December 22, 2009

Holiday Cheer



A few of you have emailed me regarding the Cranberry Margaritas that I mentioned in the comments of Jennie's Christmas Menu post. I am planning to make these for Christmas to go along with our Mexican Themed Dinner (Pork Tamales, Beans, Rice, etc) but frankly I wish I was drinking now! Anyway, here is the recipe:

Merry Cranberry Margaritas
adapted from Sunset Magazine

1 1/4 cups cranberry juice cocktail
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed
3/4 cup lime juice
3/4 cup tequila
1/2 cup orange-flavor liqueur
3 cups coarsely crushed ice

Pour 1/4 cup of the cranberry juice into a shallow bowl. Pour 3 tablespoons sugar onto a flat plate. Dip the rims of 4 to 6 widemouthed glasses (6- to 8-oz. size, suitable for margaritas) into juice, then into sugar. Set the glasses aside.

Reserve 12 cranberries. In a blender, whirl until smooth and slushy the remaining cranberries, cranberry juice, sugar, lime juice, tequila, orange liqueur, and ice. If necessary, blend in 2 batches, then mix. Fill glasses; garnish with reserved berries. Serves 4 to 6.

Photo courtesy of fabulousfood.com

December 16, 2009

Check Your Head, Crazypants Website

I had to order new checks today (and honestly I don't even know why I ordered them because what on earth do I even use checks for these days) so I went online to some dumb website and picked out the least offensive, cheapest checks possible and proceeded to try and checkout. And no they didn't have Disney Characters on them, or Anne Geddes Babies, or Girls Washing Their Hair, or whatever other shit they were trying to charge me $30 for. They were just checks. To write on. If I pay things. I do not consider checks part of my "Personal Brand" as it were.

So after declining the "prevent check fraud" option like 4 separate times in which I had to keep manually clicking on a radio button that said something totally inflammatory like "Yes, that's right I don't care about check fraud, crazies please come get me and my money" --it was finally time to choose a shipping option. Quick sidebar: I am not sure that your stupid watermark for $3 per box is really going to prevent fraud anyway, and even if it does, I would rather spend that money on my stupid credit check every month to make sure no one is stealing my freakin identity, OK? Jesus Crimony, Batman! Fighting crime these days is so exhausting! So anyway, shipping options...The options included a $6.95 standard shipping charge for a 7-9 business day arrival (for my $9 checks that probably weigh half a pound, but whatevs) or an "overnight" option that I could select for $22.95 which meant my checks would arrive in, oh...FOUR TO SEVEN DAYS.

I'm sorry, what? I thought this shit was overnight. If I'm going to pay twice the price of the actual product I am purchasing, JUST TO SHIP IT "OVERNIGHT", I want that shit on my counter top tomorrow morning, preferably pouring me a cup of piping hot cup of coffee and making me an friggin omelet.

So yeah, I chose the regular shipping option, and I'll probably get my checks a year from now -- but I guess the upside is that's probably the next time I will need to use one, so I've got that going for me.

December 15, 2009

Random Things That Are Rocking My World Lately

Silk Pumpkin Spiced Soy Milk-- Specifically in brewed coffee. Granted, I love soy in just about any coffee drink but seriously? PUMPKIN SPICED SOY? Is pretty much just a slice of seasonal heaven in my morning coffee -- which, since our heater is broken and it has been cold as all get out in Sacramento lately -- is definitely a plus. If you are not really a fan of soy milk then this wonky sort of flavor certainly won't convince you, but if you do already like soy -- do yourself a favor and get some STAT.

This American Life on DVD -- Okay who are we kidding, I love the podcast as well, but it has been fun to see the visual representation and see some of the faces of people I have heard stories about too. I am totally fascinated with stories of everyday people and this show ALWAYS delivers interesting content.

Bubble Baths -- When your heater is broken and it's rainy and cold outside, do you know what rocks? A Piping Hot Bubble Bath -- especially if you have purchased oodles of bubble bath from Bath & Body Works the last time they had a huge sale. I purchased so much bubble bath, in fact, that I came home with one that was called "Twilight Woods" solely because I was having an inappropriate Team Jacob moment. And also because it was described as "evoking the mystery and beauty of enchanted woods" and really who doesn't want to evoke that while bathing, am I right? Oh, I'm not? Oh, okay, my bad. Anyway it kind of smells um, musky? I don't know. It's alright in a bubble bath, but I certainly wouldn't spray it all over myself or anything. Boy, how the heck did I get here? Oh yes, I was talking about bubble baths and how much they rock. THEY ROCK.

P-Touch Label Makers -- Because I'm an organization nerd and in my spare time I like to reorganize the bulk food section of our pantry and label things. And I want you to know that when I say "pantry" I really mean the one teeny tiny cupboard that we have to fit every single food item in the kitchen that isn't dishes or booze. And that my friends, is a challenge of epic spatial proportions. And this label maker? Just makes me want to pull all my hair out a little bit less.

Evening Walks -- It has been super cold lately in Sacramento, as I alluded to earlier, but it's the kind of California cold that feels revitalizing to be in when you slap on a coat and scarf. Garrett and I have been taking some nightly walks around our neighborhood to admire the lights and decorations and blow off steam at the end of the day and I am just so in love with dusk! I feel grateful to live in a place so temperate this time of year because even though it is cold out, we still get to explore outside and not come home totally frozen.

Veggie Patch Falafels -- I was incredibly leery of these because I love falafel and did not think that you could replicate the goodness at home in a microwave. In the end, it is not the seem deep fried deliciousness that you will find in a restaurant, but you know what? That is kind of the best part? These are quick and easy to heat up and serve in a pita with a little Greek salad topping and some homemade tzatziki. Such a tasty (non-deep-fried) convenience dinner under 10 minutes!

What's been rocking your world lately, peeps?

December 14, 2009

5 Best of 09 Takes

(This post is a part of Gwen Bell's The Best of 2009 Blog Challenge.)

Boy I sure fell off the wagon there for a minute, didn't I? In any case, here are a few more Bests of 2009, quick take style:

1. Album of the Year: So I've been brewing an entire blog post in my head this year called "In Defense of Lady Gaga" (as if she is such an object of persecution, woe is Gaga), but what can I say? I'm lazy and I haven't written it. Other things I haven't done include: finish Christmas cards, call to get our heater fixed (brr!) and clean the bathrooms, but like I always say -- there's always tomorrow! And seriously, I have had lots of important things that needed to be done immediately, like watch Jersey Shore and reorganize every cabinet in my kitchen, so there. Anyway, I know many people think she is a cheesy ass, attention starved, pop-star and you know what, I can't really argue with that. But seriously in the big scheme of things, who is more sadly in need of attention -- the celebrity that just "happens" to show up at all the hip clubs and super-photographed restaurants "by chance" wearing all the most fashionable clothes OR the chick who shows up somewhere with freakin deer antlers on her head? I mean, yeah, she wants attention (obvs!) but come on -- she has to have a sense of humor too, right? Also, even if her songs contain such poetically ridiculous lyrics such as: "I'm not loose I like to party Let's get lost in your Ferrari" -- the girl can sing -- and it's sort of refreshing that her sound isn't synthesized on every track. Speaking of every track, Garrett and I listened to the entire "The Fame" album almost exclusively while we were in Maui, just because the lyrics made us laugh, it was silly, and we thought we were very hysterical -- I guess you had to be there. But because we were feeling generous we left the cd in our rental car for the next person to enjoy for the sole reason that in 2009 I really think that everyone needed a little more Gaga in their life. So yeah, that's my album of the year pic for what it's worth. (Sidebar: I realize her album actually technically came out in 2008, but I take a minute to warm up to things, okay?)


See...Gaga even makes waiting in traffic on the Road to Hana enjoyable!

2. The Best Place in 2009: Hands down, my Kitchen -- which is actually kind of funny because about a year and a half ago Garrett remodeled his whole house (now my house) and pretty much every room got upgraded except the kitchen. But even though our kitchen is outdated in comparison to the rest of our house, it has been my favorite place to unwind this year. I love nothing more after a long stressful day than to come and spend time slicing and dicing and creating something with all my pent up energy. I've gotten more creative in the kitchen this year and that has been awesome!



3. New Food: Speaking of creativity in the kitchen, I learned to cook Indian food like a champ this year! I've always thought the flavors were delicious, but since it's kind of rare that we go out to dinner -- and when we do, we usually hit up the same usual suspects -- I rarely get to eat it. This year, since I tried to start cooking more vegetarian dishes, I figured I would give some Indian recipes a try and some of them have become staples!

4. Best Change you made to the place you live: Um...I decorated? Actually now that I think about it, I decorated twice. Well let me explain: first I took my little bachelorette studio and turned into a homey little pad just for me. And then, as you know, a few months later Garrett and I decided to shack up, so I turned a recently remodeled bachelor pad into a cozy home for two -- and I had a pretty fun time doing it! You may remember my tale of extreme makeover and really, it continues to be an on-going project. But I love the idea of making a house feel like a home, and it's so fun to continue finding things that make it feel ours!




5. Best Rush of the Year: Jeez, I have no idea what my best rush was...I didn't do anything XXXTREME (with 3 Xs) I don't think -- Vin Diesel and I are kind of on the outs. Does it count that I got a rush when I knew the $2000 question in Urban Dictionary on Jeopardy the other night when I was in a room full of non-bloggers and shouted out "DOOCED!"? #bloggernerdalert No? Okay then, well um...I surfed on an anchor on the Central Coast -- how about that?



Well, if nothing else, I make an ass out of myself so you don't have to.

You are all welcome.

December 10, 2009

2009 -- Was That A Challenge I Heard???

(This post is a part of Gwen Bell's The Best of 2009 Blog Challenge. Thanks for the great inspiration idea, Amy!)

Challenge 09

My biggest challenge of 2009, huh? God that's like asking Jon Gosselin to pick his douchey-est moment of the year or his favorite Ed Hardy Shirt, there are just so many to choose from! Many things this year were a challenge for a me, but luckily I'm a competitive sumbitch! I don't really mind a challenge, I'm not really a Poor-Me-Let-Me-Make-A-List-Of-My-Struggles kind of person (though I'm not judging, because you know I do love a good list!) but when I reflect back on 2009, I sort of get the feeling that I have been slogging through a few feet of snow. I mean, a few feet of snow in like Whistler, BC or some place equally as beautiful, but snow nonetheless. Mostly because this year was full change you see, and change is a challenge, yo.

(Btw, that may be the title of my new rap song, friends. Album to be released in 2010 -- oh you just wait for it!)

Anyway, I think I can sum up my challenges in 4 main categories:

LIVING SITUATION:

Well if you have been around these parts for long, you know that my roommate of 6 years moved back down south last October, prompting me to move into my first place all by myself (woo, I'm a big kid now!) but come January (yes 3 months later) it was pretty clear that I was going to need to find another place to call home. (Not due to any drama or anything, but something that probably isn't worth getting into the details of on this here blog.) So after re-organizing my whole life, scaling back, and moving into and decorating a new place, it was time to do it all over again at the beginning of 2009. And people, lest you have forgotten, I AM NOT IN COLLEGE ANYMORE! Moving annually just ain't for me. So quarterly? Well now you are just talking crazy, because I'm really too old for that! Luckily this move landed me smack dab into a fabulous 3 bedroom house in Carmichael with my very cute boyfriend (score!) which, in the end, was probably the best thing I did this year all at the same time. So yeah, we took the official co-habitation plunge. And while I won't say that it has been challenging (actually the living together part has been incredibly seamless) the logistics part was a friggin hassle, and I don't think we really got our house/budget/routines (because we are routine-nerds) in order until well into summer. So that -- yes -- was a challenge! The good news though, as we cozy up to December, I have never felt more at home.

LIVING MORE CONSCIOUSLY:

One of the things Garrett and I decided to do this year was put a little bit more effort into living more simply. I know that's such a generic thing to say, but it has manifested itself in the way we view spending time and spending money. We purged a lot of un-needed crap in the move, we nailed down our budgets as we combined resources, but our real focus was to try and consciously create a life that really looked how we wanted: less stress, less junk, more time, more security, and more fun. And as easy as those things sound, it has really been quite an on-going challenge and I don't really anticipate any relief from that. The biggest mental adjustment on my end has been ensuring that I am constantly having that conversation with myself of: Is this aligning with my values? You value security,Holly, so why are you spending money on something frivolous? You value time, so why are you planning a trip where you have scheduled out every free minute? You value less stress, so why are you squeezing in an extra project or placing an extra responsibility on yourself with no action plan yet conceived? Can this wait?

I mean that is A LOT of self chatter compounded with the hamster wheel that already runs in my brain at every waking moment. Every once in a while I wanted to say "Listen, self...mellow out. It's just one little purchase/trip/project. Let it go." But all in all, living more consciously has been a rude awakening and a great relief all at once -- and although it's tough at times, I'm looking forward to fine tuning that in 2010.

CAREER CHALLENGES:

I don't talk about work too much here for obvious reasons (you'd be bored if I did anyway, I promise), but I can tell you that my challenges in this arena came in the form of long term planning. This year I looked at the things I am doing now, and wondered if those are things I want to be doing forever. The career-existential crisis, right? I have had a really interesting career path over the last 10 years that certainly hasn't been one-note, and in my current job I have had a bazillion opportunities to learn and grow. But I also have a lot of potential inside me that I'm not even exercising right now. I want to have a career where all of my talents are transferable -- even if that means Hey! because you watch so much reality tv you should always be the person picked to attend corporate-y blowhard meetings because you obviously have a higher tolerance for listening to bullshit and finding it comedic rather than depressing. Well okay, maybe not exactly like that but what I'm saying is I'm realizing that I'm open to something a little more bit offbeat. Figuring out how to balance all those possibilities with reality though has been my challenge this year. Planning exactly what my next steps are going to be proves to be the challenge of 2010. This amounts to a huge portion of my life, so I want to be inspired by my career always. Maybe that sounds a little optimistic, but I'm pretty sure I can make it happen as long as I am true myself, plan accordingly, and don't worry too much about what other people think is "right for me."

HEALTH AND FITNESS:

This year I really set out to take a holistic approach to my health. I've long left behind the idea of hating myself, or beating myself up comparatively about my body or putting unrealistic expectations on my appearance for vanity's sake (Reason # 357 why your 30s are awesome!) and instead I have really spent the last few years approaching my health with the following principles in mind: I am the only one responsible for treating myself kindly, I have cultivated a great life full of wonderful people, so what can I do for myself to ensure that I get to enjoy it for as long as possible? And in my mind this involves a number of different things -- diet, exercise, quality of food, stress-management, education, time spent in nature, scheduled re-boots, and of course continually finding and doing what brings me joy. And I have made great progress in many of these areas this year. But sometimes when you take a holistic approach to health it is harder to measure progress. I mean it is certainly more validating to see a number on a scale decrease, you know? So keeping perspective about that has been a challenge for sure. Although I know that the scale is not the only way to define progress, I certainly hope to fine tune this aspect of my life as well in 2010...and maybe do something fitness-y that I am afraid of this year.

So there it is! I think that just about sums up the challenges of this year. I know they are not front page news for everyone, but they have kept my brain, my feet, and my will to improve quite busy this year! 3 steps forward and 2 steps back keeps things interesting, right? I look forward to the new challenges that 2010 brings because even though 2009 has been a slog at times, it has brought me right up to this very point. And frankly, every once in a while I remind myself that I'm just grateful to still be here!

December 08, 2009

I'm Sorry, What Were You Saying...

(This post is a part of Gwen Bell's The Best of 2009 Blog Challenge. Thanks for the great inspiration idea, Amy!)

Best Moment of Peace



I'm not trying to leave you with the impression that I have sea turtle and pikake flower bumperstickers on my minivan or anything, or talk about the same repetitive topic over and over, but obviously this little trip to Maui I took this year was...um, what is the right word? Momentus? No. Significant? No. How about we just say that alot of shit happened there that made me feel grateful, so I'm sorry if a lot of my "Best Of" moments have to do with that, okay? Okay.

Whew! Glad we got that out of the way.

So as for moments of peace this year, I'll be quick to say that in Maui I had quite a few of them, and they mostly looked like that picture above -- which was pretty much the scene every morning at breakfast in our condo, flip flop toes included. Each morning we would get up ridiculously early, which you know I love (a benefit of flying out from California, we were 3 hours behind, so waking up at 6am felt like sleeping in!) and wander out to the lanai with two of my absolute favorite things in hand -- a piping hot cup of coffee, and a book. And literally for a few hours we would just read and watch people walk on the beach and listen to the waves crash and plan out what we wanted to see and do that day. And when we got tired of that, we just walked over about 10 feet to the pool and did some more thinking and reading and lounging, and you know generally just seeing the world from another angle like Jewel and stuff. God what ever happened to Jewel anyway? And while we are on the topic, Lauryn Hill? Did she just disappear into the ether?



So yeah, if that isn't peaceful personified, I really don't know what is.

December 07, 2009

Supermarket Weep

You know what household task I really despise?

Grocery Shopping.

And mostly because I do it at awful, awful times such as, you know, Monday thru Friday right about 5pm or on Sundays. And freaking EVERYBODY AND THEIR MOTHER goes grocery shopping on Sundays. And don't even get me started about going to Costco on Sunday and keeping my sanity. Not Gonna Happen. Especially not when you roll up to Costco and there is a big yellow bus outside which you later find out is carrying the entire population of a local Home for the Blind. But that, my friends, is another story.

So yesterday, I'm trying all day to gear myself up to go fight the masses at the grocery store. I know the produce section will be raked, the aisles will be packed, and the bread will not be hot. Oooh, hot bread? That is one of the only benefits of hitting up the store on the way home from work on a weeknight. The entire place smells like a San Francisco Sourdough bread bowl, which is like my own personal kryptonite. Can't. Leave. Store. Without. Bread. Anyway, so I'm gearing up for a Sunday grocery Bonanza Of FAIL and I get this brilliant idea: I will go to Whole Foods! It's right around the corner and it will make the task at hand so much more fun.

You see, I love Whole Foods. I love their entire produce department, the bulk section gets me all giddy, and pretty much everyone in my life knows I want to make out with the cheese section. Don't even get me started on the Health & Beauty Section. Last night I almost bought a Bucky on impulse (our heater is broken you all and it is COLD in our house -- wah wah). But yes, you read that right, I almost made a $39 IMPULSE BUY. I have no control in that store. NO CONTROL. Going there is like my own personal culinary Disneyland and the problem is that I usually leave there with about $100 of groceries that fit into two bags. And that is mostly because the courtesy clerk is trying to be polite by bagging up my enormous jug of 100% Organic Sonoma County Apple Cider in a separate bag all alone, so as to not crush the delicate rosemary crackers to go with my $15 sliver of Emmentaler in the other bag. God Whole Foods turns me into such a yuppie douchebag, but I just love it! And it just makes the whole process of grocery shopping that much more enjoyable. And frankly, I rationalize it in my head because I usually shop at Raley's and shopping at Raley's instead of Whole Foods to save money is like slumming it in a Lamborghini because that Bentley is just so overpriced that it's gross, God.

So the point of this story (THE POINT!) is that I went to Whole Foods last night to pick up some groceries, I did the entire store A to Z and loved every minute of it -- picking up some sundry items like pumpkin spice soy milk for my coffee (YUM!), greek yogurt, cayenne pepper hummus for our lunches this week, and an enormous bunch of kale that they were practically giving away for 69 cents among other things -- and I was all excited about all my various purchases until I got up this morning. When I opened up the hummus to throw in our lunches I got a pretty nasty whiff, but ya know, it was "Probiotic Hummus" (I know) so I thought to myself, maybe it's a bit more tart than your regular hummus -- I dig. Until I looked at the date on the side of the container -- Use by November 9, 2009.

HUH?

So then I checked our yogurts. And one of those had a funky date. Oh, and then my head exploded. And man was that a bitch to clean up at 7am before I had even had a cup of coffee (the pumpkin spice soy was fine, btw).

WHAT THE HELL, WHOLE FOODS?

And this is not the first time this has happened. The last time I was there I picked up this basil cheese spread because we were having some last minute guests over and even though the date was just fine, the entire container was crawling with mold. I didn't return the cheese because it was kind of a pain, and then I sort of forgot about it in the back of the frigde (science project!), and after my years spent in retail where people came in complaining and returning items for the most RIDICULOUS reasons, I'm sort of hardwired against the whole situation unless it's extreme -- but honestly? November 9th? I think it's about time these transgressions finally get noted.

I'm so annoyed to get home with a weeks worth of groceries just to have to head back in to the belly of the beast at about 5pm tonight!

My So-Called Blogging Life

(This post is a part of Gwen Bell's The Best of 2009 Blog Challenge. Thanks for the great inspiration idea, Amy!)

Blogfind of 09

A single find? Well that is a tall order.

I'll start by saying this. I've always been kind of a joiner. Growing up I was super involved in dance and when I say involved I mean, IN-VOLVED. Man, I did so much tap, jazz, and ballet from the age of 3 on, that you would never have doubted my commitment to Sparkle Motion. It felt like breathing, it was just what I was meant to do pretty much every day and I loved it. I always knew what was expected of me and I pushed myself until I succeeded. If nothing else it certainly taught me a lot about discipline and spandex -- and frankly both have come in handy in my adult life. I danced right up until high school when I had to make the OMG-HUGE-HUGE-LIFE-CHANGING-DECISION (ha!) of whether to quit dance to join the cheerleading squad at my high school. And whew! Were those some sleepless adolescent nights.

In the end I did quit dancing, but I basically just replaced it with the sort of high school shenanigans that inspired pretty much all 97 incarnations of the Bring It On franchise (and for the record, I want you all to know I never dropped The Spirit Stick.) -- but as cheesy as it sounds, those are some of the best memories of my life. There really is a little bit of magic that happens when a group of like minded gals get together to do something that brings them joy. It's why in college I ended up going the sorority route (though that ended up totally NOT being for me), and it's why as an adult I pretty much love everything about being a card carrying member of Junior League...it's nothing like the pearl wearing housewives club that you would imagine, and I have met some of the coolest gals on the planet.

Now of course when you are talking about groups of women, there is always the possibility of that magic turning into that of the "Mean Girls" variety, but as I get older I find myself encountering that a lot less frequently. I think as my age has increased, my tolerance for catty bullshit and exclusiveness has decreased -- especially since I've gotten much less afraid to express myself -- and as a consequence I find it seems to happen so infrequently. Well, I take that back, I definitely still see it, but I guess more accurately it just doesn't have the same effect. I sort of roll my eyes and move on.

I guess all of this is to say that this year -- 2009 -- my "blog-find" is not just a single link. Sadly, part of the reason for that is that my favorite blogger EVER decided to quit blogging (so sad!). But more importantly, my "blogfind" this year was really so much than I can portray in just a few links (Plus, I'd hate to leave someone out, because there goes that exclusive thing again). For me, it was more of a shift in perspective. This year I realized that blogging is more of a community for me than I ever thought it would be. That I'm not just some random gal sitting in my office, or on my couch typing away alone. I'm in a HUGE room (that spans the globe!) full of a bunch of other like minded gals (and guys, of course too!) who are just putting their thoughts and ideas into words trying to make sense of it all. I kind of feel like that iPhone commercial...."Need to know how many calories are in your dinner? There's an app for that."

Want some advice about how to decorate your house? "There's a blog for that"
Need some inspiration for continuing to write your novel? "There's a blog for that"
Garrett's job is moving to Denver, who the hell do I even know in Denver? "There's a blog for that"

And behind every blog is someone fabulous and helpful. Someone who understands the power of a friendly email or comment. Who realizes that sometimes words from strangers are more meaningful than advice you get from people in real life. Who will tweet things that make you laugh so hard you snort when you are having a bad day. Who will provide you with inspiration when you aren't finding much. These are people who understand how awesome it is to have broad network. We've got a community here, us bloggers -- and the whole is so much great than the sum of its parts! And really feeling this in a tactile way this year -- that is my best blog find.

And in my humble opinion, that realization is much more powerful than a little link love.

December 06, 2009

Favorite Books of 09

(This post is a part of Gwen Bell's The Best of 2009 Blog Challenge. Thanks for the great inspiration idea, Amy!)

My reading habits have really been unpredictable since graduating from college. I guess that's what happens when you are forced to read 1000 pages a week, which by the way is the best and worst part of being an English major. I am not a very fast reader, especially if I am reading non-fiction for comprehension, but being forced to read lots of different authors/genres/styles has definitely kept me "open" when it comes to picking out books -- I don't stick to one thing.

I read plenty of good books this year (and also stalled amidst some pretty terrible ones that eventually put down) but here are are few favorites:

1. A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg


I mentioned this one over and over this year because the stories were so inspiring and the recipes were so delicious. And what a double whammy that Molly's blog continues to be a source of inspiration now that the book is over. Love that!











2. The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld


I loved this because Sittenfeld really has a knack for capturing the awkwardness of the teenage experience. With all of her books I've found that she can really describe a situation to make the reader feel like they are there -- and she does it concisely. Not an extra word. Just the right words.









3. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri


This book just absolutely thrilled me because I didn't really anticipate enjoying it. It was such a moving book of short stories (especially the last three -- oh my god -- so good!) that I found myself totally bummed when it ended. That book will stay with me for a long time.










4. The United States of Arugula by David Kamp


David Kamp is a writer for Vanity Fair and that is exactly how this book reads -- like an extended juicy magazine article. Obviously I love cooking, but what is interesting in this book is sociological reasons behind the shift in perspective that Americans have gone through over the last 75 years. It also details a number of key players in the culinary industry, which for a Top Chef geek like me is kind of interesting. I loved the human interest pieces on those people and events that I have heard of but never really known the history of. All around good read.




What have you been reading this year. Are you on Goodreads? If so, um...hello...why are we not friends??? I love to see what others are reading. You can find me here.

December 04, 2009

Of course there's a return on investment. We just can't print it here

(This post is a part of Gwen Bell's The Best of 2009 Blog Challenge. Thanks for the great inspiration idea, Amy!)

Best Article of 09

I wish there was a job titled Inspirationalist. The description would be to find inspiration anywhere, think on it, then act on it. It would be very high paying (with good benefits!) and I'd apply for it STAT. One of the things I love about blogging is that there is so much Inspiration out there from fellow bloggers and if it is not inspiration, then it is food for thought. There's nothing I love more than reading a coherent blog post over coffee that really gets me thinking when I am too incoherent for words! Sometimes the process of imbibing all the information and inspiration sort of blows my mind.

I'll be honest, often things in my reader go in one ear (um...eye?) and out the other, or they get put on some sort of mental shelf waiting for attention, even though I know it will probably only be to gather dust (Craft Ideas: I'm looking at you, unfortunately.) Once in a while, however, I find something that not only sticks with me, it keeps falling off that mental shelf right at my feet where I find myself tripping over it so repetitively that I am forced to deal with it and find a permanent place to store it in my life (or you know, bookmark it at least!). Anil Dash's oldie but goodie diatribe about diamond marketing really did that for me this year when I came across it playing link hopscotch, and it was something I ended up sending to a number of people because it was not only funny and accurate, but at this point in my life it's totally relevant.

Now we all know how eeeeeevil the diamond industry is -- THANKYOUVERYMUCH Leonardo DiCaprio -- and truth be told, I'm not really a diamond gal. I mean I love jewelry, but I'm more into chunky (read: cheap) costume jewelry -- what can I say, I lose things. And I've never really been one for the manufactured meaning of Tiffany's or longed for a growing sparkly gemstone collection; however, as an un-married gal in a committed relationship there is a part of me that wants to partake in a little blingy rite of passage and I've always been a bit conflicted about that (no pun intended). I know that the diamond industry is not something that is aligned with my values -- both because of the human rights violations as well as the dishonesty that goes along with the price fixing and competition controlling that DeBeers is known for -- but I am not made of wood, people! And I've gotten really good at rationalizing, too -- I mean, what's one more diamond ring? Especially if it's "conflict- free". And of course I'm not even talking about some rare behemoth J. Lo rock either, so there's that. Tasteful twinkle -- it's different, right?

But it took Anil's article to really ice the already highly stacked cake against diamonds in my mind. Not only are they inherently worthless and morally evil (I know, inflammatory adjective alert!) but seriously when it comes to the way the diamond industry markets their products, he hits the nail on the head by identifying that the diamond industry is calling us and our partners nagging, helpless, chauvinist, idiots -- and not only are we eating it up, but we are begging for more. And really, that just rubbed me the wrong way.

SO....

Does that mean I am here to tell you that I have made the decision to eschew all diamonds, and that I will smugly roll my eyes at any and all marketing campaigns that tell me that I need a man to give me a rock to feel safe and calm during the thunderstorms of life -- or make claims like the title of this post.

Weeeeeeell...not exactly.

What I can tell you though, is that Garrett and I will not be purchasing a diamond when we decide to get hitched. But this year my mom offered to give me a family diamond that was actually in a ring that my grandma gave my dad -- and boy did that complicate my moral stance and tug on the heart strings. Because, really? A family diamond? Not to mention it is BEE-YOU-TEE-FULL! (The tasteful sparkle of course...haha). And once again might I remind you, I am not made of wood people. But I am pretty sure, thanks to coming across that gem of a post by Anil Dash this year, that I've decided that this next diamond, will be my last diamond.

December 02, 2009

The Trip of A Lifetime

(This post is a part of Gwen Bell's The Best of 2009 Blog Challenge. Thanks for the great inspiration idea, Amy!)

I consider myself a bit of a traveler. I mean I don't really go to super exotic locales or cliched destinations or anything (hell, I have embarrassingly only used my passport once and it was in 1986 when my hair was in full on bowl cut mode, god I should find and scan that picture) but if I have a few extra bucks in my pocket my first choice is always to spend them by getting out of town. Usually I like exploring a new place, and usually it is someplace quaint rather than extravagant, somewhere off the beaten path or somewhere seemingly ordinary. But this year I took the trip of lifetime and of all places, it was to Maui! I'm know. You are all thinking: Holly, could there be a more cliched travel destination than Maui? And the answer is, probably not. But for a few really personal reasons, it was by far the best trip I have ever taken.



Hawaii was always this mythical place in my mind growing up. My parents had lived there while my dad was in college, and even after he graduated and started playing football professionally in Detroit they spent the off seasons on the Big Island. Growing up all of their friends and members of my family had these great stories about the times they visited my parents on the islands. There were funny stories and amazing adventures, and they all painted a gorgeous picture of a what a crazy life my parents had before I was born. First of all they were in their early 20s. Imagine what you were doing when you were 22? I know I was goofing off in college and then "Finding Myself" in Los Angeles (ha!) definitely not living it up in some exotic locale. It was fascinating to me that my parents had this offbeat life before I came around -- I know that's a little self centered, but as a kid it just seemed so weird to think of your parents life before you, but it was hard to ignore when it was a life of stories re-told in such vivid technicolor. When I was young and my parents would tuck me in to bed at night I always asked for a story, and often times my father would describe tales of surfing and swimming and hiking in the lush Hawaiian landscape with its strange sounding names -- and I would drift off to sleep awaiting the day I would finally get to make sense of it all in person.

As I got older, it became less of a myth and more of a promise. You see my Grandma Marian (who passed away in 2004 and was the absolute light of our whole family) knew how much I wanted to go and was always assuring me that I would get there. Each summer all of us grandkids had the opportunity to take our own "solo trips" up to her house in Sonoma. When it was my turn to visit, she always let my fingers go walking through her perfumes and lotions -- my childhood favorites always being the L'Air du Temps bottle because it was pretty (hello 80s flashback) and a metallic tube of Crabtree & Evelyn Rosewater Hand Therapy. We spent our days visiting, doing water aerobics at her class, watching Jeopardy, having sandwiches at the Sonoma Cheese Factory, and of course always making time to catch up with her neighborhood buddies as they knew all us grandkids.

Inevitably during these trips we would stop by and say hi to her best friends (and my dad's Godparents) Mert and Don, who lived down the street. Many times they would tell stories of their recent trips to Maui altogether and how the 3 of them spent their days lounging and having cocktails and enjoying the weather at at the beach. They would always laugh when I would get upset about not having been to Hawaii yet, and say that someday I would have great friends to go with when I understood the power of The 5 o' Clock Cocktail. I would roll my eyes, of course, but they just made Maui seem so accessible. But I couldn't, in my 9 year old mind, figure out how to make it happen. So instead I'd come home from my week at Grandma Marian's and just nag my parents about it. They finally promised that they would take me when I turned 10, but frankly I'm not sure they ever really meant this. I think it was more of a finite answer to the infinite questions I would always ask "When will visit Hawaii? How long until I can see Hawaii? Can I learn how to surf? Where we will snorkel?"

WHEN YOU ARE TEN, HOLLY. WE WILL TAKE YOU WHEN YOU ARE TEN.

And so that was that. Except of course age ten came and went and we never made it to Hawaii. It's not like my parents never took me anywhere, my childhood was full of fabulous family camping adventures, the aforementioned trips to Sonoma, and one incredibly exotic trip to Bermuda (which I totally didn't appreciate a the time -- God, the regret!) but we just never really made it to Hawaii like we were supposed to when I turned 10. And so as you can imagine I pretty much brought that up annually over candles and cake. It became a bit of a family joke, actually.



I think as I got older I finally came to terms with the fact that nobody was going to Take Me To Hawaii, so I went about researching the cost of getting there myself and Holy Hell are those plane tickets pricey when you are making $12 an hour slinging mochas, so I kind of gave up the dream for awhile. I was fine doing my frolicking around the mainland and exploring California's bounty until about two years into my relationship with Garrett when he nonchalantly mentioned that his family owned a portion of a condo in Maui and would I be interested in heading out there for a couple of weeks at some point? To which my answer was, HELL-TO-THE-YES! And also immediately afterward, WHY THE HELL HAVE YOU WAITED TWO YEARS TO BRING THAT UP, BUDDY? His reply was that he had pretty much gone every summer of his entire life up until he was about 16 and so he wasn't sure that Hawaii was anything I was that excited about.

(BLINK BLINK.)

(No really, BLINK BLINK.)

So once we had a very brief repeat conversation about my likes and dislikes (LIKES: Free Condos in Maui. DISLIKES: My boyfriend thinking I would not be interested in Free Condos in Maui. See? Easy) he explained that his parents and grandparents and some teacher friends from the bay area each owned 1/12th of a condo. We could have the condo for a month if we wanted, so pretty much immediately I began to plan. Of course as travel planning goes it took us a couple years to get our time/budget/act together, but surprisingly at the end of May this year I (FINALLY) found myself on a 5 hour flight that was Maui-bound. Only twenty years after my 10th Birthday.



It was kind of a moving experience, that flight, which I realize sounds totally cheesy, but really the whole time I just kept looking out the window and thinking I can't believe I am finally going to Hawaii. I had not only packed my entire closet (which actually turned out to be a totally unnecessary rookie mistake) but also a lifetime of anticipation! And let me tell you when that plane finally landed I just let all those emotion loose! I actually cried when the plane landed because I WAS FINALLY HERE! I was finally able to see the places I had dreamed about as a child, to feel the ultimate relaxation with my best friend that I had heard about as a teen, and to see the beauty that I had envied as an adult. I had a moment of sadness because neither my father nor my grandmother were alive to finally hear about all of the experiences I was about to have, but in that moment it was like they were right there. The rite of passage was right there under my feet and it was so much for my little heart to take and so I just cried and cried the happy tears of joy that were 30 years in the making. Of course Garrett finally looked over at me and said "Dude, all these people are going to think I'm being mean to you if you are crying" and so we had a huge tear filled laugh, I wiped my cheeks and the adventure began.



We stayed in that condo for 12 days, and it was probably the most blissful time in my life. Garrett recounted memories of his trips as a child and I finally got to reconcile the pictures in my imagination with reality and it was truly so much better in person. I felt incredibly close to my father and my grandmother during that time, and as Garrett and I spent our days walking hand in hand on the beaches or cruising the island highways off to our next undertaking, I would think of my parents, and the similar moments they must have shared in their early 20s with the gorgeous Hawaiian sunset as their backdrop. What were they hoping their future held? I felt connected to the past, connected to nature, connected to a family history that surrounds me with wonderful memories even though we are no longer able to all sit together around the table and tell stories. Around every corner there was a reminder of the connections that I have always had with this beautiful place, and it truly felt like coming home.



The weirdest coincidence of the whole trip happened a few days before we left when I went rummaging around in the condo bathroom for some Advil. Underneath the sink amidst years worth of sunscreens, community shampoo bottles, and expired medicine, I found a halfway used tube of Crabtree & Evelyn's Rosewater Hand Therapy. Immediately forgetting about my headache, I doused myself in it and took myself back to those Sonoma summers with my grandma and hearing about her trips with Mert and Don and enjoying the Maui Life. It was a special moment, and the coincidence was sort of overwhelming, so when I got back home I of course shared the story with some of my relatives. Through a series of conversations I ended up having with my aunt describing where we stayed and through photographs of our trip, we ended up connecting the dots to figure out that the condo Garrett and I stayed was the same condo that my Grandma and Mert and Don had stayed in every summer all those years ago. Completely unable to believe that possibility Garrett called his parents who had the original Condo-share agreement, and sure enough, Mert and Don's names were on the contract for all those years with Garrett's parents and grandparents.

And seriously? A moment like that not only makes a trip, it kind of makes your life.

November 23, 2009

My Life Philosophy Nicely Summed Up

"The greatest crimes in the world are committed not by people breaking the rules but by people following the rules. It's people who follow orders who drop bombs and massacre villages.

As a precaution to ever committing major acts of evil it is our solemn duty never to do what we're told: this is the only way we can be sure." -- Banksy

(via Intellectual Properties)

I'm going to keep this in mind over the next few weeks because I'm mulling over some pretty big decisions. I want to make sure those decisions are being made based on what I truly want, not based on someone else's arbitrary idea of what is right.

I love finding clarity when I least expect it!

November 20, 2009

What Can I Do? What Can You Do? What Can We Do Together?

So you all know I like to cook. I come from a family that loves food and has about a million wonderful recipes all year long -- so as you can imagine, the holidays are a pretty good time of year. Well, not really for my waistline, but hey that's not the point right now, is it? My family has always served some pretty traditional dishes for Thanksgiving, and whether my mom was cooking, or one of my aunts, or grandmas -- it didn't matter, I always knew I could count on Thanksgiving to be amazing.

One year while living in Los Angeles I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for some friends by myself (OK full disclosure: I let Whole Foods cook the turkey and stuffing, but dammit, I made all the side dishes) and it was really quite comforting to be able to recreate some of the tastes of home, even though I wasn't. Food definitely is a powerful emotional currency -- ask any toddler who has been threatened with 'No Dessert' -- and although I did miss having my family sitting there with me wearing our special "stretch as you grow pants" and complaining that Lordy, we could not eat another bite if you paid us -- oh but wait, there's pie? -- OK, well maybe just a little slice, I mean it's Thanksgiving after all -- I felt lucky that I could create that same environment for my friends with just a few strategically prepared things. If you can't have your whole family together at home to celebrate, it's at least comforting to have a special meal.

So what about all those who don't have that good food and family, or hell, even a selection of the "stretch as you grow" pants of which I am so fond? What are their options on Thanksgiving -- the most comforting and gluttonous day of the year? (Also the 2nd most effluent if you want to know the truth. Only Super Bowl Sunday is worse, but you know, that's neither here nor there right now. I'm sorry, poop talk makes me laugh. I have the sense of humor of a 12 year old boy and I can't make it stop.)

ANYWAY. Back to the subject at hand.

As you probably know, homelessness is a big problem in Sacramento. You may recall hearing about all the tent cities on this little show called Oprah a while back, and there is no time that I feel a more pressing urge to Do Something, than during the holidays. What is hard for me is to see beyond the enormous big picture. I know that I can't solve the problem of homelessness. I know that I can't find all these people homes. That I can't find them safe places, warm beds, or good hospitals, if that is what they need. And it's heart breaking to me that those problems are too big for me to solve. But I'll tell you what I can do -- I can cook a mean a dinner -- and this Thanksgiving, that is just what I am planning on doing. For over a hundred people. Holy moses, what have I gotten myself into?

This Thanksgiving, my family, my boyfriend, and my friend Courtney are cooking what should be an amazing dinner for St. John's Shelter here in Sacramento. St John's Shelter is a homeless shelter for women and children whose sole purpose is to help women go from a state of crisis to self sufficiency by partnering with community resources that help reintegrate them into society in under 90 days. It is a wonderful program, and serving dinner there as a part of my involvement with Junior League of Sacramento has been a moving experience for me, so this year I thought -- why the heck not do Thanksgiving Dinner, since it is one of the most treasured meals that I am lucky enough to have each year.

Now I know not everyone can run out and ditch their families on Thanksgiving -- even though some of you might want to. Dysfunctional Families For The Win? I dunno. However, there are plenty of things you can do from that cozy little chair where you are sitting right this second. For example, if you are feeling generous, St. John's has an Amazon Wish List that automatically sends your purchase right to their door, or if you are local, maybe you'd consider volunteering to serve lunch or dinner? I can tell you from experience that doing this is so much more rewarding than you would even think. And it already sounds pretty rewarding! St. John's also happily accept monetary donations, and seriously every little bit helps. Just as a side note, St John's has a budget of 25 cents per person per meal without the help of others (Holy Budget Batman, did your brain just explode trying to plan a 25 cent meal? Because mine totally did.)-- so just think how far your $5 or $10 or $20 could go? I spent $4 on a peppermint mocha yesterday (which doesn't include the $40 parking ticket that I received along with it in the process -- ARGH), and boy do I feel like kind of a dork when I think of how many warm meals that could have provided to women and children in crisis.

So here's the deal -- I'm not trying to get preachy on you and tell you to go out and support my cause just because I support it (Next I'll be telling you to jump off a bridge just because I'm jumping off of it!) But I guess what I am saying, (a point! I do have one!) is that in the spirit of the holidays -- maybe just take a moment to think about areas in your life where you have abundance, and then figure out how you can share that abundance in your own community. Often times it doesn't take much but a little forethought to make a big impact. I provided those links above, because if you are anything like you me you are willing to Do Something, but often just don't know how to make it happen. So, you know, to my fellow overwhelmed friends with good hearts -- here are a few opportunity with St. John's to make a differences. But if that doesn't speak to you -- that's cool too -- I mean we all have our own priorities and causes that are near and dear to our hearts. So today, do a little internet research (if you are at work -- they typing will make you sound busy, right?) and check out your local resources today.

After all, 'tis the season, right?

November 17, 2009

Do You Know What Today Is? I'll give you a hint, and it involves Tony Toni Tone....

From our humble beginings slinging mochas side by side at Peet's Coffee & Tea...

Peet's Employees for Halloween

...my life has definitely been more fun with you around, Garrett!

Somebody slap him!

You are my absolute favorite person to be silly with, and sometimes it blows my mind that you see me at my craziest and still love me.

IMGP0412.JPG

You always remind me not take life too seriously, and keep me grounded when I get a little too high strung.

We're on a boat, yeah!  Uh...I mean a plane!

Whenever I think of my happiest times, your face is the face I see beside mine.

Shiny Happy People

I know it's only been 4 years, Garrett, but in some ways it feels like a lifetime. I hardly remember what my life was like without you in it.

Avila Beach

I can't wait to spend the rest of it exploring this crazy world with you because there is no one I'd rather have by my side.

Still Cheesy

Happy Fourth Anniversary, Baby!

November 10, 2009

A Completely Unorganized List About Organization

Last night my cousin Kelly tweeted that she needed to be more organized in her life and wanted some time management skills. Oddly enough I tweeted at THE EXACT SAME TIME that I needed some blog inspiration. Ok if I'm being honest, I was far too lazy last night to get up and tweet and besides Garrett was commandeering the computer and my cell phone is totally from like 1997 so that wasn't even an option , but I was totally THINKING about tweeting "I need some blog inspiration" which is almost like actually tweeting it, right? Right.

Anyway, I fancy myself fairly organized and I'm pretty OCD with some of the Standard Operation Procedures around our house. Granted, that doesn't mean I don't know how to procrastinate and avoid like it's going out of style, but the foundation is there, you know. Part of the reason I am so crazy for being organized is that I think it simplifies my life which in return makes me sooo much less stressed. With that in mind, I thought I would throw out some of my own philosophies and link to a few fun resources about organization for Kelly, and well, for you if you are looking for some inspiration. Come join my crazy organized world, friends! There is a place for everything and everything has a place!

*So, first and foremost, declare your intentions, and mean it. I find this is by far the most overlooked part of any life change that you are embarking on. So in this instance, think about WHY you want to get organized -- what improvements are going to come about because you are choosing to get organized? Is the clutter detracting from your quality of life? Are you finding you forget things or pay bills late? Think about how much better it would feel if you didn't have stress from (insert stumbling block here). Bottle that intention. This is so important is because in times of trial, you will be tempted to not stay on track so I find it helps to have a mantra or intention to keep you focused.

*Find some visual inspiration. Whether it is something like the Pretty Organized Flickr Pool that will inspire how a room looks, or a fun Mantra Poster to hang in your office or otherwise unorganized area, or a gorgeous, but functional weekly planner that actually makes you WANT to use it -- whatever it is, find a token or a tool that makes being organized fun, pretty or stimulating. You will have a better chance of sticking to it and staying on track.

Simplify! This is one of the easiest ways to have an organized life in my opinion is to simplify at all times. Whenever you are doing something, planning something, or scheduling something, ask yourself -- is this making my life simpler or more complicated? Is this necessary, or could I do it another way? A few Food For Thought resources on simplifying are: This list 27 Simple Ways to Simplify Your Life and this collection of quick tips100 Tips to Simplify Your Life

*Control Your Clutter. Unfortunately, in my opinion, clutter and organization are mutually exclusive. I am a recovering piler. I used to have very nice, neatly stacked piles of things all around my house that I rationalized were acceptable because, of course, I knew exactly what was in them! And I had put them in that very specific pile on purpose. But honestly, piles are just a euphemism for clutter, and clutter is oh so energy sucking! This article on clutter control is pretty enlightening, I think. And I especially love that this article calls out the "It's fine. I can always use another (insert item here)..." philosophy. To me, wrapping your arms around that idea -- that you don't need 500 of a certain item (thank you cards, notepads, pens, pencils, books, rolls of toilet paper, whatever your items are) no matter how useful they are -- is paramount when it comes to effective clutter control. Too many items leave you scrambling for space, and juggling that space management does NOT simplify life.

*Last but not least, I'm including a link on Scrapbook Organization because as you can imaging Scrap_girl77 does enjoy the scrapping once in a while, so Kelly, here is a quick link that not only tells you how to organize your oodles of supplies, but how to find more time to actually scrapbook. I thought the last part was sort of universally useful, I mean, even if you don't scrapbook, who doesn't want more time for...well, anything, right?

November 06, 2009

Recipe Roundup: Orange and Yellow Food Edition

When I lived in Los Angeles, my adorable old roommate Fredo worked quite a bit and was also a full time student. (By the way, do yourself a favor and click that link. His adorableness is palpable!) Anyway, he lived a rather harried life as one is wont to when juggling multiple priorities and rarely did normal things like, you know, grocery shop. But somehow he would always manage to bring home arbitrary hand me down food items -- from his mother, from a professor, from a restaurant, who knows -- and it was a common subject of amusement among our other roommate Kelly and I. He was very good natured about our ribbing, but the random morsels were always an easy target -- in fact, there was even a lovely John Mayer cover tune about an Economy Sized tub of Soft Spread that showed up in our fridge one day and seriously, almost 10 years later when I even think about margarine I still get a bit of a chuckle!

So one week, he brought home an entire bowl of persimmons. I woke up one morning and our empty fruit bowl was overflowing with exotic orange fruit and of course, mostly because we were jerks, we turned our up noses just like we did when we brewed a smoky, hot pot of Lapsang Souchong. To this day I have not acquired a taste for Lapsang (or any China Black teas, really) but oh my god -- persimmons? I take back every bad word I ever said. I can't imagine a time when I didn't love them, and the following are two fun recipes featuring persimmons courtesy of Garrett over at Vanilla Garlic (who by the way is from Sacramento -- Can I get a little love for the local food bloggers? whoop whoop!):

Persimmon Chips -- I haven't made these but they look like an awesome alternative to the Office Candy Bowl, which, where I work is like Post-Halloween-Diabetic-Apocalypse waiting to happen. yargh!

Persimmon Bread - I am pretty much enamored with any kind of baked bread, so I'm fairly sure this recipe is a fail safe.

Now, besides the elegant persimmon, the other delight that pretty much wholly represents Fall to me is the butternut squash. If it wasn't such a pain to get my knife through, we might have it with every meal during the autumnal months. Instead I usually reserve it for days when I want to make my dishes with care, and the following are fun ways to incorporate it into your dinnertime routine on perhaps a cold weekend coming up.

Butternut Squash Crumble -- First of all, they had me at crumble, OK. Cheesy, crusty goodness on one of my favorite vegetables? How can you go wrong?

Guatemalan Chicken Stew - Making the same old stew can get a bit boring. I thought this looked like a fun alternative to the traditional meat and potato stew. I haven't tried it, but I just may whip up a batch this weekend.

Butternut Squash and Sage Lasagna - First let me tell you that the idea of lasagna does not romance me. It's alright, but never my first choice. But this lasagna -- THIS LASAGNA -- has changed my life. The white sauce, the sage, the bite from the balsamic, the asiago crusted noodles mixing with the tender sweet squash -- if it doesn't change your life I will offer you a money back guarantee. Hands down, the best lasagna I have ever had. It may take every dish in your house to make it (or maybe I'm just betraying our lack of cookware) but it will be worth every delectable bit.

Happy cooking this weekend if you are doing any! After a long week I am looking forward to be a total netflix obsessed, down blanket wrapped, curled up with a good book shut in, but I just may not be able to resist the Farmer's Market tomorrow. Fall won't be around for long, you know.

November 04, 2009

Different Strokes

Garrett and I have a lot of things in common. In fact, part of why I found myself so attracted to him when we first met was because it seemed like he enjoyed so many of my favorite things. We loved a lot of the type of music (including a borderline obsessive love for Radiohead), had very similarly aligned morals, we enjoyed the same types of nerdy activities (pub trivia anyone?), and most importantly we had (and still do have) the absolute same weird sense of humor and I can honestly say there is nothing as comforting than saying something off the wall that amuses you and having your partner absolutely know where you are coming from and laugh hysterically right along with you. He makes my life so much more enjoyable in a million different ways.

But even though we have alot in common, we have more than once compared our relationship to a venn diagram (of course we both agree that it's the Best Venn Diagram Ever!) but it is nonetheless quite amusing how we are absolute opposites in so many ways. This morning Jess's post got me thinking about some of the bigger ways that Garrett and I are nowhere near alike.

Thinking vs. Feeling Brains -- Garrett is a thinker. He was an Econ major in college, has a very analytical brain, and always approaches every situation first silently and with rational thought. I, on the other hand, was an English major in college, and was raised in a household where it was very important to articulate feelings and opinions. I am very in touch with my emotions, and can talk about them endlessly. Also, I make many of my decisions on how I feel at the moment. Garrett loves nothing more than marinating on an idea or decision -- He loves to turn things over and over in his head and think about every possible angle. I, however, am way too impatient for that.

Friends/Socializing Philosophies -- I definitely need my alone time, but I also LOVE LOVE LOVE meeting new people, talking to strangers, throwing parties, and having people over. I could probably do it 3 or 4 nights a week. Garrett doesn't necessarily socialize regularly. He loves all of our friends and hanging out with them, but he is far more likely to want to have a quiet night and home and less likely to be a social organizer. Interestingly though, Garrett has the same core group of close friends that he had in high school. Those boys are tight, and I find it very admirable. I'm kind of the opposite though -- I keep in touch with a few close friends from high school (and even some not so close friends on Facebook, of course), but my social network is wide and I enjoy acquaintences from all facets of my life -- work, hometown, high school, Junior League, the internet, etc. As a result I have fewer "best friends" than Garrett (actually I would really only call members of my family best friends), but oddly enough I end up doing more socializing.

Household Disagreements -- Both Garrett and I enjoy a very tidy house. Our house is very modern, minimalist, and everything has a place. I'm not going to say we're anal, but, well...ok we're anal. (Reason #572 why I love him -- when I first saw his "bachelor pad" you could practically eat off the floor). HOWEVER, Garrett has a tendency to open cabinet doors (ours slide left to right, they don't open like a door) and then just walk away, which OMG drives me bananas! It doesn't seem to bother him when random doors are open in the kitchen, in the laundry, wherever. What does bother Garrett though, is that he has a practically origami-like formula for all the trash bags in our house, and I clearly do not have the understanding nor the dexterity to ever do it "correctly." Our disagreements in these areas, though a total non-issue, do offer lots of pot-calling-kettle debates about anal retentiveness and who is right in our house -- which almost always end up in mutual hysterics over how ridiculous our preferences are so I don't really mind that we disagree about these things.

Computer Usage -- Both of us are avid computer users, but the similarity really ends there. Garrett has this behemoth gaming computer which he uses primarily for the purposes of..uh, gaming (obvs). My computer, on the other hand, is a bit smaller and most notably, a Mac. We don't have a lot of Mac vs. PC disagreements (we are fans of both depending on the application) though the fact that mine doesn't have a mouse prompted Garrett to go out and purchase one solely for the times when he uses it. But it is more in the way we use computers. Garrett uses his computer for alone time (games, usually) whereas I generally use it to connect. If I bother to get on the computer it is basically for a steady stream of twittering, facebooking, blogging, shopping etc. Garrett is pretty much uninterested in social media in general and I'm pretty much uninterested in games, so we are happy with our two computer office arrangement which allows us the simultaneous ability to tune-in/tune-out.

Movie Preferences -- So yes, we both like movies. However, I like going to the movies, and really, to get Garrett to go to the theater to see something, takes like months of planning and coercing and usually by the time I get an affirmative, the movie I wanted to see has gone straight to DVD. Which I'm sure says more about my movie taste than it does about Garrett's preferences regarding entertainment. Mostly, I'm not discriminating. I'll see just about anything, although my preference is usually for small indie flicks, typical chick flicks, or awful Nicolas Cage type blockbusters. (Your respect for me just diminished right there, I know, but what can I say, I'm just being honest). I enjoy the experience of going to the theater more than I really care about the movie. I like to pack a lunch and hit an early show, and just relax. Garrett really likes watching movies at home though, and we can rarely can find something we both want to watch that makes me want to sit on the couch for 2 hours. I usually get restless and end up doing something else or falling asleep. Not to mention, whenever Garrett picks a movie those movies are usually of the TCM variety, which means he and my grandma have a lot in common when it comes to movie stuff, but me...um, not so much. Also he really loves classic horror films, which are fine and all, but just not really my cup of tea.

Handling Stress -- Last but not least, might I remind you that Garrett is one who stress eats a salad???? I think that one item alone really just says it all -- we have so much in common, which is what makes me love him so much, but holy moly when we differ, we reeeeeeeeeally differ.

November 02, 2009

Tidbits

You know what is a challenge for me -- writing about something as I'm going through it. I mean, yeah I can sit down and pen a number of complaints or talk about my favorite things at a moments notice, but to actually gain some perspective, corral a feeling into an bigger purpose idea, identify it and make sense of it -- like with words -- can be a real struggle. And there is a lot going in my head right now, things related to work, health, geography, scary next steps (Hi, have I mentioned I'm writing a book. There I'm just throwing that out there because OH MY GOD, it's just scary to say)...and I just don't have the perspective to get them down right this second. But I'm working on it, I promise.

Today, though, you get only tidbits.

1. I need some new clothes. We've had this "Casual Dress" thing going on at work as a part of a United Way fundraiser where you could purchase dress down days. So basically for about 3 months now, I've been wearing jeans everyday to work and it was AWESOME! Today was the first day back to business casual and golly gosh darn it, I hate everything in my closet. Also, I need to purchase some warmer things. But not warmer things like this, even though, hi I want to drop like $100 on cute fleeces and pj bottoms right now. Why can't we wear those to work?

2. My allergies have been something fierce lately and I'm starting to think it might be food related. Or the seasons changing? I don't know what it is but can I just tell you....The sneezing...is NOT glamorous. And it happens everywhere: at home, grocery shopping, at work, running errands. My allergies know no boundaries and it has been embarrassing on more than one occasion as of late.

3. My Netflix queue is kind of empty...what have you watched lately that is worthy of a rental? We are currently making our way through The Wire, which is enjoyable. But I'm thinking more along the lines of crisp Fall/Winter evening movies. Ideas?

4. We had a little get together this weekend to watch some football and I had so much fun cooking for it. I made Mexican Chicken Soup, Shepherd's Pie, Red Velvet Cupcakes, Banana Chocolate Bundt Cake and a bunch of other simple appetizers. I think we had a metric ton of food, but it was such a fun time, and now we have LEFTOVERS! And tasty ones to boot.

5. I'm going to go to the gym 5 times this week, dammit. Oh, hey -- I guess that little tidbit was more for me than for you. Wish me luck?

Hope you all have fabulous weeks also!

October 23, 2009

Recipe Roundup

Here's a few links to satiate you over the weekend if you are feeling like having a little cooking extravaganza.

Some Recipes That Have Rocked My World This Week:

Chana Masala (via Orangette) - A spicy tomato and chickpea stew. Sounds a little left of center; however, is totally easy and will absolutely rock your mouth. I think Garrett's response was along the lines of "OMG can we eat this everyday?"

Quinoa with Butternut Squash, Bacon, and Walnuts - As if I needed more confirmation that the magic ingredients in any recipe are bacon and walnuts. Delish. Oddly this recipe came from the free Raley's Something Extra magazine. Who knew a free supermarket marketing magazine could provide such culinary delicacies?

Oven Roasted Vegetables with Crispy Parmesan Topping - Again with the Raleys recipes? I know! But this was a delight. I used a combo of the last squash from our garden, an eggplant that needed to be used, and zucchini in lieu of Winter Squash, but it that crusty topping was magic!

Some Recipes I Am Thinking Of Tackling This Weekend:

Easy Homemade Cheese Bread - I'm sorry, did you say easy, cheese, and bread? I'm in.

Steamy Kitchen's Swiss Onion Soup - Again, it's really all about the bread and the cheese, isn't it?

Zucchini and Goat Cheese Pizza - This is kind of a Summery recipe but I picked this mostly becauseI've had it bookmarked for so long and everytime I look at the picture, my mouth waters -- and, ya know, that usually bodes well when recipe browsing.

Clearly, I am craving some cheese, people. Frankly it is the main thing from keeping me going vegan. Well, cheese and butter. Okay and bacon. Oh jeez, this is not looking good for me. Let's change the subject, shall we?

So what are you cooking this weekend?

October 22, 2009

Where to go? What to do?

Sadly, this morning I got out the white out to update our home calendar where we post all of our comings and goings. We had purchased tickets to head up to Portland for a long weekend in a few weeks for our Anniversary, but with all the instability surrounding Garrett's job and just the general funk that we have both been in, neither of us really felt like travelling, so we cancelled them. Kind of a bummer, but definitely indicative of my mood as of late. It is crazy when you think about it, because generally there is not much that can quell my wanderlust, but something about a trip in a couple weeks just doesn't feel right.

But all is not lost, and I actually don't mean this to be a whiny post at all so don't fret. What this means is that between the credit we now have for our Portland tickets, another $100 Southwest credit that I had lying around, and the $200 Southwest credit I got for recently getting off a too-full flight down to Anaheim -- we basically have to figure out where the hell we are going to go because this Southwest money isn't going to just spend itself. And that, my friends perks that wanderlust right back up.

So...where do we go?

Well, first of all we aren't planning to go anywhere until probably February or March. Hopefully things will calm down and get a bit normalized by then, so we are looking to do some late Winter/early Spring travel. Topping the list is perhaps a weeklong trip to Seattle and then maybe up to Canada. But also, I can't forget that Portland still excites me so I want to make that trip happen at some point. Oooh, but what about Chicago? That is one of Garrett's favorite places, so it is definitely on the list (though I am guessing it will be cold as all get out!) Austin, TX? How fun! Boston? So much to see! Georgia? Southern Comfort! New Orleans? Denver? New York? Do we wait until Summer and rent a cabin by a lake up in Wyoming or Montana?

WE COULD GO ANYWHERE....ack! The decision sort of paralyzes my little Libra brain.

So what do you think, peeps? My favorite thing in the world is to research potential vacation destinations. Where do you think I should start looking?

October 19, 2009

The Banana Bread to End All Banana Breads

Generally I am not a picky eater although I do have a few food opinions about ingredients that just shouldn't go together. For example, in my opinion, chicken on pizza is criminal. Cheese with fish? Disgusting. And surprisingly, fruit with chocolate (except maybe strawberries) just doesn't really do it for me. I don't really have OCD tendencies where I feel that my food shouldn't touch or anything like that, but some things are just not meant to be mixed.

All this is to say that when I initially read this recipe for banana bread with chocolate chunks, I furrowed my brow a bit. It seemed like two great tastes that should taste great together, but I just wasn't sure, you know?

That is until I tried it!

This is the most moist and flavorful banana bread with a crispy outer crust and a soft, tender middle. The chocolate chips sprinkled throughout only increase the decadence, and made me forever a believer in the combination of chocolate and banana! It freezes nicely wrapped in foil, but if you are anything like me, I doubt it will even last that long.

*Baker's Note*
Though I chose to go the chocolate chip route, I am sure that you could omit those and you may still have the best banana bread ever. If you try it sans chocolate, let me know!

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chunks
adapted from rachaelray.com

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 bananas, mashed (1 cup mashed banana)
1 cup chocolate chunks (I just used semi-sweet chocolate chips because that's what I had around)

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F .
Grease and flour a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan (or use baking spray, such as Baker's Joy brand).

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, sugar, baking soda and salt.
Mix in oil, bananas and eggs.
Stir in chocolate chips (do not overmix!) and pour into prepared pan.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean about 70 minutes.
Cool loaf in pan.

October 16, 2009

Football is Life

For those of you who don't know, my father passed away in 1998 very suddenly of a heart attack. He was very well known in the town I grew up in, partly because he was a chatterbox (in the best way!) and partly because he ended up playing football in the NFL. He was a real hometown hero in that sense, and even though he has been gone a decade, I still have strangers (when they realize who my father was) share the craziest memories they have about what a great man he was.

This weekend my dad's high school football coach is being recognized and a fundraiser is being held to raise money to build a bust of him in the local stadium. He is a bit of a legend in Fremont, and was a very influential person in my father's life and I wrote this letter in tribute for the ceremony this weekend.

*****************************************************

Growing up, everyone in Fremont seemed to know my father, John Woodcock. When I was young, I didn’t think anything of it, it was just the norm. As a teenager it annoyed me because, well, let’s be honest, what doesn’t annoy a teenager? But as an adult, now that he is no longer here, I am grateful for the memories that others choose to share with me. Professional football made my father well-known, but it was his heart, his drive, and his dedication that made him a success. And these weren’t just qualities he was born with.

When I think of my dad I feel incredibly fortunate. Even though he was only in my life a short time, he had a tremendous impact on the way I see the world. Growing up he was not as lucky to have such an influential father in his life. Raised by his mother in a house with three sisters, he certainly knew more than most about what it was like to be a woman. This of course worked out well for my mother in the end, but ask anyone who knew him and they would certainly tell you that he was also an incredible man. Much of that has to do with his involvement with the Washington High football program, and more importantly Coach Ingram.

My mom said, Coach Ingram was not only a mentor to my dad, but he was a father figure in a way that is so uncommon today. She said Coach was like E.F. Hutton, and when E.F. Hutton spoke, everyone listened. During her years at Washington High School when she dated my dad she said Coach must have had eyes in the back of his head as he seemed to know all and see all. He always had the scoop on every guy that ever played for him and knew their strengths and weaknesses. He taught them to strive, to be something more then they were. Whether it was to be quicker, stronger, faster, or smarter he pushed them to be focused on their game.

Back in the day, my dad would tell me, football ruled at Washington High School and it was a great time to be a Husky. He loved playing in the “old stadium” to a capacity crowd, and hearing the marching band at halftime. It was a legendary time and they had a legendary coach. His players were as disciplined as they were tough. There was no “jaking” – a term used to call out someone who wasn’t giving it their all – and there was no room for quitting. You can bet there was no sugar coating on Coach I’s team. If you weren’t performing, you weren’t playing, and he held everyone to the same standard. It was all about the team and there was no individual showboating allowed. Terrell Owens wouldn’t have made it a day playing for Coach Ingram.

Even after my father graduated and was no longer playing for Coach Ingram, he still came back to train with him in the off seasons of his professional career. It wasn’t easy for my dad to come back to Fremont after a long season and start the rigorous training all over again, but it was this that my dad always appreciated and credited Coach Ingram for -- he kept him in shape, grounded and focused year after year. His expertise and advice went way beyond the high school years and extended into his adult life where they formed a friendship. Coach I became someone my dad wanted to succeed for.

Today I know that feeling well. In my own life, I often think of my father and hope that he would think of me as a success. He taught me well and I know that some of my father’s most valuable lessons came straight from the Coach’s mouth:

• Always give 100%. The minute you don’t someone else will come along who is better, faster, or stronger than you. Always be humble and always be learning.

• Be Coachable, not defensive. There is nothing worse than someone who can’t accept constructive criticism. Take feedback with gratitude because it only makes you better if you listen to it.

• But most notably – Always do what you said you were going to do. Personal integrity isn’t just important, it’s all you have.

They are rules to live by, and I am proof that they don’t just apply in football but also in life. I am the product of my father, but so much of who he was and how he was shaped is all Coach Ingram, and for that influence, my whole family is grateful.

I was a cheerleader at Mission San Jose in the 90s and although we loved to show our school spirit, our football team was never what you would call dominant --but my dad never missed a game. He couldn’t have been more supportive. In his heart he was a Husky through and through, but he also knew that he had to do what was best for his team -- and at that time “his team” was my mom and I -- and that meant showing his MSJ pride. I think sometimes it must have pained him to have to sit on the sidelines and root for the Warriors, but true to form he always did what he said he was going to do – and I don’t even think Coach Ingram could fault him for that.


Sincerely,
Holly Woodcock

October 14, 2009

What A Difference A Year Makes

A year ago today I turned 30. Instead of freaking out, I decided (as I often do in stressful situations) to throw a party, of course! I wish I could be one of those fabulous women who tells you that throwing a party always makes them feel energized and totally less stressed out, but it ohmygawd it doesn't. They are a ton of work, good lord! What throwing a party does do, however, is make delicious cocktails within arms reach. And that is not a half bad way to celebrate a scary transition, you all.

But how does one follow that up?

Well, in my opinion you don't. This year I'm choosing to ring in my birthday with a much quieter kind of celebrating and so far it has been enjoyable. I'm actually having a very productive day at work (I know, ho-hum) and tonight will be a quiet dinner with Garrett and some serious lounging/snuggling. To me, that sounds just perfect! This year marks 31. I am fully ensconsed in my thirties. And you know what, it feels nice. This year I kind of just want to exhale and marinate on that for a second.

As you may (or may not) recall, last year the week before my EPIC! 30TH! BIRTHDAY! EXTRAVAGANZA! I was also moving. (And that's not stressful at all, noooo.) My roommate of 6 years was moving back down South, and I was going to live alone for the first time. Eek! On the plus side, I was moving into this cute little studio which to this day, might be my single favorite piece of occupied real estate. But I was still picking up my life and transplanting it. It was fun and new, but oh man, was it exhausting.

This year, however, I am totally settled. I wanted to have the experience of living alone before Garrett and I moved in together, but after about 6 months of that I was ready to shack up, so we did. This birthday is not marked by any sort of migration (THANK GOD). Garrett and I have set up our first little nest and continue to love the ease of living together. Though life has thrown us some curve balls in the past few weeks, we are trying to remain open to any and all possibilites. And you know what? That has been totally exciting. Someone told me once that during your most uncertain times, that is when your life is full of the most possibility -- and I am trying to embrace that idea.

So this year, even though there is no party, and no brand new place, no fanfare and fireworks, no bands playing in the garage or jello shots being passed around -- I am just as happy as I was last year...perhaps, happier. Steadier, may be a more accurate description. I have settled into my thirties and feel a calm sense of accomplishment about that. Though life is still filled with craziness, I know at the end of the day I have 31 years of life experience that will get me through any mess of situations -- and although it may not sound as exciting -- it might be even better than a jello shot buzz on a cool night!

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails