paths of least resistance

Sometimes, on this crazy journey, I get more caught up in what I can no longer do, instead of focusing on what I can do.  I think that’s inevitable ~ life felt established, with routines and traditions and then all of a sudden, those things were taken away, like a rug being pulled out from under my feet.

Every time I see someone posting on social media about running, I feel deflated and frustrated.  I drive past the trails that Lucy and I used to run three or four mornings a week, and I am sad.  I’d like to believe I will be able to run again, but the truth is, I don’t know.  I feel so angry and defeated.  I am full of regrets ~ regrets for not running Broad Street earlier this year before everything started with my legs … disappointed in myself for not running the Half Marathon last October in Atlantic City ~ something I may never have the opportunity to do again.  It calls to mind the saying “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”  Had I not delayed, failed to train sufficiently last fall, at least now I would have the satisfaction of having run a half marathon, instead of the sadness that I got close and failed to get it done.

And then I think of all the things I am still able to do, and remind myself to be grateful for those things ~ yoga, swimming, walking.  And I try to talk myself up and remind myself to focus on the positives.  I know that what is most essential right now is action ~ creating a new routine, finding new ways to stay healthy and get exercise.  But it’s harder than that  … loading Lucy in the trunk of the car and heading to the trails was a matter of getting up and doing it.  Swimming or yoga requires scheduling and can’t include my pupster, who deserves to stretch her legs even more than I do.

On a different, and more positive note, the start of this week was a busy one for me work-wise.  Our third project hit full speed with a Tasting and Happy Hour for potential investors on Tuesday evening which had been preceded by a preliminary Panini tasting on Monday.  Which has meant take-out three nights in a row at home.  On Monday, I cheated and brought home treats from work (who can honestly say no to prosciutto, kunik and pizza?  seriously). Tuesday was a visit to our favorite local sushi place (where they do actually know our names… and our order.  As a small sidenote, there is something indefinably comforting about walking into a place of business and being recognized.  I believe that is a legit part of Starbucks training … and not a bad idea.  I know how important it was and what great relationships were built when I worked in restaurants every day instead of the office ~ a great part of real social interaction versus social media).  We have been enjoying some choice selections from Pennsylvania’s Chairman Select collection.  On Tuesday, we cracked open a bottle of Duckhorn Decoy Zinfandel.  I happen to deeply love the thick headiness of a good Zin ~ the husby isn’t quite as big a fan (he prefers more dry, minerally juice) but we both enjoyed the bottle, and our movie pic, The Great Gatsby (directed by Baz Luhrmann).  Totally didn’t expect the movie to be what it was but we were both completely drawn into the overly stylized telling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic.

Last night we checked out a new take-out place, Palace of Asia.  I was worn out (I usually am by Wednesday … how lame is that?)  and the man and I didn’t feel like shopping and then cooking.  So after some menu perusing, we got a variety of vegetarian entrees featured on the Indian cuisine menu.

Whew.  Delish.  Despite the major language barrier encountered when calling in, we got everything we ordered, and enjoyed every bite.  Our first entrée was a selection of nine garden vegetables (squash, potato, peas, etc) cooked in a spicy cream sauce (Korma ~ my favorite!).  The second dish featured tiny potatoes stuffed with cheese in a kashmiri sauce (a super amazing cream sauce with nuts and raisins).  For our first foray into Indian take-out, it was a success.  Although I couldn’t eat that every week ~ much too heavy! I love the flavors and seasoning Indian food employs though ~ so outside of the flavors I grew up with and know.  So decadent.  We caught up on some sitcoms and enjoyed another bottle of Zin (the man is going to boycott soon) which was actually (dare I say it? sacrilege) a little superior to the Duckhorn.

At the end of October, my offices will move downtown again, and when that happens, I hope the husby and I can get into a groove with cooking, and the gym and Miss Lucy.  Until then, I plan on enjoying the waning days of my easy commute and spending as much evening lounge time with my family as possible.  This evening we are headed out to a Mexican “Haute Cuisine” BYOB in Old City (which we have only heard rave reviews about)  … I am very much looking forward to it, and to continuing our streak of not cooking this whole week.  (Hehe!)

Until tomorrow.  xo.

 

past times

Two days ago I went to my first yoga class in over four months. It was uplifting, challenging, frustrating … difficult!  But when it was all done, and my legs had finished shaking, the core feeling I had was relief.  I had been toying with the idea of returning to class for a few weeks but when I got right down to it, fear was holding me back.  I’ve never been a star athlete -and that’s okay! – but I’ve also never had this little strength or control over my body.  When yoga was difficult in the past I  muscled through (just hold on through the breath ~ nothing lasts forever).  That’s not an option anymore.  I lost a lot of strength during the healing of my broken foot, and I lost a lot of feeling, control and balance during my last MS flare.  Stepping back into the studio, I wasn’t sure where I would hit the most challenges.  At the beginning, it was just sitting.  My right ankle was so stiff I couldn’t comfortably sit.  But as class progressed, the things I was worried about ended up being okay, and things I didn’t even think about -ahem, lunges – basically (and almost literally) brought me to my knees.

In the end, it was a relief to physically get through class without having to step out and it was mentally and emotionally a relief to get back to a part of my life that had ceased to exist for over a third of a year.  Slowly but surely, the man and I have been finding a rhythm again ~ getting back to life and the basics.  It feels sort of amazing.
Last night, we decided to do something that we have been wanting to do since our honeymoon.  One of the masterclasses we attended in Aspen was with Andrew Zimmern, who did a whole demonstration on making noodles.  It was fascinating to watch how easily he did it, and we happened to be sitting beside Carla Hall, who was given the finished dish to enjoy.  She graciously shared it with those seated around her … and it was the.best.peanut.sauce.ever.  Seriously.  Incredible.

I have to say, one of my favorite things is cooking with my husband.  Last night was a fun adventure, as neither of us had made a peanut sauce before, we knew we wanted it to taste like the dish we’d had in Aspen … and we had no idea how to achieve that.

The man found a basic recipe online (unfortunately, the recipe for the sauce that Mr. Zimmern made was not one of the included recipes in the Aspen Classic magazine).  We picked up the missing pieces from the grocery store, and went about creating a dish.

The man decanted a nice bottle of vino ~ a staff pick from our local Wine & Spirits store.  It was very bright, and enjoyable.

The man had an idea in his head of what he wanted the dish to be like. He cooked up some bacon and had me chop up some cilantro.  We snuggled up with our wine, and two bowls of fettuccine topped with delicious sauce, bacon & cilantro.  It was a good night.

 

normalcy

I’ve missed cooking.

I mean, i have cooked in the past few months.  But not something new.  And that has made all the difference.

But today, I decided to try out a new recipe (from my fav, Iowa Girl Eats). And it was well worth it.  The man & I curled up onto our couch, watched a new movie (that neither of us had seen before!) and enjoyed a new recipe and a delish bottle of vino.

It felt ah.may.zing to feel normal.

IGE Spinach and Sausage Pinwheels 

So here’s what i used (per Iowa Girl Eats … it’s 100% her recipe):

1 pkg frozen spinach (10 oz, defrosted and squeezed dry)

1/2 cup Ricotta

2 oz Crumbled Feta

1 tsp Italian Seasoning

1/2 tsp Salt

Pepper

1 pkg Pillsbury Crescent Rolls

Marinara

Here’s What I did: 

1.  I took two sweet Italian sausages (I am not a fan of hot sausage but I deeply believe that it would -having now had the meal – be delicious), decased them, and cooked the meat up in a sauce pan.  Then, I let it cool.

Meanwhile …

2.  I combined the ricotta, feta, squeeze-dried spinach, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and made a nice big bowl of goop.  (I happen to love that word.  And ricotta.  I might have had a spoonful  … maybe….).

3.  I took the Pillsbury crescent roll dough and rolled it out.  Then I cut it in half.  And evenly spread the spinach ricotta mixture on both halves of dough.

4.  On top of the spinach and ricotta I added the sausage.  Then I attempted to tightly roll the dough and toppings.  And then I cut them (with a sharp, serrated knife …) into eight pieces.

5.  I placed the pieces on a cookie sheet and cooked them for about 15 minutes (they were, indeed, golden brown).

6.  The man warmed up and doctored some marinara and we completely enjoyed our dinner snack.

~~~

All of the things we are dealing with are difficult … I know that in general, what most people deal with on a daily basis can be difficult.  And we all soldier on, because that’s the nature of life.

And yet sometimes, when your house is clean, and you enjoyed a good (and new) dinner and the wine rocked (the man found an out-of-this-world Italian Zinfandel that I will dream about) and work isn’t actually killing you … and you’re snuggled with your amazing husband and puppy  … life feels a little normal and a little okay.  And that is a true blessing.

 

thundershowers

It has been quite a weekend with many things to celebrate.  The man and I squeezed out every minute of celebration for our four years beginning Saturday with excellent wine and cheese at our favorite vineyard, Va La, and winding up with a leisurely lunch today at the Four Dogs (another of our favorites).  At both locations, guess who got the most attention?

Yup.  Lucy Lou.

We celebrated Mother’s Day today as well, since my brother and his lady love were in town.  And we also toasted to Father’s Day, as we all won’t be together then, either.  And this morning, we sat and watched the flotilla procession on the Thames celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee (her sixtieth year as the monarch of Great Britain).  Some fun facts … Queen Elizabeth II does not have a passport.  She is also the only person in Great Britain allowed to drive without a license.  Additionally, she is the second longest reigning monarch in British history, following only Queen Victoria, who ruled for 63 years.  (Sidenote: Some of the best, and longest reigning monarchs have been women.  It makes me proud and awed).  The celebration was inspiring, despite being very soggy, as it all occurred during a deluge of rain.  It culminated (after the fly-by was cancelled due to weather) with choir singers atop a barge, completely drenched, singing a beautiful rendition of “God Save the Queen,” in conjunction with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.  I’m glad I got to watch it with my Mama & Aunt.

To rewind a little … On Saturday night, we noshed on shrimp and curry sauce while enjoying ‘The Hatfields & the McCoys’ marathon.  What a genius miniseries ~ I will admit my eyelids got very heavy as the third installment began and I slept through most of it.  But my internal clock pretty much shuts me down between 10.30p and 11pm, so it was to be expected.  I wanted to finish it tonight, but instead, we chose to watch the season finale of “Game of Thrones.”  Then to bed ~ this week is busy, and we are off to Boston next weekend for a wedding.  Must get good rest.  🙂

giugno

What the man and I were sipping on in June, 2010.

i.  Ray’s Station Vineyards; Merlot

2006 North Coast

14.5%

Notes/Comments: Bold and rich in style … black cherry flavors with a touch of caramel

Grade: B+

ii.  Kenwood; Red Table Wine

2007 California

13.5%

Notes/Comments: Select varietals from fine California vineyards … barrel aging has softened the wine

Grade: B+ (I was surprised how much I loved this ~ very drinkable and enjoyable)

iii. Callia Alta; Malbec

2009 Argentina

13.8%

Notes/Comments: Deep and attractive purple wine.  Dominant notes are spices and wild berries. Good structure, fresh and elegant mouth-feel, with a long and intense finish.

Grade: B

iv. Casita Mami; Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon Blend

2004 Crianza Spain (Spanish Red)

14%

Notes/Comments: Subtle yet balanced courtship of fruit and oak

Grade: B

v. Pedronicelli; Sangiovese

2006 Sonoma

14.7%

Notes/Comments: Multi-layered berry aromas, full-bodied with medium tannins and a long, balanced fruit

Grade: B

vi. Ravenswood Vintner Blend; Zinfandel

2007 California

13.5%

Notes/Comments: Bright & richly flavored

Grade: B++ (A gns fav)

vii.  Rex Goliath; Cabernet Sauvignon

California

13.5%

Notes/Comments: Dark and Intense; long on fruit, short on attitude

Grade: B

viii.  Rex Goliath; Shiraz

California

13.5%

Notes/Comments: Peppery and plummy ~ a demonstration of why the world has gone ga-ga over shiraz

Grade: B+

ix. Hogue; Chardonnay

California, 2008

13.5%

Notes/Comments: Fruit-focused, dry white wine; showcases bright apple and citrus flavors.

Grade: B++ (delish; good, peppery -JEH- exceptionally drinkable)

a view from the top

Tonight, the man and I had the pleasure of journeying to the 37th floor of Two Liberty Place and enjoying Happy Hour at R2L.

We had been meaning to go … and meaning to go … After all, one of our friends began managing there in January (quick math means we’ve been ‘meaning’ to go for approximately 10 months … pathetic on our part in regards to follow through).

R2L Gallery Image

The above pic is copied from R2L’s website ~ I wanted to get a nighttime view, but unfortunately, my technical skills are not that high-tech.  🙁

We noshed on an assortment of delicious treats, including potato skins stuffed with aged cheddar, bacon and scallions, grilled truffled flatbread, sliders with cheddar and bacon (is there any other way?) and seriously scrumptious shrimp cocktail.

My favorite part ~ well, one of them (why narrow it down to a solitary one?) was the gorgeous view across the city of Philadelphia.  Including a private event room with a view of City Hall.  Wow.  Why did we wait so long to check it out?

We also enjoyed some really nice wine ~ for the lady, Fleur de California Chardonnay (North Coast, California, 2008) ~ for the man, Ridge Zinfandel (York Creek California 2007).

As a side note, isn’t it hilarious when you get to the point in life when you legitimately have to get out your calendar to schedule time with friends?  Oy.  Seriously.   But … it’s scheduled!  I love it when a plan comes together.  (Name that movie!).

a case of the mondays

Life can feel really busy, and as though it’s speeding by too quickly sometimes.  What with work, and commuting and trying to work out regularly, and getting household projects done, and keeping up with friends and family … days and weeks slip by almost imperceptibly.  And all of a sudden, it’s the downward slope of October and the holidays are around the corner.

Remember when you were a child, and your parents said that time goes by quickly?  And you thought, “That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard?”

I get it now.

The man and I had a great weekend ~ we had a date night on Friday, and enjoyed a new sushi place.  On Saturday, after getting my hair done (isn’t the salon just so decadent?), we cleaned the house, put together the photo collages (!!!) and then I was lucky enough to have dinner with my closest friend from high school days.  It was amazing, and she brought an incredible bottle of wine from the country of Georgia, where she spent several months teaching this past year.  (She’s sort of amazing ~ and awe inspiring.  She’s working on her thesis now so I was glad she was able to take the time out to come and catch up).

On Sunday, we indulged in a day of football, and hung out at our favorite bar, playing shuffleboard, watching the Steelers & Giants, and noshing on really awesome mussels in white sauce and hot wings (for him ~ I’m not a wings kinda gal).

Today, it was back to early beginnings ~ our drive to work was partially in the dark.  Ugh.  And then  we hit up the gym this evening.  Three miles in just under 34minutes ~ which isn’t so great, but also isn’t so bad.  Ten minute mile ~ I’m coming for ya!

As far as something fun to share that we cooked ~ I’m having a case of the Mondays.  All I want to do is curl up on the couch and fall asleep while John isn’t looking.  (It’s my M.O. when he’s in a TV watching mood, and my eyelids have lead weights attached to them).

My goal, once I get the work, working out, flossing (should be done once a day!) and all that other stuff down to a science, I’m gonna get on the ball with a weekly menu, so I have something fun to cook at least three or four days a week.

Until then, I can guarantee WeHangsDay every other week.  🙂  And catching up with the wine journal.

Happy Monday!

 

 

miercoles

Yes, it’s true.  I am plum out of ideas for today’s blog post.  I spent nearly twelve hours working, I’m still in dress clothing (it’s 10.55p east coast time) and it’s pouring outside.

I did have an excellent meal with J & J for WeHangsDay (broccoli cheddar Stromboli, cherry tomatoes skewered on a toothpick with basil, mozzarella and prosciutto, asparagus wrapped elegantly in prosciutto as well and both grilled lightly, and one of my most favorite side dishes of all time ~ mashed cauliflower.  PS.  No one makes it like Jess.

I didn’t get the recipe this time, but I will post it sometime, because I kept eating it tonight, well after my tummy said ~ “We’re full!!”

It’s the eve of the man’s return, and my ‘to do’ list is a mile long (helped in part by my very lengthy work days of late).  So I thought I’d share another month’s worth of wine, drunk personally by myself and the man.  It’s short, but sweet.

Enjoy!

May 2010

i.  Pillar Box Red

2007 Padthaway Australia

14.7%

Blend: Shiraz 65%, Cabernet Sauvignon 25%, Merlot 10%

Notes/Comments: Full, round, flavorful ~ juicy berry flavors, spicy, smooth. Very bold.

Grade: B+

(We actually went to other liquor stores besides the one near our home to purchase multiple bottles of this.  We drank a lot of Pillar Box Red 2007  in May.  And June!)

 

ii. Cabernet Sauvignon; Genesis by Hogue Cellars

2006 Columbia Valley, Washington

14.3%

Notes/Comments: Bright berry & cherry flavors, touches of clove, cinnamon & cocoa. Stinky cheese nose, full/well-rounded Cab.

Grade: B

 

That’s all folks! (Told ya we drank a lot of Pillar Box Red!)

dos meses

I am having a very nice glass of wine to celebrate two months ~ yes, eight whole weeks! ~ of this blog, and me sending my inner monologue out into the void of the Internet.

I indulged in sushi this evening for the first time since the man’s been gone ~ I completely meant to make a really great recipe with quinoa, salmon and kale, but the draw of raw fish, sticky rice, avocado and spicy mayo was just too strong.  Keep watching this space!  It’s coming!

Upon my arrival home, I posed this question ~ Wine: terribly wonderful, or wonderfully terrible?  At first, it seems a given, but  … can one be totally sure?  I’d pontificate, but I’m actually ready for bed before 1am, and the allure of sinking into my comfy sheets and drifting off to dreamland for longer than five hours is so tempting, I have to scurry off to bed immediately ~ before the feeling passes!

One thought before I wrap this up and drift into much needed slumber ….

If wine is indeed the nectar of the Gods … do they use it amongst men for good … or evil?  (I’m not supposing anything religiously ~ just using the mythology of the pantheon of gods ~ wondering how Dionysus/Bacchus – you may choose your poison … Greek or Roman  – wielded his power when he was one of the kings …).

baking with angie

A few years ago, I worked at an apartment complex, and the very first person I ever showed an apartment to was a single mother.  Her adorable young son was with her, and I loved that she treated him like a grown up person, asking for his thoughts, and if he felt that the rooms they were exploring could be home.  He was a little over three years old when I met him, and still qualifies as the cutest kid I’ve ever seen.

I didn’t work for the apartment complex for long ~ the call of the restaurant industry lured me back, and I left my mind-numbingly boring desk job behind to go back to the intensity of food service.  But for the time I worked there (and lived on site) that single mother and her son were my next door neighbors.

Today, his school picture is on my fridge, and even though we only live about twenty minutes apart, we don’t see each other often.  Earlier this week, I received an unexpected text message and the heads up that there would be an imminent delivery of banana chocolate chip muffins.

I have to tell you, no one bakes like Angie.  No one.  I mean, her cookies and brownies are like crack, but those banana chocolate chip muffins … nothing has ever come close to winning my affections away. They are sublime.

While Angie was delivering said muffins last Tuesday, I told her about my humbling attempt to make homemade brownies.  She immediately nodded and said, “Yeah, brownies are tricky.”  (PS.  Did everyone know this, and I’m just late to the party?  Or is it because I’ve only ever made box brownies?  Either way … I was not aware that brownies were such a finicky baked good to produce!)

So we tentatively made a baking-day date.  And that day was today.

Ange had the terrific idea of making sangria, so the first thing we did when she arrived was make a nice batch of fruit-filled wine.  Her recipe (it was delish!) ~

1 bottle red wine (we used what I had ~ Pinot Noir)

1/2 cup Alize

1/4 cup Blue Agave syrup

1 cup Club Soda

1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (** I don’t have a juicer, so Angie just squeezed one full, large orange into the concoction)

1 medium sliced orange

2 sliced lemons

1 peach, cored & diced

The remnants of my Sangria

While we sipped our Sangria, we had ‘Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone’ on in the background (blasphemy of all blasphemies, Angie had never seen one or read a single HP book! Eegads!)

Because she’s a baking goddess, Angie brought her recipe books for me to thumb through. She asked if I wanted to make cookies or brownies.

“Both?” I replied sheepishly.  She smiled as if to say, “Of course you do.”

We made cookies first.  Having never actually made chocolate chip cookies before, I kind of stood awkwardly to the side as Angie began confidently dumping ingredients here and there, chatting the whole time.  She’d also assumed that I had no ingredients at my house (a correct assumption by someone who hasn’t really spent a ton of time with me since 2007 when I could barely scramble eggs).  I surprised her by being more than a little prepared.  What we used:

*** We cut the recipe in half, because really, does a person home alone missing her man need 6-7 dozen cookies?  No, I didn’t think so!

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 egg

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

What to do:

1.  Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

2.  Cream together butter, sugars (brown & white!) and vanilla extract until light.  Add egg.  Mix ’til well-blended.  Add sifted ingredients and mix until well combined.

3.  Fold in chocolate chips. 

4.  Roll into tablespoon-sized balls, and place on well greased cookie tray.  Three across, four down.  

5.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Let stand for one minute on cookie sheet, and then place onto cooling racks.  ** Don’t forget, if they look almost done, and you like your cookies chewy, remember that once you pull them out, they’ll keep cooking for a little bit!  I learned this the hard way with my first batch of brownies last week.

Yummers.

On a roll, we moved to brownies next.  Couple pearls of wisdom Angie shared as we assembled ingredients.

1.  If the recipe says softened butter, that’s what it means.  The same goes for melted butter, etc.  There is a reason that the recipe calls for butter a certain way.  Respect it.  Your brownies will thank you.

2.  When making the finicky brownies, don’t over mix.  Just stir the ingredients until they are combined, and then leave them alone.  Over-mixing is not a good thing.

Once I had noted these very important rules, we commenced the making of brownies.

What we used:

1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 Tbsp water
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate morsels
Sifted powdered sugar

What to do:

1.  Stir together granulated sugar, melted butter & water in a bowl.  Stir in eggs and vanilla.  

2.  Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  Once combined, stir into sugar & butter mixture.  *** Remember!! Only stir til it’s combined!!! No more than necessary! 

3.  Stir in chocolate morsels.

4.  Pour into greased 13 x 9 pan (I never thought that the size of the pan mattered much … fyi peeps, it totally does!).  

5.  Bake at 350 for 18-25 minutes.  (My easy-bake oven isn’t calibrated properly, so it was an exercise in patience on Angie’s part but the 18-25 minutes is the time quoted in the recipe we used).

 

Enjoy with a big ole glass of milk!

We also had Plum, Asiago & Pesto sandwiches on sun-dried tomato bread.  It was a deliciously satisfying day.
And yes, that’s a Steelers pint glass.  It’s almost football season, peeps!!