A Season of Changes

Well, I’m back!  It’s been a whopping TWO YEARS since I last posted on my blog!  Life got even busier and LOTS of MAJOR changes happened.  This led me away from my little outlet for quite a while but yesterday my fingers started twitching and I knew I had to get typing again.  Speaking of changes…

It’s definitely Autumn, a season of changes.  I woke up this morning and promptly procrastinated getting out of bed.  The air was so chilly that even the kitties were snuggling under the comforter!  It would’ve been nice if I could’ve snuggled with them and my little 7 month old heater…  Oh, I guess I should catch some of you up!

A quick recap of my life since my last blog post:
~ I moved back to my home state of Maryland!  Temporarily back into my hometown, into the house where I spent my pre-teen and teen years, into my old bedroom at my parent’s house.  With my husband and our two cats.  Yep.  <Insert Twilight Zone music here.  lol.>
~ I started working for my hometown’s little municipal government.  It’s interesting to see who remembers me and who I remember :)
~ I started volunteer/assistant coaching pole vault at my former high school.  It’s time consuming but I love it!  I have a great group of kids!
~ My hubby and I found a DREAM of a “starter” home and bought it!  I say “starter” because it’s the first house we purchased, but the former owners put in a ton of amazing upgrades so it was completely turnkey!
~ It’s a good thing we didn’t have to do any renovations to the house because we learned less than 2 months after moving in that we were expecting a baby!  It was a boy, he was born in March, and is now 7 months old – I can’t believe time has flown by so quickly!

So now that we’re all caught up, let’s get back to changes.  Fall, a season of changes.  Sports change…  Pro baseball is wrapping up and all football recently started back up – yay for Giants football being back but boo for my team sucking and losing the last 3 games.  The weather changes…  I like cooler weather so I can wear my faux motorcycle jacket, hoodies, and boots.  I do not like that it’s now dark (and COLD!) in the morning when I wake up and dark (and COLD!) in the evening when I drive home from work.  The activities change (mostly because of the weather)…  Bring on the bonfires, leaf peeping, pumpkin patches, and Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas decorations!  The food changes…  Tailgates bring food that are part summer cookout and part winter comfort.  Ooh, winter comfort food – soups, stews, warm casseroles, holiday foods – mmm!  Breakout your CrockPots! :)  And the holidays bring stick-to-your-ribs food and sweet treats – mmm again!  The most obvious change that this season brings, at least to me, is that the leaves fall off the trees.

While walking to my car yesterday, I noticed all of the leaves that were on the ground already.  It got me thinking about all these changes, not just seasonally, but in life especially.  Yesterday would’ve been my parents’ 36th wedding anniversary, if my dad was still here on earth with us.  Instead of being a happy celebration, it seems to have evolved into a day of avoidance.  Unfortunately for another family I know, October 11th may evolve into a day of avoidance for them as well.  A car crossed a double-yellow line and hit another car head-on yesterday morning.  The young woman in the second car died at the scene.  We did gymnastics together growing up.  I remember her being a effervescent, fun, sweet girl.  From the looks of Facebook, everyone else is remembering her the same way.  She is about the 30th person, give or take a couple, under 30 to die since I graduated high school a decade ago; apparently the good really do die young.  I pray for her family.

Onto happy life changes!  As luck would have it, I had to reschedule a hair appointment to yesterday evening so it turned out to be a happy (okay, maybe a little bittersweet for me) milestone for our little family.  How is a hair appointment a milestone?  It is when it’s your first baby’s first haircut!  And oh my goodness, we certainly have had many, many firsts in these last 7 months!  Most recently there were the first beach trip, the first teeth, the first real (puree-free) meal, and now the first haircut!  It’s amazing to watch this little guy grow and learn and develop!  I mostly get excited when something new happens with him.  But I also get a little wistful because it’s all happening so fast and he won’t be a baby for long.  Time, please slow down some!

I guess if there was a point to my random, often off-on-a-tangent, musings today it would be this:  we (oh how guilty I am of this!) often get so wrapped up in the bustle of life that we don’t always stop and savor its sweetness but life goes by so quickly, and sometimes ends so abruptly, that we should try better to enjoy more of it before life entirely passes us by or comes to that unexpected halt.  If there isn’t a point to any of what I just wrote, well, welcome back to my crazy randomness ;)

Thanks for reading!  Hopefully it won’t be another 2 years before I post again.

Scandal Style at The Limited

 

image from thelimited.com

The Scandal Collection at The Limited

Scandal, starring Kerry Washington, is one my absolute must-watch-every-week favorite television shows.  It’s almost an addiction.  The plot lines are riveting but the fashion also pulls me in.  Everyone talks about the show at work so you have to watch every episode if you want to participate in water cooler conversations and you have to watch it live if you don’t want to hear spoilers.  For Halloween at work last year, I dressed up as Kerry’s character Olivia Pope, clad in a black and white dress and a white coat with my cell phone attached to my hand (I would have added a glass of wine if it wasn’t against the rules…).  Earlier this year, it was announced that there would be a fashion collaboration between Kerry, the show’s costume designer Lyn Paolo, and the retailer The Limited.  From then on, I constantly was on the look out for sneak-peeks and release dates!  I was super exited!

For years, The Limited’s former sister store Express (they used to be part of Limited Brands, now L Brands) has been one of my go-to stores when I shop for clothing.  It always has a great selection of looks that cover the fashion-conscious for casual, party, and professional settings.  Now that I am getting closer to age 30, maybe it’s time to step up to The Limited.  The Scandal collection is certainly a good place to start!  Details appeared in early reports:  42 individual mix-and-match pieces for the fall collection; prices ranging from $49 to $248; soft hues of sage green, baby pink, beige, and cream.

Their timing was perfectly planned.  The clothing line’s capsule collection debuted on Tuesday, September 23rd, just two days before the Thursday, September 25th premiere of the show’s Season 4 that will air on ABC.  Most of The Limited’s retail stores held launch parties on Tuesday evening.  I attended the one at my local store.  For RSVPing and attending, I was entered into a drawing for prizes and received a set of note cards with a fabulous sketch of a dress from the holiday collection.  The first drawing was done just before I left the store – and I won!  That $25 gift card will likely be used toward something from the next release.  They also offered 30% off your purchase.

Below are some of my favorite pieces/looks from the Fall 2014 collection (the full collection can be viewed here).  However, I’m still on the lookout for two white dresses that I’ve seen in previews - a sleeveless one with the black lace detail and a floor-length evening gown.  I was told that they would be part of the 40-piece holiday collection that would debut on October 13th (I’m marking my calendar/setting an alert now!).  You can follow the conversation (and get the latest scoops!) on Twitter under #scandalstylethelimited.  Now if only ABC’s other show Nashville would jump on this bandwagon… I’d love to see a Juliette/Rayna/Scarlett-inspired collection!

image from thelimited.com

image from thelimited.comBlog Post 8_Photo 3

image from thelimited.comimage from thelimited.com

image from thelimited.comimage from thelimited.com

(Note:  Above images are from thelimited.com)

Crockpot BBQ Chicken Sliders

Every month or so, my office holds a get-together with a potluck lunch and team building. This month’s theme is tailgate. For whatever reason, the first thing that popped into my head was BBQ chicken sliders. Just throw the chicken in the crock pot, shred it when it’s cooked, and throw it on a bun. Easy, right?

My problem was finding the right recipe. There are so many different recipes all over the internet. And yet none of the ones that I found had exactly what I wanted and all of them varied in cooking times. So I decided to come up with my own.

The rub came from one of my favorite rib recipes that I found (thank you Pinterest!) on the Mmm… is for Mommy website. The sauce is one of my favorites (my other is KC Masterpiece) but you can substitute with your favorite instead.

Crockpot BBQ Chicken Sliders

Crock Pot BBQ Chicken Sliders

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ Tbsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 oz Jack Daniels barbecue sauce (or your favorite sauce)
  • King’s Hawaiian Original Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
  • Cheese (optional)
  • Pickles (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the paprika, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper to make the rub.
  2. Place the chicken in a crock pot so each piece is touching the bottom or the wall.
  3. Spread the rub on each side of the chicken then pour the barbecue sauce over the top.
  4. Secure the lid on the crock pot and cook on low for 3 hours (or more, if your chicken breasts are very thick/large).
  5. Use 2 forks to shred the chicken into small pieces. Add more barbecue sauce, if desired.
  6. Re-cover and cook on low for another hour.
  7. Cut the rolls in half, horizontally. Place the shredded chicken on one side. Add cheese and/or pickles, if desired.
  8. Enjoy!

Easy Cheesy Chicken Sliders

This week has been one of those where I just feel lethargic. All I want to do after I get home from work is curl up on the couch, cuddle with the kiddies, and veg out. But a girl’s gotta eat! Especially this one! So what is an easy meal to rustle up quickly?

Luckily, I shopped for groceries yesterday on my way home. Publix had their firey cranberry rotisserie chicken on special this week so I decided to try it out. I also grabbed a few packages of King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls to use when I test out my crock pot BBQ chicken sliders this weekend. Knowing I had some cranberry cheddar cheese left in the fridge, I quickly identified my ingredients for that night’s dinner.

My food was prepared and ready to eat in less than 5 minutes. It was a little sweet, a little spicy, a little smoky, and oh so cheesy. A perfect combo. And super easy to put together. So yummy and easy that I made it again tonight with the leftovers!

There are so many variations on this recipe. It can be made with any flavor rotisserie chicken, any kind of rolls, and any variety of cheese! Mix it up and let me know what your favorite combination is!

 

Easy Cheesy Chicken Sliders

Ingredients I used:

  • King’s Hawaiian Original Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
  • Publix Firey Cranberry Rotisserie Chicken
  • Publix Cranberry Cheddar Cheese

Directions:

  1. Slice the rolls in half, horizontally, almost all the way through. Place on a plate, open-faced.
  2. Slice the cheese off the block and place on one side of the rolls.
  3. Shred the chicken into small pieces and place on the other side of the rolls. Feel free to add bits of the skin for more flavor.
  4. Place the plate in the microwave and cook until the cheese melts, about 30-45 seconds (depending on the microwave). Mine took 40 seconds.
  5. Fold the sides together and let cool for a minute. Then enjoy!!
Ingredients for my Easy Cheesy Chicken Sliders

Ingredients

Prepped and ready for the microwave

Prepped and ready for the microwave

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

My Favorite Time of the Year

My favorite time of the year has come around again. Yep, it’s NFL season! Tonight my team is playing the first Monday Night Football game of the year!

If you already know me, you know that I am a DIE HARD New York Giants fan. I BLEED BLUE. People always ask me how I became a Giants fan. It doesn’t make sense to them because I don’t live in or near New Jersey. It’s a family thing. Most families pass down heirlooms but my family passes down the love for a football team. My mom’s side roots for the New York Giants and my dad’s side roots for the Washington Redskins. It just so happens that I ended up on the Big Blue side of the coin flip.

My mom’s entire family was born and raised in New Jersey. She’s the only one who ever moved away. (Why did she have to move to Redskins territory?! Just kidding Murto side!) The love for the Giants, or maybe it’s an obsession, stems from my PopPop, my mom’s dad. I remember watching games with him as a kid. We yelled at the TV together. We stared at the TV, holding our breath, our fingers crossed. We jumped up and down, high-fived, and danced when they scored. It was one of the best bonding times. Since PopPop left us for Heaven, the family has certainly had more than its share of ups and downs. Still, it seems that we always come together for Giants games. Having a shared hope, a common love… It’s one of those things that just makes me smile and melts my heart a bit.

We’ve traveled as far as Phoenix and San Diego for away games. We’ve frozen our butts off at home games in the middle of winter. Win or lose, it’s quite the fan experience! Head to toe blue, white and red is a requirement; underwear included. Tailgating is a MUST. Yelling at the players, jumping in your seat, “friendly” trash talking… It’s just one of those things that you have to be there to really understand. We are FANatics!

Left: Mom, me, Uncle Dave, cousin Steve @ Giants Stadium, 2009.  Right: cousin Tom, cousin Dave, family friend Phil, Mom, me @ U of Phoenix Stadium, 2008.

Left: Mom, me, my uncle, my cousin @ Giants Stadium, 2009. Right: my cousins, a family friend, Mom, me @ U of Phoenix Stadium, 2008.

 

My husband doesn’t understand it. At all. He thinks we’re just nuts! But he didn’t grow up immersed in it like I did. In fact, it was the complete opposite! His family has no interest in watching sports, with the exception of my brother-in-law (a Packers fan – ugh) and the hubby (non-NASCAR auto racing only). At game time, I’d either have to head off to Buffalo Wild Wings or my hubby would shut himself up in our room while I became an obnoxious crazy person in the living room. This season, he’s living hours away (we’re in the process of moving back to my hometown and I haven’t found a job yet) and probably thinks he free of the yelling and clapping and cursing. But if he thinks I’m bad, wait until he hears my mom (his current housemate lol)! After all, where do you think I learned it from?

As I finish this post, my beloved team is down 21 points with less than 3 minutes left in the game. Oh well. You win some, you lose some.

At least for a few hours I had the hope and the memories.

Love and miss you PopPop <3

Easy Roasted Chicken Thighs

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts used to be the only piece of chicken I knew how to cook with. Even when I switched up the recipes and used a variety of different ones, it still got boring. Eventually, I stopped wanting to eat chicken. Then I found a super simple recipe for roasted chicken thighs and decided to give it a try. Juicy and delicious!

Now that I’m temporarily living on my own and cooking for only one, I usually buy a larger package of chicken thighs when they’re on sale and freeze them in single portions. I place each piece in its own sandwich-size Ziploc bag, pour in enough flavored/infused olive oil to coat the chicken, seal the bag tight with as little air as possible, wrap Glad Press ‘N’ Seal around the bag, then throw all of the individual bags into a gallon-size bag. Sounds intensive, but the bag-wrap-bag process helps prevent freezer burn! Then when I’m ready to cook (usually the morning of or the night before), I just defrost the desired number of pieces. The chicken marinates in the flavored/infused olive oil as it defrosts in the fridge!

I just use salt and pepper to season since I marinate in the flavored/infused olive oil, but you can really add whatever herbs/spices you want. Comment with your favorite combinations!

Easy Roasted Chicken ThighsEasy Roasted Chicken Thighs (adapted from RealSimple.com)

Ingredients I used:

  • Bone-in Chicken Thighs with Skin
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook the chicken, skin-side down, until browned and crisp; about 8 to 10 minutes (mine only takes about 6 minutes to brown though). If cooking a lot of chicken, do this step in batches.
  5. Transfer the chicken to a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. Place in the oven and roast the chicken until cooked through, about 20 to 25 minutes.

 

(Note: Above image is from RealSimple.com)

The Beginning

Apparently, I am the go-to person in the office when someone needs to know where to seek out good food. I always know about new restaurants that are opening, what deals are going on, and what food-related events are happening. Now, I’ve never been much of a writer; I’ve always been better with numbers. So when someone suggested that I start a food blog, I totally brushed it aside. But I later revisited the idea and decided to give it a try. Then, during the process of setting it up, the blog evolved into more than just food.

Coming up with a food-related blog name was difficult. Everything good that I thought of was already taken by a website, Facebook page, Twitter user, etc. One day, I used Instagram to share a photo of my food (what else?!) and my username made me do a double-take.

AlwaysMurt. I started to use that name after I got married and changed my last name. My friend “JRob” had always called me Murty Murt and said to me “What am I supposed to call you now?” I told her that I will always be a Murto, no matter what my last name actually is. That got me thinking about expanding my blog to be about everything I like, not just food. So now it’s just that.

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I will probably write in the same way that I speak. I probably won’t always use proper English. I probably won’t even make sense at times. But I don’t care. Maybe nobody will read my blog. Maybe those who do will find it boring or stupid. But I don’t care. This is for me. An outlet for everything I like to talk about but my husband doesn’t really care to listen to.

If you do read this, you will likely be entertained as well as find useful tidbits about food, entertainment, and travel, among other things. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!