Breaking the Cycle

Tuesday night after I got home from Bible study, I settled down on the couch with a Black Cherry Chocolate cocktail (1 ½ oz Cherry Vodka, 1 ½ oz White Chocolate Liquor, splash of cherry juice and two maraschino cherries). I don't often make myself a drink like this, but I was going to finish watching The Bachelorette season finale online and thought, “why not?”

I took one sip. I set it down. And then, not two minutes later, I bumped it, and pink, cherry-flavored alcohol flew spectacularly all over a good portion of my living room, shattering the glass, too.

By the time everything was all cleaned up, vacuumed, washed and pre-treated, it was time for bed. No Bachelorette, no yummy adult beverage.

Why do I tell you this? I don’t know, really…but crap happens in my life. And it’s important for me to say it, to remember it. When I’m blogging or Facebook posting or Twittering or whatevering, my instinct is to post about awesome things happening to me. And this is good. Awesome things should be shared. Who wants to read someone’s dirty laundry on Facebook? Not me. But.


I have to be so careful.

I had a conversation with my lovely friend Sarah this weekend about social media and blogging and all, and about how easy it becomes second-nature – made a ballin' dinner? Take an Instagram. At a cool concert? Facebook post! This sharing about where we are, who we’re with and what we’ve done...why do we do it? 

We want those likes, those comments. We want someone to reach through the Internet and say, “You’re good. I see you.” But don’t we also just want, just a little, for someone to say, “Your life is so great. You have it all together.”?

We’re craving that affirmation, because we just can’t seem to give it to ourselves. And how could we when we see the life we’re living and all its sticky spots – the parts that are broken and getting messy? So we’re looking to other people, but not giving them the whole story.

And it’s kind of a vicious cycle isn’t it? When I see how amazing other people’s lives look, all the cool things they’re doing and making, how clean and put-together they seem, I feel even worse about all the places where they shine and I don’t.

I'm afraid the solution is a hard one. It requires finding my worth every day (every minute!) in Christ. I need no more affirmation in this world than the fact that He has adopted me as an heir to His kingdom, despite knowing the whole story of my messy life. But man – that’s hard to just put that into practice, isn’t it? Especially when I see how awesome other people are at life.

Some may say to just remove the temptation - give up social media. But I don’t think giving up on social media is the answer – this desire for recognition and affirmation doesn’t just go away. I’ll find another way to get it from this world.

So, for my part, I’m going to try to break the cycle and fess up sometimes when things don’t go my way. When I’ve been hurt, when I’ve dropped the ball, when my apartment is a complete mess. When God's refining me in uncomfortable ways. When I’ve left my car door open all morning, left my phone on a park bench and gone to Starbucks without a wallet.

Because sometimes life is sticky.

And sometimes you’re down a martini glass and two maraschino cherries.


No-Spend-Food-Week Challenge Update

So far, so good on the No-Spend-Food-Week challenge.

Friday night I got together with some friends and we made spicy pork pot stickers. I already had half of the ingredients and my friends supplied the rest.

I used a slight variation on this recipe for the filling, and a slight variation on this recipe for the assembly and cooking process. We made our own sauces from teriyaki, minced garlic, hot chile oil, etc. - just whatever sounded good. It was so fun to get in the kitchen together and cook these little gems. I'd totally recommend this as a fun idea for a night in at home with a group of friends who like a good kitchen play. Or get the whole family involved! There's plenty for everyone to do when making pot stickers, and it comes together much faster when there's more than one person cooking.

Saturday morning I did the Color Me Rad 5k, so we stopped at Starbucks on the way and I used my gift card for breakfast. Then for lunch, I ate leftover pot stickers. My sushi dinner on Saturday night was graciously paid for by my blind date, which despite the great food, didn't go so great. Which means that when I met friends at Dutch's afterward, I amended my fourth ground rule that I wouldn't buy a beverage unless it was "extremely socially awkward/damaging not to have one." In this case I just needed a big glass of spicy red wine.

Sunday morning I used my Starbucks gift card again for breakfast, then after church I made raspberry pancakes for lunch with this amazing mix. Seriously, any mix from New Rinkel is fantastic - my favorite is the straight-up buttermilk pancake mix.

Sunday night I got a little creative and thought about all the stuff in my pantry and fridge that I have just sitting around, waiting for me to make something from it - you know, the stuff I picked up at the grocery store without any real recipe in mind...just an "Oh, this would be good to have" thought.

Anyway, I turned out a big batch of quinoa, sweet corn, diced onion and diced baby portabella mushrooms, all mixed together with a honey butter sauce and lots of salt and pepper. It was really, really good!

Monday morning I had cereal for breakfast, leftovers from Sunday night for lunch and leftover raspberry pancakes for lunch.

Tuesday I used my gift card again for a latte in the morning, for lunch I did a Smart Ones frozen meal and for dinner I baked a chicken breast with a couple baby portabella mushrooms with olive oil, cracked pepper and chardonnay smoked sea salt. I also made some make-shift crostini with the last few slices of a sour dough boule and the toaster. I drizzled olive oil on them, toasted them and then covered them with basil leaves and little mozzarella balls. Oh and cracked pepper and the chardonnay smoked sea salt. I think those crostini are the best thing I've made yet this week!

This morning I breakfasted on oatmeal with sliced almonds, dried cranberries and a little brown sugar. Oh, and coffee from home. So that's where we are with this little update!

How are you doing?


Colored Rad

On Saturday I ran my first 5k. It was so fun! I don't know if I would be able to say that if I hadn't been pelted with colored cornstarch every k, but regardless. I had a fantastic time at Color Me Rad!

My team's race packets. Also sidenote: I am now an iPhone owner!
Instagram to the max!
Me, Jackie and Hannah - 3/4s of the team. Beth was behind the camera.
Waiting for our wave to begin.
All clean and ready to go!
Here are some finish-line photos of Beth and me - screen shots of proofs that the official race photogs took, which is the reason for the crazy watermarks:

And post-race, covered-in-color shots:

The team - Colored Rad!


The No-Spend Food Week Challenge

The No-Spend Week. Has anyone done this before? It's a week (or really, any set amount of time) that you go without spending any money, except paying bills that are due. I'm intrigued, but I'm also not very good at practicing the self-control it takes to be frugal. Perhaps this is just the kind of challenge I need to start changing my habits - no long-term commitment required.

To make it even more attainable (and I'm all about attainable goals, as you know), I'm going to try it on just my food intake for the week. That means, starting tonight, I won't spend any money on food until Friday evening of next week. Whew! Just saying it kind of makes me nervous. I'm pretty attached to my sushi takeout and lunchtime outings to Chipotle. But I think I can do it!

First, I love to cook. So this gives me the perfect excuse to play in the kitchen. Plus, it could be a really awesome way to practice hospitality. If my friends want to go out for dinner one night, I can always just invite them over and cook for them. Better yet - we can all cook together!

I'm going to set a few ground rules for myself, so if you want to do it too, feel free to use mine or tailor it to something that will work for you - this is a completely customizable challenge.

1. My week will begin with dinner tonight, Friday, July 20 and end with lunch, next Friday, July 27.
2. Since I am not scraping the bottom of the barrel grocery-wise, I won't be heading to the store to pick anything up in preparation.
3. I will be able to use gift cards if I have them already.
4. This no-spend will also apply to beverages, unless it would be extremely socially awkward/damaging to not have one.
5. I won't purchase any food or beverages on credit - no owing a friend next week.

Who's with me? Leave a comment if you think you'd like to join in the no-spend food revolution! ;) Really, I could use the moral support.

I'll be checking in early next week to let you know how and if I made it through the weekend!


Birchbox in July!

My Glamour-inspired Birchbox! Let's see what's inside.

First...and awesomely...a full-size Eyeko London Skinny Liquid Eyeliner in black. I've been wanting to try a liquid eyeliner for a while, but haven't wanted to spend the money. Well, well, well. It seems Birchbox has read my mind.

Here it is at first. It went on very easily and with no mess. And it looks loads better than this fright.

And the finished product (I used my Urban Decay Naked Palette - Sin all over and Darkhorse along the lashline.):

I also received two packets of Supergoop! City Sunscreen Serum. I'm not one to add sunscreen to my morning regimen, although everything I read says I should. It's just one more step/cream/application! But this is nice. It only very slightly smells like sunscreen, which is a plus and a big reason why I don't wear it daily. So we'll see. I like the idea that it has anti-aging properties as well as sun-protection properties.

These were fun to find inside.

Here I am...post-workout. But enjoying my tunes!

And speaking of smelly...but in a very smell-good kind of way...a sample of Harvey Prince perfume called Hello. I really, really like this. I've smelled other stuff by Harvey Prince and it's always good. This is citrusy and floraly and does actually smell like the sunshine. Plus...I can still smell it hours later and it comes in a much handier applicator with a pump nozzle thing.

Alterna Bamboo UV+ Color Protection Fade-Proof Fluide - whew! What a name! This is supposed to protect and strengthen my color-treated hair, which is nice, because I just got highlights last weekend! I haven't tried it yet, but I gather it goes on kind of like Moroccan Oil. I suppose there isn't enough in this sample to tell if it keeps my color vibrant between appointments, but it could be good.

Last, a tin of Minteas in the Cocoa Mate flavor. I'm told that these mints are "infused with organic green tea, herbs and fruit extracts that will give me an antioxidant boost." At any rate...they taste pretty good.

Yet another successful Birchbox, I'd say! What was in yours?

If you want to get your own Birchbox ($10 a month, sent right to your door, free shipping) and discover new beauty products, then click right here: https://www.birchbox.com?raf=6tm7o.


Summer Salad Series, part 2

Click here for part one!

This salad. This salad is like dessert salad. Like a dressier version of a couple of watermelon slices served at a cookout. It's got sweet, sure. But then there's depth - a creamy/savory/herby depth. Though the flavor combinations seem questionable at first, once you try it...you'll know.

To get started, you'll need some watermelon, some fresh basil, some feta cheese crumbles and some balsamic vinegar.

I only wanted to make one serving. So based on the amounts I used for just me, you can use your judgement to determine how much of each ingredient you should use for your desired portion number. Also, keep in mind that this salad won't keep well all mixed up, so try not to make a ton when you don't think it will all be eaten.

Start by cutting up enough watermelon into bite-size cubes for the number of people you want to serve.
Place it in a bowl for each person.

Then take some basil leaves and stack them.

Roll them up as best you can into a little bundle.

Then make thin slices as best you can. Congrats, you've just chiffonaded! I always feel so fancy when I chiffonade basil.

Sprinkle your fancy basil onto the watermelon.

And sprinkle some feta.

Now, you can stop there if you want. It will certainly be a delicious salad. But if you trust me, then drizzle just a little balsamic.

And serve with your meal - in my case, stuffed chicken breast and crostini!


Summer Salad Series

In the summer, I eat a lot of salads. First, they're cold and since lately I'm on the verge of overheating, I only want things I can pull out of the fridge and put on a plate - no additional heat required. Second, they are the perfect thing to bring to cookouts and backyard gatherings - inexpensive and easy to throw together - so I don't arrive empty-handed.

Here's one that I made on July 4 for a lovely little get-together on a Mt. Adams balcony. This pasta salad is refreshing and practically brainless to assemble - just the right combination when it's too hot to think outside.

First, your ingredients: Tri-color pasta in a shape of your choice (I usually go with rotini, but I liked these radiatori from Trader Joe's, so I mixed it up a little), Italian salad dressing (I make the Good Seasons packets), a green bell pepper, a cucumber, tomatoes and Salad Supreme - the magic spice that makes it all come together.

Now, some people add cheese or olives or other veggies to their pasta salad, and while that's fine and good, I really feel like this combo is the best. Cool and crisp - no cheese that gets soggy, no broccoli that's hard to finagle into your mouth. Most people I talk with tend to agree. I think the simplicty is the selling point.

So...first! Put a pot of water on to boil, and when it gets going add the pasta.

Then start chopping up the vegs. I used half an English cucumber, peeled and sliced, then quartered the slices. I used a little more than a half green bell pepper because the one I got was pretty big. I just gave those a rough chop. When it came to the tomatoes, I chose cherry ones that I quartered. Be sure to use a serrated knife when going after the tomatoes. It makes things so much easier!


When the pasta is done cooking, drain and put it in your biggest mixing bowl.

Let it cool for a bit and then add the vegs.

How fresh is that? Mmmm. Pour on about a cup of dressing. You can always add more if you feel like it needs it, but starting with less is the way to go.

Now...magic. Give everything a generous coating of Salad Supreme.

Then stir and stir and stir.

Sprinkle more Salad Supreme. Stir stir stir.

When you're happy with what you taste, cover it and let it get nice and cold in the fridge for a couple hours - at the very least two.

Then, when it's party time, pull it out, place it in a lovely serving dish and serve to your friends and loved ones. They'll love how simply refreshing it is!

I'll be posting again soon with another summer salad that will bring your internal temp down a couple precious degrees. Look in the above pic for a hint!


Mead Drinking and the Art of Sushi Making

This weekend I headed to Columbus to (finally) hang with some of my favorite people - Matt, Ashley and their cutie, Jude.

After waiting out a storm and then sitting parked on the highway for 45 minutes while a semi was pulled out of the median, I finally arrived on Friday night. We just chilled on the porch with wine, pita chips, hummus and conversation.

Saturday morning was spent lounging about before we hit up brunch at Skillet (SO unbelievably good). We may or may not have entered food comas and napped back at the house. Iced coffee on the patio revived us, and then we were off to the Brothers Drake Meadery.

I had never had mead before, so we sampled a flight.

please excuse my awkward head placement...
And then chose cocktails - all featuring one of the meads distilled right there in the Meadery!

Mine was the one on the right - a Wild Sweet Annie, made with Wild Ohio mead, whiskey and ginger liqueur. It was delicious!

After drinks, we went to a sushi party hosted by some of Matt and Ashley's friends. I had never made my own sushi before, so I was very excited. And overwhelmed a little, if this photo is any proof.

Possibly too much - eel, avocado, mango, chives and tuna.
But how do you know when to stop?!

Looking a little frizzy and hot,
but pleased with my monster roll, topped with
masago, crab and sriracha mayo!
Matt and Ash were pros and knew that less is more when it comes to rolling sushi.

So I took their advice on my second roll and found they were right!

A simpler approach with salmon, cream cheese and avocado,
topped with masago and sriracha mayo on the side.
The sushi party was a blast! I'm pretty sure it will be coming to Cincinnati soon. ;)

Sunday we went to church, then picnicked in the Columbus Commons, a park right downtown. We cooled down at Jeni's, where I got a small serving of pistachio honey ice cream with hot fudge on top. I dream of Jeni's pistachio honey ice cream with hot fudge on top. It is the only ice cream I love. Love, love.

Then a small nap again (isn't it interesting that when the baby goes down for a nap, suddenly the whole house is tired?), some more iced coffee and it was time to hit the road! 

And, how nice to bookend my trip with another stop along the highway! This time I didn't miss the severe thunderstorm that brought me to a parked position on the side of the highway for about a half hour while my car was pummeled with rain and hail and winds that rocked it to and fro.

And obviously I lived to tell the tale :)

What did you do this weekend?