Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Like the 'real' Liz Lemon and Mark Zuckerberg, we opted for an evening at home on Halloween.  Btw, I believe they would actually make a great couple in real life... it'd be perfect!

Lizards, lizards, and lizards- oh my!

Lizards in Miami are about as common as squirrels in Topeka.  If not more so.  Actually, I will just go ahead and state that they are indeed way more common.

 Just outside our apartment

I’m still amazed when I’m taking a walk and I see at least half a dozen lizards scurry across the sidewalk in front of me.  They are incredibly fast!

When Israel moved into the apartment in August before we got married, he had noticed a little lizard hanging out in the bathroom sometimes.  Israel decided to let him live there, and affectionately named him Don Miller.  He told me he hadn’t seen little Donald in a while, and fast forward to our wedding, honeymoon and coming back to our new home:  we’re cleaning the bathroom and pick up the rug by the shower and there, crushed to death, is little lizard Don underneath the rug.  :( 

Don’s ending was tragic.  A couple weeks later, I’m at home reading and glance up at the wall and see another little creature scaling the bathroom door.  I chase him into the bathroom and snap a shot of him with my camera.  He slid under the counter before I had a chance to take a closer look at him.  I named him Joshua Harris, since the real Don Miller and Joshua Harris are friends.  But he hasn’t been seen since.

The other night, my husband and I were getting ready to go to sleep, and I notice a strange silhouette on the wall.  I made Israel get up and check for me what it was.  It was, you guessed it, another lizard!  I named him Francis Chan and tried going to sleep, hoping Francis wouldn’t jump on my head in my sleep.  For Israel, having lizards around is nothing unusual, but it may take me a little getting used to it...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes

These have easily become my husband and I's favorite dessert, so I decided it was time to try and make them at home.  I found a great recipe on Pioneer Woman that looked fairly simple, and what I love about her blog is that she shows a step-by-step photo of what you should be doing.  It's very easy to follow along with her.  The cakes came out absolutely perfect!  I think this is truly the first time I can honestly say that.  I am the most proud of this dessert, and seriously you should really try making it.  It will ROCK your world!!

The white stuff is a failed attempt at my own whipped cream, but I've heard ice cream is also a great substitute to balance out the rich chocolate.

Sweet mercy.

Here's the recipe:

4 pieces Semi-sweet Baking Chocolate
½ cups Butter
1 cup Powdered Sugar
2 whole Eggs
2 whole Egg Yolks
6 Tablespoons Flour
2 cups Real Whipping Cream 
2 Tablespoons Sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Spray 4 custard cups with Pam and place on cookie sheet.
Microwave chocolate and butter in large bowl on high for about 1 minute, until butter is melted. whisk until chocolate is also melted.
Stir in sugar until well blended. Whisk in eggs and egg yolks. Stir in flour.
Divide between cups.
Bake 13-14 minutes until sides are firm and center is soft. Let stand 1 minute.
Combine sugar and heavy cream and whip until stiff.
Invert cakes on dishes and top with whipped cream.

      Tuesday, October 26, 2010

      Autumn Nostalgia

      This week I was really missing Fall-- the brightly colored leaves that form a warm palette lining the roads, feeling the brisk air on my face, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, and the all around emotion that Fall stirs within me of new beginnings and longing for change.  The girl from Kansas misses Kansas.

      It's strange getting used to palm trees and 80 degree weather during this time that I would normally be pulling out my thicker jackets and closed toe shoes (still wearing flip flops and tank tops here).  :)  And my perceptive mom sent Israel and I a surprise package this week which consisted of some Fall goodies-- a ziplock bag of orange and red leaves, several hand-knit wash cloths, a Fall picture, and some Fall-themed napkins.  It was nice getting a little bit of Kansas love in the mail.  I put the picture and one of the leaves on our fridge.

      This week, the husband and I are going to carve pumpkins!  It's Israel's first time (and my second) carving pumpkins ever, so it will be fun.  :)

      Saturday, October 23, 2010

      Josh Ritter almost sang at our wedding

      It's true... if he hadn't been in Madrid.

      My husband, then fiancĂ© in May, surprised me one morning with having me get on Skype, and check my email.  In my inbox was a forwarded email between him and Josh Ritter's manager, Doug.  Israel knew how much I loved Josh Ritter, and went through all the channels to try to get Josh to come sing at our wedding, as a surprise to our guests.

      I was sworn to secrecy, in case Josh really could come and we'd have a lot more unexpected guests at our wedding.  Doug was really sweet and gracious, and told Israel to remind him once the wedding came closer.  Although he couldn't come, it was still really great that my wonderful husband went to great lengths to try and make this happen, and just how sweet they were.  Here are the emails between Doug and Israel:

      On Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 1:25 PM, Israel Sanchez wrote:

      Hi Doug, I'm not sure if you're the right person to write to. If you're not, I hope you can point me in the right direction (or forward this email, ideally to Josh himself), even if you may find my request a little crazy.
      I know this is a long shot, a prayer even, but I a man of faith, and well, nothing hurts by trying. I'm engaged to be married on September 9, 2010 in Topeka, Kansas. How I met my fiance is just a miracle in itself. The whole story is here:
      And no one says miracles don't come in twos. Hence, here's the reason for this email. I know Josh Ritter is a very busy guy, but I also know that he loves his fans. His music has been the soundtrack tothe amazing relationship between my fiance and I. Now, I know that Josh has a busy schedule and that he probably gets paid a lot for his shows, more than I can afford, but I'm writing to the man Josh Ritter, from Idaho.
      If by any chance, by any miracle, Josh, do you think you can play just one song at the wedding? I don't have much money, but I can try my best to pay whatever I can. It will mean the world to my bride. It would mean the world to your fans.
      I know, I know, this is crazy, but there's only one life and the least I could do was try.
      Thank you and God bless!

      --------- Forwarded message ----------
      From: Doug
      Date: Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 8:21 AM
      Subject: Re: To the Dogs or Whoever
      To: Israel Sanchez

      Hi Israel,

      So sorry for just getting back to you now!

      Just wanted to say thanks so much for the email and sharing your story with us!  That's amazing in itself.

      And Josh is going
      to be flattered with your request (he'll blush for days), which I'll pass along.  I will admit though that Josh gets requests like this often, and though if he had his way he'd do it every time it's going to be a tough one to fulfill. 

      But thanks so much for sharing
      the story of you and your fiance, and the great soundtrack behind it.  ;-)

      Drop us another note when the big day nears, if anything to just check in....

      Thanks Israel, and congratulations.


      Thursday, October 21, 2010

      Cuban Coffee

      As excited as I was about getting the espresso machine from our registry, I was pretty intimidated by it for a while.  I read the manual thoroughly, as my dad so firmly instilled in me growing up, before trying it out.  Finally, the day came to actually try it. 

      Israel and I had bought some Cuban espresso at the store a few weeks before because we were so excited.  This particular brand costs only a couple of dollars!  I ran just pure water through the first time, to rinse the machine out.  The thing that the manual repeatedly said in ALL CAPS was to first release pressure from the steamer before taking off the boiler cap, or it might explode and burn you.

      I held a cool pitcher of water beneath it, as the manual instructs to do, and waited for a few minutes before the steam started to come out.  When it finally did, I thought a demon had taken hold of our machine because it literally drank all the water in the pitcher and wouldn't stop steaming.

      Too scared to touch it again, I left it alone on the floor in the corner for a couple weeks.  We were at Israel's grandma's house the other night for dinner, and his grandma showed me how she makes a Cuban espresso.  It was a very fascinating process!  The way most Cubans make it, is to hold a mug under where the espresso will drip just to catch the first few drops, then quickly switch it out with a regular pitcher.  She then took the mug and started stirring the espresso very vigorously with about 4 spoonfuls of sugar already in the mug.  This produces the foam at the top of the espresso, which she then steamed.

      Although the steamer on our machine is a bit touchy, Israel and I tried this technique the other night and made our first cafe con leche (coffee with milk) together.  The process is similar to what his grandma did-- we just added the rest of the espresso and some milk to the mixture and stirred.  This makes for a very sweet and highly caffeinated boost!  Israel grew up drinking this and eating un tostada (toast) every morning for breakfast.  Although I'm still drink American coffee, I can see this becoming another fun tradition in the morning.  :)

      Wednesday, October 20, 2010

      My New Obsession with Cooking

      I find it intriguing that a person's interests can change very quickly if placed in a different environment or situation.  Since moving to Miami, cooking has become a delight and not so much just a tedious task.  I think about new recipes all the time, and enjoy going through cookbooks trying to find new ideas for meals.

      I'm becoming more confident with my cooking abilities, and feel more capable than I ever have.  I feel like a whole new world has opened up to me through this new hobby and interest.  Last week, I made my first ever pot roast in our new crock pot.  I have never bought pot roast meat before, so when we bought 2.5 pounds of it, I was a little intimidated as I tore the fat off and tried to master the beast.  I peeled and sliced a couple of onions (while shedding quite a few tears), cut up carrots and potatoes, mixed them all in, and waited for it to simmer for several hours.  It turned out really well, although next time I'll add more seasoning to the meat.

      I have to be honest and admit that I most enjoy cooking desserts.  I blame my mother on my strong sweet tooth.  :)  I'm pretty sure I was indulging in all kinds of sweets even in the womb.  I was looking up recipes the other night on several different websites, including the Pioneer Woman blog.  I've heard of her blog before, but it never really interested me until now.  I was really looking for ideas for main dishes, but my mouth began to water as I came across her Angel Sugar Cookie recipe.  Suddenly, I just had to make them that night.

      We had all the ingredients at home, except the cream of tartar which I ended up leaving out, and it didn't take long to make.  They do have a lot of butter, oil and sugar in them, but as Julia Child says, you can never have too much butter.  It's all about moderation anyway.  :)

      The first batch I made last night came out way too flat, so I waited longer for the dough to refrigerate and made more this morning. The result was a flaky, soft, melt-in-your-mouth cookie.

      Baking cookies in the convection oven is very tricky.  I have to be on constant watch, because they brown very quickly.
      The second batch, placed on my favorite plate from IKEA :)

      Tuesday, October 19, 2010

      A few Photobooth Favorites

      It's been an exciting week and a half-- we got our official wedding pictures and pictures from the Photobooth in the mail.  Here are some favorite Photobooth shots :)

      Saturday, October 16, 2010

      Nuestra Casita (our little house)

      Here are just a few pictures of our place-- at least the bathroom and kitchen areas.  We don't have a lot on the walls yet, so I'll post more pics soon of the bedroom.  Here are these for now!  :)

      That step stool below the sink comes in handy everyday!!  Like whoa, like whoa.

      One of my favorite wedding gifts was that tulle pitcher above the fridge, so I put a rose Israel gave me for our anniversary inside.  We try to make our space very efficient, so somehow we fit all of our appliances there!  :)


      Other side of the kitchen... note the convection oven to the right of the microwave--- that thing has changed the way I cook so much!  Amazing little tool.

      Thursday, October 14, 2010

      Content in any Situation

      Since moving away, I've really been learning the hard lesson of being completely content with Christ alone.  Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love being married and it is really the best thing that has ever happened to me.  I love my husband, and appreciate everything he's doing to help me make the transition to Miami a little easier.

      But I left a whole life behind in Topeka-- all my close friends and family, a car, a job, and my complete comfort zone.  I've never moved away from Kansas, so I feel a bit like a little bird flying away (or south, really).  Some days are harder than others.  For the last couple of weeks, this intense loneliness during the day set in while Israel was at work and I was left by myself.  It's difficult to communicate with his family still, so sometimes I could really just use a friend to talk to.  Phone dates have helped, but it's different when it's in person.

      I think more than anything, this move has really strengthened my relationship with the Lord.  I realize now more than ever how much I daily need Him.  It's not like I didn't need Him before, I just didn't recognize it as fully then.  I'm learning to accept where I am right now, that yes, maybe I don't have any friends or a real church body here yet, but soon.  I have a wonderful husband who loves me and encourages me to keep spending time with the Lord everyday.  This is a huge lesson in trusting and relying on God everyday.  And since I've started to just accept things as they are, I've started to be more content.

      I went jogging/walking this morning at the school a few blocks away from our apartment, and it was a wonderful time spent in prayer and just letting go of more things out of my control.  Strangely enough, I feel more at peace now than I did all summer when I was in Topeka.  I'm falling more in love with my Lord, but not only that-- I'm loving the peace and contentment that only He can provide.  I haven't experienced that in quite a while, and it's nice.

      Tuesday, October 12, 2010

      Meet Viola

      During Israel and I's honeymoon, we had the pleasure of Viola being our Activities Director at the resort.  Not only did we enjoy her fun Caribbean accent, but also her entertaining phrases and laugh.  We tried to talk to her as much as we could because she was hilarious when telling her crazy stories!  Israel took this video secretly (Viola thought it was just a picture), and we watched this video clip about every night of our honeymoon and cracked up every time.  Enjoy!   

      Monday, October 11, 2010

      Anniversary Weekend

      Hello my friends!  I have not been online much lately (I've been scheduling my blog posts two or three at a time for the week).  We don't have Internet at our apartment yet, but hopefully next month we will.  :)  I've been cooking almost every day, and loving it!  Tonight I made a baked bbq chicken recipe that I got from Renae, along with some rice.  I also plan on making the candy bar cake this week.

      Israel and I celebrated our one-month anniversary on Saturday!  I think now I can fully believe we're actually married.  It was so surreal the day after our wedding to think that we were really husband and wife, but now it has set in.  :)  My sweet hubby planned a wonderful evening out.  We first went to dinner at Macaroni Grill (my first time there), enjoying a tasty Pollo Caprese and Tiramisu for dessert.

      And then the real surprise came.... Israel kept this part of the night a secret up until we were walking into the place.  He bought tickets for us to see Rain at this beautiful opera house in downtown Miami in our own box!  Rain is a live band, paying tribute to the Beatles, singing all Beatle songs.  They dressed up in authentic Beatles wear-- with the suits, hair and later crazy pirate costumes.  It was amazing, and they sounded really good!  They encored to Imagine and Hey Jude.  :)

      Yesterday we celebrated Israel's brother, Jorge's, birthday with all the family and several of Jorge's friends.  Like most Cuban birthdays, not only do you get served cake but also croquettas and pastelitos (more Cuban pastries).  It was a very fun night.  :)

      Wednesday, October 6, 2010

      Mastering the Art of Cooking

      After talking to my sister the other day about cooking, I felt inspired to scour through cookbooks to find some fresh ideas for dinner.  Now I finally understand the conundrum many housewives face about what to fix for dinner.  It can be frustrating trying to come up with new ideas!  Israel and I have only been in Miami for a little over two weeks, so thus far I've just come up with ideas on a day-to-day basis.  Sunday, however, changed everything.

      I planned out all of our dinners for the next week, alternating between American and Cuban meals, to accommodate both of our tastes.  So far, I hadn't really made anything amazing.... spaghetti, chicken and rice, rice and beans with scrambled eggs, cheap pre-mixed pasta.  So!  I decided to make a real American meal for my hubby on Sunday night-- baked ranch chicken (crushed Ritz crackers, butter and dry Ranch dressing) and mashed potatoes.  I got a fabulous mashed potato recipe from my sister, and set to work.  

      We are limited on counter space, so I switch out the appliances on the counter and even use our dish rack as an additional counter.  It works out well.  :)  I began to peel and boil the potatoes, as the chicken was baking (or so I thought) in our new convection oven.  After a while, I noticed that the breading on the chicken was burning so I took it out and discovered that it wasn't cooking at all!  I looked at the dials on the oven, and found out that I had forgotten to switch them over to the bake setting from the toast/broil setting from that morning.  I cut the chicken into even smaller pieces, and managed to save the chicken.

      For the mashed potatoes, I added lots of garlic salt, chives, sour cream, butter and milk and mixed it all together in our new Kitchen Aid.  I've never made such creamy mashed potatoes!  Everything tasted great!  :)  I'm excited about trying new recipes this week.

      Monday, October 4, 2010

      Lost in Translation

      My husband moved here from Cuba when he was 11 years old.  And even though he has been in this country for 15 years and speaks English fluently, there are still a few things that seem to get lost in translation.

      Usually, this is either something that when translated from Spanish to English doesn't quite make sense, or there is a particular American phrase Israel has never heard before (or always wondered about).

      One of these first instances happened when I was visiting Miami before I moved here, and Israel and I were making a trip to the gas station.  He pulled up, turned off the engine, looks at me and asks, "Do you want to get down?"

      I ask him to repeat what he just asked, so he asks again with even more emphasis if I'd "like to get down."  Confused and befuddled, all I can do is laugh.  Does Israel want me to start dancing?  Must I get down right here?  

      Finally, I figure out that he's asking me if I'd like to get out of the car-- bajate, means to get out of the car in Spanish, although the translation isn't quite exact in English.  Bajate comes from bajar, which means to get down (usually meaning stepping down from something and getting "out").  Oh, how I love my adorable (yet manly) Cuban husband!

      Stay tuned for more lost in translation's, which is the new thing I like to keep track of in my quote book.  ;)

      Sunday, October 3, 2010

      Brief update pt. 2

      So I never did post more "tomorrow."  Sorry, my few but faithful readers.  We don't have Internet yet at our apartment so it's either a free wifi trip to Starbucks, Barnes and Noble or Israel's grandma's house to get online.  This has definitely helped with my online addiction, but it is nice to be on and connected to friends and family now that I live far away.

      It's strange not to be in Topeka now, especially since Fall has started.  Aside from a two-month stint in California, Kansas has been all I've known.  So naturally, it's an adjustment living here.  It's very strange to be in 80's weather during October, but I think I could get used to it for as often as I complained about cold Kansas winters.

      To be honest, I do get quite lonely during the day and I have to daily remind myself that God has a plan for us here, and just to keep trusting Him.  I miss all my friends and family, and it's weird that I'm not a part of Topeka life anymore.  But marriage is the greatest blessing I've ever experienced.  I'm learning everyday how to put Israel first, and how to love and serve him even more as his wife.  It's not that someone can't feel this way as a single person, but I feel more settled and peaceful.  I love being a wife.

      My parents were a huge help in getting our home set up.  It feels more like our place now, and not like a hotel room or just some temporary place we were staying in.  We took my parents around a lot of Miami-- IKEA, dinner at the best Cuban restaurant La Carreta, several Cuban bakeries, had a picnic at the beach where Israel proposed to me, dinner at Israel's mom's house, and other various touristy things.  We also watched the wedding DVD that Patty Rogie put together, and it's awesome!!  She made a slideshow of everyone's pictures from facebook from the rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, wedding and reception along with video footage too.  It was really nice to watch that from a different perspective, and to see all the things I missed (like my sister messing with the wine goblet about to fall off the table during the prayer).  :)

      A few pictures from my parents' visit:

      Dinner with the in-laws

      The sign explains it all :)... a very delightful time at IKEA

      Standing in front of the exact spot Israel proposed to me 6 months ago... I love my hubby!!

      Gotta love Swedish meatballs :)