draft day

For those of you who are not avid football fans, today is the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.  I’ll be quite frank, I’m a very big football fan, but I don’t get all wrapped up in the draft.

However, the man and I thought we would “just turn it on for a minute” this evening as we sat down to enjoy some sushi … and we’re at the 12th pick and we haven’t changed the channel once.

The last time I watched the draft this intensely, Mario Williams went first to the Texans, and Matt Leinart dropped to tenth, following (amongst others) Vince Young and Reggie Bush.

As I sit curled up on our couch, I think about how sometimes, it’s really nice to be grateful for little things in the moment.  Here I am, with the man I love & my bestest friend in the world, our little peanut Lucy Lou smelling of banana chocolate chip muffins snoring between us, watching the draft.  It’s an amazing amalgamation of all the things we love.  Obviously, neither of our teams have picked yet (the man keeps saying coyly … “The Giants are the 32nd pick.  Wanna know why? Wanna know why?”  Long pause.  Sly look in my direction.  And then, at the same time, in completely different tones, we both say “Because the Giants won the Super Bowl.” ).  But it’s football.  In April.  And life is alright.

guilty pleasures

Ever woken up and felt – for no apparent reason – that you could not keep your eyes open?

I felt that way this morning.

Little Lucy Lou was very patient with her Mama.  She slept in (after a 5am bathroom break) and was a little peanut the whole morning.  Sometimes, I think she understands a lot more than I could possibly comprehend.  She was snuggly and kept checking in on me as I did work ~ as though she completely understood that I was not feeling 100%.

In honor of feeling like a beaten up dishrag, I thought I’d cheer myself up by thinking about my favorite guilty pleasures.  As in, things I would indulge in if I was curled up with napping Lucy making little snuffles in her sleep.

1.  Dancing with the Stars (if I didn’t watch it addictively every Monday and Tuesday ~ although I have watched the dances multiple times in the past).  I have a completely pure and unadulterated love for dance.  I think it’s amazing ~ I think dancers are the most beautiful people on earth.  I toy with the idea of taking classes all the time.  Perhaps one day I will be able to fit it in.

2. Magnum, P.I.  Winston loaned me all eight seasons on DVD, and Lucy and I put them on in the mornings when I’m blow-drying my hair and getting ready for work.  I’m pretty sure Lucy loves Magnum, too ~ I know I find the show so relaxing.  I love Tom Selleck’s voice overs, the playful-ness of the show, and that it harkens back to what I think of as a simpler time (aka, my youth).  Actually, I love pretty much everything with Tom Selleck, including Three Men and a Baby, and Three Men and a Little Lady.

3.  Any movie with Kevin Costner (caveat: WaterWorld).  I love Field of Dreams, For Love of the Game, The Postman, Dances with the Wolves, Tin Cup … I even loved him in The Upside of Anger, which was, as I recall, a very depressing movie.

4.  Watching an entire season of a TV series.  I love, love, love when I can just turn off my brain and get completely involved in something else.  I’ll be honest ~ the show doesn’t even have to be all that good.  I just love watching one episode after another (this is a tag-along to #2).

It doesn’t sound like a lot ~ but just thinking about this stuff makes me feel a little better.  Of course, sleep would be awesome, too.  But reality says work must be done.

lucky girl

Tonight, the man and I had omelets for dinner.

It was my idea ~ but the man made the omelets.  He’s an expert omelet maker (also, I am terrible).  I sautéed some sliced button mushrooms and asparagus tips in a little EVOO, with salt, pepper and garlic powder for the inner omelet, and the man topped each one with shredded cheese (an Italian blend), some salsa (Chi Chi’s medium heat chunky because it’s my fav) and a generous dollop of sour cream.

Delish.  And totally on point after a full day and a very challenging yoga class.

I’ve been enjoying yoga again, but missed the past two weeks (Lucy had a vet appt and … well, I was feeling a little ‘under the weather’ last Tuesday).  I knew, after my eight miles yesterday, that I would be in need of some stretching and some mental relaxation ~ so I made sure that yoga was a priority.

(Don’t worry, Lucy and I went on a nice walk this morning at her favorite spot, and she ran around like a very happy, very crazy dog for nearly 40 minutes).

As I said to John when I pulled into the driveway this evening: Eight miles, I felt fine.  Yoga? Kicked my butt.

During class, we meditated on the idea of qualified actions.  I cannot tell a lie ~ I completely qualify my actions.  So it was a good exercise in reflection, and in contemplation of how to modify this bad habit. (I have a sinking suspicion that it will be much harder to do than to say).

Essentially, it dove-tailed a little with class a few weeks ago. Which works for me, because life is all about working every day toward being a better version, a more aware version of oneself.  A little reminding goes a long way.

I happen to really love the way in which the yogi who teaches the class I attend thinks.   Because, in the end, it’s her thought process that motivates class.  She has the balance I enjoy ~ ideas and thoughts to chew on, and truly challenging poses.  Today, as I dripped sweat onto the mat, I felt the relief that comes with yoga, with quieting the mind. And I contemplated the idea of qualified actions.  We all have reasons that we don’t do something, that we can’t do something … instead of just focusing on doing something, however great or small.  So we qualify.  But the only way to genuinely do something is to just live in the action.

Trust me, I’m pretty sure it’s as hard as it sounds.  Aaaaand, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to have mastered the idea any time soon.  I’m in the ‘just scraping the surface’ phase.

As for right now, I’m cuddled on the couch with my deliciously snuggly puppy and my practically perfect man.  All in all, I’m a lucky girl.  Part of today translated to me as it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.  And I have some seriously incredibly travel buddies.  Nothing feels so bad when I remember that.

 

countdown to the Broad Street Run

In less than two weeks, I will be running my very first race ever.

A sane, or more organized person might have chosen a 5K to start, but not this girl.  I’d been toying with the idea of running Philadelphia’s most popular race for years, but I’d never bitten the bullet and done it.  This year, I was determined.  And with the help of my friends, I managed to get a spot in the race during the five hours that registration was open (last year, it filled up in 4 days … this year, 5 hours… clearly, a very popular race!).

Now, as the date nears, my panic has reached a fever pitch.

The Broad Street Run is ten miles, and -I’ve been told- is mostly downhill.  Now, people say, don’t be fooled.  It doesn’t really seem downhill, but it is.  Until the end.  But by then, you’re almost done.

Yeah, I’m super stoked.

I started out strong in January.  With my new puppy in tow, I was out jogging every day, wondering if I would ever have the stamina to make it past two miles.

Today, after doing a 5-mile run and a 6-mile run two weeks ago, and another five miles last Friday, I suited up, and headed determinedly to the gym.  I was going to do a long run if I crippled myself.  I needed the knowledge ~ mentally, I needed the confidence to know I could do it.

Eighty-one minutes later, after eight miles, and my right foot feeling as though the bones were fracturing apart, I slowed my pace and smiled (probably painfully, but I couldn’t feel much of anything besides my right foot and shin).  I could keep going for another two miles.  I was certain.  And all of a sudden, I felt okay.

Yeah, I’m going to be a nervous wreck a week from Sunday.  I have anxiety issues.  I panic, and I’m not very good in unfamiliar situations. But I took on this challenge to prove something to myself.  That I could do it, I could push myself physically, undertake the challenge and triumph at the end.

Now, I can’t say how I’ll do on race day.  But I can say that I’m 99% sure I can jog 10 miles.  And that is a victory for me.

to-do lists, and other everyday things

This morning dawned gray and rainy, and after a little bit of a sleep-in, we got up and got to business.  Yesterday was jam-packed ~ and pretty awesome.  But it left us only today to get everything done.

We went on a ten-mile hike yesterday morning, down through the beautiful greenery of Valley Green and Fairmount Park.  Lucy was in doggie-heaven, running here and there, lapping up water from the streams, chasing birds and squirrels, going ‘cracker dog’ in the sandy patches of the trail.  By the end, her long pink tongue lolled from the side of her mouth, and when we got back to the truck, she curled up in a ball in the back seat, completely content.  If that had been her only treat, it would have been a good Lucy day.

However, we spent part of the afternoon with her doggie boyfriend, and his parents and various friends baking cookies.  Extremely fun, and once again, Lucy had a ball.

In the evening, we went to dinner with my oldest friend from high school, and her man.  After which, we sipped adult beverages around our fire pit, while Lucy explored the yard (read: tried to dig lots of holes in the ground while her dad wasn’t watching).  Eventually, the rain drove us inside, and after our friends were safely on their way back to the city, we watched “Horrible Bosses” and napped on the couch.  Hilarious movie, btw ~ & I completely love Jason Bateman.

Today, we decided to be incredibly proactive, and we prepped lunches for the entire week.  Mostly, we are trying to be strict with our budget, because we have a couple plans that need financing, so while doing an endless amount of laundry, we made a pitcher of iced coffee for the mornings, hard-boiled eggs for mid-morning snacks and made a base salad to have with slices of pork tenderloin.  Because I loved the apricot and pistachio salad from Easter, I made a version of that and some homemade salad dressing.

I’m very much looking forward to lunch this week!

What I used:

1 cup baby spinach (because that’s what I had left in my fridge)

1/2 bag of butter lettuce and red lettuce

1/3 c dried apricots, sliced thinly

1/3 cup shelled and chopped pistachios

fresh parsley leaves, torn

fresh mint leaves, torn

snipped chives

fresh dill

*** I bought small packages of each of the herbs, and used about half each, except for the dill, which I used sparingly.

 

For the dressing (from Good Housekeeping)

In a jar that seals tightly, combine:

1/3 c EVOO

Finely minced peel of 1 lemon

2 tbsp lemon juice (I find that about 1 tbsp comes from each half of the lemon)

2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

Shake well, and allow to sit for 2 hours, or as long as three days.

And now, it’s Sunday Night and time for “Game of Thrones.”  Goodnight!

playoffs

As I may have mentioned, I am originally from the Steel City, otherwise known as Pittsburgh (or as some people have called it recently, the City of Champions).  My dad was born there, as was my grandmother (Jennie J).  I was also born in Pittsburgh.  I’ve moved many times throughout my life, but Pittsburgh always symbolized something to me ~ home, perhaps, when we never really had one.

We lived there from my sixth grade year until after I finished tenth grade.  It was right after the Penguins won their first two Stanley Cups, and the Steelers weren’t that good.  Everyone had a Penguins jersey, and we all wore them to school ad nauseum.  I even owned Penguin earrings.  I was lucky enough to attend my fair share of games, and when I was about fourteen, I attended a fundraiser called “Penguins at Your Service,” where each Penguin served as a waiter at a table, and the event raised money for Cystic Fibrosis (the Penguins goaltender at the time, Tom Barrasso, had a daughter with cystic fibrosis, and he was an integral part of the event).  The year I went, Luc Robitaille was our server (the year before, when my dad took my mum, it was Mario Lemieux!) and I met most of the players, and very shyly got their autographs.

BUT, as I am sure you also know, I have resided in Philadelphia for the past eight years, and most of my Philly friends are diehard Flyers fans.

Tonight, we hosted WeHangsDay on Friday (FriENdSday) and (un)fortunately, game 5 of the playoffs started at 7.30p.  Now, I will admit that in the years since we left Pittsburgh, my interest in hockey has waned.  I still ‘support’ Pittsburgh’s teams, but I’m only truly a Steelers fan.  I have my fingers crossed that no one is super upset at the end of the night.  And by that, I mean no one in our apartment.

For the evening, I decided to re-create my favorite sandwich from DiBruno Brothers, a high-end deli/grocery in downtown Philadelphia.  Since my offices are no longer downtown, I was seriously hankering for a Mamma Mia today, and couldn’t have one.

Luckily, we own a sammie press.

A Twist on the Mamma Mia

Here’s what you need to make 4:

8 slices bread (we used 3 cheese semolina)

pesto (20-25 basil leaves, 2 tbsp pine nuts, 2 tbsp EVOO, 2 tbsp grated parmesan, S & P to taste, 2 garlic cloves blended together in a food processor)

1 juicy red tomato, sliced and halved

8 slices of prosciutto

a lil bit of butter

4 thin slices of mozzarella cheese

What you want to do:

1.  Heat up your sammie press at medium.  Lower it to low right before you put the sammies on.

2.  Spread pesto  on one four pieces of bread.

3.  Place a slice of mozzarella on top of the pesto.

4.  Put 2 half moons of tomato on top of the mozzarella.

5.  Lay prosciutto on top of tomato.  Smear a smidge of butter on each of the 4 naked pieces of bread.  Put sammies together.

6.  Smear a little bit of butter on the outside of both pieces of bread. Place sammie in the center of the press.  Cook until you have defined grill marks (not charcoaled, but a good, toasty brown) and the mozzarella has melted.

7.  I half the sammies because it is easier to eat.  Tonight we enjoyed them with homemade guacamole and doritos (orange chips for Flyers fans ;) ) and great company.

Cheers to Fridays, Friends and playoff FUN.

honesty is the best policy

Farm Fresh EggsWhen I started this blog last June, I wanted it to be a celebration of things I cared about ~ not so much a ponderous wander into the dark, twisty parts of my subconscious.

Unfortunately, sometimes those dark parts are a little hard to avoid.

My first piece of advice to myself, as I grabbed myself by the metaphorical bootstraps and ordered myself to pick myself up, dust myself off, and tidy myself up, was that any extended time on Facebook reminiscing about past mistakes is time NOT well spent.  I gave up Facebook for Lent this year (and for about eight months last year after realizing that I wasted far too much time reading other people’s inner monologues versus listening to my own) and when I finally got back on after Lent ended, it was like an addict faced with a box of their favorite vice.

I began to systematically revisit each part of my life that ended badly, times I behaved badly … you name it, if it was negative and regrets could exist, I found it, and wallowed in it.  Clearly, incredible for my mental health.

April is an interesting month for me.  Other than the man, who is the most important person in my life, every other man of any significance (past and present, and including my father and brother) has a birthday in April.  Not only that, but I have a quirky memory for birthdays, so even if I wanted to forget the dates, I can’t.  Hello, bad version of Memory Lane.

I found myself of late full of lethargy, and not very interested in training for the 10 mile run I registered for (a little silly, considering it is two weeks and two days away), blogging, cooking … or doing very much of anything.  I think the best word for it = apathy.  I wasn’t crying, or overtly depressed.  I just didn’t.care.about.anything.

I wanted to write about things, mull things over somehow, but I vowed not to be depressed or overly introspective here.  This was about new discoveries, delicious recipes, thoughtful discourse.  Not sadness.  But it began to feel like a facade, as though my words on my blog weren’t honest anymore, because I was trying so hard to be happy.  It felt insincere.

So the truth in a nutshell is this ~ I am most definitely not happy and full of sunshine and light all the time.  Some days I am ~ some days I’m bouncing off the walls with excitement about life.  But in March and April … usually I’m giving myself lectures as I lie in bed, avoiding the inevitable (aka, getting up and being productive).  I don’t know why those months seem the hardest … but they always do.

Last night the man and I spent a looooong time talking (we like to talk, which I think is a good sign that we actually like each other).  We committed to the idea of trying to plan vacations in March from now on ~ to try to give me something to look forward to, and also to have a little change of pace to help combat my doldrums.  Sidenote: I realize with full clarity the greatness of my man.  We talked about a lot of things ~ our schedules, our future, our goals.  It was a good talk.  It put my mind at ease.  It gave me a sense of peace.

And then, for the first time since Easter, I made dinner.  We happen to be big fans of breakfast, and often have breakfast as dinner.  It didn’t hurt that our landlords gave us farm fresh eggs (in an assortment of colors, which tickled me pink!).  So I made something I have been perfecting for a few years.  It’s pretty versatile, but always delicious.

Naan Breakfast Bread

What you need:

1 pkg Whole Wheat Naan (each package has two pieces of bread)

2 eggs

1 small pkg Low-Fat Grated Italian Cheese Blend

1 pkg sliced baby bella mushrooms

10 thick asparagus spears

butter

Canola oil

EVOO

S & P

Garlic powder

What to do:

This dish depends on timing.  You want everything to come together and be ready at the same time.  The following is how it works best for me.  My advice ~ read through all the steps, and then go back and start at the beginning.  :) 

Preheat oven to 325.

1.  Rinse mushrooms.  Add to small saucepan with a generous drizzle of olive oil, several twists of fresh pepper and salt, and a good shake of garlic powder.  Cook on medium heat until mushrooms soften.

2.  While the mushrooms are reducing, trim bottoms of asparagus (I cut off at least 1 1/2 inches to avoid any stringy-ness) and then cut into bite-size pieces.  Lower the heat under the mushrooms, and stir in asparagus.

3.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Place naan on sheet.  Spread about a half tablespoon of butter on each piece, leaving an edge of about 1/2 inch around the outside of the bread.  Spread a decent about of cheese on each piece, but leave some cheese for the end.  Put the cookie sheet in the oven to melt the cheese.

4.  In a small saucepan, heat 2 tbsps canola oil.  Cook eggs in oil over medium heat.  Use a spoon to scoop the oil over the yolks to cook them, but leave the insides warm and runny.

5.  Pull naan bread from oven when cheese is mostly melted.  Spoon mushrooms and asparagus onto cheese.  Put one egg on each piece of bread.  Sprinkle a little more cheese.  Put back in oven for another 1-2 minutes (I use this time to clean up the kitchen, because I hate a dirty kitchen with used plates and pans everywhere).

6.  Serve.  Voila, dinner!

The man and I have contemplated other ingredients, and I recently changed the cheese we use, because we had been using cheddar but it was just too oily.  Our next incarnation will include salsa, because the man thinks the dish needs the acidity of the tomatoes to cut the heaviness.  He may be right.  :)  Either way, Bon Appetit!

moments of clarity

Have you ever had a moment when it felt incredibly clear that you perhaps weren’t living up to the person you want to be?

I had one today.  I thought ~ wow.  I really squander a lot of time.  I watch TV when I should be reading a book.  I go to the gym at 9pm and then sit up til midnight unwinding instead of going straight to bed (although yes, I did go to the gym).  I hit snooze instead of getting up and getting to work early.  I don’t meal plan.  I let laundry pile up.

I want to be educated, but I really hate watching the news and hearing about all the fires and shootings and crime.  It doesn’t inspire much hope about the human race, and I inevitably have nightmares.

Today we took Lucy to the vet (for what feels like the millionth time).  I was running late getting home from work and of course, despite her incredible ability to evacuate her bowels constantly, we couldn’t get a sample.  I felt flustered and agitated that I wasn’t on top of everything.  I felt frustrated all day that for some reason, the feeling of passion or fire, doesn’t infuse my work days. Sitting at the vet, I wondered why I didn’t choose a career path more virtuous, like veterinary medicine.  Something where the work you do contributes positively to society.

In the end, all any of us can do is try every day to be the best person we can be ~ make the choices we want to make.  Some days we will be lazy, and some days we will feel as though we are making incredible headway.  Change takes time, and change comes from creating new routines.  I guess if I work hard at creating new routines (like going to the gym ~ at 9pm or any time!), I can try to modify them as I get more comfortable.  It’s all about being proactive, right?

Easter lunch

roses from my mama bear

Last year, the man and I hosted Easter luncheon for the first time.  I used left-over tissue paper to line the plates and separate the soup bowls.  I had a crazy notion to make a chilled soup to start (I found an excellent recipe in Delia Smith’s cookbook for avocado gazpacho, and it was pretty successful, if I do say so myself!).

We sat outside with my parents for most of the afternoon, drank a lot of white wine and ate delicious snacks from Trader Joes.  My mother and I filled our entire apartment with smoke from the leg of lamb, and the man managed to break not one, but three wine glasses.

It was a good Easter.

tulips

This year we were supposed to journey up to the man’s parents, but plans changed at the last minute, so we invited my folks up (and wrangled them into getting lamb from their butcher, who is vastly superior to anyone in our area) and committed to having our first joint family holiday.

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I have a deep passion for event planning.  I immediately whipped open my April issue of ‘Good Housekeeping’  (I remembered they had an Easter luncheon ‘make-ahead’ meal plan, and I was going to cherry pick that which I liked best).  I also went about envisioning my table settings.  (There is something supremely satisfying about beautifully setting a table to dine).

"Eastery Centerpiece"

On Thursday, my first scheduled day of prep, I was sidelined fairly effectively with one of the worst migraine headaches I’ve had in a long time.  Sidenote:  apparently, the pollen count is twice as high as past years due to the incredibly mild winter.  Store that knowledge away, because I think it’s pretty beneficial info.  I plan on using it to sound really informed at least three or four times this summer.

So after work on Friday, I braved Michaels, Kohls and the grocery store, to get prepped for the man’s parent’s visit and Easter Sunday luncheon.  I had such a strong sense of my flower arrangements, centerpiece and place settings (courtesy of Good Housekeeping) that I hemmed and hawed for awhile at Michaels, trying to find just the right supplies.  I also ran into Minda’s hubby, who was there to get crafting supplies to make her a surprise Easter gift (how adorable!).

When John’s parents arrived late Friday evening, we were dying Easter eggs.  I’d bought tiny galvanized bins and a little watering can, and I filled them with store-bought (aka fake) moss, and tulip buds.  For Easter lunch, I added the dyed eggs (housed in the refrigerator until then).

On Saturday (and on very little sleep, thanks to Miss Lucy) I prepped this year’s chilled soup ~ an asparagus bisque.  Having never bought (let alone cooked) with leeks, it was a long process – it’s length aided by my inability to focus due to extreme fatigue.  Someone (and I won’t name names LUCY) was up all night crying at the incredible injustice that she was in our room in her comfy bed rather than in the living room with her grandma, grandpa and their pups, Sera and Jack.  The recipe is here ~ and it’s delish.  The man made a great observation, too ~ the soup benefits from time in the fridge cooling down.

For dinner, I made buttermilk roast chicken (from Smitten Kitchen – and a huge success on WeHangsDay earlier in the week), pull-apart bread and a spinach, pear and almond salad.  (This was all at the request of the man ~ there’s nothing quite like getting a food request… it makes a girl feel very special!).  I’d wanted to prep the rest of Easter dinner, but after a shower and a long nap, it was all I could do to get dinner on the table.

Smitten Kitchen's Buttermilk Chicken

My invented Pear & Toasted Almond Spinach Salad

 

 

 

 

 

Today, Lucy and I took a three-mile jog and then set in for full-on Easter lunch prep.  The man and I set up two tables, draped them in clothes (which I bought in two contrasting sizes and shapes, because really, why make it easy on myself?), and I began decorating.

 

 

 

 

Our final menu ~

To start … Deviled eggs a la the man, Chilled Asparagus Bisque

For lunch … Boneless leg of lamb (prepared by my gracious mother, with grainy mustard, rosemary and breadcrumbs), scalloped potatoes (prepared by John’s gracious mother, with cheddar cheese, sour cream, butter, French’s Fried Onions and Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup), Apricot & Pistachio Salad (courtesy of Good Housekeeping) and Pillsbury biscuits.

And, something sweet … Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries, Peanut Butter Eggs, and Coconut Eggs.  The man has been waxing lyrical about his mama’s peanut butter eggs forever … and he was right.  They were delish!

It was an amazing afternoon ~ such a nice and gentle introduction of our families to each other (after nearly four years, it was about time!).  In my world, family is one of the most important things.  Family helps to mold you, is your safety net when you take leaps of faith into the unknown, lifts you up when you are dragging, and genuinely expresses pleasure when you succeed.  Family is priceless and should be treated as such.  I felt lucky to have the majority of my family with me (we were minus my little brother, because he marches to his own beat, is turning 30 tomorrow and probably celebrated today, and isn’t one for overly religious celebrations).  I feel lucky to be with a man who values the same things I value.

Life is good.  Happy Easter peeps.  ;) (Get it? … peeps!!!)