New Stuff

So, today I got some new stuff. :)

We had our company Christmas party, - to give you a brief idea of the concept - there's a gift table and names are drawn and when you hear your name, you go up and get a gift off the table. Gifts range from awesome (like an iPad or a flat-screen TV), pretty darn good (a Kindle, iPod nano, spa packages), respectable (scrapbook kits, inexpensive-yet-nice jewelry) and the stuff that no one wants (CDs that have been lying around the studios, a giant Disney Christmas stocking with nothing inside). I, personally, had my eye on a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer. But alas, my name wasn't called in time. Some jokester guy DJ took it - probably to sell it on eBay. Or maybe he likes to cook - I don't know his life!

Anyways, I came away with a pretty darn good/respectable (depending on your tastes) gift: the deluxe collection of all three of Steig Larsson's books (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest). I've read the first two, loved them and have been waiting to read the third. And now I can! The books are definitely a little too fancy for what I need, but it's nice to have such a collectors' item, I suppose. (And I looked at the price on the bottom - the set goes for $99!)

After the party, which was at Maggiano's in the Kenwood Mall, we had the rest of the day free, so I went over to Williams Sonoma. I have a gift card there left over from my birthday, you see. Anyways. I walked in and what do I find? A sign informing me that all cookware is 20 percent off this week only - ALL cookware. That meant Le Creuset, which I have been pining after for years and which never goes on sale, was on sale!! And I had a gift card. SO. I picked up this little baby on the cheap. And I am truly in love.


Christmas Tunes

Happy December everybody!

Yesterday, in honor of December 1st, it snowed. And I broke out the Christmas music. As I grew up, my mom amassed a serious collection of Christmas CDs that I eventually burned onto my computer so I could listen to them in my own home. Albums include Glenn Miller, tons of Mannheim Steamroller, Lorie Line, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, some beautiful instrumental CDs from The Nature Company (remember that store?), and other ones by Various Artists.

I love listening to this music. It reminds me of all the Christmas preparations that went on in my childhood home and all the anticipation and general good feelings that went along with those preparations. This music played when we decorated the Christmas tree, when we made gingerbread boys and other baked goods, when we wrapped presents, when we opened presents, really when we spent any kind of time together around the holidays, just hanging out and enjoying each other. 

Anyways, I’m listening to it now and feeling all warm and fuzzy and Christmas-y. 


Hope you’re feeling the same!


Back to Life, Back to Reality

Ok. So. I just got a little overwhelmed with life there for a few days. Sorry to leave you on such a sad note. And forsake NaBloPoMo, even though I was technically disqualified earlier in the month. In fact, I had every intention of posting each day for the rest of the month and finishing strong – and even twice in one day so I’d still have met the personal goal of 30 posts in 30 days. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

But what’s been going on behind the scenes has been pretty crazy. Like…I bought a car. After a long, drawn out process in which I realized that 1) I hate car shopping and 2) I really hate car shopping, I purchased a 2007 Toyota Corolla in a dark silver grey. It only has 44,000 miles on it. AND it has power windows. And a CD player. I’ve never had either of those things before.

On top of all that, Amy moved to the Virgin Islands, which leaves only two of the fourths stateside. Good thing we’re together here in Cincy. I also traveled to Houston for a long Thanksgiving weekend and work has been busy busy busy!! 

It’s no secret to those who know me well that when faced with stress, I chose inertia. And then, when I finally can’t wait any longer to take care of a stressful issue I become like the starship Enterprise on Star Trek (The Next Generation, of course), when it’s under attack and the captain needs to divert all power to the shields, leaving only enough power for life support on all the other parts of the ship. Do you catch my geeky simile there?

Right so. That explains my absence my now renewed commitment to getting back in action. Here we go!


A long post about mostly me.

So yeah...remember when I said I would be blogging this weekend? That didn't happen.

But, I did get some things done. I went to Target and the grocery store on Friday night and took my time just wandering the aisles. Mmmm....that's one of my favorite things to do. When I got home, I put everything away and did some laundry, and really the productivity ends there for the weekend. Boo.

Saturday I woke up and lounged in my robe and talked to my mom and dad for a long time. Then I got dressed and went on a GORGEOUS walk throughout the neighborhood. Seriously, it was 75 degrees out! I probably walked about five or so miles, but unfortunately, I wore new shoes without socks and now have gigante blisters on my heels. They are seriously so bad that I couldn't even walk yesterday. I can't wear shoes with backs on them - a problem when it comes to going to work in the fall. But I solved it today by folding down the backs of some flimsy flats I have. Ugh.

After my walk (and before the blisters reared their ugly heads), I drove over to an antique mall I'd seen on my way to church last week, which is great because I'm in the market for a cute, vintage kitchen table and guess what! I found one. But it's $180. So. Not this weekend.

Then it was home for zoning out with football. And then movies. I didn't even cook anything. I had leftover pizza.

Sunday morning I awoke bright and early for church, then limped directly to my car afterward, came home and took a long nap. After that, more movies and lazing. Bleh. I felt horrible by the end of the day. I didn't even shower.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good lazy weekend - when I plan for it. But I was feeling so productive last Wednesday, and then fzzzzz....

And I know exactly why. This weekend I got into a funk. You know, one of those moods where you feel kinda down about something or everything or nothing at all. You don't know. And since I didn't have any diversion or anyone to think about this weekend besides myself, I just mentally retreated and retreated until by Sunday night I wanted to just crawl into a hole.

I know this post is getting long and somewhat macabre and you probably don't even care...but I just want to type it out. Over the last week I've had a nagging feeling that something must be wrong with me, since I don't have a boyfriend and haven't had one in such a long, long time, though I meet guys all the time. (I know this isn't true, trust me. Most times I don't feel this way at all. But sometimes I just do.) And then I start thinking about how I long to be a wife and a mom and feel all the love and devotion that come with those roles. But how will I ever get there if I'm clearly unlovable? So then I get mad for feeling those feelings and try to tell myself all the good things I know about God, etc. But anyways. It's just a vicious cycle sometimes.

So, there you have it - my weekend date with narcissism. I look back on the weekend and can so easily see how I could have pulled myself out of it. A weekend with few responsibilities?? Why not spend some good, quality time with the Lord, reading His promises, meditating on them, praying to Him and not just complaining. Maybe it wouldn't have jump-started my productivity, but it probably would have been better than the mess I found myself in by Sunday night.

How blessed am I that I have a wonderful, merciful Savior! He offers hope when my heart has hopelessly lost the way.


Fellowship trumps blogging, I guess.

Well. It happened.

I forgot to post yesterday. So I guess that means I'm out of the NaBloPoMo contest. Sad!!

On the other hand, the reason I forgot to post was probably because I had a busy, busy day yesterday. I woke up early to do some housework (and laundry) that I just couldn't leave until the weekend. Then work was busy. Then I raced to my neighborhood Kroger to get milk and chocolate chips (can you see where I'm going here?), and then raced home to make cookies that I could take to my Community Group which was starting at 7 p.m.

Community Group is wonderful, and I'm starting to really get to know and invest in the people there. So that's what my night was spent doing, instead of blogging. When the regular "Community Group" time was over, I stayed a little longer to finish a beer with the host/leader, his girlfriend and his roommate. I was there until past 10:30, just talking and laughing with new people who I actually really like.

When I got home, NaBloPoMo was the furthest thing from my mind - all I could think about was bed, and about the ways that God's taking care of me here in this new city.

So I guess it's ok that I disqualified myself. Fellowship trumps blogging. :)


What to do, what to do??

So, this weekend I have no plans. I know it's only Wednesday, which might seem kind of early to be thinking of weekend plans, but to that I say, "No way!" I'm of the opinion that we should be thinking about the weekend as early as possible!

Anyways. Both of my go-to sets of friends are out of town this weekend which means that I'll have lots of time to do lots of useful things around the house. Or, I could make more friends...

My list includes:
  • Laundry (Some of which may have to be done earlier so as to avoid a shortage of something...)
  • Cooking (I have seriously been in a cooking rut and I hate it!)
  • Getting groceries (One can't cook if one has no food.)
  • Cleaning (Wow, this list makes it seem like I'm living in squalor. I'm not.)
  • General organizing of life (Occasionally I need to do this to remain sane. Usually involves list making.)
  • and maybe a little shopping (For some chairs! And maybe a cute little table for the kitchen!)
Oh! And of course blogging! :)

How about you? Got any plans for the weekend?



An Impromptu Movie Review

Just got back from a free sneak peak of the new movie Morning Glory (yes, sneak peak movie passes come with the job :) It was good! It's only slightly a romantic comedy, so I was able to enjoy it without rolling my eyes every two minutes. Really, though...it's very cute and feel-goodish. A little long in some parts, but mostly a lovely movie! (Despite the what the reviews on that Rotten Tomatoes link up there say.)

But, what I really want to know is WHERE in this universe does a girl get asked out by an extremely attractive former rower on her second day on the job?? And of course he's charming and witty and tan and head-over-heels for her. AFTER THE SECOND DAY OF WORK. Seriously...wherever that is - I need to move there.


Weekend Update

I'm a happy girl.

Today, I found myself in Leah and Jimmy's kitchen, helping Jimmy cook (it was Eggs Benedict Time!!), and I just felt so, so full of love and happiness and rainbows. ;)

No, really though - this weekend was just the best. Kelly and I spent Saturday morning lounging and then went shopping most of the day. That's like one of my favorite-est things to do with Kelly - we're really good at spending money, you see. Then we went and picked up Leah and brought her back to the city for Don Pablo's and other going-out-preparations. Once we were ready to go (and had each downed a cup of coffee), Jimmy picked us up and we headed downtown to explore the Cincinnati nightlife scene.

Our first stop was Mynt Martini, and it was lots of fun! I was kind of skeptical of what Cincinnati would hold in terms of actual nightlife, seeing as I was coming from Chicago and its myriad choices for expensive drinks and dancing. But Mynt was great. My martini was strong, the DJ was pretty darn good, and I was with my best friends. We danced most of the night at Mynt. And can I just say...there's something about just letting go amid all the people and the loud music and crazy lights. It's hard to explain - suddenly the music takes you and you just can't help but let your body move how it wants to. It fees so free. That might not make sense...but I think that's why I love going dancing.

Anyways, here are the only pics of the night - taken by Kelly's phone at Mynt.

After that we went to two other places to finish off the night, but they were slightly lame and we were tired, so we went home and were in bed by 2 a.m.

Then today after church, we decided to have Eggs Benedict Time at the Hoopers' house and Jath and Aaron came over and that's when my heart just kind of swelled. Five - or six, if you count Natalie, which I will, so - Six of my favorite people all together. Jimmy bossing me around the kitchen. Best friends getting to know one another. AH! It was wonderful. Happy girl.


If it's wrong, I don't want to be right...

So, I don't know if this is going to be the worthwhile post I promised yesterday, but I'm posting - so deal. ;)

I just got back from Don Pablo's with Kelly and Leah. I know, I know. But before you begin to judge me for eating chain-Mexican and forsaking everything I learned in Chicago about being a food snob, I just want you to know that I love Don Pablo's. It holds lots of feel-good memories from my youth. I actually don't think I've been there since high school, when it was a favorite destination for pre-dance dinners and after-mall refuelings with my friends.

So tonight, we went. And it was glorious. I had a Dos Equis, plenty of chips, and salsa and a taco/enchilada meal that was tasty, tasty, tasty. I'm stuffed. And quite nostalgic, actually.



Here's another nothing post just to remain eligible for NaBloPoMo!

Kelly's here (!) for the weekend, and I just ran out of time between work and picking up my apartment and then welcoming her.

Tomorrow there will be something worth reading here, I promise. :)


This one's gonna be quick.

Cause I'm tired. I can hear my bed calling my name. Even though it's only 9:30 p.m.

So, the post tonight is on the fun fact that I will see my family in only 20 days!! When I got my ticket, if felt like I had to wait an eternity, and now poof! Here we are, 20 days out. :)

This makes my heart happy.

Also adding to the heart happiness is that while here in the Midwest, we're expecting SNOW tonight (unbelievable), in Houston, the average high for the next 10 days is 79 degrees. :) :)

And goodnight!


Pumpkin Coffee Cake!

When I was planning for Jath's baby shower, I knew I wanted to have coffee cake. I love coffee cake. And one of the best excuses to have it is when one is hosting a bevy of grandmothers, aunts and other luncheon-type ladies who want to sip coffee and chat. I also knew I wanted to do a sort of autumn theme with the menu - and naturally, the best way to fall-up a coffee cake is to add pumpkin, right? So I decided to take a recipe from the Pioneer Woman and tweak it to include pumpkin.

So on the Wednesday nights of the two weeks before the shower, I had Baby Shower Test Kitchen. I figured if I couldn't get it right in that amount of time, I'd give up and make regular coffee cake.

The first Test Kitchen attempt was all guesswork and also all fail. The second Wednesday, I tried consulting different recipes with actual pumpkin to see how they incorporated it. And it turned out much better. Here's the recipe I came up with:

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

1/2 stick butter (room temp)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 1/2 stick butter (room temp)
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 Tbs cinnamon

Combine topping ingredients, cutting with a pastry cutter to make streusel. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add pumpkin and vanilla.

Combine dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture. Spoon 1/2 into greased 10" springform pan. Spread applesauce over batter. Sprinkle with half of the streusel. Spoon remaining batter evenly over streusel and then spread carefully. Top with remaining streusel. Bake at 350 for 50-55 mins., or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 mins. Remove outside ring. When completely cool, transfer to cake plate!

(I thought about drizzling a little glaze, but ultimately decided it didn’t need it. And I wouldn’t have added the apple filling, but I thought it needed something in the middle, and I had apples I needed to use up. Oh, and I forgot to add the streusel on top of the applesauce when I made it for the shower. Oops. It was still good.)


The erroneous apostrophe is not my fault.

Yesterday, I got to do something really cool. One of the radio stations I work for had a listener lunch with the Plain White T's and I got to go hang and take the video! True, this is not really a responsibility of the copywriter, but I was helping out in a pinch, and it wasn't even a little bit of a hardship. Not only did I get to leave the office for a few hours and enjoy free food, but I also got to meet the Plain White T's, who I love.

 Here's me and Stephanie (the photographer to my videographer) with some of the Ts after the lunch.

They played their current hit, "Rhythm of Love," and then played their next single, "Boomerang." And after a question and answer time, they wrapped up by playing "1,2,3,4." It was great. I love this job. :)



Happy birthday to this blog!! It's one-year-old today!

In review, I think I had bigger plans for it initially than what my procrastinating tendencies could really handle. Hence, only 52 posts in the last 365 days. :)

But! Another year, another valiant effort to keep this blog alive. I've decided to do the NaBloPoMo Challenge again, to give myself a kick-start.

So today, just to round-off the season, here's me in my favorite Halloween costume from my youth:

I was determined to be a nun that year because in VBS the previous summer, we had made cross necklaces out of cinnamon sticks, and I thought mine looked just like the Reverend Mother's from The Sound of Music.

Even though playing dress-up was one of my favorite things to do as a little kid, I don't really get into costumes on Halloween anymore. I refuse to be a sexy mouse/nurse/firefighter/Sponge Bob. And, unless I'm suffering for fashion's sake, I'd rather be comfortable in my normal jeans than uncomfortable in a cheap polyester costume, scratchy wig, and flaky face paint. Also, I think after four Halloweens spent in Chicago, I've learned that it's best to stay in and avoid contact with all of the crazies that suddenly emerge to roam the streets at all hours and in all stages of undress.

That makes me sound like a Halloween Scrooge. Let it be known that I love carving pumpkins. And I love cute little trick-or-treaters. Someday, when I finally live in a house in a neighborhood that is conducive to trick-or-treating, I'll string faux cobwebs embedded with little plastic spiders around my porch and light candles in jack-o-lanterns. And I also love the fall season in general and all its associated decorations like Indian corn and beautiful leaves and gourds (seriously love gourds). And the food! Caramel apples and hot cider and popcorn balls and anything and everything with pumpkin in it!!

Ok, so I don't really know why I felt compelled to give that little diatribe, but there it is. Consider the first post of a new year (and new challenge) done!


A Shower for Baby Shep

I just realized that the last two posts I did were lists. I must be feeling listy. But, in an effort to change things up, I'm going to post about Jath's baby shower which I helped throw the other weekend. Here we go!

So on Friday of last, last week (the 15th, rather), Aaron, Jath, Toby, and I packed up and headed to Marion, Aaron's hometown as well as the home to Indiana Wesleyan University, where the three of us went to college. We stayed with Aaron's parents, and - I just love this family. I know that's the general consensus among people who know them, so I know my opinion is nothing special. But seriously...I didn't even know how much I missed them. We spent a lot of time with them in college, since their place was such a nice escape from campus life and was so close. And Aaron's three younger brothers provided hours of entertainment. Being there just reminds me of lounging on the sectional, playing rock band, even camping in the living room!

Here's where we always end up - around the kitchen table, arms out, listening to Jordan talk.

This picture cracks me up. WHAT are these faces? And WHAT are we doing??

Anyways. First thing on Saturday morning, my fellow shower-throwers (Amy, the third roommate in our triple, and Lauren, Jath's sister-in-law) and I headed out for groceries and decorations. We got back right before noon and started right in! Here's the menu:

  • Apple Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream Frosting (I substituted the banana in the recipe for mashed up apples. And I didn't garnish them with bananas either. Also this frosting recipe is insane, but SO worth it. Try having a partner help you...)
  • Pumpkin Coffee Cake (I created this recipe during some Baby Shower Test Kitchen nights I had prior to the shower. Maybe I'll throw it up here as its own post later on...)
  • Buckeyes (a big hit...wonder why ;))
  • Caramelized Onion Tartlets (tasted like a sour cream and onion chip turned into a pie...weird, but good!)
  • Garden Pizza (I used purple cauliflower! It was awesome!)
  • Smoked Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms (surprisingly also a big hit...maybe because they tasted like little pizzas without crust.)
  • Cheddar Cheese Popcorn (set around the room for munching)
  • Apple Cider Punch (just a gallon of apple cider, a 2 liter of ginger ale, and half a can of orange juice concentrate)
The party started the next day, Sunday, at 2 pm, and we were ready! It was wonderful and fun and went off without a hitch. Jath got some great gifts, we prayed for her and even Skyped in her mom and sister who live in PA!

Even though I was completely exhausted when it was over, I didn't really care; it was a *fabulous* weekend.


List for the day:

Get up early to finish cleaning room, which was last night’s task that didn’t get finished as most of the night was spent shopping.
Struggle getting out of car for some reason, dump crumbs in passenger seat.
Continue clumsy streak by spilling coffee all over hand and sidewalk.
Drop iPod.
Consider just going back home.
Enter building and proceed to have issues with all the fiber I ate for breakfast in my Overnight Oats (no figs, unfortunately).
Really consider going home.
Make it through all issues – fiber-related and motivational (thanks in part to surprise e-mail from mother and a super-long article I wrote going live and looking great) – and on to lunchtime errand, the post office.
After post office, go to Potbelly’s for chicken salad on regular with provolone, lettuce, onions, and three hot peppers.
Only eat half of saltiest chicken salad sandwich I’ve ever had. Throw the rest away.
Back to work.
Write write write write write write write write write.
Go home and wait for Leah to come so we can eat dinner.
Go to Bosom Ball with Leah.
Meet Sara Bareilles.
Listen to Sara Bareilles.
Go home and to bed ASAP so I can wake up early tomorrow to pack for Chicago!!!


A Little Early Thanksgiving

I don’t know why…but I’m just feeling kinda thankful lately. So, I’m gonna make a list and put it up here. Maybe I’ll do this on a regular basis. But let’s be honest – I’ve never been very good at doing things on a regular basis. Like, for example…blogging. ;)

So, without further ado – a shout-out to God for:

1) The opportunity to dog-sit for the first time this weekend (and also to make a little money).
2) The fact that the dog was THE most chill animal I have ever encountered.
3) Finding a neighbor family who let me use their phone to call a locksmith after I locked the dog and myself out of the house without a phone within the first 10 minutes of my being there.
4) How nice and welcoming the neighbor family was, even though I was interrupting their Shabbat dinner and 40th birthday celebration. They even gave me a piece of cake and I got to sing Happy Birthday with them.
5) The fact that the amount of money I made dog-sitting was the same amount the locksmith charged. So at least I didn’t lose any money...
6) Weekend playtime and naptime and eating time with Natalie, the little love who is still stealing my heart after a year.
7) The great time I had with her parents, Leah and Jimmy (and our friends Matt and Ashley!), at The Brazenhead – the first bar I’ve been to since moving here!
8) Beer being so cheap in Ohio! (Compared to Chicago.) (Um, can I thank God for beer being cheap?)
9) Leah giving me old, but still nice jeans she wasn't wearing just when I was thinking about having to go buy a new pair.
10) The fact that I didn’t get too lost in the ghetto this weekend. Only a little lost.
11) The beautiful rolling fall landscapes I get to see each day in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky.
12) Helping me realize it was silly to stress about finding a church home, and then blessing me with one on the first try.
13) Giving me the opportunity to lead worship in a new environment with a new church family.
14) The new people I’m meeting each week and the new relationships I’m building – I’m so excited to see what those relationships become!
15) Aaron and Jath letting me come over, do my laundry, and raid their fridge on lonely Sunday nights.
16) Their little baby boy coming at the end of December that I'm just dying to have in my arms already.
17) A job that frequently gives me free meals (pizza for lunch today!) and free things to do (tickets to an advanced screening of Red tonight!).
18) My grandpa celebrating his 84th birthday yesterday, and the fact that he's healthy.
19) My dad using his miles to buy a plane ticket for me to go to Houston for actual Thanksgiving.
20) The fact that there are only 45 days between now and the day I leave for Texas to see my family!

It’s true – these aren’t really deep, soul-searching, life-altering things…but they are tangible ways God’s showing me how He loves me – and for that I’ll never be thankful enough. I’m praying that I keep my eyes and heart open, so I don’t miss even the smallest ways He’s moving in my life.


Friends in the Nati

The last couple nights I’ve been hanging out with Jath since Aaron’s been in New York on business. We haven’t done anything special – Sunday night I did my laundry at their place (it’s free and they love me), and we intermittently lounged and fell asleep on the couch while watching movies on TV (Runaway Jury and Marie Antoinette). And yesterday after work, I ran to the grocery store, came home, made some biscuits, and took them over to Jath’s house to eat with this amazing soup she made. Then we watched Sister Wives (DVRed from Sunday night and so interesting!) and Gossip Girl – quality TV, I know.

I remember what it was like to live so far apart, just longing to spend time together doing nothing. And it makes my heart all kinds of warm and happy to know that now we can.

And last night, the small group I've been attending got together for dinner. The women in our group are just lovely. Leah has been meeting with them since she moved back to Cincinnati in March, and Jath and I joined them in September. They welcomed us right in and made us feel like we've always been part of the group. I really love our time together every Tuesday night, just us girls. But last night we changed up the routine as we gathered for dinner at Jessie's house. Husbands and babies were welcome, which made our group eight adults, two toddlers, and an infant. It was one of the most fun nights I've had since I moved here: great food, loud laughing, kids crawling and running everywhere, and just general good times. I loved it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm humbled to be a part of these people's lives. And I'm so, SO excited to see how these friendships grow.

That’s all!


A Not-So-Minor Detail

Now, when I told you that big story yesterday, I left out a very important detail – I thought it needed a whole post of its own.

I remember going to Chicago for the first time during the summer after my first year of college. Two high-school friends and I made a mad dash over there just for one day. Everything was new to me – I’m pretty sure I never closed my eyes once the whole day. That night, as we waited outside to be seated at Giordano’s, I looked up at all the enormous buildings and I could feel something stirring; I knew I wanted to live there some day.

Fast forward to the end of college, a.k.a. the big bad freak-out where Robin has NO clue what she should do with her life, doesn’t want to leave her friends and doesn’t have any plans post-graduation besides moving back in with her parents in Ohio. Cue the crying myself to sleep in the dorm room, pleading with my parents to let me stay at IWU one more year, wasting money by taking the GRE without a plan or even studying.

But move back to Ohio I did. And after applying for jobs in Indy or anywhere close to my friends back at school, and then applying for jobs all over the country when that didn’t work out, I eventually found myself employed in Downtown Chicago with an apartment in one of the best neighborhoods, and, after about a year of agonizing loneliness, a church to call home and some friends who became my family.

All that happened without any help from me. It’s so obvious that God was at work, pulling me in a direction I always wanted to go without my even noticing it. He blessed me abundantly and so completely accurately that every one of my needs was met, more perfectly than I could have imagined. During all the agonizing and desperate praying that things would work out, God was at work – even when it felt like nothing was happening and like I would stay in this quagmire of uncertainly forever.

And once again, I can see how God blessed me with this new opportunity at just the right moment. This transition has really been ridiculously easy (aside from inevitably missing Chicago, my “family,” and my church). My lease was up at the end of August so I didn’t need to find a sub-letter, my brother was able to come help me move, my parents lent me some money to offset the moving costs, my grandpa lent me his pick-up truck so I could just rent a trailer from U-haul instead of paying big bucks for a moving truck, some of my best friends had a spare room in their house in Cincinnati that I could live in as long as I needed and had time to take me to and pick me up from work….I could continue, actually, but you’d probably lose interest.

But I’m so, so thankful. So thankful that these crazy-generous people allowed God to use them. So thankful that while I was wallowing in my “I hate my job” woes, He was building a plan so wonderful and so right for me, that it would surpass anything earthly-me could have ever hoped for. So thankful that I serve a loving, kind, generous, omniscient, sovereign Lord who is patient with me when I despair and whine that I can’t see what lies ahead and who delights in my joy when it’s revealed. Love Him.


Big, Belated News

(Oh my. I’m going to ignore all the previous posts about reviving this blog and just start right in, ok?)

So…I got a new job!

And, I moved.

Here’s how it all started: After coming home from an AMAZING 4th of July weekend in NW Ohio, Leah, one of my dearest friends from Chicago (who had only that early spring moved back to her hometown, Cincinnati), called me up to tell me about this seemingly perfect-for-me job opening she had heard of – a copywriter for a media group that owns four radio stations in Cincy.

Now, for a little background info: I had been pondering my time in Chicago and whether it was coming to a close for a while. It was no secret that I was unhappy with my current job and had been for a very long time. I wasn’t making much money, and certainly wasn’t saving any. Also, I felt very much like I was just spinning my wheels waiting for something to happen while all my friends were moving on to the next steps in their lives. So, I began to think of my options for when my lease was up at the end of August. Cincinnati was, in fact, one of my options since I have some very good friends who currently live there.

And here’s how it all went down: I decided to apply. The job really was perfect for me – it offered a significantly higher salary, it was in a city where the cost of living was much more manageable, and it seemed to require all of the skills I had learned in my four years at my previous job, plus all the natural qualities and talents I’ve always had. And, it seemed really cool.

My application was received, and I was called for a phone interview that went really well. Then they asked me to do a brief writing assignment. Once that had been received and looked over, they called me to set up a face-to-face interview, which meant making some travel plans. After a harrowing experience standing in a monsoon for HOURS waiting for the Mega Bus to get to the station in Chicago, as well as a fantastic night introducing some of my best friends to each other, I had an equally fantastic interview.

Back to Chicago and back to work, I eagerly anticipated a phone call from my prospective employers. Somewhere along the line I decided that if they were to offer me the position I would do it – pack it all up and move from my beloved city, friends and church and start a new adventure. Finally, after a week, I heard back – they were offering me the job! I accepted.

I was pretty elated to walk into my boss’s office the next day and hand over my two weeks’ notice. There were so many, many things I wanted to say – how under-appreciated I felt on a regular basis, how ridiculously and irrationally the company was run, how I was leaving this job to go be PAID (and paid MORE) for something they never thought I could do, write. Which is complete bunk because DUH. I’m an excellent writer. ;)

Two weeks and lots of moving-related stress and I was off to Cincinnati. I’ll never be able to express my gratitude and say exactly how loved I felt by all the people who said they’d miss me, who helped me move (specifically the hero-of-the-moving-extravaganza, my little bro John), who lent me money, who have been fostering my cat, and who have been housing me and driving me around since I arrived (no apartment and no car yet). It’s been a complete and utter whirlwind. Seriously, this whole business began on July 5th and by August 23rd I was sitting in the HR office on my first day. Whirlwind.

I’ll be posting more (hopefully tomorrow) on my exciting plans for the weekend and other tidbits of info on my new life here in Ohio. Check back if you’re interested!


Summertime Eats and Drinks!

So, here's a funny thing. One of the food blogs I follow posted this on Wednesday. (Also, the blog is done by a couple in Chicago...so that's kind of cool, too!) And then, my friend Kim posted this on her blog on Friday. They both based their posts on the same recipe from Bon Appétit magazine, and the crazy thing is - no connection between the blogs except for me. Crazy!* So I decided this was a divine message that this recipe would change my life should I try my hand at it, so on Friday night, Kelly and I tried it out.

Listen, it's super good. We based ours off of the Lottie & Doof recipe; the original recipe doesn't list red pepper flakes, and while they made ours a little on the spicy side, I think they give it a little extra kick that I think makes the sweetness of the corn stand out even more. But, we used about three garlic cloves and didn't toast the pine nuts (forgot).

Also, just FYI - Kim altered the recipe for a vegetarian palate and also did a few other things a little differently. Next time I make this I think I'll try her method to see how I like blending everything together and not mixing it in with the pasta.

*Maybe I'm getting too excited about this since I'm up to my eyeballs in The Girl Who Played with Fire, in which one of the main characters is trying to discover, among other things, how two murders are linked, and so far they're linked by this one person who shouldn't have anything to do with either of the murdered parties and anyways, it's fantastic and I can't put it down.

And, if you can believe it, there's more to the story! Liz came over and, while looking through my old magazines, found a recipe for cucumber margaritas in the May issue of Martha Stewart Living. Duh - we made them.

Cucumber Margaritas
This drink takes a little time to make since the base has to chill for an hour.
Makes 9 6-oz margaritas

3 cups thinly sliced, peeled, seeded cucumber
1 1/2 cups silver tequila
1 cup fresh lime juice (definitely use fresh)
1 cup lime simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water and a tablespoon of fresh lime juice, simmered and stirred until sugar dissolves)
Lime half for rimming the glasses
Coarse salt
Ice cubes
Cucumber slices for garnish

Make the base: In a blender, combine the cucumber, tequila, lime juice, and simple syrup. Blend until the mixture is as smooth as you can get it. Strain into a pitcher, cover, and refrigerate until chilled - about 1 hour.

Moisten the rims of martini glasses with the cut side of the lime half. Spread coarse salt on a small plate, then upend the glasses into the salt to curst the rims. Fill a cocktail shaker 3/4 full with ice, then add 1 1/2 cups of the margarita base. Cover and shake for 10-15 seconds. Strain into the prepared glasses. Garnish with cucumber slices. Repeat as needed.


Counting Down to Cornfields

What I'm looking forward to.

I'm headed home today. Home to Ohio! I haven't been home in over a year (since before my parents moved to Texas), and I cannot wait to get out of the city and into the cornfields. I'm going to see my parents, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We're going to chat, and play Trivial Pursuit, and barbeque, and eat, and sit outside, and listen only to the quiet farm noises and to each other. It's going to be a good weekend.

Happy 4th!


Robin Lately

Well, hello there.

I suppose I must have subconsciously decided to take a blogging hiatus for 2.5 months. But here I am, back again – hopefully this time for good (or, at least, for a goodly amount of time)

So, what’s been shaking? Let’s see… April 9 was the last time we spoke. So a lot of things have happened since then.

I made a flying trip to Indy to get together with the four fourths before one of the fourths left for Spain. (But rumor has it, she will be Stateside for a few weeks this summer, and I plan to get some Sarah-time in).

I went to Houston to surprise my baby brother for his 11th birthday. That was a great time – I took two days off work, used my free flight from Southwest, and got to see the look of sheer astonishment on Nick’s face when I walked in the door after Dad “went to check on some things at work” (really, he went to pick me up from the airport). I did get the flu while I was there, but it was at the end of my visit and my mom was there to take care of me – that sort of thing doesn’t happen often in adult life.

Two friends from church got married at the end of April and their wedding was beautiful: it was kind of a big wedding, but they made it seem so personal. I really got a glimpse into their relationship with Jesus as a couple. It really was beautiful. And I’ve never seen a bride and groom dance so much at the reception. That was awesome!

Then, in May, a bunch of people moved away. Evelyn moved back to England and Kat to Indiana (in preparation for her official move to The Ohio State University and grad school). So we had some going away parties. And it was sad when they were gone.

Liz had a big bash for her big 3-0 later that month and it was SO fun. And I met a pilot. Then, later on that same night, Kelly and Stacey and I went to Carol’s (which is this country music dive-bar that’s open after the other bars close), and I met ANOTHER pilot. I didn’t think it was possible to meet two pilots in one night, but it is my friends, it is.

Let’s see…that brings us to the beginning of June, which meant MINNESOTA for Amy and Scott’s nuptials. So fun. I love them. And it was just a fantastic weekend full of people I love and a very happy, happy occasion. Also, we were in Minnesota, which makes me inordinately happy on principal.

The next weekend my brother John came to visit and he tagged along with a bunch of my friends to Ribfest (which I’m pretty sure wasn’t a hardship for him) and then over to Mulligan’s, a dive-ish bar with dartboards lining the back wall. Here, John and Marissa’s friend Ted held dart school for Kelly and Marissa and me. I wish I could say we passed with flying colors…but I cannot.

And then it was off to TENNESSEE for another wedding – this time for Emily and Mark. Due to a bunch of technical difficulties revolving around vehicles, we ended up renting a car for this trip. And, I guess since we were so pretty, the Avis people gave us a free upgrade to a Lincoln Towncar. Yes. The same car my grandmother owns, albeit a much newer model. But let me tell you folks, if you must road-trip, the Lincoln is not a bad way to do it. It’s huge! The wedding was so fun (and SO hot – heat index of 107 degrees!), and Emily looked so happy and graceful. And Mark was very dapper. And when we weren’t celebrating those two, Kelly and Liz and Kat and Leah (!) and Jimmy (!) and I were all hanging out, enjoying being together in the old group again. Love them.

This brings us more or less to last weekend, which was another moving weekend, this time for my own roommate! Marissa headed off to Colorado to be closer to her new fiancé, which leaves me with an empty house (but not for long…).

So far this week I’ve been busy, busy. On Tuesday night Kelly and I tried out Yoga By the Lake (a class offered by our gym). I was nervous – it was my first time doing serious yoga. I’ve always just kind of goofed around with it (partner yoga, anyone?). But it was fun! I think I want to try to go to a basics class sometime soon so I can at least figure out how to get my bearings, but it was so wonderful to be outside, listening to the water and the birds. Good stuff.

Then last night I had fully planned on going home after work, making some stir-fry and cleaning the kitchen. But then Frances sent me a little G-chat asking me to go on an adventure with her: free Mat Kearney concert at the Taste of Chicago! Truthfully, though the adventure wasn't in my plans for the evening, I realized that if I went home I’d be wishing I would have gone with Frances, and if I went with Frances, I for sure wouldn’t be wishing I had gone home. So, we made it work, and I had a fantastic time. And, since I had ridden my bike to work, I rode home from Frances’s place, which is down town, after the Taste. It was a gorgeous night, and I left just when the sky was turning sapphire blue. I rode home along the lakefront trail with the glittering city lights on one side and the lake on the other. It was quiet, and warm, and so, so lovely.

And that’s the wrap up!


Well, it's here.

Spring! This morning on my way to the bus, I got caught in a hail storm, and then by the time I got to work, it was practically sunny. Trees are budding, birds are chirping, the air is alternately clear with sunshine and thick with a bloomy glow. It's like the earth's pulse is just starting to come thrumming through the frozen layers of dirt and mud and dead stuff.

Chicago in the spring is great. Suddenly, the sidewalks are full of people and restaurants open their windows and put out their outdoor seating. And, while I always get excited when the first boats are put out in the harbor, in this particular short space of spring, the lake has a scrubbed-clean look, and I love it.  I am excited, though, to go to Indiana this weekend and see what spring's doing to the fields and grasses outside of the city. I bet it smells so good!

Yes, I think it's official. I am thoroughly smitten with spring. And the best thing about it is that this season is just a herald of warmer and lovelier days ahead; as my mom would say, "it's all before us."


Kindred Spirits

One of my favorite things to do is reread favorite books. Unfortunately, it's something I don't do very often, I guess, because the sheer number of books I haven't even read once presses down on me with the weight of missed opportunities to find more favorite books. But, there are a few that I do make time for--one (or, I should say, one series) being Anne of Green Gables. The first time I read Anne I was in the sixth grade, in the car on a family vacation down to Florida. It's about 20 hours from my house in northwest Ohio to Disney World, and I had gotten a number of books for Christmas in anticipation of all the backseat time I'd have coming up just after New Year's. I don't remember exactly how long it took, but I know by the time we were home again, I had finished and was clamoring for the next in the series.

While I loved those books, the attention span of an adolescent and teenager isn't that long, and I didn't actually come back to or reread the series until just a couple years ago.You see, its rare, but sometimes I get burnt out with living in the city. On any given day, I love it, but something inside me resonates with trees and fields and barns and snug houses and quiet, steady people. It's home for me. And, I don't know what inspired me to do it, but I picked up Anne of Green Gables and read it again, drinking in this time the descriptions of the countryside and the sweet conversations of the characters--really thinking out their relationships with each other and their land. L.M. Montgomery's writing sort of filled up that resonating hole that sometimes gets a little too big with missing my home.

So, a couple weeks ago, I bought the new anniversary edition of Anne of Green Gables, since I had loaned out my other copy. And I'm reading it again.

Here's a little excerpt from Anne's House of Dreams (the fifth book in the series) that I love:

"Silence and twilight fell over the garden. Far away the sea was lapping gently and monotonously on the bar. The wind of evening in the poplars sounded like some sad, weird, old rune--some broken dream of old memories. A slender shapely young aspen rose up before them against the fine maize and emerald and paling rose of the western sky, which brought out every leaf and twig in dark, tremulous, elfin loveliness.

"'Isn't that beautiful?' said Owen, pointing to it with the air of a man who puts a certain conversation behind him.

"'It's so beautiful that it hurts me,' said Anne softly. 'Perfect things like that always did hurt me--I remember I called it 'the queer ache' when I was a child. What is the reason that pain like this seems inseparable from perfection? Is it the pain of finality--when we realise that there can be nothing beyond but retrogression?'

"'Perhaps,' said Owen dreamily, 'it is the prisoned infinite in us calling out to its kindred infinite as expressed in that visible perfection.'"


A Recent Obsession

Tonight I made lemon poppy seed bread. I've always really liked lemon poppy seed, but I guess you could say that lately I've been a little obsessed. So tonight, to stem my cravings, I decided to make some following the recipe below. I found this online, and the author of the recipe gave some really good explanations for why she breaks the steps up as she does:

"This recipe uses a slightly different method to mix the batter. Instead of simply creaming the butter and sugar, then adding the eggs, followed by the flour and milk, this recipe uses what is called the 'one bowl' or 'quick method.' That means the dry ingredients are first put into a mixing bowl, and then room temperature butter, along with a little of the wet ingredients, are added. These ingredients are beaten together and then the remaining wet ingredients are added. The reason for mixing the batter in this way is to reduce the gluten formation in the flour, which produces a quick bread with a moist, dense, and velvety texture. This can only happen if the butter has had the chance to coat the flour before all the wet ingredients are added which can have a toughening effect."

How interesting, right? I never really think about baking/cooking as being science-y, but it totally is! The order that things are mixed in matters in a kind of chemistry-like way. 

Anyways. Here's my bread, still in the bundt pan, because it's my mom's old one and I think its pretty.

And here's the recipe!

Lemon poppy seed bread:
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups flour, sifted
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Lemon syrup:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a loaf pan, bundt pan or muffin tin.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and milk.

Beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and poppy seeds until combined. Add the softened butter and half the egg mixture and mix on low speed until moistened. Increase the speed to medium and beat for about one minute. (This aerates and develops the cake's structure.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining egg mixture in two batches, beating about 30 seconds after each addition. (This will strengthen the structure of the batter.)

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 55 to 65 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. You may have to cover the bread with buttered foil after about 30 minutes if you find the bread over-browning.

When the bread is done, remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. 

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and lemon juice to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Pierce the hot loaf all over with a wooden skewer or toothpick and then brush the top of the loaf with about half the hot lemon syrup. Cool the loaf in the pan for about 10 minutes then invert onto a greased wire rack. Brush the remaining syrup onto the bottom and the sides of the loaf. Re-invert the bread so it is right side up and then cool the bread completely before wrapping. Store at least overnight before serving to allow the lemon syrup to distribute throughout the loaf.

Makes 1 loaf. 

Read more: http://www.joyofbaking.com/breakfast/LemonPoppyseedBread.html#ixzz0h54LMqEK


Today is a good day.

The reasons:

It's Friday.
My boss is out for the day.
My inbox was empty when I came in.
My mom is coming for the weekend.
I just finished a v. delicious strawberry shake from Potbelly's.


It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a super grain!!

The other night I was inspired to make something with quinoa - the super grain! Basically, quinoa has been around for a looong time, originating in the Andes where they've been using it for at least 6,000 years. And truly, when I was hiking through the Andes along the Inca trail, quinoa was a staple in just about every meal we were served. You can do all sorts of things with it and put it in almost everything, but I had some leftover mushrooms from another recipe I tried recently, so I thought I'd see if I could make a "risotto," substituting the über-good-for-you quinoa for the not-so-healthy-white-rice. And, in the style of The Pioneer Woman, here's what I did (recipe at the end):

I diced the garlic and shallot.

And then rinsed off the mushrooms (I used some white button mushrooms and a portabella I had leftover from another recipe, but I think any kind and combination will do!)

I chopped them.

Then, I sauteed the garlic and shallots (seasoned with salt and pepper) in butter. 

And threw in the mushrooms. 

 When the mushrooms started to cook down, I added the wine and quinoa.

 The last step is to add the cheese and the rest of the butter, once all the liquid has been absorbed.

 And enjoy!

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 cup quinoa
2 cups white wine or vegetable broth
Parmesan cheese, grated

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter. When the butter has melted, stir in the shallot and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
2. Add the olive oil and mushrooms, season again, and cook for another five minutes, or until mushrooms have begun giving off their water. 
3. Add the quinoa and the wine/broth, stir, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook at a bare simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the cheese to taste until both have melted, season to taste, and serve hot.


Snowmageddon 2010

It is, inexplicably, still snowing. I know it's nothing like Washington, D.C. and the rest of the Mid-Atlantic, but this is the most snow Chicago's seen all winter. And the winter storm warning isn't even up until tomorrow! I mean, Ziggy, my building manager is outside right now running the snow-blower. It's 10 pm!

Oh well.

Nothing big to post tonight...I just didn't want to forget how to blog. Our Internet's been down for the last couple days, and it has been HARD. I never realize just how tied I am to my e-mail and Facebook and Google until it's taken away from me. Instead, I've been filling my time with my new obsession: The West Wing. So good! I'm about half-way through the first season and I'm completely hooked. So, I think, it's time for an episode or two before I fall asleep...good night!


The 5 Best Places to Get Lunch in the Loop

Borrowing ideas from some friends’ blogs, I’ve decided to compile some 5 best (in my own opinion, of course) lists. I have a few list ideas already, but I'll space them out so you don't feel too bombarded. So, in no particular order:

The 5 Best Places to Get Lunch in the Loop
(on Wells, between Madison and Monroe)
Some co-workers tipped me off on this little Mediterranean joint. I love their Chicken Kebab Pita, which is basically a chicken kebab with onions and peppers, taken off the stick, and put in a warm pita with lettuce and tahini sauce (and tomatoes, which I don't get on mine). Oh my - the chicken is so juicy and has this really good Mediterranean marinade/sauce stuff on it. Their menu is really big, and everything is really, really fresh.
(on LaSalle, between Washington and Madison)
Ok, well, there are like a million Potbellys in Chicago - specifically in the Loop, but I love it, love it, love it. There's just something about a sandwich made on toasted bread and cheese. My favorite is the Chicken Salad Sandwich on regular bread with lettuce, onions, and 3 hot peppers (I have a sensitive mouth). You see, I have a thing for chicken salad, and I'm very particular. And Potbelly's has the best, so far, that I've found. Also, their oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are divine.
(on Franklin, between Couch and Randolph)
Truth be told, I've only been there once (it's not all that close to my office, and the weather has been fairly yucky since I was there last). But! I think it says something that this place is on my list, even though I've only had one Goodwin's experience, which was fabulous. Let me tell you why: The atmosphere and the huge menu. The restaurant is kind of like a maze and is on two levels of an old building downtown. It's not over-produced either. They concentrate on good food there, and the ambiance just takes care of itself. It's very cool. When I was there, I had the Santa Clara Wrap (mesquite chicken breast, Provolone cheese, and red onions - no tomatoes for me - served hot in a flour tortilla). But there were tons and tons of options.
(on Monroe, between Clark and LaSalle)
Nothing special here - I just really, really love the Orange Chicken. Really.
(on Lake, between Wabash and Dearborn)
This is slightly a ways from my office, but so, so, so good! In the nice weather it's not a hardship at all to hike over there for a sandwich made from artisan cheese, bread, meats. This is often my go-to place in the summer when I head over to Millennium Park for a concert and picnic supper with friends.....ahhh. Anyways, my fave sandwich they make is the Panino Di Prosciutto, which is "San Danielle Prosciutto, Podda cheese, field greens, olive oil, and black pepper." Walking in the store always makes me feel like such a foodie (huge cheese counter with tons of cheeses whose names I can't pronounce, large wine selection, an extensive cured meat selection, olive oils, tapenades, breads, and spreads), but I really have no idea what the difference is between San Danielle and regular prosciutto - I just know that whatever they sell in the store is GOOD.


December 29-January 12

(To catch up in chronological order, see here first, and then here.) 

Which brings us to the last week in December, which was a short one due to my traveling and then New Year’s. My friends John and Sara have hosted a NYE bash for the last three years, and this year they did it again, promising fun in EPIC proportions. Kelly and I agreed to make all the food for the soiree, with the hosts providing the beverages. As soon as I got home (at 1 pm!) on Thursday, we got started cooking. We were powerhouses in the kitchen right up until it was time to leave for the party, cranking out delectables such as

a potato and onion flatbread; 

baked brie in a puff pastry served with apple cranberry chutney; 

smoked salmon and dill with crème fraîche;

spicy seasoned pretzels; chips with salsa, guac, and a spicy queso/meat dip; Emily Martens's Famous Zimpy Shrimp Dimp; and gingersnaps and snickerdoodles. It was a lot of food – I think we still may be eating it. But! The party was indeed epic (I didn’t get home and in my bed until 4 am!), and the rest of the long weekend was spent in my robe, reading on the couch and snuggling with the kitty.

And so, Monday arrived, and I made it through the first week back. Nothing noteworthy. (Well, I went to the symphony...that was fun!) This week though, there's the promise of an exciting trip to Indy at the end of it, so I'm definitely looking forward to that.