31 January 2013

What's In My Make-Up Bag?

What's In My Make-Up Bag?
In my four-plus {!!} years of blogging, I have never done a "What's In My Make-Up Bag?" post.  I'm not really sure why.  I love, love, LOVE reading other bloggers' similar posts.  I've always kind of been a closet product-junkie, but it's only been in the past year that I've really nailed down which products I'm loyal to and work for me.  In the interest of full disclosure, I should let you all know that I deserve exactly none of the credit for discovering any of these products.  They are almost all products that I found out about from someone else's blog.  I'm all about letting someone else do the road-testing for me.
I obviously have a future career as a photographer/stylist, oui?

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Enhancer Tinted Moisturizer, $10. This gem was discovered by way of Invisible Internet Friend Melissa from I Pick Pretty.  Our Her choice was validated when I read multiple interviews with multiple beauty editors {not sure where...maybe Refinery29 and/or Into the Gloss} who all said that it was a fabulous dupe for cult-favorite Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer.  I've been using this since Mel recommended it way back in 2008.  If you need tons of coverage, it's probably not a great choice.  But I'm always aiming {but never quite achieving} that French look of hardly-any-make-up and this evens out my skin tone without the feeling of foundation.  I HATE the feeling of foundation.  Ick.

NARS Illuminator in Orgasm, $30.  I wear this on the weekends in place of the tinted moisturizer.  Sometimes I wear it over the tinted moisturizer.  Just depends on my mood.  In the bottle it looks like it's a blush, but it goes on sheer and just makes your skin look glow-y.

CoverGirl Smoothers Concealer, $7.  I think I first discovered this in an InStyle Best Beauty Buys issues several years ago.  We're talking high school several years ago.  I have this in both the Fair and Neutralizer shades.  I use Neutralizer under my eyes and if I have any pimples.  The Fair shade goes everywhere else I need concealer.   They both do the job just fine, although I have to say, I'm considering making the switch to either YSL Touche Éclat Radiant Touch {I refuse to drop the 'Yves'} or Clé de Peau Beauté.  Do you use either of those?  Which would you recommend?

Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in Blissful, $25. Discovered by way of Sally and Molly at A Piece of Toast.  Don't be scared off by the neon look of this in the compact.  It goes on much less 80s-prom and more pinched-cheeks.  Purchased almost a year ago and I've hardly made a dent in it.  One thing I've enjoyed about it is that I find the shade works as well on my deathly-pale winter skin as it does on my slightly-less-pale summer skin.

Stila "It Girl" Eyeshadow Palette, no longer available. This one I did discover on my own. I bought it on a HauteLook sale last year.  I am going to be so sad when this runs out, but only because of one color, Eve.  Stila doesn't sell that shade in individual pans and the other two colors {Kitten and Americano} are kind of take it or leave it. I know Kitten has a cult-following but I don't get it. I've read that MAC Kid is a similar shade, so I need to start investigating a replacement. Eve is a tawny matte neutral with a kind-of dusky pink hint.  It's SO beautiful and is the perfect everyday shade for me.  Like I said, I will be crushed when it runs out!

Revlon ColorStay Liquid Liner in Blackest Black, $10. This was another discovery I made on my own.    I am a liquid eyeliner devotee.  I can work out in it on my lunch break and it doesn't budge.  If you've never used liquid eyeliner, don't be intimidated! It's worth a try.  You have so much more precision than with a pencil.  It takes some practice to get it right and you do need a steady hand, but I've used liquid for so long that I can apply it without a mirror.  The little package doesn't look like very much, but it will last for about a year with daily use.

Maybelline Lash Discovery Mascara in Very Black, $8. Discovered by way of Alice at Summer is a Verb.  I've strayed away from this over the years, but I always come back to it.  It rarely clumps, it stays put, it looks natural, and it's cheap.  As Alice says, it makes your lashes look like they've been individually painted.

Maybelline ColorSensational Lipstick in Warm Me Up and Totally Toffee, $8 each. The Totally Toffee shade was recommended by The Pioneer Woman.  I'm not sure if someone recommended Warm Me Up to me or if I just found it on my own.  I alternate back and forth between these two depending on my mood.  They're both neutral/close to my natural lip shade. Warm Me Up is a little more pink and Totally Toffee is a little more brown.

L'Oreal Infallible Plumping Lip Gloss in Plumped Pink, $10.  Discovered by way of Shasta Anne.  I'm not sure whether or not this actually plumps {it does make your lips tingle when you first put it on}, but I layer this on top of either shade of the above lipsticks.  It's not quite as Barbie-pink as it appears in the tube AND {!!!!} it is VERY close to the shade of lipgloss {MAC Plushglass in Posh It Up} that pixiwoo recommend to get the Duchess of Perfection look.

Wow, reading this list makes me realize what a drugstore product junkie I am! It's like I haven't grown up since middle school.  Whatever.  If it works, it works, right?

My make-up brushes are from Sephora {also recommended by Shasta Anne}: I use the Sephora Collection Pro Natural Small Eyeshadow Brush #15, the Pro Air Brush #55, and the Pro Concealer Airbrush #57.  I have to say that a large part of finally feeling that I've found a consistent make-up look was investing in brushes.  I had always thought brushes were a total racket, but they make an enormous difference.  I think having nice brushes {and taking good care of them} is part of the reason I can get away with drugstore make-up.  Brushes make everything look better.  I'm still in need of a good blush brush and/or bronzer brush. Any recommendations?

The eyelash curler is a drugstore purchase, although it's getting trashed as soon as my new Shu Uemura curler arrives. SO FREAKIN' HAPPY they brought it back to the US. It's the best!!

If you've made it this far in the post, bravo! Tell me: what are your tried-and-true make-up must-haves? Is there a product that I am missing out on?

30 January 2013

Brain Dump

None of these are really enough to form a complete post, but here are some thoughts that have been rattling around in the old noggin recently:

1.  I am fascinated by cults and extreme fringe religious groups.  Not in a "I want to join one" kind of way, but I just think the psychology and history of them is so interesting.  A few years ago I went on a Scientology binge and after reading as much as I could about it, I find it horrifically creepy. They have done some shady shit to people.  {NPR's "Fresh Air" had a great interview about a new book on Scientology last week}  Last year I was really into learning about the personality cult surrounding the Kim Dynasty in North Korea.  My new obsession is the Quiverfull and Christian Patriarchy movements.  The Duggars are what really made the Quiverfull movement famous, and although I have never watched that show and never will, I can't. stop. reading. about these groups.  This blog {Love, Joy, Feminism} in particular is what I've been reading.  The author was raised in a QF/CP home, but went away to a large state school for college and ended up leaving her faith.  She blogs about her experiences and keeps a list of other survivor blogs.  She's mentioned Kathryn Joyce a few times on her blog, so I really want to read this book.

2. I'm not sure what rock I've been living under, but I have recently discovered the blog Into The Gloss and I am in love.  I am a closet product junkie and it's written in such a fun, whip-smart tone.  I'm kind of embarrassed {but not really} to admit that I was waiting with bated breath for the conclusion of their series on foundation. The only problem is I am going to have to stop myself from buying everything they recommend.  The Kiehl's Rare Earth Pore Minimizing Lotion is at the top of my list because my pores are seriously OOC.

3.  I am pretty much obsessed with watching French Food At Home reruns on the Cooking Channel.  Does anyone else love Laura Calder the way I do?  She's kind of a bitch and she's a little quirky, but that is part of her charm. Also she has like a Miranda-complex going on, where sometimes she is drop-dead gorgeous and sometimes she is really strange-looking.  Very confusing.  Anyhoo, her show is like escapism for me since pretty much all I ever want to do is make and eat French food and daydream about moving to France.  I want to get every single one of her cookbooks.

4. I've been having random, super intense food cravings recently {no, I'm not pregnant}.  Like last Sunday morning, I woke up and all I could think about was cream puffs.  No real reason why.  I just NEEDED cream puffs. What is that? Does that ever happen to you?

29 January 2013

Tammy Connor Interior Design

Please come decorate my life.

Your newest fangirl

28 January 2013

Menu Monday

Kind of a boring Menu Monday post with a few repeats.  Hopefully you whipped up something more exciting last week! Share any discoveries in the comments, s'il vous plaît.

Tuscan Pasta with Tomato-Basil Cream {Southern Living July 2007}
When I posted this on Instagram, I mentioned that I cringe whenever I make it because it is chock full of highly processed and unhealthy ingredients.  The good news {or bad news, depending on how you look at it} is that this wasn't nearly as good as I remember, so I won't be making it again.  This time around all I could taste was salt, salt, salt.  That said, M loved it and polished off the leftovers pretty quickly.

Wild Rice Burgers {The Kitchn}
This recipe was recommended to me by a dear friend last year.  While they don't quite measure up to our favorite black bean burger recipe in the veggie burger pantheon, they are easy to make and delicious. They are definitely a unique taste and texture, but I've come to love them.  M won't ever make a special request for these, but he enjoys them as well.  I would recommend cooking the rice the night before.  The burgers hold together much better when the rice has that sticky leftover rice consistency.

Fish en Papillote {Laura Calder}
I mentioned this recipe in my post about meal planning last week.  I just love Laura Calder and this is one of her best recipes.  A few notes: I normally just use half of an onion instead of a leek.  I can't find quatre épices or Chinese five-spice in our tiny town grocery store, so I make my own spice blend.  I use cinnamon, cloves, ginger, black pepper, and nutmeg.  Just a little sprinkling of each on top of the fish.  I also find that I need to cook it for a good 3-4 minutes longer than the recipe calls for.

Crockpot White Chicken Chili {Design Wine Dine}
SO SO SO SO good. I lurrrrrrve white chilis and this one was fantastic.  My adjustments:  I have a phobia of Cream of XYZ soups {too many chemicals and the gloppy, jiggly texture is creepy} and packaged seasoning mixes {too many additives and no way to tell how long it's been sitting on the grocery store shelf}.  The good news is that it's cheap and easy to make your own!  I use Pinch of Yum's Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup recipe and Budget Bytes' Taco Seasoning recipe.  

We topped our soup with extra sharp cheddar, crushed corn tortilla chips, hot sauce, sour cream, cilantro, and fresh lime. Plenty leftover for lunches this week.

Bon appétit! 

25 January 2013

Friday Un-Favorites

Because this cold weather has me feeling a little snarky {I mean...it IS supposed to be the most depressing week of the year} and wanting to change things up a bit, I thought it would be fun to do a list today of things that I am most definitely NOT feeling.*

Cake balls.  OK, first of all, I can't say "cake balls" without giggling like a 10-year old.  Sorry, you cannot say "cake balls" with a straight face.  And if you can, I probably don't want to be your friend.

Second, EW EW EW EW.  I should preface this by saying that I don't have much of a sweet tooth and I think there are few things more disgusting than most every type of frosting/icing, ESPECIALLY if it comes from a can.  I have to stop myself from gagging every time those Duncan Hines frosting mix-ins commercials come on. SO GROSS.  We had pie at our wedding because there was no way in hell frosting was going to be a part of our special day.  So taking cake, mixing it with copious amounts of frosting-from-a-can, and then dipping it in that weird "chocolate" you can buy at Michael's is just not something I understand.

Chevron.  I kind of love/hate that now it's trendy to hate on chevron.  I have been hating on chevron since chevron became a thing again.  I am so tired of seeing it everywhere.  Dresses, pillows, rugs, shoes, monogrammed cell phone covers, and on and on and on.  How is it that so many people wear chevron tops and don't realize that they kind of look like Charlie Brown? When little old church ladies talk about how "hip" chevron is, you know it's no longer hip.  Time to find a new pattern and move on, people.
Wedding blogs.  I NEVER thought there would be a time when I said that.  I love weddings and my dream job is to be an event planner.  But every wedding blog and every wedding on it looks exactly the same to me these days.  It's either "hipster-Anthropologie-quirky" wedding with craspedia {ugliest flower ever} and succulents or "I AM FROM THE SOUTH LOOK HOW SOUTHERN I AM" {I say that as someone from the South who served biscuits and grits at her wedding} or "fancy ballroom affair that requires use of rhinestones and a lighting scheme".  Even the photography is uninspiring.  It's all of the same detail shots.  Everything seems so contrived and impersonal and just DONE.  I don't think that I had the most unique wedding ever; there are definitely things I copied or pictures I wanted taken because I had seen them on a blog.  But seriously...no more yellow-and-grey color palettes with a typewriter for a guest book and drinks served out of Mason jars with stripey straws.

Overly styled Instagram photos.  Maybe this is just the green-eyed monster rearing his head because I have zero talent for styling things.  I can appreciate a lovely photograph and I also appreciate the aesthetic necessity of styling.  But I am over every.single.picture on Instagram being styled to death.  If I'm doing my nails, you can bet that I don't have five different shades of blue laying just so, on a pure white background, next to an open window to catch the light perfectly.  Like, if you're doing your nails, just take a picture of it.  You don't need to make it a big production {unless you're a professional blogger or photographer and that's how you make your monies}.  It just feels disingenuous.  Ditto for these alleged vignettes.  Most of the time it seems more like a way for you to show off your expensive candle/perfume habit.

Anyone else feeling snarky today?  What's one of your Friday Un-Favorites?

*Please note that this is meant to be all in good fun.  Don't get your panties in a wad if there's something on here that you love.  We can still be friends and not agree on everything.  No, really, it's true.

image sources: 1 // 2 // 3

24 January 2013

Meal Planning

I've noticed a lot of people have made meal planning as one of their 2013 resolutions and thought I'd share some thoughts and tips.  I've always loved to cook and even in college, I attempted to make myself a home-cooked dinner once or twice a week.  I tried to make homemade meals for myself as often as possible when I was single and living by myself, but it is SO HARD to cook for one and I often fell into the expensive trap of take-out or frozen meals.
When M and I moved in together in the fall of 2010, I realized I had to do something about our evening meals before our spending got way out of hand.  At the time, I would wait until 3pm to decide what I wanted to cook for dinner.  I was never sure what we had in the fridge or the pantry, so I would just go to the store and buy everything we needed.  At one point, we had 3-4 jars EACH of cinnamon, rosemary, thyme, and garlic powder.  Some days at work would get crazy busy and I wouldn't have time to figure out what to have for dinner, so we would end up going out and spending a ton of money and eating unhealthy.
My mom has always been a weekly meal planner for as long as I can remember so she was my initial inspiration.  Then I started seeing bloggers like Kate and Rachel do weekly planning and, to me, that was much more attainable.  I felt like seeing women my age do it made it seem much more attainable and less "one day..." aspirational.
We have definitely had ups and downs in meal planning.  Sometimes I just slack off, sometimes M doesn't want to deal with dirty dishes, and on those nights, there's nothing wrong with calling the pizza guy.  But meal planning has enabled us to stay on an even grocery budget, eat healthy, and try a variety of different dishes.
With all that said, the vast majority of recipes I make I will never make again.  There are various reasons for that but mainly, a lot of recipes are good, not great. Since we've been doing this for 2 1/2 years now, we have narrowed down the list of great recipes that we go back to over and over again.  I hope you take some inspiration from these.  I'd LOVE to know what your tried-and-true recipe repeats are. We're always looking for new ones!
1. Eat, Live, Run's Boyfriend-Approved Spicy Black Bean Burgers {pictured}. I always serve these with Alexia frozen sweet potato fries.

2.  Budget Bytes' Egg Florentine Quesadillas. I use her Creamed Spinach, Take 2 recipe.  It's much better than the original one.

3. Slow Cooker Green Chile Pork Tacos {pictured}. Stupidly easy to make and stupidly delicious.  We usually end up with lots of leftovers.  It freezes well, but it also makes for great lunch quesadillas!

4.  Arroz Congri/Chipotle Burrito Bowls. I'm grouping these together because they're very similar and interchangeable.  Sometimes I made the IGE chicken or some shrimp to go with it, sometimes we just eat it straight vegetarian {the arroz congri is vegan if you don't use sour cream or cheese for toppings}. Either way, it's always delicious and filling and {minus the shrimp and/or chicken} budget-friendly.

5. Eat, Live, Run's Spicy Pecan Crusted Catfish {pictured}. Aaaaah I love this recipe so much! It's just got such a great mix of flavors and textures.  I almost always make this with some form of sweet potatoes and a side salad.  It makes for a very pretty, colorful presentation.

6. Jenny Steffens Hobick Arrabiata Sauce with Shrimp and Linguine {pictured}. I could go on and on about my love for this recipe.  It takes maybe 15 minutes to make.  It makes a TON of food.  And it is so, so, so good. We fight over who gets to take the leftovers the next day.

7. Slow Cooker Pepperoncini Beef Sandwiches.  This recipe was a recent discovery from Rachel. I had bookmarked it ages ago, but only decided to make it in the past month.  It is AMAZING. Just so good and simple and delicious.  I am getting hungry thinking about it!  I typically only use 1-1 1/2 lbs of the beef and we put the Sargento Mozzarella-Provolone slices on top, although I bet pepper jack would be wonderful as well...

8.  Cooking Light's Spicy Lemon Trout.  We have this a lot.  Rainbow trout is relatively inexpensive, easy to find, and when farmed in the U.S.A., is a sustainable fish population, which is important to both of us.  I don't do the fancy dressed trout filets.  I just lay lemon slices on the top and broil it without flipping for a total of 6-8 minutes.

9.  Four-Cheese Roasted Vegetables.  This is borderline retro for me.  My mom made this for us all the time growing up and it will always be one of my favorite side dishes.  I would be willing to bet that if you have a picky eater in your family who isn't big on veggies, this would be a game changer.

10. The Pioneer Woman's Pasta alla Vodka {pictured}.  Despite my serious issues with Ree, I do love this dish.  It's an absolute indulgence, so it's rare that I make it.  And even then, I make adjustments {those can be found here}.  But for a night when you feel like splurging without spending hours in the kitchen, this is really hard to beat.

11.  Laura Calder's Fish en Papillote.  Feels fancy and fiddly, is actually stupid easy.  The spices are what makes it! I find that I need to cook mine a little longer than recommended, as I like my salmon more medium than medium-rare.

12.  Simply Grilled Chicken Breasts.  We have these at least once a week in the summer.  My mom discovered this recipe and it is, bar none, the best grilled chicken.

A few more notes: I find that having some "rules" with regards to planning helps immensely.  I instituted Soup Sundays this fall and plan to continue that through the end of the winter.  We don't stick to a strict Meatless Monday {but if that works for you, do it!}, but I make sure that at least 1 or 2 of our meals each week are totally meat free.  I also make sure at least another one of our meals is seafood.  And I restrict our red meat pretty significantly.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good steak and I have some great beef recipes, but I feel strongly about consuming meat that isn't factory-raised and that is a} expensive and b}hard to find where we live.

I use the Project Girl's Meal Planner/Grocery List {the second one}.  Print off a stack of them and keep them in your office, at home, wherever you do your planning.

Try to have a day each week at home when you plan out everything.  That way you can go through cookbooks, browse Pinterest and blogs, and pull out magazine recipes all at once. You can also go through your freezer/fridge/pantry to see what you have/need to use.

Make notes! It's easy to make a recipe and then forget what adjustments you made, whether or not you liked it, and/or where you found it.  Posting on the blog is obviously a great record for me, but I also delete recipes that I've Pinned, made and didn't like. I throw away any magazine tear-outs of recipes I've made and didn't like.  If I make a recipe and like it, notes go in the margins and saved in a binder.

What other tips would you add?  Are any of you just starting out on the meal planning bandwagon? I'd love to hear how it's going!

23 January 2013

Super Bowl Bound!

I did not grow up an NFL fan. At all.  But I married into a family who it would be an understatement to say are diehard Baltimore Ravens fans.  After last year's soul-crushing loss to the Pats in the AFC Championship game {when M broke things before going catatonic for the better part of the next week}, this was a sweet, sweet victory.  We won't be making the trek to NOLA for the game, but we'll definitely be rooting on the home team from Baltimore!  Go Ravens!

22 January 2013

Menu Tuesday

Yesterday I enjoyed my first time EVER having MLK Day as a work holiday.  It was glorious.  I laid in bed until 10. I did absolutely nothing.  I had wine before 3 o'clock. All good things.

Last week's menu items were, for the most part, kind of blah.  Nothing bad per se, but only one recipe I would ever make again.  

I was excited for this one because who doesn't love tomato basil parmesan soup?! But it was a HUGE disappointment.  It tasted fine.  But the carrots and celery really took away from the taste of the tomatoes.  It tasted less like tomato soup than it did a soup that might have had some tomatoes in it.  And I went against my instinct and added all the fresh basil to the crockpot at the beginning of the cook time. Huge mistake. You would've never know there was basil in this soup because it was cooked to death.  I'll stick with Jenny's recipe for tomato basil soup, thanks.

Crock Pot Picadillo {Skinnytaste}
Again, a recipe I had high hopes for and ended up being totally underwhelmed.  I can get behind any dish that involves a slow cooker and olives and from Gina's description, I was expecting this to be super flavorful.  Nope. Kinda tasted like bland Sloppy Joe's.  I am planning to try the follow-up recipe she posted for picadillo stuffed peppers.  I figure we have the leftovers anyways and with enough melted cheese on top, anything is salvageable. Right?

I went through a weird phase last week when I really did not feel like cooking anything.  So I just had Campbell's Chicken and Stars soup.  Not all that great to eat if you're not 3 years old or sick, but I was feeling lazy so it worked.

Oven Chicken Risotto {Southern Living March 2010}
And yet another recipe that I wanted to love and didn't.  The chicken was gilding the lily; it really wasn't necessary.  I LOVED the oven method.  I adore risotto, but weeknights are not the time for me to stand over the stove stirring for a half-hour.  My plan for the future is to use this oven technique to cook the rice, and use it in this Cooking Light recipe that is AMAZING AND THE BEST RISOTTO EVER.  

This was basically like butternut squash flavored water.  When I think butternut squash soup, I think thick and rich and flavorful.  This was thin and watery and bland.  My quest for the perfect butternut squash soup recipe continues.  Do you have a good one?

Clean out the fridge frittata!  I just threw in what we had and needed to get rid of {in this case, broccoli, a red pepper, and some feta cheese}, added in 4 eggs and a splash of milk, and baked it for 40ish minutes.

Cider-Glazed Pork Chops with Creamy Cheese Grits {Foodie Wife and Southern Living January 2006} 
Our one bright spot in last week's horrific line-up.  This was a winner!  The cheese grits recipe is the one I use for any dish that calls for cheese grits.  It's the BEST.  And I'm a girl who knows grits.

My only caveat to this meal is that I found the directions in Foodie Wife's recipe for the chops to be kind of confusing.  Here's how I interpreted them:

  • ½ cup distilled white vinegar or cider vinegar
  • ⅓ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 4 boneless, center-cut pork loin chops , 5 to 7 ounces each, 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1. Combine all glaze ingredients in medium bowl; mix thoroughly and set aside.
2. Trim the chops by slashing through the fat and silver skin with sharp knife, making 2 cuts about 2 inches apart in each chop {do not cut into meat of chops}. Pat chops dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper.
3. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Add pork to skillet and cook until well browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn chops and cook 1-2 minutes longer; transfer chops to plate and pour off any oil in skillet. 
4. Add the glaze mixture, the chops, and any accumulated juices to the skillet.  Cook over medium heat until center of chops registers 140 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; transfer chops to clean platter, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes. The ideal temperature should be 155F once the meat has rested, as it continues to cook.
5. Simmer the glaze mixture, whisking constantly, until glaze is thick and color of dark caramel {heatproof spatula should leave wide trail when dragged through glaze}, 2 to 6 minutes.
6. Return chops to skillet; turn to coat both sides with glaze. Transfer chops back to platter, browned side up, and spread remaining glaze over chops. Serve immediately.

Clear as mud, right?  

Bon appétit! 

18 January 2013

Fox Favorite

Sorry, no Friday Favorites today! I had a big presentation at work this morning that required an excruciatingly early wake-up call.  All I wanna do is curl up like this sweet little guy with some fuzzy socks and the remote control and not leave the house for several days.  Wishing you all a sweet weekend!

16 January 2013

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day 2Hard to believe that Valentine's Day is less than a month away!  We don't make Valentine's a big to-do in our house.  I make a nice dinner at home {no prix-fixe menus for us, thanks} and we normally just get each other a small little something.  It doesn't help that I'm not a huge fan of cut flower arrangements, especially at Valentine's Day.  I'd much rather have a potted bloom to enjoy for months!  Here are a few things I wouldn't mind receiving...

15 January 2013


I've resisted doing a post with new year's resolutions as they all seem to fall into two categories:  people who make resolutions and talk about how cliche resolutions are and people who don't make resolutions because people never keep them and talk about how cliche it is to not make resolutions because people never keep them.  I fall squarely in between.  {There's also a third category of people whose resolutions read like a Kate Spade ad, but we discussed that on Twitter last week, so I'm not going there.}

I like the idea of resolutions.  As a type-A perfectionist, I'm drawn to that idea of constantly striving for self-improvement.  Growing up, resolutions were a requirement in our family new year's meetings.  These meetings were all business.  My dad would make hand-outs with bullet points and we had to prepare at least 3 resolutions to bring to the meeting.  My parents still have a folder with all of our past resolutions.  My personal favorite is the year my sister resolved for our family to be on Family Double Dare.  Add that one to the 'failure' pile.
But resolutions too often are these rather vague, overreaching visions of what and who we want to be without any sort of framework, plan, or ground game for accomplishing these visions.  Most of the time they are more or less us telling ourselves what we think the best version of ourselves would be.  And then a year later when we haven't ticked everything off the list, you are left with the sneaky and disappointing suspicion that you aren't your best self.  If the idea behind resolutions is self-improvement, that doesn't seem like a particularly wanted outcome.

With that said, this type-A perfectionist adores goals and loves nothing more than the feeling of marking something off of a list.  When I make to-do lists, sometimes I write down things I've already done just so I can mark them off.  I find it that satisfying.  So while I do have some resolution-ish things in mind for 2013 {most of which are closely related to items on my 101 in 1,001 list}, I'm much more excited about the monthly goals I've set for myself.
One of my overarching themes for 2013 is to live a more deliberate life in all aspects of my life.  I don't intend that to mean that every detail of my life is planned out to the second; there's a lot to be said for spontaneity and letting things happen as they come.  But too often I find myself not following through with my best intentions and watching the days go by without accomplishing much of anything.  The road to hell and all that.  I want to look back this time next year and say, "Wow, I really did stuff this year!" instead of "Wow, I wanted to do a lot of stuff last year!" {see: decorating our home to look like two employed adults live there}.  This quote has been inspiring me these past few weeks: "Fear is a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life." - Donald Miller
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So my monthly goals seem rather silly when typing them out on their own.  But come December, my hope is that they'll add up to a much larger picture of accomplishment and yes, maybe even a little self-improvement.  Vague and overreaching, perhaps, but now that I have a monthly plan for making things happen, I'm excited to get started.  Some of the first goals?  In the month of January, I want to floss at least twice weekly.  And one week, just one, I want to drink the recommend 64oz of water a day, every day.  And I WILL finish reading "The Emperor of All Maladies".

What things are you checking off of your list in 2013?

14 January 2013

Menu Monday

Pull up a chair and a cup of coffee because I have lots o' recipes for you today.  I haven't done a proper Menu Monday in awhile, so this is a dump of different meals we've had over the past month.  Enjoy!

Veggie Soup {Moi}
I came up with this one in an attempt to clean out the freezer and to eat something healthy.  I didn't measure anything.  It just threw a bunch of veggies in the pot {frozen lima beans, frozen corn, frozen peas, shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, and green beans cut in half} along with a can of whole tomatoes in puree, vegetable stock, and a little water, salt, and pepper.  I let it simmer away on the stove and used a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes and there you have it.  We ate this with some homemade bread.  It's not anything spectacular, but it hit the spot.  

Pork Chops with Kale {Dinner: A Love Story}
M doesn't like kale and he inhaled this.  That should give you a good idea of the tasty factor.  I kind of spaced out and undercooked the wild rice I served this over, so once you got past the weird chewiness, it was amazing.  Love that it's a one-pan dish! 

Fettuccine with Spinach Pesto {Everyday Food March 2007}
So, so, SO good.  I will most definitely be making this again.  Very easy, very fast, very tasty.  The roasted grape tomatoes are a favorite of ours; I only roast 1 pint, as opposed to the recipe's 4.  For the pesto, please do not skimp on the salt.  I put a teensy amount in, thinking that with the pasta water being salted and the saltiness of the parmesan cheese, the pesto probably didn't need much.  I was wrong.  It needs quite a bit.  Also, next time I may use walnuts instead of pine nuts.  I love pine nuts, but I prefer walnuts in a spinach pesto.  And they're a Gwyneth Paltrow-approved superfood, so there's that too.

 Spicy Lemon Trout {Cooking Light June 2008}
We've had this twice in the past 3 weeks. It's that good.  I don't get dressed trout filets; I just get rainbow trout filets from the seafood counter {Farmed in the U.S.A. trout is a sustainable fish population, so you get the bonus of knowing you're doing right by the environment!}  It takes maybe 15-20 minutes total to prepare, and while it cooks I just fix a side dish or two and we're good to go.  In the above picture, I served it with braised Brussels sprouts and frozen TJ's latkes.  Last time we had it I served it with frozen green beans and couscous mixed with feta, sundried tomatoes, and a little fresh parsley. All great combos.

I had such high hopes for this soup since it includes lots of things that I love, but it was SO boring.  I used the breasts from a rotisserie chicken instead of making my own.  I used feta instead of queso fresco because you can't find queso fresco in our middle-of-nowhere grocery store.  I even followed the user suggestion to double the amount of jalapeño, use 1 cup more chicken stock and 1 cup less water, and add diced white corn tortillas.  Nothing helped. It was just watery and bland and all together quite disappointing.  

 Coconut Shrimp Salad {Dinner: A Love Story}
Skinny Coconut Shrimp {Skinnytaste}
One of our detox dinners.  I used Gina's coconut shrimp recipe instead of the one listed in the salad recipe.  Baking them gave me hands-off time to prep the rest of the salad instead of constantly having to dote over shrimp in the pan.  I loved the curry dressing; M did not, but he loves coconut shrimp so he ate the salad anyways.  This would definitely be a great summer meal; it's very refreshing!

Portobello "Philly Cheese Steak" Sandwich {Eating Well December 2005/January 2006}
I've made these once before, way back before I started meal planning.  They're about the same as I remember: good, but nothing to write home about.  They're a good recipe if you do Meatless Mondays, but have eaters who are mainly meat-and-potatoes types.  

These were so good and surprisingly easy to make.  I served with a side of pan-sauteed snap peas and broccoli, but next time I would also make some brown rice to sop up all of the yummy sauce.  After the kung pao chicken taco disaster, this may be the recipe I stick to when I want an Asian-inspired meal at home.

Roasted Salmon with Lentils {Barefoot in Paris Ina Garten}
This recipe comes from one of my favorite episodes of Barefoot Contessa {yes, I have favorite Food Network episodes} and one of my favorite cookbooks.  It's something I've always wanted to make, but just never got around to. I'm not sure why last week was any different, but I'm so glad it was.  I had some sort of a mental block against this recipe, thinking it was going to be complicated and time-consuming. Wrong. It was absurdly easy and was on the table from start to finish in well under an hour.    Great detox meal that didn't feel like a detox meal.

Whew! Now I'm finally caught up on Menu Monday.  Let me know if you make any of these; I'd love to hear your thoughts and tweaks.

Bon appétit!