Can I Keep The Presents and Still Be 29?*

*Preach it, Rachel Green.

I turned 30 recently, which is a birthday that bothers many people but me? Me not so much. Sure, I could live without the stray gray hairs and my forehead’s strengthening commitment to lines but on the other hand…uh…on the other hand? Sloooow metabolism, creaky knees, and did I mention the furrowing forehead?

Find the bright side, Mary Sunshine. Lift up a forehead flap, it’s probably under there.

So! My birthday fell on a Saturday this year, which was great, especially considering the curse of the adult summer baby. What’s that? Glad you asked. People born in the summertime generally spend their formative years with no responsibility on their birthdays, unlike those poor fall/winter/spring suckers who have to do the unspeakable, like go to school and do work on their birthdays. For summer babies, working on your birthday is as foreign a concept as dogs and cats holding paws and living in harmony. It just ain’t gonna happen.

(And if your animals get along better than mine, please drop me a line and tell me what sedatives you use to make it so. I’m just kidding. Don’t drug your animals. (Unless it really helps…))

Being a summer baby is excellent until, as it does with so many things, adulthood comes and delivers its cruel slap of responsibility. College ends, and a full-time job begins, and you quickly discover that jobs don’t take the same attitude on summer vacation. I remember the first year I had to work on my birthday. It was the year I turned 24 and the words “human rights violation” kept echoing in my mind, because perspective has always been a strong suit of mine. What sense of entitlement?

It hasn’t really gotten better over the years, but my urge to stomp my feet and cry has thankfully lessened. This year, though — this year took the proverbial cake. And assorted other pastries. My big 3-0 was on a Saturday AND — my in-laws were in town! Not for my birthday, no — they love me, but we had just seen them the week before and would see them the week after and I’d imagine there are limits to how much two people can take of me — but instead, for a Jimmy Buffett concert rolling through Cincinnati the next Tuesday. That they were here for my birthday was just a happy bonus (on my part!).

Because I’m me, I planned an entire itinerary around the weekend. And because Jeremy and my in-laws should be nominated for awards + sainthood, they tolerated it and played along with the crazy person birthday girl.

The Buffett concert will be its own post, but here are the pre-parrot shenanigans. Shenanigans? Am I in a 1950’s sitcom?

IMG_0814We ate lunch at The Rookwood on the patio — a beautiful view and a gorgeous day. This isn’t there, because why would I be so smart as to take a picture to remember the occasion? This is at a random bar in Mt Adams, and the noteworthy thing here is not my sartorial patriotism, but instead I’m drinking a beer! LOOK at me! Granted, it’s a Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, so it’s more lemonade than anything else, but I got to order something on tap for the first time in my life. It was way exciting for this beer hater.

July 2013 009July 2013 011July 2013 008Later, we went to dinner at The Quarter Bistro in Mariemont, This is one of my favorite little areas of Cincinnati, and if Jeremy and I ever manage to successfully sprout a silver dollar into a real money tree, I’d absolutely buy a house here. Notice my lobster — I don’t know why I thought sitting on a sunny patio for lunch with skin the color of a polar bear would lead to anything other than this, but here it is. Dinner was excellent — Martha and I both got the black grouper — which, while it wasn’t the goth fish I was hoping for, was still very tasty. 

IMG_0817After that, we went to our ol’ favorite, Salem Gardens for drinks and, in the case of Jerry and myself, feeding a lot of dollars into the jukebox.

July 2013 013This photograph has been brought to you by wine.

After my birthday was over, we still had days of fun left, for things like:

IMG_0826July 2013 020Conservatories

IMG_0831Crawfish

July 2013 027 (1)July 2013 028Beers in boots and margaritas in mason jars

And, then, finally, this happened:

July 2013 031But that’s a whole other post.

Breaths baited, and all of that.

Bells!

Because I am awful, I haven’t posted pictures from Jeremy’s cousin’s Sarah’s wedding.

(To be fair, it’s at least 62% due to my laptop being a piece of something that rhymes with shit…but still, I like to embrace my Millenial-ness and blame other things for my personal failings.)

Anyway, Jeremy’s cousin Sarah got married on Memorial Day weekend, and Jeremy and I made a lightning-quick trip to Memphis for the occasion.

Again, because I am awful, I didn’t get any pictures of the bride or groom, but I’m going to steal my sister-in-law Laura’s pictures for a minute.

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Three generations — the beautiful bride and her gorgeous mother and grandmother.

cake cutting

Cutting the cake.

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Rehearsal dinner festivities at Felicia Suzanne.

Now, on to my pictures (thanks, Laura!):

IMG_0771One more rehearsal dinner picture. I thought my hair was looking great until I saw this picture.

IMG_0773 In which I seriously question my decision to not splurge on the anti-glare lenses. IMG_0776 IMG_0780 I always wanted a brother to be serious with. IMG_0781This was after we were told to act normal. Phillip looks great, I look like I’m trying to possess a soul.IMG_0782IMG_0783I love my in-laws. IMG_0784IMG_0786 And my parents. IMG_0791Family resemblance? Maybe just a little.

 

 

 

 

Collecting for Lazy People

I graduated from college in 2005 and moved into my first “adult” apartment shortly thereafter. Since college graduation, I have lived in six places, not including a brief stint back at my parents’ house in late 2006.

Moving six times in eight years, including three moves across state-lines, will make you increasingly desperate to never move again. It also makes you extremely unattached to most of your possessions.

I am a lot of things, but one thing I don’t think I could ever be called is a hoarder. Aside from a few sentimental items, I do not have an emotional attachment to my possessions, thanks to years of packing them all up in boxes, moving them, and unpacking…rinse and repeat.

(Except my iPad. I had a nightmare one time with many terrible things in it, and one of them was that my iPad fell off of a cliff while I was being chased by an elephant. I actually woke up from the nightmare and immediately patted my nightstand shelf to make sure my iPad was still there. I also have periodic dreams where it shatters, and it’s always horrifying. Am I addicted to anything? No, why do you ask?)

The result of this is that I don’t really collect anything. Looking around my house, you’ll see some pictures on tables and on walls, but not the usual knick-knacks that seem ubiquitous in other houses. Part of this is practical — knick-knacks require careful dusting, and I’m only willing to dust in broad strokes, not careful detail. But also, with so many moves, I just haven’t felt the urge to collect small items that will require careful packing and moving.

However, what I lack in collecting, I more than make up for in tackiness, so it’s no surprise that I do have one pseudo-collection.

Touristy magnets.

You know when you go to a gift shop while traveling, and you see the $10 magnets covered with glitter, lights, and (bonus points!) seashells, and you think “What sucker would pay for this piece of crap?” 

Hi, nice to meet you.

I loooove these magnets — first of all, glitter = yay! Secondly, they allow me to have a collection that doesn’t require dusting and just hangs out on my fridge.

Over the years, this collection has grown — it’s always one of the first things I put up in my new abode. My friends and family have caught on to my insanity as well, and always take care to buy me the tackiest magnet they can find in the destination of their choice. It’s really nice to have enablers.

Behold, some of my collection as shown in my usual form: sub-par photographs.

2013-03-03_17-11-47_707From last summer’s trip to Orange Beach/Gulf Shores with my parents. I tried to look for tackier magnets, but considering we actually ate here for lunch, decided a memory was worth more than glitter. (See? Very sentimental.)

2013-03-03_17-12-14_199Purchased on our first trip to Louisville to see Kathleen and Jon, September 2011.

2013-03-03_17-12-35_275My in-laws brought this back for me after their trip to the Dominican Republic last summer. It made my life, because we all need a magnet with a parrot shooting you an epic side-eye. Something tells me that, years ago, when they imagined the sort of person Jeremy might marry, they did not remotely imagine him marrying someone who gets this excited about magnets. And yet, they love/tolerate me anyway.

2013-03-03_17-12-54_56My parents brought me this one after a trip to see my aunt and uncle in — guess where. My Mom really outdoes herself with the glitter.

2013-03-03_17-12-42_879I haven’t ever been to Switzerland, but my magnet has! My dear friend Brian has a ridiculously cool life that involves a lot of travel, and when he first went to Switzerland, he brought me back a ton of cool magnets. He should really repeat that on his upcoming trip to Hawaii. Hint.

2013-03-03_17-13-08_819I’m partly posting this picture as an example of my magnet collection and partly posting it to prove that I used to be skinny (and I thought I was sooo fat in this picture. Moron.). My favorite stalker, Jen, came to visit me in Memphis in early 2007 and we all went to Graceland…as you do.

2013-03-03_17-13-23_735Purchased on this visit.

2013-03-03_17-13-46_257Purchased here.

2013-03-03_17-14-05_221I’ll let my Mom squeal about this picture for a few minutes. Yes, that’s me. White jeans, blunt bangs, can’t lose. Also, the Hollywood magnet that my dear cousin Liz bought me on her travels years ago.

2013-03-03_17-14-35_37This is two-fer, and perfectly embodies two things I love in life — magnets filled with fake ocean water AND Lucy Ricardo.

Fun fact: I used to be able to recite the entire Vitameatavegamin speech from memory, including where Lucy starts messing it up. It’s a real wonder I wasn’t more popular with kids my own age.

2013-03-03_17-15-01_892 (1)Another two-fer — another magnet from last summer’s Orange Beach trip, and a photo-strip of Jeremy and I at the Houston Aquarium, circa June 2008. First of all, how is that five years ago, and second of all — that photo-strip is basically a perfect description of our lives. Happy, kissy, batsh*t insane. (Censored for the none of you who think a curse word has never passed my lips.)

Variations on a Theme.

Being an only child has a lot of disadvantages — no one to blame for your mistakes, a childhood of social awkwardness around kids your own age because you’re used to interacting with adults, and a general allergy to the word “share” because why? ALL MINE.

It’s also entirely possible that this isn’t due to the only-ness of my situation, and instead I’m just an awkward attention-hog with a selfish streak, but I choose to look elsewhere for my problems. Sensible? Sure.

However, being an only child who moves away from her hometown has a big advantage in that my parents keep coming to see me/us. You would only consider this an advantage if you actually like your parents, and luckily, I do. Since we moved to Cincinnati last August, my parents have been here…hang on, counting…FIVE times in eight months. Quite the traveling duo, those two. I shouldn’t joke, since the first time they came up here it was with all three of my animals in tow, and that was an experience so awful they’ll only speak of it in hushed tones. I’m grateful that they like to come here.

They were here most recently a few weeks ago, and as ever, it was a grand time full of eating, drinking, Netflix-watching, eating and drinking more. You’d think I’d take my out of town visitors to museums or other similar cultural spots, but no. Food and booze, booze and food. It’s just how I roll.

ImageJeremy’s belated birthday dinner at Mitchell’s Fish Market. Yum. Mom got the halibut and we soon had a mother-daughter competition to see who could work in “halibut” as a “witty” phrase throughout dinner. You know, for the halibut. Laugh.

ImageImageImage

  1. Drinking at noon on a Sunday? Don’t mind if we do.
  2. The boys and their boot beer. 
  3. A woman, her margarita, and her giant-domed daughter. Apparently the camera adds 20 pounds…to my head.

Lest you think this was nothing but a drunken food-filled weekend, I do have to inform you that we also…went gambling. We’re nothing if not a diverse bunch.

Anyway, it was a great time, and it officially kicks off the spring and summer of seeing our parents so much that they’re going to get sick of our faces.

Oh also? To the two of you that have asked me about this, I will try to do a better job in updating my blog. My laptop is slowly kicking the bucket, which makes it hard to type — and since I am the walking personification of “first world problems,” this has left me mostly reliant on my iPad…and typing on that thing is beyond annoying. But for you, my lovely family, I will make an effort to power up this dinosaur of a dying laptop and persevere. Sacrifices? I make many. (Not.)

24 Hour Chicken, part 2

So you made the world’s easiest chicken and hopefully lived to tell all about it.

Also, hopefully you have leftovers. I should’ve mentioned this in my last blog, but my linear writing is second only to my stunning photography and well…I forgot. Even if you DON’T have leftovers, you have the broth, and that’s really the best part. You can always grab a rotisserie chicken (or hell, make more crock pot chicken), but the broth is the secret to this excellent soup.

IMG_0668Nothing like a really appetizing picture to start things off right, huh? Here’s your broth, refrigerated overnight. That delightful ecru/off-white/teeth of a 50 year smoker color is all of the solidified fat that’s risen to the top. Nothing more tempting than the phrase “solidified fat,” eh? If photography doesn’t work out for me, I think I have a really promising career ahead as a cookbook writer.

Anyway, skim the fat off of the surface and discard.

Next, you’ll need some diced onions, carrots and celery. How much you’ll need and how big you want to dice really depends on you. I tend to dice my onions finely, and my celery and carrots bigger — only because Jeremy hates celery and I hate cooked carrots, so it’s easier for both of us to avoid them and eat peacefully.

I use about half of a medium-sized onion, 2-3 carrots and 2-3 celery stalks (with leaves!). Chop according to your wishes. Oh! And congratulations — you’ve just made mirepoix. You’re all fancy now!

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium-ish heat and toss in your mirepoix.

IMG_0669(My celery was actually celery-colored, not this strange mustard yellow. I’m also really glad I made the artistic decision to focus in on my spatula.)

Stir around until the vegetables start to soften, then grab your de-fatted chicken broth and toss it on in, cranking the heat up to medium-high.

IMG_0670Depending on how much broth your chicken made, you’ll likely want to add some water. This shouldn’t be a problem — this broth is so concentrated in flavor that diluting it some isn’t going to hurt your final result. You can keep a chicken bouillon cube around if you’re nervous — I’ve never once needed it.

You’ll want around 12 cups of liquid in your soup. My ratio of stock to water usually winds up being about 7-8 cups stock, the rest water, but I (unsurprisingly) don’t measure it and it always winds up fine. Don’t stress about this. Life is too short.

Grab your leftover chicken, and chop it on up. The pieces should be bite-size, but beyond that, don’t worry about making anything uniform. It’s soup, not brain surgery.

Crank up the heat a hair more, and add your chicken.

IMG_0671Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to medium and let simmer for…at least 30 minutes, but an hour or so is best. Periodically come back to stir and taste to check seasoning. This soup shouldn’t need too much in the way of supplemental seasoning, particularly if you used the leftover crock pot chicken, but it may well need more salt. Homemade stock is not salty in the slightest.

However, don’t add too much salt until you add these bad boys:

2013-03-03_15-25-06_198(Not a paid advertisement, FTC. If it was, I would’ve taken a better picture.)

I love these egg noodles — they’re a thick noodle for soup, but they also hold up really well in the leftovers which is not always true of smaller noodles.

Grab a bag, crank up the heat to high, and dump in these noodles.

Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat again and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Taste — it’s at this point that you might decide your soup needs a bit more salt. Mine almost always does. Stir, turn off heat, and this is what you’re left with:

IMG_0675Perfect comfort food. This stuff is great with a salad, with bread, by itself and — most importantly — you can freeze it, noodles and all, for a lazy night when you don’t have the motivation to cook. It freezes beautifully.

And see? 24 hours later, you now know how to make two dishes with a minimum of effort. Now, go sit down with a glass of wine and relax. You cooked for 24 whole hours!

…even if you did sit down 87.5% of the time. Whatever. It’s the thought that counts.

Enjoy!

 

 

24 Hour Chicken, part 1

A few things to know about me:

1. I love to cook.

2. I’m lazy.

3. I like the color purple.

These things may or may not have anything to do with each other.

So I love to cook, but let’s be real — I just can’t be bothered to get all up in arms about a perfect risotto, a beautiful souffle, or any recipe that doesn’t let me watch Law & Order: SVU while cooking. I see so many gorgeous food blogs with delicious-looking recipes, but somewhere along step 17, my eyes start to glaze and I just go back to roasting my brussels.

Which is why it’s surprising that I have a recipe for chicken that involves 24 hours of time. However, for your day’s effort, you get two dishes that provide multiple meals. And the best part? Your 24 hours of “work” is primarily waiting — the most time-consuming aspect is chopping the vegetables, and all in all, you probably spend about 30-40 minutes actively cooking. My kind of recipe, man.

This recipe is inspired by a recipe I found for making an entire chicken in your crock pot. It’s a counter-intuitive recipe in that you don’t add any liquid to the crock pot before you start cooking. It turns out, you don’t need to — the chicken creates its own liquid while it cooks. Once it’s done, you are left with amazingly tender chicken AND a ton of bones and skin to toss back into the crock pot to make some stellar chicken broth, which I then turn into chicken noodle soup.

I’ve adapted the initial recipe quite a bit — changed up the spices, added more vegetables to the crock pot in order to flavor the broth, and most importantly, I use split skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts instead of a whole chicken. It sounds like sacrilege, I know, but Jeremy and I just aren’t into the whole dark meat thing.

So let’s get this going! Try hard to not be overly dazzled by my stunning food photography.

Make your spice mixture — I use a combination of kosher salt, garlic powder, onion powder, sage (this one’s essential, in my opinion), rosemary, marjoram, and a bit of cayenne. All of the spices are dried because it works better in this recipe, AND spending time washing and chopping fresh herbs kills my “lazy chef” buzz. Just use what you have and what you want — also, make more than you think you need. You’ll see why soon.

ImageSpice mixture, carrots (cut into coins), celery (cut into…celery sticks), lemons and onions, cut into rounds, and garlic. I peel a few cloves, slice in half and get on with my day.

ImageThis is what I use — bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. Four pieces just about fill my Lilliputian crock pot, but feel free to use more, if yours is sized for normal humans. You can also use a whole chicken (cleaned out because giblets? GROSS), if you’re more into the dark meat.

Layer the onions, lemons, carrots, celery and garlic cloves at the bottom of the crock pot. I try to keep it in as even and low level as possible, due to the teensy size of my ‘pot, but if yours is bigger, this may matter less to you.

Gently separate the skin from the breast, but do not remove the skin. It should just form a pouch.  Grab your spice mixture and slather your chicken underneath the skin and on all sides. Seriously. Slather. Chicken breasts are known for a lot of things, but “flavorful” ain’t one of them, and this spice mixture is essential to the final result not tasting like boredom.

ImagePut your chicken in the crock pot, slap on the lid, turn that baby on low and then walk away.

ImageWell, this is generally what I do when I “walk away.” You probably have a much more productive hobby.

Okay, so leave it on low for 4-6 hours. The great thing about the crock pot is that it’s almost impossible to overcook this chicken, so do whatever you need to do and come back to it when you’re ready.

Fast forward 4-6ish hours later.

ImageThis looks like…something that rhymes with terrible, but trust me, your kitchen is smelling unbelievable and that is some fine chicken.

ImageTake out the chicken and place it on a cutting board — remove the skin, and the meat will practically fall off the bone. SAVE THE BONES AND SKIN.

And here you have dinner! Serve up the chicken with some vegetables and salad and you’re golden, with almost no effort on your part. A+

Meanwhile, back at the carcass, take your cleaned bones and skin, and dump them back into the crockpot (which has, by now, quite a bit of stock).

ImageYou can probably do a better job than me in cleaning off the bones. Sorry. Lazy.

ImageI also add a few cups of hot water, and sometimes dump in a bay leaf or two if I remember (mostly I don’t remember).

Once again, slap on the lid, crank that sucker up to high and walk away! You have things to do. Or more SVU to watch, if you’re me.

I usually leave this part going from dinnertime until bed — about 4-6 hours depending on how ambitious Jeremy and I are about going to bed early.

When you’re ready, open up the crock pot and you’ll be greeted with something like this:

ImageYou cannot buy broth like that in a store, no matter how much you’re willing to spend. That golden brown color just doesn’t come in a carton.

Strain the broth into a large non-reactive container (glass is my choice).

ImageGoodbye, fallen friends. You’ve served well.

ImageDon’t be discouraged by my photography. This stuff is amazing.

So take your broth and stick it in the fridge overnight. Part two of this recipe will have to wait for the next day.

And since this post is already beyond long, I’m going to save the chicken noodle soup for tomorrow as well. Also helps to keep the realism alive, and maybe this makes up for my less than impressive photography.*

*No. I’m just lazy.**

**Also, Mad Men‘s season premiere starts in LESS THAN AN HOUR, and I need to go prepare myself.***

***Too much TV? What makes you say that?

Oops

It’s been brought to my attention that I’ve neglected my blog. I keep meaning to write, but it’s been so gray and gloomy and who wants to write when all that would come out is WAHHHH WEATHER TEARS. But over the last two weeks we’ve actually had 1.25 days of sunshine, and the resulting joy it’s brought me has made me find some sort of motivation to write. Contain your excitement.

AnyWAY, happy Easter! I hope it was a good one. Jeremy and I got up, got dressed and went to church, then had lunch at our usual fine dining establishment.*

*We go to Skyline every Sunday for lunch. It’s become a routine, like cleaning, grocery shopping and me losing my cell phone 9 times a week. We had a lot of hand-wringing this morning about whether or not we should deviate from Skyline and instead try Gold Star Chili. I’m pretty sure our decision to get married was met with less debate and fear of potential consequences. In the end, we didn’t want to ruin our Easter joy with the possibility of subpar chili**, so we went to Skyline. I know you’re all really relieved.

**I don’t KNOW that Gold Star would be subpar – we’ve never had it. But I’ve heard mixed reviews and we’re so in love with Skyline that we’re reluctant to mess with perfection. But they have milkshakes, so…it’s only a matter of time before we cave.

So our Easter is pretty low-key. It’s been sad not being with our families this year, but we’ve made the best of it and had a wonderful weekend.

Yesterday, we headed south to visit Kathleen, Jon and James for lunch. One of the biggest thrills of moving to Cincinnati is definitely our newfound proximity to them — this is the closest Kathleen and I have lived to each other since we were nine.

James turned one last week, and we weren’t able to make it to his birthday party, so we decided to plan a daytime excursion to celebrate his birthday.

We met here – the adults ordered alcohol to show James what he could look forward to in 20 more birthdays, which sounds much better than saying we were all in the mood for a drink at 11:30am.

(Also, in what universe did Kathleen and I wind up in “the adults” group? Marriage, kid, houses, jobs — still, I feel like we’re just playing at this maturity thing. I’m barely a step above college freshman, which is barely a step above potty trained.)

Image

ImageTwenty years later. Better hair, worse clothes, same pale skin.

ImageThe poor waitress could not figure out who was married to who and who was genetically responsible for James. Pictures like this didn’t help.

ImageHolding James in a super natural pose. It’s impossible to tell that I have no practical baby experience, isn’t it?

ImageThis picture looks like a Photoshopped combination of two pictures, one titled “Cute Baby Pondering” and the other titled “Drunk Man Enthusing” but it’s actually one picture titled “Why You Shouldn’t Talk to Strangers.”***

***Husband, before you come up here complaining that I posted this picture, let me just remind you that I’m cooking you a lovely Easter dinner tonight AND I even have a store-bought cake for you. Cake = this picture.

After we ate, we loaded the kid in the stroller and took a walk. The idea was to walk along the riverfront, but then we spotted a playground.

ImageOh, what. You thought we stopped at the playground for the actual kid?

ImageHaha, nope.

Image

Image

ImageSee? We even let James play, too.

ImageProof that Jeremy is capable of interacting with small children in a less bizarre way.