Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye to 2013 (Blogmas day 11 -- the end)

I tried really hard not to write a cliche New Year's Eve post. I told myself that it would be lame, and overdone, and unpleasant to read. I resisted, I read other people's posts and scoffed, and I was really doing well.

But let's face it: I'm a walking cliche. 
I'm also a narcissist. 
So obviously I'm writing a post about the new year. Sorry...

Monday, December 30, 2013

By request: a poem (Blogmas day 10)

It was recommended that I post a poem here.

I would do it later, but I am an awful blogger and unnecessarily lazy, so not only am I not writing a real post, I'm not even writing a new poem. I'm posting an oldie-but-a-goody.

So... here ya go!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Well I'm a failure (Blogmas day 7... and 8)

I have failed.

I skipped blogging yesterday. I would like to have a great excuse, but I honestly just didn't get on my computer. Furthermore, I have nothing profound or interesting to say to make up for the last two days.

So day seven and eight are just this apology.

But here's the thing: sometimes I have to live my life instead of just writing about it. I'm out living, and I think that's important.

I'll be back tomorrow, but for now, I'm happy.

Much ruv,

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Haul: I feel like a princess (Blogmas day 7)

I'm officially spoiled rotten.

Actually, that was probably official before. But now it's internet official.

I think I should start this post with a disclaimer, because I was hesitant about writing it to begin with. Someone suggested I do a Christmas "haul" (basically show-and-tell of all the stuff I got for Christmas), and I thought the idea sounded fun. But then I thought about how that might come off as conceited, materialistic, ungrateful, and like I'm trying to brag. So disclaimer: my intent is not to show off how fortunate I am and wave my privilege in other peoples' faces, shaming the inferior peasants of the land. I am so grateful for everything I received this Christmas, and every year. I love seeing/hearing about what other people got and asked for, but if this post will offend you, just jump ship now. I am so fortunate to be able to receive so many nice things on Christmas, and while these gifts are meaningful to me, it is because they come from people in my life whose meaning surpasses the words I have to express gratitude. Shout-out to my family and friends, and thank you for all you give me. Your love and support is the greatest gift of all, even though that sounds stupid.

Without further ado, here is what I received for Christmas this year!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas (Blogmas day 6)

I've always had mixed feelings about Christmas. Each year, Christmas is beautiful, delicious, disappointing, underwhelming, joyous, irritating, and even sometimes spiritual for me. All at the same time.

I guess I hate the ideas of holidays when you're supposed to be happy. What if you're not?
This year wouldn't be the first that I have found myself feeling unhappy on Christmas.

The problem is, I rarely get through an entire day without a single negative thought (nobody does), but on Christmas those thoughts make me feel guilty, ungrateful, and like I am not a part of the Christmas joy that everyone is experiencing.

But as I lie in bed alone tonight drinking my favorite tea and watching Christmas movies, I have found peace with the idea that Christmas really is special. This year, I'm treating Christmas like I have promised myself I would treat everything else in my life in 2013. This year I gave up on setting unreasonable expectations for myself, and instead trying to focus on small accomplishments, small joys, and small setbacks.

Christmas is just like everything else that's good in life. Just like family, recovery, relationships, self-love, and balance, Christmas is not always perfect, easy, and good. There are bumps, there are negative feelings, and there are tense moments. But Christmas is special because we are all hoping for it to be good. For one day, we can look at the good things in our lives and remember that they're still there.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas. May you always be able to find the good things in your life.

(Here are some of mine)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Transformation Tuesday: We're going to be okay (Blogmas day 5)

Sometimes I do this really weird thing.

I sit in bed and realize suddenly how many emotions I've felt in this bed. I think about how many friends I've stayed up late talking to, how many jokes I've laughed at, how many heartbreaks I've felt, how many episodes of Gossip Girl I've watched (all of them), how many debate cards I've cut, and just how much life I have lived in this very spot.

And then I usually burst out crying.

Surprisingly, I'm not actually a huge crier. Usually when I'm sad I'm the type of sad that's quieter than that. I'm apathetic and numb sad. And that's why being in this bed makes me cry sometimes.

Because this time two years ago I was as numb and apathetic as I've ever been.
And now, I'm okay.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Unnecessarily huge food post (Blogmas day 4... again)

I really didn't mean for this to just be a food blog when I started it. Seriously. I thought I would actually write about things like fashion, and exercise, and writing, and college, and books. 

But no. My life is all about food and thus this blog is all about food.


Just kidding, not sorry at all. I LOVE making (and eating) food. I'll keep the ranting short since I'm about to spam y'all with an unreasonable number of photos, but today I spent six hours in the kitchen cooking, baking, and preparing food for my family and our four guests.

I'm not going to post recipes just because I made way too much food for that to be manageable, but I will include a list of everything I made and would be happy to post further recipes and details upon request.

Kristen's culinary accomplishments of December 23, 2013: 
Almond lemon ricotta bundt cake
Orange cranberry glazed loaf

Sesame ginger glazed steelhead trout
Garlic and lemon roasted broccoli
Brown rice

My family gobbled up all of this happily. The fish in particular got rave reviews. We haven't cut into the bread yet, but I can't wait until tomorrow to see what people say! I'll keep you posted.  For now though, I'm going to try being an actual college student and spend the rest of my night binge-watching Netflix. The rest of my family is watching the 49ers game, and based on the sound of the screaming, stomping, and dog barking upstairs, I think the niners must be doing well.

It's good to be home.

Let the games begin! First up: making a soy, ginger, brown sugar, sesame marinade for my steel-head trout

I've been domesticated (Blogmas day 4)

It's official: Christmas is the most tiring thing I've ever done.

Let me give you the play-by-play of my day today: I left the house at nine to journey down to Reno to do all of my Christmas shopping. Fantastically, I was done with all of my gift shopping by ten (and a little personal shopping... I can't turn down running tights sales), but then came grocery shopping until one-thirty. As much as I love Costco, today was a crazy mess, and I can only take limited doses of that much humanity.

Upon finally returning home at two, I ate a quick lunch and began on my baking/cooking/prepping adventure extraordinaire (you know there are pictures coming). It's 5:10 pm as I sit down to write this, and I just got off my feet. This blog post is my work break before I return to the food-prep marathon and start whipping up all the other components of tonight's eight person meal, and then I will immediately begin gift wrapping.

I'm exhausted just trying to remember everything I've done today. Nobody mention that tomorrow it starts all over again. This is break time.

Cooking with a view
But all complaining aside, this is what I live for. Call me a housewife at heart (I definitely am), but cooking for others and entertaining brings me so much peace and joy. College is great, but I've just missed the process of mixing things in bowls, sticking things in ovens, plating, and cleaning piles of dishes.

Yea, I'm definitely a housewife deep down.

This little guy has been on my heels all day just waiting for me to drop food. I've missed him so much!
But even better than the cooking and cleaning is the family. And we have plenty of family in town. Joining us this Christmas is my father's parents and his younger brother and his wife. I adore my extended family, and I am so grateful to have them here. They're a bunch of goofy, musically gifted, wickedly intelligent individuals who always brighten our house with their presence. Not to mention that upon arrival, they immediately jumped into helping me unload the dishwasher to make room for the new mess of dishes I had just created. Family who help you clean? Major plus.

In past years, I've had a difficult time getting into the Christmas spirit. This year, while I may not be THE merriest person around, I feel excited for Christmas in a new way. Having been away from my family basically since graduation, having time to be with my family and show them how much I love them has got me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. The fact that they saved my favorite Christmas ornaments to let me hang on the tree didn't hurt either. I finally hung them today.

Ornaments from my Nutcracker days. These ballerina ornaments carry so many memories.
So it's official. I'm in the Christmas spirit, and I'm also tired as can be. AND, now I have to go glaze a cake, roast some broccoli, cook some salmon, and... oh boy. The list is long.

A blurry mother swooping in the make sure I'm keeping her house clean
More pictures from my baking adventure will probably go up later tonight. For now, Merry Christmas and happy entertaining!

Much ruv,

Sunday, December 22, 2013

DIY chocolate dipped pretzel and oreo gift bags and my lack of self control (Blogmas day 3)

There are bits of crushed candy cane in my hair as I write this. 
Awesome? Weird? Disgusting? I'm undecided.

But these chocolate dipped pretzels and mint oreos? Awesome for sure. 

Since I only returned home from my first semester of college several days ago, I've been a little more than rushed to get Christmas presents for friends and family. Tomorrow will be my first (and hopefully only) day of actual Christmas shopping, but this year I'm faced with an interesting blend of new issues to confront.

They are as follows:
1. I have a ton of Jewish friends who don't celebrate Christmas (seriously though, EVERYONE at Emory is Jewish)
2. College has only increased my already profound stinginess, and spending money makes my heart cry
3. I know a lot more people who I consider close enough to exchange gifts with

I've always loved giving gifts, but between not wanting to spend money and not being sure who to buy Christmas gifts for and what size gift is appropriate, selecting gifts has stumped me this year. 

My solution? Chocolate coated everything.

Is there anything in the world better than melted chocolate? Let me answer that for you -- NO.
Yummy treats are the perfect gift for those people on your list who don't quite make it into spending territory, but who you still want to show some love to. I have a pretty decent sized group of teenage boys in my life who fall into this category, and you know what teenage boys love? Food. Especially chocolate coated food. Boys are so easy to please.

Even if your life isn't weirdly full of dorky teenage boys like mine is, these chocolate dipped oreos and pretzels are a great gift for anyone who likes chocolate or happiness. They're easy and cheap, but the fact that they're homemade (and delicious!) makes them more special than just a box of chocolates from the store.

While you could dip whatever you want (I'm probably going to do another batch tomorrow with candy canes, almonds, and dried fruits), I decided  to make chocolate dipped pretzels and mint oreos today. While I'm not personally a fan of oreos, these mint ones are pretty fantastic, and coated in semisweet chocolate and topped with crushed candy cane? Ohmygod. Give me twenty please.

I told myself going into this baking process that I was NOT going to eat any of the final product... ha. haha. ha. That worked out... not. I'm currently full of about 1/2 cup of melted chocolate and 3 (okay... 4) of these oreos. My willpower may be weak, but at least it's consistent? Chocolate chips have always been my weakness. I could eat them by the pound.

So while my cardio workout of the day just tripled in duration, I can say with absolute certainty that these are fabulous.

Chocolate chips pre-seizing disaster

To make these lovely little delights, just melt chocolate, crush some candy canes, dip objects of your desire in both, and refrigerate for a bit. Sounds easy, right? It is.

So naturally, I found a way to mess it up miserably. I accidentally got water in my chocolate while it was melting. For anyone who doesn't know, water + melted chocolate = seizing. Aka, the chocolate becomes clumpy and unusable....


I mixed mine with a little bit of melted butter, some warm almond milk, and some tender love and care. There's nothing a heartfelt apology can't fix apparently.

How cute is this salt shaker? My mother impulse bought it. It doubles as a great candy cane crusher.
Make sure you crush the candy canes in a well sealed bag. You may even want to double bag your candy canes if you're an aggressive candy-crusher (shout-out to my debate coach, James Herndon, candy-crusher extraordinaire!). You might poke holes in the bag, and extra protection never hurt anyone. Don't read into that.

I tried several different dipping techniques, but feel free to do whatever you like best. Half dipped, just covered in chocolate without the candy canes, whatever. My favorite ones were the pretzels coated on one side and dry on the other. They were the easiest to handle. But if you're a chocolate fanatic, the dunking strategy is effective. Just submerge your pretzels/oreos in a chocolate bath and revel in the goodness. Honestly, there's no way to go wrong with these (except I totally did, but whatever).

Happy dunking!

Chocolate-dipped (insert pretty much anything here)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips 
Mint oreos
3-5 Candy Canes

1. Pour chocolate chips into microwavable bowl and melt on medium to low heat in thirty second intervals in the microwave until melted completely, stirring in between 
2. Line baking sheet with wax paper (I used parchment paper because I was out of wax paper)
3. Unwrap 3-5 candy canes and place in a plastic bag, crush with rolling pin or any hard/heavy object
4. Pour crushed candy canes onto plate, and distribute evenly
5. Using your hands or a fork, dip oreos and pretzels into the chocolate. Coat thoroughly in layer of chocolate, or as much as you desire
6. Set in crushed candy cane then place on lined baking sheet
7. Once baking sheet is full, place in refrigerator for 30 minutes

Reindeer treat bags to give away goodies in -- These cost practically nothing and are super cute

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Noms: Apple pie baked oatmeal for one (Blogmas day 2)

While it pains me to say this, I have to get it off my chest. I'm not proud, but there is a dark secret curled up in my past that I haven't been honest about.

I used to skip breakfast.

For those of you who know me and are aware of the troubles I've had regarding my "relationship with food" (am I the only one who hates that phrase?), this may not come as a surprise. But for everyone else, my current self is as appalled and as ashamed as you are.

I've been through many breakfast phases, and as a die-hard habit eater, once I find a meal I like, I stick with it. It just so happens that for many years, that was no breakfast at all.

I knew the science, people told me that breakfast is the "most important meal of the day," but I just didn't want it. Maybe because I had damaged my metabolism so badly that eating in the morning sounded painful, or maybe just because in my no-sugary-cereal household, breakfast was not appealing. As a blossoming pre-teen, I couldn't cook, I didn't like yogurt, I didn't like eggs, and anything that took more than 5 minutes was a definite no; I was trying to stock up on as much beauty sleep as possible. Boy did I need it. But after eleven or so years of cheerios and wheat chex, breakfast lost its appeal.

If I'd known then what I know about loving your body, and loving food, maybe I would have eaten breakfast. But maybe... I should have just made this oatmeal.

Don't have time for oatmeal? One of these GIANT Cripps apples is a perfect breakfast on its own. These apples rock!
Not everyone is an oatmeal fan. In fact, I know an absurdly large number of people who swear they won't touch a bowl of oatmeal. While I used to understand this outlook, I am now a firm believer that anyone who doesn't like oatmeal just hasn't had good enough oats.

At college, healthy breakfast options are a little limited, but oatmeal is always there. I eat a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon and banana or apple every morning. It's a must. However, I understand why people may not love the giant vats of plain oatmeal that they serve in the cafeteria.

But oatmeal is so much more than just plain cooked oats. Oats can transform themselves into breads, cookies, mountains of pillowy goodness, or really whatever you want. I put them in smoothies, muffins, and pretty much anything I can. Did I mention they're SUPER good for you? They keep me feeling full and energized all morning, and are chalk full of all antioxidants and good stuff that can lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, and even boost immunity. Are you sold yet?

This morning's oat adventure is one of my favorites. Apple pie baked oatmeal. Apples, cinnamon, vanilla, all baked into a dense little cake of happiness? YUM.

I love baking oatmeal. While I keep mine a little underdone to give it some runny goodness, baked oatmeal takes on a chewy, soft texture that I can't get enough of. It's not a bread, or a cake, or oatmeal. It's the perfect blend of all of the above. Add to that all the makings of a good apple pie, and I'm sold.

This whole breakfast comes in at around 350 calories, takes about 30 minutes from start to finish (31 minutes if you include the time it took me to shovel this puppy down my throat....), and is so easy that my boyfriend could do it. This is the Chinese kid who couldn't figure out how to cook rice in a rice cooker by following directions we're talking about. It's that simple.

So, without further ado: Apple pie baked oatmeal for one. Enjoy!

Apple Pie Oatmeal
Serves: 1
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15-8 minutes

1/2 C. dry steel cut or rolled oats
1/2 C. your favorite milk (I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 packet of stevia, or the desired amount of any sweetener of choice
1 small apple (or 1/2 of a large one -- I used A LOT of apple)
Apple pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)*
Pinch of salt
Sprinkle of brown sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 350 and lightly grease a ramekin
2. In a small bowl, combine oats, milk, vanilla, baking powder, salt, stevia, and apple pie spice
3. Chop apple (I chopped mine pretty finely) and add to oat mixture. Fold together well
4. Pour into ramekin
5. Top with a light sprinkle of brown sugar and extra apple pie spice
6. Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes depending on your oven (I like mine a little underdone, cook for about 22 minutes if you want this to be drier. It will take on a more muffin-y texture).

*I eyeball the spices and make my own mixture since I don't love cloves but I have an addiction to cinnamon. About 1/4 teaspoon of each would probably do it, but don't be afraid to add more spice. What's the point of bland oatmeal?

**Pro tip: If you want the top to be crunchy and browned a little, at the end of the cooking, set your oven to broil and keep the oatmeal in for another 3 minutes

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fashion Friday: monochrome winters (Blogmas Day 1)

Since starting this blog, Fashion Friday hasn't gone so well. 

That's being generous. I have utterly failed at keeping up with my idea to do a fashion post every Friday. Y'all know how this goes though. You say you're going to do something, it turns out it takes a lot of effort, and well... we all saw what happened with Fashion Friday.

This is particularly true for me when it comes to fashion. Don't get me wrong, I love getting dressed up, putting an outfit together, and looking nice. Nothing boosts my confidence and spirits like a great outfit and a carefully done face of makeup. It's not about the result for me, I just love getting ready. It feels like taking control of the message I send to the world. 

But I just love leggings. And soft fabrics, and not blow-drying my hair, and moccasins. Oh moccasins... mine are so old and smelly that I can't take them off in a room with other people in fear of them killing someone with their odorific presence. 

Not sure why this is relevant. 

THE POINT IS: As much as we all love to browse through glossy pages of magazines, imagining how we could rock that leather jacket or calf-length tulle skirt, most of us just love sweat pants. And why wouldn't we? Comfy is a must in my mind. Add that to the fact that winter has put me in a state of chronic coldness, and you won't be catching me in any skater skirts and cute flats any time soon.
Comfy and warm clothes exclusively.

But today I strove for the middle ground. As much as I like to make excuses for myself and not blow dry my bangs for the third day in a row, comfy and practical does not have to come at the expense of stylish and cool.

Today I had to go to a physician to get a shot, so I needed to be in something short sleeved, but I also wanted to be warm. The Tahoe air is crisp and cool, and warmth has to be the priority.

To meet all my practical needs today, I threw on this short-sleeved cotton sweater and my favorite ponte pants. This top is so casual and comfy: the top is soft, the material is warm, and the short sleeves make it a great piece for layering. The drawstring neck detail also gives it a bit of intrigue and edge while keeping it comfy and loose.

On bottom I'm rocking my Charlotte Russe ponte pants. These pants are unrivaled by anything I've ever owned for the most-worn item in my closet, and they are the single warmest, comfiest, and best quality leggings/pants I've ever owned. They're thick enough that I wear them snowshoeing, comfy enough that I wear them for lounging around, and stylish enough that I've worn them to debate tournaments. These pants no know limits, and they cost $15. I'm swooning.

Of course, this is a fashion post, and as such, would not be complete without some dressing-up. Fashion lesson of the day? Little things make an outfit. I turned this comfy lounge look into a ready-for-anything outfit with two simple tricks: accessories and makeup.

My purse is from Forever 21 and is one of the best purchases I have made. This faux black leather bag is just the right size to carry my phone, wallet, gum, and chapstick, and looks tres chic. (I've always wanted to say that). Paired with a pair of black ankle booties that my sister bought me, and smokey eye makeup, these dark staples turned my comfy look into a monochromatic statement.

The monochrome pallet in dark colors mixed with the blend of comfy and quirky texutres in this look worth so well together! This is a little edgier than I would normally dress, but I love the message that a colorless outfit sends, and the way the shape of the purse and the femininity of heels keep this look girly. It's cozy, casual, comfy, practical, stylish, edgy, and simple all at the same time.

So many adjectives, so much winning.

Of course, no outfit would be complete without a fresh face of makeup. I went for something a lot darker than what I normally wear today, but I liked the smokey eyes with the monochrome outfit. 

I'm wearing my favorite foundation (and can we just acknowledge what a great airbrushed effect it gives!), a little bit of a deep chocolate Chanel eyeshadow blended onto my lids, dark brown thick liner, and mascara. I put a light dusty blush on, and lined my lips in a subtle berry color. The whole look was super simple, took about 10 minutes, and I love the way it looks. 

So, while I'm still getting around to taking the times to wear my bangs down and style them again (sigh... hair is so much work), today we're kicking off Blogmas with a reminder to myself and to all that comfy and stylish can always coexist.

Much ruv,

Blogmas Break and Inspiration

Today marks the beginning of an important commitment. To myself, to you guys, and to my goals.

I am (FINALLY) back home for Christmas break and beyond thrilled to have a break from the steady bombardment of work I've been dealing with this past semester. However, as I'm sure many of my peers are experiencing, there is a growing black hole in my stomach that I can't seem to ignore. 

No, it's not because I'm already missing dining hall food -- thank God for having a blender for the next two weeks -- but because I'm not sure what to do with myself. And by not sure, I mean I have no idea. 

Sitting in my window seat, an absolute travel necessity for me, I realized last night that I was bored. I haven't been bored in so long! As a result, I did something I wouldn't usually do and gave into a nasty impulsive desire to buy an overpriced copy of ELLE magazine in Las Vegas. 

What a great idea! This month's issue of ELLE is all about how to improve yourself, get the best this, that, and everything in between, and how to really make 2014 your year. And some of the articles were SO refreshing. 

How long has it been since any of us have picked up a women's fashion magazine without reading an article about how to get rid of love handles or trim fat? What about how to practically never age using only these twenty different serums? 

ELLE seems to be as fed up with this crap as I am. Between articles on how to learn to love food again (I'll definitely be working on this goal in 2014!), to ditching the self-help books in search of meaningful self-actualization, I found myself so overjoyed that I was quite literally smiling from ear to ear in the middle of the airport. Sure, there was a whole Chinese family looking at me like I was crazy, but I didn't care. I was INSPIRED. 

It occurred to me then that the opposite of bored is not busy. It's inspired. 
I have been busy all semester, and while I love the things I am doing and have had a great time, I haven't felt truly inspired in quite some time. I accomplished a lot of my goals in 2013. I got into a top tier university, found a new level of depth and love in my relationship, strengthened my connection to my family, lost weight, and maintained a new level of self-acceptance that eluded me all throughout high school.

But 2013 is not over, and in order to start 2014 right, I'm going to milk 2013 for all it's worth. Consider this the last 100 meters of my 2013 marathon. For the next eleven days, I am going to be committing myself to join the things that inspire me, bring my joy, and make me better. I'm going to work on me, work on my skills, work on my passions, and just try to make the most of my free time. If college has taught me one thing thus far, it's that time is the world's most precious entity, and happy people know how to use theirs wisely. 

I will be blogging every day for the next eleven days, and I'm calling it Blogmas because nobody can stop me. I didn't start a blog to ignore it, and while it's so easy to get caught up in actually living (not just writing about  living), this week we're going to put my writing muscle to work, and WORK IT. A blog post a day. You have my word.

I've included below my list of "microgoals," the little things I hope to accomplish in my last 100 meter dash of the year. I hope you can finish 2013 with power and confidence!

Much ruv, 

Kristen's 2013 Blogmas Goals
1. Write a blog post every day. Photos are non-optional.
2. Spend at least 15 minutes a day bonding with my sister
3. Commit to 30 minutes of cardio every day. 
4. Cook with an ingredient I've never used at least twice a week 
5. Do at least two photoshoots while I'm home