I am usually not one for making New Year's resolutions. A lot of times it's "do less of xyz" or "stop doing xyz" and no thanks, I do not live my life by 'cannots.' (Unless that cannot is, like, meth.) But, in looking back, I realize that when I have made a commitment to something, I have often stuck with it. For example, one year I decided I was going to floss every night. This was like 15 years ago and guess what? I still floss every night. So, I figure there's probably nothing wrong with making some choices for my overall well-being. Here they are:
Bring a snack to school pickup for LG
Homegirl can be cranky after school and it occurred to me when she was in daycare over the winter break and was SO NICE when I picked her up after lunch that DUH, she is just hangry after school. I figure if I just shove food in her immediately when I see her, then we'll all be happy.
Take LG somewhere after school once-ish a week
Currently, we come home from school and LG unpacks her stuff and then retreats to watch PBS Kids while I work. On Wednesdays, she does gymnastics, but the other days of the week are activity-less. I don't feel bad about her watching tv (she learns a lot from PBS Kids, no really, she does), but there's probably also some value in going and doing something. It will all depend on my work schedule, but I am hoping we can implement this most weeks. I'm thinking library in the winter and when the weather gets nicer, then we can go to the park.
Continue with the yoga
I set out to "do more yoga" in October and have been keeping up with that. Since I am now a member of my yoga place, that makes it even easier. I can sign into classes through the app and then sneak in through the backdoor and I never have to talk to anyone. It's great. My general goal has been a minimum of two classes a week/eight classes a month.
While 625 seems like a lot of miles completed in 2016, the truth is it was a lot of walking. Summer here was disgusting--so humid and gross--and winter was too icy for running, so I ended up slogging or gingerly tiptoeing through a lot of walks. It was fine, but I'd like to get back to actual running when I'm not yoga-ing.
Read more and READ MORE
I read nine books last year, which is...not a lot. I want to read more this year and in addition, I want to READ MORE than just the same old authors. I get stuck in ruts with the same authors I always know I'll enjoy, which is okay for a little bit, but I would like to give some new authors a chance. I have the following books queued up at the library:
- A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles (I love, love, loved Rules of Civility, so I am hoping this one doesn't disappoint)
- The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware
- Superficial, by Andy Cohen
- Winter Storms, by Elin Hilderbrand (I CANNOT QUIT ALL MY FAVORITES)
- The Passenger, by Lisa Lutz
- Not that Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham (I will spare you the "LEAVE LENA DUNHAM ALONE!" tirade I went on on Twitter the other day)
Say yes to more fun things Chris suggests (get your mind out of the gutter)
Chris is our resident spontaneous fun person, whereas I would stay home all weekend and read books or lay around watching tv. On the day before New Year's Eve, he suggested we go into Chicago for the night and normally I'd come up with some reason not to, but I didn't and we had so much fun. More fun!
Write a cookbook!
More to come on this as we progress, but Chris and I are going to write a cookbook! This weekend we planned what will most likely make it into the cookbook (it was harder than you'd think to come up with meals that are truly "ours" and not adaptations from others). Next up is scheduling everything for us to cook throughout the year so that we can test and nail down the recipes. We also need to buy a kitchen scale and, dream of dreams, a second dishwasher like Queen Ina Garten. Anyway! Follow the hashtag #sundaykindofdinners for updates, etc.
Did not make it in the final draft of the holiday letter. Wanted it to.
Oh look, the last thing I wrote was about Thanksgiving food. I glossed right over the immediate horror of what happened the following day(s) and the low-level horror that continues to simmer just below the surface every day since and am now sitting down and write about Christmas food!
So we don't have any real Christmas food traditions. We switch the days we eat the big meal depending on if we have to work Christmas Eve day or not. We eat something different each year depending on when Hanukkah falls so that we get a variety of dishes (i.e., not all meat and taters.) Here's what we're having this year.
We're planning on going to a movie and lunch out during the day, and having appetizers for dinner, including:
- Shrimp cocktails with avocado
- Smoked salmon + dill cream cheese on little mini toasts
- Cheese + hummus + crackers
- Crudites + ranch (high class)
- Nuts (heh)
- Pigs in blankets (the highest class)
We'll drink something festive--hot buttered rums?--and LG will open some Hanukkah presents (Hanukkah menu coming later in the week.)
- Bagels + cream cheese + smoked salmon
- Ham steak
- Chocolate croissants
- Irish coffees
- Stuffed pork loin (stuffing will have dates and pecans)
- Scalloped potatoes
- Brussels sprouts
Dessert is this array of four mini cakes I got in the frozen foods section at Trader Joe's. Also cookies and other treats that people have so lovingly and generously sent us.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah to you and yours!
It's the moooooost wonderful time of the yeaaaar! Thanksgiving menu time! Each year after Halloween, Chris and I sit down to plan our Thanksgiving menu. Each year, we more or less decide to make the same things. Hey, we like what we like. This year, though, we are switching switching things up a little bit. We're still making the same foods, but we're just putting a different spin on each dish (in italics below). Here's what we're having this year:
- Bloody Marys -- homemade mix
- Crudites + dip -- we thought about making a fancy new dip; then we thought against it. Maybe we'll get a new kind of veggie for the tray
- Shrimp cocktail -- not new to us, but new to Thanksgiving; this recipe is an Ina Garten one
- Cranberry-almond goat cheese log -- I am making this up! I am going to take some of the cranberry sauce and mix it into goat cheese, then re-form it into a log and roll it in toasted almond slices. It can't be bad
- Charcuterie -- the *new* will be buying some different meats
- Roasted olives -- no recipe, just toss a few different kinds of olives in a dish with a lemon rind and some herb of your choice, roast for a little while
- Turkey -- buying from our local meat market and brining
- Gravy -- by virtue of the turkey/brining method being new to us, the gravy will be too
- Stuffing -- not out of a box and using sourdough bread
- Mashed potatoes -- red potatoes, skin-on
- Green bean casserole -- homemade cream of mushroom soup + homemade onion rings for the top
- Cranberry sauce -- I haven't figured out a *new* way of doing this, so maybe I'll count "set some aside for the goat cheese log" as being new
- Whiskey/maple-glazed roasted carrots -- I've made this before and can't remember where I got this recipe, but I just Googled it and there are a lot out there; I'm sure they're all good
- Green salad -- details TBD, but does anyone really care about salads on Thanksgiving?
- Rolls -- Pillsbury crescent rolls! Laugh all you want, but we normally do King's Hawaiian rolls, so this is new
- Pumpkin cheesecake -- we roasted, pureed, and froze some pie pumpkins in October, so we have some nice filling that needs to be used. I don't have a recipe or any clue how to actually make a cheesecake, so if anyone has any recommendations, hit me up
- Irish coffees and/or champagne
And that's it! (LOL.) What are you making this Thanksgiving?
Well, here we are to round out the final two nights of the Tasty Challenge. In my brief time here, I have realized I am not as committed to theme cooking/cooking challenges as Erica, who chose/is choosing recipes that are real deep cuts (i.e.: I haven't seen them in the Tasty Facebook feed in the last month or so. Also she made a dish where dye and sprinkles were involved. Golf clap Erica.)
Recipe 3: Black Bean Burgers. These were really good. They were supposed to be vegan, which we ruined with cheese. Then we ruined their vegetarian-ness by adding bacon on top. SMART DECISION.
As indicated above, they were very messy. I don't know if that's because I baked instead of pan fried, but I am guessing not because they didn't even shallow fry them in oil, so I can't imagine pan frying dry is any different than baking. Anyway. next time I'd shallow fry. Maybe in bacon fat.
Recipe 4: One-Pan Lasagna. This was a very easy recipe. I liked that it was truly one-pot because I was able to prep it all around noon, stick it in the fridge, and then pop in the oven when we got home from gymnastics.
As seems to be the running theme throughout this challenge, this was very messy. I also used probably double the ricotta this called for, but I don't care because lasagna is all about the ricotta.
Alright Tasty, you've been fun! Until next time (when I might try the mysterious broccoli tots)...
#1: I've been trying to cook a variety of meals lately. Tacos every Tuesday is certainly not a bad thing, but it does occasionally get old. Okay, no it doesn't, but diversity is a good thing.
#2: For awhile, LG and I were watching gymnastics videos online. Once we exhausted all the women's all around competition videos from the last four Olympics games, we turned to watching Tasty videos on Facebook. You know the ones--one minute-long hyperlapsed videos of Buzzfeed staff making stuff.
The combination of Nos. 1 and 2 got me thinking. While I have been cooking from new cookbooks (Ottolenghi, for example), not all meals can be fancy pants and use every pot and pan in the kitchen. Sometimes you need something really low-brow that uses one pan and looks, well, tasty.
And so a challenge was born! Make Tasty recipes for dinner all week! And drag house Theme Chef, Erica, along with me!
When deciding on meals, I thought I'd go with two fatty, bad-for-you recipes and two healthy-ish recipes. I also knew I needed to pick something that included dough in a can, the hallmark of Tasty recipes. I landed on Pizza Rolls (bad-for-you), Thai-Style Lettuce Cups (healthy-ish), Black bean Burgers (healthy-ish), and One-Pan Lasagna (bad-for-you). Here's how the first two shook out:
Recipe 1: These sausage, onion, and pepper pizza rolls were easy to put together, but I call complete bullshit on the amounts of ingredients they used. I halved the sausage, used two bell peppers instead of three, and didn't add ham to my rolls (heh) and the dough still broke.
Now I'm not going to admit to user error, but it might have been user error. I didn't have parchment paper, as the recipe called for, and since I didn't want the pizza roll to stick to my ratchet baking sheets/foil, I made this on my pizza stone. I still cooked it at 375, though, when I probably should have increased the heat because of the stone. Anyway, we are still eating leftovers of this, so no real complaints.
Recipe 2: The name Thai-Style Larb Lettuce Cups sounded funny (larb!) and looked like they'd fit the healthy-ish bill. These were in fact tasty, but...I do not think I like fish sauce, which is featured twice in this recipe. I've used fish sauce before and didn't have a bad reaction, so maybe it's the brand I used this time? Either way...
Chris will be eating the leftovers from this.
Alright! Tune in later in the week to see how the other two recipes shook out!
After going to four different stores (meat market, Trader Joe's, regular grocery store, Italian market), we're ready for Christmas! Here's what's on our menu:
Christmas Eve breakfast
Chris has to work on Christmas Eve and I'm a big believer that Christmas Eve doesn't start until the first showing of A Christmas Story airs on TBS, but since both LG and I are off, and since Chris doesn't really like sweets anyway, I bought us ladies some imported chocolate croissants for breakfast. They could be awful, we'll see.
Christmas Eve lunch
See above re: not really Christmas yet. We'll just have leftovers or whatever for lunch. Possibly more croissants.
Christmas Eve dinner
Appetizers! My friend Caitlin talked me off a ledge and convinced me to just buy appetizers from TJ's instead of doing a whole big stressful cooking thing. She's smart. Here's what we're having (it's inadvertently Greek/Middle Eastern-ish, the latter being fitting, when you think about it):
Pastry Pups (pigs in blankets) + mustard
Hummus + veg + crackers
I also have a large block of Dubliner cheese if we find we need more food
We'll probably drink the usual libations...wine, G&Ts...can't get too crazy since
we Chris will be putting a (shhh!) bike together and we I will be texting with my parents--the bike-givers, THANKS MOM AND DAD (I love you)--during A Christmas Story ("Okay Black Bart, now you get yours.")
Bagels (everything and cheese) + cream cheese + a ham steak
Bone-in ribeye steak (Chris will grill, since it's supposed to be a balmy 46 degrees that day)
Ricotta + spinach stuffed shells with marinara
I bought some delicious quartet of cheesecakes from Trader Joe's. Also port.
What are you having for Christmas? Merry day to you all!
So it snowed last weekend. Our first snow! Today I went for a run and while it was very nice (I do enjoy running in the (somewhat) cold), I also quickly realized that my shoes are serious dry-weather shoes. So I'll be buying some new ones that don't get my feet soaking wet.
Anyway, this week is Thanksgiving, aka: my favorite holiday ever. We're sticking close to home this year (uhh, by which I mean we are just...staying home), which is sad, but good. Sad because no family, we have to do all the cooking. Good because no family, we get to do all the cooking. Here's what's on our menu this year.
We debated on doing Bloody Marys and bagels with lox, but then I randomly bought bagels and lox a few weekends ago and so that didn't sound great anymore. We decided to just do Bloody Marys and appetizers instead, so here's what apps we're having:
Meat, cheese, and crackers
Potstickers (Costco, from a bag)
Jalapeno poppers (leftover cream cheese from bagels and lox day + bacon that needs to be used + jalapenos that need to be used)
Shrimp and cocktail sauce (homemade sauce, Ina's recipe)
We'll probably eat around 2pm or so. Maybe a little later, depending on if we're starving or if I decide to make an emergency flatbread with the pizza crust I stress-bought last week.
Turkey with sage and Kerrygold rubbed all up on it
Stuffing with sausage
Mashed potatoes (from a box! But I am roasting garlic to add in)
Green bean casserole (topped with onion rings, Chris's favorite)
Maybe a salad (the produce here sucks and so the spinach we bought a few days ago is already bad. It's either go to the store this week for new salad ingredients or...just forgo a salad)
Possibly roasted carrots (this is the portion of the show where I start to worry we won't have enough food)
King's Hawaiian rolls
Smitten Kitchen's Pear, Cranberry, and Gingersnap Crumble, but with apples instead of pears, and vanilla bean ice cream on top
What are you having for the big day?
...from the Midwest! Hi, yes, we moved to Illinois. I figure you already know this because you follow me on Instagram and/or Twitter and/or you're my mom or grandma. If none of those apply, then what a surprise for you! Anyway, so we're here now and seem to be surviving just fine. I found a school for LG and am looking into my options for comedy (which are great if you're IN Chicago, but less-great if you're in the suburbs, which we are.) It has not snowed, but my weather app shows a snowflake for next Saturday, so that may be my first opportunity to bust out my fancy Sorel boots and Lands' End down coat. I am sure they'll get five minutes of play before I go back inside the house like a normal person. Meanwhile, I tell everyone I meet who mentions the mild weather we've been having, "Yes, I am here from California and I brought it with me you're welcome." Just trying to endear myself to the locals. People here are very nice, which makes me highly suspicious (WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?) but I am trying to go with it. Luckily last night, I had the opportunity to call our old eye doctor in California and yell at him (long story), so I am feeling much more myself.
In makeup news, I bought Benefit's They're Real! mascara for not the first time a few months ago and...did they change the formula? Because it suuuuuuuuucked. It's not waterproof, yet it would. not. come. off. EVER. I felt like it was ruining my eyelashes, like one day I'd wake up and they'd just be these little mascara-covered stubs. I threw it away and wen't back to L'Oreal Voluminous and am much happier.
I also picked up Maybelline Color Blur Cream Matte Pencil (in Berry Misbehaved) and I quite enjoy it. My new thing for winter, I think, will be buying brightly-colored lipsticks. And also maybe snow-shoeing.
Alright, I have to get the little one off to school. Stay warm, my friends.
Hey, did you know, it's Mother's Day weekend? Mother's Day weekend, guys. THE WEEKEND OF THE MOTHERS.
Okay, so admittedly, Mother's Day is not a huge deal to me. It's one of two days a year I allow myself to eat donuts, so that's fun, but other than that I pretty much just like to be left alone (so no different than any other day of the year.)
This year, après-donuts, I am going to go to yoga (mamaste) and then to Mexican food brunch with my two faves. I bought two different bottles of rosé today, so maybe I'll bust into one of those. The possibilities are endless. (Actually not really, as I have a job interview at 9am Monday.)
Tomorrow we're going to the farmers' market and then to the fair. I am not the hugest fair-going person, but I like this one because it's on the smaller side and it's early enough in the season that it's not disgustingly hot outside yet. We'll check out the car show (Chris's favorite thing on the planet), the baby animals (no one's favorite thing), try to coerce LG onto some rides (seriously no one's favorite thing), and after half an hour, we'll probably flee to the nearest beer-monger.
Tonight we're making these pizza rolls. Tomorrow is fair food. Sunday is clams and pasta. Monday is burgers. Tuesday is chili. Wednesday is TBD. Thursday is also TBD, but I imagine I'll have Chris grill up some chicken thighs when he grills burgers on Monday and then I'll make a few sides to go with them that day. Speaking of sides, anyone make any good side dishes lately? I am in a salad rut (I KNOOOOOOW) and need some inspiration. This cucumber and avocado salad looks good (I'd use Greek yogurt or sour cream in place of mayo), as well as this grilled Greek panzanella salad. Ooooh, and this: roasted red peppers with anchovies, garlic, and goat cheese.
'Tis the season...
...to update my closet. I bought a few of these shirts on MamaBub's recommendation. They should arrive tomorrow and when they do, I'll report back. I am also trying one of these tank tops. As much as I'd like to buy nicer things that will last a long time, the truth is I am terrible on my clothes. I literally had to take the last white t-shirt I bought and throw it in the trash the first day I wore it because I spilled coffee on it. So now I'm just like, fuck it. I'll spend $12 on a t-shirt and if I ruin it right away (likely), then who cares?
I have a couple pairs of shorts (Gap boyfriend shorts are my favorite, but I am laughing/crying at the fact that anyone can wear them rolled. NOT ON THESE THIGHS) and a couple maxi dresses. If the shirts/tank work out, I'll buy a few more in different color/patterns and a new pair of boyfriend shorts. I could also use a new pair of sandals, as I haven't bought any (minus my Birks) in a couple years. I was just perusing Target, my favorite place for cute summer sandals, and everything on there looked horrifyingly '90s, so that's not great, Bob.
I'm finding that spending most of my time with a 4-year-old is really great for my improv skills. There's a lot of character work ("I'm a dog!", "I'm a cat!") and today we worked on accents. (Not that accents are necessary for improv, but they certainly help when playing a character.) Today LG ate some bread and she said, "This is a tasty orange!" and I was like, "Is it juicy and delicious?" That's basically improv in a nutshell. Yes, I will go on this bread-as-orange journey with you. LET'S DO IT.
You know I'm a sucker for a prompt/answering questions...Thanks MamaBub for this!
What we're eating this week
Tacos, pizza, brats (super healthy stuff, guys), cobb salad, sambal chicken skewers (except with pork), buffalo turkey lettuce wraps, and lots of other vegetables and salad. 'Tis the season for salads and grilling. I also bought more strawberries and heavy whipping cream and angel food cake, so that's happening this weekend.
What I’m reminiscing about
Our Hawaii trip from last year! Man, that was fun.
What I’m loving
Orphan Black! Everyone go watch this now. So good, and not just because the main character is named Sarah.
What I’ve been up to
We planted the garden a few weeks ago, hallelujah! We also participated in the MS Walk last weekend and got recognized as the third top fundraising team, BOOM. Other than that, I've just been working out (trying new things like barre, woof that was hard), hanging out with LG ($5 bounce house holla!), improv-ing, playdating with EBJ and Katie, cooking, eating, reading. The usual.
What I’m dreading
I'll agree with MamaBub on this one--the HEAT. Ugh. We just got our AC fixed, though (it broke last July), so hallelujah on that point, too.
What I’m working on
Finding a job.
What I’m excited about
It feels like it should be sad to not have a thing I am excited about, but truly, I am excited for a chill weekend hanging out with my two faves.
What I’m watching/reading
Watching: Orphan Black (obvs), Outlander, RHONY, Mad Men, and I must admit, I am right this second watching Botched on E! It's...pretty fucking good. Reading: The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty.
What I’m listening to
You know I love my podcasts. I listed to a Fresh Air interview today with two of the women who'd been kidnapped by Ariel Castro. How they lived through that and then are living after that is beyond me. Amazing women.
What I’m wearing
Leggings, t-shirt, glasses. The height of style and beauty, right here.
What I’m doing this weekend
The farmers' market in our town opens tomorrow, so we're planning to bike to that. Yoga on Sunday morning. That's it. Weekends are for resting. And eating.
What I’m looking forward to next month
My dad is taking improv 101 and his graduation class is in a few weeks. Definitely looking forward to that!