Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bubble Up Enchilada Casserole

I love a good mexican dish.  My roomies used to laugh at Dave and me -- we probably cooked tacos/fajitas/quesadillas 3-4 times a month. We just both agree on Mexican --- it's a common theme in our house which is why I was excited to find this EASY enchilada casserole....

1 ¼ lbs extra lean ground turkey 
1 (10 oz) can enchilada sauce 
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce 
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (7.5 oz) can refrigerator biscuits, cut into quarters 
1 cup shredded low fat Mexican Cheese 

1.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly mist a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
2.    Brown turkey in a large skillet or sauté pan.
3.    Add the enchilada sauce, tomato sauce and black beans and stir to combine. Stir the biscuit pieces into the meat mixture.
4.    Transfer the entire mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread out evenly. Bake for 25 minutes. 

 5. Remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake an additional 10 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. 

***It's about 310 calories a serving and there are 6 servings and pretty tasty!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Away from the city: Hershey, Penn.

A couple weekends ago, we were driving back to DC from State College and decided to take a pit stop in Hershey, Penn.  I hadn't been to Hershey since I was in Jr High and Dave had never been, so we were excited to give it a try. They have several fancy paid tours and a free basic tour -- guess which one we took? :) The FREE tour is on a "people mover" and shows you the process for making Chocolate.

Afterwards, we got treats at the ice cream shop.  So so good, but too rich to finish.  We should have split it because we each threw half of our treats away!

Hershey was a fun little stop on the way home -- I don't think the free tour is worth making a big drive for, but going 15 minutes out of the way, sure!!

Oh, and another fun stop, the town next to Hershey, Penn had a SONIC so y'all know I had to have a large FOUNTAIN DRINK! Sonics are rare finds in our neck of the woods so on the rare occasion that I find one, I stop! (We have a wendy's by our house, but its not the same, no diet dr pepper!!)

We love trying to see as much as we can in the area -- sometimes its a historical site and sometimes its just chocolate!! 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Missing the South: College Football

I love college football.  I love the SEC.  I love weekends spent in Auburn or Oxford cheering on my Tigers and Rebels! I love game days spent in the grove with my family and friends.  I always loved tailgating in Auburn at my friend's family's tailgate.  I love Tiger Walk and Walk of Champions and rolling Toomer's Corner. I love breakfasts grabbed on the square at Bottletree Bakery before heading to tailgate in the grove

And, honestly, as silly as it may sound to some, I'm feeling a little blue and a bit homesick this week because Football starts and I won't be there! And, at this moment, I have no plans to be there at all this year unless I can squeeze a game day trip in later this fall.  COLLEGE FOOTBALL IS HUGE WHERE I AM FROM, SO MISSING A FOOTBALL SEASON IS ALMOST LIKE MISSIG A HOLIDAY. And, for those who didn't grow up with college football as such a big part of your lives, this sadness probably doesn't make sense...but it is a HUGE part of my life that is changing this fall.

In the South, College Football... one of my family's main hobbies, way to bond, and way to spend time togethers. We have so many memories of weekends spent in Oxford, so many pictures, so many traditions, etc. something that the SOUTH does best.  In a country that hates on the South, full of people who automatically assume we're lacking in many ways, I LOVE that when it comes to football, there is article after article about the SEC and how dominant it is, about how tailgating in  the South is SUPREME, about how football Saturdays in  the south is like no other place in AMERICA.

....signals fall in the South. Trust me, if there was no college football, we wouldn't know it's fall til the end of October.  College football signals a time for mums, fall colors, the -ber months, and occasionally a slight breeze. (It does finally cool of by late October/early November!)

....introduces the BEST time of the year: football weekends then the HOLIDAYS!

....was one of the predominant ways in overcoming racism.  Integration in Sports helped integration in life. a way to escape, atleast it is for me.  If you had a rough week or if you have a rough summer or fall, every week you get to tune out and focus on football! True, I don't think you should always tune out of reality, but we all need a break at times, and checking out to watching football is probably a lot better than other forms of "checking out."

....unites you with others.  I believe in AUBURN. I love what the school stands for. I like the spirit of overcoming and desire to work hard. I like standing there and cheering on our tigers with a group of people who feel as I do. a form of hospitality.  WALK AROUND the grove and you will likely be invited into someone else's tent to tailgate.  You will run into someone you know or meet someone new and be invited in.  The South is known for hospitality, particularly my home state of Mississippi, and tailgates at various schools are a huge vehicle for southerners to show hospitality to others!!


When we were planning to move, we assumed it would be Alabama, most likely Birmingham. One of the biggest pros for Birmingham (for me, atleast) was it's proximity to Auburn (1.5 - 2 hrs) and Oxford (2.5 -3 hrs).  I had visions in my head of football saturdays, tailgates, season tickets and eventually children in cheerleading uniforms and jerseys!

DC was our first choice of places to move (so we were thrilled when we got the chance), BUT one of the top items on the con list was the lack of proximity to SEC football :(  And, so, we are having to come up with alternative ways to enjoy gamedays and "pluses" to being away.

My main plus is COLLEGE GAMEDAY on ESPN. I usually only get to watch a portion of the show, if any, because I am headed to a game. Now we can leisurely watch the pregame show while doing chores.  Another plus is the ability to watch a LOT of games.  That only happened on the Saturdays I stayed in Jackson. ALSO, I love the idea of going to a sports bar to watch a game.  I haven't done that but once or twice since law school.  I usually fill up on tailgate food on gamedays and never sit down for a real meal, so I am excited to cook chili and hamburgers and hotdogs and other "football watching" meals.  I'm eager to plug in with the Auburn, Ole Miss and MSU (yes, its true, but I did marry a grad!) DC alum groups and going to their respective sports bars to watch the games, maybe meet some other alums! 

So, it will be different, BUT even so, we are planning to celebrate this upcoming weekend, beginning with hotdogs, beer and chips for the Ole Miss v Vandy game this THURSDAY!! (yes folks, 4 days til college football!!!!)  I already have an Ole Miss decorative hanger in my kitchen and an Auburn hanger on the front door.  I even unpacked some of my gameday clothes last week! 

so it will be DIFFERENT, BUT STILL GOOD. I can't help but be excited because even in DC, it's football season! WAR EAGLE AND HOTTY TODDY!

Oh, and luckily, I still have my favorite football date.... (and yes, that's an ole miss hat in the pic below...when you are planning to ask someone for his daughter's hand in marriage in the near future and that same person hands you an Ole Miss cap to wear to the game, you wear it !!!)

Friday, August 23, 2013

My lessons as a "Stay at Home" Wife

In 2 weeks, I get to work again! I can't wait to put on a blazer on and have lunch dates and research and write and take a metro and see people.  I learned a lot about marriage while at home though, and in some ways will miss the luxury of being at home.

I'm linking up with Almost Gypsy Soul for Soul Food Friday -- What feeds your soul? I don't know if I am doing the assignment correctly-- It might be that I am supposed to link to a article or quote ?? But, what feeds my soul these days is learning to be a good wife which I hear is a lifelong process!

My time as a "stay at home" wife has taught me 6 important things about marriage that will be carried on into my working wife days:

(1) Look nice for your husband.  Dave didn't always come home to find me in a sundress and perfectly styled, but I tried to have makeup on and my hair brushed each evening when he gets home, even if it means putting on more mascara while cooking dinner! I was never in my PJ's, although it would be easy not to get dressed all day since I didn't leave the house.  When we had plans or date nights, I made sure I looked cute.  There was only one day when he came home and I was wearing the same gym clothes from that morning -- and that was only because I was unpacking and time got away from me! (ha and he noticed!) It will be easy to dress up everyday from now on out because I work, but I still want to make the effort when we go out, etc. If I can dress up for work, I should certainly doll myself up for my husband! (Luckilly my husband could care less about fancy clothes so shorts and a tanktop and makeup usually does the trick!)

(2) Show gratefulness.  If Dave and I have struggled with anything these past 2 months, its a lack of gratefulness for all the other person does.  I did the flying home, packing, moving, unpacking, most of the cleaning, ironing and cooking.  Dave is making our only income at the moment and pays our bills.  The fact that he works has given me the freedom to look for jobs I want, rather than taking a job at a nearby restaurant. It's easy to focus on what I do and overlook HOW MUCH he does for us.  I've made it a goal to be appreciative everyday -- appreciative of any chores he does, appreciative of how hard he works, etc.  Likewise, it means so much to me when Dave appreciates a meal or chores. I think when we are both working and splitting the chores, it will be a temptation to focus ONLY on what isn't being done, I hope that my goal of gratefulness can be carried on to the next stage of our marriage/careers.

(3) Celebrate! We celebrated our 1 month anniversary and plan to celebrate our 2 month anniversary too. Life is - and will always be- full of challenges, frustrations and well, just boring not so wonderful days.  Why not celebrate small thing with spouses, friends and family? Nothing big, just small things like a note in someone's lunchbox, bringing home a cupcake, enjoying a bottle of wine, making breakfast for dinner or going out for ice cream.  I've had time for celebration because I haven't been working, but I hope we always find reasons to enjoy and celebrate life even when I'm busy with home and work.

(4) Play together OUTSIDE of the house.  And by play, I mean explore, hike, see the city, try new restaurants, etc  It's so easy to just enjoy hanging out (and I am a HUGE fan of that).  One of the things that sucks about the single life is that you have to stay so so busy -- parties, dinners out, movies, bars, etc (and YOU ALWAYS WANT TO JUST TAKE A LAZY NIGHT IN)....but one of the best things about the single life is that you ALWAYS stay busy!! (It's kindof a pro and a con!) When you're in a serious relationship and when you are married, it's easy to just enjoy those nights in  watching TV, but I think it's important to still go out, have hobbies, explore -- like when we were first dating.  It helps that we are in a new city so we are exploring, but I hope we continue to make time together OUTSIDE our home a priority, atleast once a week.  Too much in DC to enjoy, and my favorite person to explore with is DAVE!

(5) Do chores/run errands together.  It's not feasible to do all your chores together.  I obviously did most of the chores while I was at home, but after one really hard trip to the grocery store where I lugged several bags home, we started doing the bulk of our grocery shopping on the weekend (minus a few trips for milk and other staples).  AND we usually do our laundry together on Sunday mornings.  Switching out the loads and carrying the clothes back upstairs and folding -- all while watching TV and eating lunch. Because I do most of the cooking, dishes, unpacking by myself when Dave is at work, I have loved doing these weekend chores together, partly because I love the help and partly because chores seem less like chores when done with someone else :) !!! Obviously, now that I will have less time at home, I love the idea of sharing chores because there is no way I can get the chores done alone.  But, I also just REALLY love our lazy morning of laundry and weekend shopping trip together. :) Doing the mundane with someone else is a lot more fun!

(6) Look for Cheap and Free.  Living on one income in one of the most expensive cities in America has involved buying groceries on weekly special and with coupons, going to free activities, cooking in a lot, packing lunches for Dave --- to save money for the occasional meal out. We have learned to appreciate cheap and free. Even with 2 incomes, I still want to be money conscious because our second job is only a clerk's salary so we won't be making a lot by DC's standards -- and because watching our money and choosing cheap and free is wise and will benefit us as we pay off student loans and save.  Plus choosing cheap and free makes the occasional splurge on a nice meal or weekend trip okay.  I definitely plan on looking for the cheap options even after I start working.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Around the Neighborhood: Oby Lee's

Last week, I met two Jackson friends for dinner at Oby Lee's Winery and Creperie which is in Clarendon and about a mile from our house-- I will definitely going back!  The crepes were good, but definitely the best part was the wine fountain!

With the wine fountain, you buy a plastic card with money on it, kindof like a metro card.  You then put the card in the slot on the fountain and pick a wine and an amount that you want (1/4, 1/2, full glass)  The waiter said that some customers keep their card loaded up and just walk in and go straight to the wine fountain.

I liked the fountain and it will definitely be a place I visit again just because it's fun -- however I can find wine cheaper other places so it's not a place to go all the time. I loved Oby Lee's though, because this is the type of place you can only find in a big city.  Wine Fountains aren't everywhere!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Weekend Adventures: Shenandoah

This past weekend, Dave and I went to Shenandoah River State Park with some church friends, and by church friends, I mean we originally knew 2-3 people out of the 20 or so people there, but now we know a lot more!!! So glad we went.  I am alone during the day and see Dave in the evenings and occasionally a friend, but not working has given me a LOT of alone time.  At first, after a busy spring, this was I have grown to dislike it! So I was glad to spend time with people.

Dave and I arrived about 9:30 Saturday morning and took a hike then ate our picnic lunch.  At that point, we were able to catch up when some other people who arrived and were hiking.  We spent the rest of the day hiking and hanging out with people in the cabin.  That night we all cooked out and made s'mores. It was a little cooler, so the weather was perfect for sitting on the deck and chatting and enjoying a good glass of wine :)

 An overlook on one of our hikes

Hiking with my favorite guy

Shenandoah is beautiful and we drove back on Skyline Drive so that we would see even more views!!  We hope to go back this fall and see the leaves changing and maybe even camp again in the fall weather!

Views on our Skyline Drive

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Around the Neighborhood: La Tasca

Dave and I are doing a fairly good job at exploring our new "hood" and by new hood, I mean Rosslyn/Courthouse/Clarendon which is a part of the Rosslyn Ballston Corrider (the series of neighborhoods/metro stops in Arlington between Ballston and Rosslyn)

We love our little area of town (Courthouse) and from Courthouse, I can walk less than half a mile to Rosslyn and less than a mile to Clarendon.  Since it all runs along two main streets (one way streets running parallel to eachother), you easily walk between neighborhoods and can't tell.

Courthouse has restaurants and bars and Clarendon has even more so I think we will be exploring for awhile!!!

While Marley and Bech were in town, we went out to eat in Clarendon at one of my family's DC favs, LA TASCA.  Technically, La Tasca is a chain restaurant in the metro area, but it's not a national restaurant so I see it as a DC original :) Their specialty is spanish tapas and sangria!! I have eaten at their Chinatown location, but never at the location near our apartment.  Marley loves La Tasca because we ate there over two years ago....BUT she was very pregnant at the time so she didn't get to enjoy the sangria and has been dying to go back.  Marley is a researcher like me and found out that La Tasca has a happy hour until 7:30 on weeknights so we decided to go early for the deals and introduce Bech, Dave and Bech's parents to this Braden Family Fav!!

We took advantage of the weather and walked to dinner where we enjoyed discounted pitchers of sangria (we had one made with sparkling wine!!) and 4 dollar tapas!  Their happy hour includes 4 dollar beers, 18 dollar pitchers of sangria, and a list of about 12 tapas that are marked at 4 dollars!!  We tried several and even picky Dave found some tapas that he liked :)

The only problem with going for happy hour was that we weren't there when the flamenco dancers were performing. They usually perform on weekend nights but not til later.

I hadn't been to La Tasca since we moved here and I am glad to have revisited this fabulous restaurant! I think the 4 dollar tapas, cheap sangria and ability to walk to dinner will make this a place we visited often, especially when we have visitors (hint hint: let me lure y'all to visit us in DC with tapas!)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Picture Perfect Day: Wedding Pictures!

So, our wedding pics are finally ready! So fun to see pictures of our happy day! I plan on doing a few posts on the wedding, but I have been waiting until the pictures were ready (and until we have the disk so it may be awhile).  So hopefully within the next month or so, I will do a wedding recap and share all the details.  Until then, you are welcome to check out our video here. It doesn't have all the proofs, but it has several pictures.

here are some of the pictures in our video...

Getting ready.....

Time with my sweet groom....

Bridesmaids and sisters...


Time to party....

It was fun to get our pictures back! (particularly since we got the proofs on a day last week when I was feeling bummed about being back in DC, so it was a fun pick me up!) I'll try to sit down long enough to recap our wedding sometime in the future, but no promises now that I am employed :)

Sunday, August 18, 2013


So, some exciting news...

This Thursday, I accepted a job!! 

As of September 5, 2013, I will be employed again!  I am starting a legal clerkship position a lobbying firm downtown, BGR. BGR is a conservative leaning (although technically non-partison) lobbying firm started by southerners 22 years ago. A clerkship is kindof a job between an internship and a permanent longterm job. Clerkships are usually positions for law students and recent law school grads, so this isn't a forever job for me.

However, it is a position I can take to get my foot in the door and a position where I won't be answering phones, etc.  The clerks work for the General Counsel and conduct research for the 20+ lobbyists.  I was hoping to find a position that would provide a chance to use my legal research skills in a more legislative way so I am very excited to start my new position.  Also, the counsel encouraged me to keep interviewing and applying elsewhere (on the side) and said that he knew I wouldn't want to be a clerk forever so if I needed to set up interviews during the work day or if I got a job and left, that would be okay.  Also, the commute is great...a short walk to the metro then 9 minute train ride to a metro station that is underneath the building I will be working in. As you can see, this seems to be a pretty ideal opportunity for me!

 I'm very grateful and very excited.  BGR is a top firm and I am glad I will be learning from the best! It was at the top of my list of places I wanted to work so I am so excited to have this chance!!

So, although last week started out rough, full of unpacking and having to adjust to being back in the city and away from friends and family, it ended on a pretty good note.  God's timing is good.  All during Dave's job search, I prayed God would open doors to the place that was best for us -- a place where we both had opportunities, could make friends, found housing. I had kept my head up through the move and job searching, but was very down last week.  He was good to give me a job even when I was mopey and doubting.

I'm going to be busy the next two weeks, unpacking and setting up house, but after that,  I will be working downtown at this lovely building......

the beautiful lobby!

I can't wait!! It feels like we will be starting our DC routine now-- both working, involved in church, making friends.  Glad to make this city our home!

PS Y'all know this southern girl is already thinking about which outfit to wear on the first day.

Friday, August 16, 2013


I've had a busy 2.5 weeks.  Flew home to pack, say goodbyes, load up and then made the 2 day journey to DC where we unloaded our stuff. I spent the trip in the car with Marley and Jack -- and Jack was always very excited to get in the "Big Truck" on gas stops!

 hanging out with friends in Jackson

Playing in the BIG TRUCK

 Saying goodbyes was tough, but I am glad I had the opportunity to do it. Otherwise I would have had to say goodbye to everyone at the wedding.  Mississippi is a special place and it was hard to leave, but I was eager to see my Mississippi boy after 9 days apart so I was eager to get back to the city.

Enjoying friday night with my FAVORITE guy

After unloading, we spent one day in DC where everyone was able to recover and I had an interview. We then had Friday night tapas and sangria at one of my favorite DC restaurants, LA TASCA. 

Jack loves hanging out in the neighborhood with Uncle Big Dave

The next day, we headed to a small town near State College, Penn to help Marley and Bech move their stuff into their new house.  Their house was cute and HUGE -- we all got a laugh out of how much more your money will get you in a small town v. DC. It's a precious little town that I think they will enjoy.....BUT the one drawback is..... its hilly (which is adorable but not the most fun when moving!!)  We ended the night by trying out a restaurant in State College (the town ten minutes away where Bech will be attending school)
Unpacking in Pennsylvania

Dave and I spent the night before driving back to the city.  We took a different way home so we could see more of Pennsylvania and we made a pit stop at Hershey, Penn. (more on that stop later) 

Hershey, Penn

Since getting home, I've done a lot of unpacking and settling back in, and I will be honest, it's been tough. Dave and I were just starting to get settled into our life here in DC, but going home made me aware of how much I miss Mississippi.  Part of me didn't want to go home for a week for this very reason---- I haven't been here long enough for it to be home, so going back to my former home was just confusing.  However, I missed Dave the entire time I was in Mississippi and was eager to see him my trip to Mississippi made me realize that he is my home now, wherever we live.  Even so, coming back to a house full of boxes, no job and days that weren't busy with friends and family was difficult.  I've had my moments of doubting the move, but have mostly tried to enjoy our adventure, but this week I was a bit less positive. Finishing unpacking some boxes helped: its amazing how much happier you feel when you can see your floor!!! Also dinner plans with friends from MS and a camping trip this weekend with church friends has my spirits high again.  And as much as I love sweet Mississippi, it is good that I won't be going home for a few then, DC will be home and involve a job, friends, a decorated apartment, a routine.  

UNPACKING....halfway there!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

RECIPE: Taco Macaroni

Last night, I tried a new recipe. I like macaroni, but I never see it as a main dish. However this dish adds meat and taco seasoning and we really liked it.  Its a quick meal, served with some fresh cut veggies!

6 oz macaroni 
1⁄2 lb lean ground beef 
1⁄2 packet taco seasoning 
2 oz Neufchatel cheese 
11⁄2 cup 2 % shredded Cheddar cheese, divided


1. Prepare noodles as directed on package.

2. Brown the beef and drain.

3. Add 1/2 cup water and taco seasoning to beef and simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Stir in neufchatel cheese until melted.

5. Add pasta to a casserole dish.

6. Stir in 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese.

7. Top the noodles with beef mixture and stir to combine. (I failed to stir it, but it still turned out fine!) 

8. Top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.

9. Bake for 15-20 min at 350 degrees.

Dave liked it, even ate two servings.  It was so simple and I was even able to prepare it then cook it later.  (As if thats necessary now when I have TONS of free time, but I am always thinking future because when we both work, we will be getting dinner together after 6pm each night!)

Plus I was able to cut the fat some by using lean beef and light cheese! I will for sure make this again!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

RECIPE: Swiss Chicken

I've had only one horrible cooking experience since we got married.... it was a swiss chicken recipe gone wrong.  We ended the night with frozen pizza.  To be fair, dinner wasn't burned or cooked incorrectly, just not a good recipe.  The recipe I tried included a half cup of wine and the wine did not seem to cook out properly, so it tasted like we were drinking hot white wine with our chicken!

Finding food that is simple enough for Dave YET still something I like is a challenge at times and I was convinced that if we tweaked this recipe we would both like it!! BONUS POINTS that it is easy and something we can cook easily when we are both employed!! I took my sister in law's recipe and my recipe and doctored it up a bit to come up with a recipe that we definitely liked!

4 thin chicken breasts
4 pieces of 2 % swiss cheese
1/2 cup cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp melted butter (to keep the fat down, we used "I can't believe it's not butter")
1 - 1.5 cups stuffing

1. preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Arrange chicken in a lightly greased baking dish.
3. Top with swiss cheese.
4. Mix broth and cream of chicken soup together and pour over chicken and cheese.
5. Pour stuffing on top of mixture.
6. Drizzle melted butter on top of stuffing.
7. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

It turned out really well, served over brown rice with veggies. We definitely liked the version WITHOUT wine better than our original attempt and will make it again.