Curiosity killed the Kate

May: Where the wild things are

May. What a trip. Literally. May was my month for solo travel! After booking my flights a few months ago, and a panic-stricken phone call immediately after to my older brother, I haven’t looked back. Thank you, Nicky, for talking me into staying committed to what I was mostly sure I could handle. People travel by themselves all the time. Why not me? This was one of my goals for the year.

So, I got myself to California in the nick of time to see one of my best friends before she actually moved back to Buffalo and then took myself on out to Utah for a roadtrip I’ve been wanting to take for the last two years. I managed four flights, three ubers, two hotels, a rental car, and 90-degree desert hikes all on my own without getting eaten, attacked, killed, or kidnapped. Huzzah!

Honestly, for having only a rough outline of what I wanted to do, the trip was wildly successful. So, for anyone else who can’t be bothered with the details of planning things, take note; it’s still possible to have a fanfreakingtastic time and figure things out as you go. It’s an adventure after all. Would definitely travel by myself again, especially for a road trip. Traveling alone is like traveling with just a carry on and when you do both at the same time, it makes for a blissful, weightless kind of travel making it easier to move freely about the country. Hundred percent believe that flying alone is relaxing and having just a carry on bag is the absolute best way to travel. Airports are a breeze when all you have is a backpack!

Here’s what I did:

SATURDAY
My flight was delayed. Twice. Not a big deal, but I was ready for the real adventure to begin. Ended up departing from Buffalo a bit after 9pm and had a direct flight to LAX on JetBlue. Every takeoff on this trip overwhelmed me with this sense of accomplishment and excitement that I chose to go, to make this adventure happen. It’s so exciting to know you’re going somewhere and anything can happen. Shoutout to JetBlue for having great snacks. I had mini moustache-shaped chocolate chip cookies and terra chips, the latter of which I liked so much I bought them as one of my road trip snacks! I had one other guy sitting in my row. Looked like he might be a professor as he was trying to grade some papers before takeoff. We didn’t chat, but both dozed on and off and I had the misfortune of seeing the majority of his butt crack hanging out at one point. So glam!

I time traveled and arrived at LAX around 11pm to AMANDAPANDA who was kind enough to pick me up from the airport. We had planned on going out that night, but because my flight was delayed it would have been too crazy to get into anywhere. Instead we stayed up late catching up which I think helped me avoid jetlag so it worked out well.

SUNDAY
We woke up pretty early and were ready and out the door by 8:30. We went straight to Venice Beach where we walked the canal area and then the boardwalk. We were mesmerized by the skateboarders for awhile and then we laid out on the beach where, despite my best efforts, I proceeded to burn pretty spectacularly on parts of my body I managed to miss hitting with sunscreen like the top of my hands and feet, ears, neck, and inside creases of my arms. *facepalm* Let the record show, I really did try to be smart about the sun since I basically went from winter to summer over night, but c’est la vie.

We grabbed a delicious and fairly healthy lunch from a place called Lemonade and brought it back to the beach. I had a deconstructed avocado toast salad bowl and a blueberry mint lemonade. Yum! We stayed on the beach until 2:30 or so then went and got changed and hit up a cool outdoor bar in Santa Monica called the Bungalow for margaritas. We chatted with two interesting guys who moved to LA from Memphis, a clothing designer and an accountant. It seems like everyone in LA is from somewhere else which makes for a fun mix of people.

After that we walked down to the Santa Monica pier where we both fell in love with a drummer only to find out he’s married. Oh well ;) On our drive back to get dinner I ended up striking up a conversation with a trio of dudes in the car next to us at a stoplight who tried to make plans with us. We passed on that, obviously, and proceeded to hit up In-n-Out Burger because it seemed like a quintessential California thing to do. I couldn’t believe how good and how cheap it was!

We went back to the beach for sunset which is when I realized my feet were really freaking sunburned and then got ice cream from Salt+Straw. Oh. My. Word. Warm homemade waffle cone. Handcrafted salted malted chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

We went back and chilled out for a bit before hitting the hay. Probably the best single day one could have in California. It was righteous, even with the sunburn. I lucked out since Amanda knew all the places to go and was willing to take me around and hang out. I had the best time!

MONDAY
Monday was largely a travel day. I ubered from Amanda’s apartment to the airport. Had a really cool driver, an Armenian from Iran, and we talked about work, life goals, and people. The flight from LAX to Salt Lake City was just over an hour. I couldn’t stop looking out the window! It was stunning. I ubered from SLC to pick-up my rental car at Enterprise, a white hyundai accent (I think). From there I stopped at Smith’s supermarket for snacks and gas, then went to find Sweet Tooth Fairy bakery to try their cookies (kind of meh. The lemon sugar cookie was the best of the three I bought.) and happened upon a place called the Pizza Studio next door which seemed like a good place to get my first real meal of the day (and I was right!). I had a truffled mushroom pizza with bacon on a rosemary crust and it was big enough to also become breakfast the next day. Victory.

I wasn’t paying attention to the time and I managed to get on the road during rush hour traffic which was no joke for the first hour of my drive, but the further along I got the more the roads opened up and so did my eyes. It was one of the more scenic drives of my life and a sheer delight racing to make my 10pm check in time. The 80mph speed limit helped me make up some lost time. I pulled into Blue Mountain Horse Head Inn in Monticello a little after 9:30pm and went to bed shortly after.

TUESDAY
Woke up early. Skipped the shower because #sunburn. Packed some snacks and hit the road for Arches National Park which was about an hour from where I was staying. It was stunning. Obviously. And hot. By 8am it was already creeping towards 80 degrees. I got a map upon entering the park, but mostly ignored it. The main road is pretty well marked with the sites, although I will say I was kind of bummed that I exerted the energy to hike the lower viewing trail of the Delicate Arch because it would have been cooler to see it up close and after hiking for a few hours and a dwindling water supply I just couldn’t get excited about navigating to the top, too. I stopped at Canyonlands National Park briefly on my way back to the hotel. Only stayed for about an hour and didn’t get too far past the entrance, but what I saw was gorgeous. If I ever make it back to Utah I’ll have to spend more time there. I had purchased a national park pass before my trip so I could come and go through the parks at will without worrying about wasting money which came in handy a couple days later.

I headed into Moab and stopped at Lion’s Park to take a few photos then walked through town. I got an excellent smoothie from Peace Tree Juice Cafe, purchased a hat and more sunscreen to prevent further burning during the week, and then happened upon a hoppin’ gourmet quesadilla food truck that was screaming my name. I got something called the New Mexico Identity Crisis which had green chili chicken, olives, cheese, and artichoke hearts. So freakin’ good. After, I drove back to my motel to shower and call it an early night.

WEDNESDAY
Oh. My. Goodness. Wednesday was the peak of my trip. I had the most scenic drive of my life! I thought Iceland was spectacular, and it is, but Utah is simply…more. Absolutely staggering. I wish I could have made the drive with a GoPro strapped to my head because maybe it would have captured some of the wild beauty that is the southern half of Utah. I can’t tell you how many bends I turned around to have my jaw drop or how many times I had to pull over to try to capture some of the landscape, but the photos don’t do it justice. I’m lucky I didn’t crash my car into the side of a cliff. I would love to go back to camp at various spots along this road. There is something about land that has been largely untouched by man that speaks to my soul. Wild, untamed, indescribably beautiful and the only sign of civilization for miles and miles is the road that carves through the otherworldly rock. So thankful for the people that created the road. The parks are wonderful, but the best things I saw were along the scenic byways. My cell reception was spotty, as it should be in such majestic places, but sitting across from Factory Butte on Highway 24 I was so overcome by the dusty, mirage-like perfection in front of me that I had to call my momma to share the experience I was having. This drive may become a sort of pilgrimage for me.

I arrived in Panguitch a little after 3pm and checked into the Purple Sage Motel. After dropping off my gear, I headed straight for Bryce Canyon National Park about 25 minutes away. Good grief! I was almost going to skip this park and thank goodness I didn’t because it was the most staggering of the four I went to! It is UNREAL. The crimson-colored hoodoo rock formations are a sight to behold, especially during golden hour as the light starts to change. For not the first time during this trip, I wished that I could leap off the edge and become a part of the land…you know, in a non-suicidal way. Again, I was so stricken by the beauty in front of me that I had to phone a friend just to release some of the emotion I was feeling. After seeing as much as I could and taking a million pictures, I headed back into town to scavenge for food which ended up being pretty sketchy Chinese takeout. You can’t win em all.

THURSDAY
The next day I headed to Zion National Park. I will admit to feeling defeated by Zion. I managed to drive through the entire park and accidentally leave the first time, so I stopped for a breakfast sandwich at Sol Foods in Springdale and then turned around to drive through Zion the opposite way, hoping for better success. Now, don’t get me wrong, driving through Zion is beautiful, but I had planned on doing more intensive hiking and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out where any of the trails started except for one near where I entered the first time, even with a map! The park brochure conveniently labeled the different hikes by difficulty. Naturally, the only path I could find was labeled as a 6-hour strenuous hike. Feeling unprepared, I set off on a sandy trail with the intention to hike 1.5 hours out before turning around because I knew I didn’t have enough provisions with me to make a 6-hour hike in 90 degree heat at a higher elevation a smart decision.

The hike was a bit underwhelming in the sense that I think I could have gotten more bang for my buck on another trail. It was still beautiful, but not near any of the stunning red rocks that are further into the park, and let me tell you, hiking up a cliff on a sandy trail is a freakin’ work out. Thankfully I remembered to throw tissues in my bag because I got a nose bleed towards the top. There was about a 45 minute period where I didn’t cross paths with anyone traversing the summit. With the thinned out tree line and no one in site this was the only time during the trip that I started to get a little freaked out about being by myself. There are mountain lions and who know’s what else in the area and I couldn’t help but think I would make for fairly easy prey if someone or something was interested. With my imagination starting to get the best of me and with my eye on the time and my water supply, I turned around and headed back down. I escaped extraordinarily sweaty, but largely unharmed with the exception of some freaky water blisters that popped up on my neck and chest. I will spare you the picture.

Craving a slurpee from 7-Eleven, but without one nearby, I stopped at the first gas station I passed and settled for some Code Red Mountain Dew over ice. Revived, I headed back to town. I ordered a solid burger and great fries from Big Fish Family Restaurant, a local place in Panguitch (Panguitch is Native American for “big fish”), and had good conversation with the waitress while I waited. Everyone I interacted with on this trip, from locals to foreigners, was exceptionally kind. Cashiers particularly were almost surprisingly cheerful and chatty. I’m a fan.

FRIDAY
I had booked a slot to go sky diving on the last day of my trip. Nephi Municipal Airport/Skydive the Wasatch was on my way back north to Salt Lake City and it’s been something I’ve wanted to do for years. Utah seemed like an exciting place to do it, plus I wanted to be the person that traveled solo AND did something extreme. Waiting for the nerves to set in, I hit the road around 9am to make it to my noon appointment, but the further I drove the more stoked I got. I was so freaking excited to go fall out of a plane I almost couldn’t take it. But the closer I got to my destination, the more I saw the sky darken with storm clouds. With a sense of foreboding, I pulled up to the office only to find that they had canceled my appointment due to inclement weather. They had left me a voicemail Thursday, but I didn’t get the notification because my cell reception was in and out. Yes, I’m glad they don’t dive in unsafe conditions, but I had stunning weather all week and was SO looking forward to the experience so it was a bit of a let down.

Supremely bummed and without any other plans for the day, I set off for Salt Lake City only to find myself in a monsoon shortly into the drive. The rain petered off by the time I parked somewhere under Creek City Center, an indoor-outdoor mall near Temple Square downtown. With a 40-degree drop in temperature from Zion the day before, I set off to explore. I didn’t feel like I was dressed appropriately to meander through the grounds of the grand Mormon Tabernacle, but I appreciated the surrounding gardens and snapped some photos from afar. I got lunch in the food court at the mall and walked in and out of a few shops before having to return my rental car. I had them drop me off at a Starbucks so I could regroup and make use of the WiFi. With a flight that wasn’t leaving until 11pm, I had time to kill. After a hot beverage and a couple hours of pouting and wasting time, I took myself off on a walk heading back towards Creek City Center. Grateful for only having a backpack to lug around, especially since I managed to get myself a bit lost, I did quite a bit of wandering around the city before finding a place to chill for a bit and charge my phone. Not in the mood for a full dinner, I opted for a huge soft pretzel. Seeking some kind of consolation I thought to Google if there were any bakeries in the area selling macarons. Given the late hour, I was surprised to find a bakery about a mile away that was still open and carried the precious cookies. After debating with myself for 20 minutes if it was worth the walk, I said YOLO and went for it. Naturally when I got there they had sold out which I was expecting and not terribly disappointed by as it gave me something to do before heading to the airport. Battling the insanity that inevitably settles in wherever I travel, I briefly wondered if I could simply walk to the airport, but I wasn’t all that close so I ubered. I spent a pleasant 15-minute ride chatting about my travels and Disney with my driver. I can’t remember, but I think I tried to nap on the plane. After a brief layover in Boston, I made it back to Buffalo where my parents graciously picked me up from the airport.

If you actually made it this far, wow. You must like me or something, so thanks. You can see my trip wasn’t perfect. It was largely unplanned and I had some setbacks, but I would wholeheartedly qualify the trip as a resounding success. I wanted the adventure, you see? And I got it. I didn’t need or want everything to go perfectly. I was looking for discomfort and growth and new experiences. I wanted to find out more of what I’m capable of and now I know I can travel, quite happily, on my own. There are so many places I’d like to go, but I think I’ll go back to Utah some day and hopefully dive deeper into some of the parks. The greatest FOMO I’ve ever experienced is that of the trail I haven’t yet trekked and there’s a great wide world out there to explore. Thank goodness for it. For more pics, check out the Utah and LA pages under my Explore tab.

And with that, it’s just about June! Can ya believe it? It’s going to be difficult to top May in terms of life experience, but I am loving the structure that the year of the unicorn is giving me to intentionally keep learning. This month I think I’m going to try to make my own perfume.

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The good life

Let’s talk about the magic of making small decisions that feel good. I’m having a day. A really good day. For a hundred relatively small reasons. I actually have my period, but I seem to be in reprieve from the toxic wasteland that my thoughts often turn into during this time of the month and I’m going to use this space to give way to my gratitude for the day.

A project I’d almost finished at work has evolved into something bigger. I was annoyed at first, but now I see that I’ve been given a gift to flex my creativity and I’m in love with the process of making something that is hopefully worthy of printing.

I decided not to be a total bum and offered up myself for a volunteer opportunity which I also used as an excuse to rope in some other coworkers, because yay friends.

I took Dorian, my car, in for an oil change and let them talk me into balancing and rotating my tires and new brake fluid. I had planned on saying no to any and all additional sales pitches, but he asked me about some specific car symptoms and sold me with his rationality so I feel responsible and pleased with the purchase. My car is hands down my favorite possession. It means freedom to me so it’s worth the bit of extra maintenance. On top of the new breaks I just got last week to pass inspection, in the six years I’ve had him he’s never driven smoother. We’re feelin’ fly as hell. Unstoppable. Maybe we’ll make it a couple more years.

I took 45 minutes to close my eyes and zen out because I haven’t been sleeping well. It was restorative.

Then I remembered to take out my garbage before I went to Target to get deodorant and look at skateboard helmets. No helmet yet, but I got sunscreen and a glass pitcher to make all of the sun teas and fun summery drinks and I’M SO STOKED!

I’m writing this from my floor pillows stationed next to my balcony with the door open so I can hear the birds chirping and kids screaming and cars speeding by while I eat the leftover chicken lo mein I made earlier this week and I’m so high on life. And you better believe I’ve got a mint peach blend slowly steeping out there to break in my new pitcher.

None of these things is particularly earth shattering, but it’s funny how simple and good life can be when I focus on simply making decisions that feel right. They add up.

I have pineapple and wine in my fridge and I remembered to buy chocolate earlier this week because I tend to crave it. It’s supposed to be a rainy weekend and I have plans to clean my apartment, start editing a book for someone, and meet up with some friends to exercise.

I’ve got photos from my trip to go through and I’m already dreaming of where I want to go next. Tonight I’ll spend some quality time letting my mind wander and appreciate where I’m at mentally and physically.

Life is good.

April pricked me: a lesson in embroidery

You know that old saying, something about having to learn to walk before you can run? Yea. That’s a life lesson that never stuck with me and would probably make me a more effective human. I regularly get ahead of myself because I’m good at visualizing the end result, then I get all excited and tend to skip the basic steps to build a strong foundation for getting there…and by default, the end result tends to be a bit rickety. Sometimes a rickety outcome is all I need, I get a high from trying new things after all, but sometimes it’s cause for frustration. Perfectionism is not something I’ve ever burdened myself with. I’ve always been in the “good enough, on to the next” camp. But sometimes I could use a lesson in taking things a step at a time.

This month I decided to finally take a stab at embroidery. Pun intended. And I say finally because it’s something I said I wanted to try over two years ago, my parents humored me and bought me a few kits for Christmas, and I’m just getting around to trying it now. Better late than never, yea?

So I read some stuff on getting started and watched this video, decided I should probably practice stitches, but ultimately said “fuck it” and jumped right in to embroidering a cheap sweatshirt with zero game plan. At the risk of stating the obvious after all that build up at the beginning of this post, it was kind of a train wreck. Take a look. I actually don’t think it looks totally awful, but the placement is off and I feel kind of “meh” about the design as a whole, if you can call it that.

It’s a good thing I amuse myself because otherwise I’d probably be pissed off all the time at the amateur running my life who’s addicted to trying new things. Since altering and customizing clothing is one of my favorite pastimes I decided it was worth another go so I cut the leaf monstrosity out and started over.

You wouldn’t believe how long it took me to commit to an idea. But as a self-described overzealous word enthusiast who figured I could handle a simple back stitch, I went with the word giant. Random as fuck, right? All I can say is that the word giant has been speaking to me. Between Magic Giant the band, Roald Dahl’s BFG, the Iron Giant, and “there are giants in the sky” from Into the Woods, I’ve become somewhat enamored with the giant concept from a metaphorical standpoint that I can’t quite put into words.

It’s not great largely because I didn’t practice or prep it in any way and I free-handed it in the spirit of getting shit done before the end of the month. I still need to dot the i and if I’m being completely honest, I probably never will. Or it’ll be several years from now. Given all that, it doesn’t totally suck and I probably won’t rip it out right away. I may even wear it.

So, I think embroidery is pretty cool. I’ll probably like it more with practice and I think it’s something I might grow into. Fabric paint and ink is still my favorite medium, but this whole thread and needle thing’s got potential.

And with that, I’m very excited to announce that May is my month for SOLO TRAVEL. Dun dun Dun! Stay tuned for what I expect will be an epic adventure…largely in part because I’m so good at planning, committing to an idea and taking things a step at a time. Teehee

Being human

Being human is such a weird, wonderful, awful thing. We’re all just kind of renting space on this planet and we desperately, foolishly, try to stake our claim on each other, land, this, that, and the other thing to make us feel like we actually have some semblance of control over our limited time here. That these things give us weight, give us staying power, give us reason, give us meaning. And maybe they do, maybe they don’t.

Deep down I think we all want to feel understood, to feel as if we belong, but life turns into this messy battle of finding how your wants and needs fit in with everyone else’s. If you’re lucky like I am, you’re born into the right tribe that fits you and loves you and grows you, giving you the foundation and confidence to expand that love outside of the tribe, to open up to new people and experiences. Unfortunately not everyone is so lucky.

In this chapter of my life I feel a deep sense of belonging that is maybe somewhat ironically coupled with a sense of isolation. I feel oddly in tune with the universe, like our energy levels match and I can trust in the uncertainty of the path I’m on right now. Oddly enough, I am comforted by the uncertainty, at least as I’m writing this. It’s fluid and flexible and full of possibilities which very much feels like home. Moving weeded out some of the excess in my life and I feel lighter for it. I think it’s made more room for me to grow. I have entered into a bit of a reclusive existence, not in any extreme way, but enough to truly value the people I allow into my life on a regular basis with enough space leftover to probably over contemplate my own existence. What a time to be alive!

I acknowledge and appreciate that my impact, especially at this moment, is fairly limited. And for the first time in my life that doesn’t make me feel sad or small or insignificant. I can create in relative obscurity, try new things without any real fear of failure and choose to learn whatever I want without the weight of anyone’s judgement because I must survive no one’s scrutiny but my own and who am I to judge? I suppose I’m staking a claim in this rented space of mine and carving out the world I want to live in. Mostly I’m just here to play. Join me.

 

March went postal

Happy Easter, fools. I am late with my March learning summary. So it goes.

Given the riveting nature of the postal service (the government branch, not the band), I will admit to a wishy washy commitment to this past month’s education, but I picked up a few nuggets of semi-interesting information and a refreshed perspective which I consider a win.

When I first conceived of this post, I anticipated my writing to be fairly snide, but I’ve since come to realize that given the era of instant technology in which we live, it’s incredibly easy to take the ability and agility at which we communicate for granted. And while no one would ever confuse me for a history buff, the evolution of the U.S. Postal Service is actually quite remarkable.

As transportation technology evolved, so did too the mail system. Planes, trains, and automobiles (not to mention horses and steamboats) revolutionized the movement of mail and played a vital role in bringing about American independence.

I’m trying to do this while watching Fixer Upper which tells you I’m super invested. I’m about this close to moving to Waco, Texas to remodel a cute Tudor style house that I can live happily ever after in. I was going to bullet some information, but honestly, I don’t believe it’s worth the time or the effort. So I’ll leave you with this: if you want to wet your whistle on the U.S. Postal Service, this is a great resource. 

I think April is going to be the month I try embroidery which I don’t believe was one of my initial ideas for the year, but it’s something I’ve been meaning to try and my parents gave me some kits a couple Christmases ago. Will keep you posted.

February Bake-off

I’m writing this from the floor in my kitchen with music blasting and a glass of wine next to me. I took a break from dancing around my apartment to tell you about my half-assed baking attempts this month. Buckle up, kids. I know you’re on the edge of your seats.

I’ve gotta say, baking just doesn’t excite me the way that cooking does. I’m not a precise person. Nor am I one to follow directions closely. That being said, I do enjoy getting my hands in some dough. I don’t know what it is, but getting messy is therapeutic for me whether it’s playing in the dirt or in the kitchen.

Anywho, let’s get into it! I didn’t bake as much as I would have liked for a month I intended to be devoted to such things, but I learned some shit which is kind of the whole point of this year of the unicorn ordeal. Here’s what I have.

Best thing I made: Lime Sugar Cookies
I followed the recipe linked above, mostly. A quick Google search gave me permission to replace the baking soda and cream of tartar with a teaspoon of baking powder. For as often as cream of tartar is called for in something I want to make (read: basically never) I didn’t want to run to the store for it if I didn’t have to. Fortunately in baking, according to the Google gods, when a recipe calls for baking soda and cream of tartar to be used together baking powder is a viable substitute, and is conveniently a more common substance in my cupboard. I also skipped the coconut and cream cheese in the frosting and added fresh lime juice instead. In hindsight I would have also added some zest to the frosting to really add that POW in-your-face lime factor. These turned out really well. I probably ate 5 or 6 or 8, ya know…to make sure they were good and test out the cookie to frosting ratio, then brought the rest in for coworkers. They seemed to go over well. They’re best chilled in my opinion.

Worst thing I made: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Honestly, I had high hopes for these cookies and was wildly disappointed. I made these the day of the Superbowl to bring to a party and the guys seemed to like them, but I was expecting and hoping for a soft chewy awesome cookie and ended up with an overly thick, somewhat crunchy cookie. Not ideal, especially since the whole reason to bother with an oatmeal cookie is for the chew factor. I will say the flavor was good, but the texture didn’t work for me. I’m assuming I made an error somewhere and the recipe may be worth trying again…but my personal quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie will continue…and the giant container of oatmeal I’ve had on my counter since the fall will have to prove itself useful in some other way.

Cheated with this: Sweet Potato Crusted Quiche
I don’t have a link for this and I feel like including this is kind of cheating because it’s a hybrid cooking/baking meal, but it went in the oven TWICE so I’m including it. Plus, it was delicious. I got a mandolin for Christmas so any excuse to break it out is cause for excitement and this is a bit healthier than always making potato chips :) It starts with a sweet potato crust that par-bakes at 350 for 15 minutes and while that’s going down you saute some onion and garlic and spinach until thoroughly wilted. In hindsight I would have tried to squeeze out some moisture here, but it still turned out fine. This mixture gets dumped into the crust and then you beat 4 eggs together, pour that over the top, then top the whole thing with a mess of any kind of shredded cheese that makes your heart happy and throw it back in the oven for 30 minutes until it gets a bit crusty on top and the egg mixture is set. I liked this a lot. The sweet potato crust holds up surprisingly well and it even reheated nicely a few days later.

Second shoutout to these bomb blueberry muffins. Planning on making these again this week because blueberries were on sale and they’re amazing. I’m a sucker for anything with a crumble topping and the blueberry swirl is just killer.

Lastly, here’s a cake I’d like to make eventually. Maybe for my cinco de mayo birthday momma.

Also, these nutella swirl banana muffins are on my list to try.

With a day to spare, that brings us to March. I think this may be the month I do some research about the history of the US mail system. We’ll find out how riveting of a topic that is together.

 

 

January: Playing with food (and eating it too)

I decided since I conveniently have 12 topics of interest for the year that it makes sense to devote a month to each one, at least on here. I expect many of the topics will continue beyond a month, particularly the food ones, but it’s tough to resist a convenient breakdown. So I’m calling January the month of recipes!

I’m forever playing with food and browsing online for interesting meals, snacks, and baked goods to try. This month was a good one for kitchen experiments. You’ll notice a lack of photos. I don’t have the patience for food photography. I appreciate the chefs and bloggers out there that take the time and have the skill to focus on presentation, but I honestly just want to fucking eat. I’m the one snacking as I go while I make something and then impatiently waiting for it to come out of the oven only to burn my fingers and my mouth in my rush to taste the finished goods. No, you’re impatient.

Here is a sample of what I made this month linked to any recipes I followed along with my thoughts:

Cauliflower Mac n Cheese
This was surprisingly tasty. I never would have thought to combine cauliflower and mac n cheese, but it works. I riced my cauliflower using a food processor and then boiled it with the pasta. I liked not having large chunks of cauliflower, but knowing I was getting an extra serving of vegetables.

Pro tip: If you rice your cauliflower and then put it in a covered bowl in the fridge, it WILL smell like a battalion of babies shit in there. I made this mistake for you. You can thank me later. To avoid that, rice your cauliflower right before you cook it with the pasta or boil it separately right after you rice it THEN store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Boiling it eliminates the pungent cruciferous gas.

Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken
This was insanely delicious and so so simple. Highly recommend and will be making it again. I substituted rice vinegar for regular white vinegar because I had it on hand, served it over quinoa and added some steamed broccoli at the very end to round out the meal.

Bacon Wrapped Cheesy Chicken
Does this even need to be discussed? Chicken, bacon, and cheese. If that’s not comfort food I don’t know what is.

Blueberry Swirl Muffins
If I could only recommend one recipe on this list, it would be this one. It’s the only item in this post I actually snapped a picture of. Easily the best blueberry muffins I’ve ever had and the recipe is actually really fun to make. It also gave me an excuse to try out my new silicone muffin “tins” which worked flawlessly. Do yourself a favor and make these muffins.

Crockpot Carnitas
This. Is. Bomb. Ugh. I don’t often make the same thing repeatedly, but this has been an exception. I LOVE crockpot recipes and this one is just so delicious and easy. For the rub, I just use some olive oil, salt, pepper, and mixed italian seasoning mix. I like to take the finished shredded pork and make nachos. It’s also awesome to add to trashed up ramen noodles with some fresh veggies and an egg. Swoon.

Crockpot Pesto Mozzarella Chicken Pasta
I’ve already made this a few times, including once for friends, and it’s a hit. I’ll eat cheesy pesto pasta any day of the week and the chicken just adds some extra substance. Don’t threaten me with a good time. The huge bonus here is that the crockpot does all the heavy lifting and store bought pesto (I used Wegmans) is the magic touch.

Gnocchi with Feta and Mushrooms
Not sure if you’ve caught on yet, but I have a bit of a love affair with pasta. This dish is super simple, delicious, and comforting. I only used basic white mushrooms and dried rosemary because I had it already, but I don’t think it loses any flavor.

Roasted Chickpeas
This is probably my least favorite thing on the list, but they grew on me the more I ate. I really love chickpeas/garbanzo beans rinsed right out of the can or with a little olive oil and some herbs. When they’re roasted the texture completely changes. Some get crunchy, some a little chewy and I feel like they don’t retain a ton of flavor from the seasonings, but maybe I just needed to use more? Who knows. It’s possible I’ll try to make them again, but I think my preference is still unroasted.

Peanut Butter Stuffed French Toast
I didn’t follow a recipe for this. Today I happened to bring a crunchy peanut butter sandwich for lunch, but didn’t end up eating it because one of my favorite people gifted me a donut and then I lost interest in said sandwich. I know. Life is tough.
Well my lowly sandwich made the trip back home with me and I didn’t particularly want it, but I didn’t want to throw it out either. That’s when I was inspired to turn it into french toast! An egg, a splash of milk and vanilla, and a dash of cinnamon later and that peanut butter sandwich was feeling pretty sexy grilling in some butter. Dusted with a bit of powdered sugar at the end, I don’t know if I’ll ever want to eat a sandwich the normal way again. I think using crunchy peanut butter was key, too, for adding texture and keeping the peanut butter from turning into a total melted mess. I would not eat my pb sandwich again just to have the excuse to make this.

I think I might continue on the food focused trend and make next month the science of baking…which is really just an excuse to make cake and cookies. Save me from myself while I have my cake and eat it too. Perhaps it will also be the month that I recommit to consistently exercising. Cheers.