Thoughts & Feels

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.

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The year of the unicorn

If you’re an observer of the blogosphere, you may have noticed a few weeks ago that it was pretty trendy for bloggers to choose their word of the year, something to base their intentions on. While I don’t consider myself a blogger anymore and this space has really turned into a personal catchall where I indulge my whims or neglect it for long periods of time, I appreciate any kind of wordplay, especially if it encourages substance.

So, for me? This is the year of re-schooling which I have fondly nicknamed the year of the unicorn because it’s more fun to say and there is magic in learning, especially learning for fun and mischief.

Why re-schooling?

Because there is so much I want to learn about still! Hopefully always. I never want to lose my curiosity. I want to investigate random shit for no reason other than I’m curious about it and want to know more. I was always a good student when I was in school and I’ve always been a solid employee, but I’m finding in my adult life that I am not great at showing up for myself and committing to personal goals and ambitions because I get tired and lazy and it’s easy to push off things I want to do because I’m not being held accountable by anyone but myself. But, no more wimpy excuses! I’m hoping that by learning new things and experimenting that I will keep growing and my journey will continue to be interesting. Plus, I don’t want to be a damn cog in someone else’s machine my whole life. I’ve got big ideas and an independent heart.

So! I’m sure this will evolve, but here’s a list of things I’d like to start with:

  • the science of baking
  • new recipes (I LOVE to play with food! and I already do this weekly, but I will continue to experiment)
  • clothing deconstruction and pattern making
  • the US mail system
  • how to use more power tools
  • Thoreau’s writings
  • Da Vinci’s inventions
  • existentialism
  • transcendentalism
  • traveling solo
  • poetry/creative writing
  • photography/videography

I may chronicle at least some of my adventures here as this space is sort of my own personal time capsule–open to the public, but not actively shared. If you’re reading, you’re welcome to join the adventure.

 

I never lose. I either win or I learn.

As I close in on another birthday, I guess it’s about that time to get all reflective. It’s been a crazy fucking year. 25 was, in a word, turbulent, but the last two months have been so damn sweet. I feel like I’ve gone through my own personal renaissance.

I’ve lived in three different places this year and where I’ve landed…well, I think I’m going to be here for a while. I feel like a lot of the pieces that I’ve been waiting, hoping, wishing to fall in place finally are.

I changed jobs. I am doing exactly what I wanted to be doing and it is even better than I could have hoped. The cherry on top is the ridiculously amazing people I get to interact with everyday. How so many awesome people all ended up in one place just blows my mind, but I’m damn grateful we found each other.

I lost love, but gained some hard won clarity about who I am and what I want. I want outrageous, raw, unapologetic, real love. A partner. Someone that won’t make me doubt I’m wanted. Someone that will choose me, choose us, even when the going gets rough. Someone that believes in me and the magic of life and all it has to offer. Someone who isn’t afraid of disappointment. If I don’t find it, I’m happy on my own. I’m not in a rush and I won’t settle for less.

My small side business did better than I ever would have expected, especially with pretty extreme periods of neglect on my part. I’m not a salesperson, but I ended up with four clients that all gave me repeat business. It’s no where near a livable income, but it’s nice extra money doing work I enjoy on the side. I’m not sure how actively I’ll pursue the continuation of it, but it’s been rewarding knowing I can make money from something I created.

I didn’t end up traveling anywhere this year; landing a new job took precedence. But I’m heading to Seattle in a few weeks with my brother on a work trip and I’m thinking I might go to Utah or Ireland later this year. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ve been having a blast exploring Central New York.

That quote at the top of this post? I just came across it today and it sums up my enlightenment period from this year. The last two months hit the refresh button on my life and I desperately needed it. I’m grateful for the good, the bad, and the ugly, but right now I feel like all the good things are coming my way and I’m going to soak it up.

I don’t have specific goals this go-round, but these are my intentions for the year:

  • make bold moves
  • embrace vulnerability
  • be open to opportunity
  • live on purpose
  • stay curious
  • find the wild and keep it close
  • let go of things and people who aren’t meant for me
  • enjoy the hell out of whatever brings me joy

Cheers to 26 and whatever craziness this year has in store for me. It’s going to be one for the books.

Tickled by life

This morning I drove to Skaneateles. My primary goal was to check out this bakery I found online. You see, Skaneateles just feels like a place that would have a great bakery. And I was right. In fact I was almost gluttonous enough to go to two! But I’ll save Patisserie for next time. Skaneateles Bakery was a treat. I bought an over sized pink lemonade macaron and a raspberry muffin and ate them near the lake where some seagulls were also enjoying their morning.

I spent some time people watching, soaking up the sunshine, walking down the pier, and even finished reading my book. And, as I sat there, I felt more content than I have in a long time. Moving here was the best decision I could have made. I can feel myself settling more into who I want to be and I think this time alone is exactly what I needed. I love exploring on my own. Who knew?

You don’t realize that every person in your life and experience you have adds weight to your life until you make a big shift like this. Or at least I didn’t. And the weight usually isn’t a bad thing. It adds depth and value and love to living, but I feel less weighed down now and it’s freeing. There are less demands on my time and my mind and it’s helping me to feel more connected with myself. I cook what I want, go where I want, and do what I want without needing to compromise or wonder if someone else is going to be okay with the decision and, man, that feels so, so good right now!

I’m tickled by this season of life. I know it’s not likely that I’ll be on my own or want to be on my own forever, but right now I’m going to soak it up and enjoy it as much as I can. Cheers to being comfortable in your own skin and finding out you’re pretty damn capable all on your own.

The call of the country

I’ve always been open to a variety of music, but since moving to Syracuse I have been inexplicably drawn to the country stations on the radio. I know country music as a genre tends to be pretty polarizing. I’ve never had a strong opinion about it one way or another, but lately it seems to perfectly fit my long drives to nowhere roaming around the farmlands, cutting through the mountains and weaving around the lakes of central New York. They also match my mood lately; a little bittersweet, nostalgic about love gone awry…hoping it will still work out somehow, feeling like it must.

Here’s what I’m feeling lately:

Like I loved you -Brett Young

Die a happy man -Thomas Rhett

In case you didn’t know -Brett Young

See you tonight -Scotty McCreery

Runnin’ outta moonlight -Randy Houser

Leave the night on -Sam Hunt

Play it again -Luke Bryan

I don’t want this night to end -Luke Bryan

Small town boy -Dustin Lynch

It goes like this -Thomas Rhett

Get me some of that -Thomas Rhett

Because I knew you

It’s not particularly novel to feel reflective at a major turning point, but this thought has been tumbling around my head the past few weeks and it’s time to give it proper dues: I have been so damn fortunate, in every stage of my life, in the people that I have met, befriended, lived, learned, explored, worked, fought, and crossed boundaries with.

For every great experience I have had, it almost always comes down to the people.

It’s true. I’m one of the lucky ones. Blessed with one of those families that was built on a rock solid foundation of mutual love, respect and belonging. I didn’t start to realize how rare that was until high school and it really does change everything. It is the best and most precious gift I’ve ever been given.

I’ve always made friends pretty easily. One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned is how to let people go and that it’s natural to outgrow some friendships. My very best friend growing up was three years younger than me and lived two houses down the street. During the summer we used to be out the door by 7am, ready and raring to go. We both had crazy active imaginations and would have fun dressing up and inventing games, pretending to be everything from wild animals to rock stars. We’d write stories, choreograph songs, have snack time and adventure time. Scrape knees, climb trees, build forts…we did it all. In seventh grade when I realized we were growing apart, it broke my heart. We were everything until we weren’t, but looking back on it, I know I was touched by a beautiful kind of magic.

Some of my closest friendships to this day are with people I bonded with in high school. The cross country team, my crazy band of misfits, gifted me with five deliriously special people that I’ve now been friends with for almost half of my life. And I had one of the greatest summers of my life so far with my other girl gang and while I don’t talk to most of them anymore, one of them is basically the sister of my heart, no matter how long we go between seeing each other.

If I could relive a year of my life, it would be my freshman year of college and the reason is squarely on the shoulders of the ridiculous and amazing people that I exploded into being with that year. Such a huge year of becoming. From a handful of certain classmates to the crazies that I dormed with, I cannot imagine a more perfect year with more perfect people. It wasn’t without its challenges, but every day I woke up on fire. So damn excited to see what else was in store. I only keep in touch with a handful of those people now, but they’ve all touched my soul.

My year of grad school gifted me with an interesting mix of people. I am so glad I walked toward and not away from that rambunctious group of weirdos blocking the hallway. Over four years later, my life has never been the same.

After graduation, I had a somewhat unique year of retail experience largely working with my friends and a great team of people. I actually learned a lot during this year, even though I was pretty depressed about how long it took me to find a “real” job, and it was largely in part to the new people I met.

And then comes Manzella, the heart of why I was inspired to write this post. For the past three years I worked at a marketing agency as a project manager. I won’t lie to you, it was not my favorite experience. But damn did I learn and grow personally and professionally in ways I couldn’t imagine. I was given unusual opportunities and earned the respect of great people. I worked with executives at major companies and contributed to a team of truly impressive creative people who I’m fortunate to also call friends. I gained so much; a mentor and a friend that I hope will be a part of my life forever; an exceptional, open-minded boss who trusted me implicitly and wants me to succeed, even if I have to leave; a creative director who gave me room to grow and learn to manage, and also took an active interest in me as a person; account executives that considered me a surrogate daughter. And more. So much more. I am so damn grateful for having had this experience. It was often uncomfortable. I knew it would be when I started. But I had no idea how much these people would come to mean to me or the impact they would have on my life and it’s something I don’t ever want to take for granted. I wouldn’t be moving forward without them.

So, if you’re one of the good ones (and I believe you are), thank you. Thank you for pushing me, pulling me, raising me, berating me, changing me, growing me, loving me and quite simply being with me. It has made a world of difference.

To quote Wicked:
I do believe I have been changed for the better, and, because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

As I start this new chapter, I’m excited about the people I’ll meet and the new friends I’ll make. Who will change my life? Will I change theirs? I hope this is an overwhelming season of becoming.

Let’s begin.

 

Those moments when…

You feel most alive. When your soul is leaping from your skin. When you feel like you can take on the world and be the very best version of yourself. When you escape the confines of your brain and become all heart.

Those moments are so damn special.

I made the decision to actually go out to see a band I’d never heard of last night. And it was the best decision I’ve made in a while. Magic Giant, you’re doing it right. You guys are pure positive energy. Keep doing what you’re doing. Thanks for coming to Buffalo and thanks Leanne, if you’re reading this, for bringing me along!

I’m guilty of listening to whatever is easy, whatever the radio feeds me. There’s a comfort and laziness in that so I appreciate friends that introduce me to new music I wouldn’t seek out on my own.

Magic Giant, you’re a keeper.