Thursday, July 31, 2014

I had a successful wedding and failed marriage

I just read a very insightful blog post, a letter from a mother to her daughters about how very un-pinnable her 1994 wedding was. She expressed the same sentiment that many do in different words; what matters is the marriage and not the wedding.

Let's not jump to conclusions, however. Just because a bride-to-be slaves away on handmade centerpieces doesn't mean she is expecting to just have a gorgeous wedding day and doesn't care about the rest of her life. I should know because I was one of them.

I folded one thousand post-it notes from my office into individual petals, five of which would form one flower. My then-fiance and I sanded and spray painted 20-some photo frames so we could have creative table numbers even though our reception venue would have printed simple numbers to save us the time and energy. During the first few seconds of my maid of honor's speech, I was futzing with my bouquet to get it to stand up straight in the jar I had on our Sweethearts table...because, you know, there could have been a picture (sorry Susan). I had 3 trial runs for my hair.

I labored with my hands and with my mind months before the wedding and even months before I was engaged. During that time, I didn't think my marriage would be over in a matter of 8 months...but it was.

Do I believe my failed marriage was a direct result of having a Pinterest-worthy wedding with tea light holders that I sourced from 4 different Dollar Trees? No I don't. However, instead of rolling 200 strips of paper into 200 rose blossoms, I could have spent that time reflecting on myself, what I truly wanted out of my life, and why I wanted to marry my fiancĂ©.  If I had, I could have spared a massive amount of heartache for myself, my fiancĂ©, and both of our families.

If I were reading this 2 years ago, I wouldn't have thought this warning applied to me. This would say to me "the marriage is more important than the wedding." And I would think, "Oh sure, I agree. But I'm gonna have a crazy cute wedding anyway."

My soul ached when I looked at my ringless left hand, not for my boyfriend when he wasn't near me.
When I thought of my future, I imagined a neatly decorated home, not being held by my spouse and feeling complete.

My husband and I didn't make it to our first anniversary...but I have remarkable photos of my beautiful wedding day.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

10 Tips for Making the best of your CSA share

If you'd like to support a local business, save money, eat an organic, plant-heavy diet, and save the planet all at once, then perhaps becoming a member of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is right for you.

For $20 a week, I get half a bushel of locally grown organic produce that would typically cost me 3x as much at the grocery store. It didn't travel very far so I'm reducing my carbon footprint. It's also healthier for me because it's more veg than I can typically afford to buy organic. It's tastier because it hasn't lost its flavor during the truck ride from the opposite coast.

Sounds perfect right?

Not so fast. There are a few downsides. Most of us learned to feed ourselves and our families by planning a menu, writing a grocery list, going to the store to pick up ingredients and then executing the menu as planned. When you receive a box of veggies all at once every 7 days and you don't get to pick what precisely will be in it, answering the question "what's for dinner?" is an entirely different game.

From my experiences between last year (when I unfortunately threw away a lot) and what I've done to avoid that this year, here are 10 ways to actually EAT what's in your CSA box.

  1. Make salad your first course
    Leaf lettuce has been in my box every single week. Making salad the prelude to dinner every night, I've able to keep up with all the bunny food. Buy (or make) some tasty toppings and dressings to keep it fun. Chop up cabbage, roots, scallions or whatever else you have in your box to flesh out the salad. If your family gets burnt out on salad with every dinner, be "that girl" who brings the big bowl of greens to every barbecue this summer. 
  2. Pretend your vegetable is something else. An obvious one is using the early season's onslaught of scallions in place of onions. Also, I've found a lot of recipes that employ CSA veggies instead of their traditional main ingredient: kohlrabi fries, mashed parsnips, summer squash hummus, kale chips, turnip gratin, lettuce or collard wraps. The possibilities are endless if you think outside the grocery cart.
  3. Be generous with fresh herbs and scallions
    You can add a lot of flavor if you aren't shy about your fresh seasonings. A lot of recipes will tell you to add something like 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley. Wimps. Pour it on! You'll use the plant before it goes bad and you'll get a lot of flavor which will decrease the need to add extra oil, salt, or (gasp) sugar.
  4. Set aside some time to preserve some food
    Spend a few hours in the kitchen now and then to pickle, dehydrate, can, or freeze a little bit of what you got so that you can enjoy your local veg outside of the season. You might not be a big fan of soup during the summer but if you turn those yummy summer crops into soup now, can or freeze them to enjoy during the winter months.
  5. Think ahead to make the timing work
    Depending on where you are, you'll get basil one week, parsley the next week, onions and tomatoes the following week and the garlic doesn't arrive for another month. Then you'll throw your hands up and scream, "WHY don't they all come at ONCE so that I can make pizza sauce?!?!" Work around this by thinking WAY ahead: can this season's tomatoes so that when you get those fresh herbs next spring, you're ready to whip up a batch of completely local marinara.
  6. Juice!
    If you have a vegetable juicer, you're in luck. Play with different combinations. Use beets and carrots to sweeten your juice. Run beet or turnip greens through so you can get those out of the way.
  7. Blend!
    Green smoothies are all the rage right now. Good thing because you're getting TONS of kale. Unfortunately you'll have to spend extra money on stuff like almond milk and fruit but if you have a high power blender, you can pulverize an obscene amount greens into your morning drink.
  8. Find a veggie you love to snack on
    Last season I discovered that I LOVE hakurei turnips. I sliced them up raw and ate them like chips. Same with cucumbers. Noshing on raw veg is great for digestion and hydration, thins your crop reserve and keeps you away from bags of deep fried starch.
  9. Stock up on staples before you get your box
    Last year I got my  box on Tuesdays and it sat there for the rest of the week while I tried to come up with a workable menu and ordered takeout. By the time I googled recipes, wrote my grocery list and got to the store, half the veg would be on its way out. This year I decided to hit the stores first to get things like rice, pasta, beans, meats, cheeses and other typical ingredients before I picked up my share. That way I planned the menu around using what I already had in my pantry along with my surprise veggies. It cut out a few steps and I've been able to get to most of my veggies before they take a turn for the worse. Bonus tip: Watch "Chopped" to be inspired to make a dish out of surprise ingredients.
  10. Make vegetable broth and compost
    The great thing about having more organic produce than you know what to do with is that you don't have to be terribly shy about scraps and trimmings. I throw most peels, cores and stems into a bag in my freezer that gets boiled into a lovely vegetable stock. If I'm impatient, things like dirty outer layers of scallions get peeled back and thrown right into the compost bin for my future garden. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Juli through YOU University

In November of 2013, I embarked on a journey of emotion-based coaching through YOU University with a mentor named Maia Berens.

There are many things that have happened along my path and my life has changed in many ways if you could forgive me for being vague.

I truly do believe that there are ways for us to be able to handle our feelings. I truly believe in the power that the tools in YOU U provide.

The purpose of this blog will be to record my experience as I move through the different buildings and apply the tools in my life.

The biggest thing that has happened through my experience is that I left my husband and I now live with a new boyfriend. I have gotten an incredible amount of support from my coach, the other member of my group, and the other YOU University graduates and coaches. The problem is that I've stalled a bit on Buildings 6. I have recently suffered a back injury. Whether it was a direct response or not, in the past few days I have uncovered some new motivation for myself to continue in my work.

That's all I have for today.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mary had a little Lamb

 And so did I...for dinner!

Garrison and I found some organic eye of lamb loin marked down at Wegmans so we jumped on that and got two! 

Guess what. Even the most google-savy person can't find a satisfactory "eye of lamb loin" recipe.
But I found Inna Garten's recipe for a 6lb lamb leg...that'll do right? At this point in writing, I have not eaten this yet.  I decided I should halve the recipe and that'd be acceptable.

Oh wait. This isn't a 3 pound lamb loin. This is like HALF a pound! We'll see how this goes.

Three garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon of rosemary, half a tablespoon of sea salt, a dash of black pepper and a tad of butter pulsed in my little "food chopper" (it wasn't enough to put in the food processor).

 The eye of lamb loin. Guh animal flesh. This is really why I could stand to go vegetarian. I hate handling raw meat!

The next step is to basically massage the rosemary garlic paste all over poor lamby's leg. I tried to touch it as little as possible. This is the paste I scooped onto the meat.

  I'm spreading the paste on with a spatula for as much as I can get away with.

I had to give in and touch it. My ring came off first. 

After I was finished massaging baby sheep's loin eye, I had to let it sit at room temp for 30 minutes to an hour.

Red skin potatoes tossed in olive oil, salt, and 3 sliced garlic cloves. I probably should have left this out. I was supposed to put the whole cloves in unpeeled. I forgot and peeled them. Oops.

My little lamby ready to go into the oven! The 6 pound leg was supposed to roast at 450 for at least an hour. This was well over the internal temperature for medium in 20 minutes.


The next step was to cover the lamb with foil and let it "rest." I thought it was put to rest well before it reached my grocery store but oh well. While this rested, I finished roasting my potatoes.

After it's lamb nap, I started scraping the paste off because I was afraid of dying from too much seasoning.

Dinner is served!
I thought since I had pretty much overused my blue and white speckled plates that I should bust out the white ones. The result lacks color. I suppose I'll live.

I was really concerned that this would be way over seasoned and overcooked but to my pleasant surprise, it was still tender and had some pink in the middle. The salt was a little overbearing but the rosemary and garlic weren't causing my mouth the trauma I expected. The potatoes were damn near perfect.

This is definitely a different kind of meal for us. I honestly can't recall the last time we had meat and potatoes with nothing else for dinner. This isn't the most balanced of meals but definitely a rarity especially on a day when I had cupcakes for lunch.

Talk to me: Bahh bahh black sheep, have you any wool?

Monday, March 4, 2013

What's My Motivation?

Pinterest has proven to be a fast way of circulating information, both helpful and, well, not so helpful. With healthy recipes, fitness tips, and work out pictures a plenty, we might even say Pinterest can help us reach our fitness or weight loss goals. But lately I've seen a few pins that have bothered me big time.

These memes are supposed to help us become motivated to work out. They suggest that when we're tempted to slack off, we need to imagine what positive things other people will say when we've reached our weight loss or fitness goal.

Losing weight is hard. It's hard to say no to the cookie. It's hard to get out of bed early in the morning to  work out. It's hard to make choices that glaringly contrast those of friends who are staying up late, drinking, ordering pizza, and binging on ice cream. Willpower does not come easy. I feel it's important to have a phrase to repeat internally when motivation is low. But I have a big problem with mantras that connect fitness success to the accolades and congratulations of others.

Between my sophomore year and senior year of high school I slowly became overweight. From my senior year through my freshman year of college, I lost all that weight. I don't remember every single workout but I do remember every comment someone made about my body- because that's exactly what a compliment on weight loss is! People looked at my body, noticed that it had changed and told me what they observed. Though positive and well-meant, I was terribly offended by every compliment.

"Wow you've lost weight!" was supposed to be followed up with "Thank you," but I never felt like thanking the compliment-giver.
"You look good," in my mind translated to, "You looked bad before."

The world did not open itself to me once I became skinny again. My insecurities didn't just go away. I wasn't 100% happy all of a sudden. Changing the shape of my body did not change the beliefs I had about myself.

If a friend of mine asked for my help in keeping her motivated to lose a few pounds, I wouldn't dare to bait her with anticipation of all the compliments she'll receive. So why would I do the same internally? Do we have to look a certain way in order to be loved and accepted? If we really need to hear words of affirmation, we must make our needs known in our relationships.

The reason we should take care of our bodies is not so that our friends will tell us how hot we look. We should aim for our own optimal weight or fitness levels so that we are healthy and that we can enjoy life without any hindrances. Perhaps that includes feeling happy about the way you look but that, too, is an inside job.

Talk to me: Have you ever gotten compliments on your weight loss? Do they make you feel good or bad?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Do you love your slow cooker?

"I love my Crockpot! My slow cooker saves me sooooo much time! You won't believe this amazing Crockpot recipe I found on Pinterest! I don't know what I'd do without my Crockpot. No, seriously, don't joke about that! Hmmmmm I wonder how I can make this in the Crockpot..."
-Everyone except for Me

Maybe it's the advent of Pinterest giving me a false idea of what people are really into or maybe slow cookers REALLY are the saving grace of busy people but I'm having a hard time believing that my slow cooker exists to save me time.

I'm a busy person. I don't have kids but I work a full time job as well as teach dance part time and I'm involved with a few groups.Crockpotting just isn't my solution to the nights when I have no time to cook. Here's why:
  • I leave for work around 7:40am and I return around 5:20pm. Most crock pot recipes require anywhere from 3 to 6 hours of cooking and no more. I found a few 10 hour recipes. It didn't turn out so great.
  • Chicken and some other meats need to stop cooking right when they're perfectly done. Every type of chicken I've had out of a crockpot has been overcooked and way too dry.
  • Cooked vegetables are most appetizing when they are crisp-tender. Any kind of slow-cooked vegetable is way too soft and robbed of its planty flavor (and probably nutrients) when it has been steeped in hot liquid for hours. 
  • Slow cooker recipes are pretty much the limited to soups, stews, sauces to go over grains (ah yes, you gotta cook that grain and wash another pan), or roasts with mushy veggies.
  • I like food to have a complex blend of textures-- gooey with crunchy, soft with crispy. Crockpot meals often all have the same texture.

Pinterest would like me to believe otherwise. Exhibit A.
Slow Cooker Lasagna. Has anyone ever seen something come out of a slow cooker that was this pretty?

Ok, I won't lie. There are 2 things I  like to make in my (fiance's) Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker: pasta/pizza sauce and chilli because the longer the herbs and spices steep, the deeper and more comples the flavors become. But even then I have to do some sort of extra prep step like sauteeing onions or browning beef. Hey, that's one more pan to wash! If I were simmering these on the stove, I'd only have one pan to wash. Aren't slow cookers meant to save me time?

I'm convinced. Unless it's a Saturday or Sunday, Crockpot cooking is only for people who work from home or full-time moms.

Talk to me- Can anyone prove me wrong?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Spicy Thai Salad on a whim

I think many people have those days. You have plenty of food but nothing to eat. Ingredients galore but no dinner planned!

Hanging like a monkey on the refrigerator door tonight, I stared at the remainders from last week's grocery trip wondering just how I can bring them together in a dish that resembles dinner rather than Must-Go's (a term my daddy loves using for leftovers).

Eventually I decided on the fact that I wanted to feature my vegetation before it was past its peak. So I headed to and typed the four C's of my Saturday night dinnerless dilemma into the search bar: cabbage, celery, carrots, cilantro. I don't often use but tonight the results were spectacular. Well..they were after I took some artistic license with this recipe I found.


8 oz. rice noodles (rice sticks)
6 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 c. canned chicken broth
1/4 c. tamari soy sauce
1/4 c. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. chili paste, available at Oriental Markets
1/2 tsp. sugar
3/4 lb. pork loin, cut julienne
1 med. onion, cut julienne
2 med. carrots, peeled and cut julienne
8 celery stalks, cut
1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 sm. bunch cilantro, minced
Cook noodles until tender but firm. Do not overcook. Drain and toss with 3 tbsp. oil; set aside.Mix stock, soy sauce, vinegar, chili paste and sugar in small bowl. Stir fry pork in wok. Add onion, set aside.
Stir fry the rest of the vegetables but cabbage. Combine pork and onions, vegetables, cabbage, cilantro and the sauce. Mix well. Can be served hot or cold.

Okay. Take a sec and read this recipe. "How on earth do you cook this?" said I. First of all, some specific terms in the ingredients list such as "minced" or "shredded" are used. Thanks but then how, specifically, am I supposed to "cut" the celery? Some of the instructions left me guessing as well.

I was determined to have this for dinner so I substituted or omitted ingredients, adapted it for two and, well, figured out exactly how I'd prepare it. So with all due respect to the well-meaning soul who posted this I shall claim this adapted recipe and it shall be mine.

Juli's Spicy Thai Salad

2 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 cup Spicy chili dressing (see beow)
1-2 tbsp sesame oil
1/3 cup diced yellow onion
1-2 organic carrots, julienned
1-2 stalks organic celery, sliced into half moons
1 serving of noodles (I used Ezekiel 4:9 spaghetti)
2-3 tbsp fresh cilantro for garnish

Spicy chili dressing
1/2 cup vegetable broth (preferably home made from a broth bag)
1/8 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/4 rice vinegar
2 tbsp of garlic chili sauce


First you take the dressing and you whisk it, you whisk it (translation: whisk all dressing ingredients together in a small mixing bowl). This will give you well more than you need for 2 servings but the excess can be reserved for salads or making the dish again in two days like I plan.

Sriracha! Note the Fast Orange in background.Mechanical engineers can be foodies too!
Then you take the cabbage and you shred it, you shred it! I used a food processor with a grate attachment which made the process go super quick. I suppose you could hand grate it but that's a drag. This was my yield from half a softball sized mini cabbage I found at Wegmans.

Spicy chili dressing and shredded cabbage

Next, add about 1/2 cup of the dressing to the cabbage and let it sit while you prepare the rest.

Cabbage plus chile dressing
Prepare your vegetables to meet the saute pan.

Heat the sesame oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Start your noodles--depending their required cooking time, get started sauteing the onions and carrots.

Meanwhile, plate your cabbage. Add the celery to the onions and carrots a minute or two before serving unless you like it soft (yuck).

Cabbage in our famous busy pattern salad bowls displaying our beer pairings for the evening. 

Drain the noodles, return to the pot and add sauteed veggies. Toss together to the best of your ability (my sprouted grain spaghetti didn't combine well. Next time I plan on trying brown rice noodles).

Arrange your noodles and vegetables over the cabbage shreds. Garnish with cilantro!

The finished product! Your patience is appreciated while we work on our photography skills.

The verdict: This was probably the best meal I've ever pulled together at last minute. It had lots of varying textures that worked well together. Even though I didn't like how my sprouted grain pasta didn't toss well with the veggies, its heartiness contributed to the combination of textures and I was surprised with how well the flavors worked with it- not being an Asian noodle.

The heat from the chili sauce was countered by the sweetness of the carrot and cooled down by the water in the celery. The dressing and cabbage added a depth to the familiar flavors of carrots and celery. Cilantro's clean taste really completed the dish.

HEY! Did anyone notice this recipe is pretty much VEGAN? The only thing that may disqualify it are some of the eggshells, meat scraps or bones I throw in my broth bag. I have the feeling this dish will make its way into our regular eating from now on. Not bad for an unplanned dinner night!

Talk to me: What was the most successful dish you've thrown together on the eve of grocery day?