Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Liebster Awards

I've never been one of those people who has a lot of friends.
I don't mean that as an inherently bad thing or a source of pity, it's just a fact. I simply build relationships with people slowly. I like them to be genuine.
However, the friends that I do have and keep have always been pretty fantastic people.

One of the very first people I met upon going to college (actually, possibly the first, after my roommate) was Haley. She is fantastic. You know those people who just make you feel a bit better inside by simply being around them? Yea, she's one of those. Anyway, Haley was important to me because she helped support my adjustment to college life and exploring and trying new things, never making me feel out of place for being the sometimes-awkward freshman, and she continues to be someone that I'm grateful for and enjoy having in my life. (Sorry to sort of wax poetic in a blog post, Haley!)

Among the good things that Haley helped introduce to me was her then-roommate and best friend Caroline, who is doing some pretty cool things (no, but seriously, how great is that?!). Caroline is always incredibly enjoyable to be around as well, and these ladies have been some pretty joyous company and wonderfully inclusive in things like their Galentine's Day party and Haley's wedding (if you only look at one beautiful thing today, make it that one).

This is basically a very long introduction to the fact that Caroline of the fantastic The Old Country Blog, featuring lots of wonderful regional and cultural recipes and tales, has kindly tagged me for a Liebester Award (thanks, Caroline!)...which basically means you get to know a bit more about me. (As the description puts it: "The Liebster Award is for blogs that have 200 followers or less. The word "Liebster" is German for kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, valued, cute, pleasant, endearing and welcome. It's a great opportunity to meet other bloggers and gain more followers.")

How to play along!
  1. Post 11 things about yourself.
  2. Answer the questions the tagger created for you.
  3. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag with the award.
  4. Choose 11 bloggers (with less than 200 followers) to tag. 

Random facts about me:
  1. I am majoring in International Studies and minoring in French and Photography, but I came into college completely undeclared.
  2. I may have a horse named after me in Greece; specifically on the island of Crete. (I studied abroad in Greece and Italy following my freshman year.)
  3. I get pretty motion sick, which is fun for someone who wants to travel. I often get off a plane wanting to never step on one again (while knowing that's completely unrealistic). However, I still love the way things look out of airplane windows.
  4. I've been at least moderately interested in photography since about 5th grade, when I discovered an old Polaroid camera in my grandparent's house.
  5. While I'm not very big on the beach-going experience, I love the ocean.
  6. I prefer milk chocolate to dark.
  7. I'm a little bit addicted to tea. Hot, iced, black, herbal, white, whatever. I probably love it and own a box of something similar to it. I did an inventory this fall and I think I had around 20 types (ahem). The only exception would be mint teas, but I'll still drink them. My all time favorite is probably Tazo's Passion tea, but there are some pretty close competitors.
  8. I have an almost-9-year-old miniature schnauzer  named Blitz(krieg). He usually actively avoids cameras. He's also not very miniature, acts like a permanent puppy, and has a hair that sometimes tucks in such a way that it gives him what we call an "Elvis lip".
  9. I've never liked cheese or milk. I know, I know, this is sacrilege for many people. I just never learned to even moderately enjoy them.
  10. Even though I hate it and usually put it off until the last minute (or maybe because of that), I'm incredibly good at packing. I once fit all of the clothes I owned into one suitcase.
  11. I grew up in a city with a larger population than the state I currently live/go to school in. 
 Caroline's questions:
  1. Book you have read more than once? The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. It's probably my favorite book, and it's what I recommend anytime someone asks me for suggestions. It's just one of those books that I feel like everyone should read at least once in their life.
  2. If you could life anywhere for one year, where would you live? Well, considering I'm leaving in 8 days (when did that happen?!!) for a semester in Wales, I'm going to cheat and expand this by saying the UK. Alternatively, I'd like to try out the Pacific Northwest (so beautiful!), or I think it'd be great to live someplace that you could easily reach a lot of other places from.
  3. Some solid advice you've been given? My first year away from home, my dad kept telling me, "If it's not one thing, it's the other." It was meant as a response to the fact that there was always something hectic going on, but I've also taken it to be a comfort in the permission to let that happen. That it's not something to waste time worrying about. Otherwise, it'd simply be the habits I picked up from my mom: read a lot, ask questions when you wonder, and if you don't know the answer look it up.
  4. Favorite ice cream flavor? I can't really have ice cream anymore, but definitely Bluebell Dutch Chocolate. So simple, so good.
  5. TV show you have watched every episode of twice? That 70's Show. Or Scrubs. But if you haven't seen That 70's Show and spend an extended amount of time around me, you will end up with multiple references.
  6. What song gets you pumped up? She's Got You High by Mumm-ra. I don't listen to it that often otherwise, but it's just really, really fun.
  7. Cats or dogs? Dogs! How can you resist these faces??
  8. If you could befriend a fictional character, who would it be? I honestly have no idea. But it might be entertaining to tag along with the How I Met Your Mother gang.
  9. Ever fallen in love with a fictional character? Who?! Alas, I have not.
  10. Why did you decide to blog? I'm not 100% sure. I think it was a good way to chronicle the things going on in a constantly transitory period of my life and the running narrative my brain kept going. It was suggested by my boyfriend after a couple of particularly crafty and successful culinary weeks, something along the lines of "your life has become like a blog!" and I eventually decided to try it out.
  11. What was your New Year's resolution? I talked about this here. :)
 
 My questions:
I honestly don't have 11 untagged people I follow to choose to play along, but I would love to hear from anyone, blog or no blog, on any of the following questions! So, I guess that means I nominate you all!
  1. Favorite place you've ever been?
  2. What's something that you do to treat yourself?
  3. The best thing that's happened to you today?
  4. What's the last good thing (movie, show, etc.) you watched?
  5. If you could only have one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be? One dessert?
  6. What's something you're proud of?
  7. Have you ever flown overseas?
  8. What's one thing you hope to get accomplished this year?
  9. Go-to Starbucks/coffee shop drink?
  10. Favorite type of cookie?
  11. What is one thing that you've learned about life?
Rules for Nominees:
1.  List 11 facts about yourself.
2. Answer the 11 questions given to you.
3. Create 11 new questions for the bloggers you nominate for the award.
4.  Choose 11 bloggers with < 200 followers to nominate.
5. Go to each page and let them know about the award.
6. Thank the sweet blogger who nominated you!  

Monday, January 7, 2013

Spoiled.

I apologize in advance to anyone trying to be healthy this new year. This post will do nothing to help you out.

If you need to leave, I understand.

We have been spoiling ourselves when it comes to food. Pretty majorly, in fact. It started with a bacon chocolate chip pancake (do yourself the favor of having one) and expanded from there.
Specifically to filets twice in one week and what may be the most delicious chocolate dessert I've ever had, much less made. Oops?

round 2 of steaks, featuring Safeway cuts...we made do.
round 1 featuring Whole Foods cuts (definitely superior) didn't get photographed because we were too busy stuffing our faces.
First, the steaks. I love a good steak more than most things on earth, but every time the two of us tried to make one ourselves...well, the results were lackluster. The change? This guide. Seriously, it's incredibly simple yet decisively great. The results are definitely worth more than the effort you put into it. And, the butter they suggest you make (the part that took the most time) lasted us through both rounds of steaks. That's pretty good return if you ask me.

Also, when you're making the butter, you're going to be terrified by the amount of garlic you're putting into it. Don't be afraid. Or, be afraid but go with it anyway. Trust me. We replaced the thyme with rosemary (I can't have thyme) but otherwise followed it more or less to a T. The lemon is heavenly.

my stomach is growling.
Um, yea. I could eat these every night. One food on a desert island? These steaks. Unless that food category included desserts, in which case I would have a hard time deciding between that and this cake. But seriously, guys, try the steaks.


The dessert round of spoiling ourselves was basically 2 boxes of semisweet chocolate. My favorite way to go.

pre-mixing // pre-freeze
After becoming enamoured with P.F. Chang's gluten free Flourless Chocolate Dome and this brand's gluten free chocolate tart that I picked up from my local Whole Foods, I ventured to make one myself. One afternoon, I bought everything I needed, chopped a lot, and made this. It's basically melted chocolate and eggs with melted chocolate on top. I melted mine in the microwave as I lack a double boiler, which worked out fine stopping and stirring every 30 seconds. It won't take long.

out of the freezer and on with the glaze
The reviews will tell you to skip the glaze. Don't. You certainly don't need it as the cake itself is satisfying, but you want the glaze. I essentially followed the recipe with a few exceptions: I added a little less than a teaspoon of cinnamon to the glaze and have found it absolutely perfect. And that part where it suggests refrigerating for 6 hours? Yea, I did not have the patience for that. Instead, I stuck it in the freezer for an hour or two (during which time we prepared and ate the steaks) until it was cooled completely, and then re-froze it for about 15 minutes to let the glaze set. It's been living in the fridge since, calling out every time someone opens the door.

this is totally appropriate for any meal of the day, yes?
If you have the willpower to honestly not want any of that, you are a stronger person than me. I'm thinking of skipping the traditional cake at my wedding if I ever get married and instead just displaying tiers of these on pie stands, later claiming them all for myself. Or maybe I'll just get married to the cake. We've eaten it with strawberries (because that makes it healthy to consume 3 days in a row, right?) and even snuck it into a movie theater, complete with silverware, to join in watching Silver Linings Playbook over the weekend. Yea, I'm pretty much in love.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have one last chocolate chip pancake calling my name...

(p.s. I'm now on instagram!)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

On Sort-of Resolutions

from the last new year

I've never been big on resolutions.

At least, not in the traditional sense. One year I decided to write something at the beginning of every month for 12 months, a way of marking where I was, but that started in November. It worked for me. New Year's resolutions always seemed like a bit of an excuse: pick a flaw, a weakness, something you wanted to work on or aren't comfortable with...and almost arbitrarily create a way/excuse/motivation to address it, rather than committing when you're ready. Maybe your new year starts in June. Maybe in starts in September. Maybe it's the end of this month.

They also tended to seem unrealistic. I'm not big on planning out life. I've been shown a few too many times it how it can go off track, and I'm certainly not where I thought I'd be last January. Maybe you won't lose 10 pounds. Maybe it'll be because you gain some laughs. Or a new life. Or maybe a culinary degree, or maybe even some muscle. Maybe it's just too easy for me to feel like I've failed if I haven't met this set goal or don't feel like I'm working towards it adequately. Maybe we all need reminders and permission to forgive ourselves sometimes.

But this year brings a lot with it for me. It needs a bit of work; some purpose. Even just a little bit of structured sanity, you know? Talking with a loved one, he brought up this idea of monthly resolutions. Instead of committing to one, big, year-long adventure, we thought about tiny ones. Manageable ones. Little positive goals. A way of bettering ourselves that could be seen and represented and felt in some form, quickly (or relatively so). Things that are hard to commit to for a year, or intimidating on large scales. Things that, if they maybe didn't go as well as you wanted, would be followed by another new, good thing to try. Maybe it's not practical to exercise 3 times a week for a year, but maybe just a few weeks could improve your habits. Maybe you won't become a great musician, no matter how hard you practice. Maybe you'll meet somebody new. Maybe you'll shake up your life. Maybe I'll try, too.

We've been brainstorming lists for ourselves, goals to place in a jar or a cup and pull out the beginning of each month. And commit to trying that one thing. To find something fresh. Something good. Something of ourselves in the process.

Here's a bit of what we've got so far:
  • buy yourself flowers
  • look at the stars
  • do something physically
  • try/bake something new
  • search for pieces of joy
  • write every day
  • perform random acts of kindness
  • reach out to someone new
  • paint
  • go someplace new
  • cook something for other people
  • treat yourself to something you normally wouldn't
  • build something
  • learn about something new

Here's to the new year. What are you looking towards?