Monthly Archives: December 2011

2011 In Review

My friend, Lydia, just did a recap of 2011 broken down by the month and I loved the idea and format so much, I decided to borrow the idea for myself. Much better than a “Top 10″ list, right?

January

After returning home to Seattle from a two week Christmas vacation in Florida, I was thrown straight back into the whirlwind at work by taking on additional job responsibilities. I know I was more than a little stressed in the moment by the additional workload and additional hours in the office it required. But, looking back on things now, I can see that January was the start of a pretty exciting and rewarding period of work for me. Between January and May, I was probably at my most happiest with my career (overall, not just for 2011).

Also in January, I made a Sweet Potato and Veggie Quesadilla, which has become the second most popular recipe on More Fruit Please. With good reason too, I would say. It really was delicious and I’ve had it on my list for a while now to make it again.

February

In the second week of February, I decided on short notice to fly to Connecticut to visit Mister E for his birthday and Valentine’s Day. This was quickly followed up by a 24 hour business trip to Arizona. I was really beginning to feel like a jet-setter with all of my travels. Maybe it was because I was on the go so much, but in February, I started to experiment and branch out more with healthy snack options including an easy pistachio nut trail mix and Coconut White Chocolate and Pistachio Covered Apricots. Actually, I don’t think my pistachio nut snackage had anything to do with my travel plans, but rather that my grocery store continuously had pistachios on sale for the month of February.

March

In March, I shared a little bit about me with you guys, including the fact that I’ve  been on MTV and got to touch Akon. I also had an amazing visit from my friend Jenny where we went on a black bean burger binge (say that five times fast!). Behind the scenes, there was a lot of stuff going on the job front that I was keeping hush-hush from you guys. Also in March, I made what has become the most popular (and most searched) recipe on More Fruit Please – Butternut Squash and Quinoa Salad.

April

In April of this year, I didn’t blog once! But here’s all the juicy details of what was going on that I didn’t tell you at the time. I had been job searching in Connecticut for a very long time (over an entire year!). Finally in March, I had received a call back from a recruiter for a position that I very much wanted. I went through the interview process and got the job! A few days before I was about to put in my notice at my current job, I got a call saying that the position I was being hired for fell through. I was crushed. Thankfully, the company was still interested in hiring me, so they scrambled around to find a different position for me. In April, I had to go through the interview process again, and was successfully hired (again).

While all of that job drama was going on, I had the pleasure of getting a weekend visit from a college friend that I never blogged about and a visit from Mister E where we ate at what would turn out to be one of my favorite places in Seattle, Alexa’s Garden Cafe. Also in April, I went on another business trip to Arizona. This trip was a much welcomed break from Seattle’s gray skies and the stress I was feeling from the job interviews. It didn’t hurt either that the food there was basically awesome.

May

May was a pivotal month for me this year. With many tears, I heart-wrenchingly put in my two weeks notice at my company. I publicly announced my decision to move to Connecticut. I packed up my entire apartment that I had called home for the past three years. With the help of Mister E, I drove across the country (read parts 1, 2, 3, and 4). And by the end of the month, I had started my new job in Connecticut. Oh, and somewhere in between all of that, I wrote on of my favorite posts to date, How to Indulge.

June

June was another month that I had taken off from blogging. There were lots of growing pains as I adjusted to my new life in Connecticut. It was tough making the adjustment from a long distance relationship (that had lasted four years, nonetheless) with Mister E to a normal relationship. I lived with my uncle for almost the entire month of June until I finally found an apartment that I was happy with and that was within my price range. I also turned another year older and definitely another year wiser.

July

By July, I was really settling into my new life in Connecticut – especially in the kitchen. I kept a strong focus on summer produce like strawberries, watermelon, tomatoes, and corn and turned out some pretty delicious results, if I do say so myself. I was also adjusting to cooking meals for two now that Mister E was coming over for dinner pretty frequently. And I made what would be the fourth most popular recipe on More Fruit Please, Jell-o Fruit Slices, for a family Fourth of July celebration. I also locked myself out of my place of residency for the third time since moving to Connecticut.

August

In August, I killed my fourth basil plant. I explored new restaurants with my cousin. I got my first glimpse of Pinterest and made Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries, which are the third most popular food item on More Fruit Please. I also went through a hurricane without sustaining any damage thankfully.

September

In September, I discovered Biscoff spread and the full power of Pinterest. Enough said.

Just kidding. My mother came to visit me for Labor Day weekend where we really stuffed ourselves silly with blue corn tortilla chips and Curry Chicken Salad that was healthified with the substitution of Greek yogurt. I watched almost all seven seasons of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix while Mister E was doing quite a bit of travelling for work. I also tried being fancy by making Mini Blueberry Clafoutis.

October

While Pinterest was being blocked on my work computer, that didn’t deter me from forging ahead with some DIY fall decorations inspired by Pinterest. I also took my obsession with Pinterest to a new, unhealthy level by throwing a party for it. My fall wish came true when I got to go apple picking, not once, but twice. The month ended on a low note when I experienced my first snow storm on Halloween weekend that caused me to go two days without power.

November

November was another busy month in the kitchen. I put all of my apples to good use by making Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake and  Cinnamon Apple Butter which I spread on Whole Wheat Breakfast Biscuits. I went to a Fall Dinner Party and took a stab at my first photography post. And somewhere along the way, I professed my love for breakfasts.

December

December managed to pass me by far too quickly, it seems. It was only a few short weeks ago that I was decorating for Christmas and attending holiday parties. I found my new favorite party appetizer in Sun-Dried Tomato Olive Tapenade. December also marked a full six months of living in Connecticut. To celebrate the new friendships blossoming and old friendships being nurtured, I threw a holiday brunch for friends. And before I knew it, I was in the car with my dad, on our way to Florida for Christmas.

And here I sit, on the last day of the year, reflecting back on the last 12 months. Dozens of new recipes, several new friends, 24 states traveled through, 2 jobs, and 1 new apartment. It’s funny to think that exactly 1 year ago, on the brink of 2011, I had no idea that I would be living in Connecticut by the end of the year. It makes me excited for all the things to come in 2012 that I can’t even possibly imagine happening yet.

Christmas 2011

My Christmas vacation thus far:

1. Christmas shopping in Orlando at the Mall at Millenia with my brother
2. Checking out the post-Christmas sales at the outlets
3. Turkey and cranberry sub from Publix
4. Burrito bowl from Chipolte’s
5. Purchases from the outlets
6. Place setting from West Elm
7. Mom’s Italian pasta salad
8. Mahi-mahi lunch at The Elephant Bar
9. Chocolates gifted from Mister E’s parents
10. Reindeer Prince
11. Sunset
12. Sunny skies on Christmas
13. The best Christmas gift ever
14. My mom’s crazy-thick chocolate chip cookies
15. Palm trees
16. The view from my parents’ front porch
17. My parents’ dogs – Flash and Shadow
18. Flash trying to get in the holiday spirit
19. The breakfast that I’ve had almost every day – egg on toast & a blood orange
20. Barney’s Christmas coffee
21. Flash passed out on Christmas morning
22. Shadow’s puppy eyes
23. Fruit bowl filled to the brim
24. My first successful hash brown
25. Poinsettias
26. A gecko caught breaking and entering into the house
27. Mixed CDs made for me by my brother
28. My laptop after Prince knocked it off the teeny-tiny bed we’re sharing.

Be back soon with a more detailed recap!! I hope everyone is enjoying their holidays!

Holiday Weekend

This weekend was such a blur! One instant, I’m sitting at my desk on Friday afternoon, and the next thing I know, I’m scrambling around Sunday night trying to finish up last minute tasks.

On Friday night, I had my company’s holiday party to attend. It was a pretty swanky event by my standards and I was happy to have the excuse to dress up. Mister E and I snacked on Asian chicken sliders that were out as an appetizer and later on in the evening I demolished a piece of cheesecake. There was a party going on out on the dance floor, but since I wasn’t brave enough to bust a move in front of my coworkers, we mostly hung out on the sidelines and chatted it up with other non-dancers.

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On Saturday, I was going over to Mister E’s parents’ house for lunch, so I spent the morning baking up a storm in the kitchen so I would have goodies to bring over. I made another batch of Chocolate Peppermint Snow Caps as well as a batch of my Caramel Maple Peanut Butter Blossoms.

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After returning back home from lunch, I got busy again in the kitchen, this time making sun-dried tomato olive tapenade and red velvet cupcakes. For the cupcakes, I used a box mix, but then tried to decorate them into Santa hats after seeing this pin on Pinterest. Mine didn’t turn out as great as the ones off of Pinterest since my strawberries weren’t perfectly shaped, but hopefully you can get the gist of what I was going for.

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Oh, and this seemed to be the state of my kitchen for pretty much all day Saturday. I think I either need a larger kitchen or someone who would be willing to clean up after me in the kitchen. Or both.

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Later that Saturday evening, I brought my tapenade and cupcakes over to Jennifer’s house for a holiday party she was throwing. Doesn’t she look like a true “hostess with the most-est”? This was her “debut” of her apartment that she recently moved into with her boyfriend and it was decorated so stylishly!

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(photo courtesy of Jennifer)

On the table above were my tapenade and cupcakes, a Kahlua and walnut brie, corn and black bean dip, garlic dip, and pizzelles. Later on in the evening, more dishes found their way onto the table including more red velvet cupcakes, candy cane cookies, and a spinach dip. So much good food! The party was fantastic and it was great getting to mingle with new people.

On Sunday (yesterday), Mister E and I originally had plans to go into New York City to soak up some of the holiday festivities. But given how busy our weekend had been during the first half and also the fact that I had lots of work to get done in preparation of my upcoming Florida trip, we decided that it would probably be best if we skipped it. I was kind of bummed to be missing out on New York, but I think that it was the best decision for us to make.

Mister E and I took things pretty easy in the morning and watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation while sipping on coffee with eggnog biscotti and later on, the real deal itself, eggnog. The eggnog biscotti recipe came from Angela and turned out really well! The only change I made to the recipe was to omit the dried cranberries (and to use regular eggnog instead of vegan eggnog). Next time I make these, I would probably cut down the amount of nutmeg the recipe calls for since I found the nutmeg overpowered some of the other flavors going on.

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After getting some tasks done and counting ourselves as being productive for the day, Mister E and I turned into lazy bums again and settled in to watch the Patriots-Broncos game (well, only one of us was truly watching the game). My fridge was looking pretty bare since I’m trying to empty it as much as possible before my trip to Florida, so we decided to do take-out for dinner to go along with the game. After a little debate, we finally settled on Corey’s Catsup and Mustard, which is really well known for their great burgers and sandwiches. We split the Pretzel Grilled Chicken Sandwhich along with an order of Spicy Cajun Fries and Spicy Sweet & Sour Chicken Wings. After working my way through half of the sandwich and fries, I only had room for one chicken wing, but boy, was everything good!

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So as you can see, this weekend was a pretty indulgent one for me. Looking back on everything, I think the healthiest thing I ate all weekend was the strawberry off of a red velvet cupcake, and that’s not saying much. During the next few days, I’m hoping to clean up my diet a bit to help recover from this weekend and also prepare for next weekend which I’m sure will include just as much indulging. I envision lots of smoothies, salads, and soups this week to get back on track. But overall, I’m not too concerned since the holiday season really only comes around once a year, and I have much more important things to do rather than to stress over how many calories might be in a cookie. As much as I believe in healthy eating and its importance, there are just some things in life that it should never come ahead of.

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I’m curious, does anyone else avoid the dance floor at company parties? How about the open bar?

This was my first company party where I had to worry about dancing. Honestly, I probably would have gotten out on the dance floor if the music was a little bit more on the conservative side. I just don’t think I would have been able to walk into the office today with much dignity if my manager had seen me shaking it to Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Baby Got Back. (They seriously played that song! At a club? Sure. At a company party? I don’t think so!) I guess I’m just a prude like that though.

As far as the open bar, I adhere to a two drink maximum while out. Again, it may be prudish of me, but I really do enjoy waking up the next morning without any embarrassment or hangovers.

This and That

Happy Friday Everyone!! I thought I’d pop in today for a quick post about a few random things.

First up, I got an iPhone this week. I also have a new Connecticut phone number. I’m still mourning the loss of my Florida number that I had for almost eight years. Oh, and I’m now on a family plan with Mister E. Big relationship steps, I’m telling’ ya!

I’m still overwhelmed by the plethora of apps and am trying to get used to the on-screen keyboard. Feel free to give a shout out in the comments of your favorite apps. I’m clueless. Does anyone know if there’s an app for Google Reader? I can’t seem to find one.

I did find the Instagram app which means that I can spam people with lots of pictures of Prince and Kaylie now.

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I’ve become a Twitter addict. Just goes to prove that anything is possible. You should totally follow me if you want to hear more random thoughts from me that I don’t share on the blog.

Want a sneak peak at my apartment? Check out Caitlin’s recap of my holiday brunch. There are a couple pictures of my apartment decor that even I’ve never shown you guys before!

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Like years past, I’ll be going to Florida for the holidays. So, to recap, next week I’ll be going from this weather:

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To this weather:

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I can’t wait. Oh, and I’ll be driving, not flying. Let the adventures begin!

My first cookies of the season were these Chocolate Peppermint Snow Cap cookies that I first saw from Jenn. I followed this recipe from Martha Stewart except I subbed 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract for the espresso (just like Jenn) and added 1 cup of chopped Candy Cane Hershey’s Kisses.

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Mister E swears that they’re the best thing I’ve ever made. He’s also cursing me for only leaving him three cookies when the recipe made sixteen. I’m going to plead the fifth of you ask me where the other thirteen cookies disappeared to.

This midday post has been brought to you be the letter I. As in iPhone. So please no complaints if the formatting ends up all wonky or autocorrect changes all of my words.

Life is Short, So Go On and Live It

“Scars heal, glory fades and all we’re left with are the memories made. Pain hurts, but only for a minute. Life is short so go on and live it.” -Chris Cagle

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A friend from high school chose that quote to go into our high school Senior yearbook next to her picture. The quote is actually part of the lyrics that make up the song, Chicks Dig It.  I wonder why she chose those words as her Senior quote. I know she liked country music, so it’s not too surprising that she would choose a quote out of a country song. And the words do seem to be appropriate advice for someone about to graduate high school and who is on the brink of adulthood. But when selecting that quote, could she have known in that moment just how meaningful those words would become to her?

Our Senior yearbook is over seven years old now. And for almost that entire period of time, this friend has been battling for her life with cancer. On Sunday night, she lost that fight.

We were never close friends in school – more like acquaintances. We were in a few of the same classes and were once in the same group on a middle school field trip and I believe I have a picture of us together at our Freshmen homecoming dance, but that is about the extent of my friendship with her. She was someone who I figured I would see again at our 10 year high school reunion, but nothing more (you have to remember, social media didn’t exist while I was in high school, so there was no concept about staying in touch online).

A year after high school, I joined Myspace and learned that she was joining the Air Force. A year after that, and after migrating to Facebook, I saw her statuses discussing multiple doctor visits and later an update about being medically discharged from the Air Force.

In subsequent years, I saw updates on radiation treatment for a tumor in her leg. I saw pictures online of her nearly bald head instead of her beautiful, shiny blonde hair. I saw more statuses on doctor visits. I saw words of frustration during long periods of bed rest in the hospital. I saw pictures of her going through physical therapy in crutches. One thing was constant throughout every single picture – there was a huge smile flashed across her face. Despite having to leave the Air Force, despite losing all of her hair, and despite all of the doctor visits and physical therapy… she was smiling.

The status updates seemed to be getting better and less focused on her medical condition. Two years ago, while I was home in Florida for Christmas, I ran into her at a bar one night. She didn’t mention her leg or tumor once, so I didn’t ask. She told me a little bit about her time in the Air Force and we talked about my life in Seattle. We took a shot together, exchanged niceties how it was so good seeing one another, and parted ways.

Life seemed to go on normal for her and I assumed that she had overcome whatever battles she was going through. So it was a surprise when pictures came up online at the beginning of this year with her wearing a prosthetic leg below the knee on her right leg. It was jarring to see someone so young without part of their leg. She named the photo album of her prosthetic leg, Bring It On. That certainly seemed to sum up her attitude towards cancer pretty accurately.

In August of this year, she put on a pretty white satin dress and styled her now pixie-cut length hair and married a very handsome man. There were very few pictures or status updates after the wedding, but I am sure that her four months of marriage were filled with as much happiness and love as one could wish for. There was no warning online that her health was failing. There were no public goodbyes. Just a status update on Sunday night from a family member that she had lost her battle with cancer.

After so many years of following her online, I wrote her a message for the very first time yesterday. I told her that I thought she was incredibly brave for joining the Air Force at such a young age. I told her that I thought she was brave for battling cancer with a smile on her face. And I told her that I was so sorry that I never had the courage to tell her those things while there was still time. And it’s not that I didn’t necessarily have the courage to tell her those things, but I would have felt awkward saying those things to someone that I barely knew. As an acquaintance, it didn’t seem like it was my place to be involved in her personal life.

It seems somewhat surreal that someone the exact age as me could die from cancer. At an age when I still feel invincible and take my health for granted, it is difficult to know that someone else was fighting for each and every day on this planet. She is not the first person that I’ve know to lose a battle with cancer nor is she the first young person that I’ve known to pass away too soon. But she is the first person that I’ve known to have cancer at too young of an age. It’s sad and maddening to wonder what dreams she might have had for herself that she’ll never pursue now. What did she want to do as a career? Did she want children? What places did she want to travel to?

Please don’t give me any condolences on her death. As an acquaintance, my day-to-day life remains unchanged by her passing, and it would feel selfish and self-centered to accept anyone’s sympathy for a loss that’s not really mine. Instead, please think of some well-wishes for her family. Think of what a wonderful gift life actually is. Think of the person that you’ve never told how you really feel about them because it might be awkward. And most of all, think of how “life is short so go on and live it”.