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Sunday, January 3, 2016

Tomorrow is my birthday. It's also my New Years' Day.

You ever get so excited about something that wouldn't really excite too many other people you know .. or even make so much sense at all to them, really -- 
 but when you finally begin, you get that flutter in your chest about it?

That's how I feel about 2016, and the things I plan in it.  Sure, I know, you've heard it from just about everyone you know so far about the New Year.  You pretty much hear the same vague platitudes every year.  

I'm going to do SO much better this year.  I really feel it this time.  Changes are coming, and they're good.  All I have to do is get out there and DO IT!

Sound familiar?  It does to me.  I am pretty sure I have a blog post every single "first week of January" for the past four, maybe five years.  I'm too embarrassed to actually check.  I'll let you look back for me and rub it in my face later.

For some reason, I've been writing down jots of resolutions on post-its and scrap pieces of paper for the past three years.  It seems, perhaps, less daunting if I put them on a tiny piece of notecard than a banner across my phone wallpaper.  Less forceful, less taunting if I don't get them done.  Here's what I wrote last week, during my lunch break at work, while feeling particularly spirited about 2016.

- Increase Work Ethic.  Decrease Procrastination.  Eric and I have finally started the extremely overwhelming task of unpacking the bags, stacks of boxes, and generalized crap I have stored in our basement from my apartment, at which I lived for nine long years and have been here for almost a year.  I had found it nothing short of exhausting to even LOOK at the volume of sheer crap that I own and stashed away.  Without getting TOO fluttery-eyed, E has gently, step-by-step, helped me finally sort through my belongings, donating six bags to charity, filling almost three large boxes of items to sell, and unearthing treasures I all but forgot I had.  We can finally see the potential of creating the basement into the living space we dreamed it could be, and I am falling in love with the house, and my husband, more and more each day.  It's this sense of work ethic, taking pride in what you do, that I admire so much in others and wish to have more in myself.

- Read and Write More.  Screen/Phone it in less.  I almost didn't write this today.  And I had been so ambitious.  I had taken NOTES earlier last week in how I wanted to frame this entire post out, and have it ready ahead of time.  And what happened?  Right now it's after 10 PM on the Sunday night before back-to-the-real-world, goodbye-holidays work begins.  Everyone is dreading it.  

(Did I even mention tomorrow is my birthday?  Everyone hates my birthday this year.  How about that.  #pityparty)

 But instead of griping that I didn't get to do what I wanted and wasting time in front of the TV, I finally just sat myself down at my desk and am writing my feelings out.  And I gotta tell ya, it feels gooooood.  I have a lot of rust in this creative side of my brain, but I can feel it starting to churn again.  I just read today that "neuron elasticity" is a thing (how that for a non-creative way to put it) .. I need to get that back.

I have to really focus on the things that matter to me.  Stop wasting time on things that don't matter and spend time on the things that do.  For me, aside from friends and family, that is writing and reading.  I hope to make this really actionable.  (ugh, excuse the buzzword) 

- Live Intentionally.  I think I will save more about that one this week.  But I think you know where that must be going.

I didn't number these 1, 2, and 3, as I believe they're all equally important to me coming back to here in December and considering these accomplished.  Let's see how I do.

A funny aside: As I was cleaning the basement with E the other day, I came across last year's resolutions.  Gosh if they don't sound similar.  I think I'm better armed to accomplish this year, however, and I look forward to it.

Thanks so much to many fellow online writers that have shaped me to really WANT this for 2016.  Taylor, Helene, Ashley, Amanda, Shannon, and others.  Let's really do this.  I mean it this time.  

Stifle the laughter, would you?  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

It's been a year.

So.  It's been a full year that I took off of this blog.  But there's a lot I want to include for the year ahead.

I want to bring great, relevant content for those that have less-than-stellar kitchens and just want to make SOMETHING GOOD.

I want to bring the extraordinary to, not just the ordinary, but to the downright crappy.

Truth is, we all don't have the budget or the ability for a chef-style, gorgeous kitchen.  Sometimes we have to rent out of awful, 1970s electric ovens that are unevenly-heating AT BEST.

Stay tuned, friends, and thanks for sticking around.  Tell me what drags you down and I'll life you back up.

Culinarily or otherwise.

Cheers.  See you soon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Take II (New and Improved): Chocolate Trifle AKA Death By Chocolate

A few years ago, my best friend had a wedding shower.  I made this for the first time.  It came out great, but since then, I've improved the recipe and made it a bunch of times for different events - parties, work events, etc.  Each time, everyone asks for the recipe, which is awesome!
So here it is, in all its glory.  Enjoy - and I highly recommend it for the holidays.  Perfect for those sugar-rushes you need before the New Years' ball drops.
Chocolate Trifle AKA Death By Chocolate
-          Large Trifle Bowl (mine is 14 inches by 14 inches)
-          2 batches brownies, baked, cooled, and cut into 1 inch cubes (I use Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownies with chocolate chips in the mix; I’ve also used the Ghirardelli brownies with fudge added to the batter)
-          ½ cup caramel (I use Smuckers caramel, found in the ice cream toppings section of the store)
-          Two 3.9-oz boxes of instant chocolate pudding mix (NOT cook-and-serve, must be instant) (I use Jello brand chocolate or chocolate fudge)
-          1 cup cold water
-          3 cups heavy cream
-          1 teaspoon sugar
-          1 package Oreos
-          24 oz regular Cool Whip, thawed in fridge for a few hours
-          Fruit, nuts, or whatever additional garnish you like
With an electric mixer, blend chocolate pudding mix and sugar with water til thoroughly mixed; then slowly add cream.  Whip and blend until frothy, like chocolate mousse.  Should take several minutes. 
In a food processor, or manually (crush in a Ziploc bag), crush Oreos.  Leave one aside for garnish, and set aside some crushed Oreos for garnish as well if desired. 
In the trifle bowl, layer 1/3 of each:
1 – Brownies
2 – Drizzle of Caramel
3 – Chocolate whipped cream/mousse made above
4 – Crushed Oreos
5 – Cool Whip
Repeat 2 times.  You may have leftover brownies :) I normally use a batch and a half, saving the extra for family (or myself).
 Garnish top with crushed Oreos and a whole Oreo in the center.  Feel free to add fruit, nuts, etc if desired.  Chill in fridge for 4 hours or overnight.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Surprise for Me this Morning

When you've resigned to the fact that you are a once or twice a quarter at best blog poster, have a good 30,000 hits or so to your blog - EVER - and only do so because your relatives and friends beg you to do so after seeing your latest creation on Instagram, you kinda just let your blog slide.
(Hidden message: Follow me on Instagram because I'm far more interesting over there.)
But when a hilarious, consistent, and wildly popular blogger by the name of Taylor gives you some unexpected but very welcome publicity, and you get the notification on your Twitter feed, what do you do?
You run your butt out of the gym locker room as soon as you can slap some mascara and clothes on, hair in a wet knot (blogger knot?  Maybe I am a real blogger?)  and write a stream-of-conscious post so you look like you're actually sort of relevant.
This is me and E from a couple of weeks ago on our fabulous trip to California - this specifically was from a dear friend's wedding in San Diego; we also visited LA, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Malibu, and Coronado Island.  An amazing ten days that I wish I could live over and over.
Relevant post coming soon, I guess, but this is to say HI and please check out my other posts, you'll love them.  And please GFC me - I'm probably the only person left out there that actually uses Google Friend Connect but hey, what can I say.
Another note - I did the Whole 30 at the prompting of Ashley Paige, last month and I totally loved it.  I will recap this later this month!  (Well, it's the 27th, but you know what I mean.)
So I definitely pumped this post out in record time, so I guess I have no excuse not to write more often. Thanks, Taylor, for the swift kick in the butt, and great chilling with you again!
Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to Make a Healthier, Less Expensive Pumpkin Spice Latte

As much as I'm not ready to admit it, Pumpkin Spice is making a comeback for 2014.  Starbucks launched their famously overpriced and unnatural, yet incredibly delicious, Pumpkin Spice Lattes in their stores either today or sometime around today.  Yes, they're good, but they're expensive, and full of weird things like caramel color (a known carcinogen) and corn syrup derivatives .. plus things they won't disclose because "they're individually handmade and customized."  Sounds weird.

I'm trying to make the effort to not eat as much crap as we tend to do in our lives.  While skimming FB, I saw my friend from college, Heidi, forwarded this link along on how to make your own Pumpkin Spice Latte.  She loves it and so I figured I'd pass it along now, in my own voice, just in time for the Autumn hit just ahead.

This is not my picture or my original recipe.  Just sharing the love.  Click this link for the original source.

Homemade - and Healthier - Pumpkin Spice Latte

-          Add the following to a half-cup skim milk:
o   1 Tablespoon pumpkin puree
o   1 teaspoon brown sugar
o   1 teaspoon vanilla extract
o   ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (which is equal parts cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg)
-          Whisk it all together and microwave for about a minute and a half, watching it so it doesn’t froth over and make a mess.

-          Pour this hot pumpkin milk into a tall mug or glass, and top off with 8 oz hot coffee.

-          Add a little nonfat creamer and Splenda to taste.

-          Optional – add 2 Tablespoons whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg.  Voila!

-      NOTE: I've been advised not to really drink all the way to the bottom of the glass .. the natural pumpkin in there may make it a little too thick to be palatable.  Your choice!

I looked up the nutrition facts of all these ingredients .. it comes to 95 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 14 grams of sugar .. if you add the whipped cream, it bumps it to 110 calories, 1 gram fat, and 14 grams sugar.

Compare this to the 340 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 47 grams of sugar found in a regular grande Starbucks PSL – and that’s WITHOUT the whipped cream!  That bumps it to 410/17/48! Even if you use nonfat milk in the Starbucks version, you're still WELL over 200 calories and an astronomical amount of refined sugar.  I have to say, that's just not good for you.

Enjoy, and save your money and waistline!

Some nutrition fact proof for ya:

Click to enlarge; Source -

Click to enlarge; Source -

Monday, June 30, 2014

Lemon Quinoa Salad with Avocado, Spinach, and Garbanzos

I literally just ate this.  As in, the empty bowl is beside this laptop as I type.  And it was so good I had to post the recipe immediately.

Mondays normally find me back home with Lumen after spending my weekend with E, friends, and plenty of heavy, guilt-inducing food (and drink(s)).  While poking around the internet deciding what to make for dinner tonight, I came across this recipe and figured I'd give it a shot for myself.  It seemed simple enough to make quickly, light enough to assuage my guilt from all the gin consumed the previous three days, and judging by the ingredient list, I knew E might like it.

Now I'm convinced.  EVERYONE will like this recipe.  Except if you're one of those people who thinks cilantro tastes like soap.  In that case, I forgive you; just omit it from yours.

I've made some modifications from Meg's version - and I'm telling you, this isn't just a side dish (though it can be).  I ate a big ol' bowl of this for dinner and I am fully satisfied.  It's fully vegan vegetarian (can be made vegan by swapping out the honey for agave syrup or brown rice syrup) and yet still full of protein!  I ate it still warm but you may refrigerate this and serve chilled.

If you are a newbie to keenwah quinoa, don't let it intimidate you.  The other flavors in this dish are what sing; the texture and taste of the quinoa simply enhance it.

Enjoy this light summer salad!  Let me know what you think.

Lemon Quinoa Salad with Avocado, Spinach, and Garbanzos
(Serves 4 as a side, 2 or 3 as a main dish)
  • 3/4 cup dry Quinoa.  I used Shoprite's brand of tri-color quinoa, which blends white, black, and red grains.  Really fantastic - and store-brand so extra-cheap!  I will forever sing the praises of Shoprite.
  • 1 and 1/2 cups Vegetable Broth or Water - the broth is optional.  Tonight I made the quinoa with just water as I know I have a brand-new box of veggie broth at Eric's and I just couldn't see myself buying another.  The broth will make it more flavorful but, since there's so much going on in this dish already, it really isn't critical.
  • 1/2 cup fresh Cilantro, diced
  • 2 cups fresh, raw Baby Spinach, diced
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • 1/4 cup (or 4 Tablespoons) Red Onion
  • 1 can Garbanzos (Chick Peas), rinsed and dried
  • 1 cup Cherry Tomatoes or grape tomatoes, cut into halves.  I used only red this time around, but next time will use both red and yellow tomatoes to enhance the sweetness.
  • 1 large, ripe Avocado, diced
  • The juice from 1 medium Lemon
  • 2 tsp Dijon Mustard or brown mustard (don't use yellow mustard for this, no no no, save that for your barbeques)
  • 3 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp Honey
  • salt, pepper, and a little Adobo to taste (optional)
It's recommended to rinse your quinoa before cooking, not really sure why, but I found this left me with clumpy quinoa that was almost impossible to deal with.  Your call.  In any case..

Combine the quinoa and your broth/water in a medium pot and heat to a rolling boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and cover.  Your quinoa should fully absorb the liquid in about 12-15 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.  (Or stick in the fridge if you prefer this salad cold.)

Combine diced cilantro and spinach in a large mixing bowl.  Add garlic, red onion, garbanzos, and tomatoes and stir to combine.  Then add quinoa and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, honey, and seasonings.  Whisk together.

Pour this dressing into the garbanzo salad, add diced avocado, and toss lightly so as to not squish the avocado. 

Serve either still warm, or refrigerate prior to serving.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

An Announcement ..

I'm Engaged!

E and I go to Martha's Vineyard at least once a year to visit good friends and have the time of our lives.  It's our special place - the first vacation we took together, the first place we exchanged I Love Yous, the place we eat and relax like we wish we could live daily ..

And now it's the place where he asked me to be his wife.

E proposed on Saturday, June 7, 2014 atop the Cape Pogue Lighthouse on Chappaquiddick island, timed exactly at sunset, staged to be a surprise, had a photographer friend on-hand and ready, and it was completely, utterly romantic.

I have never been happier or more sure that he is the man I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Now I can't wait to leave the awful kitchen I currently have -- and finally call this beautiful kitchen OURS!  (E and his dad designed and constructed it, and I will be sure to blog about it once the backsplash and final pieces are complete!  It's been a complete labor of love.)

While on our last trip, we went to a restaurant that starred this amazing Summer Orzo Salad.  I'll be back this week with the deconstructed recipe.

Thanks!  Today, I am deliriously happy.  WE are deliriously happy.

Special thanks to Erin at Living In Yellow for the shout-out in today's post!  I loved my outfit and so did E, of course :)  Check Erin's blog out, especially today - she is a riot and an excellent writer.