Just thinking...

About trying to finish a week's worth of Bible study in one and a half hours tonight.

About possibly becoming a Cooks Illustrated recipe tester.

About how it would feel to be walking along next to a man, with his arm around my shoulders and mine around his waist. Talking close, smiling.

About rappelling down glacier crevasses.

About moving somewhere completely different - Washington, Virginia, Maine, North Carolina...

About trying to eat all the food in my fridge before it goes bad.

About buying expensive holiday airfare to Houston.

About the fantastic weekend I just had, complete with so many people I love, so much sushi and bottles and bottles of wine.

What are you thinking about?


The Meal Plan

So, I’ve been going to Hyde Park Body Boutique for a boot camp class three days a week. It’s been really fun to challenge myself and work up a sweat. Ha! It feels so strange to say that. But alas, it’s true.

Part of the boot camp is the meal plan that the owner puts out every week. I’ve been hesitant to try it, I suppose because I think it will lock me in to something. Like, what if I don’t want to eat what the plan says to eat on that particular day? Wouldn’t that just be the worst thing in the world if I had to eat something that I really didn’t want? Ok….not.

The other day I decided to try it out – for breakfast and lunch – because I figured it would help me get more out of the boot camp classes and it would also solve those panicked, “what do I pack for lunch??” weekday mornings.

So here’s what I alternated with this week:

Breakfast One was a strawberry mango smoothie. I took these things:

1 cup skim milk
2 Tbs natural peanut butter
1/2 cup fresh strawberries
1/2 cup frozen mango chunks

And blended them up and drank them down.

While sipping on that little power-packed breakfast, I assembled everything else for the workday.

From this mess, I got around a morning snack of six celery sticks and hummus and a chocolate chip granola bar.

Lunch was one large romaine lettuce leaf with two slices of turkey breast rolled up into it, six carrot sticks and more hummus. And a pear.

Afternoon snack is two brown rice cakes, 1 Tbs of natural peanut butter and two Tbs of raisins.

Here it all is, packaged up and ready to go.

Can you believe that all fit in my lunch bag?

It did!

For Breakfast Two it was 1 cup of Kashi cereal, 1 cup of skim milk, some fresh strawberries (it was supposed to be a small banana, but I ran out) and 2 Tbs. of sliced almonds.

This was a really good breakfast, if I may say so.

The morning snack for consisted of 13 Kashi crackers, 2 Tbs of natural peanut butter and an apple.

Lunch was a spicy black bean burger in a pita pocket with 1 tsp of Dijon mustard and a salad of romaine lettuce, diced red bell pepper and 1/4 cup of avocado.

Afternoon snack was hummus, sliced red bell pepper and 1 cup of strawberries.

Will it fit?


I’m still kind of undecided if I’ll continue with the other weeks of the plan, or if I’ll add in the dinners, too. I’d like to say yes at least to the breakfasts and lunches. Hmm…Ok. I think I will!

Have you ever tried a meal plan before?


August's Back-to-School Birchbox

Shall we dive into the ol' Birchbox? I think we should.

First, I got this sample of SHU UEMURA Art of Hair Cleansing Oil Shampoo. I haven't tried this yet...but. It sounds so interesting! It's an oil that works up into a foam and binds with grease and product build up to cleanse hair without leaving it stripped of natural oils, which is important because I need all the natural oils I can get on my crazy-dry head.

This sample of FusionBeauty LashFusion XL mascara was pretty timely. I'm running low on my favorite, Sephora Lash Plumper, and was thinking about how much I didn't want to run to the mall just to get a tube. (WHEN will there be a Sephora in Rookwood?! It seems like a no-brainer. I'll even take an Ulta if I have to, though that won't help my mascara sitch.) However. I don't feel like I get nearly the same coverage with it as I do with my Sephora brand. It takes at least two extra coats to make it look like I've got something on. It goes on very smoothly though and it's supposed to nourish my eyelashes, which is nice. I'll use it til it's gone, but after that, back to the mall.

I also received a sample of Juicy Couture Viva La Juicy La Fleur perfume. Sad days, guys. I don't like this at all. It's sticky-sweet and smells like a Smartie. Ew. I loved the Juicy Couture Viva La Juicy sample I got in my January box - I even got compliments from some guys. But this "fresh update" on that scent is not good, at least not for me.

Another timely Birchbox item is this Schick Hydro Silk Razor. 

I've been a Venus user for years. YEARS. I'm pretty sure my mom and I both got a Venus razor when they first came out. I was in high school. Obviously I've gotten new blades since then, but I've stuck with the classic Venus for 11 years. So...you know...I've been wondering lately what else is out there. I tried the Hydro Silk out this morning and it worked really well. Until I cut myself! That seems like bad luck for a razor that's supposed to "work with my leg's natural curves to make shaving tricky spots like my knees and ankles a breeze."

It's a little cut. But still. 
Last, I got a little sample tube of Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream. This is a top-selling Japanese product for smoothing rough elbows and feet, chapped lips and hands, and even patches of eczema. 

I just so happen to have a little patch of eczema on my eyelid, so I've been trying it out. It works pretty darn well. There's a camphor scent when I first put it on that goes away, and it's slightly yellow before it absorbs, but the scaly patch on my eyelid stays gone for most of the day!

This isn't a great pic, but you can see the a little
of the scaliness in the inside corner.
This is the next morning. No scales!
Also, that's the mascara mentioned above
after, like, three coats.
Included in the box was a little "Back-to-Beauty-School" booklet about how to shave your legs, streamline your morning routine, read product labels, etc. It was semi-informative.

So that was my August Birchbox. A mixed bag that left me a little bit disappointed - but only because my last two boxes were so awesome! Also, sorry for the blood and scaly skin pictures.

If you want to get your own Birchbox, click on this link https://www.birchbox.com?raf=6tm7o. I'll get some points in the Birchbox store and you'll get deluxe beauty samples sent to your door (I made a little rhyme...doot de do)!


The Great Pantry Pick-Up

Last night after I came home from the grocery store and put everything away, I went to the couch to enjoy some Olympics. But something...something...had me feeling unsettled. I couldn't figure it out until I went back into the kitchen, opened the pantry and saw this:

Everything was everywhere! Barely any organization, I had no idea what was in the back of those shelves, a clothes drying rack was obstructing my drawers and rendering them useless.... It was a mess. Plus, I had seen this photo earlier in the day on Pinterest and was really, really jonesing for a giant pantry where everything's stored in one layer on shallow shelves.


As much as I wanted to relax on the couch, I knew this had to be done. I had to organize, sort and get rid of some stuff. It was 10 p.m., so I challenged myself to be done by 11.

First, I pulled everything out, shelf by shelf, and looked at expiration dates and quantities, getting rid of things that were expired, writing down things I was getting low on. That way I'd know to stock up the next time I went to the store.

I grouped things together in categories that made sense to me. Above you can see I've got vinegars, oils and other saucy things; canned goods; snacks; and unopened replacement stuff. Other categories I came up with: baking supplies, cereal; coffee and tea; pastas, rice and other starchy things; straws, foil, etc.

Some things had not much left in the container, so I downsized.

Other things, I combined.

I wiped down any sticky places and then envisioned everything I had back on the shelves, considering what would work and what wouldn't. I have enough baking supplies to fit on one shelf. My cereal boxes took up a lot of room - could I somehow store them below the shelves? Why do I have so much tea??

Then, I started placing things back in the pantry. The top would still house the straws, foil, etc. and the coffee and tea. In between them, I'd put the starches - I don't use them too often and have a small enough amount that they would fit in that space.

The second shelf would be the bottle shelf - all my vinegars, oils and stuff that makes sauces and whatnot. Plus canned goods and any replacement items for things I'm running low on.

The next shelf became the baking shelf.

And the bottom shelf would hold my spices, breads and snacky things. I wish I had a fancier and easier way of storing my spices so they were easily identifiable. But this is what I've got.

I moved the brown paper sacks I use for recycling off to the side of my storage drawers and moved the paper towels off it, too. The cereal went next to the crock pot. And I spruced up the insides of the drawers. Oh and that drying rack went down to the storage unit in the basement. I only use it when I do certain loads of laundry (which is also in the basement), so I can just pull it out when needed.

Ta-daaa! Done by 10:40 p.m.!

How often do you clean out your pantry? Any pantry organizing tips to share? 


Gazpacho In a Pinch

Do you ever have those moments when you're in the kitchen, wondering what in the world you could possibly make for a passable dinner, when your eye falls on a container of pesto/a box of quinoa/a jar of marshmallow fluff/whatever, and suddenly...you know?

This week it was a tomato for me. I'm not a tomato fan at all, but someone left a home-grown one at my house after a weekend cookout. It was just sitting there, and I thought, "I should use this." Then I remembered the bell peppers, the red onion, the herbs on the porch and before I knew it I was throwing things in the food processor and making gazpacho like a crazy person.

I did not make traditional gazpacho by any stretch; I paused in my frenzy to check a few cookbooks for the actual recipe, so I didn't get too off base. Some called for anchovy paste, among other things, that I definitely did not have. Most called for cucumber, and though I didn't have that, I figured zucchini would do in a pinch. So onward I went until I had trashed my kitchen, and made a pretty darn good gazpacho with just things I had in the fridge/pantry!

All these photos were taken after the fact because I didn't even know what I was doing most of the time - it was just a haze of processing, adding, tasting, adding some more. But I'll try to give you the best outline I can and hopefully you can make some delicious, cold, refreshing gazpacho yourself soon!

I have no pictures of the tomato, but I promise that I used one. It was red, fairly large and I used the whole thing. I sliced it and then added it to the food processor.

Then I sliced up a zucchini and added it, peel and all.

Next I used a few slices each of red, yellow, and orange bell peppers. I'd say about 3/4 of a whole pepper total. My guess is that using the yellow and orange is what gave my gazpacho a very light color. But it was still super tasty.

Half a red onion, roughly chopped.

I processed everything together until it was all fine and combined. At this point things were not very soup-like, so poured in some water until I got a good consistency.

Gazpacho is basically a cold, all-vegetable soup with delicious fresh flavors being the star of the show. So to really make it shine, I went to my "herb garden" on the porch and tore off a handful of basil, oregano and parsley and added that to the processor.

Then I started just adding things and tasting as I went along. One cookbook I checked said to use white wine vinegar, another said red, so I used both! Obviously I used garlic. I love garlic. The sea salt and black pepper were also a must. But the thing that makes it is the olive oil. I drizzled that a couple times into the food processor until things tasted just right.

I poured myself a bowl and added a few ice cubes to make it colder and then separated the rest into four other bowls - the perfect size for work lunches!

And it's as tasty as my kitchen is messy.

Have you had any recent kitchen successes?


Reviewing The Kitchen God's Wife

I read Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club a few years ago and loved it, so I figured this would be similar at least in pace and style. And I was right - Tan spends lots of time with back-story and character development, and while those things don't necessarily make for a read-until-your-eyes-are-falling-out story, the book was still enjoyable for the most part.

The set-up is similar, too: Winnie's and her grown daughter's relationship is strained, most likely from the fact that they're keeping secrets from each other. Winnie spends most of the book recounting her life in China to her daughter Pearl, who was born in the States. There is horror, heartbreak, etc. After hearing the story, Pearl eventually tells her mother her own secret.

In this book, the big secret-reveal is kind of anti-climactic - not really providing that "Ah! Now I understand!" moment that makes everything that I just read seem worth it. Plus, it's difficult to believe that a daughter wouldn't know some of these details from her mother's younger years. Wouldn't she have asked at some point in her life what it was like living in China? Maybe she did and Winnie was too ashamed, hurt, proud, whatever to tell her. Tan gives such a small amount of the book to their relationship with each other (and hardly any to Pearl), so I'll never know. Also, the title of the book has little to do with the over-arching theme, I felt. I kept waiting for that legend to come back into play and it never really did.

Winnie's story of survival in China during WWII is compelling - full of adversity and its fair share of tears. I was interested in her story and that kept me reading. And that's about all I can say. So three stars. If you want to read Amy Tan, I suggest skipping this one and reading The Joy Luck Club.

So what are you reading? Anything good?