Monday, June 11, 2012

Menu Planning for Single Ladies

another day, another instagrammed picture of food
In case this isn't abundantly clear, I pretty much live to make plans. I love goals, I love knowing what's ahead, I love thinking that if I have a plan I can control everything. So really I don't so much live to plan as I do live to learn that I cannot in fact control everything. However, this is not about my issues with trusting God... This is about menu planning for single ladies, a task that I feel worthy to undertake yet know I have failed to master.

First of all, I am in love with my new cookbook/memoir - Dinner a Love Story. In the very beginning she graciously shares that each recipe is meant to serve about four people because well that's how many she regularly feeds. Rosenstrach and her family tested all the recipes so you can take comfort, knowing real people (including two very real children) ate them and loved them... and you probably will too. With great excitement I finished reading through DALS this Friday and eagerly looked at my calendar to see how many recipes I could test out over the next two weeks. I figured I had seven days where I would be home to eat dinner and then found four recipes I wanted to try first. And then of course, I added four other meal ideas to those recipes.

Saturday was a perfect Grand Rapids day. I hit up the Fulton Street Farmer's Market and Meijer. People were kind and helpful. I bought local and organic when I could. And then I came home and made that delicious shrimp dish pictured above (served over white basmati rice). It was so good I ate way more than I should have. And yet, when I put it away, there was clearly enough left for two or three more servings.

And herein lies the single lady problem --> there is always way more food left than I originally planned on and this throws my "menu plan" out the window. If I can now seemingly eat shrimp for my next three meals this means I don't need lunch and dinner on Sunday or lunch on Monday... but I have ingredients for dinner on Sunday... now I need to rearrange things... use what needs to be used first so nothing spoils. But Sunday's dinner sounded so good and how many times in a row can I eat shrimp? Let's be real, all I actually want is a pizza. But that's not on the plan.

Side Note: If at any point someone invited me to eat a meal with them (and let's just hope it's pizza), I'd gladly join them. Can you imagine what that does to the "menu plan" and food budget?

What I need to come to terms with is that when that Friday Pay Day rolls around, it's best to pick like four meals I can make in the days ahead. See how far they stretch and reevaluate as needed. This house is never without it's staples... I'm never at risk of starving. So dear self, be patient. There's lots you want to buy, cook and taste, I know. But there is time, just wait and see.

Any tips for single ladies who love to cook but really only need to feed one person? I'm open to advice.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Weekend To Do List

Buttermilk Pancakes with Maple Bourbon Strawberries
- Laundry (and i even put it away)
- Find something to do with all that mint I've grown (see below)
- Pick an ice cream to try (thinking backyard mint to coordinate with #2)
- Tend to the garden (weed, cage the tomatoes, admit one plant may have died)
- Plant the shamrock I acquired on Monday
- Finish reading Dinner a Love Story and decide what recipe to make first (finished it friday and had greek-style shrimp with feta for dinner on saturday.)
- Mission Trip Meeting
- Make up a dream day itinerary
- Put away what needs putting away
- Return what needs returning (there was at least one hiccup but it was a wonderful little "local" moment, so we'll call it good)
- Write thank you notes (now let's see if i can get them in the mail)

You will not regret adding "Make buttermilk pancakes with maple bourbon strawberries" to your own weekend to-do list. Trust me.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

taking "them" a meal

so you were feeling kind and a bit adventurous and you signed up to take a meal to a friend/co-worker/total stranger. they are in need, you're feeling like you can help... but then you get that email reminding you that the far-off day has come. it's time to make that meal.

here's what i suggest: find your go-to meal. the never fails, always well-liked dinner that you can easily whip up and share with those who aren't in the meal making place right now. i've found mine. and because i'm a little bit selfish, i think you should probably find your own. but just in case this is a meal-making emergency i'll share a few more secrets.

chicken taquitos are delicious. you know what else is great? cilantro lime rice and bush's grillin' beans black beans fiesta (okay i don't actually know that for a fact, but they look good). the one thing missing from my go-to meal was a super easy, super delicious dessert. and by golly folks, i think i've found it. Smitten Kitchen does not disappoint, so I'm expecting great things from her everyday chocolate cake. It whipped up just as quickly as you'd expect a chocolate cake you could make every day would. And it sure tasted like chocolate cake batter should. I doubt I'll be hearing any complaints.

the next time you find yourself browsing the dates on, I hope you'll know just what to do. may your go-to recipes be accessible and fool-proof. bon appetit!

Monday, May 28, 2012

memorial day weekend.

for more pics from the weekend, check out my instagram feed.

the weekend that starts summer has almost come and gone. if this weekend is a preview for the rest of the season, i have very few complaints. here are some highlights.

what i watched: many episodes of sports night (this show pretty much gets better every time i rewatch it)
what i listened to: reasons why - the very best of nickel creek (i've been borrowing my roommate's car and this is my favorite of all the cds she had loaded up. it appears revisiting favorites is a theme this weekend.)
what i read: the great gatsby (i really enjoyed rereading this at 29, seeing what i highlighted at 15 and considering what i'd underline now. i would totally read this again next summer, it's just that good.)

though large portions of the past week have been spent alone, and i'm very ready to get out of my head, this weekend also included lots of fun with friends. saturday was sort of a last hurrah with a friend who is going to be away for the summer. we played tug of war (my arms are still quite sore) and whiffle ball,  rode scooters around the yard, ate grilled hot dogs and enjoyed s'mores around the campfire. there was also time in between to chat with a friend or two by the river, in the batting line, and in the car. it was sort of the perfect day for someone in the middle of that introvert/extrovert spectrum.

sunday was the day i decided to go with the flow (this is a bigger deal in my life than it should be), especially if it meant spending time with friends and not alone. so i tried parmesan garlic wings at buffalo wild wings; i snuggled in my new beach towel at reed's lake as the wind threatened to carry us away; i sipped iced tea at starbucks; i dipped my feet in a hot tub; i ate spaghetti and garlic bread at 10:30; and i watched hot rod for the first time. and as the day ebbed and flowed, i enjoyed the time with friends, feeling really thankful to be in this place with these people for this time.

and now it's monday, the extra day. i've slept in, i've been to the beach, i've picked up strawberries, and had a cold brew from my favorite beach town coffee shop. and i'm tired in that great way that comes from spending lots of time in the sun... but not too tired to make some shortcake to go with those strawberries. here's to summer!

writing this post has taken longer than i expected. i had only planned to recap the weekend in words + photos. assembling the perfect photo collage always takes longer than i think; but more than that, i'm finding that i tend to come at blogging either as an attempt to process the days or to make a note of them. when i attempt to do both in one post i find myself slogging through my thoughts, constantly rewriting to make sure i say what i mean to say. in the end, there seems to be so much more to write than i have time to commit to doing well. i think this is why i tend to drop blogging... why i tend to drop writing as a practice. to write well, to truly process life and suck the marrow out of each moment, is a task. a task that if taken too lightly lacks meaning. in the end, maybe it's not about learning how to wring the greater truth out of every day, but learning to hit enter and be happy with what lies on the page. there's always tomorrow, right?

Friday, May 25, 2012

a tip for your summer.

Did you know that you can combine flavors when you order a flurry? I'm not talking about twisting your soft-serve... I'm talking toppings! While standing in line at Blue Moon on Mother's Day, I said to my sister that I wish I could get reese's peanut butter cups and cookie dough. And she said I could! Apparently she goes halvsies on her toppings all the time. And so I did it... and then I did it again at a different ice cream place. And last night I tried it a third ice cream joint. Folks, this is a totally legit thing. You can have your cake and eat it too, you heard it here first.

Happy summer!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

the great gatsby

watching the trailer for the new great gatsby movie this morning i was reminded of how much i loved this book. reading it in 10th grade i discovered for the first time how you could dissect a novel. how the colors could mean more than just their color and the characters could represent ideas bigger than themselves. it was our first research paper and it sparked inside me that same love for words that eventually led me to major in English in college.

i'm excited to see how baz luhrmann, in his typical opulent style, represents this classic on screen. and i most definitely want to reread the book this summer. summer seems like a perfect time to get lost in that world.

also: this version of leonardo dicaprio is the closest i can remember to the leo that all those girls fell in love with on the titanic. am i crazy or do you agree?

Monday, May 21, 2012

why i need the church.

"I come here to be reminded: you have sinned; you are forgiven; God is present; God is risen; God is with you. You have new life." - Lauren Winner, Still: Notes on a Mid- Faith Crisis

As I sat in church yesterday for the first time in three weeks, I thought of this line in Lauren Winner's latest book. I too am in need of that reminder. There are seasons where travel and holidays take me away from that gathering of His people. And I don't always realize what I'm missing while I'm gone. It's nice to have a break, but too long apart and I begin to realize how much I need that rhythm. How much I need those reminders.

Yesterday was hard. I don't always want to hear what God has to say to us. I don't always want to know what my responsibility is as His child. I don't always want to honor and obey a calling higher than my own.

But I'm grateful that there are those in my community who do honor and obey. They continue to push me forward with their faith and their honesty. As easy as it is for me to believe that we can do it all on our own, I've lived just long enough to know that's all a lie.

So here's to the church. Here's to God's people, gathered together, reminding one another that, "[we] have sinned; [we] are forgiven; God is present; God is risen; God is with [us]. [We] have new life."

*small plug (though really i receive nothing if you read this): If you want to read more about how God designed the church to meet our needs as Christians, check out this great book written by the senior pastor of the church I attend - The Gift of Church. The cover makes it look super cheesy, but it's a very thought provoking and encouraging book.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

why i love the internet - no. 01

It's spring and that means two things, the recently remodeled Fulton Street Farmer's Market has opened and rhubarb is in season. I had way too much fun for 8:30 in the morning this past Saturday, strolling through the market with my roommate Kristen. We ran into a handful of the many people she knows in town and had a delicious breakfast from What the Truck. In an attempt to eat seasonally, I came away with a pound of rhubarb, among other things. The only problem is that my favorite rhubarb accompaniment, the strawberry, is decidedly not in season.

Wondering what I should do with this beautiful red fruit (root?), I sought the pinboard of my friend Sara (sidenote: you know you're a child of the 80s if you have at least 3 friends named Sara(h), right?), who had brought a delicious rhubarb cake to one of our book club meetings recently. From the at least three or four rhubarb pins residing near the top of the page, I chose the recipe for Whole Wheat Rhubarb Muffins. This morning was a perfect time for attempting this fairly simple recipe. I subbed greek yogurt for the sour cream and they turned out wonderfully. A perfect accompaniment to a glass of iced coffee.

So, why do I love the internet? Because when I posted to Sara's pin a little thank you for sharing the recipe, she commented back a couple hours later that she had some in the oven right now. Serendipity. Shared Interests. Connections that wouldn't normally be made. This is why I love the internet.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

in my daydreams.

in my dreams this picture looks better. maybe instagram is like everything else in life, simple is better. instead i complicate things with tilt shift and blur out the most important details.

in my dreams, i blog every day. and i document the pieces of those days because i recognize that they are gifts and i want to remember every detail. i believe that God works in small ways and that sometimes we don't realize it until the small ways have added up to a big event. but i know i'll never notice the small if i don't write it down.

in my dreams, i have it all together. i wake up rested. i go to sleep knowing i've accomplished everything i set out to today.

in my dreams, this all sounds less like overly dramatic whining and more like a plea to find common ground with others who don't have their every moment figured out. in reality, it's a little bit of me trying to explain that somehow i've failed at the whole blog every day thing. but i'm not going to stop attempting altogether.

here's to a better reality tomorrow. and cuter pictures of jack the dog.

which is not to say that today's reality was bad, but more to say that i go to sleep every night striving for a better tomorrow. is that okay? or is that just being discontent?

Friday, May 11, 2012

finally friday.

it's finally friday, which seems unfair to say when you're coming off a vacation. however, i didn't come back overly well-rested and i certainly haven't gotten lots of rest this week. so despite the fact that someone is shooting off fireworks (i hope) in the 'hood, i'm hoping to set in early. that means that instead of sharing one of the great stories i have planned for this space, all i have for you are a few links i found around the web this week.

sweet infographic: what you should snack on.
eating tips: how to avoid gmo's at the grocery.
business talk: really good branding advice.
a recipe i'd like to try: mexican rice.

happy weekend.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

the perfect way to end a vacation.

Scars on 45
I am back from my quick trip to Nashville and ready to return to the routine. I have some thoughts stacked up, things I would have shared if I had blogged the last couple of days. I realized on the way down that this was my eighth trip to Nashville. Fully grasping the attention I've given this city over the past few years, I feel safe spending a few days blogging about my latest trip.

If I had written this post on Monday night as it creeped into Tuesday morning, I would have told you that the perfect way to end a vacation is with a concert. Fittingly, given it's "Music City" title, I've experienced a fair share of fine musical moments in Nashville. I've attended a high school talent show (they all should audition for American Idol), a showcase at Belmont, a Sara Bareilles concert at the Ryman and now Ingrid Michaelson at the Cannery Ballroom. Each concert, though mostly the last two, have provided great memories and reminded me how much I love live music. It's awesome to have that memory tied to a town and a trip and time spent with good people.

This trip brought my second time seeing Ingrid live. She is a gem. Super talented, engaging and entertaining. I loved singing along to all my favorites and laughing at her made up ditty about pheromones puffing from her uterus (maybe you had to be there). Plus there was the engagement of Sadie and Patrick in the middle of Fools Rush In. How do you beat that?

I was also delighted to find that her opener was equally enjoyable. Scars on 45 are a charming British group with a sound well matched to the tastes of many an Ingrid fan. Opening bands are often a crap shoot, so it's a great treat to find a band that you actually want to listen to again. I have to say, I'm listening to them on Spotify now, and I think they're even better live. Perhaps though that's how you always feel about a band you discover live. They really are talented and funny and I would 100% enjoy seeing them again.

And that's how you should end a vacation. With familiar melodies ringing in your ears and new stories on your mind. (I also recommend spending your last sleep in a king-size bed with your pals. It's perfect for girl talk time.)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Lame sauce blogging.

Traveling has worn me out, I'll be honest. Having been up since 4:30am, I'm finding the creative juices lacking along with the technical capabilities of the tools at hand. Here's hoping for better blogging tomorrow. Happy weekend!

Friday, May 4, 2012

true confessions.

i've been "working" on a spring playlist for nearly as long as it's been spring. as the days move closer and closer to summer i have every intention of actually completing this little project. while i have a general issue with finishing what i start, part of me can't help but wonder if this problem is a little larger. see i also had planned to share this with a friend of mine whose musical tastes in many ways mirror mine. upon hearing how enamored i've been with of monsters and men, she introduced me to some other really great tunes she was sure i would enjoy. and she was right on. so sure are we that our tastes would align, i had no hesitation in promising to share my intended playlist with her upon its completion.

as i started the list it was filled with real quality stuff, from the previously mentioned to the avett brothers and delta spirit. i was envisioning the kind of music you'd want to hear as you drive toward the beach, wondering if i could fit some vampire weekend into the mix. it was going to be a mellow driving mix.

there was just one problem... i also wanted to reflect the spring of 2012 and the music i was listening to during this season. and you know what song i really want to hear when i get in the car.

and that's my true confession. as much as i like to pretend i have some standard* of musical excellence... there are times when all i want to do is dance around in my car like a teenage girl who just got her license. and while i recognize i should probably not try to combine too many musical elements into one cd, you better know that there is a mix coming up next with carly rae jepsen written all over it.

what's your true confession?

*please note i do in fact have a standard, but that's a post for another day.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

words of wisdom.

This week I've had a little trouble sleeping. Those late nights have a tendency to reveal the true nature of our souls. What troubles us, where we seek refuge, whose voice we listen to... these truths tend to become more evident when the sky is dark and there's nothing around to push them from our minds.

When those moments of late-night restlessness come, I'd like to think I would always turn to the Bible. Though honestly it is not always my first stop, when I finally get there I find God often speaks through the Psalms. And last night was no different.

Context is important when you're reading the Bible and this passage is no different, so do read Psalm 81 at some point to get what this is really about. What stood out to me when I read this yesterday though were two verses. 

I am the Lord your God,
    who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
     Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
Psalm 81:10
But he would feed you[e] with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.
Psalm 81:16

The whole passage is about listening to God. But I felt like God was reminding me specifically why I should listen. I needed to remember that there is nothing worth seeking outside of Him. It's stated so clearly - come to Him first and He will satisfy you. The imagery is so powerful, "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it." I want to become someone who truly believes this and seeks it out. Not just in the dark hours of the night but in the middle of the day when everything seems perfect.

On a similar but lighter note, I came across this quote last week and thought it was just the best.

“… everything is falling into place perfectly as long as you don’t get too picky about what you mean by place. Or perfectly.” story people

Such is life.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

how to get free stuff, just because you were born.

my birthday was only three days ago, so i think it's fair to keep talking about it. and if you think it's annoying, well let me tell you - today this birthday chatter is really about you. i'd like to tell you about the best deals you'll find around town as you celebrate your own special day.

if there's one thing i've learned in the past week, it's that not every free gift that arrives in your inbox is worth your time. let's start with what i've found to be the least worthwhile "free gift" (i'm looking at you panera). since i'm a myPanera card holder, they emailed to say, "happy birthday, there's a surprise waiting for you on you card." so i walked my way in there yesterday in need of coffee and a breakfast i didn't have to make myself. they offered me a free bagel. when the total for my "free" bagel, cream cheese and small coffee came to over $3, i naturally assumed she had forgotten i was celebrating MY BIRTHDAY. but wisely i said nothing and waited until i had a receipt i could use as evidence. this is when i discovered that bagels are really quite cheap and cream cheese is not so. lesson learned- a free bagel is a free bagel but a free bagel with cream cheese sure doesn't feel free.

the rest of the birthday deals i've enjoyed have been much better, though they don't make nearly as good of a story. so let me just say, i suggest you spend your birthday lunching at rose's. it's the ultimate location for ladies who lunch, the pesto chicken salad never disappoints and they offer you a free dessert. get the bread pudding, even if you don't like bread pudding... you will be happy you did.

i also suggest that you register your starbucks card. why? because you get free modifiers, like soy milk or caramel sauce, all year long. but as it relates to this post, register and you get a free drink to use during the two or three weeks surrounding your birthday. which is the perfect opportunity to consume the largest, craziest drink that you'd never spend your own money on. (i'm looking at you venti java chip vanilla creme caramel frap with extra whip).

and then there's noodles & company. dude, they basically give you a free meal. i love that. thanks to noodles i enjoyed a delicious bowl of pesto cavatappi with parmesan crusted chicken while i watched the latest episode of new girl* today. it was a pretty awesome lunch.

so if you like free stuff and you like celebrating your birthday for at least a week, i suggest you follow the above advice. if instead you prefer to slink by with little recognition that you are now a year older, well then we probably shouldn't be friends. life is for celebrating, let's get to it.

*if you stopped watching because you thought it wasn't that great, it got better. a lot better. just watch yesterday's episode, it's full of gems. you will laugh, you will smile, you may even sigh with a slight air of regret.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

come on, get happy.

so it's day two and i've already almost forgotten to blog. this is not a good sign. nonetheless, here i am to tell you that normally, happy music is not my strong suit. for whatever reason i'm drawn to the sad songs. however, this spring i have found two albums that have an uncanny ability to make you look on the bright side of life. thankfully though, they do it while acknowledging that life is not all sunshine and roses.

so when you're ready for pop that adds pep to your day, i recommend a little rosie and a little dave. my favorite song from with love is probably, "back to being friends" (perfect for singing and swaying in your office chair). my favorite song from stories to tell is probably, "white flag" (also perfect for singing and swaying).

bonus! with love is only $5 at amazon's mp3 store throughout the month of may. how can you say no to that?

happy listening.

Monday, April 30, 2012

and then it was over.

the birthday table - inspired by this lovely party

today is april 30. the day we celebrate my birth. (we being those i am blessed to call my loved ones) and what a blur of a day it has been.

the morning was wet. and came too soon after a night of fitful sleep. i can't believe it was anticipation for turning 29 that kept me from dreaming... but perhaps birthdays are the new christmas, who knows.  

work went by fast with a nice lunch at rose's in the middle to break things up. no birthday is complete without a pesto chicken salad (even if it's a restaurant for old people, it holds many memories and for that i consider it dear). after work there was decorating and catching up with susie, one of my two oft absent roommates of late. 

then the party got started. my dear friends shared pizza with me and we voted on which was the best (toppings, crust, sauce and overall favorite). it was so fun to discuss what we liked about each and to find new favorites, like the b.c. buffalo chicken pizza. then we played a hilarious round of celebrity, discovering that some had talents for making incredibly telling noises (ahem, sean) and that sadly i'm not above subtle cheating. there were also kind gifts and delicious cake and many reminders of how blessed i am to know these wonderful people.

so far 29 is a-okay.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

birthday eve.

someone told me last week that the next year of your life starts on the day of your birth, not the day after. since i believe that every birthday is like a re-do for all those resolutions you failed at on january 1, i'm attempting a resolution of sorts as i begin my 29th year. 

this year i will attempt to blog every day. somedays it may be something that seems like nothing and other days it will seem like a great big something that in two or three years turns out to be nothing. but it will be here and it will be remembered. and for now, for today, that matters to me.

so here is how i closed out my 28th year. there was a meeting at church, one that reminded me why i love student ministries. then there was laundry, and dinner while i pretended to care about glee for 20 minutes, then dishes. and now there's ole caliente on my nails, of monsters and men on the speakers and soon... tollhouse pie in my belly.

good night 28. big stuff happened this year. someday maybe i'll write about that.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

i love right now.

a random sunday at starbucks

i bought a lovely little piece of original script art from kal barteski back in december that said, "i love right now." (or something close to that. sadly, i have yet to hang the piece and i'm too lazy to go find it and remind myself what it really says... and that's not really the point here.) for years, i've struggled to live in the truth of that sentiment on a regular basis. i love to plan and this leads to a great desire to be in that future i'm planning for, instead of the present reality within which i actually reside. my hope was that i would hang it somewhere it could remind me of how wonderful NOW is and to appreciate whatever is happening in that NOW.  

but as we know, the piece remains unhung and here i sit needing another reminder of the wonders of the present moment. so this evening, when i heard two moms talk about how difficult it is to get to church on a wednesday night when you've already been running three or four kids all over town all afternoon... i stopped. i stopped and i said thank you Jesus for today. thank you Jesus that in this season i get to enjoy just taking care of myself (and a fairly needy jack russell terrier). thank you Jesus that i have the freedom to do what i want to do, when i want to do it (except between 5:00 and 6:00pm when i must walk said jack russell terrier). thank you Jesus that i can decide at 4:00 to have ice cream with friends at 8:00 and then decide at 5:00 to have dinner with another friend beforehand. thank you Jesus for tuesdays and wednesdays and all the days after that make up this blessed NOW.

the short and sweet version: sometimes being 28 and single is the best thing ever.