28 January 2013

Cherry cheers.

I love the idea of mocktails. It's cutesy and silly (I mean, it's really just juice), but I love the way drinking a "mocktail" makes me feel slightly fancy. I certainly drink my fair share of actual cocktails, but in terms of regular old hydrating, I feel like I should lean toward the non-alcoholic beverage side.

I'm a chugger. I've never been much of a sipper - I'll often go to the kitchen, fill a small glass of water, chug it and move along. For that reason, I've worked hard to make all-day drinking (water!) a habit, which I'm pretty good about at work (the act of getting up to get it gives me a good excuse to stretch my legs). At home, though, I'm still more of a chug and done girl. To make things more exciting, I've spent the past year experimenting with different jazzing-it-up methods. For some time now, my favorite base has been Faygo sparkling water, cherry flavor. I love the fizz - tricks my brain into thinking I'm drinking Coke in a can. Or something.

Typically I mix some fresh lime juice and drop in a cherry or two. Recently I've been mixing a splash of V8 Fusion juice in (but just a splash - that's all you need to get the sweet). But a week ago a light bulb went off when I saw another blog post about mocktails. Nothing earth shattering, but it's citrus season, and it never occurred to me to add some fresh orange juice to my concoctions. Duh! I finally made it to the store Saturday after two weeks, and I bought a huge bag of oranges to experiment with - figure I can use all the vitamin C I can get! Besides, it gives me an excuse to bust out my vintage juicer.

Reminds you of why fresh-squeezed orange juice is so expensive....

For my new and improved orange mocktail, I combined the juice of one orange, a quarter of a lime, two cherries, and sparkling cherry water. Our new fridge even offers ice options, so I can get crushed and feel extra fancy.

Last night I made a double batch and mixed it up a little by dumping in some frozen blueberries. And everything tastes better in a Huge Ass Beer cup.

Here's hoping the hydration and OJ keeps up the healing process for me... Fingers crossed! What's your favorite method of hydration???

27 January 2013

Ideal date.

Heidi and George would like to ask you....

Did you hear? We're going on vacation!

Since we booked a dog-friendly cabin up north, it is all George and Heidi can talk about! And, of course, they needed some traveling jackets. Gotta stay warm.

Speaking of staying warm, I've been doing my best this past week to stay warm, rest up, and beat this dang sickness in time to fully enjoy our winter getaway next week. I did venture out briefly Friday night, though, for a Girl's Night Out dinner, which was super duper awesome, delicious, and fun. You really can't beat a few hours out with just the girls. * insert many o' giggles *


Special shout out to Hillary, who had her first ever soft shell crab. Love seeing people try things for the first time - especially when they enjoy it! Maybe one of these days we'll even get Molly to try an oyster....... wink! Ties in nicely with my last post about food revelations, which has confirmed the fact that I clearly need to try Indian food again. It is officially on the list! This time, no buffet, though (sorry, Melissa P! ha!).

21 January 2013

Got rice?

Based on a specific request (keep 'em coming!) for more retro posts, as well as a photo request, on top of the fact that I've been sick since the flu hit me like a ton of bricks this time last Wednesday and I have no new life experiences to share, I bring you my love affair with sushi.

First, a brief trip down memory lane, where we visit Meg, Liz, and Aaron at my college graduation party. Lisa, who I lived with, made jello shots. With really cheap vodka. They were strong and, of course, horrible. But we were 20, 21, 22.... so down the hatch. Here we see Liz reacting and Meg getting ready to go. By the way, Meg and Liz celebrated a birthday last week so, hey, jello shots in your honor!

A brief moment of silence for the awesome '70s couch pictured here. This was our family couch growing up. When I moved out for the second time, at 19, this couch went with me and served as the backdrop for much debauchery.

As the fates would have it, a few years later, clearly having forgiven me for the jello shots, Meg changed my life, my future culinary adventures, by introducing me to sushi (coincidentally enough, Meg also introduced me to Thai food years later). At no place other than.... sushi.come. Yes, sushi.come. Seriously. I don't know if it was a typo, or a poorly thought-out alternative to the presumably already taken (?) sushi.com, but it remained sushi.come for a number of years (they have since made the smart change to, you guessed it, sushi.com). I'm pretty sure we then had Tio's milkshakes for dessert, but that's a different story.

I don't specifically remember the sushi, other than we had it, but I fell hard. I was of the generation that grew up unawares of most ethnic cuisine, and in my ignorance had surely made the ew face at the thought of raw fish. And seaweed? The horror! I'm not sure if it took a ton of convincing, or if I decided I wanted to try it, but I can honestly say that discovering sushi changed my outlook on food - if I like this, maybe I'll like that, or that, or that! I still don't want pickles on my food, but it was the start of me growing out of my picky eating habits.

Luckily, Brad took the sushi plunge with me and he's almost always game for it - at least when we vacation now, as we don't have any local sushi (he won't slum it and eat grocery store sushi like I will in a pinch). For his 30th birthday, we gorged on beautiful rolls in South Beach - a meal we still remember fondly.

A few years prior, my ladies and I had a delicious sushi evening in Toronto for my bachelorette party. A few familiar faces here...

We've had sushi in Hawaii, on the east coast, on the west coast, in Chicago and in NYC. All amazing. But when my sushi cravings hit, when I'm sitting at home or getting ready for lunch at work, my heart still and always remains with my hometown Godaiko. Buy-one-get-one-free-spicy-tuna, you had me at hello.

I'm curious.... What food discovery changed YOUR life?!

15 January 2013

Begin the begin.

The past few nights, before bed, Brad and I have been flipping through a random photo album (for those that don't know, I have an entire closet of photo albums, and yes, I STILL print photos. nearly all the photos I take [and I take a lot]). Last night I blindly chose an album from 2002, and there were a handful of gems, including pictures of me drinking Zima, Rachel drinking beer from a straw, many many party pictures from my post-college house with Lisa, and then moving out of that house and in with Brad.

I didn't cook growing up. Honestly, I don't think I ever even made macaroni and cheese as a kid (I did, however, microwave Michalina's frozen mac and cheese like a champ). My repertoire throughout college and immediately after consisted of poached eggs on toast and noodles with sauce. Maybe a microwaved hot dog here and there. Luckily, I had roommates that did like to cook, so I didn't starve. When I moved in with Brad (at just shy of 23, which looking back seems crazy to me!), I decided, hey, maybe I should, you know, make dinner or something. I picked up a few cookbooks from the Border's sale aisle and started planning my FIRST meal. Even without the picture (see where I'm going here?) to remind me, I remember that meal - Greek chicken. My first meal involved pounding chicken and stuffing and rolling it... not too bad for a novice, right? So bringing the story back 'round, I was amused to be reminded of when my food photography started AND to discover that the "Brad food face" started very very early on. Some things never change.

Moving forward more years that I'm comfortable with... After a visit from my dad Friday to Saturday, we stopped in Sawyer (he went home via train from New Buffalo) to finally check out Greenbush brewery. We've had a few of their beers around town, and I was very much looking forward to trying more - and checking out the menu. We arrived around 4 pm and it was crazy packed! For those of you that don't know, Sawyer is kind of in the middle of nowhere. Good for them, of course, but we were a little "whaaaa is this nonsense?" We waited 20 minutes or so for a table, when I promptly ordered myself a giant beer flight - probably meant for two (or three) people, it was my only option if I wanted to taste a bunch of stuff. So I went for it.

Let's do this.
(to be clear, there are six of those)

While I worked on my beer (their Christmas ale and a date-flavored stout were my favorites), we got some beer cheese (yum) with pretzels (just from a bag) and sandwiches. Some roast beef pile for Brad, brie and cheddar grilled cheese with apple chutney for me.

Both sandwiches were well-received, but mine did leave me wanting more - tasty, but not super substantial. I'd go back again, but with the beer as the main driver rather than for a meal. Back to that beer....

Killed it.
(okay, with a little help)

Cheers to fun memories, new beers, and lots more of both in the future!

08 January 2013


It's the second week of the year, and I feel like it is my duty as "one who blogs" to discuss goals. I don't do resolutions, and I don't really do goals. (Ironic because I love love love lists.) And the changes I aim to make in my life don't necessarily relate to time of year (i.e., new year, new you!). This year, though, they kind of do  - just coincidentally. You won't get me admitting to any new year resolutions! ;)

Anyway, in a nutshell, I aim to keep up with my running and get to the point where I can easily run 3 miles. Not saying I won't run  more, but a 3-mile run on the treadmill a couple nights a week after work is reasonable for now. I was almost to this point this time last year (I'd done the Couch to 5k program), but a sickness in April threw me off and I never really got back on track... until late summer. And then there was the Steph + Heidi + sidewalk = concussion incident, and the repercussions of that didn't really start subsiding until mid-November. A handful of weeks ago, I printed out a novice-level 5k training (a little more intense than the Couch to 5k), discovering that if I have a schedule, I can't bear to screw it up. So I've stuck with it, and I haven't pooped out early yet. I'm up to 2.5 miles now, and I feel darn good about it. It's been a struggle to lose the weight I put on while I was laid off, and I'd be pretty proud of myself if I could put that part of my life behind me for good.

Eating better tends to naturally fall in line with consistent exercise, but I also aim to make a concerted effort to:

  • MANAGE PORTION CONTROL. I truly believe that this is 90% of any food issues I have. I don't eat meat. I don't eat fast food. I'm not a big snacker. I do love a good hunk of cake (the other 10%). If something is yummy, I have a hard time stepping away. I'm looking at you, homemade pimento mac and cheese.
  • Eat more fish. I think my constant hunger is a lack of protein. Fish = protein. More protein = happy Steph.
  • Consistently eat more fruit and veggies. Not just in random bursts. 
The added bonus of all of the above being better general overall help, which while doesn't necessarily keep flares away.... keeps me feeling better on my sporadic bad days and, should I get sick anytime soon (boo! hiss!), sets me up for an easier time and recovery.

So in that vein, the past two nights I've manged all three of those goals in our dinners. Pat on the back! Hillary re-inspired me on cooked-at-home salmon (not my favorite nor something I excel at making), and I picked up (at Meijer, another Hillary inspiration) a 2-lb salmon fillet. Not just salmon, sockeye. We had sockeye for the first time ever on our Pacific Northwest trip last year, and it is definitely the way to go if you have any say in the matter. So incredibly delicious, and I managed not to screw it up. Fillet on baking sheet. Butter. Salt. Pepper. 450 degrees for around 15 minutes. We just had fish plus steamed broccoli plus corn on the cob last night. But tonight I threw together a delicious pasta with the leftover salmon. For the pasta, I used a handy portion control doodad Brad got me for Christmas. Seems silly, but this is incredibly helpful...

Not a snack.

Twist the lever to your serving size - in this case, 1 serving - and get cooking.

I made a "sauce" of one smashed-up avocado, juice of half a lime, a few springs of cilantro, about a tablespoon of olive oil, basil, salt, and pepper. I wilted a handful of spinach, and popped in a handful of cherry tomatoes for me (Brad's not a fan). Then I topped it with salmon. And JUST a half-serving of noodles for each of us. No cheating because I didn't make extra! Oh yeah, and a little Parmesan for good measure.

I still am mad craving a huge hunk of cake, but I'm actually pretty full. And I think a tall mug of hot cocoa will suffice. A decent start, I do believe. Maybe I'll see you back here, this time next year, a new year's resolution convert!

07 January 2013

Put a rug on it.

Rug shopping is the worst. Who's with me? They're either cheap, like, way cheap and cheap looking, or so expensive. And for something that expensive, you kind of want to see it in person - feel the texture, the weight... and even still, for high-traffic rooms, do you want to spend a lot of money on a rug that may not hold up over time? And I feel like, even if you live in a bigger city with more in-person-shopping opportunities, stores really don't carry that many rugs. It is for this reason that I've suffered through this cheap Target rug (nothing against Target, it just hasn't held up well over an extended period of time) that hasn't matched our kitchen (it was green when we first moved in) in two years... through snags, paint stains, doesn't-even-kind-of-hide-dog-hair-ness, and a lot of "I'm so sick of looking at you."

Not the worst. And in another space, I wouldn't have such nasty feelings about it. But we've both been SO over it for so long, I want to call it lots of mean names.

Well, over Christmas, the woman who used to live here got a catalog for Ballard Designs, a company I'd never heard of before. On the cover was THE RUG. I showed it to Brad and he seemed mildly swoony over it as well. And it was an indoor/outdoor rug, which is perfect for all the wear and tear (and dog hair) it is likely to endure. And it wasn't too expensive, and it had a ton of positive reviews. So we finally just went for it and FINALLY ordered a new kitchen rug - our new kitchen deserves it, right???

Three days later (seriously!), she arrived.

It's not a big room so it's hard to get a good photo that shows the full effect, but it really ties the kitchen together. It's sturdy material that doesn't seem likely to snag the first time a dog catches a paw on it, and, so far, it seems to slightly repel and/or camouflage the blonde tumbleweeds. After a lot of slippy and slidey [Brad and the dogs], it did require a giant rug mat - but now it's solid. It's not soft - I wouldn't want to cozy up and take a nap on it - but it is exactly what we need. And I do believe our little friends approve, as well.

I like it over here....

I like it far...

I like it near!

I suppose I like it with HIM, too.... ;)

01 January 2013

How I spent my Christmas vacation.

And by "I" I mean "we," and by "we" I mostly mean Brad. But I did help!

Let me remind you of the before......

I've been bugging Brad about redoing our kitchen for at least a year. He went back and forth between being on board and seeming to humor me. Then all of a sudden last week, he loaded up Larry and Jordan, hit Lowe's, and the paint-the-cabinets project commenced.

Calling in some Christmas Eve reinforcements...

Admiring his Christmas handiwork...

Enjoying squeezing into tight spaces...

The final stretch...

Painting THE LAST DOOR...

A week (and a day) later, we are know the proud owners of a beautiful white kitchen!

What a difference a hundred bucks and a week can make! Anal Brad, for the most part, didn't want anyone helping him paint (which was fine by me, really), so I did a lot of the door disassembly and liquid sandpapering. I think Brad would agree that this was a super simple process that just takes time for drying and lack of space (he could only do a handful of door fronts at once). Just a quick wipe over everything with the clear goo (liquid sandpaper-eqsue) - maybe 1 to 2 minutes per door or cabinet section, then a layer of primer, then a layer of paint. No major mishaps, only one spot of paint on a dog, and no one fell off a countertop. A successful and beautiful vacation project. A million thanks, Bradford. I heart my kitchen.