Tuesday, January 31, 2012

DIY dressing

So, I often joke (semi-seriously) that I consider it a personal affront to serve a baked good that I didn't make from scratch. I apparently have no such qualms when it comes to salad, because the leafy stuff you see on the left here came straight out of a bag.

I'm not really opposed to bagged salad, given that I'm a big fan of things like spinach and arugula, which you can't exactly find heads of like you can romaine or iceberg.  Plus, it's a cheap and easy way to assuage my guilt over serving otherwise unbalanced meals when people come over for dinner. Normally I don't serve it directly out of the bad as I did yesterday, but I think I mentioned Sophie is a kind and forgiving soul when it comes to my culinary eccentricities.

But I'm proud to report that last night, I made my own dressing. Having forgotten said item during my many trips to TJ's this weekend, this culinary experiment was born as much out of necessity as it was any sort of crunchy desire to eliminate weird chemical-y ingredients from my salad dressing (seriously, have you read some of those labels lately?). 

Since I made broccoli and bell pepper stir fry with tofu as the main attraction, I was looking for something complementary flavor-wise, and came up with this New York Times recipe for sesame ginger vinaigrette. It also got bonus points for only requiring ingredients I already had on hand.

I used my tee tiny food chopper (kind of like a mini food processor, only smaller) to whirl everything together, throwing the garlic in at the last minute when Sophie arrived with the routine bottle of wine and the not-so-routine package of garlic (that I also forgot at TJ's this weekend, which is going to make my eventual post in praise of the list-keeping app "Evernote" far less convincing, I suppose).  This recipe was the first time I tried out a new method for grating ginger, by the way, and it was possibly the best discovery ever. 

I first read the tip a while ago via this blog post, in which the author explains that the best way to store and grate the golden good stuff is to peel it, chop it in to cubes, and freeze it. Then, when you're ready to grate, you take the number of necessary cubes out and use a microplane. Because the ginger is frozen, it doesn't get all gloopy like the fresh stuff does, it just falls into the bowl in perfect slivers.

As tends to happen to me in the kitchen, the dinner and dressing were a success, but I had a massive stress baking failure (more on that later). At some point I'll learn to stop taking on too many things at once. Until then, though, I'll have to hope all my dinner guests are as understanding as Sophie when I say something like "ummm, hope you like the wine...it's what's for dessert..."

Monday, January 30, 2012


Last week, I was totally uninspired on the Monday dinner front (even though Monday dinner happened on Tuesday). Monday dinners have become a bit of a new tradition for Sophie and I, and I like using them as a venue for trying new recipes, because a)Sophie is a simultaneously intrepid and kind soul, and b)the bottle of wine we polish off each week makes just about anything taste better. 

Much like last night's surprise pesto, I didn't use a recipe for the dish I came up with. Instead, I relied on my memory of dishes that have been made for me in similar fashion in the past, and it worked out alright. I like to think it's all part of being a little more aggressive in the kitchen in 2012. Not so aggressive that I nearly set my oven on fire, but that's another story for another time. 

I honestly think peas go with everything, but especially pasta
blanched asparagus (in the new mixing bowls my sister gave me for Christmas!)

vanilla peppermint crunch gelato with chocolate teddy grahams

So, I failed at taking sufficient pictures, which tends to happen when I'm cooking in a hurry and/or solo (both of which are shamefully common in my kitchen). But, you'll have to take my word for the fact that the pasta turned out both edible and photogenic. I can't really take any credit for the sinful vanilla peppermint crunch gelato, as it came from a starter kit, but I can tell you to get thee to Sur La Table and buy your own box of it immediately, and my job will be done here.

If it's fun pasta you're after, though, here's what I suggest... pick a pretty green veggie or two. Blanch them in a pot of salty water, and scoop them out when they get bright green. For 2 people plus lunch leftovers, boil half a pound or so of pasta (my preference is something in the spaghetti family) in the veggie water. Mmm fiber. After just a few minutes, maybe 4 or so, drain the pasta. Boil half a bottle of wine, and throw the pasta in there until most of the wine is soaked up by the noodles. While the wine gets to boiling, in a skillet, heat up some cubed pancetta and let it get golden. Add garlic, and then the blanched veggies. Finally, pour the winey noodles into the skillet and let it all get nice and toasty. Yum. (I have to reiterate, though, that this is not a creation of my own brilliant mind, rather it's a recreation from dishes I've been served before.)

Anyways, aren't you glad I managed to update you just in time for the next Monday dinner? I knew you were just clinging to the edges of your seats waiting on this recap. Try to contain your excitement for tonight's experiment: broccoli and bell pepper stir fry with tofu. I know. Wild times, people. Wild times.  

Sunday, January 29, 2012


I'm trying really hard to be excited about the pro bowl, but it's just not happening. Although I'd rather neither team win next weekend, I'm ready for the theatrics of the Super Bowl. 

So instead of actually paying any attention to the game, I've been spending some time in the LKTC, because I got some new gadgets. Although I'm perpetually in budget mode (or yelling at myself for accidentally ignoring the tenets of budget mode), I found a Kohl's gift card when I moved a month ago, and used it to buy an immersion blender and a mini food processor.

We also got a Trader Joe's in my 'hood at some point, and I just explored the outpost this weekend. There might need to be a TJ's-related intervention for me at some point in the not too distant future, given my complete lack of self control in the face of budget-priced food in cute, clever packaging. 

Anyways, new gadgets + cheap foodstuffs = experiments in the LKTC. This is what I whipped up tonight: 

It's pesto, but not the traditional basil sort. The green stuff is arugula, but the cheese was replaced with silken tofu. Sneaky, sneaky. I realize that a pretty significant portion of the population likes, perhaps loves, cheese. I do not. So, replacing cheese is actually an improvement on the dish for me. 

I wasn't following a recipe, nor did I really write anything out, so this is just an approximation of how it all went down. I threw about 3/4 of a cup of silken tofu, 1 or 1 1/2 cups of arugula, maybe a tablespoon of toasted pine nuts, and a few sprinkles of salt, pepper, and cayenne in my new mini food processor and whirled everything until it was combined. Then I threw that over peas and spaghetti. (And if you're wondering if the garlic omission was intentional, the answer is "no," but, I didn't realize I was out until after I'd already returned from my grocery trip. Murphy and his stupid laws.)

My complete inability to boil an appropriate quantity of pasta (and my eschewing of a cook book) aside, it was a surprising success. Everything I've read about it is true...tofu is pretty much flavorless, making it a great base for other flavors to build off of (and arugula has plenty of flavor). I really didn't miss the cheese at all (the garlic, on the other hand...). 

And thanks to the aforementioned portion control issues, I will have plenty of leftovers for lunch tomorrow, which is great news for that nagging part of my conscious that's all about keeping me on budget and eating well. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

b-e- aggressive

I hope the title of this post got that horribly uncreative cheerleading chant stuck in your head. That was pretty much exactly my evil plan, because it's been in MY head ever since I made ginger spiced molasses sugar cookies last night. It all started when I realized I hadn't been nearly aggressive enough at the "roll balls of dough in granulated sugar" point in the recipe, which brought me to a larger culinary "ah ha" moment. 

But somewhere in all of that, it also brought me back to the memory of not making the cheerleading squad in middle school. All my girlfriends tried out, and, as far as I remember, made it. I, with my knobby knees and shy demeanor, did not. It was horribly embarrassing, and led to a torrent of tears. My mom took an inconsolable little Jenny to the mall, and let me buy whatever I wanted (within reason, I'm sure). "Whatever I wanted" was a Precious Moments figurine, the likes of which I collected at that age. (No, I do not wonder, in retrospect, why I didn't make the squad then, nor why I am single now). I suppose the shopping trip, and the eventual realization that I would look ridiculous in the gray and orange uniforms chanting things like "B-E- AGGRESSIVE" mollified my sixth grade angst in due time.

But the chant came back to me last night, when I realized I needed to advise anyone who intended to make said ginger spiced molasses sugar cookies to really b-e- aggressive with the sugar thing in order to get a nice sugary crisp on the exterior of the crinkly treats. And it made me realize that, in general, I'm a bit of a tentative person in the kitchen, which tends to be to the detriment of me and the dishes I'm attempting to craft.

When I cook, especially new and unfamiliar dishes, it tends to be with this skeptical air of "they don't really mean over HIGH heat, right?" And so then I err on the side of caution and saute over a safe, if boring, medium heat and then get impatient when things take longer than the recipe says they should. 

Obviously, though, the unspoken answer to my frequent culinary question is "well of course they mean it, you idiot, they're the experts." And so I've decided to tack on an additional resolution in 2012. I'm going to be a little more aggressive in the kitchen. I know, I'm a real wild child.

ps-I like to think I got a subconscious jump on the new resolution this past Monday, when I cooked on the fly, and totally without a recipe, and the product was actually edible. But, more on that later.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

nostalgia wednesdays: naivete

Oddly enough, lately my Venice nostalgia hasn't been raging at quite the same levels it typically does. Instead, I've been steeping in a different type of nostalgia all together. One much harder to articulate. 

I miss being naive. You know, the days when my biggest problems were along the lines of not having as much hair or as many teeth as my toddler peers, and my baby doll was almost as big as me and yet I still had to tote her everywhere (see above). And let's not even talk about my ruffled bathing suit, which only accentuated that diaper situation. 

I miss the days when I didn't realize that there were bigger transgressions in life than hogging the Play Doh kitchen set in kindergarten. The days when I thought the worst thing in the world was my fourth grade boyfriend telling me he loved me. The days when my world was so small that I thought all I needed was a few American Girl dolls, my sister, and a long afternoon to craft endless stories at our fictitious "American Girl Academy."

I still need my sister, my whole family for that matter, but life, as it's designed to do, has gotten so much more complicated. As time seems to have sped along in fast forward lately, I've become increasingly conscious of how totally impossible it is to do everything you want to do. There are so many recipes I want to try, places I want to visit, books I want to read, projects I want to take on, jobs I want to try on for size. 

Being an adult now (whether I like calling myself that or not) is empowering in the sense that I get to decide, to some extent, which things I do and try. But as an extremely introspective person who is prone to fretting, every decision also brings me a sense of mild panic as I close the door, temporarily or otherwise, to the option I eschewed in the process. 

And the scary part is, this is just the beginning, right? The decisions I make right now are constrained mainly by my budget, my work, and my fears. There will be a point in my life (theoretically) at which a significant other's input, budget, work, and fears will also have to be taken in to account. And if he and I decide that our definition of "family" includes kids, that will, naturally, change everything forever. 

I'm not saying it isn't exciting to think about what's to come, whether it's things I try in the LKTC, places I think are worth the fear of flying to visit, choices I make in my career, or people I let in to or chose to remove from my life. 

But there are times when I feel like I have to make one too many of those choices at once.  Times when I'm convinced I can't possibly make the best decision based on the information or timing. Times when I'm fed up, and just want a reprieve from being the lowest woman on the totem pole at work without seeming ungrateful. Times when I want to throw my bowl of plain pasta down the sink and have someone there to cook something different for me for once. Times when I just need to marinate in the bad day

When that happens, I let myself, just for a little while, go back to the days of sitting on the floor of the playroom with my sister, where our toughest decision was what outfit to dress our dolls in that day.  

And since I can't actually go back, I bake. Most people leave it all at the gym, or the bar maybe. But I leave it all in the kitchen. Tonight, I leave it all in these ginger spice molasses cookies

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say I now love, or even like, to cook on a regular basis. I dread it more often than not, and I still have my fair share of ramen noodle nights. But there are times I just really want to cook for people, and that usually tends to coincide with wanting to try a new recipe or series of recipes. There generally isn't a whole lot of in between, though. I'm either dreading walking in to the kitchen, or can't keep myself out of it.

Being sick for so long has put me firmly in the "dreading it" camp for nearly the entire month. There was a brief moment of adventure when I decided to try and fry tofu for the first time ever, but that's pretty much it. 

Today, though, is one of those weird in-between days (and by "weird," I mostly mean "bad"). And let me just tell you, I do bad days 110%. I'm not one of those graceful people who excels at turning an unfortunate series of events in to some sort of Pollyana positive bender. I genuinely wish I were. I think those people are evolutionarily superior, honestly, because life is full of bad days. But I'm not. 

My own version of trying to turn a bad day around is actually to just totally marinate in the ick. Mentally kick that copy machine that isn't working. Throw an elbow right back at that aggressive person on the metro. Inhale some mini chocolate bars at the pity party for one at my desk. Just stinking own the sheer force of the wrong side of the bed on which you awoke. 

So, I'm cooking dinner for a friend and I tonight (which she graciously agreed to reschedule from last night when work took over my evening. Again.). And between my nagging exhaustion and the whole marinating in the bad day business, I cannot call to mind a single new thing I want to cook. Dinners with good friends are the perfect opportunity for experimenting, because typically they're pretty receptive to the whole "I'm just going to try this out, we might be ordering pizza" mantra. 

But today, I just can't. So instead, I'll be doing two totally uncreative things. One: I'm making ice cream from a starter kit (which was a Christmas gift from my sister, and which sounds completely sinfully delicious). Two: I'm making a form of pasta that's been made for me many times before by others (although I've never made it myself). It involves boiling pasta in water for a bit, then in wine. It works with both red and white wine, but tonight I'm going for white. 

I'm not using a recipe, just going to wing it, so if it's anything resembling a success, I'll post more details tomorrow, at which point I will hopefully be fully recovered from the bad day marinating process. 

For now, though, it's time for eating ice cream with teddy grahams, and watching the State of the Union with friends. 


Sunday, January 22, 2012

what else ya got, january?

If you keep reading, you'll get to the muffin-y goodness, I promise!

January 2012 has been...an experience. I've coupled ten to twelve hour days (+ weekends) at the office with lingering illnesses. I know, I know...just the other day, I promised I'd stop complaining. So while I still feel less than awesome, instead of going on about my love/hate relationship with cough syrup or something equally riveting, I have a funny little story and a recipe (finally!) for you. 

The other day, I was starting to feel a tiny bit better, but was still exhausted, and just wanted to get home, eat something, and climb in bed. When I was walked down the street to my building, I heard sirens, but didn't think anything of it as the fire truck went flying past my street. It got to the next intersection, and threw a u-turn. 

Please don't turn down my street. Please don't turn down my....oh crap, it's turning down my street. Please don't go to my building. Please don't go to my building. I haven't updated my renter's insurance yet, PLEASE don't go to my building. 

Well, friends, it, and FOUR OTHER fire trucks screeched in to my parking lot in the time it took me to get to my building. They were kept in good company by an ambulance and half a dozen fire department SUVs. 

As I walked in to the parking lot and saw dozens of people mulling around, I had horrible visions of water and smoke pouring through my new, uninsured apartment. A woman explained to me that it was a kitchen fire on the fifth floor, and that it had been put out pretty quickly, but that there was a lot of smoke. Punctuating her story were several wild gestures towards a lone apartment that did, in fact, contain a high volume of fire fighters with axes and flashlights who were frantically shoving screens off the windows to hasten ventilation. 

I ended up standing outside in the cold for over an hour, which was just what my lingering cough needed. I kicked myself for cleaning out my work tote bag just the day prior, because in doing so, I had moved my car keys back to their usual home in my apartment, meaning I couldn't even get in my car and go somewhere warm and with food (I was positively ravenous). 

After what seemed like a lifetime of shivering, the firemen let those of us living on the first three floors back in to the building. I gave up on any hope of ordering take out considering over half of my building and the vast majority of the local fire department were still in the lobby and parking lot. I ate ramen, thanked heavens that my apartment was smoke and water free, and went to bed vowing to update my insurance the next morning (and I did). 

Luckily the drama factor has been low around here since then, and life has been consumed once again by work. I had to go in yesterday unexpectedly, and it zapped my energy entirely. Instead of doing something social (which was what I desperately wanted to do), I came home and made these double chocolate banana muffins

Having noticed this banana nutella pumpkin bread on Pinterest a while ago, I wanted to give it a try, but didn't have nutella, and didn't want to venture back out in to the bitter cold. I then realized I didn't have any chocolate chips, and the only ones available in the little store in my building were a)milk chocolate, b)too big, and c)over $5. 

I was baking something if it killed me, so I resigned myself to making (no longer double) chocolate banana muffins when I spotted my favorite chocolate bars sitting on the counter. 

And so I just made my own chocolate chips. Look out, people, the LKTC is making a comeback (yes, I consider this a comeback). 

The batter was actually super easy to make, no electric mixer required. And it looks delicious!

If you decide to try the recipe, I will say you have to mix the dry and wet ingredients for a while before the batter looks like the photo above. I was really worried that I'd measured something improperly, because it seemed way too dry. But if you just keep stirring with a wooden spoon, it all works out. 

The recipe says it makes a dozen, but I made mini muffins, and got about 2 1/2 pans worth out of the batter. Or at least I think I did...I ate at least half a dozen myself in the past 24 hours. I took the rest are being taken to work today (yes, I had to work on the day of the NFL playoffs...I can't even talk about it right now) so that I would stop inhaling them. (Note: if you go the mini route, too, they only need to bake for 10ish minutes) 

Work should slow down in about a week, at which point I am making a serious return to home-cooked meals (and hopefully to health, too!). For now, though, it's finally football time! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

deep dish decisions

Alright, it's been debbie downer up in here lately, so this is the last post on that note, I promise. 

I've been sick, thankfully not grievously so, but still sick, for a long time now. I completely lost my voice Sunday, and sounded so terrible at work yesterday that I was sent away from the office by my boss, who came up to my desk saying "multiple people have expressed concern about your health, Jenny," and was then recognized by the admitting nurse at urgent care (from my New Year's day visit a few weeks ago). On top of all of that, today I had to make the painful decision to call off my trip to Utah. 

See, when I asked her about my ability to travel and ski, the doctor was non-committal. She diagnosed me with a double ear infection and an upper respiratory infection, and sent me away with three separate prescriptions, one of which involved narcotics. But she told me the decision to get on a plane was up to me based on how I felt. (I really love making decisions, in case you haven't met me and experienced that firsthand)

Well, I felt, and still feel, crappy. Tired, constant ache in my chest, nagging scary cough, extremely diminished appetite. You name a generic winter-time illness symptom, and I probably have it, and am repulsing everyone within a square mile with it. But I'd been so looking forward to this trip, especially since it was one of the more impulsive things I'd planned in ages. And my friends were going! And I've never been to Utah! The pro/con thing was piling more stress on my already broken down little body. 

Ultimately I knew I wouldn't be able to have a wholly good time in Utah. My friends would be out skiing or at Sundance parties, and I'd be sipping soup back at my coworker's house. I'd get back to DC Sunday in the sort of shape I'm already in, or worse (and no one wants to avoid another brush with bronchitis more than me). I've been sick for so long now that I couldn't really envision improving enough to enjoy Utah in a mere 24 hours. And let's not even talk about how difficult it is for me to get on a plane on a good day, not to mention when I'm ill. 

But man was it depressing to sit there with my friend Neha while we called United to cancel my ticket. I feel awful leaving her to travel by herself, and the reality of my decision to not go stung. Not traveling for the sake of my health was the adult thing to do, but I may or may not have shed a tear or two like a child. 

And so when I left work early to come home and rest/mourn my trip, in similarly child-like fashion, I indulged in a single-serving deep dish cookie and ice cream for dessert. It was inspired by this recipe, but made with applesauce, flour, sugar, egg white, salt, baking soda, and chocolate chips. I'll have to hunt down the recipe when I'm not under the influence of the aforementioned narcotic cough syrup. For now, I'm off to bed in the hopes that my body allows me a night of real sleep, and that I can just be at peace with my decision. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

bubbly on draft

I had really high hopes for the long weekend (even though I actually have to work most of tomorrow), and those plans didn't involve finding obscure shows to watch marathons of on Hulu. But I can't stop coughing, am basically chained to a box of Kleenex, and have officially lost my voice entirely. Oh yes, and it's been proclaimed by weathermen as one of the most bitterly cold days of winter thus far. Yum. 

I had hoped to finally organize my kitchen after the move, do some cleaning, and even, I don't know, have a social life. I made a good attempt yesterday to be functional, looking at apartments with my realtor, seeing Beauty and the Beast in 3D (no shame here, it's a classic), and finally trying a new-ish restaurant that's been on my "to-do" list for a while now (called Graffiato). 

Since I haven't had a chance to cook anything that didn't come out of a soup can in the going on fifteen days now that I've been sick in one variety or another, I'll tell you instead about the meal someone else cooked for me at Graffiato. 

(from Yelp!)
Mike Isabella, of Top Chef "fame," opened Graffiato (pictured) in Chinatown not too long after his season of the Bravo reality show ended. The space is really cool--multi-level, industrial, really open--the kind of place that kinda makes you feel like maybe you aren't quite dressed well enough to be there, but the staff is benevolent enough to overlook it. 

Even though I wasn't feeling fantastic, my friend and I just had to order the restaurant's prosecco on draft. Yes, you're reading that correctly. Prosecco that comes out of a tap! And it is fantastic. After the bubbly arrived, we each got a "vegetate" to start, me the lemon and parmesan charred potatoes, my friend the brussels sprouts with egg and pancetta. The lemon dressing on the potatoes was different than anything I'd had before, and I ended up really liking it. I tried brussels sprouts for the first time off of my friend's plate, and they were also amazing. 

For our main courses, we had pappardelle with roasted chicken ragu (me) and scallops (my friend). The portions were smaller than I expected for the price (even though the restaurant bills itself as small plates), but because I'm spending the vast majority of my time coughing these days, my appetite is not at its normal levels, so I didn't mind too much. 

For that reason, unfortunately we skipped dessert, but I'd like to go back some time for more of the prosecco on draft and a small plate or two of sweets. 

For now, though, I'm going to curl up in a tiny ball on the couch, watch lots of tv, drink copious mugs of tea and honey, rock these awesome owl slippers my sister got me for Christmas...    

...eat a few of these precious, tee tiny cookies I baked today (they're SO easy, it doesn't count as cooking, and I promised a few coworkers I'd bring cookies in tomorrow)...

...and pray that this doesn't turn in to a case of bronchitis reminiscent of fall 2009, because I have a ski trip to Utah coming up in three days. Cross your fingers, people.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

nostalgia wednesdays: long weekend in phoenix

Nostalgia Wednesdays are starting to freak me out a tiny bit. See, it feels like just a year or so ago that I lived in Venice for the second time when, in fact, it was over three years ago now. And so it certainly doesn't seem like its been a year since my Dad's side of the family converged on Phoenix, Arizona, to celebrate my Grandpa's 80th birthday. His birthday was actually the prior October, but we all agreed that we'd rather celebrate in the warm climate of Arizona (where he and my step-Grandma spend their winters) than in Michigan (where they live most of the year).

We all flew to Phoenix (a scary 4 1/2 hour flight for me!) over MLK weekend and stayed at the Gold Canyon resort. The menfolk did a lot of golfing, the ladies went on a covert cake pickup mission and did some shopping, and generally we all did a lot of eating, talking, and catching up with a perfect backdrop of unseasonably warm weather and gorgeous sunsets.

Grandpa's birthday cake, modeled after our family farm in Michigan

The real farmhouse in Michigan

Anyways, I've been spending roughly the hours of 7am to 7pm (if not 9pm) at work since my move, so I have yet to "cook" more than a bowl of cheerios in the new LKTC. I swear at some point life will slow down a bit, and I will actually write about cooking. Eventually.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

new year, new digs

I've been back in DC for just eight days, but it feels like a lifetime. I was sick last weekend, had a crazy week at work, moved this weekend, have at least a full day's worth of work to pack in to this afternoon/evening, and seem to be sick again (at least a cold, not the stomach monster this time). And life is going to be pretty much non-stop at work until I leave for Utah in ten days (side note:  TEN DAYS? holy geez). 

But I'm taking this little break from work to share two quick snapshots from my new place, in case you care. And no, there are no shots of the new, improved (but pantry-less) LKTC yet. Because it's still a disaster, and sorting spices is taking a back seat to report writing (and Steelers game watching) right now. Sorry! Anyways, here you go.

while the layout of the new place was a bit of a challenge at first, I'm 
enamored with how the dining room turned out in the end!

I didn't do a great job snapping this picture, but this is what I'm calling the
"saucy bathroom" thanks to that curtain. It's about all we could find that would
work with the crazy electric blue tile on the floor and walls (you can see it peeking
out in the top left corner)

Although I have worlds of work to do, my little apartment seems a bit sad and lonely after a weekend of activity. My extremely generous parents came in to town to help me move for what seems like the bajillionth time, and some sweet friends spend a good chunk of their day yesterday helping, too. Suddenly everyone has gone away again, and I'm alone with my two laptops, and it's, well, lonely!

On top of all of that, I just did my final check of my old apartment, and it left me feeling very nostalgic and a bit sad (shocking, I know). It was my home for over a year (which still blows my mind, since it was supposed to be temporary), and the first time I ever lived solo. Over my roughly fourteen months there, I gained friends (and lost a few), endured some drama and heartbreak, learned to cook for myself (most of the time), changed jobs,  went on a trans-continental road trip, and generally grew up a whole lot. 

I think back to how much has changed since the dark, jobless days of 2009, and am thankful for the trajectory life has been on since then. Each year has been better than the last (although each has been rough in its own way). I have high hopes for 2012 and my cozy new little apartment. And now I will stop rambling and get back to all that work I mentioned. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012


For a long time, I've primarily blamed country music and chick flicks for my disillusion with certain aspects of life (looking at you, male population). Pinterest, however, is angling for the honor of "most reality-bending" in my present day life. If you've never heard of it or spent any time on it, the best way I can describe it is a virtual bulletin board on which you can post snapshots of just about anything.

That recipe you keep meaning to try? Tack it on there. The outfits you wish you could afford? By all means, pin 'em. Jewelry, kitchens, craft ideas, decor, books, puppy pictures, European landscapes. You name it, you can pin it, and inspire all of your followers to drool over it just as much as you already are.

I find myself on this mini-rant/tangent because Pinterest is a mecca for all things glamorous, and I'm having a decidedly unglamorous start to 2012, as you might recall. My current reality involves laundering anything I touched or wore over the course of the stomach flu, googling "how to sanitize a thermometer," and trying overcome lingering exhaustion to pack up the contents of my apartment in preparation for this weekend's move. 

My Pinterest reality, on the other hand, is much different. It involves baking these delicious-looking banana nutella pumpkin loaves

from here

And relaxing in the big old tub in this beautiful bathroom (which is as big as my current apartment, and puts my future electric blue-tiled bathroom to shame).

from here (spotted first by my sis, who has killer taste)

It's a dangerous place, this land of Pinterest, but I kind of love it. A girl's gotta dream, especially when her new bathroom is electric blue and her new bedroom is several square feet smaller than her old one. Good news, though. The new LKTC will have a microwave AND a dishwasher, people. Take that, Pinterest. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

nostalgia wednesdays: sunset key

I can't remember how my mom first learned of Sunset Key (although my suspicion is via Coastal Living), but it is still one of my favorite family trips. I wasn't yet afraid of flying (important for the small plane required to get you to nearby Key West), and even though I think we ended up having to spend an unexpected night in Orlando or something like that, I don't remember any sort of family tiffs (or anything else that puts a damper on vacation). 

Instead, we spent a really great few days on a little island right off of Key West called Sunset Key. Half of the island is private homes that are just waiting to be featured on some sort of "Cribs" or "Real Housewives" type episodes. The other half is a Starwood resort made up of little villas, a restaurant or two, a great pool area, a private beach, and a boat to get you to and from Key West. 

We stayed on the latter half, but it was still amazingly luxe by my ten-year-old standards. My sister and I were still young enough to be fairly unconcerned with how we looked in bathing suits (even sporting the occasional one piece, the horror), and spent days on end in the pool trying to master standing upright on foam pool mats. The villa we stayed in was gorgeous, and if I remember properly, located steps from the beach, much like this beauty: 

In my mind, we took this vacation in the dead of winter (or as much of a "dead of winter" as you can claim in North Carolina), which is why I find myself particularly nostalgic about that trip now. We've been lucky to have a pretty mild winter here in DC so far, but as of Tuesday, the season remembered it was supposed to be battering us with frigid temps and blustery wind. Yet another reason I'm super pumped for 2012 so far...

Anyways I am ready for a trip to someplace tropical, and I'd love to go with my family. I don't know about my sister, but I absolutely took family trips for granted when we were little. We were never burdened with trying to work those trips in to our budgets or schedules. No, Mom would get a lead on a great place, and off we'd go during a little break from school. Now, as my sister and I are learning what it's like to be young, broke, and away from home, I miss that time together even more.  

My Mom's birthday is in February, and while we were all together for Christmas, my sister and I tried to sell the idea of a quick little tropical getaway to celebrate. This time, though, we're leaving the one piece bathing suits at home

ps-all Sunset Key photos (except that first one) are from the Starwood site 
pps-I finally can eat some normal, non-bland, non-liquid food again after my heinous brush with the stomach flu, so hopefully I'll be back to writing about cooking-related stuff soon

Monday, January 2, 2012

hello 2012

It's been radio silence from me over the holidays, but I hope everyone was too busy with family and friends to even notice or care! I spent a week away from DC, splitting the time between our family place in Georgia and my parents' house in North Carolina.  It was a really nice break from the pace of things here, and I'm happy to report that I did not cook once. That alone was a great gift! 

At the last minute, I decided to come back to DC for New Year's Eve with the intent of joining a few friends at a nearby party. My immune system, though, had other things in mind. Instead of spending the evening with friends, I spent it (and New Year's day) stricken with a nasty stomach bug. I was so miserable yesterday that I asked my friend to take me to the doctor (I hate seeing doctors so much that when I finally decide it's time to go, you know I'm sick). 

I can finally stomach water and saltines today, which is fortunate since I managed to lose a whopping five pounds in the past 36 hours thanks to this brush with the flu. I can also move around a little more without crippling waves of nausea, but I'm still insanely weak and tired, which is endlessly frustrating given how much I intended to accomplish yesterday and today. Certainly not how I'd hoped to ring in 2012, that's for sure!

I'm normally not big on resolutions, but made a few casual ones relating to taking better care of myself this year, so, I suppose the universe was really trying to drive home the importance of that for me. 

Anyways, hope your new year kicked off in far better fashion than mine--happy 2012!