Aunt Denise goes to Miami!

On June 10, 2014, one of the most amazing things happened: my brother, Shawn and sister-in-law, Amanda welcomed a beautiful baby boy into this awesome, crazy world! I am so happy and beyond excited to be an aunt! Now presenting:


Carter Emmett Chiaverini Crouch

Even though I couldn’t get down to Miami right away, I immediately bought a plane ticket and headed down the third week of July. He was already a month and 5 days when I first met him. This was my welcoming committee and I immediately fell in love <3


It was around lunch time when we arrived, so we headed straight to Blue Collar in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami. A&S sold me by telling me that Blue Collar had been on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives (aka Triple D – aka one of the best shows ever)!

Blue Collar has a huge chalkboard with daily meat specials (they update it every day and post it on their Facebook page) and an insane list of veggies:


I went with the veggie burger which was a homemade crispy patty (corn, broccoli, peppers, onion, and some other delicious things) with a spicy tarter sauce on a delicious bun (I think they either make it or get it from a local bakery). So good.


I do want to say that there will be a lot of Carter pictures in this post, but I am not apologizing because he’s cute and I’m an aunt.


From the way I ate during the week, you’d probably have no idea there was a newborn in the house. As usual, A&S outdid themselves.  They are such good cooks! Remember when z and I visited in 2010 (you can read about it here, here, and here)? And when we spent Christmas down there (here, here, and here)? Their house is the place for a happy palate!

This is a layered eggplant dish that I don’t want to call eggplant parm. Because this dish was not smothered in unnecessary cheese and was not breaded beyond recognition.


This was made with care and finesse and was ridiculous. Way to go Shawn!


Wednesday morning gluten-free banana pancakes!


Cuddles with mama!


For lunch on Wednesday Amanda made homemade chips. Yes.


I could eat this every day.



That night, Amanda went out and Shawn requested…TOFU! I was happy to oblige. Now that I eat seafood, I eat a lot less tofu, but this was fun!

Brown rice, sautéed peppers, and marinated, baked tofu.


Funny, side story: I sleep with a stuffed walrus. It’s weird but I use it as a pillow and need it to sleep. Louis knows not to take my walrus but when he does, he gets really scolded. In Costa Rica, Samba stole my walrus and everyone tried hard to put it back before I found out. So…it travels with me to Miami and…gets stolen by Edgar! All the dogs love it!


I love my puppy nephew.




For lunch on Thursday we had sushi (and wasabi-bombs)!


For dinner on Thursday night, A&S made an all-homemade Mediterranean feast: falafel (from dried chickpeas), tzatziki, roasted cauliflower, hummus, and Greek salad (tomato, cucumber, kalamata olives, red onion, feta, and red wine vinegar). I think I need a food processor…


Hi sleepy!


After breakfast and cuddles, I headed to the beach. This was the only day I went to the beach because apparently newborns shouldn’t go tanning…


Windy, sunny selfie. I only stayed for an hour because July in Miami feels like sitting on the sun.


Friday night dinner: parchment tilapia (with shallot, tomato, and olives), oven dried candy tomatoes, roasted broccoli, and wild rice. I can’t pick a favorite meal from the week, but I did come home and buy shallots, feta cheese, kalamata olives, and then I made this fish… I’m a shallot convert. I have bought them each time I’ve been shopping since I came home.


Unfortunately Saturday came quickly which meant I had to fly home. Not before a photo shoot with my nephews…


The whole family (minus Edgar) accompanied me to the airport again and I sat in the backseat to soak up the rest of my time with my little guy!


The second I left, I missed him already (and have every day since I got home). I am so proud of A&S for being great parents and I’m so thankful Carter is here! I love being an aunt and can’t wait to see my buddy again!

Love to my little Miami family! You guys are perfect!

Costa Rica 2014

At the end of June, z and I flew to Costa Rica to visit A&P! They were staying for 2-months in the middle of their drive from Santa Cruz, CA to Peru! You read that right – a drive from North America to South America (with an 85 pound Golden Retriever!).

We flew from DC to Miami to San Jose! Not a bad trip at all, especially when you find rattlesnake gummies!


We got to the airport and took a shuttle to get our rental car. We were so glad we packed leftover quinoa and grilled veggies because we were super hungry!


The drive from San Jose to Esterillos Oeste is about 90 minutes (or 2 hours when you get lost).


We drove up and over lots of mountains and through many little towns – we listened to the Costa Rica v. Greece game in the car and got to hear the screams in a small town when CR scored!


After a long drive, we found A&P at Surf Mi watching the end of the game. It went to overtime and penalty kicks but Costa Rica won! It was crazy to be in a bar full of Costa Ricans when they won!

After the game, we headed to A&P’s house which is one block from the ocean in Esterillos Oeste.


For dinner that night we went to Hotel Rancho Coral: A restaurant and hotel!


The next morning, we stocked up on produce in Jaco.


There were tons of puppy cuddles.


Tons of mango (found and cut by Pepe!).


Beautiful foliage.


And a beach that was literally a stone’s…or coconut’s throw away!


These guys are the local pups – they are taken care of by everyone in Esterillos. We observed that all animals (wild and adopted-wild) were so cherished and respected.


We loved spending time with A&P – beaching, eating, and slack-lining!


Surf Mi was a favorite (we were there 3 times in a week)!


Tuna all around!




Homemade plantains, beans, rice, and salsa!!! Yes!


A definite highlight of the trip was our visit to the Manuel Antonio National Park.


I quickly learned that the Spanish word for SLOTH was Perezoso! Sloths happen to be one of my MOST favorite animals in the world! I was immediately on the lookout!


We saw wildlife…



Incredible views…




And yes, dream come true – we saw a sloth!


After a great hike and sweet, but slow sloths, we headed out…but not before some cold coconut water!


Dinner that night was at Los Alemendros


A&Z’s dad was in Costa Rica just a week or so before we were and left a special message for us: Order the brownie sundae!

Done and done.


I just have so many “favorite” parts of this trip – including any and everything having to do with Samba! He loved digging big holes and lying in them. How cute!?


Another beach day, another meal at Surf Mi…


More tuna! They do tuna really well!


It was so nice to eat out but also really nice to share cooking duties at the house. Our final meal was a delicious pasta topped with a homemade relish-like mix with onions and Peruvian peppers.


We left the morning of July 4th and Samba (the blur in the picture) was not quite ready for us to leave…


We drove back to the airport (and yes, got lost again) and saw all the support for the Costa Rica World Cup team!


We made it home just in time to watch the fireworks from our cab!


What a fun week! Thank you to Abby, Pepe, and Samba for being great hosts! PURA VIDA!

In the kitchen last week…

We are just back from visiting z’s parents in North Florida (and celebrating our big birthdays). I have been a busy bee in the kitchen this week. Actually, I’ve been a busy bee with a lot of projects in general this week.

We got home two Friday nights ago, after a 10 1/2 hour drive. That Saturday morning we packed up smoothies and walked a few blocks down the road to watch the Arlington County Fair 5k.


My parents came over later to visit and go to the fair with us. I can’t handle this picture…


Now that we’re in our new house, we’re on the same street as the fair.


We pretty much headed straight to the food carts. I got veggie lomein with TONS of sriracha!


z got BBQ, mom got pad thai with grilled chicken, and dad got a sausage roll. Oh – and lots of lemonade! There’s something about a hot summer fair and cold lemonade that makes me so happy.


Mom and I headed inside to see all the ribbon winning cakes, flowers, vegetables, and art. We were especially interested the Reserve Grand Champion-winning Coconut Cake made by Sarah! We’re so proud!


z started a new position on Monday, so I wanted to make feed him well on Sunday night. I made baked cod with chili flakes and shallots, along with this baked squash. See those tomatoes? They’re from our little farm. 


On Monday, I made a big batch of coconut grits to eat for breakfast during the week. I boiled water, salt, and a can of unsweetened coconut milk before whisking in my quick grits. Super easy!


When it came time to eat, I finished the grits with a drizzle of maple syrup and a healthy sprinkle of unsweetened coconut flakes! So good!


Another successful project this week: Homemade Yeast Bread (the kind with real yeast, a dough hook,  and patience)


The loaves on the right have a nice sheen due to the whipped egg whites I brushed on top. I think they all turned out pretty well!


Veggie tortilla soup was on the menu for Monday.


My DIY project of the week was priming and painting a hideous piece of white/faux wood furniture that was left by the previous owner of this house.

This is after the first coat of primer:


After two coats of primer and two coats of yellow paint…


I will eventually get around to recapping my many vacations this summer, but I’ve just been so busy doing this:


Somebody find me a job. Seriously.

That One Time I Stepped On A Nail.

Let me set the scene: a Sunday afternoon, decked out in red, white, and blue, headed to watch the US v. Portugal game (several weeks ago).

We had just left the house and were walking to the bar when this went through my flip flop and in to my foot.


To make a long traumatic story short…I pulled the nail out, saw blood, passed out (and hit my head) as z was getting me in to the car, went to the ER, x-rays, tetanus shot (oh, the pain), drank a mini Sierra Mist…


…and got this beauty!


I’m sure it was shock/adrenaline but I was ready to go to the bar to watch the game…so I wrapped a flag around my foot and we were off! I even made it to Sherry’s 30th birthday party afterward! I paid for it all the next day and felt awful (tetanus shot hangover!).


This is how the rest of my week looked:




Sweet husband.



I bounced back by Friday and was walking without the boot! Good thing because we were leaving for a tropical adventure on Sunday…


…stay tuned for a recap of our Costa Rica trip!

Gluten-Free Thai Curry Pasta

I was reading BuzzFeed yesterday and was inspired by this “19 Delicious Spaghetti Dinners” post. We usually do pasta one night a week and I decided to spice it up a bit. I gave Z a bunch of options to choose from and he picked Thai. I used their recipe for “Spaghetti With Red Curry, Green Beans And Peanuts” and added a bunch of my own toppings and some protein.

I had most of the ingredients in the pantry or out in the garden but had to go buy the seafood, curry paste, and green beans.

I headed to America Seafood to pick up some gigantic Gulf Shrimp (from Key West) and some big sea scallops. I usually buy seafood at the grocery store but have been wanting to find a seafood store/distributor. America Seafood is super small and pretty pricey but the owners were nice and the seafood was fresh and delicious!


The first step was to peel and de-vein the shrimp before boiling them (just under 90 seconds in the same pot I cooked the pasta in).


Step 2: Remove little rubbery fin-thing on the scallop, rinse, pat dry, and season with salt and pepper.


Step 3: Gather all ingredients, chop toppings, and snap/trim green beans.


Step 4: Blanch green beans.


Step 5: Toast curry paste in vegetable oil for about 30 seconds (be careful of the splatter!). The recipe called for 2 tablespoons, but I used 4 tablespoons!


Step 6: Add coconut milk and green beans. DSC_0541

Undocumented final steps: cook GF pasta, cook seafood (boiled shrimp, seared scallops), mix pasta in with sauce, assemble the plates, pour the wine, and ENJOY!


The pasta was topped with fresh jalapenos, tomato (garden), basil (garden), cucumber, lime, and chopped peanuts.



The pasta had great flavor and a range of textures, the seafood was outstanding (super duper fresh), and the dish was really comforting. Z had two plates! Guess he was happy with his choice!

Side note: So many good things happening in our lives right now (aside from the nail in my foot). More on all those good things (and maybe the nail) coming soon…

Spring Break in Williamsburg, VA

I had a week off of school in April, so Z also took a couple days off and we took a little road trip!


We arrived just in time for lunch. Since Williamsburg is a college town (home of William and Mary) we stopped at Paul’s Deli which is like a college deli/diner.


Greek salad for me!


French Dip sandwich for Z.


After lunch we headed down to Colonial Williamsburg to check out the sites.


One of the highlights for me was seeing this baby calf!




I spy a cardinal…


The garden was SUPER cool!


We stopped at a candy shop and I picked up some sea salt caramels for me and some turtles for my mom (who watched Louis for us!). We sat in some rocking chairs on the campus of William and Mary where I enjoyed one of my treats!


After a few hours (and lots of miles) walking, we headed back to our hotel to rest before cleaning up for dinner.

We stopped at Dog Street Pub for a few drinks before our 8:45pm dinner reservation.


Our dinner reservations were just across the street from the pub so we were right on time!

I chose Fat Canary because I read such great reviews everywhere! The restaurant was super cute and we got a great private table with an awesome server (Hi Tink!).



We started with the Rappahannock Oysters – yum!


z also ordered the seasonal corn soup.


We got a nice bottle of wine to share since we walked in to town!


For my entrée I got the scallops with smoked tomatoes! I haven’t eaten scallops since this dinner because they were SO PERFECT and nothing will measure up!


z ordered a fish special which was also awesome.


We even splurged and got espresso profiteroles for dessert!


A great meal and a great day in Williamsburg! Happy Spring Break to me!

Garden and Backyard Progress!

Let’s go back in to the archives to see what our backyard looked like when we bought our house in September…

redfin 8

Overgrown and scary!

redfin 9redfin 11

We immediately went to work removing/killing the English Ivy that had taken over and began to think about how many trees needed to come down.

This picture is after having some trees removed and clearing a lot of the brush/bushes.


This is the stump of the GIANT Locust from the middle of the yard – it was rotten on the inside! Scary.


Getting there…


After we had cleared as much as we could for the time being, Z tilled a patch of dirt and put up a fence for our new garden!


My awesome husband made this gate! Sweet!


Anaheim and Habanero peppers in a container. I painted the little rock markers to distinguish.


Planting potatoes.


Gardening bench.


This is our backyard and garden TODAY (May 9th) after lots of love and hard work:


I’m not sure who loves our backyard more…Z or the dog!


I think Louis has a slight edge because I haven’t seen Z roll in the grass…yet!


When we moved in to our new house, the previous owners left a large compost bin in the yard. It had not been used or taken care of in years, but the bin was still in good shape. We cleaned it out and got motivated to start composting!

Here is a little more information on Composting from Planet Natural:

In the kitchen, we have a small OXO Good Grips Compost Bin to put our every day food scraps. We empty the bin 1-2 times a week which means we don’t have to use a filter or charcoal and it doesn’t get too smelly!  DSC_0515

We pretty much stick to composting fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, and coffee/espresso grounds. We don’t put any scraps in the bin that have been cooked or prepared (no oil or grease!). We also don’t put any meat, fish or dairy in our compost.



Every weekend we make a point of adding our kitchen compost bin to our larger bin outside.


Z turns it over with a shovel to make sure it’s all mixed together and that the broken down scraps are helping the new scraps.


It’s nice and sweaty (and wormy) in our compost bin. The leaves, dirt, and scraps produce heat which helps break everything down.


We are so excited to be creating this nutrient-dense soil to fertilize our garden naturally! We have also SIGNIFICANTLY cut down on our trash production.

Recycling + Composting + Reusing = less trash in our landfills!

We are so excited to have so much space to do things like composting and gardening! Speaking of gardening…

Stay tuned for my next post to introduce you to our garden!


Lately, 90’s R&B has been the ONLY station I will listen to on Pandora…



Lately…I have been slacking in the blog posting area so I will dump all pictures into one post. I’m sorry or you’re welcome.

treats and puppy backpack from cousin SAMBA (Aunt A and Uncle P too!).



solo viewing.


gf cookie making.


bike maintenance class at Papillon Cycles.


post-bike class dinner at P. Brennan’s on the Pike.





z’s homemade Old Bay shrimp boil.


first time at Wegmans with Dad. Yum.


road trip to NJ with mom for sister-in-law’s baby shower.



jersey diner.


baby shower cake.


tofu hot dogs.


weird book at school.


homemade mojitos with brown sugar.


loving our screened-in porch.



pre and post puppy haircut.


pretty rain barrel, painted by Z.



gigantic burrito at Taqueria Poblano.


morning after dinner with T&E and Dan’s 30th bday party. Ouch.


Advocare 24-day challenge.


healthy, Advocare-friendly meals.



oil lamp (awesome wedding gift).


cut my first whole pineapple then ate the whole thing in two days.


two weekends in a row of native plant sales.




cinco de mayo.


morning picture message to my mom.


Advocare smoothie.


900 pictures in one post. Awesome. Hope it’s not too long before I update again…