33

I’ve been 33 for a few days now and – as expected – it doesn’t feel a lot different than 32. The thing that does feel different though? My mom & sister came to DSM to spend my birthday with me this year. It’s been a long time since the three of us were actually together on my actual birthday and this year felt pretty special.

They got in on Friday early afternoon and we immediately commenced shopping and eating our way through the city. Some highlights include shopping in the East Village, eating at Tacopocalypse, shopping at Raygun, mom’s homemade scallops and alfredo, the gallon jar of pickled eggs mom & Rach made just for me, birthday dinner at Lurra Cocina, lunch at Exile, WEST.END.SALVAGE and coffee, coffee and more coffee.

Come Monday morning, I wasn’t ready for them to head back. I’m so grateful I’m so close with my family and I’m so grateful that they didn’t think twice about hopping in the car and coming out to be with me on a day that usually includes a bit of tears.

My beautiful mother

My beautiful mother

 

listen: manchego cheesecake

listen: manchego cheesecake

 

charcuterie plate with mom's homemade hummus

charcuterie plate with mom’s homemade hummus

 

Sunday.roast.

Sunday.roast.

 

anyone want to get me this Herman Miller Eames lounger?

anyone want to get me this Herman Miller Eames lounger? at west end salvage.

 

... and we walked around with wine

… and we walked around with wine

 

west end salvage is amazing. I want all the things.

west end salvage is amazing. I want all the things.

 

 

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birthday shenanigans!

birthday shenanigans!

 

birthday dinner!

birthday dinner!

 

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gorgeous carrots that became an accompaniment to Sunday roast

gorgeous carrots that became an accompaniment to Sunday roast

 

directive : look perplexed

directive : look perplexed

 

mom & me exploring the farmer's market

mom & me exploring the farmer’s market

 

 

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giving thanks

I’m sitting here in the room I created as my “office”; my little sanctuary space filled with all the things I love: photos, music, books and lots of natural light.  This space is designed just for me so that I feel inspired to write.  Today, I don’t have to reach too far for inspiration.  It’s looking out on the snow-covered yard and the naked trees.  It’s knowing I’m safe and warm inside my home with the smells of a home-made dinner mingling with the Autumn scented candles.  It’s feeling close at heart to my family who are all ten hours away celebrating this same day.

I have an obscene amount to be thankful for.  I try every day to embrace that attitude.  I do my best to stay mindful of that and give thanks for each blessing.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, dear ones, I hope you all have a day full of love and laughter surrounded by family and friends; a belly full of food and a thankful heart.

Sending love to you.

stuff i love: fall edition (aka back to school)

We’re in what my dad referred to as ‘the dog days of summer’.  I knew that was a phrase, I just didn’t realize it was one people actually used in the course of conversation.

It’s HOT here—and I don’t just mean the temps are hot—it’s sticky.  The days are shorter and it’s positively miserable to be outside.  I’ve stopped wearing 90% of my makeup because it just runs down my face the moment I step outside.  And after my lunch time workout it’s pointless.  I am so excited for the days to get cooler, the nights to get even cooler and for all things fall to begin.  I think Des Moines is probably doing this to me on purpose (like how I said “me” right there?!).  It’s getting me primed for my favorite season, which also happens to be the shortest.  In the back-to-school vein, I thought I’d post a couple of my favorite internet finds here.  I am known (mostly to myself) as a queen of the internets so I thought I’d share some with you guys.  Let’s get ready for fall!

  • Some new spectacles for fall. I’ve loved Warby Parker since I learned about them five or so years ago. Reasonably priced stylish glasses?! Yes, please. I’m surprised I’ve held out so long but I’ve been searching for the PERFECT crystal frame. I think these are them.
  • With the nights getting cooler in the fall, it’s the perfect time for bonfires! Since DSM has been beating us down with heat since about May, it’s made fire-lit evenings few and far between. What else goes better with fire than s’mores?! I submit for your snacks this recipe, and this one, and this one (cause I obviously have one thing on my mind).
  • I recently made my way back to Ohio for my summer trip home to spend time with my family (read: AVERY) and while I was home, I ate some amazing food. One was a dish that my mother made. We had a cookout for Avery’s dedication and my mom made panzanella and guys… this is a tried and true success for grilling family get-togethers. Also, *I* cooked one of the nights (what, what). Rach and I went to stay with my mom and I suggested this dish which I could pretty much eat every night for dinner. I’ve made some modifications of my own to fit it to my tastes and it’s a very forgiving dish. I aim to impress and mission: accomplished. There were also A&W root beer floats consumed that same evening…. and my mom beat us both at Phase10 but then what else is new.
  • I’m kind of obsessed with the idea of creating the perfect inspirational home office. These pretty things could go a long way toward creating that space.
  • THIS APP!  Guys, I am an app snob and pretty set in my ways…that is till Mailbox came along. I actually deactivated my Apple Mail apps on my phone and desktop in order to use this. It’s pretty much organized the chaos that is my mailbox at all times. You can snooze messages to come back, archive, delete and sort all with one swipe. Through the generosity of RDB and through my own usage, I have 4 bit coins available to anyone who wants Mailbox Beta for their desktop OS (it’s still in beta but I’ll hook you up)—otherwise you can download the app and start using it for FREE on your iPhone (or other smartphone).
  • Currently reading: this, this, and I’ve kind of been meaning to start this. The Goldfinch is amazing. How authors can basically take the everydays of life and make them so emotional and engaging is beyond me. I’m definitely feeling all the feels in this book. I had to take a small break cause I’m at that point where I want to kind of draw it out because I want to be able to be a part of that world just a little longer.

Oh, and this year I joined a Fantasy Football league at work. I think it’s going to change the way I watch football this year and I’m pretty excited about that. I hope you guys liked this post of some of my favorite finds.

a modern question

Guys.  I’m going to ask you a question that isn’t original at all.

“Why is it so expensive to eat healthy?”

Let me start backward and work forward.  When I was thinking about what to write this week, I actually considered writing about my struggle to determine if I should become a vegetarian again.  But then I thought more big picture.  You see, I was driving down the highway this week, like I do, and (I promise I’m not going to get all soap-boxy on you and I’m most certainly not going to get graphic) I passed a pickup truck pulling a trailer of pigs.  These pigs looked pretty jammed in there and normally I like to play ignorant and look away from livestock trailers but I saw their little pig noses poking out, so I looked.  This is something that I’m entirely too soft to handle—this “seeing” where my food comes from.  In my own personal protest about the pigs (who I liked to imagine were going to a farm…) I pulled the sausage off my breakfast sandwich and threw it away.  But that doesn’t mean there’s one less pig to sacrifice for my sausage.  For this reason, I was a vegetarian for five years; I believe in animal rights.  Not crazy PETA style but I don’t believe the way we get our meat isn’t the way we’re meant to get our meat.  I bought from Whole Foods, my friends and family bought only farm-raised holiday meats and I bought local where I could when I was transitioning out of my vegetarianism.  That became costly for everyone and eventually I just turned a blind eye and began consuming restaurant burgers and steaks.  Flash forward to present day—I live in the midwest; the breadbasket of America; the Pork capital of the world; Omaha Steaks are my neighbor.  If there’s anywhere I could be a locavore, it’s here.

That brings me to my bigger picture.  While there’s an outstanding farmer’s market on Saturday, I can only buy so much produce to avoid it rotting on my counters.  As much as I try to shame it, the convenience factor still gets me from time to time.  I just don’t have the energy to make food for the week or even every night.  And, as it turns out, eating pre-made stuff or take-out… not all that healthy.  Unfortunately, the reality of this amazing world we live in is that it’s more cost effective to get a Quarter Pounder w/Cheese, french fries and a large Coke than it is to go out, buy fresh ingredients, and make a meal at home.  I think Mark Bittman (disclosure: love him) said it best: just eat real food.  I guess that means, for the everyman, more trips to the grocery, more planning ahead of time, more skipping of the convenience factor.

That’s probably the *only* thing keeping me off the vegetarian bandwagon.  While I’m passionate about what happens to those sweet pigs, it’s crazy expensive right now to buy the meat I want to buy to ease my conscience.  Simply removing it from my plate means more pasta and that’s no good for my waistline.  Should I resign myself to the fact that even a simple diet of fruits and veggies are going to cost me?

I’m still working out this vegetarian thing and I’m still trying to do the best I can to eat healthy on a budget.  That’ll probably be the case until I can afford to grow my own food or buy half a humanely-raised cow or pig.  It’s all a work in progress, as am I, but it’s hard when society as a whole makes it easier to eat food with poor nutrition quality (I’m looking at you Hostess Fruit Pies for breakfast) vs. the healthy stuff (oatmeal, eggs) that keeps me going throughout the day.  Finally, as Mark Bittman implores, I’ll do my best to “eat real food”.

family tradition

In my family, if it’s a holiday, there’s cranberry salad.  In fact, we don’t even call it “cranberry salad” anymore.  It’s now known simply as “cranberry”.  As in: my mom will ask “do you want to make the cranberry?”

If we’re being honest, when I was a kid I wasn’t all that crazy about it.  Mostly cause there’s celery in it and I hate celery.  As I’ve gotten older it’s become something I appreciate more and, now that I’ve started eating it instead of passing over it, I’ve found it’s pretty delicious.

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I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that in lieu of tangible things, my family tradition is more about cooking together and breaking bread together.  Part of the tradition of the cranberry is making it.  When I asked my mom about the origins of the cranberry salad, she told me she remembers it back to my great aunt Catherine.  She used to actually grind the cranberries by hand (akin to walking to school uphill both ways in the rain?) cause back then it wasn’t canned.  My mom fondly remembers her mom making it for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners only—grinding all the ingredients by hand.  Then when my mom started entertaining in the 80’s, her mom showed her how to make it just as my mom has shown my sister and me.  It’s legit passed down, guys.

In our little family, though, the cranberry isn’t just for Thanksgiving and Christmas—it makes an appearance at every holiday.  This Easter, three girls crowded around my sister’s kitchen island—Rach, mom and me.  We slivered celery, segmented oranges, drained canned pineapple, Rachel cut her hand and we assembled the most delicious (cause every year it gets more delicious) cranberry together.  We talked and laughed—mostly about Rachel’s cranberry disaster of 2013 but that’s another story.

My sister and I have a photocopy of the recipe written in my Grammy’s hand, all cranberry stained from overuse.  Quite simply, it’s us.

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stuff i love: food i make edition

Hey guys!  We’re in a deep freeze that just won’t quit here in DSM.  That means when the sun goes down I’m at home, in my pajamas, looking for something to eat for dinner.  I recently realized that I’ve been eating out a lot.  When I’m not eating out, I’m eating something “made” for me by the frozen food gods.  The result is lethargy, weight gain and poor sleep that lead to me doing silly things like cleanses in an attempt to feel more balanced.

I come from a long line of cooks.  I used to cook all.the.time (I think I may have mentioned that before).  My mom cooks dinner every night, my sister cooks dinner most nights, my dad is always cooking… I know it’s in me to do it, I just can’t muster up the energy after a long day.  On days like today, after I’ve overdone it on the weekend and I want to feel better, I take to my tiny kitchen (and my even tinier stove) to make my favorite go-to meal.  I’m not sure what else to call it but the meat bowl.  I could fancy it up and call it a taco-less salad but let’s just call it what it is—we’re all grown ups here: it’s a meat bowl.

The easiest part of this meal for me is that I get veggies and protein and I get to exercise a bit of my creativity.  I’ve done this before with ground bison and ground pork and you just change the seasoning and the vegetables.

Step 1: Brown minced garlic and onion, add mushrooms and sauté till soft.

Step 1: Sauté minced garlic and onion, add mushrooms and sauté till soft.

Step 2: Move mushroom mixture to a bowl (unless you have a large skillet—I do not). Brown ground meat of choice. Prep lettuce base and fresh herb seasoning.

Step 2: Move mushroom mixture to a bowl (unless you have a large skillet—I do not). Brown ground meat of choice. Prep lettuce base and fresh herb seasoning.

Step 3: Everything back in the skillet to mix with the fresh herb (basil, in this case).

Step 3: Everything back in the skillet to mix with the fresh herb (basil, in this case).

Step 4: I like to top it with fresh tomatoes and half an avocado. There's also this delicious artichoke pesto from Trader Joe's which tastes good on pretty much everything.

Step 4: I like to top it with fresh tomatoes and half an avocado. There’s also this delicious artichoke pesto from Trader Joe’s which tastes good on pretty much everything.

Voila. Lettuce base, meat mix on top, veggies = dinner.

Voila. Lettuce base, meat mix on top, veggies = dinner.

I’m hoping this year I can cook a little more and continue my effort in being a healthier me.  I recently heard an interview with Michael Pollan where he advocates not-so-much a particular diet (I realize he’s not encouraging the Paleo lifestyle here) but that we cook for ourselves.  He says: “the food industry has done a great job of convincing eaters that corporations can cook better than we can. The problem is, it’s not true. And the food that others cook is nearly always less healthful than that which we cook ourselves.”  Be a healthier me by cooking?  Now that is an idea I can get behind.

 

 

 

i work out.

Hey, guys!  Remember that time I did a Whole30?  Yeah, me too.  It was so great, I’m doing another one for the month of October.  This time I have some company, though.

You guys know I’ve boo-hooed about my lack of motivation with exercise.  For so long I thought, ‘if I’m not a runner then I don’t know what I could do’.  I finally found what I can do if I’m not a runner.  I’ve been going to MaxLife for about three months (has it been that long?) and it’s perfect for me!  I’m learning how to be strong from the inside out.  If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s P90X meets Cross-Fit with less TRX and more kettle bells.  They’re short, effective, muscle confusion workouts and I feel a strong sense of community and accountability with the men and women I go to class with.  This Whole30 is a gym-wide thing so I have support with my friends, gym-mates and co-workers.

my very own chopped

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You know that cooking show on the Food Network, Chopped?

For those of you who aren’t familiar, let me introduce you.  There are four chefs to start and they have to cook through appetizer, entree and dessert in a timed cooking challenge.  After each round, one of the chefs is ‘chopped’ (perfect, right?!).  The curve ball to this cooking show is that the chefs all get a basket with a few ingredients (example: a whole fish, daikon radish, matcha powder and gummi bears) and all the ingredients must be present on the plate for the judging (and it has to taste good, obvi).

The connection between my life and the hit television show is that lately, it’s been like the basket on Chopped when it comes to cooking anything for myself.  Except it’s a race against time which isn’t a clock but rotting produce.  I haven’t quite learned to control myself in the produce section at the grocery.  I get really excited when I see rows and rows of fresh produce in every color of the rainbow.  Eggplant, zucchini, squash, kale, cauliflower, tomatoes—I can’t help myself.  As a consequence, I come home with much more than I need for myself and end up wasting and I can’t stand wasting produce.

Last week, as produce was rotting away in my fridge and I contemplated Orange Leaf for dinner—again—I decided to get up off the couch and cook something.  So with the aid of some classic Jeff Buckley (and some red wine) I got busy.  I cut up and boiled a head of cauliflower, I broke out my cast iron ovenware, I set to work chopping some sweet potatoes and apples and lovingly placed them in the dutch oven with some pork chops that I’d seasoned.  I drown it all in some vegetable stock and threw it in the oven.  It was, effectively, my own version of Chopped without the gummi bears.

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