Cooking lately...

Since moving, I've taken advantage of our absurdly spacious kitchen (and two roommates who rarely cook!) to really go wild cooking. Dave will eat pretty much anything that's put in front of him (evidence below) and is generally highly complimentary - it's insanely gratifying.

- my mom's fabulous secret-recipe Chex Mix, which was a staple of all our childhood events and, this year, came out for both our Stanford tailgates and our Christmas party. The batches are enormous, and you can trash them up with whatever you like - I put chocolate-covered cashews in the holiday batch and it was a delight. 

- "Melt in Your Mouth" pumpkin cookies, half with this brown butter pumpkin spice frosting and half with this cinnamon cream cheese frosting - I've made these cookies every fall since Kaitlin and I first made them on a trip to Baltimore way the heck back in 2013...the recipe is incredibly easy and makes a huge batch. I made them this year for our "Worksgiving" potluck, and doubled the batch - thank God, because we went through ten dozen cookies at home and work in a matter of maybe a few days. 

- I've gotten super into marinating chicken breasts, as Safeway runs insane sales on their boneless skinless six-packs pretty much weekly. Two favorites: this rosemary balsamic marinated chicken and this honey lime cilantro chicken, which Dave grilled for me and we shredded up to use in tacos. SO GOOD and so easy! 

- Early in the fall, I woke up craving pancakes. We had a big thing of pancake mix taking up space in our pantry, so Laura, Dave and I made them (it was my first time ever actually making pancakes!). I trashed them up with bourbon butter maple syrup and they were awesome. Fast forward to last weekend, when I was (again) craving pancakes, but we were out of mix. I looked up a recipe from the internet, tried to make them, and oh my god they were SO TERRIBLE. For some reason the outsides burned before the insides even cooked, and they were near-raw in the middles. Dave, being a sweetheart and way too nice to me for his own good, still ate them and didn't make (too much) fun of me...his patience with my foibles is genuinely deeply appreciated. 

- October to me means all the pumpkin/squash/apple food possible, and I made this butternut squash mac and cheese with bacon, caramelized onions, and apples twice this fall. It is so decadent, but shockingly not that bad for you - the whole wheat pasta, coupled with replacing most of the cheese with butternut squash purée really cuts down on some of the calories. 

- This lemony thyme pasta salad was a staple at the cabin every summer, and I made it with grilled chicken sometime this fall - I kind of lost track of what month it was when our December still felt like September. It's light and tangy and fun and different - I love it. 

- Holiday baking! I went ham this year given we were having a huge Christmas party, I had a work potluck, and Dave wasn't going home/needed tradition brought around our neck of the woods, clearly. I did ginger snaps, peanut blossoms, white chocolate-dipped pretzels, and a TOTAL fail batch of Spritz cookies...for some reason, the cookies would just not detach from the press, and I got irrationally irritated about midway through and just threw the dough away. The ones I actually managed to make were super good, but I just think Spritzes are maybe not for me. 

- As I've mentioned a couple times here, we had a holiday party. It was awesome, and the best part, in my humble opinion, was the food. I wanted everything to be very easy to eat while socializing, so in addition to the usual suspects (cheese plate, charcuterie, chips and salsa, and of course the cookies!), I made these astoundingly good bourbon barbecue meatballs, along with super-easy but very fancy-looking cranberry brie bites and a Mexican spinach dip that was a huge hit (Dave, in particular, was a BIG fan...ooh, a tablecloth!). 

- To go with all the killer food at our party, I made a holiday sangria that I thought, based on the recipe, was going to be crazy-potent. So I labeled it accordingly, and everyone was very cautious - at first - as they drank it out of very festive glittery plastic champagne flutes (thanks, Target!) . Turns out the Kirkland sangria wine I bought was low-alcohol and nobody got drunk off the sangria at all...at least not until I started just randomly adding brandy and entire bottles of red wine to it midway through the evening. I am nothing if not a hostess who is relentlessly focused on her guests having a VERY good time. 

 

On the books coming up soon in Lizzie's Kitchen: alllllllllll the eggs, chicken breasts, salads and healthy veggie side dishes imaginable, and none of the fun desserts, pastas, or cheesy melty delicious things I'm craving. Booooo January, you're the worst! 

 

A couple of quick things...

A few different friends have shared this on Facebook lately and every time I see it it makes me positively cackle: 

I love that I have joined the "LOL"s after so many years of life in the "FUCK FUCK FUCK IT'S COLD"s! 

On a less profane note, I actually skipped the Golden Globes this year - in getting over being sick, I honestly completely forgot they were on and spent my Sunday afternoon/evening at Costco and cleaning our bathtub because #glamorous. That said, I loved the #TimesUp movement to wear black dresses on the red carpet. Primarily because black is my go-to for all formal events...oops? 

Favorites of the night included: 

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Jessica Chastain's fabulous sparkly back (I have such an affinity for that neckline, too)...

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Allison Janney's intricately detailed sleeves - almost figure-skating adjacent, which seems appropriate given her win for "I, Tonya!"

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The endlessly elegant Nicole Kidman, who absolutely knocked it out of the park - she is so statuesque and beautiful, and gave such a lovely speech upon her win. 

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And I actually adored Elisabeth Moss's chic little 50s-esque number - I would wear that to death. Completely up my alley. Bonus points for fabulous shoes, too!

And my misses...

Yikes, Caitriona Balfe - she's so pretty and this Chanel monstrosity looks like a weird combination of a harness and a garland on a barmaid in the Wild Wild West. 

Margot Robbie's dress, in my opinion, did nothing for her and the embellishment combined with the shoulder poufs and that massive deep V was kind of weird. Not that she isn't gorgeous, it's just way out there and weird for my taste.

And poor lovely Emma Watson - that Havisham-wannabe thing is swallowing her whole. Ancillary thought - are her shoes formal TOMs?

Anyway, I loved all the black because I am a fiend for black dresses and black clothing in general (as I type this, I'm wearing black pants with a white shell and a black sweater/scarf/earrings...eek!). And I thought the dialogue on the red carpet was interesting, although I'm not one to discount the meaningfulness of asking what designers celebs are wearing - those looks are spectacular, whether good or bad, and I think the designers deserve their moment in the spotlight too! 

Of course, couldn't talk about the Globes without a little love for America's apparent 2020 president-elect, Oprah...I'm kicking myself that I missed her speech live, but Youtubing it and reading the full transcript was almost as good. I have such an appreciation for truly eloquent orators - there's something to be said for a speaker, male or female, on any given topic, who truly knows how to work the room and to give a speech, not just to speak. Her delivery was impeccable, and the energy in the room listening to her looked electric. 

Looks like I need to get cracking on watching movies...Oscars are right around the corner, hooray!

101 in 1001 #4: Take a ski trip (sort of!)

This is sort of a misnomer of a post, and I kind of feel like it's a cheater way to check this item off my list - my family went to Tahoe after Christmas, with every intention of taking a ski trip. It's been a long time since I've done true mountain skiing - after spending every spring break as a child in Colorado and practically growing up on skis, I had to table the hobby in favor of busy seasons and year-ends at work, and hadn't skied out west since Vail in 2012. I purchased all new gear, talked extensively to Dave about his favorite ski areas and trails, and spent weeks fantasizing about hitting the slopes - and aprés - for a few days with my family. We had planned to fly out the 26th, ski the 27th-29th, and for Dave, Jonathan and me to stay an extra day and ski the 30th as well. I was, in a word, PUMPED. 

My parents had booked a gorgeous slopeside condo at Heavenly's Summit Village, which was purportedly near ski-in, ski-out. With Tahoe's general lack of snow, however, we weren't going to be able to leverage that - Heavenly was only a little over half open when we went up, though, per Dave, other areas had much more terrain coverage. Even despite the lack of ideal conditions, we were stunned by the beauty of the drive up from Sacramento, and looking forward to making the best of average conditions all trip. The view alone was worth the hike up to our hilltop condo: 

So, all said, I was raring and ready for Schwegfam Tahoe 2017. Imagine my dismay, therefore, when the minute our plane touched down in Sacramento, I started to feel the scratchy throat and sniffly nose that had characterized my dad and brother's Christmas colds. Determined to power through, I thought little more of it until we were renting my gear and heading up Heavenly's Stagecoach lift on the morning of the 27th. I was SICK. Bad sick. Like, "can't breathe through my nose, coughing so hard I puke, running a fever and super out of it" sick. 

Determined to power through, we still skied a respectable 13 runs on the 27th, sticking mainly to one side of Heavenly and taking plenty of breaks to suck as much air in my battered, altitude-hating lungs as possible.

My mom pretty much saved my life on a mid-morning break when she and the bartender hooked me up with a concoction of coffee, vodka, and Tuaca - a hazelnut liqueur - that perked me up through lunch. Meanwhile, Jonathan was drinking vodka tonics and my dad was accessorizing with the best of them...what a baller. 

As for the skiing? It was a blast - I demo'ed Volkl skis and high-end Nordica boots, and the weather was warm enough to need only a thin base layer under my new North Face jacket and Spyder pants. While the snow was mostly man-made and was pretty skied off by the end of the day, and the trails were crowded solely due to the time of year and limited terrain, it was SO freaking fun to be back on the hill. Despite how long it had been (and feeling like I'd been hit by a truck), after a run or two I was right back in the swing of things. 

Half the fun for me, too, is watching Jonny ski - as a former racer, he's frighteningly fearless and has a ridiculous combination of grace and power on the slopes. He's a riot to see in action - even if I'm eating his dust (powder?) from hundreds of yards behind...I am a far more conservative skier than he is! 

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At the end of day 1, we schlepped our gear up the 150 steps to our condo, took a breather and got cleaned up, and headed into Heavenly Village for a fantastic dinner at California Burger Company. We sat outside around a firepit, I slammed two whiskey toddies, and fell asleep in the car on the way back up the mountain to our place.

After a fitful night of sleep, the next morning it was clear that I was in no condition to ski...my cough had settled in my chest and I was hacking up black shit, puking up everything I ate, and running a whopper of a fever. My parents and Jonny headed out for the day on their own, and I went immediately back to bed legit until they came off the slopes. 

I was determined to rally and ski the next day, and to make it to Dave's arrival and ski the 30th too - so with that in mind, I put on actual pants and joined my family for aprés at Fox and Hound, a fantastic dive bar halfway up to Summit Village.

Shoutout to the "Chata Express" - a lethal concoction of hot chocolate, Fireball, and Rum Chata - that got me through the next hour. Soon it was apparent to all parties involved that I was NOT going to be skiing the 29th, or likely the 30th, or realistically at all the rest of the trip. My parents, being saints, headed down to Tahoe Village for soup, Nyquil and Mucinex while I slept and burned up in the car, then set the wheels in motion to cut our trip short and get Jonathan home early so he could spend NYE in Detroit instead of with my sick ass. I called Dave, told him the change in plans, and promptly passed out at about 7pm. 

The next day, Dick and Jodes drove four unplanned hours to San Francisco to take me home, where they GRILLED EFFING STEAKS for us and for Dave before heading to their hotel. They ate the cost of our condo, paid for accommodations in SF, and covered the upcharge to change Jonathan's flight. They are, needless to say, the most selfless and caring people I know, and took such great care of me/were so forbearing and patient with my Tahoe Plague. I am SO THANKFUL for them. 

After our abortive attempt at a ski trip, I rallied pretty much for the four hour window I left our apartment on New Year's Eve, and spent most of the next week sleeping (slash reading, slash coughing, slash marathoning "The Crown"). Thank goodness Stanford shuts down for the duration of their academic winter break - having the extra week to recuperate was critical. And there you have it - a ski trip that sort of wasn't, a family that was and is the best, and me once again getting sick before/during a major life event! 

Looking forward to trying it again soon, Tahoe...stay tuned campers! 

Resolutionizing: 2018

Hi team...I know I've been ghost-silent around here for far too long, but I have a good excuse, per usual. And that good excuse is that I have been on the brink of death - slight exaggeration, but not really that extreme. My family cut our planned ski trip to Tahoe short by several days due to my delightfully phlegmy lungs, and I've spent the last week more or less tucked in bed doing next-to-nothing while coughing, sleeping and reading to kick off 2018. BOOOO. 

With that said, I never let a year turn without doing two things - recapping the year past and appreciating all its goodness, and making resolutions for the year ahead. Being a basic bitch, I couldn't let a little sickness stop me from starting 2018 the same way, so without further ado, a few small resolutions and, as usual, my bigger goal for the year! 

1. Explore more of the Bay Area. 

I LOVE CALIFORNIA, and I am so glad I moved here. That said, I've quickly fallen into my usual patterns of having "my" spots, and while that's an utterly lovely feeling, I can't let one of the biggest cities in the country go unexplored. Here's to a 2018 full of more time in SF (and Oakland and San Jose and Berkeley and all over the Bay!), new wineries, different restaurants, and most of all new outdoor adventures in this wild, gorgeous area I call home now. 

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2. Try harder at dating. 

I hate Millennial dating, and I am terrible at it. In 2018, I may not want to date, but I need to put more effort into that - whether that's trying harder to build on existing connections, biting the bullet and getting back on the apps (UGH), or even just seeking more opportunities to meet people. I may be fine with things the way they are in my personal life, but I also know I won't be fine with that forever, and practicing dating is a painful but necessary exercise. 

3. Do more yoga.

I have fallen so hard for yoga in the last year and a half-ish, and with a plethora of opportunities for yoga in my day-to-day life, I have no excuse for not hitting the mat more often. I'm currently averaging 1-2x a week, but would love to increase that to 3-4x over the course of the coming year. 

4. Write more regularly.

This was a resolution last year, too, and I'm sad to say it's the only one I truly failed at. While my lack of time writing has been due in large part to living a life that is fuller and more lived off-paper, I truly do treasure the archive I create here and the feeling of connection this blog gives me. I plan to stick to a more stringent writing schedule this year, and to be better about chronicling things - even if it's a "quantity over quality" exercise from time to time. 

And my big intention for 2018: 

Be open. 

I don't know why this felt like such a necessary intention for the year, but this has been stuck in my head since I started ruminating on this year's goal back around Labor Day. Last year, I set the goal of "being intentional," and it was honestly the most successful goal to date. The way it manifested itself was definitely unexpected - choosing to let some friendships go, focusing on what fulfilled me, and, most significantly, taking the giant leap of moving across the country - but I can genuinely say that as 2017 wound to a close, I found myself extremely contented with the amount of thought and consideration I put into what I do. 

As for "be open?" It's a tough one. I think very few people realize how private and closed-off I really am, despite the seeming transparency of, you know, writing a blog and sharing thoughts with hundreds of people on a regular basis. I am extremely protective of myself, and I think that often leads to me closing myself off to a degree - not just from new people and experiences, but from sharing how I really think and feel. I protect myself by holding things back, and at the end of the day I think that sometimes bites me in the ass when things go unsaid or unexpressed. 

In 2018, I want to teach myself to be less afraid to open up - to seek and savor new experiences, to cultivate new friendships and relationships, and to be more candid and less guarded along the way. While the thought/phrase "be open" is, inherently, open-ended, I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing - I feel good about seeking out a year that is a bit more undefined at the outset. 

Happy 2018, campers - here's to a year of yoga and writing and love and openness and adventures ahead :)

Bookworm: December 2017

"In a weak moment, I have written a book." - Margaret Mitchell

Loved: 

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Bryn Greenwood: This was a gorgeous and somewhat disturbing book I plowed through in about three hours on a flight - the story centers on a broken meth-cooking family in rural Kansas, and on how the young daughter of the family comes to find herself in an underage relationship with a much older man. The writing is powerful and the story is completely unexpected - a must-read, if you ask me. 

Fierce, Aly Raisman: I have an enduring fascination with the Olympics and with Team USA Gymnastics, so I tend to read everything that comes out on either of those topics. I have so much respect for Aly Raisman's two-time Olympic performance and her hard-work ethos. Definitely recommend this quick and inspiring read!

Enjoyed: 

Rhett Butler's People, Daniel McCaig: After finishing "Gone With the Wind," I usually re-read "Scarlett," but found out about this book a few months ago and subbed it in instead. It's not my favorite - but it was a fun, light, interesting continuation of the Rhett-and-Scarlett canon from a fresh perspective. 

September Girls, Bennett Madison: I started and stopped this one twice before I got into it, and I'm glad I did power through - at first I was really not a fan of this semi-fantasy "bewitched mermaids doing creepy things in a North Carolina seaside town" story, but it hooked me in a bit harder by the end. It was fine - probably a better beach read, honestly. 

Tolerated: 

The One Memory of Flora Banks, Emily Barr: This was hands-down one of the worst books I've ever read. The premise, of a teenager with short-term memory loss who goes off to find a guy she kissed on a beach and ends up in Lapland, is far-fetched...the writing is elementary at best...and I legit wouldn't have finished it if I hadn't been stranded on a plane surrounded by strangers who wouldn't shut up. Do not recommend. 

Re-reads: 

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell: This is one of my all-time favorite books, and I just really needed to re-read it after starting the movie on the flight home from Thanksgiving. Such a classic. 

Girls in White Dresses, Jennifer Close: I read this for the first time right when it came out, so I was probably 24-25 and didn't really enjoy it at all. On a second read, older, the themes of love, relationships, personal satisfaction and settling hit home much harder and, while I still didn't love it, I did really enjoy it this time around.