Usher South to Usher Mid-Atlantic

A couple weeks before Christmas, z’s parents came for a quick weekend visit! When I got home from work, we bundled up and headed a couple miles down the road to Arlington National Cemetery. It was a crisp clear day; perfect for a walk to pay our respects.


On Saturday afternoon, we went to the US Botanic Garden to explore.


After visiting the gardens, we walked to the Christmas trees.



We had a 5:45pm dinner reservation to get to at Oyamel where my parents were meeting us!


We had an incredible meal with the two sets of parents. It was so nice to have the Usher’s up from Florida since we wouldn’t be seeing them for Christmas!

Can you tell I’m playing blog catch-up? Christmas Eve/Christmas 2014 recap is next…

Thanksgiving 2014 in Florida


In November, z and I drove down to Florida for Thanksgiving with his family! I worked an overnight shift so we left at 7:30am when I got home.  Armed with Kombucha and a snuggie!


We got there in time for dinner and then crashed! The next day was lunch at Timoti’s – YUM!

T’S POKE BOWL (ahi tuna, coconut rice, avocado, spinach, kelp seasoning, black sesame seeds and T’s Poke Sauce) – for the win!


For lunch on Thanksgiving, Pepe made empanadas which I posted about here (it deserved its own post)!


We had Thanksgiving dinner at z’s aunt and uncle’s house!











We all ate until we were stuffed and spent the rest of the night like this:


My thoughts exactly, Alex!


So thankful for family!

Ina Garten Summer Dinner Party!

I’m really throwing it back to the warm days of summer on the blog today! Back in July, a group of good friends got together for a pot-luck dinner party. This wasn’t any old dinner party though – all dishes were inspired by the super awesome Ina Garten! A few of us had the idea after we were all talking about and drooling over one of Ina’s many cookbooks. There were so many Ina-lovers that we knew we had to do a party!

z and I chose to do two recipes from Ina’s “Foolproof” cookbook. I made the “Sticky Toffee Date Cake with Bourbon Glaze.”


z was in charge of making the “Orange Braised Carrots & Parsnips.”


The appetizer, dinner and dessert spreads were equally impressive!



Thanks to Karen, Scott, and the King Cavs for hosting! What a fun time!


Birthday Week in Fernandina Beach!

Back in August (yes, 4 months ago), z and I celebrated our 35th and 30th birthdays! For z’s 35th, I got reservations at Corduroy in DC.


We heard a lot of good things about it from friends so I thought z’s birthday would be a nice occasion to try it.


Soup: seasonal corn chowder


Appetizer special: scallop tartare with scallop roe


z’s entrée: Wagyu Beef Strip Loin with Garlic Mashed Potato


My entrée: Soft Shell Crabs with Wilted Greens and Verjus


Birthday dessert: Chocolate Tart with Caramelized Banana


We had a really tasty meal. Overall it was a little too fussy for us but we definitely enjoyed it.

The morning after z’s birthday, we got in the car for a LONG trip to Amelia Island, FL to visit z’s parents, Alex the pup, and his aunt and uncle!

Armed with Spanish CD’s!


It ended up taking as a really long time to get out of Virginia so we spent the night in Savannah, GA. We got back on the road in the morning to finish the trip.

We got to Amelia Island, unpacked and relaxed for a while. Dinner that night was at The Salty Pelican!




When we got back to the house, z’s parents had cupcakes and candles to celebrate his birthday!


The next day, z’s mom had to work, so the three of us went exploring. We had lunch at a place on the water in Mayport called Sandollar.


After lunch, we walked around Fort George Island.



The next morning, we got up, played with Alex, then headed out on a tour!


The tour took us all around Amelia Island, Fort Clinch, and Cumberland Island, GA.


That night (August 4th), z and I made a Spanish-inspired dinner. We used our trusty José Andrés recipe for Garlic Shrimp and Catalan Spinach. We also made Papas Bravas and drank a Spanish Rioja.


z’s mom made a delicious ice cream parfait for dessert that night!


On Wednesday, August 6th, I turned 30! Since z’s mom had to work and he and his dad went to see the Jaguars practice, I decided to take a nice bike ride into downtown Amelia.  I had an iced coffee and vegan cookie for breakfast and did a little shopping. It was a really nice start to the day.


For dinner, the only thing I requested was OYSTERS! My wish came true at The Fish Company  in Atlantic Beach! IMG_2494

I got bouillabaisse because…I love it!


Turning 30 was not nearly as scary as I anticipated Smile


We had to get Sonny’s for lunch the next day because it’s a tradition for z when he’s down in FL. Unfortunately, we just learned that the  one they always go to was closed. So sad! I’m glad we went in August!




Happy husband!


No trip to Amelia is complete without a visit to Sliders. The four of us met up with z’s aunt and uncle for dinner.


Grapefruit crush. So good!


Salad with a crab cake!


My new birthday bracelet from Sue and Bruce!


We had such a great visit to celebrate summer, family , and birthdays!

Thanksgiving Empanadas!

Z and I are celebrating Thanksgiving down on Amelia Island this year. We drove down on Monday and have been enjoying quality time with his family.

This morning, Pepe started the process of making beef and vegetarian (olive, mushroom, and onion) empanadas. They were ready at lunchtime and everyone surrounded the kitchen like vultures. Abby and Pepe even brought some special sauces from Peru to share. As expected, the empanadas were incredible!







Time to rest before the main feast!!

In The Kitchen Lately…

It’s funny that I don’t blog as much as I used to. I am actually cooking way more now than I have in a while. We meal plan every week which is really fun and saves us from the “What’s for dinner?” dilemma.

Here are some meals I’ve made lately:

Spicy roasted salmon with peppers, quinoa, and an avocado tomato salad


Spicy rice noodles with zucchini and baked cod

Fish noodles

Mustardy kale salad with roasted sweet potato and apple

kale salad

Vegetable soup, kale chips, and roasted squash


Roasted squash seeds from above squash

squash seeds

Baby cucumber from our garden

baby cucumber

Hodge podge: baby cucumber, avocado, cheddar cheese, and grilled veggies (asparagus, onions, and sweet potatoes)

grilled veggies

Falafel (store bought) with Greek lemon potatoes and salad


Homemade tzatiki



falafel sandwich

Squash and pumpkin soup with pepita oil and homemade rosemary bread

squash and pump soup

Tried to propagate basil and failed.

dead basil

New honey! Yes, Van Morrison.

She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
Just like honey from the bee

tupelo honey

Tie dye juice. I need more of this in my life!

tie dye juice

So that’s what’s been going on in our kitchen here in South Arlington!


I’m finally finishing a blog post about our trip down to Florida in August… Smile Stay tuned!

One-Year Anniversary Getaway!

Can you believe that z and I have been married for a whole year!? It’s hard to wrap my mind around how fast the year went by!


z planned a mini, surprise getaway! I was given a list of what to pack and told that we were driving a couple hours away in Virginia…

He sent me a collage as a clue for our adventure. I saw that we might be going to a brewery, some mountains, and a nice restaurant. All things we love:

anniversary collage

Road snacks.


Tons of fog and rain on our drive.


First stop: Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, VA


We ordered a flight to share since it was lunch…on a Monday!


Cute mini pint glasses.


z ordered the pulled pork sandwich, and I got a tofu (with local Twin Oaks tofu) reuben on a gluten free bun. The insides were yummy but the bun was not so I didn’t eat it!



z had planned a hike around the brewery but it was raining so after lunch we headed to our next destination… The Iris Inn in Waynesboro, VA.


To be honest, this was the biggest surprise to me. We had our own luxury cabin with a beautiful view of the trees and mountains! I wanted to live there.




Each cabin had an open floor plan, a screened-in porch, mini kitchen, gas fireplace, big tv, and…


…a hot tub on the porch!


(source – above 3 photos)

We checked out the room (so gorgeous – highly recommended), took a nap,  took a dip in the hot tub, and then got ready for dinner!


z picked a restaurant called Zynodoa in Staunton, VA, which specializes in southern cuisine made with local ingredients.  From the Zynodoa website:

Zynodoa is proud to support Virginia’s independent farmers and producers. We pledge to use only the finest, freshest ingredients seasonally available. Our produce and livestock are primarily sourced from the Shenandoah Valley and Piedmont regions. Our seafood comes from the Chesapeake Bay. At Zynodoa, we know and respect our farm partners, and we do our best to honor their food and their labor.



Complimentary Spiced Nuts


Bruléed Cornbread Scones.


Rockfish with Sweet Potatoes, Smoked Tomatoes, and Bok Choy


Tea-Infused, Roasted Beets with Carrot Puree and Mushroom “Paté”


Our entire meal was fresh, comforting and delicious. We skipped dessert because we had the top tier of wedding cake and champagne at the cabin!




We relaxed in front of the fire with our dessert, watching cable (what a luxury)!


Such a nice surprise getaway to celebrate a year of marriage! It’s pretty great to be married to someone so awesome! 


Cheers to many, many more years!

Current Favorites.

Here are some things that I’m really loving these days.

My favorite nephew Carter! I can’t handle the Redskins shirt. Seriously cute!


Noosa Pumpkin Yoghurt – believe the hype. It’s amazing.



Our new vacuum – three words: brush roll cleaner! Thanks to my brother Shawn for introducing me to this amazing device! Never again will I have to use scissors to cut my long hair out of the vacuum’s brush roll! YES!


Gluten-Free baking mixes from Williams-Sonoma!


Our new table runner that was on sale at World Market.


Stonyfield Organic Half & Half! We are using it in our coffee and going through one of these a week!


Half-Caf iced green tea…


…in this pitcher!


Horizon Cheddar Snack Crackers. Yes, I’m five years old.


This book! I was early to a job interview so I popped in to a little bookstore in Adams Morgan and found this book for $1.00!


It helped boost my confidence!


And of course, these two guys are my forever favorites!


Have a great week!!



What are you loving these days?

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!