How I Spent My Saturday Night

Guys. I played this weekend.

The occasion:
Before my friends and I headed out to the ballet yesterday evening (it was my first-ever Nutcracker!), we had a cocktail hour at my house. And so, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon...I made food. And drinks.

Appetizers clockwise from top left:
Frisee Winter Salad
Potato and Onion Flatbread
Asian Meatballs
Risotto Torte (center)
Crostini with Brie, Figs and Honey

To drink:
Ginger-Cranberry Cocktails

Mine may look like a war zone right now, but the kitchen is one of my favorite places to play. And the six-or-so weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year's are, like, filled with reasons to get in there and create delicious dishes, tantalizing apps, sugary confections, and pleasingly potent drinks!

Lucky for me, I get a whole week of cooking with my mom, starting Wednesday! Then, Kelly and Liz and I will tear it up in preparation for the Great Martini Shake-Off this NYE! So rev up your KitchenAid mixers...it's the most wonderful time of the year!


You can call me the artisan bread maker.

Look at that! My first loaves.

I used a recipe for artisan bread. I don't know what makes it artisan bread, but I made it and so am therefore an artisan bread maker, no? Ok, just go with it.

I'm taking the bread to my small group Christmas party tonight, so I haven't actually tried it. I'll let you know how it turns out once the things are sliced and slathered with butter - which usually rights all wrongs.

Anyways, hooray for homemade bread!


I got 99 blog posts...

...And now I have 100! WooWoo! (What? What did you think I was going to finish that title with?)

There were times when I thought I'd never blog again. In fact, if you look down through the archives there on the right, you'll see I tend to hit it hard in November and then taper off in December...maybe one here or there in an early spring/summer month...usually averaging 33 posts per year. Who's to say that this year will be any different - but that won't keep me from throwing a mental party similar to the fete my beloved Gossip Girl threw when they reached 100 episodes last month. Chuck Bass included.

On a mostly unrelated note, I thought I'd share this gem, created by my coworker, office-mate and fellow carpooler, Beth.


Beth is just the best. She's one of those quiet types who, once you get to know them, are, like totally awesome. I feel like I have a knack for scoring coworkers like that. :)  Beth and I laugh and make weird noises. We quote movies and British TV shows at each other. She lets me talk in funny voices to her and looks past all my other quirks. She helps keep the day moving for me - and then we download about everything on the way home.

But mostly, I'm so very thankful for her because she also loves Chuck Bass and knows exactly how this post title should be finished. :)


Chocolates and Cookbooks

It seems the chocolate gods heard my plea for more sweet, sugary balls of goodness and sent a messenger bearing gifts in the form of a friend's out-of-town girlfriend coming and sleeping on my couch while she visited. That darling girl brought me a lovely box of chocolate treats all the way from Wheaton, IL.

Um. Yum.

And in other news, last week was our office Christmas party, and though I did not score the 50 inch flat screen TV, I did get to take home this giant:

A big, fat new cookbook, just for me! I am looking forward to the many culinary adventures we will share, Gourmet Today. We'll be good friends in no time!


Monday Morning Tactics

This morning was one of those mornings. When getting out of bed just doesn't seem to be an option, until you check your phone and realize there's only half an hour to get out the door.

That may or may not have something to do with the two Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ales I had while listening to the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars last night. But! Nothing a small Dunkin Donuts drive-through coffee can't fix. (Except now I kind of feel like that small was too small, and that I should visit the office Keurig with my trusty travel mug.)

So, in an effort to combat today's rain-induced chill and gloom, I threw on my coziest, biggest green plaid scarf and brought some nourishing turkey and quinoa soup and two homemade buttermilk biscuits for lunch. Looking forward to that for sure. Plus, I've got my Christmas Pandora station going strong here in the office.

Here's hoping I can feel warm and snug even outside of my quilts and pillows and kitty.

What are your go-to tactics for fending off the winter chill and gloom when crawling back in bed isn't an option?


Can you believe it?

Has anyone else noticed that I blogged every day in November? It feels pretty good. I might just keep this up!


I saw it!

Tonight, while I was enjoying my delicious dinner at Dewey's, I chanced to look out the window and there it was in all its white, wet glory - snow. Big, clumpy flakes swirling amid the raindrops. Oh boy...here we go then!


It's back!

The Great Martini Shake-Off lives! Coming to Cincinnati this NYE!



Today marks the beginning of Advent, a time of year that's becoming more sacred to me as I grow in my faith and as a person, saved by grace. In 1998, my mom gave me a book for Christmas (I know what year because she inscribed it inside the front cover - love you Mom) by my favorite author, Madeleine L'Engle. It's a compilation of Christmas writings, thoughts, poems, short stories L'Engle had written across many years. I read it, I'm sure, that very Christmas vacation. But I haven't opened it up again until this year. With a cup of coffee after my nap this afternoon, just 14 pages in, I came across a short piece called "Time and Space Turned Upside Down." Here are some excerpts that I've been carrying with me today.

 "Advent. That time of waiting....But what are we waiting for? Why? We're not waiting as we so often are taught as children, for Christmas, for the baby Jesus to be born in a stable in Bethlehem. We're waiting for something that has not happened yet, that has never happened before, something totally new. We only know what the end of this waiting has been called throughout the centuries: The Second Coming."

"God made the universe out of love; the Word shouted all things joyfully into being because of love. The Second Coming, whenever it happens and whatever it means, will also be because of love."

"That love manifested itself joyously in the creation of the universe because particular for us in Jesus, and will show itself most gloriously in the Second Coming. We need not fear."

"There are many tough questions for which we have no finite, cut and dried answers. Even Jesus did not answer all our questions! But He came, because of that love which casts out fear. He came, and He will come again."


Birthday time!

Heading out to celebrate Leah at The Penguin Dueling Piano Bar tonight...looking forward to good times with some of my favorite people!


A Little Post-Thanksgiving Thankfulness

I'm blessed. Here's why:

  • A family who prays for one another, and who loves me and misses me.
  • Old friends with whom I have a tenderness - that comfortable peace that comes when we're together.
  • New friends I didn't know even just a year ago, but are now so important to my life.
  • The two precious kiddos I get to love on, children of my best friends, watching them grow, laugh, play and love me back in their little ways.
  • An apartment that feels like home. I noticed this a few weeks ago after coming home from a trip. I came in, sat down on the couch, and for the first time since I moved here, really felt like I had come home. 
  • A job that I love, and that allows me to pay for things like rent, utilities, cell phone, Internet, car payments, insurance, gas, groceries, and still have some left over for fun.
  • A city I'm growing into, and the surprising ways it endears itself to me.
  • A church home, full of people passionate about serving their city, connecting with each other, and discovering how deeply the love of God goes.
  • My Father in Heaven, my Abba, who is teaching me just who I am - His child. Created for Him, by Him. His beloved.
  • My merciful Savior, whose love is boundless and so great, that He would be obedient and lay down His life so that I can live freely in grace.



There it is. My spread :)

Clockwise from the head of the table: My turkey, gravy,
mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, cranberry walnut cornbread,
crescent rolls, green beans, sauteed vegs, and stuffing!

I had so much fun...but I'm plum worn out!


Status Update

I brought my turkey home today! All 9.9 free-range, vegetable-fed, locally grown in Harrison, OH lbs of him. Or her. I can't tell.

Oh, and...I managed to make my brine! Now I'm just waiting for John to get here so I can have him help me get everything poured into the bag and get the turkey in there.

Also I'm currently waiting for my pumpkin roll monkey bread dough to rise so I can assemble that; then it'll be all ready to pop in the oven tomorrow morning.

Let's see...the bread for the stuffing is sitting out, getting all nice and dry. The cat is sitting in a Sur La Table shopping bag. And that's about all that's going on around here. Just generally excited for the holiday!


Life is Funny

You know, like when you meet or hear about certain people and you feel one way about them, and then you live life and your paths cross in interesting, sometimes bizarre ways and soon you know them and have a relationship and that stuff you thought about them at first seems so...funny? 


Menu Planning

Oh boy. I am really getting excited for my Thanksgiving dinner feast. Though it's just going to be John and me, we are going to eat well.

Here's what I'm planning. (Click on the photos for recipes, if you're so inclined.)

For breakfast on Thanksgiving morning, I want to have pumpkin roll monkey bread with my coffee. Um. Yum.

For lunch, I figured we'd eat some of the endless soup I've been making.

For The Dinner, I ordered a fresh, free-range turkey from Whole Foods - not really big, but big enough to feed the both of us plus provide plenty of leftovers for other yummy dishes and sandwiches.

My dream is to brine the turkey in this. Isn't this the prettiest brine you've ever seen? But we'll see. I might just throw the ol' bird in the oven and get on with life.

I'm also doing smashed red potatoes, turkey gravy (which I am actually the most nervous about - I have a hard time with gravy), and my mom's stuffing.

Then, instead of green bean casserole, which I love but always think is just SO heavy with all the other heavy food, I was thinking of doing wilted greens with apples and squash from a recipe for savory crepes. Obviously, I'm not going to make the crepes for dinner, but I feel like the insides would be a yummy, lighter way to get in some vegs.

To incorporate cranberries into the menu (besides this aperitif I mentioned the other day) without actually going full-on cranberry jello mold (alas, no mold), I think I might whip up this cranberry cornmeal quick bread.

But John requested crescent rolls or Hungry Jack biscuits, so I'll have those too, I guess. :)

For dessert, I'm making pumpkin pie (another special request from my brother, but...duh). I'm going to try out the recipe in my Williams-Sonoma cookbook. Slightly different from the one my mom always makes, but I think it'll be fine! With it, I'm considering forgoing traditional whipped cream and doing the whipped sour cream topping from this Smitten Kitchen recipe.

To drink we'll have milk, of course! And Friday - leftovers!

I'll let you know how it all goes down. I'm getting slightly nervous about the timing and whatnot, but this is my kind of challenge, and I am SO up for it. What are you making for your family Thanksgiving?


Step One

It’s Sunday night confession time. Normally I wouldn't think that this is the place to come clean like I’m about to, but I feel that the majority of people who read my blog are people who love me or who are at least not going to judge me. So. Don’t judge. ;)

Ready? Here it is: I don’t tithe.

AH. I hate that about myself. When I was in high school and college I tithed regularly. And even when I first moved to Chicago I made sure I gave 10 percent. But then city living caught up to me, and my tithing became more and more infrequent. And then stopped. And that’s more or less where I still am today.

When it comes right down to it, the truth is I’m not a very good steward of my money. I realize that my steady income throughout my entire working life is a precious gift from God that many, MANY people don’t have, and it kills me inside with how carelessly I use it. I know plenty of people who are living on less and who are living abundantly, and sometimes it seems like I missed out on some secret. I think that secret is that they are faithfully entrusting their finances to the Lord, being sure to give back in a small way what he’s given to them and making wise decisions with the money they earn.

It seems like at least once every month, I start to feel the crunch that I’m going to have to be extra careful so that I don’t run out of money until my next paycheck, and I hate that! It’s so obvious when I stop to think about it, that in this one very big part of my life, I’m trying to maintain control and not allowing God to guide me and my choices. And I’m not showing my gratitude and faith that he has and always will provide me with exactly what I need.

Well, thanks for letting me air that dirty bit of laundry. I want to change, but I know it’s a sin in my life that has taken a deep root and won’t go away easily. So – Step One – start tithing. And trusting. 



So, obviously, I love all the stuff I pin on Pinterest, but these are a few things that are inspiring me lately - sartorially, gastronomically, aesthetically, imbibitionally.... I think I made that last one up. Take a look anyways.


A Made-It-Through-the-Week Reward

Sometimes, spending Friday evening in your robe on the couch watching The West Wing is just the thing.


Zimpy Shrimp Dimp

I just got an e-mail from one of my former roommates, asking me for a recipe of hers. You see, this particular recipe is a hit at parties, and even though we didn't feel like it after she moved, my friends in Chicago and I still wanted to party and enjoy this fabulous app while we did it. So I had her give it to me. But it seems she's lost her copy. So...does this now make the recipe actually mine?? You decide.

Here it is Emily!

Zippy Shrimp Dip
From the kitchen of Emily Jordan

2 packages of cream cheese
1 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp onion powder
12 oz bottle of cocktail sauce
1Tbs horseradish sauce
2 6 oz cans of tiny shrimp (rinsed
and drained)
Minced fresh parsley
Assorted crackers

In small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese. Add in seasoned salt, Worcestershire, and onion powder. Spread onto a 13 inch platter (or what have you). Combine cocktail sauce and horseradish. Spread over cream cheese layer. Sprinkle with shrimp and parsley. Cover and chill for at least one hour. Serve with crackers.


Red Letter Day

I'm happy today. Got a song in my heart, a smile on my face. Want to know why? I am wearing a pair of jeans that used to fit, then didn't, and now fit again! (And we're talking comfortably...I am not squeezed in.)
I'm sure there were other good parts of the day. Let's see...got a fair amount of stuff done at work, that was good. Went to Whole Foods, always a treat. I made soup, enjoyed that. Now I'm lounging on the couch with a warm kitty on my feet. Yep. Pulling on these jeans this morning was definitely the best thing to happen to me today.


Big News

So the other day I found out that I have eight cavities, need a crown and also need to have all four of my wisdom teeth pulled. Pray for me.

Now I can actually cross off having two of those cavities filled, so that means I only have six cavities, need a crown and also need to have all four of my wisdom teeth pulled. I wasn't kidding when I asked you to pray for me.

In a completely unrelated note, I am coming to the end of my birthday box of chocolates from Kelly and it's kind of bumming me out. While praying for my cavities, please also consider sending me Godiva.


I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico!

No really. I did.

I knew I was overpaying with Farmers, but circumstances being what they were when I was buying my car, I went with them. Now, a year later, I'm tired of their lousy service. (Seriously, one time I called my agent's office, was told he'd call me back, and two days later when I still hadn't heard from him, I had to call again. I was then told by the receptionist that they didn't have me in the system yet ((1.5 mos. after I purchased my policy)), and that they'd have to check their paper files and get back to me. An hour later they called and said they couldn't find my paper files, either. Also, I still never talked to my actual agent.) And I'm more than tired of paying $$ for their lousy service and standard coverage.

So today, I got online, switched over to Geico and am going to be paying about $40 less/month for the basically the same policy (and I can't believe I'll get worse service than I had before). A big Y.A.Y. for saving $480 in the next year!


That's why I love it.


Coffee Walk

Something interesting has been happening lately. I'm finding myself excited to get out of bed at 7:30 on a Saturday morning. In fact, I start looking forward to it on Friday, even Thursday! What could it be that has me rising so early and forsaking my beloved sleeping in/morning lounge? It's Coffee Walk.

I'm not sure when it was, but a new friend from church, Liz, asked me one day if I'd like to get coffee and maybe go on a walk the next Saturday. I said sure, but then something at work came up and I had to go into the office that weekend. But I was excited to get to know Liz better and also enjoy something fun on a Saturday when much of it would be taken up with work, so I asked if 8 a.m. was too early, that way I could still make it in to the office by 9:30. She was all about it, so we met up and had a great time.

In the coming weeks, it became a ritual. Whenever we're both in town, we make it a point to meet at Awakenings, grab coffee and head out to explore the neighborhood, never taking the same route twice. I've really come to love this early morning (for a Saturday) time with Liz. The streets are for the most part empty and the city is just waking up. And Liz is a wonderful friend and sounding board, and I love getting her take on things. Hearing about what's going on in her life and being able to walk alongside her (literally, ha) in that has been an unexpected gift.

This morning was no different. Here's hoping Coffee Walk continues as long as we're both in Cincinnati!


Adventures in Replacing Heads

I mentioned yesterday that I am trying to get better at photo editing. I really like to do it, but mostly I feel like there's just so much to know and learn, and Photoshop, for as awesome as it is, is a pretty major deal to figure out. I know basics, but have completely forgotten all the cool tricks from my college class in the ol' Desktop Publishing garage on the far outskirts of campus (cue Aaron's Todd Giles impression).

Now the only way I am going to improve my skills, or learn anything worthwhile, is to just get to it. Luckily, I have a work laptop with Photoshop installed that I'm welcome to carry home whenever I want or need to.

So here's what I did. I took this not-so-great photo of my family from this last Fourth of July:
One of my cousins got a new camera and wanted to take
everyone's family portrait. Said cousin may need to work on
photo quality, but who am I to talk?

and I replaced John's, Mom's and Dad's heads with the ones from this one:
Obv. I am making THE most ridiculous face.

Then I tried to fudge around with the fill light/colors/warmth because we are all looking very gray sitting there on Grandma and Grandpa's porch. And because the photo was so grainy, I tried to mask it a little with some soft focus filter. Look:

I think I kind of over did it on the soft focus - John's looking a little "Back to the Future". Maybe there's too much yellow now, too. But I think it's better, for sure. And everyone's heads are on straight, so there's that.

Other than those things - I have a pretty great looking fam!


What I Ate For Dinner

It is cold!

We've had some super-beautiful fall weather the last week or so, but today...today there is a chill in the air, that kind of chill that gets into your bones and stays there all winter. In fact, my Chicago and Northwest Ohio Facebook (and real-life) friends are reporting snow! I think Cincinnati actually reached a high of 50, so thankfully our weather situation isn't that dire. But still. Cold.

Anyways, in an effort to combat the impending colder weather, I made soup! It's a truly delish corn chowder recipe that I found on Pinterest, and only 200* calories per serving! Woohoo for yummy, warming soup that won't make you fat!

*My version is probably a smidge more than 200 calories. You'll see why.

So basically, you take these things:
Except the half & half (not actually an ingredient, I am just a
dingbat), and especially the wine (also not an ingredient,
but necessary for optimum cooking enjoyment).

Then you put some of the stuff into the pot:
I cut open the red pepper and found it moldy, so radishes!

And when it boils you add some more stuff:
Like the corn and potatoes.

After all that stuff's good and cooked, you add evaporated milk with cornstarch dissolved in it.
The secret weapon for creaminess without the cream!

Oh, and bacon.
Bacon is not in the original recipe.

Then season with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a pinch of cayenne!
Nail color: You Don't Know Jacques by OPI

And warm up! 
With more wine of course. And yes, I am Pinterest-ing.

P.S. Thanks for indulging me through tedious photos of a pot of soup. I sometimes like to believe I am Pioneer Woman, and I'm also trying to develop some photo-editing skills. I have a long way to go.


Feeling Ambitious


I think I'm going to make bread. From scratch.

The most recent post on a foodie blog that I love, led me to this post on making French bread, and I just can't get the idea out of my head! 

Can I do it? Have you ever done it? I tried once, and used old yeast. So that doesn't count, because I actually made a rock.

I think I'm just going to search for an easy, beginner recipe online, but if you know of one that is simple and doesn't require 12 hours, then please pass it on!

(Also, as a side note: I love Lucy's Kitchen Notebook. Someday when I have, like, time or something, I'm going to go through her archives and start reading from the beginning of her journey learning to live and cook as an American ex-pat in France. Her photos are delicious, her writing is elegant and the recipes and ingredients she uses inspire me to move to France shop more at the market, butcher, bakery, and the like! )


Rocking the Vote

Today was the first time I voted on a non-presidential election day. I know. Suddenly I am all about fulfilling my civic duty. I even looked up the issues and candidates, read about them, talked to some friends. Then I searched my heart, walked down to the fire station, placed my votes and got my sticker.

Folks, frankly I'm a little surprised at myself. I abhor politics, and I'm not very hip to government goings-on. So though my opinion on politics hasn't changed, I've been trying to decide what spurred this sudden desire to rock the vote.

And here's what I think it is: I see so much potential here in Cincinnati for it to be a great city, full of life and history and character. And I know the city sees that potential, too, as it takes baby steps toward that dream of thriving. So I guess I'm excited to be a part of it all, and voting is one way I can have an impact.

I'm learning to love this city; that's why I voted today.


Thanksgiving Aspirations

This year my brother John and I aren't going to Houston for Thanksgiving. It is, of course, not that we don't want to spend that time with the whole family together, it's just that two expensive holiday travels (Thanksgiving and Christmas) only a month apart can be a little much...$.

So, I talked to John today and we decided he should come to Cincinnati for the holiday. Which means I get to attempt my very first Thanksgiving dinner all by myself - including a turkey! He says he wants to help, and I suppose I'll enlist him for, like, mashing the potatoes and, like, carving the turkey, but let's be honest - it's going to be me in the kitchen and him in the living room watching football. And that's totally fine with me!

Ok. I am so excited to start planning the menu. Should I call my mom for her Thanksgiving Day standards, or should I browse Pinterest my cookbooks for recipes? Anyone have a must-eat Thanksgiving dish that needs to appear on my menu? Please do fill me in! And, for kicks, click on this link and get into the spirit with me!



Home Again

Recovering from the drive with sushi and Sunday Night Football. It's good to be home!


The Good Life

Today has been such a perfect day.

This morning Kelly and I had coffee and pumpkin bread, lounged around until her new fridge was delivered (hooray for a full-sized fridge!), and then went to our usual spot to get our nails done. Then it was off to Lincoln Park for some requisite shopping, but not before grabbing a burger and fries. It's important to be properly fueled before making purchases.

We finished the afternoon out with a sweet score at DSW for Kelly, came home and have been drinking wine and strategizing ever since. Later, we're going to Liz's for no doubt more wine and also fondue!

I MISS this city and these people so much sometimes. So today has been extra awesome because I've just fallen right back into our regular routine. Today could have been a beautiful day from Fall 2008, but not really. I think it's actually sweeter to spend time here and with my Chicago friends now that I've moved. But oh man... I wouldn't mind staying for a while!



I'm headed for my favorite city today at noon! Woo woo for a half-day and woo woo for Chicago! Ummm, that's about it. But, I'll leave you with this gorgeous wintertime photo of the Water Tower. Not exactly seasonal (Thanksgiving first, if you please), but those snowflakes and Christmas lights are right around the corner!

Chicago in Snow


Almost Famous

So the other day, I was on the radio!

I was acting in a radio segment for one of our stations at work, in which the morning show prank calls "random" people. But really, they aren't random, because that would be considered harassment. So they call people in the office and have them make up a name (I chose Beth) and pretend to be incredulous that they're being called at six in the morning (it was probably 9:30 a.m. when they called me). Then, they put it all together and air the "call" the next morning. So here's my bit that aired on Tuesday:

Simple Survey 11-1-11

What do you think? Was I believable as a disgruntled single woman being called early in the morning while still in my bathrobe and drinking my coffee? Cause that's the tone I was going for.


Photo Shoot

I try to keep the fact that I have a cat under the radar. One of my greatest fears is to be thought of as a cat lady...single and alone with only my feline friends to give me the warmth of their company. Ok. I have one cat. I'm maintaining the acceptable cat/person ratio that allows me to still be desirable to men. At least that's what I've been telling myself ;)

But sometimes, I just want to let it all out. I love my cat. And tonight I want to gratuitously post photos of her lounging in the expensive thing I bought her that she never lays on/plays with/scratches instead of my couch.

And this concludes my blog about my cat. What was that about being desirable to men again? Oh man.


Annual Review

Oh. Hi there...


So just recently, I filled out the ol' annual self-evaluation form for work, which has gotten me thinking about the last year (work-wise). Friends and family ask me all the time about my job and if I like it, etc. And I tell them all the time that I love my job, am so happy to have it, so blessed to have waited on God's timing for something so great that I didn't know was even in my future, blah blah blah. ;)

But seriously. Sometimes I can't believe I get to come in, sit down, and write. And get paid! Plus there are perks...like the time I got to have lunch with the Plain White T's. And all these other famous recording artists:

Me and the Neon Trees

Me and Sara Bareilles (and my super-goofy smile)

Some co-workers, Sarah McLachlan, and me

Me, The Script, and some co-workers
So, let it be known - I love my job, even on the stressful, putting out fires, can't seem to get anything accomplished days. I love knowing that those years I put in at a not-so-great downright crappy company were perfectly ordered to prepare and lead me to this. (See here and here for how it all went down.) In church on Sunday, I heard this verse:

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

How wonderful that I have a loving, caring Father who is watching over me and answers my prayers better than I could ever imagine. Let me always run to Him first and only for every cry of my heart.