            






While we do a lot of eating out on our weeks off, during our work week we do a fair amount of cooking. Cold, rainy days here in Seattle always make me crave soup. Panera's chicken and wild rice soup in a bread bowl has always been one of my favorites. However, I do not like to get wet. So a trip to Panera in the cold and the rain was a no go. This recipe, however is a Panera copy cat recipe winner. (My photo taking of recipes has been slacking.)

A second recipe winner I tried recently is these beef enchiladas. The ingredients were easy to prep in stages- brown the beef and make the sauce one day, assemble and refrigerate the next morning after work, then heat for dinner before work

The sauce recipe I used was adapted from the link above. 

Red Enchilada Sauce

- 2 Tbs vegetable oil
- 2 Tbs flour
- 4 Tbs chili powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp oregano
- 2 C chicken or vegetable broth
- 1-2 adobe peppers

1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and stir together, about 1 minute. 

2. Add chili powder, garlic powder, salt, cumin, and oregano. Slowly whisk in the stock, stirring continuously. 

3. Lower heat, add adobe peppers, and simmer 10-15 minutes until smooth and thick.

Sauce can also be refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to two weeks






I forgot to take a photo of the enchiladas as soon as they came out of the oven, but they were melty, bubbly, and delicious!


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Temporary Homes

Five months since my last blog means that Karyn and I have found yet another temporary home. This time: Seattle. I've wanted to work here since I started travel nursing, but available assignments here are few and far between. A posting came up towards the end of our time in Hawaii, and after a quick round of telephone interviews (complicated by the time difference and the fact that we were visiting a neighbor island whose cell phone service was realllly spotty....) we were on our way!

Backing up a little bit first. We ended up extending our time in Hawaii (because "Do you want to stay longer?" yes please!!) until mid-November, right before Thanksgiving. It was incredible, and if you ever get the chance to go- do it! I'll tell you anything you want to know! (Go to Kauai or Maui. Don't take small children. Try the local food. Take lots of sunscreen.) Staying an extra two months allowed for lots of extra adventuring and guests! We got to visit all six of the Hawaiian islands, including day trips to the the smallest islands- Lanai and Molokai! 





On our "way home" from Hawaii, we did a 5 day road trip up the California coast. To help ease us back into fall weather and not having an ocean view everyday ;) 






However, we were both more than glad to to be home for the holidays! I got to spend quality time with the family, take a short trip to Charlottesville, and an quick overnight to Nashville to see the college roommates!

Right after Christmas, Karyn came down to Knoxville to pick me up and we set out to Seattle. An epic snowstorm was hitting the midwest, New Mexico, and North Texas, so we took the most southern route. We spent New Year's Eve in Vegas- they have a pretty great fireworks show at midnight!-, saw the occupiers in Burns, OR when we stopped for a bathroom break, and got stuck in the snow during our last two hours of the drive. 

The first two weeks of Seattle have been...rainy. Not as much as I would have thought, actually. We have had a few good days, seen the sun a couple times too! We live close to Pike Place Market and downtown so we take advantage of dry days and explore the market and several of the great restaurants close to us. We've also ventured a little outside of Seattle to do some hiking! The Pacific Northwest is definitely beautiful.

Of course, with the new year comes new goals and new resolutions- to cook more, to exercise more, to read more. To enjoy each day more, even the ones where I am acutely aware that this is temporary- these cities, these homes, these work places. To remind myself that this temporary life I've chosen is full of adventure and beautiful stops on the way to where I'm going. 






 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

When life gives you lemons....

You make lemon cupcakes. But you don't substitute Greek yogurt to make them a little healthier. Because then you don't have lemon cupcakes, you have a lemon muffin. And if you are making lemon muffins, just go ahead and throw in some poppy seeds, they are far more delicious that way!



And when you are given lemons in Hawaii, you use them in everything you have- cupcakes, muffins, lemonade- because, like every fruit here, they are local and the most delicious lemon you have ever had garnish your sweet tea. I'm really not going to complain about life here. 




That's the way life is here- fresh, local, different from anywhere I've ever lived before, but we are having so much fun. Our "swanky" little condo is a block from the beach next to some actual swanky resorts. The paintings that adorn our walls are....local. Our roommates- the cockroaches- are also local. Karyn is a master cockroach catcher, though when she's not around, I have learned to handle them. If you saw the size of them you would not want to squish it either! 

 


















Being so close to the tourist resorts means that there are always people out and about, aka completely safe area. It also means that our favorite ice cream shop is a 3 minute walk away, there are 3 coffee shops on my walk to the beach, and there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance for us to try. 

Friday night fireworks across the street!
 


 


















Our first two weeks we attempted to master The Bus. We didn't do too badly! We only tried to ride the bus on to the air force base once before we realized that is definitely not allowed and we were the eager beavers that showed up at work 20 minutes early because that's when the bus ran. We are now the proud renters of a 2-door Chevy Cobalt island beater. And we no longer show up for work so early. 


My mom and sister visited during that time too! We got lots of exploring done while they were here. The first Saturday we learned that when a local says "oh it's not a bad hike" then we should pack lots of water and sunscreen and be prepared for a workout. But we all made it to the top of Diamond Head (after hiding our cooler full of farmer's market purchases behind a rock part way up the trail) and were rewarded with outstanding views. 





















Other tourist highlights:

Visiting Pearl Harbor, meeting a Navy veteran who was coming off his graveyard shift when the attack happened and spent the day dragging bodies and survivors in from the water, and touring the Battleship Missouri






















Taking a ride on the Dole Pineapple Express and tasting Pineapple Whip at the plantation
































Seeing the sea turtles come up to the beach for some sun












 


Snorkeling in the tide pools at Shark's Cove


A real Hawaiian Luau and dinner







It was a packed visit but we loved every minute! Well except the minutes that I had to go to work. Severe FOMO. That's probably not even cool to say anymore. 



Since then, Karyn and I have been settling in to our work routine. The babies here. So cute. Ridiculously cute. Makes nights at work a little easier :) Trying to find a work/life balance, while not wanting to miss out on any "Hawaii days" is proving to be more difficult. I'm not even the biggest beach fan and I find myself wanting to be outside all. the. time. One of the perks of our place is that one wall of windows opens up almost completely. So even when I'm supposed to be reading or napping on the couch before work, we can let a little of the trade winds in! 

Speaking of the trade winds. They were gone for our first few weeks here. So it was still and HOT. I'm not sure where they came back from, but they are making life so much more bearable. And I will never again complain about my hat being blown off at the pool. Long live the trade winds. 

We had a few days off together the week of my birthday and headed over to explore the island of Kauai. The scenery and feel of the island is completely different than that of Oahu, where we live. Think relaxing beachfront resorts surrounded by palm trees. It's definitely more difficult to get around without a rental car though. 

 





 










We visited Waimea National Park and "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific," stopping at every overlook to get out and take pictures. 



 
The road around Kauai is a horseshoe shape, so one side of the island is completely inaccessible by any way but boat. So we did a Napali coast sunset sail and it was beautiful. Cliffs thousands of feet high (think opening scenes of Jurassic Park) rising straight up out of the water. Water falls and gorgeous beaches. Incredible sunset. It was also my first time sailing. I decided that I'm a fan, at least a fan of being a passenger.  






We also toured Kauai Coffee Estate and learned a little about the art of growing and roasting coffee. Did you know that a medium roast has more caffeine than a dark roast? The longer it's roasted, more caffeine is roasted out. Now you know. Of course that tour ended with some samples and a delicious iced coffee. 



After we dashed across the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge

The three days were packed with adventures. Including visits to two lighthouses. My favorite. It was the first time we have actually gotten to go up into the lantern room a bit to see the Fresnel lens. 


 




We also avoided our first hurricane. Really it was no strategy of our own, just Mother Nature changing her course. Or maybe the weather men just needed something to talk about and get people excited about. Either way, we did not stock up on our spam, so who knows how we would have survived. Probably on peanut butter and graham crackers.  

That's a quick (or not so quick) recap of our first month out here- hopefully I will blog- or at least post pictures!- before 4 months go by :/ We've learned to grill, so 85% of our meals are just thrown on the grill- not much to blog about. There is a farmer's market every day except Mondays, so that keeps me occupied and our kitchen full of fresh fruits and vegetables. I'm trying to show some restraint in fully stocking the kitchen... 


PS. Karyn did a two-part update of much of our time in Denver here