Farewell, Oh Captain, My Captain.

This is not the first time I have witnessed the passing of a celebrity, but it is perhaps the first that has moved me in a real way. Robin Williams was a dominate fixture through much of my childhood, from watching Mrs. Doubtfire & Aladdin at every sleepover for years, to obsessing over Hook to the point of memorizing the entire film. I can even pinpoint key moments in my transition to adulthood while watching Dead Poet’s Society, What Dreams May Come, and Good Will Hunting. It is hard not to feel that along with the star, a little bit of the magic from these movies has died as well.

Even bigger than Robin Williams’ death itself is the message that it sends about the seriousness of depression and mental illness. It is sad and frightening to think that a man who gave so much laughter and hope to strangers was incapable of doing the same for himself. Perhaps it is that thought that makes his death haunt me so. I wish him peace, and that his family can eventually find it as well.

To select my favorite clip from Robin Williams’ career is a certain impossibility, for there are too many to even count. But this is the one that fits best for me.

Thanks for teaching me how to fly.

Thanks for teaching me how to be a friend.

Thanks for teaching me how to love. 

Thanks for everything, Oh Captain, My Captain.

Mushroom & Artichoke Lasagna

Mushroom Artichoke Lasagna

A common misconception of vegetarians is that we took on this diet because we really love vegetables. As in, you could just steam up a bunch of vegetables and serve them on a plate and we would be happy as clams. This is probably why so often the token vegetarian dish in restaurants has the generic “vegetable” in the title, like “vegetable pizza” or “vegetable lasagna” or ” pasta w/ vegetables.”  They’re basically saying, we’re not even going to tell you what exactly you’ll be eating, but it’s veggies and clearly that’s all that matters.

The truth is that most of us non-meat eaters like vegetables as much as anyone else, we just happen to not be big fans of meat. So yes, we end up eating more vegetables as a default, but it isn’t like our taste buds have changed. When I became a vegetarian, I didn’t suddenly decide that I just LOVED eating my pizza with squash on it, or that lasagna tastes so much better when it’s stuffed with broccoli and carrots. If you’re cooking for a vegetarian, here’s something to keep in mind: if you think it sounds weird and gross, there’s a good chance they will too, but they’ll suck it up politely because being called out as a picky eater is never fun, not even the 100th time.

So look, if you want to make a vegetarian lasagna, that’s awesome. But don’t take it as a chance to finally clean out your vegetable drawer in your kitchen. Think that shit through for a second. This recipe actually works. First off, save yourself some trouble and buy no-boil noodles and a jar of good marinara sauce. Vegetables do not have to be difficult. Then you’re mixing some meaty sauteed mushrooms with the marinara and pairing it with artichoke hearts in heavenly ricotta.   No broccoli. No carrots. No yellow squash. This is how you do vegetables.

Mushroom Marinara 2

Mushroom Marinara Continue Reading →

Why No One Likes Interns

We have an intern working at our office this summer. If you’ve never worked with an intern before, they are basically there to learn all about the work you do and make you feel old. A sample conversation:

Me: My friend’s kid has this long blond hair, he basically looks like Garth.

Intern: *blank stare*

Me: Do you know who Garth is?

Intern: *blank, confused stare*

Me: ….like…from Wayne’s World?

Intern: *blanker stare*

Me: Seriously?? I’m looking it up right now, surely you’ve seen Wayne’s World before!

I pull up the poster image of Wayne’s World on Google. The intern takes a look, and asks, “Is that like an 80s movie or something?”

Me (highly indignant): No, this movie was made in 1992!

Intern: Oh, well I was born in 1994.

*long pause*

Me: Get. Out.

Crusts and all

Morning Toast

This is not a recipe. This isn’t even that interesting, it’s just a shout-out to what has become my favorite breakfast these days.

At our house, weekend breakfasts are reserved for pancakes, waffles, or homemade biscuits. In other words, weekends are for hearty, complex menus that draw-out the breakfast process, whereas weekdays are all about simplicity. Granola, oatmeal, or my most favorite, toast. While buttermilk pancakes and made-from-scratch biscuits will always be worth the extra effort, I could never say that I like them more than my toast, especially when the bread is fresh from a local bakery and served with a poached egg or fresh jam spread over the top. Continue Reading →

The Stairwell – Before & After

Hallway Before 2

It’s been a while since I posted any updates on our home renovation, which is just silly, since we have had some major changes. Probably none are more noticeable than this stairwell, and the hallways connecting to it. See that wallpaper? That has been in this house my entire life. All 29 years of it. This wallpaper has been the defining aspect of my Grandmother’s house, which in essence, meant this house has never felt like mine as long as it’s been up. While it was time for it to go, our home will now be lacking its signature conversation piece, because EVERYONE had an opinion of it. Some loved it and positively begged us to keep it up, while others could could barely stand to look at it. I’ve learned that this is how a lot of decor works, which is why you should never worry about what other people think – someone will always hate it, so just worry about yourself.

Hallway Before

Hallway Before 3

The original goal was for us remove the carpet & wallpaper, then paint from floor to ceiling and refinish the hardwood floors hiding underneath – all by ourselves. This will now be known as the great marital experiment, “let’s really see how close we can get to killing each other before finally stepping over the edge.” Our first attempt at taking down the wallpaper (a whole two hours) marked the moment that I firmly declared that this DIY stuff was for the birds and I would be happier taking a second job at McDonald’s to pay for someone to do the work rather than continue myself. I later stated that I would also be happy to pay for someone to paint rather than have Chase continue it, because let’s just say, he is not my favorite person when he’s been painting all day. Continue Reading →

Introducing: Hendersonville Yard Sales page (HSY)

YOU. GUYS. I belong to this group on Facebook called “Hendersonville Yard Sales,” (HSY) which is basically like Craigslist for our small town (we’re too small to have an actual Craigslist page – true story). Here’s the thing, if you’ve ever searched through Craigslist, you know that typically there are some bizarre ads up there, not to mention atrocious spelling & grammar, and sometimes you wonder, “what kind of people respond to these?” The beauty of a Facebook page, is that you can actually see these people. You can read every comment, you can see photos of every person posting, which makes this the most entertaining thing to come out of Facebook. Ever. Every struggle I have ever gone through in this move was worth it, since it all led me to join this page. Where I can see gems like this:

Puppy ransom

Is this guy selling a puppy or holding it ransom? By the way – NOT ONE of the ELEVEN comments referenced the fact that this photo looks like a terrorist situation. Unless it is a terrorist hold-up, in which case I probably shouldn’t be making fun of it on the internet. Except that if all you’ve got as a hostage is a puppy, you’re probably doing it wrong. OR – someone caught up to the fact that while no one cares when a person dies in a movie, they ALWAYS freak out when the dog dies. So maybe this guy is actually a genius. But for now, I’m gonna go with “probably not” on that one.

BTW – you can try to join the page, but there’s a wait list. Yeah, exactly. Screw your big-city clubs, this is the place everyone actually wants to be.

Risotto with Roasted Asparagus and Poached Egg

Asparagus Risotto

As a kid, I had major issues about my foods touching each other. As in, everything-has-its-own-spot-on-my-plate-and-if-they-touch-even-slightly-I-will-cry, kind of issues. In hindsight, my parents could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they had just served me each item on a separate plate altogether; there would have been far less meltdowns at our dinner table.

As an adult, however, I’m a lover of meals served in bowls, with ingredients layered over top of each other, and I find myself making bowl-friendly meals more often than not. Soups are restricted no more than twice a week, or my husband will begin to complain, as he is more of a knife-and-fork meals kind of guy. When I can’t have soup, one-pot meals are a favorite, as are casseroles that can be scooped into bowls, with spoons and forks serving as equally qualified options for eating.

When I’m feeling slightly more ambitius, dinner will look something like this. It starts with a base, something creamy like a basic risotto, or you could go with polenta as well. Top it with vegetables, preferably some that have been roasted to the point of browned crispiness, aka, the best possible way to eat them. (To date, I have not yet found a vegetable that I don’t love after it’s been roasted in the oven and comes out with crispy edges.) The key to finishing off any bowl is to top it with a poached egg. Always. There are few foods that aren’t made better by the broken yolk mixed in. These are just facts people. Continue Reading →

Lame omens

This isn’t a real post. It’s more of an announcement that the internet has officially made me feel old. Did you hear that internet? You win, so slap yourself some high-fives and lay off for a while. See, I’m 29. 2-9.  I still proudly tell people that I’m “in my twenties,” when in every other way I relate more to people in their 30s. Case in point: As an attempt to avoid actual work last week, I looked at this link:

30 Hashtags Every Thirtysomething Actually Needs

And I was like, this post is speaking to me (except the being single stuff. Thank god I accomplished something society asked of me. That thing about turning down music? True story.) Then I looked at this link:

20 Hashtags Every Twentysomething Actually Needs

And I realized – I cannot relate to any of these anymore. I have vague recollections of what it must have felt like to be this person, but now she’s gone. (Side note – I’m sure there’s a much sadder conclusion to be drawn about me judging my life stage by BuzzFeed lists, but let’s just let is slide for now.)

Also – THIS. THIS is when I realize I’m older than I ever imagined. Continue Reading →

Spiced Apple Butter

Apple Butter

For anyone that knows me from my time at A Cozy Kitchen, you may remember when I first attempted apple butter. Let’s just say, that post was one long rant about how apple butter was without a doubt the most difficult thing I had ever made, and that while it was delicious I had no intention of ever making it again. I handed out the those first few jars to family members at Christmas members by saying, “Hope you enjoy this, I’m never making it again.” And then they all said it was wonderful and would I please make more and I was like, “No chance in hell.”

Fast forward 5 years later, and in the same way that most women forget the pains of childbirth so that they can procreate once again, I got it in my head that I would attempt apple butter once again. I rationalized that perhaps it was my tiny kitchen in LA that made the process of stirring the mixture for 2 hours so difficult, and things would surely be different in my current, roomier cooking space. This doesn’t actually make any sense so please don’t think on that logic for too long. Also, Chase’s dad LOVES this stuff and has done all this work on our house for free, so I figured the least I could do is stir some pureed apples for an afternoon. And hey, I could hand out the jars at Christmas and everyone would love them and look forward to my apple butter every year. What could go wrong?

Well, it’s now well past Christmas, and of the 20 jars that I made, about 15 are still in my kitchen. Why, you ask? Because that shit is every bit as hard to make as I remember (and every bit as delicious), and I have no intention of creating a demand for it. So I’m rationing it out slowly and sporadically, and completely downplaying that I had a hand in making it.

All I’m saying, is this stuff is really good. And if you have an afternoon that you would like to devote to standing over a stove and stirring until your arms feel like butter, then knock yourself out. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Fall Apples Continue Reading →

First Signs of Spring

Forsythia Tulips 2

Forsythia 2 Tulips

There are few sights more welcomed than those first forsythia buds struggling to bloom, or the green tulip leaves peaking out from the remnants of last year’s garden. It means the end is near, that is, the end of a depressing, soul-sapping winter and the start of a warm, joyous Spring. Someone make sure Mother Nature got the memo. That woman is forgetful.