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Feb 14, 2012

Be Mine, Valentine!

Hello all you Love Birds!

Are you feeling all the Valentine's love in the air today? Ahhh I can already hear the disappointment resounding across the globe. Valentine's Day, a holiday that has little to no middle ground. What I mean is that you either LOVE Valentine's Day or you HATE it. The people who love it tend to have significant other's who spoil them rotten with sappy cards, bouquets of red roses, and the usual gratuitous heart filled with sub-par chocolates. The people who hate it, well, they tend to be single and POed at the world for even acknowledging such a novelty of a holiday. I, on the other hand, am one of the few who are stuck smack dab in the middle of loving and hating Valentine's Day. Are you surprised? Yeah well this love/hate thing with V-day is something that I've grown to be slightly cynical about.

I love Valentine's because it is a great day to tell (and show) all of people you love in your life how much they mean to you. Even though that's something we should be doing year round, I totally get it. It's special. You might get to dress up all fancy and be treated to dinner at the best restaurant in town with an arm full of red roses in tow. Or you could be whisked away on some romantic getaway frothing with champagne and moonlit bubble baths. Not to mention it's the prime time to try and rack up on those Coach bags and diamond earrings you've been eyeing since Christmas. I mean, who doesn't love being showered with gifts of adoration for an entire day? I can't say I'm not on board!

Eh...well...then there are the reason's I loathe Valentines Day. First of all, V-day comes with alot of pressure...as in gift giving pressure. Yeah. I hate that. Expectations can be high and usually blow up in your face. I know this first hand, believe me. This panicky feeling is not just for people in new relationships (Should I get her a Valentine's gift? We've only been dating 5 days...surely she's not expecting anything fancy. Or is she?). The pressure is also on for those who've been with their Valentine for years (How can I top last year? What did I even get him last year? Shoot, does she like roses or daises?) Daunting to say the least. Every year I wrack my brain trying to think of the most thoughtful thing I could do or buy to show D how much he means to me (aside from telling him so every day), and every year I never live up to my gifting dreams. We always say to one another, "All I want for Valentine's Day is a sweet card and some quiet time with you." Nice and easy right? Wrong. Truthfully, we're always thinking this (thanks to a friend on FB for posting this...it's genius!):

Seriously, could that cartoon be any more perfect? 

This year has been especially hard. Living in Europe provides a myriad of problems for obtaining the perfect gift or planning the perfect night out. Not to mention the disappointment that the unpredictability of military life can bring...which is the other reason I tend to hate Valentine's Day these days. Somehow D's mistress, the Air Force, finds her way into our V-day plans every year. Sneaky little hussy. This year she's got him stuck on our couch with headphones in his ears listening to an online course the AF is requiring him to do from 3:30 to 7:30pm...today...of all days. Granted, at least he is here in the same room with me and not deployed (praise the Lord!), but it's no dinner and dancing at the Ritz, that's for sure. Honestly, I'm used to it...so that's why Valentine's isn't a day I get super pumped about unless the conditions are perfect. When are the conditions perfect? Almost never. Such is life. So, I'm one of those gals stuck in the middle of loving and hating Valentine's Day. 

As for how our Valentine's has turned out so far...well, after saying all of the above, I really can't complain. Since this training class has D "working" after his normal work hours, he surprised me by coming home at lunchtime instead of the usual 6pm! My handsome Valentine walked in the door holding the biggest (and most fragrant) bouquet of flowers I've ever gotten. They are beautiful! What he was holding in his other hand was equally as awesome...a bag full of Taco Bell yummies. Seriously, this man knows the way to my heart! We sat on the couch, enjoying our chalupas and reminiscing about our first Valentines Day together. 2001 seems so long ago! 11 years with the same Valentine is something to celebrate, that's for sure. Not to mention, I freakin' love everything about my hubby. He's the bees knees, in case you didn't know. :)

Our quiet time has since been interrupted by the Air Force, but as soon as she's done with him, we'll get back to our regularly scheduled Valentine's. Let's just say that these cookies are going to be the only "conversation" we'll be having tonight! Yeah, I just said that. ;)

No matter what big plans you have or what fancy gifts you get, Valentine's Day is all about spending time with the ones you love. I guess that's the Valentine's middle ground. Regardless, here's wishing you and yours a sweet Valentine's Day full of all the things you planned for (and maybe a few good surprises you didn't)!! 
Goodnight, loves!

Feb 6, 2012

Party for Two

Yep. That pretty much sums up our Super Bowl Sunday. As of late, D and I have been drawn to celebrating things like the Super Bowl in very low key, effortless ways. No big shindig to prepare for and no need to dress up. A pair of comfy sweats and a few sinful appetizers while falling asleep in front of the TV sounds much more our speed these days. Old farts? Maybe. Comfortable just enjoying each other's company? Definitely. Besides, it's cold as balls here in Germany. With temps reaching no more than 25°F each day and lows of 8°F each night (wind chills at -1°, brrr!), I don't want to be outside for more than a second if I don't have to! Which is actually super sad seeing as the last 9 days have been incredibly sunny compared to the last, oh, 3 entire months of my life. I would LOVE to be outside soaking up some precious Vitamin D, but I'm seriously afraid my eyeballs might freeze. So, consider us shut in's till Germany thaws out...whenever that may be.

Super Bowl kick-off wasn't scheduled to start here until 12:30am (yes, AM...not PM) and D's only request was that we stay up and watch the game till halftime. I told him that if he could pump me full of greasy food and margaritas, I'd stay up and watch a whole presidential debate if he wanted me to. Thank GOD that wasn't what was on last night. I might have made a liar out of myself.

Having made our deal, we immediately started scouring Pinterest to find the perfect Super Bowl appetizers. By the way, did I mention that D now has his own Pinterest account? Yeah, my husband, the military man. {The whole thing came about really hilariously and I'll have to remember to post more about it later.} Anywho, D saw and immediately fell in love with this:

My sister-in-law made a dip similar to this once and brought it to a family get-together. I remember it being super tasty, so I was counting on ours to be equally as yumilicious. Thankfully, it was! Now, our dip definitely doesn't look as mouthwatering as the one on Pinterest (remember, we were going for the whole effortless thing), but it really was yummy and stupid easy to make. D also made his finger lickin' homemade buffalo wing sauce to slather on some boneless wings (no chicken bones for me, thank you). A few people have asked me for his wing sauce, so I asked the Mr. if he'd share his concotion with world. He said, "Just make sure you tell them it'll singe their nose hairs off." Umm, ok...you got it. Consider yourself warned!

D's "Nose Hair Singeing" Buffalo 
Wing Sauce

1/2 stick of unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce (he uses 1/2 cup Thick Red Hot sauce and 1/2 cup regular Red Hot sauce, but you can use all one or the other and only the thickness will change) 
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 

Mix all ingredients together in a small sauce pot and heat over medium heat until bubbly. Then pour over your favorite wings or chicken strips and toss to evenly coat. Serve with ranch, blue cheese, or a glass of milk. {Promise, you'll need it!}

{please forgive the crappy iPhone quality}

Needless to say, we ate ourselves into oblivion before it was even 9pm. Still having 3 1/2 hours to kill, we rented The Ides of March from iTunes. Not even the hunky-ness of Ryan Gosling and George Clooney combined could make me want to watch that movie again. Too much political jargon I couldn't follow + an incredibly crappy ending= thumbs down from Casey. Although, my inability to keep up with this movie could have been a product of too many of these bad boys:

C'est la vie!
I'm just happy we made it to halftime like I promised. It was no easy feat at 2am, I tell ya. With that being said, here is Team Coté's run down of Super Bowl XLVI hits and misses:

(1) Kelley Clarkson freakin' NAILED the National Anthem. Seriously, nail-in-coffin KILLED IT. Love her! 
(2) The first half of the game was weak, to say the least. I was literally nodding off out of boredom. Woke up this morning to find out the Giants won (whoopdy do, if it isn't the Panthers, we don't much care...that's why we wern't worried about dippin' out early to catch some shut eye). 
(3) At breakfast this morning, we watched all the commercials we missed from the second half. The Audi vampires and the "wiggle wiggle" M&M commercials were the highlights of the Super Bowl for us. The nostalgia of the infamous Ferris Bueller in the Honda CR-V commercial was great, but I'd rather see Matthew Broderick promoting a movie trailer for Ferris Bueller-Part 2 instead of a car. Now that would be epic!
(4) As for Madonna's halftime show...eh...I'm glad she kept it old school with her classic stuff. 'Like a Prayer' was pretty awesome and I'm super impressed a 53 year old woman can still dance around in high heels like she does, but I'm forever disappointed in the usual Super Bowl lip syncing. It's not just you Madge, everyone does it.

So, there you have it. Our Super Bowl in nutshell. It was a blast in a glass, literally. Now I'm off to bake a certain hubby I know some outta-this-world birthday cupcakes! Yep, D turns 26 years young today!! Tonight is all about YOU, babe! 
{Ahem, and our Asian inspired birthday dinner menu. Uhhh, yum!}


Feb 2, 2012

Mediterranean Muffins

When I first saw a version of these muffins floating around Pinterest, I thought they looked and sounded amazeballs. One, because they're muffins (and muffins are ALWAYS good), and two, because they're savory. I'd choose something savory over something sweet to eat any day. 

So, naturally I went out and bought the ingredients to make these bad boys. I also spent 23436 hours googling the conversions for this recipe because it originated from the Hummingbird Bakery in London. Stupid metric system. You know how long it took me to figure out my own country's measuring system when baking?! Never mind Europe's. Ugh. Did you know that there really aren't 100% accurate measurement conversions from metric grams to English cups? Yeah. They've got "close estimations"...without doing a mind boggling amount of math. Talk about by goshing a recipe. Anywho, keeping with the by goshing, I just went ahead and added few of my own ingredients and shoot, even changed the name from Spinach & Cheese Muffins (booorring) to Mediterranean Muffins. Much better.

Mediterranean Muffins
Makes 16 muffins
(my additions/substitutions are in green)

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup Presidente Herbed Feta, crumbled
1 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped
1 egg
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons skim milk
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons butter
1 small red onion, diced
dash of sea salt

1) Preheat oven to 325°F.
2) While oven is preheating, melt the butter over medium heat then toss in the diced onions. Sauté until translucent. Set aside.
3) In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, cheddar, and feta cheese.
4) In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and milk, then slowly pour it into the dry ingredients. It's best to stir with a spoon instead of using a hand mixer because the dough does become quite thick. Although, I did snap a wooden spoon in half making these!
6) Stir in the spinach and the cooked onion. Dough will resemble biscuit or scone dough, so this will take some muscle to do! Get your hands dirty if you need to.
5) Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner about two-thirds full with dough. Sprinkle sea salt over the top of each muffin cup.
6) Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top. Place muffins on a wire rack to cool.

These muffins are addicting. I caught myself thinking about them while trying to fall asleep the other night. Not a good thing to be thinking about at 11pm...although they would have made one heck of a midnight snack. The texture is not quite that of a normal muffin, per se...it's more dense like a scone would be. Seeing as they are made in muffin pans, the name "muffin" can still be appropriate. Besides, who wants to roll out a batch of scones anyway?

As if these drops of heaven weren't tasty enough on their own, I got the bright idea to warm one up, split it in half, and spread a schmear of basil pesto on top. And then I sprinkled it with a little of the leftover feta I had just hangin' out in the fridge. Oh. My. Dang. Party in my mouth! It's worth buying a jar of pesto just to do that. Next time I make these, I'm adding in a few chopped up sun-dried tomatoes to the mix. Nom nom nom.

I do hope you'll give them a go. They're super easy and super yummy...pretty much all you need to know!

Feb 1, 2012

Austrian Ski Weekend: The Final Frontier

Gear is out...ready to start our 2nd full day of skiing the Alps!

Since we had finally got our bearings after mistakenly skiing down one too many "red" runs the day before (Austrian ski maps are awfully hard to decipher), we took a different gondola up to the opposite side of the mountain to hit up some moderate "blue" runs. Lucky for us, these runs were almost deserted, making for some very leisurely skiing. Only downside was that this particular side of the mountain was mostly shaded all morning, resulting in two frozen people popsicles by the end of the run. 
I've never felt cold like that in my life.

I promise there's a person in under all that gear. You can see how shaded the run was really well in this photo.

I adore this photo. Colombia should recruit us for their ads. 
I mean, c'mon. We're catalog ready!

After a few good runs, it was time to thaw out and refuel. We stopped at a different mountain top lodge for lunch this day. I swear, that's one awesome thing about skiing in Austria...there were places to stop and eat at the end of practically every run! The food here happened to be pretty stellar too. This yummy treat is a Baguette Diabolo...the Austrian version of an arrabiata pizza. After we ate, it was back out for some last minute runs!

When our calves were shot and we could no longer take the frigid cold, we settled in with a steaming cup of Glühwein at our favorite mountain top bar. Couldn't think of a better way to end another epic day on the slopes.

As the sun set on our last day in beautiful Austria, we geared up for one last night of fun and games with the Siegi Tours staff! First up, Austria Ice Curling! Did I mention it was cold as balls that night? A cold, crippling -15°C (5°F for all us Americans). Glühwein was essential, and I wasn't complaining! Check out my game face!

Now, this kind of ice curling doesn't look exactly like the same kind of ice curling you've seen during the winter Olympics. There are no brushes, no fancy sliding shoes, and no polished curling stones. But, the basic premise of the game is still the same. You slide a curling pin down the curling alley and try to land on the most points possible. Instead of the point rings being visible under the ice, you score points by sliding the curling pin underneath a bar that has numbered metal flags hanging off of it. Whatever number the top of the curling pin hits, that's how many points you earned for that curl. You get three curls and then you combine the points earned from each curl for your total score. Whoever has the highest score, wins!

So yeah, my hubby tied for 1st in ice curling. Lord only knows how it happened, but D was sure happy it did! He even scored a trophy. 

And then he had himself a victory drink out of it. 
That's my boy!

I, on the other hand, rewarded myself with a warm cup of hot cocoa with a shot of Bailey's. Umm, drool. I will never look at hot chocolate the same. 

As sad as it was, our time in snowy Austria had to come to an end. I didn't want to leave and return to the gloomy, snowless hills of Germany, but seriously, life could be worse. We had a fabulous time and I'd recommend skiing the Alps...especially with Siegi Tours...to everyone. It was the experience of a lifetime! I absolutely cannot wait till next year!
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