Monday, June 25, 2012

Trying out a new format here …for the first time ever. Woo. Lets see if this sticks. I'm going to talk about: the things I'm eating, reading & doing on the weekends, because if I'm blogging once a week, I'm almost guaranteed to make at least one awesome meal, read at least one awesome book and have some awesome adventures!

Other AWESOME things that happened this week include Germany's victory & advancement in the Euro Cup. They'll take on Italy next, which will be a tough game. I've been cheering for and keeping up with the Deutscher Fussball Bund ever since studying in Stuttgart during the World Cup in 2006. I have such great memories from that time, and watching soccer makes me extra happy!

I skipped my long run, which I'd been planning for the end of last week. Now I'm hoping this Wednesday will be the day I run 11 miles. The more I talk about running long distances, the crazier I feel. But running feels good, so what are you gonna do?

Now on to the good stuff….

Amazing recipes of the week

Stuffed Zucchini

Made this for Wednesday dinner and it was delicious. While I've been a long-time lover of squash, for some reason, I never liked its green brother until about a year ago. I've been roasting a lot of zucchini since then, and one of my favorite ways to eat it has been Rebekah's zucchini-potato fritters. Delicious. But, I'd never stuffed zucchini before this week. I adapted the recipe a bit, and it mostly reminded me of making an old favorite, twice-baked potatoes. I think we will be doing this again. Served with some plain couscous, this was a filling & delicious meal.

Now, moving on to Friday's feast…

Chicken Echiladas

Enchiladas were something I didn't grow up eating at home for some reason, and I decided to try my hand at this for the first time a month or so ago. I did this the easy way: chicken cooked in taco seasoning lumped into tortillas with canned enchilada sauce over the top. Sometimes I enjoy doing things the easy way. And sometimes I do things like this --- the really hard way! This is one of the most labor intensive recipes I've ever undertaken. Let me just skip ahead & give you a giant spoiler: it was so, so worth it. But, everything is from scratch in this recipe except the tomato sauce and the tortillas themselves. I even grated cheese, people. I never grate cheese, and I've never been so impressed with myself for cooking something so delicious before. Thankfully, we could barely finish one large enchilada a piece on Friday night, and since we were mostly out of the house all weekend, there are still some of these bad boys left to be enjoyed today. I can't wait for lunch!

Blackberry pie bars

Blackberry cobbler is one of Aaron's favorite desserts, so when I saw this recipe pinned by Flickr, I knew it was only a matter of time before it would be in my belly. It looked too good and too easy …and it was. I whipped this up while the chicken for the enchiladas were cooking. I was worried about the crust. I don't think I've ever been instructed to cook with chilled butter. Instead, It's always at room temperature for cake, cookies, frostings, etc., and I was worried about the texture of the crust. But, duh, the butter globs in the flour just makes it extra flakey & crispy & awesome. We ate this pretty much right out of the oven with some vanilla ice cream, so there wasn't too much "bar" about it, but now that they're cool, I may try to chop them up into serving sizes. …or, you know, just eat them out of the pan.

What I read…

Did I mention I've been reading a lot? I joined Goodreads awhile ago, so you can keep up with me there. For some reason, something has gotten into me, and I've already read over 50 books this year! I started the A Song of Ice and Fire series on the beach this weekend, and I'm also currently reading Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, which is amazing & yes, beautiful so far.

But, here's a bit of what I read last week…

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

A fun little book about a girl traveling in South America. She's fresh off a recent breakup and uses traveling and meeting interesting characters as her therapy. This was no great literary feat or anything. To be honest, I've been reading a ton of pretty trash young adult fiction lately, and I'm perfectly fine with that. This was, however, a great, light summer read. It would be great for the beach.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This is another "I-broke-up-with-a-boy-so-I'm-going-to-travel" book. Except this is a true story of a badass woman hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I've been looking forward to reading this for awhile, but I have to gear myself up for non-fiction. This book reminded me of a much more literary, much more serious version of A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, which, I learned while reading in May, everyone freaking loves. I'm not sure if I'm made for long hikes, but I do love reading about them. This author has a great voice. I loved the way she intertwined details from her past through her journey forward on the trail.

Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi

I read this book in one sitting on the way to Birmingham on Thursday afternoon. The only other graphic novel I've ever read was Satrapi's Persepolis. I loved it, and I heard Chicken with Plums is being released as a film this summer. I'd love to see another film like the adaptation of Persepolis, and this author is great, so I decided to check it out. I can't say too much about the story because it's so short, I might spoil it, but trust me when I say that it absolutely blew my mind. This 80-page story is totally worth a read. It's a beautiful book.

Weekend adventures

After a much-needed night in on Friday, I was excited to head to the beach on Saturday. We'd talked about going to Dauphin Island, which is apparently dog friendly, but we rethought our plans and kept Boone at home for this trip to Orange Beach instead. The drive felt longer than the last time we made it in November …probably because I was excited to get there. Though, actually, I like the gulf coast better in November as well. Quieter, cooler. Still, I had to dip my toes in the ocean just once this summer.

We made it to the beach at about noon and went for a swim. The tide was high, and I got a little beaten up by the waves and had a blast. A few kids on a church trip were handing out free freeze ice, which was amazing! Besides swimming and walking along the coast, we laid down in the sand to read for a bit. I started Game of Thrones, and Aaron started The Curious of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. This made my heart happy because Aaron isn't a reader, but he was giggling at this narrator's amazing voice the whole time he was reading. I hope he'll finish it soon, because I loved the book myself.

All in all, we were on the beach for three hours, and even though we applied sunscreen, we're still a little crispy today, unfortunately. After our beach experience, we had dinner at a beach bar-type place, and I ate crab! This is a big deal. This is the first sea food since I was forced to eat fish sticks as a child that I actually enjoy. We'll see what happens from here. Aaron says his goal is for me to be sucking on crawdads in the next few years. Yuck!

I was happy with my crab on top of fried green tomatoes, salad and a pina colada while I watched folks roll in from a red snapper tournament earlier that day.

Saturday we climbed at Sand Rock, which is becoming our new favorite crag. This time we took a couple of new friends along, which was fun. I'm happy to share our rope with people who have as much fun climbing as we do. Probably the most exciting part of the trip, though, happened as soon as we were pulling up. A hot piece of glass near a bush had sparked a wild fire, which we and four other climbers put out with dirt and water. It was a very valiant effort, I must say.

I'm dragging so far this Monday morning. Hopefully my coconut water will help. I think I'll feel much more settled as the week goes on, as I usually do.

Monday, June 18, 2012

weekend adventure: beg'd borrow'd & steel'd

Summer Heights High came in the mail last monday. I'd been contemplating buying the genius Australian series for a long time. I watched it for the first time when I was living alone in Michigan in the summer of 2009. It lifted my spirits considerably. I watched it again once I'd moved back to Arkansas just because I'd loved it so much. It was cheap with free shipping on Amazon, so that's pretty much what I watched all last week when it was gray and cloudy.

I came home from work each day last week to the kitchen. I cooked: chicken and veggies; a casserole Aaron's mom used to make with ground beef, mushroom soup, vegetables & cheese; eggplant/zucchini parmesan. I used to be terrified of frying things, but now I think it's really fun!

There was even a freak thunderstorm in Montgomery on Friday evening which caused an evacuation of the indoor pool I was swimming in at the YMCA. …Something about the water pump being outside?

The weather on Saturday was perfect, though, as we headed up to climb at an event called Beg, Borrow & Steel. I described it to friends as a "rock climbing party," though we didn't do much of the "party" things like jousting & a belly flop competition …or drinking except for the little bit of beer Aaron put in his water bottle.

We climbed almost 10 hours straight on Saturday with breaks for lunch (hotdogs, so I snacked on jerky & oreos) and dinner (BBQ & salad!), we woke up on Sunday and packed up. Aaron climbed a route and a half before declaring he was done. I wasn't even going to try….

We went for a swim in the beautiful river and left at about 10, making it to the Chipotle in Hoover in time for lunch at Chipotle! We picked up a few things at Mountain High - a new, purple, narrow neck nalgene for me …my dream water bottle. I also fell in LOVE with a pair of Merrell shoes that hardly exist anywhere in my size… and we got some Pink Berry for dessert before making it back to Montgomery.

I was so happy to see Boone! I hate leaving him, though we'd had a local dog walker feed and walk him twice while we were gone. We unpacked and made a quick trip to the dog park before spacing out on the couch for the rest of the evening.

I posted photos from the weekend and from the rest of our time in Alabama so far, since I hadn't done that yet. I actually haven't shot too many photos with my "real" camera. I'm a pretty good instagrammer, which you should know if you follow me on twitter.

The photos I have taken make me happy. This weekend, especially was a good time of reflection. It's easy to let the work week get you down, but we really do live in (near) a beautiful place. I'm thankful for that, and for being able to climb and hike and swim. So, I'm heading into this week with good energy and lots of water. Can't beat that.

Monday, June 11, 2012

indian in the french quarter ... 10 miles ... rain

I started last week out in New Orleans. Through a strange twist of events, I had to visit our regional office there for work. I headed down Sunday evening with our company’s deputy legal director.

She had dinner with the head of the office and a few higher-ups, and since I’m not important (read: not a lawyer), I was left to my own devices. I had an Indian food craving, and found a few options in the French Quarter, near my hotel, so I wandered around for a bit until it started to get dark. Then, I made my way to Salt & Pepper, a middle-eastern, Pakistani type-restaurant where I ordered a chicken curry & some naan.

The shop owner asked me if I was French. Apparently, to Pakistanis, I look French?

Me: “No, I’m mostly Scandinavian and German.”
Him: “Oh, Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”

Me: “Ja. Ein Bisschen.”

He asked me why I decided to study the language, and I said “Just because,” and we talked a little bit more. I walked my food back to the hotel and watched “My Big, Fat, American Gypsy Wedding” while I ate. I don’t usually watch those reality TV shows, but they can kind of suck me in, and this one was insane.

I took a bath and went to sleep in my king-sized bed. I’d like to say that I sprawled out in it, but I generally sleep curled up into a ball. It doesn’t matter how giant my bed is. I still sleep curled up in a ball.

The next morning, I woke up early, grabbed a coffee and danish from the Starbucks in the lobby of our hotel and waited for my co-worker...

We went to the office, which is so much more charming than ours here in Montgomery. I worked until it was time to make my little presentation to about 10 legal interns. I’m trying to teach them how to do journalistic-style interviews for a project this summer. Yes, and they are legal interns...genius.

We didn’t get back until about 6:30 on Monday, and after being cooped up for two days, basically, I had to go to the gym for a workout/run on the treadmill.

The rest of the week went by pretty quickly & uneventfully. I neglected grocery shopping, which means we ate out a lot, unfortunately.

When we lived back home, we ate most meals out, but since moving here, I've been on my cooking spree and happy to be in the kitchen, eating healthier & spending less money.

Friday morning I completed my first 10-mile run! It felt good. I ran the first two miles slower than usual, but still completed my first 5 miles with a sub-10-minute pace, which is fast for me. I usually run a mile right at 10, and a little over that when I get past 6ish miles. I cramped up a bit, got lost on my route, but things didn't feel terrible until the last 1.5 mile mark. I got to see a beautiful sun rise, a guy accidentally come out of his house in his underwear to get his paper (I guess he assumed no one would be running by so early), and some drug paraphernalia in the street. Ah, Montgomery. I got home, stretched out & ate four pieces of bacon while standing in the shower.

Friday night, Aaron and I decided to finally go see a Biscuits baseball game. I think the biscuit logo is adorable. And yes, they do sell a variety of biscuits at the game. We did not eat healthy. We had some biscuits and gravy ...and a Coke ...and a funnel cake ...and a pretzel. Yup. It was a good night, even though we lost & didn’t even stay till the end. It was actually chilly outside! I'm so surprised at the weather in Montgomery. It's been cooler than I thought it would be for June …and rainy.

The forecast for the weekend all last week promised sun on Saturday. What did we wake up to? A gray sky. Aaron went to work, and I went to the grocery store. I hopefully bought chicken, snacks & s'mores makings. By the time I got home, it was raining, and the terrible weather front was heading east. There was no way we would beat it.

Dejected, once he got home from work, we took a three-hour nap, watched the Iron Lady & ate Chick-Fil-A for dinner. Meryl Streep was amazing, I thought. But I would have liked to see more detail, even though this was such a character-driven movie, only because I didn't learn much about the NRA conflict in school, unfortunately. I did take an EARLY Irish History class in college, so we obviously didn't make it to the 1980s. I'll have to do some independent reading on the issue, I suppose.

Because I'd wanted to go camping so badly, I decided to put up the tent in the living room on Saturday night. We ate the s'mores for dessert anyway, and Aaron played me pretty music on his new guitar. Yes, we slept on the floor, and it was rejuvenating. I suggest everyone camp out in their living room/bedroom/backyard if they get the chance to.

We had almost decided to stay home on Sunday. I didn't want to drive to Atlanta to go to the big, overwhelming climbing gym there for the second weekend in a row, and the Birmingham bouldering gym has been closed for painting and renovations since last Monday. The were scheduled to reopen today, the 11th, but, thankfully, I noticed their triumphant Facebook update on Saturday evening: "First Ave is opening a day early!!! We will be open tomorrow with regular hours. Big thanks to our staff and all of you who volunteered. The place looks amazing."

Problem solved. We got to climb on the freshly painted, textured walls & all new problems! We also made a stop at the mall, which was unsuccessful for me, but Aaron got a shirt from Lululemon. I guess all my raving about their awesomeness finally rubbed off on him. I still can't get him to come with me to yoga class, though.

We ate Mellow Mushroom & grabbed some Cheesecake Factory for the road home …away from civilization.

As long as the weather holds, and we find someplace for our monster to stay overnight, we will be heading to this event next Saturday. Stay tuned to hear all about it….

Friday, June 1, 2012

it's june

Lets just not get into the whole, "I haven't blogged in awhile, ba-derp-a-derrrr..." You know, I've documented my life in various places online, and inevitably, I return to them, read or look back over and hate how I look/sound/come across. It's just funny how times change, how people [I] grow.

I was recently talking to Rebekah about how it's hard for her to focus her food blog because she likes too many different kinds of food. I can't even begin to dream of focusing a blog on even any one subject. I've thought about creating blogs about...

  • food: this one would be kind of a, "Oh, look how I struggle, and how I really hate this" kind of blog/project. I've gone through spurts in cooking. The first was in college, when I first lived on my own and first figured out how to make more than instant mac & cheese and frozen pizzas. The second was when I first really lived on my own in Michigan for three months. I didn't have many friends. I didn't want to eat fast food or go to restaurants by myself, so I started getting in the kitchen a lot more. I mostly made various kinds of casseroles to eat throughout the week. My current spurt may be unending, because I live with a boy now, and boys eat a lot of food. ;) It's just a lot more fun to cook for the two of us than just for me. Aaron helps me out when he can, and he's always more than appreciative of my efforts.
  • books: I love to read. I love to read more than I love to do just about anything. I've recently been watching a few book-tubers on the Youtubes ... and reading book blogs and keeping my Goodreads account meticulously updated. I could do what they do, right? Meh. I'd really mostly rather be reading than talking about reading...but still, maybe.
  • fitness: because I've been doing a ton of this lately ...working out. Since January I've been lifting, running, climbing, swimming, practicing yoga and taking aerial silks classes (correction - I took one aerial silks class, but I'd really, really like to go to another one soon, so I'm adding it to the list anyway). Wouldn't it be fun to follow my fitness progress? Maybe. But, if I were to write a fitness blog, it would mostly just highlight my athletic mediocrity. "OMG, guys I totally flailed on this 5.10a today. ... Sheesh, a 30-minute 5k. Speedy, huh? ... I swam faster than the fat, old man in the lane next to mine! Go team!" Yup...crossing this one off the list. Still, I'm not competitive, except with myself, and it feels good to be moving a lot!

Anyway, forget all of that. There's no way I could ever write a blog on one subject. I like too many things. "Jack of all trades, master of none, blah blah." So, I give up. This is what you people get to read ...if you're still paying attention.

And if you are, here are some updates:

I still love writing - even though I don't get to say it's what I do for a living anymore. I've still been doing plenty of writing and editing. I'm in the final stages of editing my national novel writing month novel from this past November. It's going well, except for that somewhere between writing it and this round of editing it, I've lost a semi-important 2k chunk of the story somewhere. I'm starting to feel pretty unorganized. I might take a break. I decided two days ago that I'm going to camp ...and participating in the summer writing challenge. Why not? I think it'll feel good to get some new ideas down on (virtual) paper.

In other creative news, Aaron and I shot our first wedding together. Two of his friends got married two weeks ago in downtown Little Rock, so we hightailed it back home for a whirlwind weekend. I think we did a pretty good job of it. I'm not sure if it's something we'll make a habit of, except for friends and family. But, I liked playing assistant and capturing some special moments. Maybe I'll post some photos here or on flickr soon.

In more fitness-related news, I have a goal I finally feel ready to share with the world. I'm "training" for a half-marathon! Specifically, I want to run this half marathon, which takes place the weekend before Aaron and I plan to fly to Montana for an almost week-long climbing trip (which I couldn't be more excited for)! I'm up to nine miles. I'll make an attempt at my first 10-miler sometime next week. For those of you who know me - or more specifically - who went to elementary school with me and remember me being unable to complete a .25-mile-ish run around the playground - this is HUGE. I've always hated running, and I still do, to be honest. The only good part about it is the runner's high after it's over. I'm shocked every time I meet a new distance goal, and I've never felt so thankful for my health and just being able to move forward than I do after a run. I'm still ridiculously slow, but I'll deal with that later ...maybe ...ugh.

There's lots of good, new music out lately. I love the new Jack White album ... Sigur Ros ... Edward Sharpe ... etc. A few months ago I read an article in the amazing Garden & Gun about a cajun band called Feufollet. We've been jamming to them ever since. Incidentally, their music is pretty awesome to run to! The way I've listened to music has also changed with the advent of Spotify. I'm late talking about this, but I wasn't late to the game! I got one of the first U.S. accounts, and have been loving it ever since. I have a playlist called "albums I want" instead of buying them on iTunes. Crazy. Music, though, is still a love that's been kind of pushed away, semi-recently. Listening to music throughout the day wasn't possible at my last job, but it now, and for that I'm thankful. Recommendations are always welcome and appreciated.

On a more timely note, today is Aaron's 27th birthday! 27 sounds old, huh? Aaron doesn't seem old, though. He seems just the right age. I'm planning a cake, gifts and a trip to our favorite local haunt for dinner. I'd love to find some good ice cream or gelato. This post from one of my favorite California-based blogs has my mouth watering for it. Last night, I remembered that we've been together for two rounds of birthdays now. It's officially a year and a half now. I tried to remember what we did for my birthday this year. It seemed uneventful. Then I remember, it was actually the first visit we made to El Ray, and I had a delicious mojito and some mushroom quesadillas.

Times like this do make me homesick, though. If we were home, we might go out with friends tonight and have a family dinner with Aaron's dad & co. this weekend, or in a week or two... but, we're all alone. Which is still not the easiest thing. And even though I've been here for over six months now, the new town still feels new. Nothing (besides our beautiful, amazing apartment) is settled in, really. Today, this feeling probably isn't being helped out by the gray skies and drizzly rain, which prevented Boone and me from going on a run. Oh well.

Sorry for all the words. I hope the links were helpful and interesting, and least, and hopefully whatever posts follow will at least be broken up by some pretty pictures. Until then...