20 January 2015

cranberry ketchup

Continuing my strategy of canning only the weird recipes, right after the holidays I made up a batch of cranberry ketchup using the recipe in Food in Jars. While I was at it, I used the leftover cranberries to make a few jars of cranberry simple syrup to freshen up seltzer and cocktails.

What's cranberry ketchup? I, like so many of you, was totally thrown off the first time I heard about non-tomato ketchup. WHAT DO YOU MEAN, NO TOMATOES?! That's the beauty of these weird little recipes; they blow up your preconceptions and smash your traditions. I like that sometimes. As it turns out, you can make ketchup from lots of things that aren't tomatoes. What makes ketchup so ketchup-y tends to be the spices and flavor you add to the main ingredient. So for the cranberry ketchup, I sweetened it, spiced it, added onions to it and cooked it way down to a thick, french-fry-dipping consistency.

The verdict? Pretty tasty. It tastes exactly like cranberry ketchup should. Undeniably in the ketchup family, with a slightly odd tartness from the cherries. It hasn't replaced my other ketchup substitute, the beloved tomato jam, but it's a nice switch from my sugary, processed Heinz bottle.

And yes, if you are wondering, I'm a ketchup person. I bastardize my eggs with it and dip everything in it I can find and, in my wild youth, had been known to put it on my mac and cheese. It's blasphemous, but it's delicious. At least I'm trying to expand my ketchup palate, right?

09 January 2015

dear sugar

I don't know where I first heard about this book or who recommended it... was it you? Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar is a collection of advice columns written by Cheryl Strayed. For years, Dear Sugar was an advice column run anonymously on TheRumpus.net, where it attracted a huge cult following. I wasn't hip enough to know about it then, but when this book appeared on my e-book queue from my local library, I snatched it up and then devoured it.

Strayed, as Dear Sugar, is funny and direct and empathetic. At times, the book is heartbreaking. It's about messy human life is and the strange human experience is. It's wise and memorable. I loved reading it.

When I was almost done with this book, I realized that the new Reese Witherspoon movie is the adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Then, as I sat down to write this post, I read that Dear Sugar is becoming a podcast! Signs from the universe, friends, and you'd better pay attention to them.

I find myself thinking through advice more when I'm asked for it, making sure it's what I really believe and what I think is right. When I'm not asked, I really do try to keep my mouth shut but when a friend comes knocking, I want to be able to shine a bit of perspective on their situation. Being careful not to judge, but maybe illuminating the parts they can't see and then let them chart their course. It's probably too pretentious or presumptuous of me, but then again, I've never claimed otherwise :)

04 January 2015

2015, the intentions

In writing down my intentions for 2015, I realized that they are mostly the same as what I laid out last year. To find mindfulness, strength and adventure and roll them up into a good life. To take each day, each season, each moment as it comes and to not wish away the present. In pursuit of those three goals, here are some concrete tiny steps that just might help me get there.

I just haven't figured out a solid meditation practice yet. I'm a champion sleeper and lounger, but quieting the mind? I haven't really tackled that yet and as a result, I sometimes wring myself into a bit of a panic over something that happened earlier in the day or, even more likely, something that might possibly happen later. I'm also a champion worrier.

This month, I'll aim to sit still on that meditation cushion for two minutes a day. That's it. Just two minutes. After a month, we'll see how it goes. 

I'm going to get strong, people. Strong willpower, strong resolve, strong biceps. All of that. 2014 was not a big running year for me, and by the start of fall I had drifted away from my regular workout schedule. I lost my motivation and didn't think I had the time to stay active. With my commitment to the Runner's World Challenge, I established a routine of movement again. I loved the challenge because it eliminated the decision process. I never had to ask myself, "Should I run today?" The answer was always yes. It may not have been that far or that fast, but it was a given that I would be lacing up my shoes and getting outside. It was freeing. Isn't that funny? I knew that no matter what, I would get out there and run, so I had less room to worry or make excuses or procrastinate. Because the challenge was only to run at least a mile, it gave me permission to go easy. On days when I was feeling crappy or tired, I ran a single, slow mile. When I felt better, I did more.

This year, I'm building strength and aiming to be active every day. Some days will be a run. Some a walk. Some days I'll do a quick 15 minute yoga session or 50 lunges around the house. But every single day, I'll move. Can't nobody hold me down. Oh no. I've got to keep on moving.

This is all one big adventure, right? This is the toughest theme for me. As I write this, I keep thinking of reasons not to commit to whatever adventures pop up in my mind. Honestly, I keep writing suggestions and then quickly deleting them. Nerd alert.

Baby steps. This year, when things go wrong I'm just going to smile and shout PLOT TWIST! and move on. I saw that somewhere, probably on a Pinteresty little graphic, and loved it. I also have a great greeting card in my collection that says "One day we'll look back on this and laugh." So that's my goal: reminding myself that it isn't really an adventure until something goes astray :)

And also!
  • Write once a week here and do some long-form writing once a month. Plan out some topics ahead of time and stick to it.
  • Put down the phone! I've already deleted the Facebook app from my phone, and it's made a major difference in how oftenI check it.
  • Start a green tea habit. I've read a lot about it and I'm convinced I need more green tea in my life. Let's start with a few cups a week, shall we?

What are your resolutions?! Share them, please! Did you post them somewhere else? I'd genuinely love to read them. I love setting resolutions and making lists and buying new planners. It's like heading back to school armed with sharpened pencils and brand new notebooks. Am I right, nerds? Happy 2015!

intentions for the new year / 2014
looking back & looking forward / 2012 (& food-related goals for 2012)

(In 2013 I was too busy swooning over our wedding to post resolutions)

30 December 2014

it's the holiday season

Christmas has come and gone! Every year, it seems to pass by so quickly. We prepared for the holiday by blasting Christmas tunes and decorating the house, sipping every variety of egg nog and faux nog you can think of. I do love fully embracing different seasons. If it's Christmastime, then there shall be Christmas music and eggnog. On a hot summer day, you need pitchers of iced tea and mojitos. Birthdays and anniversaries must be celebrated. Distinguish the days and months and seasons through celebration. Build up traditions to look forward to. Seize the moment!

Ok, the month has gotten away from me and my planned exploration of all things house and neighborhood related. But here we go: I'll be back later this week with some thoughts for the new year and then we'll get back on track. One goal for 2015? Write at least a post a week here, and some longer form musings once a month.

Good luck to everyone this winter, it's a tough season
An old Christmas card of ours

17 December 2014

christmas wreaths

Our new house is the coziest. I'm sure I will love it once summer comes around, but if I had to move into a house right before the darkest, coldest season... I would pick this one over and over. We build fires in our fireplace, light balsam fir incense and snuggle up on the couch. It's just too much coziness for me to comprehend sometimes, but I try. In an effort to get our home ready for the holidays, I've done two things.

The first thing was to make this wreath. I made this wreath! My co-worker and I took a class at a local florist shop last week during a nice snowstorm. I have no idea how this turned out so nicely, but I can only guess that having a bright red door as inspiration and a tiny bit of experience with making floral crowns helped.

The second thing I did to deck the halls was complete an obsessive, worldwide hunt for the perfect Christmas window candles. As soon as we moved in, I thought, "This home would look lovely with Christmas window candles." You know the type, right? Well, the perfect ones aren't as easy to find as you might think. Retailers are sold out or only sellings one with a terrible haunted orange glow. I searched far and wide, increasingly worrying my loved ones with my singular focus. I'm happy to report that I found the perfect ones. Battery-operated, on a timer and with the perfect glow.

The bulk of our Christmas spirit came out on Friday, when we bought our tree and put up all the trimmings around our home, while sipping on faux eggnog (trying to save the real stuff for closer to Christmas) and blasting holiday tunes. What are your go-to decorations for Christmas? 

09 December 2014

turning 30

I turned 30 right after Thanksgiving, and had plans of checking in here to tell you all how it felt. To declare plans and goals and resolutions for this next decade. To reflect on my twenties. To lay bare my worries and hopes and all of it. I've had grand ideas of how I would ring in this new decade, ranging from a 30-mile run to a 30-point bucket list. I figured I should go big. 30! Whoa! Better prove how adventurous/zen/young/wise I am even though I'm no longer a twenty-something. I'm a list-maker, resolution-setter, challenge-accepter and accomplishment-collector. It's hardwired in me, for better or worse. But then I paused for just a moment, long enough to hear something in me say:

"Relax! You don't need to prove anything. You don't need to induce an a-ha turning point moment."

So for my 30th birthday, I took a proverbial chill pill and instead am trying to gracefully glide into this new age bracket. To quietly reflect, prioritize and let go of any nonsense. I have a few intentions that I'm sure I'll revisit and restate for the new year, but until then? It's all eggnog and cozy fireplaces and staying in the moment. It's appreciating who and where I am, at this exact moment in time. It's realizing that I'll never be younger than I am now, than I am right this very minute.

How do you celebrate milestone birthdays? Anyone have a big one coming up soon? Turning 30 was funny because some people couldn't believe how absolutely OLD I am and others couldn't believe how very YOUNG I am. I guess that means that being 30 years old is the best of both worlds, right?

26 November 2014

a mile a day, every day

I needed a little kick in the pants to get back on track running. There's been a lot of commotion this fall (new house! etc!) and I've fallen off the wagon. In hopes of jump starting a running habit again, particularly as the weather turns winter-y, I'm doing the Runner's World #RWRunStreak! That means from Thanksgiving to New Year's, I'm running a mile a day, every day. Some days I'll run more and other days I'll just do a slow, easy single mile. But every day, I'll lace up and get out there. Even though I can easily convince myself that it's better to stay inside on the couch, I know that running always boosts my mood, confidence and general outlook. Plus, in the dark months of winter, it's a reason to get outside in the fresh air. We'll see how it goes, but wish me luck and join along if you'd like :)

You can read more about the #RWRunStreak here and follow along on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram with the hashtag.

Happy Thanksgiving! Fall is a big time for us, especially this one. Our 30th birthdays, our first house, our second wedding anniversary... so much cause for celebration! I'll be back soon talking about turning 30 and resuming our little chat about neighborhoods and houses. Stay safe out there, snowpeople!

23 November 2014

our apartment, a look back

We are all moved into our house! It's awesome. I'm in love. But I thought I'd share a few photos of the old apartment, now that we are moved into our new home. One day, assuming we ever unpack our boxes, I'll show you the new place too.

Chris and I have lived in two apartments together and before that, many apartments with roommates. When we decided to move in together, we decided that an itsy bitsy apartment in a big old brownstone would be a good first step. You remember the one with the tiny kitchen, right? It was on the third floor of a walk-up, a block away from restaurants and pubs and overlooking one of the nicest parks in Albany. It had a quirky layout that we loved and lots of quirks that we didn't love. At the time, I know the apartment frustrated me but looking back I'm filled to the brim with nostalgia.

Then we upgraded our space and moved into the bottom two floors of another historic townhome a few blocks away. It felt much more like a real home, with a bigger kitchen and living areas, storage space and even a shared back yard and deck. We lived in the first floor and garden level (that just means basement) of a four-story brownstone. The building owner and our landlady lived on the second and third floors. Our main living space was upstairs and the bedrooms were down below grade. The whole first floor was open. Kitchen melded into the dining area which led into our sitting area and then to the living room.

Funky exposed brick! Our apartment had a lot of that. It's a conversation-starter, for sure, and I think it made our place ten times cooler. There's that door that Chris cleaned and hung up as a room divider. I was skeptical at first, but it was the number one most complimented feature of our space.

Our bigger kitchen! One of the first things we bought when we moved 2+ years ago was this Ikea island and I'd say I spent 75% of my waking time in the kitchen or at that island. We also had a dishwasher for the first time in both of our lives.

And the bedroom, with more funky exposed brick and purple walls we inherited from previous tenants. I will just say that we are really happy to be sleeping above ground, where the sun has a fighting chance of peeking in and passersby have a lesser chance of watching us sleep.

This apartment is right in the heart of Center Square and we walked everywhere. It had a small city yard and a back deck, too. When we first started looking for homes to buy, we included the neighborhood in our search but ended up falling in love with an adorable Tudor home with a bright red door in another 'hood. So that got me thinking a lot about different neighborhoods, and I think that's where we'll pick up in the next post...

14 November 2014

pint glasses, or "where did these all come from?"

Why is it that my demographic that hoards pint glasses? Why do we have so many? We have pint glasses from races, breweries, restaurants and two very special ones from our dear friends' wedding. Our pint glasses took up a whole cabinet shelf. They aren't even our primary drinking glasses, but here they are, filling an entire box and being trucked over to our new home. I imagine other people might also fill boxes to the brim with souvenir shot glasses, but we've avoided that trap so far.

Other things I should have sorted through more but instead am moving with me:

In fairness, though, we've donated something like three garbage bags of fabric and sewing supplies (don't worry, I still have a room full of supplies), four or five bags of clothes, a box of shoes, two boxes of vases (where did they come from?), three boxes of miscellaneous household items, two boxes of books and a straw farmers hat.

If you had to move next week, what things would you find that should have been tossed long ago? Do you still have boxes stashed up from the last time you moved? Any weird collections or hoards hidden in the basement? Do tell, it will help me feel less alone with this junk.


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