a new tradition

24 Aug

Last month, on July 27, I got married in a canoe.

Of course there are hundreds of photos from that day, and maybe some day I’ll share a few, but today I just wanted to mention one of my favorite things from the wedding.

I was a Girl Scout growing up. I started as a Daisy in kindergarten, and I continued the program through high school and earned my Gold Award with my troop. Most of the girls from the last days are still some of my closest friends, and four of them were able to travel out to California for the wedding. My best friend Anna’s mother, who was always involved in with our Girl Scouting as a “troop mom,” was unable to make the trip, but she sent along a bouquet that she made for the occasion.

bouquet

 

The round blue and gold pin is an old Brownie Girl Scout pin, so it served as my “something old” and “something blue.” But here is why I think it’s maybe the cutest thing from the entire day: The new tradition is that every time one of my Girl Scout friends gets married, we’ll pass the pin on to that person on her wedding day. Eventually, the pin will go back to Anna’s mom because it’s also “something borrowed.” Adorable, right? I’m sure Juliette Gordon Low would be proud.

impromptu quiche

18 Aug

In elementary school, I went through a phase where I would often make what I called “decorative platters.” I would take whatever my family was eating for dinner – which, thanks to my vegetarian-except-for-occasional-seafood parents, generally included plenty of vegetables and color – and arrange it on my plate in the most artistic way possible. I think I was probably a little food-obsessed even back then. Sometimes, my babysitters would arrive soon after we’d started eating (my parents are musicians and often had rehearsals around six or seven in the evening), and I was able to show them my skills. I’m sure they were thrilled.

I don’t really bother to arrange my food in any particular way anymore, but last night, as I was getting ready to put a quiche in the oven, I couldn’t resist making it as pretty as possible. The quiche wasn’t even a planned meal. It was Saturday evening around five and I realized that I had a) no prepared food and b) no desire to go to the store. I did, however, have eggs, cheese, and random vegetables, so I roughly followed this recipe, using a little bit of fresh spinach, half an onion, garlic, the end of a red bell pepper, and a tomato for my veggies. I also used plenty of seasonings (Tony’s, Tabasco, black pepper, and Dijon mustard) and three kinds of cheese (cheddar, Parmesan, and Swiss) because having multiple kinds of cheese on hand is just how we roll in this apartment.

Before I popped my impromptu quiche in the oven, I sliced up one final Roma tomato and arranged it in a shape that reminds me of a starfish, then put a few more tomato slices around the edges. When the quiche came out of the oven, I put a sprig of basil from our windowsill basil plant in the center to make the whole thing even prettier…and to cover up the part of the quiche where I’d pierced it with a knife multiple times because apparently, mile-high altitude affects how quiche bakes. It took forever. But it ended up looking like this:

quiche

 

Also, it’s delicious. Not bad for a thrown-together dinner.

Then, shortly after I ate it, I nearly had a heart attack because a BAT WAS FLYING AROUND IN MY APARTMENT. But that’s another story for another day.

eating seasonally

4 Jun

This past March and April, I experienced the strangest (to me anyway) spring of my life.

I grew up in Louisiana, where “spring” means heat and muggy air, just a warm-up for a months-too-long summer.

Then I went to Minnesota for college, where “spring” rightfully warranted a sense of joy in the air; the snow finally melted and everyone was just happy to be outside and to see things that were green.

The school year after I finished college, I lived in the north of France, where “spring” consisted of a gradual warming of the general temperature and where the sun came out a bit more. The weather wasn’t very dramatic or extreme there.

But Colorado. Colorado weather is just something else. I’m not really sure what “spring” means here, because after a rather mild winter, I was sure come April that everything would be lovely and warm and green. Actually, that’s what much of our winter was like.

Instead, we had a mild snowstorm on April 9. It was a Tuesday, and schools were closed. I actually remember thinking and saying, “Well, I guess that was our last snow of the year.” It turned out that it was only the last snow of that week, because we got a lot of snow exactly a week later. And exactly a week after that. And a week after that. Almost always on a Tuesday.

Finally, we had our actual last snow during the first week of May. I was not impressed. Maybe “spring” in Colorado is synonymous with “tease,” because that’s what it felt like. It would always warm up to the sixties or so in between snows.

Now it’s early June, and we have finally had several weeks of warm, springlike weather. And I have finally started craving springlike and summery foods.

I love food and as a general rule, I tend to want to eat most foods all the time, regardless of the weather. But I’m also aware that I’ll tend to lean toward certain foods during certain times of the year. Most of us do it. Pumpkin in the fall. Warm, comforting soups and stews in the winter. Giant, filling salads and sometimes smoothies in the spring and summer.

I’m sure our appetites change in part because of what foods we’ve been conditioned to eat during certain times of year, and in part because of the temperature, but I think our bodies also just know on some level what it needs during a particular season. Sometime in late May, I made some slow cooker chili that I’ve made before. It’s always delicious, but this time, I found myself struggling a little to finish each bowl. It wasn’t any less good than before. My taste buds still relished it, but I think a part of me knew that it wasn’t quite the right time for it.

So the following week, I did something I’ve been meaning to do for months: I made my own salad dressing. I used this recipe. It was amazing and delicious, especially since suddenly, I knew that I just needed a salad. Not a hastily prepared, I’ll-just-eat-this-on-the-side-of-my-hot-food-because-it’s-green salad, but a real one with protein and lots of vegetables and good, pure dressing.

Image

It totally hit the spot and satisfied me, even after a good workout. Maybe a big salad as a meal won’t be my favorite thing come November, but for these next couple of months, I see it being a regular occurence. It’s that time.

Do you find that your body craves things based on the season?

Nathan’s banana bread recipe (according to him)

2 Jun

For anyone who doesn’t know, high altitude totally changes the way that many things bake. Things like biscuits, cookies, and cornbread that don’t have to rise much aren’t really affected, but when it comes to things like bread and cupcakes, all the rules change. There are websites offering suggestions for ways to make things come out normally at higher altitudes, but I can never keep them straight. Do I add more liquid or less? More rising agent? Do I bake it at a higher temperature or a lower one? I still don’t even know.

I love baking, but I got pretty discouraged after moving to Denver because everything about it is just so different. After a batch of cupcakes for Nathan’s birthday came out a little crazy despite the modifications I made, I kind of gave up on baking anything beyond cookies here.

But then I realized that other people have also had the same problems with high-altitude baking. And some of these people have been so kind as to share their high-altitude recipes that actually work on recipe sites or on personal blogs. Now, instead of having to put in a different amount of milk or baking powder or turn the oven up or down, I just have to Google what I want to make and add “high altitude” to the end. And then just make it.

This is how I managed to make some chocolate chip banana bread for the first time a few weeks ago.

Image

I hope my photo makes it look delicious, because it really is. I used this recipe (minus cinnamon, plus vanilla, and with whole grain pastry flour), and I first made it one night when I was home alone because Nathan was closing at work. He came home and devoured half the loaf.

We have an index card file box where we store our recipes that have worked out for us. I wasn’t sure whether or not this recipe would work out when I initially tried it, so I just jotted it down on some scrap paper. A couple of weeks later, I decided to make up another batch and went through our recipe box to see if one of us had written it on an index card and filed it away. Turns out that Nathan had…and that he had decided to take all the credit for it.

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Nathan’s recipe? Really?

Once I’d stopped laughing and saying, “Seriously, Nathan?” (to which he kept responding, “What?” as though he didn’t know what), he said, “What? I made this banana bread when you were closing at work and then you came home and ate half the loaf!”

Typical.

Any good baking recipes for high altitudes?

I just wanted to have my bread pudding and eat it, too.

28 May

Due to some sort of mix-up at work, Nathan brought home two bags of sub buns the other night. He is a great cook and also loves bread pudding, so he used part of his day off to make a big pan of cranberry bread pudding. He cubed the sub buns, let them sit in a pan for several hours to dry out a bit, poured a bread/egg/sugar mixture over it, sprinkled cranberries on top, and popped it all in the oven. It came out looking like this:

bread pudding

Beautiful, right?

I knew that he had plans to make a rum sauce to serve it with, but the pudding was just too tantalizing. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to pinch off a little taste while he got started on the sauce. It was delicious, so I took another taste. And then another. And another.

Now, Nathan is a very tolerant and patient person, but as he stood there bringing some milk to a boil in a sauce pan, watching me pick off pieces of his perfect bread pudding, he finally got exasperated and said, “STOP!”

me: But it’s so good!
him: You didn’t even want bread pudding!
me: Well, I didn’t know it was going to be GOOD!*
him: WHAT.

I stopped mutilating his pudding after that. Later, once Nathan plated it and drizzled the rum sauce over it, I ate half of my piece and then gave him the rest because it turns out that the cranberries were too tart for me.

Or maybe because the pudding just wasn’t nearly as appealing when he actually wanted me to eat it.

* For the record, 99.8% of anything he’s ever made me has been delicious. There was one incident involving some daal that made me cry because I felt bad for not liking it, but that’s another story for another day.

some thoughts on debt

30 Mar

Like many people, I’ve gotten a little bit into the whole Pinterest thing. I don’t spend long periods of time pinning and repinning the entire internet, but it’s fun to poke around on it from time to time.

I recently saw a pin whose thumbnail declared in bright yellow letters, “How we got out of over $147,000 in debt.” As someone with three undergraduate student loans from an out-of-state university AND a loan from my grad school, this appealed to me. My debt is nowhere close to $147,000, thankfully, but what 20-something with any kind of debt doesn’t want a little advice on paying it off? And so I read the article. And then I got annoyed.

This isn’t the only article I’ve come across that has made the same kinds of claims, so I’m not going to link directly to it. But the basic ideas it promotes are these: You’re in charge of your debt! You have to make the choice not to be in debt anymore! Just don’t see borrowing money as an option anymore! Just send in money every chance you get!

The problem with this is that this particular article (and others like it) is clearly dealing with a couple who have pretty well-paying jobs. The time frame in which they paid off their debt is unclear (three years? five years? they don’t actually say), but they don’t seem to realize that $147,000 is kind of a lot of money unless, of course, you’re making a lot of money. I, for one, don’t make that kind of money, and I probably never will in my chosen profession, even when I’m teaching full time instead of just subbing. (I’m not complaining, truly; teaching is worth it. I’m just stating facts.)

Right now, getting out of debt isn’t a mental thing for me. I can’t just make a choice not to be in debt anymore, because I have to pay it off first. I pay more than the minimum, but it’s not like I can just eradicate it in a year’s time. Not that I don’t want to. And when I do get that real teaching job, I fully plan to live exactly the way I live now for a year or two and use the considerable amount of extra money I’ll be earning to pay off those loans as quickly as possible. I would much rather have the thousands of dollars that I pay in principal and interest each year to go towards a house or something else a little more tangible. I mean. Do these people who write these articles think that others actually enjoy being in debt?

I think I find it insulting when people claim it’s a mental battle and we just have to decide to put an end to it because I am doing the best I can. My car which I’ve only had for two years is fifteen years old, and I chose to go that route so that I wouldn’t have more debt. I use a credit card for its cash-back benefits, but I pay the balance in its entirety every month. I can’t really remember the last time I bought clothes that weren’t from a thrift store or the sale rack at Target. Nathan and I rarely go out to eat (it’s fortunate that we both know how to cook delicious, restaurant-quality food at home). Even when I was working at a job that gave me an hour-long lunch break every day, I packed my lunch EVERY DAY while I watched my coworkers wander in with Chipotle or Qdoba or other things I find delicious.

The point is that it’s not in my nature to spend unnecessary amounts of money. Most of my student loan debt was a result of my being 18 and wanting to get out of Louisiana before I really understood the weight of student loans, but there’s no sense dwelling on that. My college years were great and I still can’t picture me being a college student back home. But no one can tell the 27-year-old me that I’m not frugal enough or that I just need to decide to get out of debt. If you’re going to write an article about such things, at least include useful information, like how it’s best to pay off the loan with the highest interest rate first regardless of any of the balances.

Any other actually helpful advice on paying off debt?

again

29 Mar

Clearly, my grand return to blogging didn’t really last as long as I’d anticipated.

By “grand return to blogging,” I’m really referring to the numerous blogs I kept before I’d even heard the term “blog.” In tenth grade, I started an Open Diary. At various points between then and the year after I graduated from college, I also had a Xanga, a LiveJournal (which was the one that actually followed me through college and a little while after), a couple of blogs on Blogspot, and probably some blogs on other sites that I don’t even quite remember. A friend in high school who ended up reading all of them told me that I was addicted. Or he might have actually said “obsessed” or some other similar term, but you get the gist of what he was trying to convey. I couldn’t help it, though. I think writing has always been my chosen form of expression, and when I realized that I could get friends and a few strangers to read and respond to me, it was exciting because I wasn’t just writing in a paper journal that no one else ever read. It was nice to have an audience for something that actually, I found quite fun and therapeutic.

I started writing here at the new year because a) new year! fresh start! and b) I thought it would be good for me to have some kind of creative outlet. That sounds cheesy or cliché, I know, but it’s the truth. I think it’s less about having an audience now and more about actually writing things, because a) I’m 27, not 17, and b) I’m out of high school, college, AND graduate school and don’t even have mandatory papers to write anymore, meaning that if I’m going to write something it has to come entirely from me.

All of this is to say that I’ve decided to try again with this whole blogging thing. I actually do have a lot to say; it’s just a matter of actually signing in a few times a week and recording it.

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