Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Big News!

If you're my social media friend, you may know that after a quick and crazy few weeks, we bought our first house! The day that I wrote this post, we went to see three homes - one that I liked, one that Jeff liked, and one that our realtor tacked on because she's a genius house whisperer. The first house was too big, the second was too small, and when I walked into the third and saw that the kitchen and living space were not only two different areas but also actual, large rooms, I fell in love. It had everything we need to live now and to expand our family later, there were funky additions like a big screen porch in the back, lots of room for Bear to play, and the house was in impeccable condition. Before I knew it, we were telling our realtor that we wanted to put in an offer, and then spending the next day and a half in a frantic haze waiting to hear the big news. After many anxious and impatient hours, we found out that our offer had been accepted (5 total offers - this market is nuts!). Over the past few weeks, we've been signing our names a thousand times, packing boxes, and making plans. We moved in on Saturday and while there's still so much to do, we are pinching ourselves that we get to start our next adventure in this amazing house.

Jeff and I have made lots of decisions together in our relationship, from me moving across the country to getting married, but this one felt the most monumental in a practical sense, but also positive and easy. We are so excited for the changes and memories that will be shared in this home over the years. I'll be back with lots of DIYs and room reveals - stay tuned!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wedding Wednesday: Six Months Later

Last Saturday marked six months since Jeff and I got married. When did that happen? The past six months have been a whirlwind of changes, busy days, the ups and downs of normal life, and it’s hard to believe that it was not so long ago that I was walking down the aisle to make it official with my dream guy. The greatest part of looking back on our time as newlyweds is knowing that it has been the best chapter of our relationship so far. My heart is so full and I am so happy. In the spirit of reflection and celebration, here are a few of my favorite things about marriage so far:

The word “husband” is the best:
I love it! I had a hard time taking or using “fiancé” seriously, but husband feels just right.

Marriage changes things:
Maybe it’s naive, but I didn't think it would for us. We had been dating for years, we lived together, and we had been through a lot, and I assumed marriage would be like that with a certificate. Instead, I realized that making the biggest commitment of our lives deepened our love, gave us new insight on each other, and strengthened our bond. I am more in love with Jeff than ever before, because we made this great leap together.

Don’t write thank you cards before:
The organized women among us would argue, but I’m so glad I didn't write my thank you cards until after the wedding. I’m an emotional person, and to be able to reflect and write a few words to the loved ones who sent their well wishes or traveled great distances to be with us, after the experience of getting married, was amazing.

Take your time:
I have plenty left to do (including a few of those aforementioned thank you cards…) to show our gratitude to our friends and family. We haven’t been on our honeymoon, and probably won’t go until after our first anniversary. Instead of stressing and racing to make these things happen, we've been letting life take its course. Things are exciting and busy enough and I know everything will happen when it’s meant to.

Be the new you: 
Before our wedding, I had grand plans for the next few years. Maybe we’d move, maybe I’d go to grad school, maybe we’d have more adventures before settling down. I wasn't prepared for what actually happened – that I felt a great sense of comfort, stability, and peace as a newlywed in Boise. Getting married and officially becoming a little family was just what I needed to stop and smell the roses. I really like these roses and I’m so excited for what’s to come in our life here.

On to the next six! Do you have any great advice for newlyweds? 


Monday, April 7, 2014

Reflections on Dessert and a Savory Recipe

Well, I did it! 30 days without sweets and I lived to tell the tale. Since falling back off the wagon last Friday, I've had dessert quite a few times. I spent the weekend mindlessly munching on handfuls of candy and bowls of ice cream until last night, when I finally took note of how I was feeling. I realized (drum roll, please) that all that sugar simply didn't taste as good. My body wasn't used to its intensity and I was eating dessert because I could, not because I wanted to. Even crazier - after a month walking through the "chocolate covered everything" aisle at Trader Joe's and lusting after its contents, I was finally allowed to purchase something and I came home empty handed. Who am I? Major revelations happening over here! Going forward, I'm going to listen to my body and enjoy the treats that I crave, when I crave them. It has been a very interesting, challenging experience, but I'm so glad I stuck with it and gained some new insight.

Here are a few things that I learned from 30 days without dessert:
1. Cutting out dessert is the same as quitting or starting anything - it takes time. It takes your body two weeks to crave exercise, or two weeks to stop craving cigarettes. It took over a week for me to not think about the dessert I would have been eating after my meals.
2. When you don't have something, you learn not to miss it - after the initial period, I didn't want or need the sweets I was so used to eating. I made an effort to replace them with similarly yummy, but healthier treats.
3. I felt lighter - I didn't weigh myself before or after this experiment and I ate plenty to make up for the missing dessert calories, but I felt healthier and more fit and I craved less heavy food in general.
4. Sugar tasted sweeter - because I only cut out things that I consider to be dessert, I was still eating fruit, cereal, yogurt, and oatmeal. These things tasted so much sweeter when I wasn't eating candy and they actually felt like a special treat.
5. I'm capable - it might sound silly, but this was a big deal for me. I'm so used to my routines and eating patterns, and dessert has played a big part in my life. Not having it, and knowing that I could challenge myself to stick to my guns, was a huge accomplishment.

And now, a Vietnamese Pork and Noodle Bowl because it's delicious.

Recipe, adapted from Hungry Huy:
(Serves 6)

For the pork:
2 shallots, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon black pepper
1.5 pounds pork shoulder, cut into small pieces

For the fish sauce:
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons lime juice (1 lime)
2 tablespoons sugar
3+ tablespoons fish sauce (to taste)
1 tablespoon sambal oelek or other chili paste

12 ounces rice noodles
3 cups cucumber, chopped
3 cups carrot, shredded
6 cups mixed greens
6 cups steamed broccoli

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Add pork and marinate for at least two hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 10-15 minutes, then broil for 5-7 minutes until golden brown and fully cooked.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add noodles, remove from heat, and cook noodles for 8 minutes or until al dente.
Mix all of the ingredients together for the fish sauce.
To assemble your bowl, put 1 cup of mixed greens on the bottom, followed by a scoop of noodles, a scoop of pork, 1/2 cup of carrots, 1/2 cup of cucumber, 1 cup of broccoli, and 1/4 of the fish sauce. Garnish with additional lime juice, crushed peanuts, and Sriracha. 


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Flourless Chocolate Cake and More

Wow, three weeks down and only one to go! I am feeling very impressed with myself for withstanding this challenge. Last week, I wondered why I picked a whole month in the first place, but now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm excited. I'm also hungry. Not for just any old crappy candy though, I deserve only the finest treats to delight my palate when this is done. I've been daydreaming about dessert, and it's taking me back to the vision quest I went on as a senior in high school. 

I should preface this story by saying that I went to a very progressive, small, private liberal arts high school in the Bay Area. We called our teachers by their first names, went on annual week long trips to restore California wildlife, snowboard, or attend numerous Shakespeare plays, and a third of the student body rarely wore shoes. This was not your typical high school experience, but my classmates and I adored it. One opportunity that we were given as seniors was to go on a vision quest - we would spent three days and three nights fasting alone in the dessert desert. Sound like an insane thing to sign your kid up for? Well hundreds of parents were game to see what happened, and many of my classmates and I went willingly on these soul searching missions. The fasting was well rehearsed - we started a month before our trip and removed things from our diet little by little. First went caffeine, then red meat, then grains, until all we were eating on the drive to Death Valley was a handful of dried fruit. 

I could tell a much longer story about how my vision quest shaped me as a young adult (read: scared me senseless - what 17 year old has ever been alone in a desert without food or entertainment before?), how I found myself, etc. It was an incredible experience and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have the time and space to reflect and look forward. But really, aside from missing my friends, boyfriend, and parents, and being a little afraid of coyotes, I was hungry. In the journal that I filled, I wrote lists of all the foods that I would eat when we got home. I wanted my dad's steak and mashed potatoes, a sandwich from Whole Foods, a burrito from Los Hermanos, my mom's spaghetti. I had a very detailed and specific menu of demands, and I spent the better part of my adventure salivating at the thought of them. As you might imagine, after 30 days if eating very little and then three days of experiencing starvation, my stomach had strunk. They took us to a sandwich place after we all reunited at the main camp and we each ate about two bites before we felt ill. Over the next few weeks, I regained my appetite and made good on my list of favorite meals. Thank goodness, right?

Today, I'm feeling a little like I did on my vision quest - hungry for a few special things and very close to making a list to help with my cravings. To truly torture myself, I'll share with you my last dessert - this amazing flourless chocolate cake that is easy enough for the most novice bakers among us. Try it out and I'll live vicariously through you!

Flourless Chocolate Cake, adapted from What2Cook:

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
5 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, plus more for pan

*I didn't make the glaze that the recipe includes, but I topped the cake with whipped cream and strawberries. It was delicious!

Heat the oven to 300 degrees and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Lightly butter the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan and line it with a round of parchment paper. Lightly butter the parchment and the sides of the pan and dust with cocoa powder. Tap out any excess.
Put chocolate and butter in a medium microwaveable bowl and melt in the microwave, stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand whisk, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of water. Beat until the mixture is very foamy, pale in color, and doubled in volume. Reduce mixing speed to low and gradually pour in the chocolate and butter mixture. Increase the speed to medium and continue beating until well blended, about 30 seconds. Add the cocoa powder and mix until blended, about 30 seconds.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a pick inserted in the center comes out looking wet with small gooey clumps, 40 to 45 minutes.
Let cool in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes. Run a small knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Cover the cake pan with a wire rack and invert. Remove the pan and parchment and let the cake cool completely. Transfer to a plate. Cover and refrigerate the cake for at least 6 hours or overnight.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Spread the Love

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about love. I used to think that if you were in love with someone, you didn’t have as much love to spread around to the rest of your world. How could your heart have the capacity for everyone? Well, maybe it’s the sunshine, maybe it’s the fact that my brain isn’t clouded by a sugar haze, or maybe I’m just learning and growing, but I had the distinct realization this week that I love so many people and I’m darn lucky for it. My incredible husband, my amazing family, the best friends, and all of the people around me who I care deeply about. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that you can love so many people at once, but if I have the capacity for a little extra kindness, I should share it. I think about the times when I’ve been in a funk and the barista’s smile or the driver who ushered me to cross the street have made a profound impact on me. This spring, I’m inspired to spread the love and focus on the wonderful life that’s happening around me.

Have a great weekend! 



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Happy Hump Day!

I give you one of the happiest, and most hump day appropriate, pictures on the web. 
Hope you're having a great week!