Friday Five

Today’s five is all about my favorite ‘secret singles’ activities. Evan’s a firefighter, and that means that he works a 24 on, 48 off schedule. When he first started working fulltime, it was kind of a challenge- I wasn’t thrilled that I only got to see him three or four nights a week, and one weekend day. It’s been a few years, and while it’s still frustrating that we can’t just take spontaneous weekend trips, I’ve actually grown to appreciate his shift work.

What I like best about it is that I can engage in what I call ‘secret singles’ behavior. These are things that I love to do when Evan’s not around- nothing that he doesn’t know about, obviously, but things that I might not do in his presence. So, here you have it- my five favorite Secret Singles things I do when Ev’s on duty.State of Wonder

  1. Read: I can read in silence for hours, but I always feel a bit bad just tucking into a book for an entire afternoon when Evan’s around, because I probably either didn’t see him yesterday or I won’t see him tomorrow. So, when he works a Saturday or Sunday, I frequently pour a cup of coffee or tea and snuggle into my loveseat for long reading session. Right now, I’m working on State of Wonder by Ann Patchett…and it’s pretty good.
  2. Cook: I do most of the cooking in our house, which I enjoy, but when I’m making dinner for Evan and Shannon, I try to make sure that it’s a normal dinner- you know, with vegetables and protein and side dishes that go together. When I cook for me, I make things that Evan doesn’t prefer and I make whatever I want, even if it doesn’t go together. Last week, I made meatballs in marinara, guacamole, and Brussels sprouts .  These are all things that I make on a regular basis but probably not as one meal- secret singles prerogative.
  3. House shopping! We bought this house about a year and a half ago, and we’re not exactly in the market for another house…but I keep looking anyway. I absolutely adore the convenience of the neighborhood that we’re in, and our actual neighbors are awesome! But I’d love house that had a better bathroom situation or a bigger kitchen, and we’d like to move into a better school district before our kids are school age, if we have the opportunity. So no rush, obviously, but I like to keep my eye out for any secret deals. The entire matter stressed Evan out, so I do my best detective work when he’s not around 🙂Essie
  4. Beautify- having every third day to myself is perfect for beautifying. I can take extra-long showers, do face and hair masks, and at home manis and pedis. Right now, I’m loving Brazilliant– it makes me feel like spring will eventually get here! Also, since Evan has a lotion-phobia, I can spend my alone time moisturizing the heck out of my dry winter skin.
  5. Watch trash TV: it’s one show- Dance Moms. I absolutely cannot stop watching it, because all the women on that show are so atrocious (except Dr. Holly, of course)! When Evan’s gone, I like to get my fill of DM, any Real Housewives or Kardashians that looks appealing and whatever rom-coms look interesting on Netflix.

So that’s pretty much my schedule for the nights Ev’s on duty. What other secret singles behavior does everyone else indulge in when their significant other isn’t around?

Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Here’s the thing- I really, really like Brussels sprouts. I wouldn’t say that I’m obsessed, but I think that they’re really good. Probably in my top three favorite vegetables, with roasted asparagus and caramelized onions. So, I mean, I really like them.

Evan, not so much. He finally found a preparation of broccoli he likes, so I feel like he’ll come around to other green veggies eventually. For now, though, he just sighs in disappointment when he sees that I’m shredding some of these delicious sprouts. That’s okay, though- I’m just as happy that I don’t have to share.

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I guess I should mention that my favorite preparation of Brussels sprouts involves bacon and sautéed sweet onions. My dad would suggest that’s cheating, because anything can taste good with bacon and onions. I wouldn’t call it cheating- I’m not trying to overpower anything- but I will say that all three of these ingredients are good on their own, and amazing when cooked together. Seriously, amazing.

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Bacon Brussels Sprouts

  • 2 pieces of center cut bacon, chopped
  • ¼- ½ sweet onion, sliced thinly
  • 10-12 Brussels sprouts, shredded

Heat a sauté pan to medium heat, and add bacon and onions. You should cook until the bacon is cooked through and the onions are nice and soft and translucent. If anything starts to brown too much, turn the heat down- bacon and onions should cook together nice and slowly for this. Once the bacon is cooked through, add the sprouts. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally the sprouts should be bright green, and caramelized in places. Add kosher salt, a pinch at a time, until they are seasoned to your liking, and enjoy.

This entry was posted in Food.

Friday Five

This week has been something else, my friends. We’ve been working on a pretty important project at work, and this week was supposed to wrap it up. I really went into the week preparing to give it my all. Then, at around lunch time on Monday, I discovered that the pocket of my dress really wasn’t a pocket at all- it was a six-inch portion of the seam that had somehow been torn out, and it was just open to my hip. It was awful, for a second, but also a little amusing, and that’s kind of how the rest of the week went off- a bit of a struggle, but nothing that couldn’t be shrugged off!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to this weekend more than usual, so today’s Five are things that I’m really hoping to incorporate into my weekend:

  1. Reading. My book club is meeting tomorrow morning {for the first time!} and we’re going to talk about The Secret Life of Bees. I read this in high school, but it’s been fun rereading it! And, let’s be honest…I still need to finish it. Of course.
  2. Cooking! Book club is at 10:30 tomorrow morning, so I need to bring something brunch-ish. My first instinct is to bring a pitcher of Bloody Marys…but sometimes that paints me as a shameless alcoholic. So I’m thinking maybe scones like these cinnamon chip scones, or maybe something more savory with ham and green onions?
  3. Physical activity. I’m so, so glad that we can finally walk Howie to the park again! Not thrilled about all the baths that his muddy little self will require, but I am really happy that he’ll be able to run around again! Except, that reminds me that I should start to run around again. I probably won’t be running, of course, but I can across this tutorial this morning that suggests I might be able to have the legs of a dancer, and I’m willing to give it a try!
  4. Choosing a dress. We’re have a formal, gala event for work in March, and I have nothing to wear. I don’t have the budget to buy a formal gown, and I know that I’ll never wear one again in the immediate future, so I’m thinking of trying Rent the Runway. Has anyone ever used them? They have some lovely dresses, so this weekend I’m going to sift through them, find something perfect, and hopefully settle my wardrobe conundrum…wish me luck!
  5. Taming my hair. I’ve seen a few commercials for Tresemme’s 7 Day Keratin Smooth treatment, and I’m intrigued. My hair is wavy and a bit coarse, and it’s kind of a hassle to wrangle it into submission every morning. So I picked up this treatment a few days ago, and am looking forward to trying it out this weekend. There are a few steps- wash, apply, blow dry and then straighten- so I’m a little concerned about the time commitment, but if it keeps my hair manageable for a few days, as promised, I’ll be impressed!

Rainy Morning Madelines

We woke up to a chilly, grey and drizzly Ohio morning. I don’t mind, though- I think those mornings are made for snuggling a pile of blankets and Howie, drinking epic amounts of tea and catching up on reading. Fortunately, I made some madelines this weekend, so I have the perfect accompaniment to my tea!

Madelines 4

If you’ve never had them, madelines are a cookie/cake hybrid…maybe a grown up cupcake? Ok, they’re nothing like a cupcake- they have a bit of a crackly outside and a dense inner texture, with no funfetti or frosting in sight. I usually use vanilla extract in these, but I happened to have vanilla paste and almond emulsion on hand, so I used those this time. Really, though, a teaspoon of regular vanilla is perfectly fine!

Madelines1For the madelines that I made this weekend, I decorated with confectioners’ sugar. For a really nice dessert, though, I like to dip them halfway in dark chocolate. Then I serve them for dessert with a cup of strong coffee, and pretend like I’m some sort of sophisticated grown up type person…

Madelines

  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract or emulsion {you could also use lemon extract}
  • 10 tbsp butter, melted

First, preheat the oer to 375 and prepare your madeline pan; you can butter and flour, but I take the easy way out and use Baker’s Joy. Next, whisk together the sugar, flour and salt. Stir in the eggs and flavorings, and add the butter. Mix until well incorporated.

At this point, there seems to be a number of options. Some people swear by freezing the molds, or by chilling the batter for a few hours. Personally…I just added a spoonful of batter to each indentation right after mixing it and was on my way. I baked them for eight minutes and my madelines turned out just fine. If you’d like to take those extra steps in chilling, by all means. Otherwise, don’t worry- no one dies if the batter isn’t cold 🙂

Peppermint Mocha Creamer

If you know me, you’ll agree that I can be a pretty finicky person, both in general but especially when it comes to food. I’m working to combat that habit {really!} but in the meantime, some things about food really get to me. One of those things happens to be coffee creamer.

Here’s the thing- how can creamer, with all of its creamy pretense, actually be non-dairy? And also low fat or sugar free? And still be mocha peppermint flavored? The answer, I suspect, is that my creamer is made of chemicals.

Historically, I’ve just taken my coffee black, or used half and half, like normal people. But over the holidays, Shannon and I got into the habit of using peppermint mocha creamer, and…it’s delicious. But full of chemicals. We

turned a blind eye for a while {ok, for a few months} but about two weekends ago, we decided to make our own creamer.

Creamer2a

 

Now, this isn’t healthy by any means. But I know what goes into it, at least, and that makes it worth it to me. I’ll still probably stick to black coffee, or half and half, when I need it, but this creamer is delicious, and perfect as a special treat!

Peppermint Mocha Creamer

  • 2 oz dark chocolate
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cup half and half
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract.

Melt the chocolate in a saucepan with the condensed milk. Stir in half and half and extract. Stored in the fridge, this has been consumed in our house for up to 10 days or so after making.

Friday Five

It’s Valentine’s Day, and we’re all about celebrating love in this house! Evan isn’t necessarily about sending flowers, though- he expresses himself other ways. So today’s Friday Five is a look at some of my favorite ways that my husband shows his romantic side!

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  1. Laundry. Evan does the lion’s share of laundry in this house, and I can’t even tell you the amount of love that will flow through you when you’re scrambling around, trying to get ready in the morning, and you walk into the laundry room to find all of your work clothes clean, dry and on hangers, just waiting to be worn. This ranks very near the top on the list of things I appreciate in Evan.
  2. About twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, I get the absolute worst sinus congestion/inflammation/whatever, and it’s Evan to the rescue. The man stocks the pantry with chicken and stars and mini saltines and makes sure I have an endless supply of cough drops, pseudoephedrine and Burts Bees on my bedside table, and tucks me in for three days of sleeping it off. I know that I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself, but it’s nice to have else make sure you’re okay when you’re not feeling so hot.
  3. You might not guess it to look him, but Evan is one of the most entertaining people I’ve ever met, especially in the car. The man knows so many song lyrics, from Nappy Roots to Garth Brooks to John Legend, and has plenty of dance moves to go with them. If he’s has a bit to drink, he’ll break them out at a wedding or bar night, but otherwise these song and dance combinations are confined to long car rides- and they crack me up every time.
  4. Evan and I are pretty good about keeping up with current events, but we have very different politics. One of the things that I appreciate most about our relationship is the way we can discuss things that we have such different perspectives on- Evan is very careful to listen to where I’m coming from, to acknowledge that I’m making a case, even when he doesn’t care for it, and to try to explain his perspective without being condescending or patronizing, which is so easy to do when two people believe different things. Though we rarely come to an agreement about much in politics, I like that we can communicate well enough to really have a meaningful discussion about things that we’re passionate about, without it turning into an argument.
  5. And finally, another nod to communication- I work a 9-5 job and Evan works a 24 on, 48 off schedule. It’s sometimes difficult to be on such different schedules, but we really make an effort to check in a few times a day and talk before we go to bed each night, and we make sure to exchange ‘I love you’ constantly. I know that it’s not important to many people, but just taking a second to look at another person and hear them express love for you…it’s nice. And reassuring. And even…romantic. Love you, Ev!

What I Read: January 2014

Guys, I read so many books in January! I love starting the year by reading a ton, because I know that my reading will inevitably taper off by the end of the year, and in December the only thing I’ll end up reading is my email. It’s a struggle of the first world variety, I know!

Anyway, here’s what I read last month. Shannon and I tend to bounce books off of each other, so some of these are recommendations from her, which are usually pretty reliable, and some are books that I brought into the mix. I hope you’re inspired to read one of these this month!

if i staywhere she went

If I Stay and Where She Went, Gayle Forman

I’ve read kind of a lot of young adult fiction this year and it has me wondering why YA literature wasn’t nearly this good when it was more appropriate for me to read it? In any case, I love this two part series. If I Stay tells the story of Mia, a teen girl who is in a coma and watching her life, particularly the reactions of her boyfriend, Adam, from an out-of-body perspective. And, spoiler alert, Where She Went tells the story of Adam and Mia’s lives a few years later. I found both books to be incredibly emotional and touching, in addition to being pretty quick reads. Overall, very satisfying, and I’d recommend both.

just one day

 

Just One Day, Gayle Forman

I mean, after reading the two books above, why wouldn’t I look for more of Gayle Forman’s work? I’ll be honest- if I read a book that I enjoy, I generally read as much of that author’s other work as I can find. Probably not ideal for a broad exposure to literature, but…it’s my thing. Anyway, Just One Day is a full length novel and took a bit of time to get into- the first fifty or sixty pages seemed to drag a bit. Once I got into the meat of the story, though, it was just as engaging as her other books. The story ended with a total cliffhanger, and was perfectly set up for a sequel…you can bet that I’ll read Just One Year as soon as Shannon finished with it.

 

orange is the new black

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, Piper Kerman

Of course, while waiting for Netflix to bring us Season Two, Shannon and I were compelled to read the memoir that inspired the popular series. Like many people, I frequently have problems with books that have been adapted for film or television, but I still enjoyed reading this book. It was interesting to see that some of the more startling scenes in the television series matched closely with Kerman’s descriptions, and weren’t particularly sensationalized for the drama. The book is thought provoking, in that it takes to task the prison system in America, and sincerely questions the motivations regarding the current policy; essentially, Kerman makes it pretty clear that the prison system as it stands isn’t interested in rehabbing anyone, or preparing prisoners to be assimilated into society, and is certainly not doing anything to prevent first time offenders returning to prison multiple times.

the dinner

The Dinner, Herman Koch

You know, I’m not sure about this book. Shannon didn’t like it at all, but I really think it might have value. Now, I don’t know that I care for the story- it was pretty dark and I didn’t actually like any of the characters- but the writing really did elicit some strong emotions in me, namely disgust. I think that the mark of poor writing is having the reader not care at all about the story, so I think that my distaste, repulsion, and judgement indicate that Koch was quite successful with this piece of literature. Nothing about The Dinner made me feel good, per se, but sometimes I like to be disgusted. So, yes, I recommend this book, but not if you’re looking for anything light or lovely or inspirational.

 

the last summer

The Last Summer, Judith Kinghorn

This book is the complete opposite of the last one. I was getting particularly antsy waiting for the new season of Downton Abbey, so I started reading books in similar settings. The Last Summer is the perfectly lovely story of Clarissa, who comes from a wealthy estate family, falling in love with Tom, who is the son of the housekeeper. Tom is sent away to the war with the rest of the young men and, of course, heartbreak ensues. This book is very Downton, and is a pretty substantial read at 464 pages. It’s not a literary masterpiece, but it’s certainly not as empty as much of the chick-lit fluff that I read, so I would say it’s the perfect book for a snowy weekend when all you want to do is be wrapped up in a love story.

 

the book thief

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

It’s true- I took a ton of my book recommendations last month from movie previews. That’s not even an exaggeration…each time we sit through previews I have to take out my phone and make a note of the titles in my handy Evernote app. So, yes, The Book Thief came out in theaters in November to pretty good reviews, I believe, and that makes sense to me since it was also a pretty engaging book. The Book Thief is set in Nazi Germany in 1939 and tells the story of Leisel, a foster child who places an incredibly high value on books. This book takes the reader through the heartbreak of bombing raids, the parades of Jewish prisoners, and the struggle of keeping a Jew hidden in her basement. I really, really loved The Book Thief- Markus Zusak writes with an intensity that it a bit addictive, and completely engaged me as a reader.

 

 

Forcing Spring Flowers

Bulbs2Winter is certainly taking its sweet time this year, isn’t it? Actually, it doesn’t bother me that much- I love how calm the air seems when it snows, and I love bundling up against the cold. I think what I miss about warm weather, though, is seeing grass and trees and other signs of life!

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As I was picking through flowers at the grocery store this week, I remembered a few pins I’d seen at the end of December about growing flowers indoors- they called it ‘forcing’ bulbs. I thought it might be nice to see something growing in our house, so I stopped by the nursery and grabbed a handful of bulbs, founds some stones at the dollar store, and shopped around my house for glass containers. I’m very rarely successful at keeping plants alive, but I’m crossing my fingers that these guys bloom into some gorgeous spring flowers!

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