Saturday, January 31, 2015

Playlist: January 2015

I was originally planning to make this post yesterday, but since I didn't schedule it ahead of time and I was too tired to work on it after my yoga class, it just never happened.  So I'm once again posting on the weekend (something I really don't like doing) to make sure I get my January 2015 playlist up before it's time to flip the calendar page to February.

Since I shared this post earlier in the month, I decided to focus on songs that inspire me for January's playlist.  Since there are literally thousands of songs I could include on a playlist with this theme, I've decided to narrow it down by sharing only a select few that have either been instrumental in my creative writing projects or have simply been playing on repeat for the past month or so, serving as background music for blogging or brainstorming ideas.

I realize that #16 doesn't match the song listed on the actual Spotify playlist.  This is an error on Spotify's part.  This song is actually a cover Alexisonfire did of the Moneen song "Tonite, I'm Gone" (hence the Spotify name).  The silly title is just a reference to one of the members in Moneen (his nickname is "Hippy").  And now it becomes more apparent just how much useless musical trivia I know.

As you can probably tell from this list, I pulled inspirational songs from various stages in my life (though, to be fair, I still listen to all of these bands/artists on a regular basis).  Like I said earlier, this is in no way a complete list of songs that influence my writing ... But it at least gives you an idea of what I might put on if I'm feeling uninspired.

One last thing before I share my playlist: I broke down and made a new Spotify account specifically for my blog.  I didn't really want to do this, but it seemed like the best option.  You may recall from my last playlist post that Grooveshark had been randomly deleting some of the songs on my playlists, which was incredibly annoying.  I was considering giving Grooveshark another chance this month, but when I logged into my account to see that a few of my playlists had been altered yet again, I was like, "Fuck it, I'm going with Spotify."  Spotify has always been reliable, and that's really the most important thing to me right now.

So, without further ado, here is this month's playlist.  Hopefully those reading this will find inspiration in at least some of these songs as well!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Zesty One Pot Lemon Chicken Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Artichokes

I feel like I haven't shared a pasta recipe on my blog in a really long time, which is insane considering how much I love pasta.  When I say love, I mean love ... I could literally eat it every day for the rest of my life and be happy.

One of the main reasons I love pasta so much is the fact that you can pair almost anything with it and it will taste amazing ... And the stuff added to the pasta dish I'm sharing today is no exception.

This is another "one pot wonder" that's perfect for hectic weeknights.  Though, if I'm being honest, I didn't have high hopes when I stumbled across the original recipe.  It didn't sound bad or anything, but I made something kind of similar several months ago, and it was just "meh."  Not bad, but not good.  (Hence why it hasn't made an appearance on the blog.)

I'm so glad I decided to try it anyway, though, because it was awesome!  Out of all of the dishes I've made recently, this is one of my absolute favorites.  And even though Eric isn't quite the pasta lover I am, this got his stamp of approval as well ... So it's definitely a keeper!

My only issue with this dish is that it doesn't photograph that well.  That's what I get for using wheat pasta, I guess ... Everything looks brown.

Zesty One Pot Lemon Chicken Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Artichokes

Adapted from a recipe on Yellow Bliss Road.

Ingredient List:
  • 1 box short pasta (I used whole wheat rotini.)
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced (I didn't use sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil for this, but you probably could as long as all of the oil is drained from the tomatoes you're adding to the meal.)
  • 1 6.5 oz. jar marinated quartered artichoke hearts, drained of all liquid
  • 2 lemons (You could reduce this to 1 lemon if you want the sauce a little less tangy/zesty.)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 cloves garlic (or, if you're lazy like me, the equivalent of jarred, pre-minced garlic)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp sea salt, divided
  • 2 tsp black pepper, divided
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Cheesy and tangy with a little kick ... This meal is awesome!


1.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds (or until fragrant).

2.  Add the cubed chicken, onion powder, oregano, 1 tsp sea salt, and 1 tsp black pepper to the skillet.  Turn the heat up slightly to medium high and cook the meat until browned.

3.  Add the uncooked pasta, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, basil, crushed red pepper flakes, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp black pepper, chicken broth, water, and white wine.  Stir to combine, then squeeze in the juice from the lemons.

4.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often.

5.  Turn the heat down to medium high and allow the mixture to cook uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 7-9 minutes).  (Make sure you continue to stir regularly!)

6.  Once the liquid has evaporated and the pasta has completely cooked through, turn the heat to low and add the mozzarella cheese and 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese.  Stir well to blend the cheeses into the sauce.

7.  Remove the skillet from heat, and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese over the top.  Cover and allow to sit until the cheese has melted.

As you can see from the second picture, I served this dish with a simple green salad and a glass of white wine.  (I highly recommend pairing it with white wine because it really brings out the tangy flavor of the sauce!)

As I said earlier, I'm so glad I decided to try this.  The original recipe kept popping up on Pinterest every time I searched for one pot meals, and after about the 100th time I saw it, I figured I might as well give it a try.  I feel like with the changes I made, it turned into the perfect quick and easy pasta dinner for us.  I can't wait to make it again!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Where I Find Inspiration

Sometimes I sit down to update my blog without a specific post idea in mind.  While I do have a few ideas floating around in my head right now, I wasn't really in the mood to write about any of those topics today.  As I was searching for inspiration, I started thinking about inspiration itself ... The things that inspire me to write, both in my blog and creatively.

Image provided by Unsplash ( and edited by me.

Music is definitely my number one source of inspiration when it comes to writing.  While it can inspire some of my posts (like my monthly playlists or this post about the way Elliott Smith's music can bring back so many memories for me), I typically rely on music more when I'm writing creatively.

If I'm working on a short story or novel (something I really need to start focusing on more!), I usually try to come up with a soundtrack for what I'm writing.  It really helps me stay focused on the plot, characters, and overall feel of the story (plus I'm a nerd who thinks it's fun to put a soundtrack playlist together).

If I'm writing poetry, some of my go-to artists are Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes, Tori Amos, and Fiona Apple.  That's not to say I don't listen to anything else if I'm in the mood to write poetry, but these artists consistently have the best lyrics (at least in my opinion) so I can't help but feel inspired to write something when I listen to them.  It's actually kind of interesting when I look back on my old poems because many of them were so clearly influenced by these musicians.

As for blogging (or writing in a personal journal, for that matter), if I'm using music for inspiration, I do one of two things.  I either spend a lot of time listening to music that I completely relate to in that moment (or that accurately describes the feelings I had during the time period I'm writing about if I'm sharing a story from my past), or I just listen to whatever I'm currently obsessed with.  I tend to go through phases when it comes to music, so while there are a lot of bands and artists I really like, I might spend a month (or more) pretty much only listening to one or two artists or albums.  I also go through periods of only wanting to hear specific songs, so I just play them over and over and over.  It's a sickness.

A lot of the time, though, my main inspiration for blog posts comes from other blogs.  Sometimes a blogger I follow writes a really interesting or funny or thought provoking post that inspires me to share my own opinions or experiences on a similar topic.  (Or, you know, it at least ends up in my "Ideas" folder to be resurrected at a later date.)  And, though it's common sense, I feel the need to point out that I never steal post ideas or content from other bloggers.  People obviously put real time and effort into creating content for their blogs, and I know I would feel horrible if someone just copied and pasted something I'd shared here without even bothering to link back to the original post.  What I'm talking about is reading something that sparks something in my brain ... Something that motivates me to sit down in front of my computer and at least start typing out a few new drafts.  Sometimes it doesn't lead to anything substantial.  Other times, though, I end up with something I can actually be proud of.

These aren't my only sources of inspiration, of course, but this at least gives you a glimpse into some major influences on my writing (and blogging).  If anyone reading this feels like sharing, what are some of your main sources of inspiration?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: One Pot Turkey Kielbasa Dirty Rice

On a weeknight, there's really nothing better than a quick, simple meal.  This is especially true after a busy day at work and/or on an evening when Eric and I go to the gym.  We usually get home kind of late on those nights, and the last thing we feel like doing after a particularly tough workout is making some elaborate, time-consuming dinner.

That's where today's recipe comes in.  Not only is it quick and simple, it's also flavorful, somewhat healthy, and, best of all, it's a one pot meal.  Every time I scour Pinterest for some new ideas, I'm always sucked in by all of the "one pot wonders."  Sometimes they're complete duds, but sometimes they actually turn out really well.

I'm happy to say that this is one of those "one pot wonders" that actually turned out really well.

This is such a simple meal, but it's packed with tons of flavor (and protein!).

One Pot Turkey Kielbasa Dirty Rice

Adapted ever so slightly from a recipe on Oven Love.

Ingredient List:
  • 14 oz. smoked turkey kielbasa, sliced
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15 oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups uncooked long grain white rice
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3 3/4 cups water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp garlic salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (this amount will make the dish pretty spicy, so use less if you want less of a kick)
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme


1.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the diced onion and green bell pepper and cook until tender (approximately 5 minutes).

2.  Add the sliced sausage to the skillet and cook with the onion and pepper for 5-7 minutes, or until the sausage starts to brown.

3.  Add the red kidney beans and cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring a couple of times to mix everything together.

4.  Pour in the uncooked rice, chicken broth, and water.  Stir to combine, making sure that everything in the skillet is covered by the liquid.

5.  Add the garlic salt, black pepper, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, oregano, and thyme.  Again, stir a couple of times to ensure everything is mixed together.

6.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to medium low.

7.  Simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked and the liquid has evaporated.

I know this isn't a "true" dirty rice (I looked it up out of curiosity, and, in addition to many of the ingredients listed here, dirty rice typically includes celery, pork sausage, and chopped chicken livers), but I thought it was the best name for this dish since it contains a lot of the flavors of a typical Cajun dirty rice (minus the aforementioned ingredients, of course).

No matter what you decide to call it, this is a delicious, flavorful meal that requires minimal work and minimal cleanup.  It's definitely being added into our regular weeknight meal rotation!

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Random Things That Run Through My Mind ...

My brain didn't want to work today, so I decided to recycle a post from my old blog.  (No one but Eric ever read it anyway, so it's practically the same as coming up with a completely new idea.)

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post about random thoughts that cross my mind a lot.  As I was rereading this post, I realized that it's still completely applicable ... And that's why I decided to post it here (with a few minor edits).

I decided to post this really awkward picture of myself because I didn't know what else I should use for a post like this.

1.  Random song lyrics.  I almost always have a song in my head.  Sometimes the same song will be stuck with me for days on end, while other times I'll go from one song to another to another to another in a matter of minutes.  I used to think that it was normal to always have a song stuck in your head, but apparently that isn't true ... Eric once told me he almost never gets songs stuck in his head.  Weird.

2.  My ongoing to do list.  It seems like I always have tons of things to do (whether I want to do them or not).  Sometimes it's something I actually do enjoy (like updating my blog or going to a yoga class), but a lot of the time it's something tedious (like cleaning or laundry).  Whatever the case, I always mentally run through my daily (or weekly) to do list multiple times to ensure I don't forget anything.

3.  Worries.  I'm crazy when it comes to worrying about random shit.  It doesn't matter what it is ... If there's a 0.0001% chance a bad thing will happen, I will worry about that bad thing.  It's pretty ridiculous.

4.  Specific people and moments in time.  I don't know if this is "normal" or not, but I replay certain moments (which obviously involve certain people) in my mind like it's an ongoing movie.  Sometimes these are happy memories, but sometimes they're not.  I wouldn't say I constantly dwell on any specific moment(s), but sometimes something triggers a memory (like hearing a particular song or realizing it's an old friend's birthday) ... And then I continue thinking about it for a while.

5.  Writing ideas.  I always have tons of plot ideas floating through my head.  Unfortunately, I typically get these ideas at inconvenient times (like when I'm driving, working, etc.) and don't always have the time (or remember!) to write them down later.  If I do happen to get the idea written down, I then spend a lot of time agonizing over every detail.  (This perfectionism is one of the main reasons I rarely finish any of my creative writing projects.  The other main reason is that I'll get a major case of writer's block and/or just not really know where I want the story to go.)

6.  Sex.  Yeah, I said it.  I'm a woman and I regularly think about sex.  I know, I know ... Shocking!

7.  The future.  This is actually less about worries, and more about what I picture for myself in 5 years, 10 years, etc.  It's usually kind of scary (I mean, most of those pictures include a kid), but it's also kind of fun to think about the way I want my life to be in the future.

So there you have it ... 7 random things that run through my mind on a regular basis.  If anyone reading this feels like commenting, what random things do you regularly think about?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

From the Bookshelf: Recently Read - January 2015 Edition

I can't believe I'm posting on the weekend again.  This isn't something I often do, but in today's case, I wanted to make sure I was able to get something posted in time to participate in this link-up.

I'm not going to discuss what I read in December because, well, I didn't read anything.  (Side note: When Eric saw what I was writing about, he said, "You should write 'Today I'm going to discuss what I read in December,' and then just leave the rest of the post blank.  Wouldn't that be funny?  That would be funny.")  While that probably would be funny, I'm going to share my thoughts on the two books I've read so far this month instead.


The End of Everything by Megan Abbott - 246 pages

Completed on 01/05/2015 - Read more reviews on Goodreads

I'll start by saying that, as with many things I read, this book is definitely not for everyone.  The subject matter is dark (a 13-year-old girl is abducted in broad daylight by a much older man, leaving her best friend to try to piece together what happened and why), and, though beautifully written, it's a disturbing work of fiction.  This is precisely why I loved this book so much (though it's also why it has so many mixed reviews on sites like Goodreads).

When I started reading The End of Everything, I was immediately hooked.  Much of the imagery is dreamy and disjointed (if you've ever seen The Virgin Suicides you'll know exactly what I mean) because the narrator, Lizzie, recounts the events from her point of view.  And, like many 13-year-old girls, she's a dreamer who completely romanticizes the situation and relishes in the newfound attention she receives as the best friend of the missing girl.

Although much was revealed, the ending was still a bit ambiguous and at least one assumption I made proved incorrect (well, according to one of the characters who may or may not have been telling the truth).  I know these kinds of things can sometimes make or break a book for people, but I'm one of those weirdos who actually appreciates a bit of ambiguity in a novel ... I like to draw my own conclusions.

I really wanted to start the year with a great book that would reignite my passion for reading, and The End of Everything definitely did that for me.  It was everything I'd hoped it would be, and, as an added bonus, it also gave me some much needed inspiration for a creative writing project I started a couple of years ago.  I set it aside because I wasn't really sure what (if anything) I wanted to do with it, but now I'm starting to get some ideas.


The Dinner by Herman Koch - 292 pages

Completed on 01/14/2015 - Read more reviews on Goodreads

I usually try to go into books like this with as little knowledge about the plot as possible.  While The Dinner isn't a mystery, it's the kind of novel that starts slow and builds to some shocking revelations ... The kind of novel where, once you're deep into the story, everything you thought you knew about the characters is completely flipped.

I didn't really know what to expect going into this book, and I'm really glad I approached it this way.  The inside flap states that the two couples meeting for dinner each have a 15-year-old son and that "the two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act."  As someone who reads a lot of "shocking" and "disturbing" books, I didn't expect to have the reaction I did when the author describes that act.  It was much, much darker than I expected, and it definitely made the book much more interesting.

That being said, parts of the novel were kind of slow.  I appreciated the descriptions and the fact that the author took his time revealing information about the narrator and his family, but there were a few times in the beginning of the book when I thought, "Oh my God, is this book ever going to get more interesting?"  I think the payoff was worth the wait, though.

This is another novel with a somewhat ambiguous ending.  As with The End of Everything, some things were disclosed while readers were left to draw their own conclusions about others.  A friend of mine from work read this book last year and told me that she really didn't like the ending, but I did.  It won't leave you warm and fuzzy, but it will make you think and question the way you would handle things if you were involved in this type of situation.

I really enjoyed both of these novels, and I'm really proud of myself for staying on track with my reading goals this year.  (I know it's only mid-January, but I can still be excited since I was in such a reading rut last year.)  I've almost finished my third book of 2015 as well, so if I continue reading at this pace, I should have several to write about when this link-up rolls around again next month!

Life According to Steph

Friday, January 16, 2015

Got Bitten Fingernails And A Head Full Of The Past

I was inspired after reading this post from Life According to Steph, but it took me a while to figure out exactly what I wanted to say on this topic.

I've been listening to Elliott Smith almost exclusively for the last week or so.  I've mentioned before that his music means a lot to me, and I can honestly say that it helped me get through some of the worst times in my life.  Sometimes you just need to be reminded that someone else has felt those same things ... That someone else understands you.

This seemed like a fitting picture (and lyric) for this post.  Image provided by and edited by me.

At times, though, his music transports me back to a time in my life that I'd rather not relive.  It's weird because sometimes I want to remember those moments so I can feel good about how far I've come.  Sometimes, however, those memories are just too soul crushing to deal with.

And then there are the good memories, those flashes of happiness that creep up when you least expect them.  While many people welcome good memories, I'm not always thrilled when they enter my mind.

8 years ago I wrote something that I still feel is applicable today, and, despite any reservations I may have about posting this, I'm going to share it because I think it will help explain my feelings regarding happy memories:

"One thing I've realized, though, is that sometimes good memories make me feel worse than bad ones.  This is due to the fact that a good memory is this intangible thing that can never be recreated ... You experience it firsthand only once, and after that you can never have that exact feeling again.  I'll remember everything about that moment in time, from the way things looked to the way they smelled to the way I felt ... But I can never relive that exact moment (or chunk of time in some cases) again.  All I have is the memory ... And sometimes that's not enough."

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Sausage, Onion, Pepper, and Tomato Frittata

If you've read any of my recent posts, you've probably seen this one, which is basically a summary of all the delicious (and usually fattening) food Eric and I consumed at various points between Christmas and New Year's Day.  If you read that post, you probably remember this picture of the brunch we made for ourselves on New Year's Day:

This picture really makes me want a mimosa.

Today I want to share the recipe for the frittata we made that morning.

Frittatas are awesome because they're relatively inexpensive to make and easy to throw together.  They're also incredibly versatile ... If the ingredients we used don't sound good to you, you can always use this recipe as a basic guideline and add whatever you like.

I'm still not an expert at making things look pretty, but this didn't look too bad.  I'm sure I'll get better one day.

Sausage, Onion, Pepper, and Tomato Frittata

Adapted from a recipe on Skinnytaste.

Ingredient List:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 large eggs
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup white onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 2 large sausage links, casings removed (I used chicken sausage with spinach and feta, and it was delicious)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar Jack cheese
  • 1 tomato, sliced into rings
  • 2 tsp sea salt, divided
  • 2 tsp black pepper, divided
  • Fresh avocado for serving (optional)

The contents of my skillet prior to adding the egg and cheese mixture.


1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Heat the olive oil in a 10 inch skillet.  Crumble the sausage into the warm skillet and cook until browned.

3.  Add the diced white onion, red bell pepper, and yellow bell pepper.  Cook until the vegetables have slightly softened.

4.  While the vegetables and sausage are cooking, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, cheese, 1 tsp sea salt, and 1 tsp black pepper in a medium bowl.

5.  Once the vegetables and sausage have finished cooking, pour the egg and cheese mixture into the skillet.  Be sure to cover all of the vegetables and sausage!  (You may have to tilt your skillet a bit to make sure everything is completely covered.  If you don't have to do this, you're probably better at pouring things evenly than I am.)

6.  Place the sliced tomatoes in a circular pattern across the top and season with the remaining sea salt and black pepper (1 tsp each).

7.  When the edges begin to set, move the skillet into the oven.  (This should only take about 2 minutes or so, so make sure you keep an eye on it after you've added the eggs and tomatoes!)

8.  Bake the frittata for 15-18 minutes, or until completely cooked through.

9.  Top with fresh avocado, if desired.

We cut our frittata into 4 pieces, but you could cut smaller pieces if you want.  It reheats surprisingly well, so don't be concerned if you have leftovers!

I would like to note that we bought the eggs used in the frittata at Whole Foods.  They were cage free brown eggs, and although they were a little more expensive, I'd highly recommend using them for a frittata recipe.  Eric and I made a frittata about a month or so ago (our first time making one) with regular white eggs and it wasn't as good as this one.  Yes, it could be due to inexperience on our part, but the eggs just didn't get as fluffy or taste as fresh.  (I didn't even share that recipe here because the pictures were kind of awful.)  After making this, we determined that we'll only use cage free brown eggs in future frittata recipes.

(And no, this isn't a sponsored post ... But if someone from Whole Foods wants to send me free shit, please feel free.  I love that place and will happily sing its praises on this blog!)

Monday, January 12, 2015

5 Reasons to Stick with Your "Practice Yoga" New Year's Resolution This Year

I've read a lot of New Year's resolutions posts on various blogs over the last couple of weeks, and I've noticed that a lot of people (myself included) had "practice yoga" somewhere on that list.

I'm not going to claim that I'm a yoga expert (I'm not at all), but as someone who has been taking classes regularly for almost a year now, I feel like I'm at least qualified to explain why I think it's so great and why this is one resolution you should really try to stick with.

I briefly considered asking Eric to take a few pictures of me in various yoga poses for this post, but decided against it.  Maybe one day I won't feel stupid doing something like that, but today is just not that day.  Image provided by Unsplash ( and edited by me.

1.  The poses can be easily modified.  All good instructors will urge you to listen to your body and choose the level of difficulty that's right for you that day.  And it really can vary from class to class (especially if you also lift weights, run, etc.).  Modifications are also great for beginners.  There were certain things I didn't feel comfortable trying when I first started practicing yoga that I can easily do now.  It really just takes time and practice (and knowing what your body can handle).  I've regained a lot of strength and flexibility I once had (I used take dance and gymnastics classes when I was younger), but it didn't happen overnight.

2.  It's not competitive.  The point of yoga isn't to be "the best" ... The point is to be "your best."  I'm a pretty competitive person in general, but I've never been an amazing athlete.  Knowing that I can go to a yoga class and work on bettering myself without the fear of being judged is awesome.

3.  It can improve your concentration.  I, like many other people my age, can easily get distracted.  Most of the time it's not a huge deal, but sometimes I just really want to finish something without interruptions.  Over the last few months, I've started to really notice a change in myself.  I can more easily stay focused on the task at hand and, if there are interruptions, I can settle back into my work without wasting a lot of time trying to figure out where I was.  It just seems to come more naturally these days, and it's something I can really appreciate.

4.  Yoga is a great way to rid yourself of some of your stress and anxiety.  The breathing alone is soothing, but I think everything kind of works together to rid your body of stress, anxiety, and muscle tension.  I always feel so light after class.  I don't really know how else to describe it ... It's as though I don't have a care in the world.  It's an amazing feeling!  I will also say that while I'm not completely stress and anxiety free, I've definitely noticed small differences in the way I feel in certain situations.  My stomach doesn't always tighten into a million tiny knots and my heart doesn't always race whenever I'm faced with something that would normally send me into a state of panic.  Yes, that still happens on occasion, but it's much less frequent than it used to be.

5.  It helps you clear your mind.  This is so important for me because I'm one of those people who just can't shut it all off.  I have a lot of trouble sleeping because my brain just won't stop going ... I basically just have to stay awake until I physically can't hold my eyes open any longer.  Since I started doing yoga, though, I've noticed that it's at least a little easier to get to sleep on the nights I go to class.  It could all be in my head, but if I've managed to successfully meditate in class (and by successfully, I mean that I was able to completely rid my mind of all thoughts for at least 5-10 minutes at the end of class), I can usually fall asleep at a decent hour and feel well rested the next morning.

There are so many benefits that come with practicing yoga ... These are just some of the things that immediately came to mind.

While I'd like to say that I love to exercise, that's only partially true.  I love the way I feel after a great workout, and I definitely love seeing results ... But sometimes it's a struggle to actually get myself to the gym.  When it comes to yoga classes, though, I actually want to go.  I look forward to the classes all day, which isn't something I can say about my BodyPump class or just going to the gym to walk/jog on the treadmill.  Yoga is both challenging and fun, and, while I know it probably isn't for everyone, I definitely think men and women of all ages can benefit from it.

If you don't believe me, I'll leave you with this: two of my instructors are between the ages of 55 and 60 and they're in amazing shape.  I find that incredibly inspiring.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Time to Focus and Complete: My January Goals

Image provided by Unsplash ( and edited by me.

I can't believe it ... I'm posting something on a Saturday.

I planned to share my January personal challenge goals yesterday, but near the end of my yoga class I got a migraine from hell ... So that didn't happen.  (I honestly don't even know how I managed to finish the class since I was completely dizzy and nauseous.  It was horrible.)  If you've never had a migraine, you're lucky.  I get them fairly often, but last night's was particularly nasty.  As soon as we got home from the gym, I took a couple of pills and laid in the dark on the living room floor with a pillow and blanket and slept for about 5 hours.  Thankfully my headache was gone when I woke up, but I wasn't really in the mood to update my blog at 1:00 a.m. so I just ate a bowl of cereal (I didn't eat dinner), got ready for bed, and then read until 3:30 a.m.

Today, though, I'm ready to talk about my goals for January.  As I mentioned on Thursday, the theme this month is "complete."  As I also mentioned, I sometimes find it difficult to follow through on personal projects.  I'm hoping this month's challenge is the kick in the ass I need to actually complete a few things!

My January 2015 Goals:

1.  In my New Year's resolutions post, I talked about my desire to read 50 books this year.  So far I've finished one book and am more than halfway through a second, so I'm definitely on track.  (Though it's only day 10 of the new year, so there's still time for me to get behind.)  I decided that it might be beneficial to make a list of books to focus on each month, and I think this has actually helped me so far.  I don't have to think about which book to read next for an entire month, and somehow that keeps me motivated to keep going.  My first goal, then, is to finish all 4 books on my January "to read" list.

Here is a lovely picture of my January books.  I really wanted to stack them in the order I'd be reading them, but size order just made more sense.  I've already finished The End of Everything, and I'm currently working on The Dinner.  The other books are actually rereads, so those should go pretty quickly.

2.  To go along with my first goal, I'd like to write a review for each book I read and feature it on this blog.  I'm already behind on this, but that's okay ... I'm sure I can catch up.  I know some of the bloggers I follow will occasionally have book related link-ups, so I'll probably try to participate in at least one of those as well.  (Maybe this is actually a separate goal, but I'd probably be linking my review posts so it seemed to belong here.)  I'll also probably be posting these reviews on Goodreads (I joined right before the new year).  If anyone reading this uses Goodreads, please feel free to send me a friend request (if that's what it's called on that site) ... I signed up using my blog email:

3.  I'd like to work on organizing my blog Pinterest account.  I still haven't done anything with it, and I'd really like to get it going.  My plan is to pin some images from my blog, but I'll also be using it to save other recipes, inspiration, etc.

4.  Finally, I want to rewrite my "About Me" page.  I'm actually a little worried that I won't be able to finish this by the end of the month despite the fact that it's the least time consuming goal on this list.  It's something that really needs to be done, though, so hopefully I can finally figure out what I want to say.

I realize that a lot of my January goals are basically repetitions of some of my New Year's resolutions, but if I actually want to be able to proudly say, "I achieved all of my goals for 2015!" at the end of this year, I need to start early.  And, luckily for me, several of those resolutions fit perfectly with this month's theme!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Monthly Personal Challenge Link-up: December Results

Not Entirely Perfect

I'm usually much more organized when it comes to writing up my monthly personal challenge results, but this time I completely forgot about it until I got home from work today.  This would normally be okay since I actually get home pretty early ... Today, however, Eric and I had dinner plans with one of my friends who was in town for work (and who we hadn't seen in over a year!).  So instead of working on a blog post, I decided to spend some time getting ready and then enjoyed my evening out.

After a great evening of laughing, crazy stories, and awesome Indian food, I've finally found the motivation to sit down and discuss the results of my December simplify challenge.

To be honest, it was pretty difficult to come up with a goal for December's challenge.  December is such a crazy month for most people (myself included), and sometimes you really just can't remove a bunch of shit from your calendar.  I felt like my goal for December was kind of lame, but it was really the only thing I could come up with.

In case you've forgotten (or you're new to this blog), my December "making things easier on myself" goal was to simply not send out any Christmas cards.  I just wasn't into it this year, and I really didn't have the time or energy to write the kind of heartfelt messages I like to include in my cards.

I'm pretty sure I don't have to tell you that this was one goal I had no trouble achieving.  And while I did feel a little sad that I didn't bother to send any cards out when we started receiving some from friends and family, I was mostly just relieved.  We spent a lot of time in 2013 writing cards and addressing envelopes (you know, the shit that comes with getting married like sending invitations and thank you cards), so it was really nice to not deal with any of that in 2014.

I was going to try to come up with my January personal challenge goals this evening, but it's getting late, I'm tired, and I have to be at work at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow.  So I'll have to come back to this tomorrow (and, just a warning, it will probably be another late post since I have a yoga class in the evening).  I will say, though, that I'm excited to come up with some ideas because the theme is "complete."  I often struggle with completing projects in my personal life (never in my professional life, though, thankfully!), so I think it will be fun to challenge myself.  I also think I'll actually feel a real sense of accomplishment if I can stick with these goals, so hopefully January is a successful month for me!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Browned Butter

As you may have seen yesterday, Eric and I made some pretty amazing food over the holidays.  And, while the holidays may be over, I believe it's never too late to share a great recipe.

When we were planning our Christmas meal, we tried to come up with a vegetable side dish that was out of the ordinary for us.  As a self-proclaimed foodie, I should probably be embarrassed by this, but I have to admit that Eric and I typically either have a salad (nothing fancy) or some Steamfresh frozen vegetables for a side dish ... So it wasn't that difficult to come up with something "special" for our holiday dinner.

That being said, I'm not sure where the idea to make Brussels sprouts initially came from.  I never really liked them that much (though, to be fair, I'd only had them steamed), and Eric had only eaten them once in his life.  But, for some reason, it just seemed like the perfect complement to the duck breasts we were already planning to make.

I spent some time searching online for the perfect Brussels sprouts recipe (as well as some general information on working with fresh Brussels sprouts), and I came across these caramelized Brussels sprouts with browned butter.

This recipe is unbelievably easy and unbelievably delicious.  I'm serious ... Even if you think you don't like Brussels sprouts, you should try this.  (And I say this as someone who usually hates them!)

I know I shared a few pictures of our Christmas dinner already, but here is a closeup of these delicious Brussels sprouts.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Browned Butter 

Adapted ever so slightly from a recipe on A Sweet Life.

Ingredient List:
  • 1 lb fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp sea salt, divided
  • 2 tsp black pepper, divided
  • 4 tbsp salted butter (We only had unsalted butter, so Eric salted the butter with approximately 1 1/2 tsp of sea salt as it was browning in the pan.)


1.  Fill a medium bowl with water and place the Brussels sprouts inside.  Allow them to soak for about 10 minutes.

2.  After the 10 minute soak, drain the Brussels sprouts and place them on a cutting board.  Remove any discolored or loose leaves.  Cut off the tough end of the stem, and then slice each sprout in half.

3.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.

4.  Lay the Brussels sprouts in the skillet in a single layer, cut side down.  Allow them to cook until browned (about 2-3 minutes).  (You'll want to stay close to the skillet while these cook because this goes pretty fast once you get started!)

5.  After the Brussels sprouts brown on the cut side, quickly flip them over (Eric used tongs to do this, but a spatula would also work well), cover the skillet, and allow the sprouts to cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes.  (Again, it's important to keep an eye on them so they don't burn!)

6.  Remove the Brussels sprouts from the skillet, and place them in a medium bowl.  Sprinkle them with 1 tsp sea salt and 1 tsp black pepper, and toss gently to combine.

7.  Add the butter to the hot pan, reduce the heat to medium, and let cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until browned and fragrant (if you're working with unsalted butter, remember to add some salt during this cook time).

8.  Drizzle the butter over the Brussels sprouts and add the remaining 1 tsp sea salt and 1 tsp black pepper.  Toss gently once more to combine.

Eric made this portion of our Christmas dinner, so these instructions came straight from him.  I think he did an amazing job with them, and I can guarantee we'll be adding this recipe to our regular rotation.  I'm so glad we finally have at least one side dish that's not just a salad or frozen vegetables!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Life Lately (Sorry, I Know That's Overdone, But Whatever)

We're already a few days into the new year, and I feel like I'm somehow already behind when it comes to posting on this blog.  I was going to share these pictures sooner, but then I decided to just enjoy my day off on New Year's ... And before I knew it, it was the end of the week and I'd written absolutely nothing.

So today I'll be sharing some pictures from the last couple of weeks.  These pictures are mostly of food because, let's be honest, Eric and I really love food ... But the upside to getting a post filled with a bunch of pictures of the food we've recently consumed (including some stuff we made ourselves!) is the knowledge that I'll be posting some delicious new recipes very soon.

I mentioned before that Eric and I were going to start a new Christmas tradition this year by making a special holiday meal.  I don't know how we managed to do it, but we worked together and successfully put together one of the best dinners we've ever made in this apartment.

This was so delicious, and I was so proud of it.  (Okay, I still am ... Why else would I post a bunch of pictures of it on this blog?)
A closer look at the feast!

Our Christmas dinner consisted of pan roasted duck breast with blackberry Merlot sauce, a classic green bean casserole, caramelized Brussels sprouts with brown butter, and sausage, apple, and sage homemade stuffing.  (Oh, and dinner rolls ... But we obviously didn't make those.)  This was an incredibly time consuming meal, but the end result was more than worth it.

Now that I've shown the finished product, it's time to show some "before" pictures.

First, a few random pictures of Eric and me before the cooking began:

Our little photoshoot clearly went downhill fast.  We went from normal and cute to goofy and weird to "sexy" (if you can call it that!) in our aprons.
Here I am showing off my new apron.  As you can probably tell, I bought it at a little gift shop in Paris.  As you can probably also tell, I'm not afraid to look like a complete dork.

And during the cooking process:

Just look at that concentration!

While I worked on the duck breasts and sauce, Eric used the pan on my right to make the caramelized Brussels sprouts and brown butter.  (It's too bad we didn't have another person over while we were cooking to take a picture of both of us working together.)

And, just for good measure, here are a couple of pictures of us enjoying our meal (as well as another angle of our plated meals that showcases our lovely casserole dishes):

Please ignore the mess featured in the background of my picture.  I didn't really think ahead, so I still had random laundry out on the loveseat from earlier in the day.  (I clearly like to take my time when it comes to putting my clothes away.)

We're not so great with the "yum-this-is-so-good" eating faces (as you can probably tell).  At least we have some time to perfect those faces before our next holiday meal!

As you can see, we made an effort to be at least kind of fancy and "proper" by eating our meal at the dining room table.  When it came to dessert, though, all bets were off.

I briefly considered making an elaborate dessert, but after determining that we'd be spending a good chunk of our day preparing our dinner, I decided it probably wasn't the right time to try my hand at baking.  Luckily for us, we hadn't eaten any of the wedding cake that had been sitting in our freezer since our wedding night.  Since we were going to be out of the country on our one year wedding anniversary, we decided to save the cake for a special occasion ... And what better time than Christmas day?

Our faces ... Wow.

If you're wondering how cake that's over a year old tastes, it wasn't great.  I mean, it wasn't bad ... But it wasn't great.  I thought we wrapped it pretty well when we got home on our wedding night, but I guess we could have done a better job.  Oh well.  It could have been worse, I guess.

And, since we weren't sure if the cake would even be edible, we got a backup dessert: a pint of Talenti gelato.  (At least that was delicious!)  Oh, and if you want to see just how classy we can be, here are some pictures of us scarfing down gelato on the couch:

As you can see, we really enjoyed the gelato.  (And yes, I know that picture of me is kind of weird and gross ... Oh well.  That's what you get when you try to take a selfie while eating something melty.

I'd call Christmas dinner a success.

After Christmas, our next big dinner was on New Year's Eve.  We started going out for dinner on New Year's Eve 3 years ago, but we didn't really plan ahead that first year, so we ended up at Spaghetti Works downtown.  The next year, we got our act together and made reservations at another restaurant in the Old Market, Vivace.  This year, we remembered to make reservations well in advance, and scheduled an 8:30 dinner at Mark's Bistro in Dundee.

This was our first time at Mark's, and it definitely didn't disappoint!  (Though it's a little disappointing that I can't count it toward my 12 new to us restaurants for 2015 since we didn't technically eat there in 2015.)  I loved the romantic, intimate atmosphere, and the food was wonderful!  We'll definitely be going back!

I couldn't seem to properly capture the bubbles in my sparkling wine, but you get the idea.  We each had 2 glasses of wine with our meal, and mine came in cute little bottles that actually gave me about 1.5 glasses each.  I call that a win!
If you've been reading my blog, it's probably no surprise that we ordered spinach and artichoke dip for our appetizer.  It was rich and creamy and the crunchy bread was the perfect compliment.
We both got salads, but I'm just posting Eric's.  He got a blackberry vinaigrette, and it was much more photogenic than my Caesar salad.
Since we ordered from their special New Year's Eve menu, I don't have all of the exact details of our dishes available ... So I'll just write what I remember.  I ordered the filet and lobster combination, which was served with a delicious hollandaise sauce, crispy potato wedges, and some asparagus and heirloom tomatoes.
Eric ordered the bacon wrapped scallops, which were served over a butternut squash risotto and with a side of mushrooms.  The sauce was sweet and tasty, but I can't remember what it was.
When we looked at the dessert menu, we knew we couldn't pass up one of our favorites: crème brûlée.  It was the perfect end to our meal!

Since it was ridiculously cold and windy on New Year's Eve, I opted not to wear a dress.  Thankfully, Mark's isn't a super fancy place so I didn't feel out of place bundling up in skinny jeans, boots, and a nice sweater layered over a cute top.  I did actually take the time to curl my hair, though ... So I guess that's something.

Cute, yes?  And this was before dinner (a.k.a. before we started drinking).  I thought I should point that out since the "scary smile" picture may indicate drunken craziness.  But no ... That's just us.

I also tried desperately to get a good picture of my hair since I don't curl it very often.  This was the best I got:

I edited it in an effort to make my face look less washed out, but I definitely didn't succeed.  At least you can see the curls (and one of the new pairs of earrings my mom got me for Christmas).

The rest of our New Year's Eve was pretty uneventful.  We changed into pajamas pretty quickly, and spent the rest of the evening drinking wine while watching cooking shows on Netflix and cuddling.  We may not know how to party in our old age, but it was really nice.

Finally, I wanted to share a picture of our New Year's Day brunch.  (And yes, it was as delicious as it looks!)

This was the perfect way to start 2015!

We made a sausage, onion, pepper, and tomato frittata with some freshly diced avocado for garnish, red and purple potatoes cooked in duck fat (we saved this from our Christmas dinner to use in this meal, and it was one of the best ideas we've had in a while), and mimosas.  Our New Year's Day brunch wasn't the healthiest meal, but it was a great way to start our morning (and the year!).

It's been a great couple of weeks, and I can't wait to see what 2015 has in store for us!