Usher Farm Happenings–Week of Jan. 25, 2015

What’s happening on the farm today (and the rest of the week)? 

Here is what I/we are (verb)-ing:

Wearing:  Cozy and matchy-matchy! It’s cool but not cold today so I opted for warm clothes, but my TOMs with no socks (boo to socks!).  I took this picture right before I stepped out to go grocery shopping.


(Red Sweater: Old Navy; Boyfriend Jeans: Loft; Shoes: Vegan TOMs; Fitbit Charge; Fair Trade/Eco-Friendly Purse: freeset – this company uses warehouse space at Christian Service Mission in Alabama where my parents do a lot of service trips)

I’m also wearing my aprons – most of them have pockets for my camera lens! I wear aprons for cooking and washing dishes. Dishes never, ever end!


Eating: Lots of Honeybell oranges. Our annual gift from z’s parents came on Friday and we’ve already eaten 5!


I would blame my fruit-obsessed husband, but this is currently what I’m looking at:


Here are some other things we’ve been eating lately – 

Gluten free pasta with homemade sauce and marinated mozzarella

marinated mozz

Shrimp stir fry

head on shrimpshrimp stir fry

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Bread (it got a little out of control…)

gf bread2gf bread

These AMAZING coconut milk popsicles (minus the salted caramel)


Dinner last night was grilled coconut crusted tilapia, baked sweet potato, and a spinach salad with Honeybell orange and sun dried tomatoes


Cooking: Here are some of the things I’ll be cooking today and later this week for our meal plan:

Quinoa Veggie Burgers with Roasted Red Pepper Relish (I just finished making these and will cook some for dinner and freeze some for later. I’ll probably do another post on this process.)

Vegan Slow-Cooker Caramelized Onion Chili with Gluten Free Honey Cornbread

Asian Salmon in Foil with Rice and Veggies

Doing this week: Blogging, meal planning, babysitting M&M tomorrow, working a bunch, exercising (if I type it then I’ll do it, right?), have dinner with one of z’s coworkers and his wife, playing with Louis, etc.



Listening to: Lots of Sam Smith (non-stop since we saw him live), Taylor Swift (1989), and Superfruit – I just figured out how to make a playlist on iPhone, so I’ll be listening to a lot of these guys at the gym!

sam smith livesam smith2sam smith3

Reading: The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald – I just finished Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani  – both of which I loved.

Smelling: This new candle from Terri – perfect for tonight’s forecasted weather!

falling snow candle

Looking forward to: Garden planning!


Loving lately: Our new living room layout!


Loving this new dish towel that z gave me for Christmas:


Loving this new wall decal from my cousin – it’s in my ladies suite right under my mirror! It says “Music is the prayer the heart sings” – love it Smile


This post was super fun so you can expect some more posts like this…actually, please don’t expect them, just accept them if they ever come again!

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!

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!

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!


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?