Hobbies

940f82f207635f4910ffc9b163d3501eWhile I have been searching for jobs and babysitting this summer, I have noticed that I get extremely bored, extremely easily. Aside from the weekends, where I am usually traveling, I find that throughout the day that while I am trying to stay on top of my applying game, I twiddle my thumbs, I eat a lot (I eat when I am bored), and watch a lot of movies.

Sounds about right. Any college graduate who isn’t incredibly lucky to have landed a job already goes through this. But what I am trying to do is break the cycle. Yeah, I’m applying, but my god, I need a hobby. What am I to do?

Well, I went and searched the internet for a couple of cost friendly hobbies that are not totally weird.

What I learned from a little research is that, of course, pursuing a hobby not only helps keep stress and boredom away, but it helps to develop more talents as well. It is the best possible way to refresh your mind with something that makes you happy.

Some of the options were a little strange to me, and some just didn’t stand out to me at all. I liked the option to take pictures of nature but I do not have a very good camera for that so I figured maybe later in life. I also liked the hiking option but I like to do that with other people and, well, all my friends already have jobs so no luck there.

So as my hope started to fade, I tried thinking about something that really made me happy, and never seemed to let me down, especially at a time like this, when my boredom has reached an all time high. Well, its food. I love all food. But what I have realized is that I am really not that creative when it comes to straying away from a recipe. I can follow the rules, but I cant color outside of the lines, so my new found hobby is cooking. I want to learn to be a better cook and what better time to learn than when i am out of college and bored out of my mind. Plus it will help me in the long run if I ever want to be a good cook for my family.

I know I am a good baker so I didn’t want to specifically start going in that direction. But I went on Pinterest and found a list of different dishes that really stood out to me. Wow was my mouth watering. So many things stood out to me, from delicious casseroles to stuffed green peppers and different types of dumpling recipes. So I made a list, and today marks the start of my cooking spree.

Excuse me while I hit the grocery store to go get all the ingredients! Im thinking day one may be a complete disaster but I have to start somewhere! Wish me luck! YUM!

ROSES ARE RED – AND OVERRATED

Boys- are you thinking about buying your girlfriend, fiancé, or wife some roses and chocolates for Valentine’s Day? Don’t. Roses are over played and just seem like you are falling into the category of people that crack under pressure by this commercial holiday. Instead, get creative in your present to your woman! Here are my favorite options…

Flowers. If you are going to go the flower route take advantage of the “farm-to-table” concept. I don’t mean go to a farm and pick your own flowers. I mean when purchasing flowers, take into consideration where the come from and the ones that are in season, because they will look the best. If you wanted the most beautiful roses that weren’t shipped from across the country, then Valentine’s Day should be rescheduled from February 14th to mid-spring through fall. Also, take into consideration the fragrance of the flowers. After all, this is a sensual holiday.

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Candy, Chocolates, and Food. Just like smell, taste is another strong sense that you want to trigger on Valentine’s Day. Instead of buying a heart shaped boxes from Whitman’s, try making something that will impress your significant other. If you really want to impress your significant other, come up with a menu that is comprised of foods that are known for their aphrodisiac qualities! Foods like honey, chocolate, and oysters are associated with sparking reactions of energy, love and passion.

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Jewelry. Staying in theme with the “farm-to-table” (farm fresh flowers) and DIY (making a romantic dinner yourself, instead of going out to dinner) purchasing jewels that are handmade are perfect for this kind of holiday. I can’t tell you how much time, heart and soul my mother, Laurie (owner of Bare & Me) puts into each piece that she handcrafts. From her Keepsake Pendants to her Heart and Arrow necklace, your significant other would be lucky to have one of these in her jewelry armoire! (Also, girls! Don’t forget about you mothers, sisters, and friends this year!) They deserve one too! Click the link “SHOP” at the top to view my mom’s collections. You won’t regret it! 😉

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I have a challenge for you. Don’t let people tell you that Valentine’s Day is the only day to treat you significant other, mothers, dads, sisters, brothers, and friends to something special. Telling someone constantly that you love them and appreciate them is what makes the feel special. Surprising them with small gifts here and there will have a bigger impact than a diamond on Valentine’s Day. Spread the love! Remind each person in your life that you hold close to your heart, and tell them that you love them…everyday up until Valentine’s Day…through your actions and through your words. Then, once you see how easy that was, continue to do so throughout the entirety of the year! We love you guys!

XOXO,

Jessica Calkins

On My Way Down the Aisle: Location, Location, Location

Now that Matt and I had a rough idea of the style of our wedding, the next big step for us was to find a location where we would say “I do!” The location of your wedding dictates the theme, date/time and overall atmosphere of your big day. I have always dreamed of getting married outdoors and near water. Originally, my dad came up with the idea of renting out an estate somewhere in Maryland. We would host the rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony, and reception in the same place; easy and affordable! However, it was very difficult finding a place that allowed events over 15-25 people. I wanted to keep our wedding small, but not tiny! Also, my dad is an incredible chef and I always envisioned him cooking for my wedding; no one could do it better!

We had a couple places on our list, but only one of them fit the criteria (within budget, allowed events over 50 people, and didn’t restrict us on what vendors we used) that we were looking for! It was this beautiful outdoor lighthouse museum that they had converted into this event space. The lighthouse was by the water and from the pictures, it looked perfect! So Matt and I decided to take both of our parents to look at the property. I was so excited and so sure that Matt and I were going to get married at this gorgeous setting. As we pull up to the property, my mom says “Oh Jessica! Heck no! What is that? Is that a barbed-wired fence?” I tried to stay positive and told her maybe it was worth looking past the barded-wired fenced gate!? The property manager met us at the gate and let us in. She took us for a tour and there was barded-wired surrounding the entire property. Not happening!

My heart was crushed and I felt so defeated. My dad told me to stay positive and start looking up places that we could look at on our drive home. I found this one venue that seemed a little out of our budget and they also had their own catering company. My dad insisted that we go take a look because of how beautiful the setting was. I called the Event Office and let them know that we were coming. Once we pull up, my mom (who is sitting in the passenger’s seat) turns her head back at me with these round eyes and big smile. It was STUNNING! There was water, sailboats, green grass, flowers, sand, and one happy couple. Even though I was so excited, I couldn’t get my hopes up because we had a budget to stick to!

We walk into the reception space where the Event office was located and I am literally designing the reception space in my head as we walk around. Dark hardwood floors, light that filtered into these large windows that framed this beautiful picture of the water and sailboats outside, light white pieces of fabric…Picture perfect! We walk up the stairs to the second level of the reception and balcony area and meet the event coordinator, Michael.

Matt, our family, Michael, and I sat down and discussed our vision and budget. There was one downside. Michael said that we would have to use their catering company but assured us that they would do an excellent job. He had his chef serve us food and dessert, which was a nice treat. Matt and I weren’t set on having a traditional plated dinner at our wedding. My dad suggested that instead of doing a platted dinner, we do h’ordeuvres and carving station.  This cut down the price tremendously and would add to the laid back vibe we were looking for. In order for my dad to enjoy the wedding, we compromised on my dad cooking for our rehearsal dinner! Everybody wins. What also cut down the expenses was having our wedding on a Sunday. Since most weddings are held on a Saturday, venues have Sunday’s open on their calendars! Matt and his entire family are teachers in the county school system. So in order to party all night and not have to wake up early for work next Monday, we chose a Sunday that fell right before a holiday that schools normally had off! Problem solved!

After a lot of discussion, budgeting, and compromising, Matt and I decided to get married in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland at Herrington on the Bay! We couldn’t be more excited…Check out the pictures below!

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Home for the Holidays

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One of the biggest things I miss about being home is the smell of my house. I am pretty sure my mom has something baking or on the stove at all hours of the day, because that is just who she is. She has a knack for cooking and baking, and someday I hope I am as talented as she is.

My favorite is when I come home and I smell cookies baking in the oven, especially around the holidays.

So for this post, here is my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe found on pinterest!

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened (use cream cheese in a block or spreadable, don’t use fat-free, light or whipped)
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt, optional and to taste
2 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks (I used 1 cup chips and 1 1/4 cups chunks)

DIRECTIONS:

To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, cream cheese (measure it by smooshing it into a 1/4-cup measure), sugars, egg, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until well-creamed, light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (or use an electric hand mixer and beat for at least 7 minutes).

Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, optional salt, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute.
Add chocolate chips and chunks, and beat momentarily to incorporate, or fold in by hand.

Using a medium 2-inch cookie scoop, form heaping mounds (I made 28). Place mounds on a large plate, flatten mounds slightly with your palm, cover with plasticwrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 5 days, before baking. Do not bake with warm dough because cookies will spread and bake thinner and flatter.

Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with a Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat or spray with cooking spray and place mounds on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart (I bake 8 cookies per sheet). Bake for 8 to 9 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just beginning to set, even if slightly undercooked, pale and glossy in the center. Do not bake longer than 10 minutes as cookies will firm up as they cool (The cookies shown in the photos were baked with dough that had been chilled overnight, allowed to come to room temp for 15 minutes, and were baked for 8 minutes, with trays rotated at the 4-minute mark. They have chewy edges with soft, pillowy centers). Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a rack to finish cooling.
Cookies will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Alternatively, unbaked cookie dough can be stored airtight in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.

This is not an original recipe, although I wish it was.

ENJOY

THANKSGIVING FESTIVITIES!!

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I have lots on my mind, but specifically, FOOD. I know that there is the typical food that is included in the dinner festivities, like the turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. This year, why not try mixing things up a bit and trying different types of foods, and starting new traditions. I know for me and my family, holidays have always been really important to us. Not only was it a time for everyone to finally be together for a night, but we could also participate in something we all know and love so much, eating. LOL.

This year I will not be with my family because I will be celebrating Thanksgiving with my boyfriend and his family, but I am sure my mom will have something extravagant up her sleeves for the dinner portion of the night. No surprise there.

I am not that good at cooking unless I have a very specific recipe and a right hand man there to help out, but earlier today while I was on Pinterest I noticed so many different foods that looked so amazing, and especially on a holiday like Thanksgiving.

Here are a couple pictures of what could potentially be some wonderful dishes for Thanksgiving night. Your bellies sure will be HAPPY!

Start with a nice salad to begin the dishes.

Apple Cranberry Walnut Salad

Ingredients
  • 6 cups salad (I used a combination of arugula and baby spinach, any spring green mix will do)
  • 1 red apple
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped (such as Diamond of California)
  • ⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries
dressing (see note)
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar in a pinch)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • scant ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup oil

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UGHHH so delicious…

Next we have some Crunchy Holiday Stuffing

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups celery
1 1/2 cups carrots
1 (14 oz.) pkg. stuffing
2 cups FRENCH’S® French Fried Onions
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can chicken broth
1 cup Water

Directions

PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Grease 3-quart baking dish; set aside. Melt butter in large pot; stir in vegetables and sauté for 5 minutes.
ADD stuffing, broth and water and stir until moistened. Gently stir in French Fried Onions. Spoon stuffing into 3-quart baking dish.
COVER and bake for 10 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with remaining 1 cup Onions. Bake, uncovered, 5 minutes or until Onions are golden.

The results come out to an amazing looking dish, and what I love is that it is crunchier than all the stuffing I have ever had.

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And lastly, but could never forget, THE TURKEY!

Roasted Turkey with Herb Butter & Roasted Shallots

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 15-to-16 pound turkey
  • Salt and pepper to season cavity
  • 1 1/4 lb. shallots, peeled and cut in half through the root
  • 1 carrot, unpeeled
  • 1 large celery stalk, cut in half crosswise
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • 3 cups (approximately) chicken broth

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together softened butter, sage, thyme and parsley until well combined.
  3. Remove the neck and other innards from the turkey cavity. Season the cavity with salt and pepper. Place the carrot, celery and onion quarters into the cavity of the turkey.
  4. Tie the turkey legs together and tuck the wings underneath the turkey, using small skewers to secure, if necessary.
  5. Starting at the neck end, slide your hands under the breast skin to loosen. Smear 3 tablespoons of the herb butter underneath the breast skin. Smear another 4 tablespoons of the herb butter over the entire topside of the turkey.
  6. Place the turkey in the roasting pan, breast side up. Scatter the shallots around the turkey, on the bottom of the roasting pan.
  7. Cover the breasts with foil and place the turkey in the oven. Roast the turkey for 2 hours, basting it with 1/2 cup chicken broth every 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the foil from the breast. If you find that the legs are browning too much, cover each drumstick with foil. Roast the turkey until a thermometer inserted in the deepest part of the thigh (be sure not to hit the bone) registers 170 degrees F, basting every 30 minutes with the pan drippings, about 1 hour total.
  9. Remove the turkey from the oven, transfer it to a platter, tent with foil and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.
  10. Remove the carrot, celery and onion from the cavity and discard.
  11. Remove the shallots from the pan and serve with the gravy. Use the remaining brown bits on the bottom of the pan and the remaining herb butter to make the gravy.

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And wow, is that a good lookin turkey!

Ps: These recipes and and directions are found from sites on Pinterest, and are just some of the wonderful dishes I have tried before. Pinterest always has some great pins for the Holiday seasons especially when it has to do with food!

Hope you all enjoy, and potentially use these recipes!

BAT CAVE to the Service… Exceptional.

From beginning to end, the best trip ever…

Capella Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas is just one of the most beautiful and jaw-dropping places I have ever travelled to. We arrived in Cabo a little tired because I wanted to use my points on Virgin America to fly. Hey, it is free. If I can fly free or stay for free I’m going to do it or so I thought. We set out from Washington DC, flew to San Francisco and then hopped a jet to Cabo. All in all, a 10-hour trip, longer than a flight to Europe. Maybe next time I will pay to get there a little faster. Washington, DC to Houston to Cabo, 4 hours big difference and you don’t have to fly clear across the Country to get there.

We arrived at SJD Cabos Mexico International Airport late afternoon, went to our rental car company and set off for Capella Pedregal. I have to say, it was my first time going to Mexico and I was a little nervous being American in a foreign Country especially with all of the warnings traveling there. We drove through a very poor part of town and as David was driving I was looking and wondering what the hell are we doing?  It was really depressed, children running in the streets and very different from our world. That was my first impression, which was just ignorant. I am a certifiable idiot on so many levels.

We finally after a 45-minute drive down the coast arrive at Capella and you have to go through a huge gate that leads to a mountain and yes, the entrance is a bat cave. I felt like “batgirl”!  You know when you drive through a mountain to get to your hotel you are in for a treat. I just did not know how much of a treat.

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The “Batcave”

I can see the light and hear the rumblings of our tires as my thoughts are saying I am hungry, tired and just want to rest at this point. It is so bright and all I can see is this circular drive way with a man standing in his cute “Mexican mariachi outfit” holding a tray with some drinks on it. He opens the car door and says, “Hola, Mr. and Mrs. Calkins and immediately I think, how does this man know who we are? What the heck, I felt famous or just very important for a moment. But then I remembered, they asked us for our name when we arrived at the dramatic gate entrance.

He offered us a margarita as we started to walk down this outdoor veranda to the check in desk.

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We walked up this beautiful stately entrance to a beyond believable scene of magnificent beauty, I thought I was in a post card. A sweet girl came us to us with a warm welcome and said she was our “personal concierge” for our stay. We walked and talked for about 20 minutes, by the end, she had our dinner reservations, spa treatments and activities planned for our stay.

Whoa, we are famous… This is the type of treatment for movies stars, really famous people, not us. All I can say is they make every single person who walks or drives through these gates feel very important. In fact, I did not want to leave.

She then walked us to our room up small hills and stairs that lead to our own suite, terrace and pool. Yes, I said pool overlooking the vast beautiful ocean that will just captivate you the moment you let your eyes settle. Quite honestly, you cannot move you are so stunned at the beauty of this place.

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Just to be able to experience this level of service, beauty beyond belief and just rest and relax after such a long day of travel was heaven, just heaven. Now, sleep.

WE woke up refreshed and ready to go. Run, Breakfast and then the pool. I thought on our second day they would forget about us. They had shown us the royal treatment the day before, they had done their job. We were happy. Before we left for our run, ring ring. It was our girl, the one who greeted us. She wanted to know how our sleep was and if she could do anything, anything at all to make our stay better. This was the first of many daily calls she would make, just to make sure we did not need a thing.

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One thing I will warn all of you is, you absolutely cannot swim in this ocean or walk near it. It is a pool only kind of place. I have never in my life seen the power of waves as I did here. It has something to do with the current on that side of the land. Of course, I asked and they told us that the undertow is so bad that the beach is always shut down for swimming. In fact, a man drives around on a four-wheeler to make sure you do not even get near the water. Now, that is danger but of course I don’t listen. I want to run near the water. My husband is screaming at me to stay away, next thing I know the water took me down. The guy is driving up on the four-wheeler fast and I feel and look like a fool, just because I never listen. Uh, I would say listen. Do not be rebellious like me you literally may die.

I guess these kids did not get the memo but I sat behind them for an hour while telling them, do not even think about it. I made them promise me they would not go in. I think they thought I was a stalker. But I was so worried that I could not help myself. A Mother is always a Mother even if they are not your children.

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The start to our afternoon with sinful guacamole and this wonderful banana oh so delicious beverage. It was so delicious I had two. I am not really a drinker, so the whole time I was afraid to get up for fear I might fall on someone, in the pool or just make a fool out of myself. I was a little lit to say the least. But we sure did have a wonderful, relaxing day.

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The restaurants at this resort our so good you really do not have to leave. Our final night came and we had reserved a table at El Farall an elegant outdoor restaurant tucked at the edge of a cliff. They have a fresh catch menu, every type of steak cut you can imagine and al a Carte sides. You pick your own cut of meat, fish or other delectable’s at the outdoor kitchen where everything is cooked to order. While you are eating dinner, the waves crash along the stone sea wall and yes, you may get some sprinkles, which was fine by me. I could have sat at that table all night staring at the velvety black sky with the shimmering of a million stars overhead. It was the end of a beautiful, magnificent vacation of a lifetime.

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I do have to say, I did get sick of everyone tending to my every wish.  You do not think you would but you do. I loved this place so much my husband and I are giving this as a honeymoon gift to our daughter Jessica who will be getting married in September of 2015. The perfect honeymoon spot. You can not go wrong.

And, as far as my smart a lek comment in the beginning about this being a depressed environment, these are the sweetest most genuine people I have ever met. Walking through these towns and just being part of this world was a great experience and one I will never forget.

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14th Act of Kindness: From the Past

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Finally! Somebody shared me their story:)

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about our Random Acts of Kindness so far, when he shared with me a great story from about three months ago.

Him and his friend were driving around one day when they came up to a stop light. They noticed that a man who happened to be homeless was walking up and down the sidewalk asking for spare change from those who were passing by. They stopped and realized they they didn’t have any money on them, only their cards.

The man noticed that they stopped and tried to grab their attention. They felt so bad because they really wanted to help the man out, but they didn’t have cash on them at the time. As they drove away they realized that if this man was out there all day, he must have been terribly hungry.

There was a deli around the corner so they stopped there and ordered the biggest sandwich on the menu. They brought it back to the man, who was still making his way up and down the sidewalk, and his reaction was more than what they could have expected.

Not only did this make his day, but they both walked away feeling really great.

I liked this because instead of just throwing the man a couple of loose dollars, they went out of their way to get him a nice sandwich that would fill him up for the rest of the day.

An idea for all of you who are reading this blog is that, in the future, when you pass someone on the street who may be homeless…give them water, food, shoes, clothes, etc. Make a care package full of things that  you do not use as much as you should.

I would definitely love to do something like this in the future, and I hope that this inspires all of you to do the same!

8th Act of Kindness

10603023_10154494861275574_1044066553_nIts times like these, when the community comes together, that we realize how special and kind people truly are. A local restaurant in the Rockville community, has always been there for its employees. But they don’t just work together, they are a family.

One of the employees of Urban, Katie Huerta and her family, just recently lost their home to an unexpected fire. Urban set out and planned a fundraiser for the family where 50% of the sales between 4 and 9 P.M. would be given to the family.

What was even a bigger surprise was that so many people from the community reached out and came to the event. Friends of friends of friends, in big parties, showed up to Urban BBQ with hungry bellies and warm hearts, to lend a helping hand for the Huerta family.

We were so excited to see the outcome of the event, and we know that it meant a lot. It is always an overwhelming feeling to know that so many people are on your side! Yesterday was a huge hit, and we have so many people to thank for that.

Lots of pictures were taken. Lots of food was devoured. And lots of laughter was shared. It could not have been a better night!

 

 

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