Lately.

LatelyPosts have been a little sparse over the past couple weeks because life has been a little full, and not exactly of the photo-worthy brunch variety. Back in the day when this blog started, it was meant to be a continuation of the weekly emails I sent in college, emails to friends and family scattered about.  It’s grown a little since then, but I wanted to throw up an old fashioned update post of what we are about lately. So here, in no specific order and lacking any truly exciting details unless you actually know us, are the things filling our lives lately.

James’ March Madness bracket is already ruined. Mine is perfect, as I always interpret the whole bracket thing as “make your team win everything regardless of their season performance.” Luckily, Kentucky makes my method pretty good this year. I just declare they will win it all and ignore everything else. (James reminds me that this isn’t really how brackets work.)

This is the final stretch of my spring break and it has gone way too fast. I had lofty plans for productivity… and they have all tanked. This is a problem.  I have truly worked this break, but I think my goals were a little unrealistic. But hey, I finally got laundry folded and took out the recycling by 4 days in… so that’s a success, right?

Those goals included getting caught up on all the grading I have ignored for the past couple weeks and charging ahead on my PhD comprehensive exam reading. People, this exam is in less than a month. I have a pretty strict study schedule in place, one that proved a little over much this past week and had me sitting in bed reading a nouveau roman (read: no plot) at 1 am one night. To be honest, I’m a little stressed about how the rest of the books on this list are going to read themselves over the next couple weeks. Studying structures all of the days where I don’t go to campus, and while I actually love the studying schedule of endless cups of tea in my dayjamas, it’s crunch time.  I’m still teaching this semester, and I also took over last fall as the TA coordinator for our level level courses. Which is basically a fancy way of saying that I send a lot of emails. Power and money, that’s why I chose my profession.  And looming in the back of everything I do is the realization that after these exams, I actually have to start writing a dissertation. As in, that really long paper/book on a subject that still has not revealed itself to me. I’ll just continue ignoring that for another month, thank you very much.

Spring came! Then Winter came back and slapped it around a bit, and now we are in some sort of dirty game of tug-of-war between the two. It’s ugly.

The new job that James started in January has been a schedule adjustment to us both. From him being gone all the time last summer and fall, to home all the time in December, to working a new job with new demands, long hours, and a much longer commute, it has taken us both a little while to find our footing. But finding it we are.

Post-Whole30 we have alternated from healthy meals of wonder during the week… and gluttonous weekends of revelry. Last weekend with the wedding? Well, I’m pretty sure that Lima-a-Rita’s don’t make the cut on any healthy eating list.  But I have been having a lot of fun recipe testing for Caroline’s all-american paleo cookbook!

Now that I’m looking at this list of snippets from real life, I’m reminded that they really aren’t exciting. It’s a whole lot o’ regular life round here, with its endless to-do lists, little obligations, and daily joys.  But when I think about the people who I wish I still kept in touch with — friends from college, from high-school, from jaunts around this world — I realize it’s those regular life bits I want to know. I know the big things, like when they have babies or get married, but I want to know the little details. What fills their days. What they are eating. What they are worried about. What’s making them laugh. These are the deeply unimpressive and highly important things that make up our lives.

Happy weekend all. Make it a good one.

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Sister of the Groom

If you follow me on Instagram, then you are probably very aware that my baby brother got married last weekend, as I overgrammed way more than usual so they would have lots of pictures to scroll through on their [semi-inappropriate but still hysterical] hashtag.

People, I have been to many weddings, been in many weddings, and photographed many weddings. But let me tell you, being the sister of the groom is a whole new sort of awesome. When you are a relative of the bride, a bridesmaid ultimately connected with the bride above all else, or the bride herself, weddings are awesome. But they are also so much work. Yes, you will have a great time, but you will also lose all your sleep for at least a week, scramble around for tons of details, and inevitably get so stressed at some point that you stop having fun, even if just for a second.

But if you are the sister of the groom? You basically get to sit back and enjoy the perfect party, one where you have a place of honor but very little responsibility. One where there are just enough of your favorite people there to be amazing, but not so many that you feel you don’t have time to hug them all. One where you get to help out and be a part, but you really don’t have to make many big decisions.

My status of sister of the groom was made even better by the fact that Lyman and Ruth planned the best wedding. Yes, it rained, and yes, there were a couple things that got lost in the fray, as always happens at weddings. But all in all they planned a day focused around their families and friends coming together to celebrate. We all stayed in a lodge and bunkhouse together, staying up late at night to sit around the fireplace and eat snacks in the company of hundreds of taxidermy preserved animals. We ate meals together, laughed over old stories, and got to know each others families and friends. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a wedding where I had as much time to be with people I love. And of course, the fact that I LOVE Ruth and all her family (and friends!) didn’t hurt either. This was a wedding where both sides of the aisle knew and adored each other and it showed.

Ok, enough prattle and on to pictures! Ruth and Lyman had an amazing photographer who already shared some of her shots from the day on her Facebook page. But for the moments before she got there, and after she left, I snapped some pics to fill in their day, as one of my few tasks as SOTG.

LymanandRuthwedding-26 LymanandRuthwedding-28 LymanandRuthwedding-35 LymanandRuthwedding-46 LymanandRuthwedding-53LymanandRuthwedding-50 LymanandRuthwedding-51 LymanandRuthwedding-60//Cutest flower girl and ring bearer ever! For the reception they changed into flower and ring “bear” costumes, and you can see the flower a little here, but Caleb had to ditch his bear suit to get his dance moves on.//LymanandRuthwedding-73 //My date is a total stud. Also, my hair is inspired by Whitney’s, from the final rose ceremony of The Bachelor. Because if I could have HALF of her grace and poise, I would be a happy gal. I would also be a happy gal if mankind proved me wrong and did the right thing by picking Kaitlyn in this horrid two-bachelorettes situation, but I’m not holding my breath.//LymanandRuthwedding-76 LymanandRuthwedding-78//THIS VENUE. It doesn’t get any better than old train depots and exposed brick walls.//LymanandRuthwedding-186LymanandRuthwedding-88//My mom and her gal pals.// LymanandRuthwedding-122 LymanandRuthwedding-123//If you are terrified by my square-dancing glee, I assure you, you aren’t alone. But I just can’t help it. We start square-dancing and I turn out all five chins in a show of excitement.//LymanandRuthwedding-145LymanandRuthwedding-147LymanandRuthwedding-133//There is no wedding quite as fun as a college reunion wedding. Lyman and Ruth have the best group of college friends, and it made me miss my own college crew. Can someone please get married so we can all hang out again?// LymanandRuthwedding-161  LymanandRuthwedding-166 LymanandRuthwedding-169 LymanandRuthwedding-172//Should anyone be in the DC area and need a DJ, please contact me for Taylor’s info. We have all been to that wedding with the bad DJ. But at this wedding, despite the couple’s very specific song requests (nothing that would traumatize the mothers, nothing that would inspire gratuitous grinding, popular songs, lots of old swing numbers…), Taylor had the dance floor PACKED from the second the square-dancing stopped to the moment the couple left. I kept on trying to leave, but another perfect song brought me back every time. And NOT ONCE did I have to do the cha-cha/ cupid/ electric anything.// LymanandRuthwedding-190 LymanandRuthwedding-191//Dancing with him is always my favorite.// LymanandRuthwedding-219LymanandRuthwedding-163 LymanandRuthwedding-226//Pretty proud of how the Stone family represented on that dance floor, from my classy parents, to my big brother and his girlfriend, to five of my cousins who trekked in from various parts of the country.// LymanandRuthwedding-228 LymanandRuthwedding-246 LymanandRuthwedding-248 LymanandRuthwedding-257 LymanandRuthwedding-259 LymanandRuthwedding-262Congratulations brother! You married the best girl imaginable and she is getting one swell husband.

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That’s what makes you beautiful.

Winter2014-2015-246 If you listen to any popular music, watch any chick flick, or page through any best seller fiction, there is one deeply obnoxious and repetitive characteristic that always arises in the representation of the female subject: she is totally ignorant of her beauty. She is so stunning that men fall all over themselves when she clumsily traipses by (because these woman are also totally clumsy, but in a delicate way…?), yet she has apparently never walked past a mirror. As a result, we unknowingly instill in women the idea that thinking they are beautiful is in direct opposition to being beautiful. They must bear all markers of beauty, and NEVER THINK ABOUT IT.

That is ridiculous.

Shouldn’t we be a society that tries to be aware of what beauty is, and how to recognize and cultivate it? I’ve been thinking about those questions lately, and I decided to take stock of what actually makes me feel beautiful. How’s that for narcissism? Ok, here goes.

I feel beautiful when I wear my favorite pair of jeans.* It’s not that they are that impressive, but they fit well and I feel comfortable in them. And that makes me feel beautiful.

I feel beautiful when my nails are painted and I’m rocking some lipstick. This is ridiculous, as James hates both, but they make me feel collected and colorful. And that makes me feel beautiful.

I feel beautiful when I’m singing along to the radio in the car, or when I’m dancing as hard as I can at a wedding. Both activities make me sound/look like an idiot, but they make me happy. And that makes me feel beautiful.

I feel beautiful when my house is clean, my apron is dirty, and I’m rushing to open the door for people to come over. Obviously for the house to be clean and the kitchen to be dirty, I am probably not looking beautiful, but it makes me feel hospitable. And that makes me feel beautiful.

I feel beautiful when I’ve just finished a long run. Objectively, I look terrible, as I sweat like a man, and my face gets really splotchy. But after I’ve run all over this city, I feel strong. And that makes me feel beautiful.

I feel beautiful when I’ve taught a good class, turned in a good paper, or given an excellent presentation. Since at least one of these activities occurs at home in my sweat pants, they obviously don’t make me look beautiful. But they make me feel intelligent, and that makes me feel beautiful.

I feel beautiful when it’s late, and James and I are laughing on the couch. Usually this means I am in my pjs, hair in the messy bun, glasses on, and laughing with my squinty-eyed, toothy laugh. It’s not pretty. But it makes me feel loved, and that makes me feel beautiful.

No matter how I look, I feel beautiful when I feel useful, when I feel relaxed, when I feel necessary, when I feel confident.

Part of my New Year’s discipline, along with treating my body better, is to have more grace with it. When I actually take stock of all the things that make me feel beautiful, almost none of them make me look beautiful. They make me happy, make me strong, make confident, make me loved. These are the things that make us beautiful, and we should be deeply, constantly, blissfully aware of them. They protect us from all the other things that try to lie to us about what beauty is and how we get it.

What makes you feel beautiful?

Oh, and just in case that top photo gave you an unrealistic impression of my sweet modeling skills and photogenic self, here’s how most of the many outtakes looked. Skills.

Winter2014-2015-248*Ok, let’s talk about the jeans. You might remember my serious First World trauma from my jean search. Well… I came crawling back to Madewell, armed with an amazing coupon and a humble pill. It was still a little bit traumatizing, as my pair came and fit for all of 2 days before they were so stretched out I hesitate to call them skinny jeans. I dragged myself back to the store and broke down for the poor sales associate. She offered to take them back and send me a new pair. At the sight of my panicked face and death grip on the jeans, she asked me,”You really don’t want to let go of these jeans, do you?” NO BECAUSE I MIGHT NEVER GET ANOTHER PAIR. But I did let go, and they did send me another pair, and they are the best jeans imaginable.

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What gets me through.

Today we had a snowstorm of the variety where everyone started cancelling things the night before in a full-on we-are-not-as-brave-as-Boston panic. It’s been snowing all morning, but maybe not enough for the fear that gripped this city. In case you don’t have a calendar handy, let me remind you that we are nearing the end of the first week of March. And while I jump in the drifts to make snow angels with the best of them, I feel bothered by how winter both starts and ends later every year. My solution? Get the whole world to just agree to let August last about three weeks longer one year. Then, September would feel a little more in line with seasonal Starbucks beverages, December would be more frequently blanketed in white, and the snow would stay where it belongs in February. Please join me in writing strongly worded letters of suggestion to congressional representatives, letters that will be briefly skimmed by a weary intern and/or liberal arts graduate before hitting the trash — BUT STILL. We would have done our best.

Anyway, in an effort to both will some karma on spring’s (impending? maybe?) arrival, I’m rounding up some of my winter favs before shoving them back in the depths of the closet for next year. Yes, this post would perhaps make more sense in the middle of winter… unless you are like me and this is the time of year where you buy most of your winter stuff because, hello sales! All these things together make me enjoy winter, make me love tromping through the snow, make me excited to curl up inside on those cold nights, and make me appreciate the things the winter months bring. They not only get me through, they help me love it.Winter essentials

  • This coat. Ok, so a disclaimer. I never want this to be one of those blogs you stop reading because it pushes too many pricey things on you. This coat is one of those, so please know that yes, I did find it on a crazy sale, and yes, I did still have to sell half my plasma for it, and YES IT IS WORTH IT. I’m going on my fourth happy and warm winter in this bad boy and I cannot sing enough praises. Long enough to keep my tush warm! Removable rain shell that I wear in spring and fall too! Doesn’t make you a shapeless winter blob!
  • These boots. Or really, any waterproof slip-on boot. Yes, I know that some of you (Boston, I’m looking at you) have a whole variety of intense lace-up winter boots that strike fear into my heart. But there is nothing I hate like having to spend ten minutes getting my snow-caked boots off while they drip all over my floor. While these might not be quite as warm, they are the perfect commuter boot, running errands boot, dashing out in pjs to the car because you can’t find your phone boot.
  • Winter citrus. I’m over here giving nature the slow clap for producing some of the best citrus ever during the bleakest months. It’s like summer in your mouth. I’ve been crushing on these pictures of roasted winter citrus lately.
  • These candles. Those of you with fireplaces, I envy you. Hard. But for us city folk in little apartments, these candles are a close second. They give you that authentic fireplace pop and flicker enough so that if you closed your eyes halfway and squinted… it is like a fireplace. If you were 12 inches tall.
  • A good scarf. I love my blanket scarves, but I also burrow down in my thick knit cowl scarf from Gap a couple years back (similar). It allows me to duck inside and ward off any and all winter winds that dare approach me neck.
  • Thick tights in allllllll the colors. Winter is gray, but our legs need not be! I still like to wear dresses and skirts during these cold months and tights make all the difference. Plus, what doesn’t go with bright red legs?
  • My Fitbit. It is entirely possible that I would never leave my apartment some days if it weren’t for my Fitbit. I only teach and go to campus three days a week. The other days I am tucked away on my couch, chugging along on my comp exam reading list. Not only do I not need to move, I actually need to stay put to study. But then I get to the end of the day and feel like Jabba the Hut. Thanks to the not-so-gentle tyranny of my Fitbit, I find myself heading outside even on the nastiest days to trudge through all my steps. It has made all the difference in winter being a time of developing better health over my usual habit of turning into a sloth.
  • Tea and lotion. Obviously not together. But both of these are things I consume semi-constantly to plow through these cold months. My favorite teas are this one and this one, and along with the generic lotion I keep at home, I have a tube of Crabtree and Evelyn that I ration out at my office.
  • Good shows to watch, books to read, and games to play. Unlike in summer, where you are all pressured to get out and enjoy the world, winter lets you gather the ones you love close and stay in. James and I have been ending lots of evenings with an episode of Brooklyn 99 or Parks and Rec, and we’ve been enjoying many game nights with friends around our aforementioned fireplace candle. Along with the games mentioned here, we’ve been loving this one.

What were (or are… if you are currently having a delightful March snow day) your winter essentials?

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Friday Questions

Winter2014-2015-276 Winter2014-2015-277 Winter2014-2015-278 Winter2014-2015-279 Winter2014-2015-280 Winter2014-2015-281 Winter2014-2015-284 Winter2014-2015-286 Winter2014-2015-287 Winter2014-2015-288 Winter2014-2015-289 Winter2014-2015-292 Winter2014-2015-293Just in case you were concerned due to the recent prevalence of healthy food on this blog, I bring you an onslaught of photos to show you that my doughnut love is alive and well. After Zeke’s in Dupont closed I have been hard pressed to find an amazing fluffy yeast doughnut in the city. Astro Doughnuts is great, but sometimes over heavy and a little pricey. District Doughnut isn’t bad, but they do mainly cake doughnuts and I am a fluffy yeast-dough lover through and through. I had heard about Sugar Shack that just opened in Old Town and yesterday I convinced my friend Christine to hit it up with me.

Y’ALL.

They were perfect. Relatively cheap, huge, fluffy (though that had cake too!), and amazing flavors. As in, I had a Somoa doughnut, and I woke up this morning thinking about when I can have another. I brought one home for James and in a show of truly sacrificial and noble love, I didn’t eat it when he was late home from work.

But enough about doughnuts (though, I can never have enough doughnuts), I come to you, dear Internet, today with some questions.

What is the best product to make my hair less blah?  I am in a hair rut. When I dry my hair overnight, I still do my routine curl it big and spray it hard routine, which I love. But lately I have been feeling like my hair is just blah, flat and lifeless when I let it air dry during the day. While I am a pro with the hot tools, I know NOTHING about the products one puts in their hair when it dries. Also, I recently got my first blow dryer (yep, finally a woman). What are the best products to use on my hair if I am blowing it out or diffusing it? Help people! I need some serious woman to woman feedback to save my sad winter locks that are currently receiving a random cocktail of whatever products I rummage up in my drawer.

What is the best BB cream? I feel like my discovery of BB cream was a game changer. It was prompted by the time I texted a selfie to my mother to show her my new hair-do and she responded “Those freckles are cute, but they are irreversible damage to your skin that you really should avoid.” Thus, I marched myself to CVS and purchased some SPF BB cream, because there is no way I am remembering to apply sunscreen and foundation. Plus, I love the light and natural finish. But, I don’t really have any clue what are the best ones. Recommendations people – give em!

What is the best personal finance managing website and ap? My brother uses Mint and raves about it, but I’m curious what you think. Do you use any sort of web finance tracker? I’ve been rocking the spreadsheet and calculator for just a little too long.

I think that’s it for today, though you can bet I will pester you with more questions in the future. I hope you all have a great weekend and that you eat as many doughnuts as your biggest pair of elastic waist pants allows!

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Roasted Chicken & Collard Greens

Can we just have a moment of total culinary transparency? chickenandcollards-2

Last week I cooked the worst dinner I have made in marriage, perhaps in my entire life. It was a ghastly chicken mole mess that tasted like sickly spiced yet creamy chicken goo and it looked like how food should look going out, not coming in. I took all of four bites before I pulled a trick I learned from babysitting toddlers and refused to take another bite, arms staunchly crossed over my chest. James bravely chewed on for another half serving … but he would later regret that decision. Nothing I can say can do justice to how truly terrible this dinner was. chickenandcollards-3There were ultimately two tragedies to the Chicken Mole Disaster of 2015. One, I had made enough to have leftovers, which meant a huge waste of money and time. Two, this was a recipe from an actual published cookbook that I had followed exactly, and from which I have cooked many other delicious things with success. Mine even looked like the picture. What this means is that I succeeded in making chicken mole. It also means that I hate chicken mole and should have guessed from the ingredient list that this dish was not for me. As we sat around the table and made fun of our piles of sad food, christened “Puddle Meat” by James, he had me start listing off the many ingredients. I got half-way through when he stopped me to announce that the mystery was not Why is this so bad? but rather What made me ever think this would be good in the first place? chickenandcollards-4 After the Chicken Mole Disaster forced us into eating cookies for dinner (let’s be real — we could have technically fought back had we so chosen), I had a little PTSD in the kitchen. The next night I pulled an audible and we trudged through the snow for pizza. I cooked some pretty excited things when we were holed up in the Whole30, but that infernal pile of brown chicken set me back something fierce. It had me craving afresh simple foods, meals with few ingredients and crisp leaves. Food bursting with color and lacking in strange combinations of tastes.chickenandcollards-5Which brings me to collard greens, the nice mild cousin of that bold brash kale. Collard greens are cheap and can sit for awhile in the fridge without getting slimey. They are a beautiful deep hunter green that makes me want to blow up those collard close ups and just roll around in them. And they are pretty hard to mess up. You just keep cooking them in any sort of good fat and they get better and better. They are a humble vegetable of the South, keeping good company on the veggie list with mac n’ cheese and fried okra. Collard greens carry no pretense.chickenandcollards-8 Once upon a time I tore a recipe out of a magazine for chicken thighs baked with collard greens. I have since lost that piece of paper, searched that recipe the Internet over, and then resigned myself to recreating it. This is food at its simplest: dump some stuff in a pot and cook it till it’s done. Should you be sans dishwasher like myself, nothing is more enticing than dinner made in one pan.  And when the dinner in that pan also happens to be Whole30 approved and oozing with southern comfort food goodness? Even better. chickenandcollards-10Of coursein my new distrustful of recipes state, I hesitate to even share this. What if this is your chicken mole, your perfectly executed recipe that tastes offensively bad? If that is the case…. might I invite you to leave a lengthy comment of protest below. In return, I shall send you a case of Puddle Meat. Perhaps it will be to your liking. chickenandcollards-13Roasted Chicken and Collard Greens

  • Chicken thighs with skin on (the skin is crucial here, though the cut of meat is not*)
  • 1 large bag or bunch collard greens, washed, hard stems removed and cut in strips
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Hot Paprika
  • Ghee or butter
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Pat chicken dry with paper towel and season generously with salt, pepper, and paprika. Heat a dollop of butter or ghee in large ovenproof dish on stove. Cook chicken skin side down until skin is golden and starting to become crisp. Remove.
  3. In chicken drippings, cook onion and garlic until soft. Add collard greens and tomatoes (with juices), and a dash of all spices. Cook until greens have reduced by a little less than half.
  4. Return chicken to pan, skin side up. Cover and bake until chicken is fully cooked, about 30-45 minutes. Meat juices will flavor the greens and make them just the best thing ever.
  5. This makes a perfect meal for two, or you can use more chicken thighs and roast some sweet potatoes alongside and use the greens as a side.
  6. *I have heard mixed reviews on eating chicken skin on Whole30. While Paleo allows it, some Whole30-ers were out there bashing skin. I decided that if bacon is acceptable, a little skin isn’t going to kill us.*

Ok, be honest: what are your kitchen failures? Please tell me you have a Puddle Meat in your past.

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Highs & Lows

… from the weekend.winterweekend

High: Leftovers for dinner Friday night, and if there is one thing I love, it is feeling like a thrifty domestic boss because we ate up the yummy [and only slightly freezer-burnt] leftovers I found behind the ice-cube trays.

High: Topped off leftover dinner with way too many gooey brownies hot from the pan and dripping in salted caramel sauce.

Low: Aforementioned brownies did not do so well with recently purified Whole30 stomach.

High: Got in an early morning 6 mile run on the mall with my running buddy.

Low: That run was cold, so cold, and my knees spent the rest of the weekend protesting.

High: Followed run with the world’s longest hot shower, after which I changed back into my pajamas and had breakfast sandwiches in bed.

Low: Spent the rest of the day grading papers, tests, and homework.

High: Used grading binge as excuse to catch up on all my TV shows, which, as I have mentioned before, are Legion.

High: DC had a beautiful blizzard all day Saturday, and there’s nothing better than being snug inside while snow swirls outside.

Low: I made us go out in that blizzard to had dinner with friends in Alexandria Saturday night and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t live to see Sunday.

High: We didn’t die, and we got to eat tacos.

High: We stayed up late and finished Arrested Development.

Low: I always feel kind of sad when I finish a show because I love them so much… and then they are over.

Low: Seriously overslept Sunday morning and had to do the holy walk-of-shame into the back row at church during prayer.

High: Oversleeping always means more sleep, so that’s an automatic high.

Low: A week of snow and sludge meant a very dirty house and some Sunday afternoon cleaning, which we usually try to avoid.

High: James cleaned the floors while I power walked around the city to appease my Fitbit and binge listened to Jason and Molly’s Bachelor podcast.

High: Oscar viewing party Sunday night!

Low: I’m officially out of touch and old, as I had seen all of three movies nominated (none of which won) and was too sleepy to stay up till the end.

High: It’s was the weekend. And in a handful of days, we get another one.

Any highs and lows from your weekends?

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