Miracle

First, watch this little clip from HIMYM:

My turn…

Miracle – my sister scheduling my niece’s (and soon to be goddaughter’s!!) baptism for the first weekend of August despite me trying to persuade her to reschedule it for reasons that are fairly ridiculous.  I got a second wind slap in the face from the recent break up today and came home to listen to some Cowboy Mouth, the official soundtrack of break ups.  Then I decided this was a serious enough break up situation that I need them in concert and was willing to drive to a nearby city to make this happen if need be.  Cowboy Mouth will be in St. Louis the weekend of the baptism!  Woo!  Ticket procured.  I’m ready.  I can’t even remember the last concert of theirs I went to, which means it’s been waaaay too long.  Some have religion, I have Cowboy Mouth.  Appropriate for baptism weekend, really.

Now that I think about, this week (outside of the above mentioned break up nonsense relapse) has been full of things that went my way.  I got an unexpected extension on this project that had become the monkey on my back.  I have been struggling with a work assignment for months.  It’s a smaller assignment, I could have knocked it out if I had put the attention on it, I had reached the point where I thought if I avoided it – maybe it would be forgotten about.  No such luck, but an unexpected shift in the deadline and a push by me to get it done means I can stop dreading this thing!

I got a second chance to fill my house with some good entertaining moments.  I had a housewarming/Tres de Mayo party (Cinco was a Monday) that ended with some drunken shenanigans (not my own) that have always left a bad taste in my mouth about the evening.  This past Tuesday I invited the 6 consultants that travel to Columbus each week to my house for dinner to give them a break from hotels and restaurants.  It ended up being a great night – but any night that ends in people playing Just Dance on the Wii is a good night!

I recently gave a presentation on Org Change Management to an IT group at Nationwide during their annual meeting.  It went well, and I received good feedback from the leaders on it.  That’s good news because I want to be very successful at NW, but the most exciting part of that is the random email I got a few days later from a woman who attended saying, “You were funny.  I know you’re still kind of new here – want to get lunch?”  Umm, yeah I do!  To top that off, I got an email from someone else who was there saying they are arranging a large all team meeting (about 250 ppl) and want me to speak to that group also.

There comes a time in the post break up/dealing with stuff phase that I stop looking backwards and switch gears to what lies ahead.  Today is that day.

I’m looking at a four day weekend ahead (I took off Monday too) where I will finally begin work on the kitchen!  I pushed it back a couple days for the following reasons:

1. Didn’t want the wall torn up with people coming over for dinner Tuesday night.

2. I need to buy a crow bar to pull this dang backsplash down.

3. And I need to understand what joint compound is and how to use it.

I may walk to my little neighborhood’s 4th of July parade tomorrow morning.  I may go see a showing of 1776 at the local theatre this weekend (Mr. Feeney as John Adams!).  I’ll take a break from the kitchen Saturday night to go to this supposedly awesome brewery in a town about an hour away with some friends.  I’ll say yes to the BBQ invite I got from a newer co-worker for Sunday afternoon.  And I’m taking Rex on his first trip to Ikea/Jungle Jim’s on Monday.  That is a BIG day for him, I don’t even think he realizes!

When the hermit is ready, the social life appears!

A moment of Zen.

Zen moment: Slipping into your own bathrobe after getting out of your shower after being on the road since last Thursday. Ahhhhh.

Zen moment: Getting the most amazing massage of my life.  The massage therapist told me she could feel my body wanting to get back to center.

Zen moment: Realizing just how clean my laptop screen is now and how much easier it is to see things on it after OOSMD cleaned it for me.

It’s the middle zen moment I’d like to focus on.  I’ve been dealing with this sciatic thing that just won’t die and I thought seeing a good massage therapist might just be the thing I need.  There is this very spiritual (read: hippie dippie) place near me and I made an appointment there.  I had been before and I love when anyone will talk to me about my chakras.  This appointment was awesome.  I know it sounds a little flaky if you don’t buy into the mind/body/spirit connection (which I struggle with at times myself) but I could feel clarity as she was pressing certain parts or working out certain spots.  I really tried to abandon thought and just be present and center myself, if you will.  Which is why I just love what she said after wards, “I could feel your body trying to get back to center.”

That’s how I feel.  Like I’m trying to get back to center.  I wrote about feeling really out of whack in January and February here, and I can’t believe it’s the end of March.  I know I feel better in March, probably largely in part to consistently taking the broken brain drugs.  I still don’t feel together, right?  I just feel like my schedule is running my life, and not like I’m running my schedule.  This isn’t even an interesting or unique problem, I just want to feel like I have my life under control a little bit.

So, after getting home from a few travel days that seemed to have no end (St. Louis got 12 inches of snow – not a travel friendly event – but I’m told it was real pretty) I decided to get some control back straight away.  I always seem to crave a really good workout the day after a grad school weekend.  Tonight, while it would have been easier to come home and veg out, making the excuse that I had been up since 5am to get on various planes to get back home, and then spending all afternoon at work, etc I popped in this workout dvd, grabbed the weighted gloves and started kicking and punching things.  And by things, I mean the air.  AND THEN, I did something I’ve been putting off for months.  (No, not my dishes my smarty pants friends who have seen my apartment and read this.)  I popped in a guided meditation dvd that Claire gave me.  And I spent some time meditating.

Yoga and meditation are always on my list of things To Do... The secret, “One Day I’ll….” to do list.  We all have one.  I’m forever saying “One day I’ll get to a yoga class…”  I should go.  Maybe it would help this sciatic thing.  Here’s the thing – what if I was terrible at meditation?  If I never try, I’d never know I’m bad at it.  Ignorance is bliss.  Let me explain.

For pretty much my entire life I wanted a unicycle.  Was convinced that I had a natural ability to ride a unicycle.  Why did I think this?  Because I was really good at riding a bike with no hands as a kid.  Seriously.  I had all the confidence in the world that I would be a unicycle prodigy.  All I needed to do was get on one.  Then, a couple of years ago, Adam Science bought me a unicycle, in what was one of the coolest Christmas presents ever.  I was then flooded with fear and self doubt.  It was time to put up or shut up.  I would have to get on the unicycle.  I put it off forever.  It was too cold, too rainy, too windy, we needed concrete – nah, we needed grass….  Until one day my sister and brother in law decided they kind of wanted to try it also so we adjusted the seat and tried it out.  And guys, I am NOT a natural at the unicycle.  (Although part of me really just thinks it was because I was wearing jeans.  Who rides a unicycle in jeans?  If I had some yoga pants on, I could totally ride the unicycle.)

I had a point.  After a school weekend, I just wanted to get home and try to get to center.  So, I meditated.  And I wasn’t terrible at it.  I got through it.  It’s probably because I was wearing yoga pants.

Fun things from my camera this month:

I got the sweetest (literally) package from Kelli!  My very talented and small business super woman friend owns a bakery in Little Rock, Arkansas and it is a testament to how much homework I’m doing that I have not spent a Saturday just making a road trip Little Rock, just to get some cupcakes.  Seriously, follow the Sweet Love Bakery on Facebook and once you read the flavors and see the pictures she posts, you’ll want to go with me.  These treats arrived at the perfect time!  I was pressed for time and wasn’t planning on making much of a dessert for a dinner at my house. Everyone loved the choices they got for dessert instead.  My sister was especially over the moon with the cake pops.  You rule, Kelli.

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I went on a tour of the plant where they make Purell.  My favorite classmate works there and before grad school weekend I stopped in Akron, OH for a tour.  I haven’t been in a lot of factories in my day, but it look a lot like I thought it would.  You know, just like this:

laverne shirleyOkay.  It wasn’t quite like this.  But it did have more people in it than I thought.  Not as many robots.  I’ve really only ever been on the AB Brewery tour which is almost all robots, so it was interesting to see production lines with people.  It smells really good in a factory where they make soap.  There are giant tanks of products.  AND, I got this:

IMG_7794I watched this particular bottle go through the filler, the capper, the labeler and then just before it got boxed, my classmate grabbed it for me.  I saw this bottle from start to finish on the assembly line!  I wanted the workers on that line to autograph it, but I was told that was weird.  What’s weird is how excited I am about this bottle of Purell.  I don’t really use Purell, or hand sanitizer of any kind.  I welcome germs.  I wash my hands, I know about food safety, what are we anti-bacterialing ourselves from?  I’m getting old enough where I say “When we were kids…” a lot more.*  But seriously, I’ve lived a relatively healthy lifestyle so far without frequent application of the stuff.  I will admit, seeing this bottle from infancy does create an emotional tie to it…we’ll see.

* Also with regards to people being a few minutes late (“We didn’t have cell phones when I was a kid!”), kids on vacation (“When I was a kid you had to talk to your siblings and look out the window, not play your handheld games!”) and responsibility in general (“When I was a kid there were consequences!  We should feel remorse for making a bad decision!”)

 

 

 

My week in five songs

This WordPress daily inspiration caught my eye over the weekend:

Tell us how your week went by putting together a playlist of  five songs that represent it.

It’s Monday – so here we go going back a week ago tonight.

Don’t let me get me by Pink

There’s a line in the song, “I’m a hazard to myself.”  Sometimes I am.  I like to self diagnose myself as “better” pretty regularly so then I decide I can stop taking the “crazy pill”.  Save your lectures.  I’ve actually heard them all before.  January and February were no exception and by late February/early March I was not doing well.  And it took a well timed phone call from a friend who recognized the symptoms to straighten me out.  I found myself sitting at my kitchen island pouring my guts out and recognizing feelings I usually try to stuff in a tiny box.  It was weird, man.  She made me promise her I would do two things the next day – take the Zoloft and go to Zumba.  I did both.  And I felt better.  And I did the same thing the next day, and the next.  And I feel better.

You can’t stop the beat by the cast of Hair Spray

Ex Hubs and I never really had a song, because while he loved music, we rarely listened to any together.  He didn’t listen to music in the car (except the Once soundtrack and that was a monumental occasion when I found out he BOUGHT a CD to PLAY in the CAR!).  But, we did see a lot of movies and musicals.  And I am bad at song lyrics.  And I kept singing the lyrics to this song wrong for the week following seeing the movie.  And it’s in my weekly roundup for these lyrics:

Cause you cant stop
The motion of the ocean
Or the sun in the sky
You can wonder if you wanna
But I never ask why
And if you try to hold me down 
I’m gonna spit in your eye and say 
That you cant stop the beat!

Oh oh oh
You can’t stop today
As it comes speeding down the track
Child, yesterday is hist’ry
And it’s never coming back

I went to this shindig with him for a couple hours Saturday night and it’s so easy and comfortable and the past is the past and it’s never coming back.  And because he and I are friends doesn’t stop any kind of forward motion in our lives.  Also, every now and then he still knows EXACTLY what I need and Saturday night it was, “Okay, I know you want to talk about the menu for this little dinner party you’re having this weekend – have at it.”  And guys, I DID want to talk about the menu for the dinner party!  (Do you think I could start one more sentence with “and”?)

Arms by Christina Perri

1.  It’s a beautiful song.

2. It’s about a chick with boundaries who thinks about letting someone in.  So… OOSMD is coming to STL for the first time this weekend.  I’ve become a little weird about my space.  Letting someone see your house for the first time is really personal, right?  Is this just me?  Which is good – because I know I’ll feel comfortable in my house and not mildly anxiety riddled like I get when I’m a houseguest at his place.  For the past week I’ve been looking at my place trying to see it like someone who has never been there will see it.

There is cat hair everywhere.

Mostly all I can think about is: I’m going to have to explain to someone why the washer and dryer are set up like they are.  I forget that it’s weird until I have to explain to someone.  I’ll post a picture sometime.  This is a weird concept to explain.  I’ve just created such a safe zone in my apartment and I don’t let just anyone in the safe zone.  There’s been this distance to this relationship that exists in places that aren’t my home so far – which has been frustrating and…safe.  Sigh.  Nevermind.  I’m so weird.

Feel this moment by Pitbull, featuring Christina Aguilera

This was a new song in my Zumba class that made me smile and feel good.  I’ve been using it whenever I needed a little dance break during studying and homework all weekend.

Feeling good by Michael Buble

Because I saw this video:

Enough said.  Watch the clip.  It’s so cool.  You will not regret it.

Sarah meets Smitten Kitchen

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Guys.  I met this lady.

Yes.  This is Deb Perelman, aka, The Smitten Kitchen.

Inspiration of food photography and creator of my favorite strawberry cake.  I cannot stress how much she is exactly the kind of food photographer and writer I strive for.  Simple. Real. Charming. Funny. And very, very talented.

IMG_7696I won’t gush so much.  I’ll mostly let pictures do the talking in this post.  Sauce Magazine hosted an event where she spoke, did a little demo of the dessert that was made (which was really funny, because apparently none of the pre-measured ingredients the staff put out for her were correct and she kept picking something up and commenting on the fact that it wasn’t right – “Just do it like the book tells you – do not pay attention to what I’m doing now.”  You probably had to be there.) and we got a three course lunch, with recipes from the book.  Naturally.

This was part of our first course.  I ate mine before I thought to take a picture.

This was part of our first course. I ate mine before I thought to take a picture.

She said that when she was approached to write a cookbook she was actually pretty against the idea.  So she made all kinds of demands that surely no publisher would indulge.  She wanted to put as many photos in as she felt necessary for each recipe.  She wanted to tell the stories about the recipes similarly to how she did on her blog.  And she insisted on a book with lay flat binding.  The publisher let her have all those things.  And the story she tells about this first dish, a kale/cherry/radish/goat cheese/pecan salad starts with this line “I have spent a good part of the last few years believing that the world would be a better place if we could all stop pretending that kale tastes good.”  See?  She’s funny!

This was the main course.  Once again, no thought of cameras until it was gone.  It was just soooo good looking.

This was the main course. Once again, no thought of cameras until it was gone. It was just soooo good looking.

I know.  I’m the worst.  How could I forget to take a picture of food before eating it?  Oh well.  It was this:

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And it was awesome.

I did remember to take a picture of dessert before inhaling it.  It was a grapefruit olive oil pound cake and it was great.  I’m not a person who eats grapefruit ever, but I love citrus and this was simple and delicious.  My new friend and tablemate (I went to this shindig alone because I don’t have friends who get my food nerd thing here and sure enough, there are other people like me out there.  I was very quickly approached by another lone fan and we were fast friends by the end) and I very seriously discussed licking the plate.

It may not look like much.  But it was so, so good.

It may not look like much. But it was so, so good.

After lunch Deb came around to each table to sign our books.  I loved that!  At other book signings I’ve been to a long line forms and you get about 5 seconds with this person you came to see.  Not with Deb.  She chatted, had a seat at tables, took pictures, etc.  I could tell this made the event organizers antsy because it took longer, but I like that Deb was still doing things her way – just like the cookbook.  If I were just some normal person who had gotten some fame for just being myself – you bet your booty I’d want to spend some real time with the people who thought I was cool and thank them and know them as well.  I am just a huge fan of this woman!

I was also glad for this style, because I wanted to take a minute and tell her that she had inspired me.  I brought one of the 42 pictures of hers that hangs on my wall for her to sign.  I wanted to tell her I had 42 of her pictures hanging on my wall.  I wanted to tell her she was cool.  And I got to do that.  She said she was really touched to learn about the photo collage I have (I had a picture of it and showed her the whole thing also).  Sigh.  Food nerd hero worship.  I’m just really happy I got to meet her.

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I now add her book to my little collection of signed cookbooks…

Rick Bayless, Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman) and Deb Perelman (Smitten Kitchen)

Rick Bayless, Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman) and Deb Perelman (Smitten Kitchen)

And now it’s time to get cooking!  There are so many delicious recipes in this book.  AND, they’re just slightly elevated versions of totally normal food.  Nothing is overly pretentious or crazy.  It’s just really good, tested recipes.  I think I may have a houseguest for a weekend in March and my sister and Claire are joining us for dinner one night…I see a Smitten Kitchen menu in our future.

 

I wonder if Deb wants to come over for dinner too.  Thanks for stopping in STL, Deb!  You made this food nerd very happy!

I wonder if Deb wants to come over for dinner too. Thanks for stopping in STL, Deb! You made this food nerd very happy!

 

A lovely evening

It was 75 degrees outside when I got home from work and it’s only continued to cool down.

I didn’t have anything to do tonight or anyone to be accountable to.

I was exhausted from a weekend of people and a day without my glasses.

I opened windows.

I toasted a bagel and smeared it with almond butter and honey.

I read some blogs while a HIMYM repeat was on, and it was a good repeat.  One from last season and Ted is sad and yet ever-hopeful over his romantic life and realizing he will never have Robin.

Then I laid down and watched an episode of Downton Abbey.  I’m in season 2.  I love it.

Now it’s dark out and breezes cross my bedroom and bring the smell of a sage candle I have burning on my dresser.

It’s early enough that I can go to bed and still get 8 hours of sleep EVEN WITH getting up at 6am to run.

It’s been a lovely, quiet night.  One of those nights where I don’t know if I’ve said a word out loud since 5:30pm when I left work.  (Is it aloud, or out loud?)

And I found this lovely blog post about a lovely birthday party and it was only after I looked at all the pictures I realized it was a party in St. Louis! I don’t think the birthday I have coming up in 6 weeks will be quite this lavish, but one day…

All images are from the Hostess with the Mostess blog and complete details about this party can be found here.

Such a wonderful cake, love the name written on the side.

Perfect colors for my fall birthday

Fancy.

I miss hosting dinner parties.  Real, grown up dinner parties with menu cards and elaborate table settings.  I remember one I threw in Louisiana and I carved out the tops of apples so a tealight candle would fit perfectly inside.

Somewhere, in a parallel universe, today is my 7th wedding anniversary.  I briefly spoke to Ex Husband earlier and we decided our parallel universe selves would be out to dinner, most likely a dinner of many courses with paired wines, and we would have found creative ways to give each other the traditional 7th anniversary gift, which I’m sad to say is copper or wool.  It was always fun to incorporate the stodgy old traditional gifts into something thoughtful.  Although, Ex Husband said something about giving me a bag of pennies.  Unless these were very thoughtful pennies from years that were meaningful to me/us, I’m sure this would have not gone over well.

I think I would like to have marvelous parties again.

I also think I will watch one more Downton Abbey episode before bed.

I will sleep, perchance to dream…of dinner parties and parallel lives.

 

 

Weekend!

Around here, the weekend comes early.  My ten days straight are over and my weekend begins today.

I’m going to go for several runs.

I’m going to cook.

I’m going to do some laundry.

I’m going to fun group workout classes.

I’m going to read textbooks.

I’m making the Smitten Kitchen strawberry cake.

I’m going to try and forget about how delicious the cheese stuffed – bacon wrapped dates that I made last night were…

Have you ever had that appetizer.  It’s popular at tapas restaurants, which is one of my favorites.  Along with Mexican. And French Bistro.  And brunch.

Back to blue cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped dates.  There is a great tapas restaurant just three blocks from me.  It was a very happy day when a tapas restaurant opened within walking distance.  They make this dish there.  There have been many nights where dinner for me was an order of those and an order of the lamb sliders and a French martini.  I just love it there.

I was at Whole Foods over the weekend and blue cheese was CRAZY on sale.  So I bought some.  I’ve been sitting on a bag of dried, pitted dates for a while at home.  All of a sudden, I knew what I needed to do.  I grabbed 4 pieces of bacon from the meat counter at WF and made a point to make these soon.

That night was last night.  I should have run, or gone to Zumba, or done anything besides drink sangria and eat these dates.  But I didn’t.  After 9 days straight of work, this is all I wanted.

Start by reducing some balsamic vinegar and drinking some sangria

Three additional ingredients: pitted dates, blue cheese, bacon

Slice date, fill with blue cheese, wrap in bacon. Bake 15-20 minutes at 400. Brush reduced balsamic glaze. Bake another few minutes. Brush on more glaze. EAT!

And Dominika – this is for you! I love you!

I received a beautiful tapas cookbook several Christmases ago.  I really want to host a tapas dinner party with lots of little plates full of delicious Spanish inspired food.  Until then, I’ll eat these dates.

Sarah hosts a baby shower

Sitting down feels nice.

I have been on my feet since 7am when I got out of bed to complete baby shower prep and then host said baby shower.  The good news is that it was a lovely shower, several groups of the mom to be’s friends were here and everyone seemed to get along, have a nice time, enjoy the food, ooh and aah at baby gifts and celebrate our friend, of course.

Angela, the mom to be, would not be into all the pastel, so we stuck to a hot pink and orange theme.  Enjoy some party pics! (If you click on them, they get bigger and much easier to see.)  I was really proud of our pink and orange food, which included: port wine cheese & crackers, carrots, red peppers and hummus with red pepper relish, a salad with grated carrots and pomegranate seeds, bagel platter with salmon and red onion, a crostini with a sweet potato spread topped with a peppered pork tenderloin and a pumpkin penne pasta.  Desserts were pumpkin cupcakes and a cake from a local bakery that Angela loves.  I also attempted cake pops for the first time.  They went okay.  I don’t think I’m in a big rush to make them again, but I am glad to be inducted into the cake pop club made so popular by Bakerella.

Copycat Dinner Party

In October of 2007 my friend Cyndi threw a dinner party.  You can read her account of it here.  It was lovely, one of my favorite memories of Louisiana.  I still recall so many details of this dinner and the decor because it was soo delicious and soo cute.  When I was planning the October Sarah’s Supper Club, I jumped at the chance to copy so many of Cyndi’s good ideas.

Here is a picture of Cyndi’s table setting from 2007…

::photo from Cyndi’s blog, Southern Daze::

Picture of my table from Friday night, 2010…

See the resemblance?

Cyndi did not have any pictures of the candy corn cookie favors she sent us home with, but believe me when I say, they looked a lot like this…

If you read Cyndi’s post, you’ll find other similarities between our parties.  She opens with the measure of a successful party is a kitchen full of dirty dishes.  Well, mission accomplished.  I think I had 30 glasses dirty!  There were only 5 of us!  We each had a pumpkin martini to start, I made shrimp cocktails in martini glasses (up to 10), wine glasses for all, water glasses for all (up to 20) and then miscellaneous glasses.  I think Angela poured a beer at one point, Meg and I had a sip of cherry whiskey…who knows.  My dishwasher was very busy all day Saturday.

Our menu for this supper club even included some homage to Cyndi’s party.  I made the exact same crescent appetizers in addition to the shrimp cocktail.  We did a beef tenderloin.  We did parsley-lemon smashed red potatoes and red wine sauteed mushrooms.  I was so excited to eat this delicious food, I’m sad to say I took no pictures of the food.  I’ll post the recipes soon.  The red wine mushrooms were fantastic with that tenderloin.  Then again, when you buy delicious grass fed tenderloin from Whole Foods, all it needs is salt and pepper and to not be overcooked to be amazing.

Here are some other pictures from the evening…

::From top…pumpkin martinis with spiked whipped cream!, Meg helps cut parsley, Angela teaches us some lessons about wine, the girls at the table, and the whole group::