Whip It Up Week 4: Spicy and Scrumptious Salad

(Is “scrumptious” a word you can use with something like salad? It seems to apply more to baked goods, am I right? Regardless, it makes for good alliteration, so it stays. I hope we can all live with that.)

This week’s Whip It Up theme is vegetarian, which immediately made Tim and me think “Salad!” And then we went and made a non-vegetarian salad. Um . . . oops?

This, my friends, is a Chicken Fiesta Salad. And it is delicious. Here is the original recipe, if you are interested. I followed it pretty exactly, except I left the onions out and used romaine lettuce rather than some ambiguous, sure-to-be-filled-with-iceberg-nastiness “mixed greens” because I like my lettuce to be really green and leafy. I also improvised a little spicy ranch dressing because it felt like the right thing to do. (I’d give you a recipe for the ranch, except the process went something like this: Pour ranch in bowl; stir in hot sauce, chili powder, paprika; taste, decide it still tastes like regular ranch; add hot sauce of a different variety, along with some random mexican spices laying around in the cabinet; taste, decide it’s getting better, but not quite there; add a little garlic salt and a squeeze of lime juice; taste, decide it’s still pretty mild but good enough.)

Was the recipe easy to follow? Easy-peasy. It all came together really simply and quickly, and with minimal dishes and mess. I forgot to save half the fajita seasoning to stir into the corn/beans/salsa mix, but I made up for that with a dash or two of some spices from the cabinet and everything turned out fine in the end. Honestly, depending on the flavor/spice-level of your salsa, it’s probably not too imperative to add fajita seasoning to anything besides the chicken.

Did it taste good? Oh, so good! It was pretty spicy, but I think that had a lot to do with the salsa we used. It would be easy to make this mild if you wanted to. I only drizzled a tiny bit of ranch over my serving, and it was just right as a cool compliment to all the spicy flavors. My only complaint has nothing to do with taste and everything to do with what a clumsy eater I am: I had a hard time getting a fork-full of corn/beans/salsa then successfully keeping it on my fork as I stabbed lettuce and chicken. But it all tasted great anyway, so I won’t hold my clumsy eating skills against the recipe, and neither should you.

Will I make it again? I definitely will. It was really easy to throw together from stuff that we usually have on hand, so it makes for a great quick and fresh meal on a hot summer evening. And Tim is a huge fan of salad, so I know I’ll hear no complaints from him when this dish makes repeat appearances.

Wednesday-Bensday! Special Oh-So-Handsome Edition

Last time we were at my parents’ house I was amazed at how great their dog Tasha looked. She is always soooo cute, of course, but she was looking extra pretty, not to mention 5 pounds skinnier. When I asked my mom what Tasha’s secret was, she replied: low-shed treatment at the groomer. Tasha hadn’t lost 5 pounds, she’d simply lost a ton of her hot, scruffy undercoat. Not only did she look good, but she surely felt great without all that extra fur in the 90-degree weather we’ve been having.

When we got back from a camping trip this past weekend, Ben was not looking so great. His coat was getting awfully scruffy, the fur around his back legs was all matted and full of campfire soot, and he looked miserably hot.

I could have given him a bath and tried to brush out his coat, but I knew it wouldn’t do all that much good. So I called PetSmart and got Ben a salon appointment of his own.

Long story short, I was very impressed with the entire grooming experience. The groomer clearly had experience working with timid dogs, and the way she handled Ben when I dropped him off helped assuage any fears I may have had of traumatizing him with the whole ordeal. Not only did she bathe Ben and give him the low-shed treatment, but she was also able to brush his teeth (something he absolutely does not tolerate from us) and trim the mats out of his back leg fur without butchering his beautiful long hair. When I went to pick him up, that scruffy, sooty dog was no more. Instead, I got to bring home one very handsome dog indeed.

He is soooo handsome! And soooo soft! And sooo much more comfortable in our non-air-conditioned house on 90-degree days. And did I mention how handsome he is? Super handsome.

What adventures are Kaya, Rufus, Bailey, Foxy, Zapp, and Smalls having this week? Be sure to check in with them for your daily dose of doggie cuteness!

Plot Holes: Filled

When I asked about plot holes last week, I got some really good questions. Today I’ll do my best to answer those questions in addition to giving you updates on a couple of things that nobody asked about but that I know could stand to be updated.

All-Important Updates on the Dogs

Ben is peeing on Smalls far less frequently lately. We invested in a squirt gun (and when I say “we invested” I mean “we spent $6 on”) and kept an eye on him for the first few days after I originally posted about the issue. Far as I can tell, it only took one squirt of the squirt gun mid-leg-lift for him to learn his lesson.

Smalls occasionally lays on the dog bed, but does not actually sleep on it. Exhibit A.

Abbie asked: What I want to know is, do you and Tim ever have arguments, you guys seem so perfect to me and logic screams that’s impossible. I do adore you guys and someday I hope to find someone to love as much as you two love each other.

Yeah, of course we argue from time to time. But that’s not something I’m ever going to blog about. Nic said it much better than I can in her post earlier this year about Unbloggables, but what it ultimately comes down to is this: I don’t feel that an online, public forum is an appropriate place at all for me to write about bickering with my husband. There are a lot of private parts of our life that I don’t write about here, and the occasional disagreement is one of those things that falls under the private label. Posting about that kind of thing is only going to embarrass us both, not to mention that we would then probably argue about me blogging about us arguing. Furthermore, what disagreements we do have are hardly a defining aspect of our marriage; our love and happiness and support of each other are really what define our marriage, so that’s what I write about. Additionally, in the event that we do argue, it’s usually over some small thing that we’ve both completely forgotten in a few days anyway. What would be the point of permanently documenting such insignificant, petty disagreements? I blog about things that I want to remember and revisit in the future; I see no reason to clutter my blog archives with something unimportant that I’m not going to look back on fondly.

On a related note, I like my blog to be a place to write about the more positive aspects of my life. Even if I’m not having a good day, it can be really helpful to try to put a positive spin on something or, at the very least, find a way to laugh at whatever is causing the not-so-good day. I’m not trying to come off as perfect; I’m just trying to have fun.

Kat asked: When did you get so CRAY-ZAY? I’ve been waiting on that story for like 10 years.

Funny, we’ve known each other for a little more than like 10 years. Seems awfully coincidental that I’ve allegedly been so CRAY-ZAY since shortly after I met you, doesn’t it?

Britt asked: I’m left hanging whenever you talk about tap dancing. Where are the pictures? The videos? What songs do you dance to? Help me out a little! The suspense is killing me!! and Erin asked: I have to agree with Britt about the tap dancing! Can we see pictures? What made you decide to take tap? Can you make a little video blog recital for us? Please?

Honestly, I had no idea y’all would be so interested in my tap dancing. I always figured it’s just this thing I do, and I love it, but surely other people don’t care that much. I stand corrected.

I started to write up a response to your questions, Britt and Erin, but it quickly turned into a monstrously long answer that is best left to its own post. I’ll keep working on that and post it another day.

Hope this has helped answer those burning questions of yours. (Unless you’re Britt or Erin, in which case I know this hasn’t helped at all, but answers are coming soon, I promise!)

In Which I Am Materialistic

Today Tim is at his first day of New Teacher Orientation and Training. This is exciting on a lot of different levels, but the most exciting part to the purely materialistic side of me is this: Today Tim starts earning money.

Money has been tight since Tim went back to school, leaving me and my small salary as the primary source of income for our household. We’ve been fine, really, but there are a few things I’m really looking forward to indulging in on a more regular basis once Tim’s paychecks start coming in. Things like . . .

  • Going out to dinner, even if we don’t have a restaurant gift card
  • Going shopping without being limited to what’s on the clearance racks and what gift cards I have
  • Putting money into our savings account regularly rather than constantly taking money out
  • The occasional guilt-free pedicure
  • Being able to save for and actually plan trips that don’t require free lodging and inexpensive food (not that we won’t still welcome free lodging, but it’s nice to have options, you know?)
  • Specifically, being able to save for and plan a trip back to Spain, which I’ve been dying to take since, oh, the day I got back from Spain 4 years ago
  • The possibility of enlisting professional help if necessary for the remaining home improvement projects we have in mind
  • There being even a remote possibility that I could attend BlogHer if I wanted to
  • Taking our parents and siblings out to dinner more often to make up for all the times they’ve been generous enough to pick up our tab when we’ve gone out
  • Having a constantly stocked wine rack
  • Being able to buy a lot more fresh produce rather than restricting ourselves to the cheapest options WalMart’s grocery section has to offer
  • Occasionally shopping for said fresh produce at Whole Foods
  • More than occasionally shopping for all of our groceries at a store that is not WalMart
  • Potentially joining my dance studio’s adult tap competition ensemble
  • Paying more than the minimum payment on our mortgage and other loans each month
  • New shoes

Honestly, the past year and a half that Tim has been in school has not been that bad, financially. We have been on a super strict budget, but I really couldn’t say we’ve been struggling. We were lucky to have a good-sized savings account built up that helped us pay our bills every month without accruing additional debt beyond a small student loan. And there’s something about being on a strict budget that makes you realize how little you really need in order to feel happy and fulfilled in life.

But, still. I certainly won’t miss debating about whether or not we can afford to go out for drinks with our friends or having to justify every non-essential purchase.

And I’m also really excited that today Tim is officially starting what is sure to be a long, happy, and fulfilling career.

Smalls Sunday: Left Behind

This morning we hiked the Incline with Steve. It’s been a year since I last hiked it, and it kicked my ass in a big way. It took me 90 minutes to reach the summit, which is how long it took the very first time we went up and 30 minutes longer than my best time. Guess I’m a little out of shape.

Hard as the hike was, it was definitely worth it to get a good workout in. It was also worth it to reach the top, take a nice long breather in the shade, then ask Steve if he was ready to put his iPhone away and head back down, only to have him flap his hands toddler-temper-tantrum style and whine “I gotta blog about it!” Hi-larious. (You can read his amazing top-of-the-Incline post here. UPDATE: And see the pictures he took of the hike here.)

When we were getting ready to go this morning, Smalls watched with growing anticipation as we put on our hiking shoes and filled our CamelBaks with water. She was so excited to go for another hike! And then, we did the unthinkable . . . we never grabbed the leashes. We told her this hike was too hard for puppies. And we went without her, leaving her to sulk in her corner the whole time we were gone.

Can you believe that we would go off and do an incredibly difficult hike on a scorching hot day and not bring our dogs along to suffer from heat exhaustion? We are such terrible dog parents.

Do Kaya, Rufus, Bailey, Foxy, and Zapp have terrible parents too? Be sure to check in with them for your daily dose of doggie cuteness!

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