I have never been a fan of non-fiction. Let’s face it. Even the fiction I read is pretty out there, so why would I read something non-fantastical, let alone based on truth? Sounds like a snooze to me.
But then I go and get married. And this guy reads non-fiction almost as exclusively as I avoid it. We have the great debate of Fiction vs. Non-Fiction on a regular basis in our home (which usually ends with him giving up and saying “Whatever, fiction is lame!” to which I maturely respond “Your face is lame!”)
In spite of my obviously superior talents of debate, on occasion, he can convince me to brave the entirely normal, magic free, alternate universe lacking pages of a non-fiction book. His most recent victory was Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven, the harrowing story of two Fundamentalist Mormon brothers who commit a violent murder in the name of God. The book becomes an account of the evolution of the Mormon religion, the growth of fundamentalist branches within the religion, and episodes of violence throughout, including the Mountain Meadows Massacre. In addition to being an extremely well-told story that was entertaining (if not disturbing), I feel like….as if I possibly…..learned something (gasp!). Unlike the time I learned all the territories of Westeros and the Free Cities in the Game of Thrones, or when I learned the proper pronunciation and use for the spells in Harry Potter, this time I think I learned something about myself and my own beliefs.
In short: Man is infinitely fallible. Religion is man-made. Therefore, religion is infinitely fallible.
God is infallible. And that’s all I need.
Mom always told my sister and I to find a man to marry with whom we were evenly yoked. While in morals, goals, and spirituality I may have suceeded, I dismally failed when it comes to boiled eggs. I love them. He hates them. Not ”dislikes” or “doesn’t care for”, but hates them. The smell, the texture, the taste; everything. He’s tried to ban me from cooking them in “his kitchen” (statements which are immediately retracted after the death glare he receives).
I love boiled eggs, deviled eggs, egg salad, egg sandwiches, you name it. I try to be a courteous egg eater. When bringing any variety of boiled egg to work in my lunch, I try to loudly broadcast “I promise that’s my sandwich you’re smelling, not me!” OK, so it may be a little self-serving, but I consider it a Public Service Announcement for my co-workers.
One of the best things about making boiled eggs at home (other than the wide variety of what you can do with them and the general deliciousness) is that the cat shares my love of eggs. She can be passed smooth out in the other end of the house, but as soon as I tap an egg on the sink to begin peeling, she will be glued to my ankle, begging for a piece. She will devour any bit I give her (whites, yolks, she doesn’t discriminate) and comes back for more. And it drives him insane.
Mogli was thrilled when I found this “Hippie Egg Salad” recipe in Food&Wine magazine and gave it a shot. Here’s my slightly altered version:
5 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1/4c light mayo
1T grated carrot
1/2T apple cider vinegar
1tsp Dijon mustard
1T minced celery
1tsp dried parsley
1tsp dried tarragon
1T salted sunflower seeds
Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
Mix everything together and spread over toasted bread. You can make this ahead of time and it will keep for a few days, but you may want to add sunflower seeds just before serving to ensure a good crunch. I mixed mine all together, including the seeds, and ate on it for 2 or 3 days and it was perfectly fine. Just a matter of your texture preference.
Enjoy! Mogli and I did!
Last night, I finished the best book I’ve read in a while, The Name of the Wind. And to be honest, I feel like it somewhat ruined me for other books.
Not to say I’ve been reading garbage up until now, it’s quite the opposite in fact. I finally started the George R.R. Martin series and have finished A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings, both of which were fantastic. I’ve also catered to my inner child and fell in love with what should become new classics, The Magician’s Elephant and Gossamer. I most recently read the Wool series which was an excellent fix for a dystopian craving. So it is not as if I have been in a dreaded literary dry spell.
But the reason Patrick Rothfuss ruined me with the first book in his Kingkiller Chronicle series is a combination factors. The characters are brilliantly complex and endearingly human (even the ones who aren’t human). The world he creates becomes tangible. The magic system is awesomely unique. But probably more than anything else, it’s extremely well written and flows effortlessly, making you forget you are reading quite the tome. It ruins me because I will be intensely critical of every book I read in the near future, in comparison. Every book lover knows the feeling, and while it doesn’t last long, I will be temporarily, and inconsolably, unimpressed with anything less. Thank God there are two more books in this series.
I happened onto this book through my online book club, Read by Theme. My sister-in-law, who is the biggest bibliophile I know (and blogs about it), introduced me to both Goodreads and this particular book club. Club members vote on book themes, which have been suggested by members, at random for upcoming months. Most themes are very broad and would work for any type of reader, but it is especially handy for those of us who stress over what to read next. The themes since I have joined have been “Books with a Blue Cover”, “Books Set in England”, “Books with a Teenage Protagonist”, “Highest Rated Book” and “Most Recently Added Book”. The Name of the Wind was my highest rated book when that theme came up, and as it turns out, 73,969 people averaging a 4.55 out of 5 star rating weren’t wrong.
So. Do tell. What books have ruined you?
My husband can bake. I cannot. He can tackle a completely from-scratch baking project, and it will not only taste great but look just as enticing. I, on the other hand, can ruin a boxed cake mix (or as my husband calls them, blasphemy boxes). So when recently asked to help make cupcakes for a work friend’s owl themed baby shower, I shuddered. It’s one thing for me to bomb dessert for family, but coworkers? Bosses? Shudder.
But, as I tend to do, I said, “Sure!”
I ended up finding a DIY yellow cake mix on Pinterest that saved my baking reputation (or at least I hope it did). The mix was cheap, easy and, as much as I hate to admit it, kinda fun to make. Because I live in an area with very limited grocery store options, all of which sell the most basic produce and baking ingredients, Pinterest saved me again with this DIY cake flour for the mix and this cream cheese buttercream frosting (otherwise known as, my new favorite frosting in the world).
Cupcakes: check. Now, presentation. Double shudder. Luckily, I get by with a little help from my friends, and Jessica and I were able to make some semi-recognizable “owls”:
One week later, my sister decided to throw her husband a surprise 40th birthday party. And guess who got asked to make the cupcakes. And guess who, yet again, said, “Sure!” My confidence unusually elevated from the baby shower non-disaster, I decided on an “Old As Dirt” theme for the cupcakes…mainly just so I could put crushed Oreo “dirt” in everything!
Using the same cake mix and frosting recipes from the shower, these turned out great! I just mixed some crushed Oreos into the batch of frosting, then used more to decorate.
So, even though my husband maintains the title ”Best Baker” in our house, I think I’ve earned the title “Best Baker Faker”.
You already know why I love to cook. So now let me tell you how I like to cook. Every great once in a while, I will spend the better part of an entire day in the kitchen. But on every other typical non-”I think I’m Julia Child” day, I like simple. To me, simple means a meal that will:
a) be ready before 9:00pm
b) not dirty up every pot, skillet, and cutting board I own
c) not require my constant attention for hours
I will admit, years ago, I would simplify my recipes to force them into those qualifying parameters. Half an onion, chopped? Onion powder it is! Minced garlic? I’ll be damned, that comes in a powder too! Needless to say, as I’ve aged, my tastebuds have too and my cheats were not cutting it anymore (not to mention I needed to impress the hubs). So without prep cheats, I quickly made a new BFF. My crock pot.
My crock pot does all the work, and I get all the credit. I prep for a few minutes in the morning, it cooks for hours, then greets me when I walk in the door from work. I set the table and voila! Immediate dinner, minimal dishes, maximum hubs approval. What more could a working girl ask for?
My latest success was a perfect fall feast: Slow Cooker New Orleans Red Beans and Rice (recipe from Pinterest)
My task was throwing beans, chopped veggies, andouille sausage, seasoning, and water in the crock pot.
The crock pot did the rest! I threw some white rice in the rice cooker (another fabulous invention), set the table and dinner was served!
My only tip for this recipe is watch the spice! I used 3T of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning and it was mega-spicy for our weenie taste buds. I think 2T would have been plenty and still had a good kick!
Greg gave me a pretty good reason to love St. Louis last summer. So when he bought us tickets to the Packers game in St. Louis for this past weekend, I was stoked! I was a teeny, tiny bit disappointed to be going back to a city I had so recently visited instead of somewhere brand new, but it was my first NFL game, so my excitement quickly outweighed my disappointment.
Once arriving in St. Louis, my disappointment was non-existent. Fall had been very kind to this city and it felt brand new.
We did all the necessary “touristy” things on our previous trip, so this time we ventured to new places like Union Station. We ate. We drank. We ate some more.
The entire city was very welcoming of all the invading Green Bay fans. We were particularly welcomed at one of our favorite bars from last summer, Tigin.
My first NFL game was sa-weet! The Packers were even nice enough to win just for me!
We had a fantastic trip and I will never again complain about visiting the same place twice. St. Louis pleasantly surprised me. Maybe now we need to see St. Louis at Christmas.
Fall has arrived. The trees are in that bashful state, barely hinting at what they will soon become. Grocers are promoting a wider variety of pumpkin products than I thought was possible (we left with only pumpkin coffee, pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin pie almonds…I’d call that a success of willpower). Everyone is starting to think about Thanksgiving, family gatherings, and the holiday season. It feels like we’re inching closer to our annual closing ceremonies; our reward for making it through yet another year.
Christmas is great. But this. Now. Is truly the most wonderful time of the year.
My mother told me recently, and not for the first time, “I never would have guessed you would have ended up cooking.” While I put up an indignant front to this attack on my kitchen prowess, I secretly knew exactly what she meant.
Here’s some background: My mother is a fantastic cook. Her mother is a fantastic cook. We always sat down to home cooked meals as kids. Birthdays were exciting because you got to pick the menu. Holidays were the best because we could submit a certain number of “requests” for specific baked goods. Food has always been a pretty big deal in our family.
Needless to say, the bar was set rather high. And I wasn’t exactly a child prodigy…
One of my earliest culinary catastrophes was a backyard mud pie, concocted in Tupperware my mom generously (and unknowingly) donated. I spared no fresh ingredient available to me: a cup of rocks, a dash of twigs, a sprinkle of moss, and of course, mud. Lots of mud. Being ignorant at this young age of the charms of cold gazpacho, I felt this dish must be properly cooked. No imaginary oven would do, so I proudly brought my creation into the house and popped it in mom’s oven. Now, don’t freak out. I didn’t turn it on. I’m not THAT inept, geez.
However, I did forget to remove my mud pie from said oven.
And as any good baker would, mom preheated the oven later that week. Much to her horror and my eternal shame, the mud pie baked. Oh, did it bake.
Twenty-something years later, here I am. With more enthusiasm than ability, but here nonetheless. And somewhere along the way, through many trials and tribulations, failures and flops, I found out I love to cook. I love to cook. I feel like I understand my mother and grandmother more than ever. I have so much respect for their incredible ability to have Sunday lunch on the table within an hour after church, and everything arriving to the table together and hot. This is no joke – a meal coming together at the same time is an artform and they are masters. My grandmother was a farmer’s wife with an endless to-do list and four kids to feed. My mother worked full time and still came home to make dinner every night. It wasn’t just what they did or how hard they worked that was exceptional. It was that they did it all without complaint or bitterness or expectations of praise. These women were and continue to be my role models, my heroes, and the standard to which I strive to be as a woman, wife, and one day, a mother.
I will eventually start posting recipes, stories about eating adventures and the like, but I just wanted to put this out there. The premise. The explanation. I don’t cook because I have to. I don’t cook because my husband expects it. I don’t cook because I’m bored. I cook because I love it. And I love it because of these two women. And if I could come close to being remotely like them, maybe…just maybe, I could make up for that mud pie.
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