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Happy First Birthday, O-HI-30!

(and happy 31st to me…perhaps I should call it O-HI-31 now?!)
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Thanks to everyone who made today (OK – really, the past five) special.  The fun started Thursday evening over chips and guac at Nada with some of the best girlfriends a girl could ask for – Jackie even made an amazing chocolate peanut butter cake!  The next morning, I hopped on a plane to NYC, where my parents and I met up with the New Yorkers – bro, bro’s gf, and cousin (details to come in a separate post soon!).  And of course, today, my actual birthday, spent at work with some very fun and thoughtful co-workers – my ex-boss even read aloud a poem he wrote about me at lunch (a VERY thoughtful poem – I almost cried!).  I ate 1/8 of a piece of chocolate cake that was the size of my head (from the cheesecake factory – ‘nuf said) and then worked it off during my birthday spin class (all of my favorite songs – call me maybe included!), where I received birthday cards from Lindsey, Carolyn, and Aaron (I know I’ve made it as a spin instructor when my students give me bday cards!).  And then finally, I enjoyed a low-key dinner on Northstar’s patio with Ash, Johnny, and Jackie.  And bonus – when ordering, I told the woman it was my birthday, and she gave me my dinner on the house!  It really was a very nice day.

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But O-HI-30 is all about honesty – of telling it like it actually is.  So it’s in that spirit that I share with you that while I certainly have felt feelings of joy and happiness today, those aren’t the only feelings I’ve experienced.  In fact, when I woke up this morning, I felt rather blue.  In my update post, I shared that I’m going through a bit of a difficult time, as anyone does post-breakup.  And part of what is bringing me down are feelings of “same-ness”.  Same job, same apartment, same non-love life.  It’s easy to feel like I’m the same person at 31 than I was at 30, or even 29 (a particularly rough year for me).  I was sharing this sentiment with Ashley, and she quickly squashed it – “you’re not the same person you were a year ago!”.  And you know what?  She’s right.

In the past year, I ran my first Olympic distance triathlon, discovered the joys of strength training, placed second in the swim portion of an indoor triathlon, and scaled a vertical wall.  I visited Spain with dear friends, DC to visit Allison, NYC this past weekend, and took more work trips than I can count.  I maintained dear friendships, fostered new ones, and celebrated family.  I tackled my summer anxiety head on, met new people, and contemplated expectations.  I dated online, experienced some rejection, and managed not to become jaded in the process.  All the dating paid off when I finally met someone, and he was everything I had been looking for and more.  I grew quiet on the blogging front in favor of enjoying my new non-single status.  I learned I was capable of loving someone, of taking care of someone, of being in a true partnership with someone. I got my heart broken.  And I shared all of that – and much more – with all of you, right here, on my very own blog.

The point is –  a lot happened in year #30.  It can be tempting to view our life as a series of check boxes: love, career, home ownership, children, etc.  And if you don’t check off more boxes every year, you feel like you’re not moving ahead.  But that’s far from the truth.  Because really, growth isn’t about reaching major milestones.  Real growth comes from self-reflection, from acting with intention, from gratitude.  It shows itself in the day-to-day, in holding our heads a bit higher, in laughing a bit easier, in communicating a bit more thoughtfully, in being a bit kinder.  When I look at year #30 through this lens instead of the checkboxes, that’s when I see real growth.

Thanks, everyone, for participating in my adventures as a Midwestern 30-something!  If something I’ve written over the past year has rung true even for just one of you, then it’s all been worth it.  69 posts down, many more to go.  Here’s to 31!

 

 

 

 

Frittata

Frittata.  What a funny word.  011
Before I get into that, I must give you guys two updates.  First, remember when my Lululemon pants ripped after 4+ years of hard workouts?  Well, per your suggestions, I took them back to Lulu, and they offered to send them to their seamstress to sew!  Apparently all of their garments have a lifetime guarantee.  You hear that?  LIFETIME.  Worth every penny!  I haven’t picked them up yet, but it’s a guarantee that their seamstress did a better job that I could ever dream of (I hate to sew…something I also inherited from my Mom).  Now that is customer service!  And second, my apartment.  My landlord sent me my lease in the mail, and….wait for it….didn’t raise my rent.  Not even a dime!  Below market value by at least $300. I was already planning on resigning, but now it’s even more of a no-brainer.  Seventh year, here I come.

OK, now back to that funny word.  Frittata.  If you aren’t familiar with this F word, a frittata is an Italian egg dish that can basically be thought of as a crustless quiche.  What makes frittatas so amazing is their versatility.  You can add basically anything to the eggs of a frittata – veggies, meat, cheese, even pasta!  Which means that as long as you have eggs in your fridge, you can whip up breakfast, lunch, or dinner in no time.  That’s the other thing about frittatas – they make sense any time of the day.  Serve with hashbrowns and fruit and toast for breakfast or with a salad for lunch or dinner – you’ve got a meal.

I often make frittatas after particularly unhealthy weekends, like the one I had a few weeks ago celebrating Pam’s upcoming wedding.  They are light yet satisfying, chock full of veggies, and full of flavor.  In just 30 minutes and with minimal effort, you have yourself a healthy, tasty meal – and if you live alone like I do, one that will last you all week!  This post from The Kitchn does an excellent job of explaining the building blocks of a perfect frittata – or better yet, just keep reading!

Although there are an infinite number of combinations, I often gravitate to my favorite frittata combo:  bacon (duh) and leeks!  If you’re not familiar, leeks are part of the onion family and look like green onions on steroids.  The white part of the leek is the good part.  I’m sure there is something you can do with the tough green parts, but sadly, I toss them.  Leeks are somewhat high maintenance, as you do have to soak them to remove the sand that can bury inside the leek.  Just slice and place in a bowl of cold water – the sand will sink to the bottom and you can scoop up the leeks with a mesh strainer or slotted spoon and pat dry.
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I also added peppers and spinach to this frittata, since I had them on hand.  And no egg dish is complete without cheese!  This one featured smoked gouda, which I buy as a block and grate by hand.  I’m no stranger to bagged shredded cheese, but sometimes, off the block is just called for.  And the secret ingredients: mustard, worcestershire sauce (not pictured), and cumin!
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Add the eggs, cook on the stove, and then finish off under the broiler for a nice golden brown deliciousness!
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Served on a rainy Sunday night with a toasted whole wheat english muffin (Trader Joe’s) and a green salad.  Just what I needed after a weekend of jello shots and penis rice krispie treats!
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Sarah’s Favorite Frittata
Makes ~5-6 servings

Ingredients

~6 slices of bacon
2 leeks, sliced thin and cleaned
1 pepper, thinly sliced
couple handfuls spinach
6-8 eggs – more for a thicker frittata, fewer for a thinner one
3/4 cup cheese (the stronger the better)
splash of milk
~1 tsp cumin
couple splashes of worcestershire sauce
~1 tsp mustard
salt & pepper

Preparation

1.  Heat oven to 400.  Slice bacon into ~1/4 inch strips and cook until done
2.  Saute leeks and pepper for ~5 mins in large cast-iron or oven proof skillet
3.  While veggies are sauteing, whisk eggs in large bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and whisk to combine.
3.  Add spinach to leeks and pepper, saute until cooked down.
4.  Add bacon, then pour egg mixture over veggie mixture, being careful to evenly distribute.
5.  Cook on medium-high heat for ~five minutes, until the edges set and the egg starts to cook in the middle.
6.  Transfer to oven for ~5-8 more minutes, until eggs are set.  For a nice golden brown top, turn the broiler on just for a minute or two, being careful not to burn the eggs.
7.  Let sit for a few minutes before slicing.  Enjoy!

What’s your go-to healthy meal?

 

 

Mom

Today, we celebrate all the mamas out there:  real, quasi, fur – it doesn’t matter whom you are, you’re worth celebrating!  I spent the morning with my three mothers.  Yep, you read that right – three!  I’m lucky enough to not only have one amazing mother, but to have her two best friends, Karen and Lawre, as “mothers” too.  It’s true what they say about friends being like family – these friends ARE family to me.

Now, I know everyone thinks that their mother is the best, but I’m pretty sure mine actually is.  And to prove it, I thought I’d use this Mother’s Day post to share five things I learned from my Mom.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Like Mother, Like Daughter

She had a life before me, and still does
“I’m a person.  I have rights!”  This is one of my mother’s most often uttered phrases.  Now, some of that is just born out of silliness (see #3), but it is also to remind my brother and me that her sole purpose in life is not just to be our mother.  She is also a woman who exists without the role of parent, wife, friend, etc. attached to her name.  I have many friends who don’t know much about what their parents were like before they were born – their only real sense of their mother is as their mother.  Growing up, my mother made sure that that was not the case for my brother and me.  She told us stories of her childhood and what it was like to grow up in a single-parent household in the 50s (and to lose her mother in her 20s).  I know all about her awkward high school years and her college roommates.  She didn’t even shy away from telling us about her first marriage, and why it failed.  The point is – my brother and I know my mother as a full person, not just our mother.  And we’re better off for it.

The value of friendship
My mom has a LOT of friends.  Some friends, like Karen, are more like family and have been in her life for 40+ years.  Others, like Linda, are newer, while still more (many more) fit somewhere in between. A lot of these women consider my mother their best friend.  And there’s a reason for that: my mother is a very good friend.  She values her relationships and gives them the time and attention they deserve. She talks on the phone, she writes (very) lengthy emails, she plans shopping excursions, lunches, and dinner parties, she dishes out an equal amount of laughter and sage advice.  In short – she makes the effort.  It’s a lesson I hold near to my heart, and one I’d like to think I’ve put into practice in my own life.  You can never have too many girlfriends.

Don’t take things too seriously
My mom is one of the silliest people I know.  She says that being a mother is what made her silly. When my brother and I were young, she stayed at home with us and the days got loooong.  She needed a way to entertain herself – being silly was a necessity!  Luckily, the silliness didn’t fade as we grew older and she went back to work.  One of my favorite examples is her telling my brother, “if you don’t get out of bed this instant, I am going to take a tiny piece of your skin and pinch it” (all in good fun….right?!).  Or her singing “a hubbard [squash] a day keeps the doctor away, a hubbard a day”.  Weird?  Yes.  Silly?  Yes!  People always talk about being “funny”, but in my opinion, silliness is a highly underrated quality. When I find myself taking things to seriously, I try to channel my mother and insert some silliness!

The importance of health
If you’ve been reading O-HI-30 for some time now, then you’ve definitely seen the influence my mother has had on my lifestyle.  Growing up, she made sure that we had a healthy dinner on the table every night – after she went to her exercise class.  She didn’t feed us grilled cheese made with kraft singles and white bread, but never denied me a third cookie if I wanted it (and I always did).  She exercised when exercise was barely a thing.  I often hear women say that they put their own needs behind the needs of their family, but my mother showed me that making time for yourself isn’t selfish – it’s a necessity.  It was just one more way that she demonstrated that she “is a person” and that she “has rights” (see above)!

Paving your own way
My mother lost her mother when she was just 22, fresh out of college and vulnerable.  She married and spent five years with the wrong guy before divorcing him at 27.  The next three years of her life she talks about fondly as some of the best of her life – going dancing with gay friends at 12 AM, eating Campbell’s bean soup in her single gal apartment when she got home from the bar at 4 AM.  At age 30, she met my dad, just 25, and spent the next 5 years falling madly in love but not pushing for marriage and kids.  After living together for years, my parents decided they did want that life, and my mom became pregnant at age 35 – fairly uncommon for the time.  She had my brother at the age of 38. The point is, my Mom paved her own way, and in doing so she showed me that getting married at 23 and having 3 kids by the age of 30 is not the only way to a fulfilling life.  And that’s a powerful lesson.

I love you, Mom!   Thanks for being you.

Guac

This past weekend, I drove south to the ‘nati to cheer on some flying pigs.
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OK, that’s not entirely the reason I went, but it sure was fun!  You see, my dear dear friend Nash and her fiance Kyle are moving to Greenville, SC (note:  the two pictured above are not Nash and Kyle:)).  And I’m sad about it.  For years I’ve been driving the mere 90 minutes to visit her, many times spending less than 24 hours, and she the same to visit me.  Talking on the phone is great, and it’s the way I’ve maintained many of my close friendships, but nothing beats in-person quality time.  Of course, I’ll be visiting her down south (especially during the winter months), but a $300+ flight is not quite the same as a 90-minute drive.  Luckily, there will be many reasons to see her this summer and fall preceding her wedding on November 14!

On Saturday, Nash and Kyle hosted a cookout as a last hurrah before moving next weekend.  With no real plans keeping me in cbus, I took advantage and squeezed in one final visit to the home I’ll miss so much.  Not wanting to arrive empty handed, I decided to bring my famous guacamole – aka, “guac”.
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In my humble opinion, my guac is of the best there is, perhaps second only to Chipotle’s.  What makes mine so special, you ask?  It puts the spotlight where the spotlight should be: on the avocados!  Avocados are one of the world’s most perfect foods – smooth, creamy, flavorful, healthy, satisfying.  They don’t need a much to be turned into a crowd pleasing dip!  My recipe calls for just a few simple ingredients:  onion, tomato, lemon (not lime), lots of salt, pepper, and…wait for it…the secret ingredient: a dollop of sour cream!
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Up until recently, those were the ingredients in their entirety.  However, I am obliged to tell you that after a weekend spent at a lake house with Wyatt and his friends in which we consumed two separate batches of guac in one day, he convinced me to start adding two additional ingredients that I long protested, claiming they were “unnecessary”:  garlic and cilantro.  I now add just one clove of garlic and a handful of cilantro – not too much, just enough to give it some more interest.  And as much as I hate to admit it, my guac has been taken up a notch (who knew that was possible?) with these additions.  Add it to the list of good things that came out of my relationship with Wyatt.  That, and a nice cutting board!
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Another secret to making awesome guac?  A potato masher!  It’s the perfect tool for getting the consistency just right – smooth, but not too smooth.
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And, of course, the real secret to making guac is the hardest one to control:  the avocados themselves.  They need to be perfectly ripe.  Not too ripe, but even worse is when they aren’t ripe enough.  I once had a bad batch at Ashley’s cottage, that even after an entire week never really ripened, and the guac was a total waste. The key is to buying them in advance, so you can buy unripe ones and ripen them yourself in a brown paper bag over the course of a few days.  I didn’t buy the ones I used Saturday until that day, but luckily I was able to get my hands on some ripe ones.  Since I made the guac in advance of the 90 minute drive, I placed the pit in the center – a trick I learned somewhere to keep it from browning.  It worked!  This batch of guac was a hit and gobbled up not long after I arrived at the Nash household.  Served with tortilla chips, of course.  Yum!

When we weren’t eating, we were cheering on runners in the Flying Pig Marathon!  And at times, we were doing both 🙂  Camille and Doug are good friends of Nash and Kyle, and actually moved down to Greenville themselves last year (lucky them – they get Nash and Kyle!).  They were in town to run their first full marathon!  (side note:  what kind of crazy people choose one of the hilliest marathons as their first?!)  Nash, Kyle, and I got up early to grab coffee and meet their friend Kristen, where we cheered on Camille and Doug at mile 14 of the course.  We then drove to Mile 24, where we had some sweet signs thanks to Kristen:
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At that point, we were all getting hungry ourselves (spectating is hard work!), so we walked just a couple of blocks up the course to super cool brunch spot, Brew River.  Brew River just happened to be across the street from this old couple, who consistency cheered on runners ALL. DAY. LONG. – which would have been adorable except for the fact that they were blasting “Chariots of Fire” from one of their upstairs windows on REPEAT.  OVER AND OVER.  I imagine it was motivating for the runners, but for those of us trying to enjoy our day drinking and cheer on some runners, it was comically annoying.
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On the food front, we all enjoyed copious amounts of fattening food, as if we had run a marathon!  I opted for the shrimp ‘po boy, which was served with some amazing fries.  Much of the group went with the poutine, which was served brunch style with drippy eggs on top…need i say more?  All washed down with a spicy bloody mary.  #perfectsunday
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Camille and Doug met us post-race, looking fabulous and like they had just gone for a stroll, not run one of the hardest marathons out there!  Congrats, you two – you are awesome!
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Nash and Kyle – I will miss you.  Already counting down the days til you move back!  xoxo.

 

Random

I don’t usually write “random” posts this often, but I just have more random things I want to share with you all!  Before I do, I just want to say thank you to everyone for reading update and for your kind words.  If the post rang true for even just one of you, then I’m glad I wrote it.

Now, time for more #randomness!

Stir Fry
I was in St. Louis for work Monday and Tuesday, so I didn’t go to the grocery store on Sunday to stock up for the week as I typically do.  With dinner plans tomorrow night and probably at least one night this weekend, I decided I could get by with just a quick stop to buy bananas and apples (fruit is a must!).  I was planning on making some eggs or heating up a can of soup for dinner, but then I remembered the huge prepared foods section of my local Giant Eagle Market District, and cooking dinner didn’t seem so appealing anymore (even if it was just heating up a can of soup…).  I knew I needed some veggies in my life (I had buffalo chicken wings and a beer for dinner at the airport last night – who am I?!  It hit the spot!), so the salad bar would naturally  be a good option – if I hadn’t eaten that very thing for lunch today! (seeing a trend here?)  So instead, I opted for the make-your-own stir fry:  fill a bowl with noodles / veggies, select a protein and a sauce, and a chef stir fries it for you on the spot – all for $7.99.  Not bad if you ask me!

stir fry

I didn’t realize that the stir-fry came with rice, so I filled my bowl with some noodles, a ton of bright veggies (cabbage, broc, carrots, sugar snap peas, peppers, etc. – even pineapple!), half tofu / half chicken, an egg, and the chili garlic sauce.  The chef stir-fried it on the spot, and since I was taking it to-go (there is a nice cafe on site), packaged it up for me – stir fry in the big guy, brown rice in the little!
stir fry boxes
I threw all of the stir fry and half of the rice into a bowl and topped it with some peanuts and sriracha.  It was good!  My only complaint was the sauce – it was a bit too sweet for me and a bit too saucy, so next time I’d opt to go light on a different sauce.  But all in all, a nice way to get some veggies without having to dirty my wok!

Zappos
Sometimes, a girl just needs shoes (especially after a breakup).  I don’t know about you, but finding the perfect flat that is comfortable and doesn’t fall apart in two months (hello, Steve Madden) is a tall order.  So that’s why, when I ordered this Nine West flat below in medium gold and discovered how comfortable they are, I ordered a second pair – credit card, beware!
3201498-p-MULTIVIEW 3099713-p-MULTIVIEWI bought these flats from zappos.com.  Zappos is far from being a discount site – in fact, I think their prices stink – it’s certainly no DSW.  But what makes Zappos worth the money is their selection (DSW doesn’t have these), and more importantly, their impeccable service.  Shipping is free both ways on Zappos, which means I can order up lots of shoes in different sizes (I ended up getting these in a 7.5, which is a half-size smaller than I normally wear), and then I just return the shoes that I don’t want, at no additional cost to me.  And the best part?  The shoes arrive the VERY NEXT DAY!  Free next-day shipping?  Worth every penny.  I use Zappos mainly for shoes, but also for triathlon gear – I bought my one-piece workout swimsuit there, as well as my sweet tri suit.  I always order multiple sizes and ship back what doesn’t fit.  To quote the Barefoot Contessa – “how easy is that?”  Made even easier when you have a UPS drop-off location in your work building…
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Lululemon
While we’re chatting material things, let me tell you about something bad that happened tonight:  my favorite workout pants ripped!  I was doing squats with my trainer, and all of a sudden I noticed a small hole in the seam of my left inner thigh.  The horror!  Luckily, the hole didn’t turn into a huge workout-ending tear, but it’s significant enough to say bye-bye to my favorite pants.

To be fair, these were the very first pair of pants I ever purchased from Lululemon.  I have worn them weekly (ok, twice-weekly) for years – at least four?  Even well-made products fail at some point, and for these pants, that night was tonight.  The good news is, that means I have a real excuse for buying new pants!  Maybe these….
LW6B70S_018108_2Now, before you go lecture me about “how can you spend $90 on workout pants?!”, trust me – they are worth it.  Especially if you teach spinning classes!  For years I purchased cheap workout gear at Target, and for years I ended up hating that gear a few months later.  Those days are over.  Now, I don’t buy Lulu for everything – in fact, I prefer to run in “cheap” shorts (I love the ones I found at TJ Maxx) and lighter t-shirts / tanks, but for spinning / lifting / yoga, the extra $$$ is worth it.  So long, favorite capris – to Lululemon I go (bonus – I get a 15% instructor discount!)

Birthdays
My old (old, as in previous – and, also old!) boss turns 50 tomorrow!  Jason was my manager for four years, and we still work closely together along with a tightknit team of about eight.  I love office birthdays – we always take the birthday person out to lunch (the person whose birthday it last was pays for the birthday person), and it’s just fun to have something to spice up what otherwise would be just another day in the office.  And since Jason is turning the big 5-0, we are doing this one up right!
JW desk
A women with whom I volunteer at Girls on the Run told me about a surprise her co-workers recently did for her.  They decorated her desk with 40 things they liked about her.  She was so touched, she kept all 40 things in a scrapbook that she refers to when she’s feeling down.  What a great way of celebrating a milestone birthday AND making the person feel all warm and fuzzy inside!  So for Jason’s birthday, I copied the idea and asked my co-workers to write down 3-5 “Jason-isms” on post-it notes, which we scattered all over his cube at the end of the day (he was out of the office this afternoon).  Phrases like, “you have great taste in red wine” and “you are an excel guru” should make him smile tomorrow (along with “you look like a Ken doll”).  50 going on 25!

That’s all the random-ness I have for now.  Til next time!

Update

Hello, O-HI-30 readers.

I think the time has come to share a life update with you all.  I’ve been waiting for the right time, the time that I actually felt like writing this post.  And I think that night is tonight.

A couple of weeks ago, Wyatt and I broke up.  Correction – Wyatt broke up with me.

Out of respect for him and our relationship, I won’t go into the details of how and why the breakup occurred.  Suffice it to say it was real, mature, and extremely heartfelt.  The breakup did our relationship proud.

Over the course of the past two weeks, I’ve found a lot of clarity.  Feelings change, sometimes inexplicably.  Even in the midst of that awful night, I was able to understand at least that much.  I can see the bigger picture: that one day, I’ll meet someone for whom I feel the same way I felt (feel?) about Wyatt, but whom will feel the same way about me.  I’m grateful that I was finally able to experience true partnership, to know what it feels like to share your life with someone – friends, family, values, the minutia of your day.  As silly as it sounds, the sixth months I spent with Wyatt provided me with some much needed validation.  Validation that I am capable of being in a real, meaningful relationship.  That all of those bad dates and unrequited crushes weren’t in vain; that being “picky”, however frustrating, can result in something that is 110% real.  And that if I was able to find it once, I’ll be able to find it again.

But knowing all of this doesn’t make it any easier.  Breakups suck, plain and simple.  Someone who was such a huge part of your everyday is suddenly not anymore.  All the things you once shared together – laughter, the kitchen counter space, text messages, a bed, visions of a future – are just yours again.  And no matter how much you wish it wasn’t true, the truth is all you have.  

And here’s the truth:  I’m sad.  Sure, I’m functioning – I’m working, exercising, laughing, even throwing bachelorette parties.  I’m going through the motions, in hopes that one of these days (hopefully soon), I start to feel like myself again.  And in the meantime, I’ll continue to rely on my amazing friends and family, who have been incredibly kind and patient with me.  Every phone call, text message, email, and question – “how are you doing?”, is so appreciated.  If there is one thing this experience has taught me (not that I needed to be reminded), it’s that I have one hell of a support system.  And that no matter how lonely I might feel sometimes, I’m not alone.  Not even close.  

Thank you, all, for reading my writing, something that has proven incredibly cathartic these past 11 (almost 12!) months.  When I re-join the online dating world, you’ll be the first to know.

PS – on a separate but equally honest (and far more living-altering) note, check out the speech my dear friend Cullen gave this past weekend.  If that doesn’t move you, I don’t know what will.

          

 

Earth

Happy Earth Day, O-HI-30 readers!
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I like to consider myself a green work-in-progress.  I’m far from being the most earth-conscious person out there, but I make real effort to think about my actions and how they impact our planet (little fact:  I lead our green team at work!).  My dear friend Cullen, the poster child of “green”, always says that it’s not about being perfect – it’s about making small, sustainable changes.  Do I throw away banana peels that I should be composting?  Yes.  Do I sometimes use paper towels when I could use a cloth?  Yes.  But over the past few years, I’ve made a number of changes to my daily habits:  recycling (you might be thinking “DUH”, but without recycling collection at my apartment, it wasn’t a given), opting for reusable containers instead of plastic baggies whenever possible (and reusing baggies – this week alone, I’ve used the same baggie for crackers three times), switching to cloth napkins (which I LOVE), using wool dryer balls instead of chemical-laden dryer sheets (I purchased a set of four at TJ maxx for $16, and they work great), leaving a set of silverware at my desk at work instead of using disposable plastic cutlery, and always carrying my water bottle, even when traveling through airports (green and saves money!)

None of these changes is going to save the world or even shrink my carbon footprint (at least not significantly), but they do add up.  And done over a period of time, they really haven’t felt difficult.  So I’d encourage you to think about one or two changes you can make to your daily habits, starting today!

OK, stepping off my soapbox now.

In honor of Earth Day, I thought I would share a veggie-filled, satisfying, healthy (and vegan) recipe I made a couple of Sundays ago for Peanut Soba Noodles.  I had planned to make this meal for Matt and Tim at my place, but it was such a nice evening that we decided to enjoy it on their patio instead.   To make things easier, I made the sauce beforehand and brought it over along with the main ingredients, which we prepared at Matt and Tim’s.
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At Matt and Tim’s, we prepped the veggies (bok choy, peppers, pre-shredded carrots)
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Pan-fried the tofu (which I had pressed at home all day) in coconut oil
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Cooked the soba noodles, and brought it all together with the peanut sauce.  Topped with cliantro, peanuts, lime, and sriracha, and enjoyed outdoors on their lovely patio.  (and with chopsticks that say “happy wife, happy life”…)
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Peanut Soba Noodle Bowls
adapted from eatliverun.com and thecornerkitchenblog.com
Serves 4

Ingredients

For the sauce:
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used unsalted crunchy)
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp ginger (~1-2 inch knob), minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp honey
~1/2-1 tsp cayenne
warm water (~1/3 cup)

For the main dish:
1 package soba or rice noodles
1 package extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into ~3/4 in. cubes
1 large bok choy (or 3-4 baby bok choys, if you can find it), sliced thin
2 large peppers, any color (red, yellow, orange), sliced thin
1-1 1/2 cups shredded carrots (just eyeball it)
~2 tbsp coconut oil

For topping:
cilantro
peanuts
lime
sriracha

Preparation
1.  Combine the sauce ingredients into a medium sized bowl and whisk together until combined.  Add warm water as needed to thin the sauce to a desired consistency.
2.  Pan-fry the tofu in ~1 tbsp coconut oil for 3-4 minutes per side until brown.
3.  In a separate skillet or wok, heat the remaining 1 tbsp coconut oil and saute the veggies for ~3-4 minutes until tender but not soft.
4.  Cook noodles according to package directions.
5.  Add the tofu to the veggies and add sauce, stirring to combine.  Carefully fold noodles into veggie mixture until the noodles have been coated in the peanut sauce.
6.  Top noodle bowls with cilantro, peanuts, lime, and sriracha, as desired.

Enjoy with chopsticks and good friends!

How do you celebrate Earth Day?  Got any “green” tips?

 

Celebrate!

This past weekend, I celebrated my friend Pam!1928844_526822546355_65_n

As the above photo suggests, Pam and I have been friends for a long time.  We met in Industrial Engineering classes (Pam says I ignored her for the first year…), graduated together, took the same job post-college, and remain close friends today!  You might recall from this post that my friends and I celebrated Pam and Reinhardt’s engagement New Year’s Eve.  With the wedding not too far around the corner on August 29, this past weekend was dedicated to two major pre-wedding milestones: wedding shower and bachelorette party!

As Pam’s maid of honor, I’ve been planning April 18 for months, along with her matron-of-honor Debbie and the rest of the bridesmaids.  It was truly a team effort that required everyone’s participation to pull off – and pull it off we did!

The festivities took place in Pam’s hometown of Coldwater, Ohio.  Before college, I had never met anyone from “small-town Ohio”.  Coldwater is definitely “small-town Ohio”.  I had visited twice before – one in college and once post-college, but it has been over five years since I last made the trek to Mercer County.  On Friday night, Pam, Jackie, Ash and I piled in Ash’s car and drove through winding country roads to Jackie’s parent’s house in Fort Laramie, Ohio, about 20 minutes from Coldwater, where Jackie, Ash and I spent the night (Pam stayed with her Mom).
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Jackie’s parents had a super tasty and healthy meal of salmon with a mango salsa, roasted veggies, spinach salad, and hearty bread waiting for us when we arrived.  Everything tasted amazing and was just the base of healthy food we needed to offset the junk that followed the next day!
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After dinner, I created an epic playlist (with a whopping 161 songs…we did not listen to all of them) for the bachelorette party while Jackie & Ash made dessert:
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No two are ever the same.

The next morning, Ash and I got up bright and early to squeeze in a run on the country roads.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous – about 60 degrees and sunny at 8 AM – and running in the country was so peaceful.
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After quick showers, it was time for the shower!  The shower was a brunch hosted by the bridal party at a local rental space called “Moose Lodge”.  This is where the Coldwater bridesmaids come in – not having been to a “small town” wedding shower before, I had no idea how it was done.  And these girls did it up right!  The shower was a Paris theme, and Debbie did a great job turning Moose Lodge into a romantic French getaway 🙂  There was an adorable mimosa bar, macaroons from Pistacia Vera in Columbus, croissants, and more.
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The bridesmaids made all of the food (again – learning curve…) for over 50 people!  We served chicken salad and croissants, six egg casseroles, fruit salad, green salad (my contribution), muffins, cookies, and cupcakes. It was quite the spread!   The shower was short and sweet – just one fun “get to know Reinhardt” game (since many of the women there did not know him well), and brief gift opening (since Pam requested gift cards to avoid shipping gifts to her home in San Francisco cross-country).  All-in-all, an excellent shower!
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After a few hours of chill time at Pam’s Mom’s house, it was time for celebration #2:  the Bachelorette Party!!!  As long as I’ve known Pam (and that’s over a decade), I have been hearing about the infamous Mercer County Bachelorette Party:  a bunch of girls riding around in a school bus (with the seats lining the sides of the bus so everyone can face eachother), stopping at country bar after country bar.  Needless to say, I was excited to finally attend one!  Following the international theme of the day, the suprise theme for Pam’s Bachelorette Party was none other than Oktoberfest!  Reinhardt is German, so we had a great time with the theme.  Pam wore a real dirndl, while the rest of the girls (all 40 of them!) wore these awesome t-shirts:
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The above photo was taken pre-bus at the local bar, McSober’s.  Full name: McSober’s Saloon.  The night began and ended there, many hours and bars later.  At one point, the bridal party made its way onto the bar – literally – for some dancing to Johnny Cash!

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Everyone was given a pretzel necklace (tasty) and a plastic beer stein to play up the German theme.  Again, props to the bridal party for remembering all the cute details!

By the time we made it back to McSober’s after 1 AM, the Columbus contingent of girls was exhausted.  On the contrary, the Coldwater girls – some in their 50s and older – were still full of energy and rearing to keep the party going!  Of course, Pam was in latter group – I’d expect nothing less.  The bus driver took us non-Coldwater girls back to Pam’s Mom’s house, where we unleashed our late-night munchies and crashed.

Whew – what a day!  By all accounts, Pam’s wedding shower and bachelorette party were a success!  It was so great to see you, Pam, and all of the other girls.  August 29 (and the 28th!) are going to be great days!

 

Random

Been some time since I’ve written a “random” post.  Enjoy the randomness!

1.  Cheese Fries
Confession:  When teaching spinning on Monday nights, sometimes I’ll go 30 seconds (or even a minute – the horror), without saying anything – and that’s because I’m thinking about food.  Specifically, what I’m going to make for dinner after class.  Oftentimes that’s an easy decision – check out my dinner post for my go-tos – but every once in a while I’m just not sure what I’m craving.  That’s what happened a few Mondays ago, and how this random dinner of CHEESE FRIES was born!

Let’s talk about cheese fries for a second.  They remind me so.much.of.high.school, nights spent with girlfriends at Max & Ermas eating my fourth meal of the day (I had – have – a good metabolism).  As you probably know, fries are my favorite food.  Add cheese and bacon, and you’ve just taken it over the top.  Now that I’m 30, it’s not often that I indulge in real cheese fries.  Instead, I make my own “healthy” version of the classic!
fries

This is both a regular and sweet potato cut into strips and baked (425 for a while – like 45 mins), a mix of pepperjack and cheddar cheeses, a crumbled black bean veggie burger, green onions, sour cream, avocado, and hot sauce.  Dipped in Trader Joe’s Parmesan Ranch dressing (only 30 cals / serving!).  Amazing.  Next time you have a craving for bar food, try these!

2.  Bangs
A couple of weeks ago, I got bangs.
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I had been thinking about it for months, if not years, but always thought I had the wrong face shape for them – a little bit too heart-shaped and small, with a short forehead.  But a few weeks ago, I decided the hell with it – hair grows!  If I hate them, I’ll just grow them out and never do it again.  Well – I don’t hate them.  In fact, I really like them!  For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have a new ‘do with a little more spunk and personality.  And to quote my mother, “you should always have bangs for the rest of your life”.  Thanks, Mom.

3.  Equal Pay Day
Last Wednesday, I attended the Equal Pay Day Panel hosted by the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio with my friend Jenny, who I know through my cousins and who is equally progressive and feminist as I.  Perhaps you’ve heard that yesterday, April 14, marked the day that a women officially caught up to a man in earnings from the previous year.  In Central Ohio, women make $.78 on the dollar to men, and every 1 in 4 women led-houses (single or married) is not financially secure.  The statistics really are eye-opening, and are sparking a national discussion of what we – both men and women – can do to create meaningful change.
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The panel was held at The Kitchen in German Village – a super cool space that you may recognize from a “Taco Tuesday” event I attended there last summer.  With lots of exposed brick, sunlight, and top-notch hors-d’oeuvres, I can’t say enough good things about The Kitchen.  The four panelists were all female entrepreneurs, and all had really interesting perspectives on the issues women face today in the workforce.  Thanks, Jenny, for the invite!

4.  No-Fortune Fortune Cookie
I’ve had a bit of a rough week (more on that in a later post), and this no-fortune fortune cookie that I got during Monday’s lunch was just too ironic not to share:
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5.  Back on the Saddle
bike
I’ll end with what feels like a new beginning.  On Sunday afternoon, I filled up the air in my bike tires and hit the trail for the first time since October.  The weather was perfect – sunny and warm but not too warm – and the fresh air felt rejuvenating.  Of course, I was somewhat terrified of falling off my bike again, and although I did come close once, I didn’t fall.  Success!  The first bike ride of the season always feels like the beginning of something new, and it’s just what I needed.  Triathlon season, here I come!

Passover

This past Tuesday, I hosted my 5th annual Passover “Seder”.  Seder in quotes because it’s not actually a Seder.  We don’t read from the Haggadah (the book that tells the story of Passover), I don’t have a Seder plate, and I don’t serve a full meal.  Heck, we don’t even sit at a table.  Instead,  it’s actually just matzo ball soup!  But for 14 of my dearest non-Jewish friends, it’s as close to a Seder as most of them will get!

Since the matzo ball soup is the star of my “Seder”, it has to be the real deal.  Being the good Jewish woman that I am, I make the chicken broth from scratch every year.  Yep – chicken carcass and all!  The recipe comes from my Mom’s dear friend Cindy, who makes the BEST matzo ball soup (I just had it on Friday, and it did not disappoint).  Making matzo ball soup from scratch is not for the faint of heart.  It’s not exactly difficult.  It’s just – a process.

The "broth", two hours in

The “broth”, two hours in

For those of you who are interested, here is the basic rundown.  It starts with a chicken.  In past years, I’ve used a 4-5 pound whole chicken.  This year, I used chicken thighs, based on the butcher’s recommendation (fattier than roasting chickens).  The fat is where all the flavor lies, so it’s important to use as fatty a chicken as you can find.  The chicken simmers on the stove for hours with lots of veggies and S&P.  After many hours, it’s strained and the remaining chicken (mostly bones) and veggies are discarded – my least favorite part.  Refrigerate overnight, remove the layer of fat from the top (save for matzo balls), strain again, and reheat.  At this point, it might seem more like chicken water than broth.  Add in fresh carrots and celery, shredded roasted chicken if desired, and more seasonings – lots more S&P, parsley, chicken bouillon, and, if you’re semi-homemade like me, a box of store-bought chicken broth.  Sue me.  Taste a lot until you’ve decided it remotely resembles normal chicken broth.

And that’s just for the broth…we haven’t even gotten to the matzo balls!  So, yes – it’s a process.   You feel me?  Just like the broth, matzo balls aren’t difficult to make, but they are a tad labor intensive.  They start with matzo ball mix from a box (even Cindy does that, so it’s allowed), add egg and oil (in my case – chicken fat!), mix, and chill.  Kindly ask your boyfriend to roll the “dough” into 1-inch balls (25 of them…he’s a good man), and drop the raw matzo balls into boiling water (don’t overcrowd – boil in batches if making lots like I did).  Cover tightly, reduce to simmer, and wait for the matzo balls to puff up into fluffy goodness.  The box says 20 minutes, but that’s a lie…mine needed more like 25 minutes to fully cook through.  I use a slotted spoon to remove them from the pot and place on paper towels – this lets some of the excess liquid escape so the matzo balls will be fluffy.  After a few minutes, add them to the soup.

And then it’s time to eat!
soup
passover salad

In addition to the chicken matzo ball soup, I also serve a green salad, and of course, lots of matzo and butter!  And my dear Catholic friend Jackie always makes the haroset – an apple & walnut “salad” that symbolizes the mortar that the Jews used to make bricks when they were slaves in Egypt (see, you learn something new every day).  She’s such a pro, she doesn’t even use a recipe anymore – and you know what, it’s pretty authentic!  And don’t forget the wine…per Seder tradition, the meal is washed down with lots of red wine, even on a Tuesday.  
passover friends

The Passover “Seder” always takes place in my living room, all 14 of us sprawled around the furniture, some on the floor.  My friends raved about the soup this year – “it’s more peppery than normal.  really good!”.  Once again, Wyatt, acting as my sous chef, came in at the ninth inning and saved the day.  And while everyone enjoyed their matzo balls, the conversation found its way to the same topic it always does….Susan.  More specifically, Susan’s weight.  Every single year, my poor baby gets made fun of incessantly for having a few extra pounds on her furry frame.  Johnny is notorious for teasing her the most:
passover cat

The night ended the way all dinner parties end – with a goodie bowl of dermatological samples!  EB (Elizabeth) is a dermatology resident at OSU, and gets loads of free samples – awesome samples!  Apparently this perk is being taken away soon, so EB took advantage and brought over a bunch of goodies for us each to take home.  And as a normal 30 year-old-woman would do, I stocked up on acne face wash and under eye cream.  #30goingon15
EB

Thanks, friends, as always, for joining.  It’s Tradition!