Thursday, August 30, 2012

Friday's Fancies { Labor Day }

I love taking part in Friday's Fancies over at Long Distance Loving, because you're encouraged to throw price tags aside and choose any piece of clothing or accessory that suits your fancy. My actual closet contains much more affordable items than my Friday's Fancies virtual closet, but why not dream a little. I had fun dreaming big with my colorful outfit for Labor Day this week.

labor day outfit

This silk pocket top by Joie is the perfect neutral palette for adding fun pops of color.

A cute chevron pattern never gets old. I just love these 7 for All Mankind Carlie Ikat shorts.

Adding these Tory Burch dandelion flip flops to the mix definitely gives this outfit a primary color theme. Nothing like a bright pop of yellow to make your feet happy.

My Labor Day outfits needs some cute accessories like this House of Harlow Rocky Mountain cuff and these Baublebar southwest boho drop earrings for a nice touch of blue and red.

This Marc by Marc Jacobs nylon Natasha bag is the perfect size to carry my Labor Day necessities like cash, lipgloss, and maybe even our point and shoot camera.

I'd finish off my Labor Day outfit with these gorgeous Tom Ford FT0224 sunglasses. I cannot live without sunglasses in the sunshine state!

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Do you have any plans for Labor Day weekend?
Growing up in northern Michigan, we always had a big Labor Day get together at the lake. I also knew that Labor Day always meant the imminent return to school. Now Labor Day signals the upcoming return of the snowbirds to Florida. My how times have changed.

this song talks about what I'd really love to be doing this Labor Day....
Little Big Town Pontoon by PONTOON on Grooveshark

thanks for viewing

Tips for Airport Security & What Not to Wear

Airport security can be intimidating and/or annoying, but it really doesn't have to be. There are some fairly simple things you can do to make the whole experience a little smoother for yourself and for your fellow passengers too. No one likes being held up in lines at the airport.

 Can you guess this airport?
walk on the left, stand on the right

How you can help speed up the airport screening process:

- Check your bags and bring less carry-on items. I know it costs money on most airlines these days, but do yourself, and everyone else, a favor and get rid of your bags before entering security. The less you bring through security, the quicker you pass through the screening process. Passengers in line behind you will thank you for it. Win, win.
     * I totally disregarded this tip during my trip to Michigan a couple weeks ago, and just let me say that was one of the less pleasant trips through security I've had in a while. Too much stuff and not enough hands! Anytime you can free up your hands while traveling, it's a good thing. I did check one bag, but I carried on two large items. Not good.

- Arm yourself with a little knowledge ahead of time. You will need to have your boarding pass and proper identification ready. Do yourself a favor and also know the rules for carry-on liquids. No one wants to throw away expensive perfume or makeup. Also have your liquids handy at security, because you will need to remove them from your carry-on bag! This leads me to my next tip.

- Prepare your carry-on bag the night before your flight. Having an organized bag will make things a million times (or at least 10 times) easier once you arrive at the airport. I hate last minute shuffling through my bag because I forgot something needed at security. Pack those things you need in security, like proper identification and liquids, in the top of your bag. This will save your from rummaging through your bag and holding up the security line. A little planning goes a long way.

(you'd be surprised the things people try and carry-on with them)

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Earlier this week I flew to North Carolina, and I found out there are certain types of clothing you should avoid wearing if you don't want a TSA pat down. Let's just say I had my butt patted down (they use the backs of their hands... no biggie), and I'll think twice before wearing a pair of pants with buttons on the back pockets again. The TSA agent I spoke with said to wear simple clothing.

a simple top, skinny jeans, boots, and a cardigan... my travel "uniform" these days

How to minimize your chances of getting a pat down at the airport:

- Clothing: Don't forget to remove everything from pockets. Pants with buttons on back pockets, like I mentioned above, might also make you a candidate for an additional pat down. Apparently clothing with high metal content can make the body scanner machines go crazy too, so beware of sequins and metallic details. I also once had an issue with a dress that had a button sewn into the side seam. These are all things to think about when choosing clothing for your flight.

- Accessories: Just make it easier on yourself and put jewelry on after you pass through security. I always wear my wedding ring through the machines, but I almost never wear any additional jewelry. My typical routine is to place all jewelry in a small pouch inside my carry-on bag the night before my flight, and then I immediately pull it out and put it on after security. I often put scarves on afterwards too.

- Footwear: You will be required to take off your shoes before entering the metal detector or body scanner, so wear proper footwear. Shoes that slip off and on will speed up the lines. Your beautiful wedge heels that have 5 buckles each are probably not proper footwear. Not to mention, if there was an emergency on your flight would you really want to evacuate in heels? Just a thought.

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Over the years I've had my bags, and also my hands, swabbed for explosives at least a few times. It's not scary; I promise. Before the body imaging machines existed, I set off a metal detector and received some additional waves of a handheld metal detector. It was the button on my skirt that did it that time. There will always be unknown variables (weather, delays, etc.) while flying, but you can attempt to minimize the inconveniences of air travel with some awareness and planning ahead of time.

My husband and quite a few people I know make their living in the air, so I'm not bothered by the sometimes inconvenient security rules and regulations. I don't mind taking off my shoes for a minute, and I surely have the ability to pack any large liquids in a checked bag. Yes, I do miss the days when you could greet your friends and family at the arrival gate of an airport, but I also really value the lives of those who fly all of us around for a living. Those people are priceless and worth the extra effort. I'll gladly give up some conveniences if it means safer skies for us all.

flying over North Carolina

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Barking Herons and Other Things

After feeling a bit cooped up in the apartment last week, we made the decision to get outside and finally do something. So we drove along the Gulf coast and found ourselves a nice little roadside park where we enjoyed our impromptu homemade lunch waterside.

My husband's flying job has him on reserve (basically he's on call) almost every single day, so we can't get too far from home, or the airport, depending on how you look at things. Him being on reserve definitely puts a kink in our lives most days, but we managed to get out for an afternoon. It just meant bringing Nate's uniform with us just in case he got called for a flight. Thank goodness my husband's work never did call.

After driving south of a very crowded Clearwater Beach, we came across a quiet little park near Redington Shores. We parked our butts on a nice little bench next to the intracoastal, and we enjoyed our roasted chicken and provolone sandwiches. After inhaling slowly eating our lunch, Nate dipped his toes in the intracoastal, and I got a little too close to an agitated Great Blue Heron. Yes, you heard that correctly.

I was really trying my hardest not to harass the wildlife, but with a 50mm prime lens on your camera getting close enough (we're talking just a few feet away at one point) for a decent shot is a must. I swear one of these days I'll get a zoom lens, and then I won't have to piss off any more birds. That will be the day.

Did you know that the Great Blue Heron makes a barking noise when annoyed? Well, they do. Unfortunately I know from experience. Wikipedia says that the heron's voice can be described as the following: The call is a harsh croak. The heron is most vocal during the breeding season, but will call occasionally at any time of the year in territorial disputes or if disturbed. 

You learn something new every day, huh? Apparently I encountered one disturbed heron, either that or we were about to throw down in a territorial dispute. I'm glad it was not the latter. That could have ended badly... for the heron.

Enjoy your day!

Now you don't have to watch National Geographic today.
You're welcome. (:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mad for Plaid and Some Fall Favorites

It's getting to be that time of year again. The unmistakable cooler air of fall is near, sort of, and all I want to do is bust out my plaid shirts and drink apple cider and pumpkin spice lattes already. What can I say? Fall is great, and I love me a plaid shirt every now and then.

my little plaid collection
left : mossimo from Target  |  right : old top from American Eagle similar )

Wearing plaid just might run in my blood. Considering that I grew up pretty darn close to Canada, where plaid is practically their national uniform, it only makes sense that plaid be a part of my wardrobe. Not to mention my dad wears his fair share of plaid button up shirts too. I was certainly made to wear plaid. I am a northern Michigan girl after all.

the photo booth flash always makes my face look shiny. what the heck?
yes, I'm also missing polish on two nails. don't judge.
plaid button up : mossimoTarget ( similar )  |  nail polish : essie - sand tropez

I recently purchased this plaid beauty at Target for only $17.99 people! Target often has cute clothes, but I sometimes worry about the quality. For this price though, I felt it was worth adding a plaid shirt to my tiny collection. Why not? Plus I'm sort of in love with the indigo blue and red combo in this top.

This top is going to look perfect with my skinny jeans and brown boots. Not to mention, this plaid top makes me feel a little bit cowgirl too. That's never a bad thing in my book.

plaid favorites
1  |  2  |  3  |  4

How about you... do you like wearing plaid too?
Love it or hate it?

Monday, August 27, 2012

{ Recipe } Creme Brulee French Toast

Do you love dessert?

Better yet, would you like to eat dessert for breakfast? I thought so.

Did I mention how my very favorite dessert is creme brulee?
This is my perfect combo of breakfast and dessert!

Obviously this isn't something you would want to eat every day for breakfast, because you would need heart bypass surgery after a week of doing so. We do indulge in this breakfast every now and then though. I think Paula Deen would be proud of this recipe. On second thought, she would probably add more butter. Either way, this meal is tasty. Everything in moderation... including moderation, right?

I especially love that this breakfast is mouthwatering delicious and easy to make. You just prepare it the night before, and then pop it in the oven and bake the morning you want to eat it. Easy as pie. (wait, pie isn't very easy is it?) Easier than pie!

Creme Brulee French Toast

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons corn syrup
challah bread sliced about 3/4" thick
5 eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon brandy-based liqueur (like Grand Marnier)
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Mix in brown sugar and corn syrup, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a 9x13 inch baking dish.

2. Slice challah bread to about 3/4 inch thick. (you could replace with some other thick, dense bread... I just love how challah soaks everything up)  Arrange bread in dish in a single layer. Squeeze bread pieces tight together.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, vanilla extract, orange brandy, and salt. Pour over top of the bread. Cover and chill at least 8 hours, or overnight.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the dish from refrigerator, and bring to room temperature.

5. Bake uncovered 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven, until puffed and lightly browned.

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We enjoy this meal with fresh berries and some whipped cream on top. No syrup needed.


Are you eating anything good for breakfast this week?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Songs for Your Saturday

Many genres of music interest me, and right now I just so happen to be on a bit of a country kick. It sort of reminds me of small town living. Listening to country music has been a nice little escape from crowded Tampa Bay. I've put together a country music playlist for the weekend. I hope you enjoy it.

{ here's a pretty shot from the country to set the musical mood }
chimney rock in Nebraska

I really, really enjoy music. My dad's side of the family consisted of flute, piano, saxophone, and guitar players. I have another uncle who plays various string instruments and is always discovering great new musicians. One of my cousins is an incredible violin player, and I had a brief stint with the saxophone in middle school. I come by my love of music honestly.

Happy Saturday!

Which one of these songs on my playlist is your favorite?
What kind of music are you listening to currently?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Feeling Ambitious & Misunderstood

Feeling ambitious has nothing to do with deep cleaning the toilet today, although that is certainly ambition driven, but it has more to do with me really wanting to update my blog and let you all know a little bit more about me. I can definitely be a private person, although having a blog may not seem very private, but it's more so that I don't always reveal a lot of my personality on here. Sometimes I find it difficult letting you know who I am through a blog. All I can do is write words, which aren't always eloquent, and hope that you get the right idea. The tough thing is, I don't always feel I come across the way I'd like. Just like I can be very shy when first meeting someone, my family and good friends know that is anything but true.

What I'm trying to say is that I've made a few updates to my blog this week. I updated the travel page, and I also added a page called Fly World. You will now find plenty of links to blog posts about some of our travels, and my new Fly World page includes peeks into what it's like being married to a commercial pilot. If you're interested, I also included quite a few links to other bloggers who give their insight to the 'fly world' as well. I hope you will take the time getting to know me, and I hope to know you better too!

Alamosa, Colorado: climbing a giant sand dune during our trip... that's ambition

My mind constantly reels with thoughts, ideas, and all sorts of things in between. I often say I should carry a voice recorder, because some of my best, and often funniest, thoughts come at the most random of times. I'll spout something funny off while eating dinner with family, or I'll make people laugh while waiting in line at the store. I never know when the best thought will appear, and I feel that this blog is often a dumping ground for some of my most boring or worst thoughts. Don't get me wrong, every once in a while I have a great thought, I attempt sharing it, and get little to no feedback on this blog. I'm not here solely for the comments, but it is nice knowing that someone out there gets what you have said. I hope to whittle down my thoughts, and maybe someday this blog will be a little more focused, honest, and truthful.

I appreciate every single person who visits my blog, leaves comments, and I especially love getting to know you all. I may not always email back after reading your comment, but please know that I appreciate each and every one of them. I often struggle with balancing, life and blog, so there are times when I'll go stretches of days without reading or writing any blog posts at all. That doesn't mean I don't care. I promise you that. I'm unfortunately one of those people who often cares too much what others think, something which I am working on fixing. Like I always say, I know I'm far from perfect.

Thanks again to all of my readers! If you read this and I haven't heard from you, I would love to know you're there. I hope you'll take a little time reading some of my updates.

Happy weekend to you!

I suppose I'm also a bit ambitious for posting twice today.
Check out my earlier post from today about what I'd wear for a road trip.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Friday's Fancies { Road Trip }

It's been a while since I've participated in Friday's Fancies over at Long Distance Loving. The Road Trip theme definitely caught my attention this week. Let's be honest. I'm always up for a good road trip!

With some possible trips in the near future, that really got my creative juices flowing in order to create a fun road trip outfit for this Friday's Fancies! I love putting on a cute, comfortable outfit and heading out on the open road. Fall is beckoning, so I turned my outfit into a fall-inspired collection.

Fall Road Trip

My outfit is centered around a bright pop of red in this Madewell shrunken dot cord boyshirt. I love the versatility of a good button up. You can wear a tank underneath or a cardigan over top.

This Topshop knitted military jumper sweater is a comfortable and warm piece for the perfect fall road trip. It's perfect over some skinny jeans and a necklace layered over the top.

I love to travel in skinny jeans, like these Earnest Sewn Audrey jeans, because they're comfortable and easy to wear with so many different types of footwear. Plus they're made in America!

I love these Koolaburra Serenity fringe boots! I have a very old pair of Koolaburra classic boots, and they're the most comfortable thing my feet have ever had the pleasure of wearing. Plus, anything comfortable and stylish, that's also easy to slip on and off while road tripping, is a winner in my book.

House of Harlow 1960 has some unique and interesting jewelry. I've been eyeing these 5 Station necklaces for a while now. The black will pop against almost any color! This is a perfect piece of jewelry for any season.

This indigo blue convertible bag by Bottega Veneta would hold all of my road trip essentials like maps, an ipod touch, sunglasses, makeup, and maybe even some sour patch kids.

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Now if it would just cool off here in Florida...
either that or my husband and I need to take a road trip somewhere cool!
Where should we go?!

and here's one of my very favorite road trip songs:

Free by Zack Brown Band on Grooveshark

thanks for viewing

Race Weekend in Michigan

I will never forget the stories about how my family became involved with the Top O' Michigan Outboard Marathon races. My dad had been at one of the town bars on a summer weekend. He called home to tell my mom he met some out of town boat racers, and they needed a place to stay. He told her it was just a few guys and they would camp in our yard. However, my mom told a story of waking up to at least 10 different vehicles, possibly a Winnebago, various tents, boat trailers, and feet sticking out of car windows while people slept. I still get a kick out of that story.

Some of my most fond memories are from the boat races over the years. I was only about 5 or 6 years old when we began hosting boat racers in our yard on Burt Lake each summer. Our yard provided the racers with plenty of room to camp, and they could easily test drive their boats from our yard too. Excitement and energy filled the air during each race weekend. It was always something I looked forward to each summer growing up in a small northern Michigan town. Getting the chance to know people from all over the country was thrilling to me. Racers from many different states, Bermuda, and even Ecuador have all camped in our yard. I will never forget hearing one racer yell out my dad's name in his Boston accent for the first time. Race weekend for me was like a little escape from the small town where I grew up, and the races overtook our little part of the world each summer. Over the years, we grew close to many racers and their families. I remember noticing them all get older with each race year. It always made me sad when a racer wouldn't come back the following year, because I had grown to expect seeing them each summer. They retired to their families and lives in whatever part of the country, or world, they came from each year. The people competing in the boat race have changed with time, but the spirit around the race and the memories have not.

Today my 50-something year old father actually takes part in the race. After all those years of helping, volunteering, and spectating, I suppose he couldn't resist any longer. I mean 50 years old is the perfect time to take up an incredibly challenging and physically exhausting activity, right? What better way to take up something new than to jump in with both feet and a smile on your face. I'd like to think I will be that youthful and energetic at that age. Dad, thanks for showing me that you could follow new dreams at any age.

To top off the accomplishment of taking up racing at an older age, my father also built the very boat he races in. You see, my father worked in construction for enough years to give him the skills necessary to become a boat builder. I never thought my dad would be one of those racers that I so admired as a young girl, but he is now in the ranks of many of the racers we grew to know over the years. In one of the only years I ever missed the race, my father actually won the race in his class. He became a champion of a race in which he helped others for so many years. Talk about coming full circle. I wish I could have been there, but I did get to watch him take second place this year. That was pretty sweet too. I'm glad to make new memories watching my father race. I could not be more proud.

{ my dad's boat }

preparing for one of two big race days }

I love how this man is wearing a wood working hat... and he's looking at my dad's creation }

my dad and part of his race crew }

racing through the Indian River }

one of the many boats in the race that my dad built }

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Blog Updates and a Song

Call me stubborn, but I still can't quite bring myself to pay money for a more professional looking blog design. Maybe one of these days I'll work up the strength to fork over some cash for an update. It would probably serve me well to have some cute social media buttons in my sidebar or a freshened up header with a tag line, but I am simply stubborn... and sort of cheap when it comes to my blog.

For now though, I have made a few simple updates to this blog myself.

I finally switched the headshot that you see of me in my sidebar and on my blogger profile. It was about time for an update seeing how I just had over a foot of hair chopped off, and now my photo looks more like me at this point in time. (:

I also updated the travel page. You can click on the 'travel' tab directly under my blog header at the top of the page to view the updated page. The updates include lots of links to blog posts I wrote about places that my husband and I have visited together. I also included a little more about why I love to see the world.

Do any of you bloggers out there have a personalized blog design you love that didn't cost you much? 

I'm talking about spending maybe $50 here folks. I've seen quite a few designers that will do full on custom blog designs starting at around $200, and I just don't think my blog gets enough attention to warrant that kind of price. Any suggestions?

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Currently listening to:

White Moth by Xavier Rudd on Grooveshark

Have any favorite songs at the moment?

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Walk in the Park... Literally

We went for a walk in the park a while ago, and I'm just now getting around to sharing some photos from that day. After living in the Tampa Bay area for just over a year, we thought it was about time we actually visit downtown Tampa instead of just making assumptions about it.

We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of activity in and around Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa. Not to mention, I was excited by number of museums that surrounded the riverside park. Now I'm itching to get back downtown in order to visit the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts and the Tampa Museum of Art. We honestly had no idea what to expect out of Tampa, but we found a lovely little gem in Curtis Hixon Park and the museums that surround it.

{ We managed to find ourselves
some rather comfortable chairs }

{ this was when I still had long hair...
now it's super short ... for me at least }

{ how appropriate }

{ chameleon-esque portrait in front of the pretty wall }

Have you ever been to Tampa, Florida?

The RNC will be in Tampa in about a week, so we'll be staying away from downtown for a while.
Large crowds, long lines, and heavy traffic are something we're happy to avoid when we can.

Happy Monday!
Do you have any fun plans for this week?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Something Beautiful for Your Weekend

First of all, thank you all for the nice comments from yesterday's post about my new haircut. I was beyond grateful for each kind word you all left for me. Thank you!

Second, this past week I had a wonderful week (almost) in Michigan visiting my family and friends. I did not take quite as many pictures as I would have liked, but I did get some that only begin to show you the beauty of northern Michigan. As each year passes, I learn to appreciate it even more. I am blessed to have grown up in such a naturally beautiful and quaint little town.

I grew up on an incredible lake, that I definitely took for granted at the time, but now I understand what a rarity it was to grow up with such a special place as my "backyard". Seeing a couple of meteorites shoot across the sky on my first night in town almost made me want to never leave. If only my husband had been there too, maybe we would have stayed.

I hope you all have a beautiful weekend. May you get a chance to do something that you love or at least spend some time with loved ones. If not, get outside and at least appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. What are you plans for this weekend?

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My New Haircut

Remember how I talked about getting a haircut last week? Well today is the day you get to see the new me. My friend Amber did an amazing job making me look like new. She recently moved back to northern Michigan and opened Rootz Salon. If you need a haircut and/or a good stylist in northern Michigan, go and see Amber or her cousin Jenny at Rootz Salon. They will make you look beautiful!

As for donating my hair: Amber cut off quite a bit of my hair, and she's going to try and donate it to a place that will take my previously chemically treated hair. I hope someone can get some use out of all that hair. Maybe some day I'll donate again, but I'll have to get growing this hair again and maybe wait a while. Until then I'm enjoying my new haircut.

... and for the big reveal:



I love my new short hair! I do miss having long hair, but I'm already loving how healthy and stylish it looks. Not to mention, it takes a lot less time to dry it. I haven't had hair this short since maybe middle school, so it's a nice change. As much as I'd love my friend Amber to style it for me everyday I think I'm getting the hang of my new haircut. (:

p.s. She highlighted my hair with natural looking highlights too. It instantly made me look tan, which we joked about because I'm very pale for living in Florida. The end.

I have a million photos from my trip
to Michigan that I hope to share soon!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Today is The Day!

I am getting my hair cut. My hair has not come in contact with a pair of scissors for over a year. You read that correctly. It has been over 12 whole months since this girl has got her hair cut. Until today.

Do you see how long my hair is? It actually touches my butt. It also gets in the way when I pee, workout, and it's also been known to get stuck in a seat belt or two when I get out of the car. Ouch.

Not to mention I must get rid of these very grown out highlights, which you can see in the form of a line, about a foot from the bottom of my hair. I achieved the 'ombre look' by not getting my hair cut for over a year* and letting old highlights grow out. That's how you do it folks. ;)

*I don't recommend doing this, because your hair ends up rather split and damaged at the ends
 { please excuse our almost-always slightly messy office behind me }

Maybe next time you see me
in photos my hair will be this short........

Don't worry I only used a clip in order to have pretend short hair.
I'm not sure that I'm ready for the real thing yet, but I am practicing.

Or maybe I will chicken out and just have the old highlighted part trimmed off of the bottom... I'm actually rather scared I'll miss it once it's gone. That's how life usually works.
You don't know what you've got til it's gone.
(you have that song stuck in your head now don't you?)

Today one of my very good friends, who I trust with all this hair, will have cut this hair and styled me into a new woman. She is one of few people on this earth who I trust to touch my hair with scissors and color. Amber, I know you will make my hair look great. (no pressure, lady... wink ) By the time all of you read this, I will have shorter hair on my head.

How short? I guess you will have to wait until next week to see.

Until then... I'll be enjoying my weekend in northern Michigan. (:
Happy weekend!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

{ Recipe } Barley Risotto

Barley Risotto. Doesn't that sort of sound like something you might feed your horse? Even though it sounds like animal food, this meal was surprisingly delicious. I had no idea what to expect from the barley, but my husband and I both enjoyed this barley risotto with corn and basil. I served it with a side of steamed green beans and some slices of a french baguette.

Barley Risotto with corn and basil:


32 oz box low-sodium chicken broth
1 T olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup pearl barley    ( I bought ours from the bulk section at Whole Foods )
1/4 white wine    ( I use Sauvignon Blanc because it's a dry white plus we like to drink it too )
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/4 cup torn basil leaves
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese ( I used shredded, doesn't it look pretty? )

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In a medium saucepan, bring broth to a simmer; reduce heat to low.

In a separate large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add onion; cook until tender. Add barley; cook 1 minute. Add wine; cook, stirring until absorbed. Ladle in 2 cups warm broth; cook stirring frequently until almost absorbed. Repeat procedure, this time 1 cup of broth at a time, approx. 40 to 50 minutes.

Stir in corn and basil once all broth is almost absorbed; cook until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in grated parmesan cheese. ( I stirred some in and also topped the dish with some too )

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For the green beans I used fresh green beans with ends trimmed off, and I cut them into bite size pieces. I use a steamer basket over simmer for about 5-8 minutes. They'll turn bright green when they're ready. Once cooked, toss with teaspoon of butter, some lemon zest, and a little lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy! (:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Evolution in Cooking { A Short Story}

Let's be honest. Cooking used to downright scare me. I mean a lot of things scared me when I was young, but thinking of myself as a cook in the kitchen gave me the chills. I never really thought I'd be able to do it. That might sound silly to some of you who were raised in a kitchen or had the cooking gene from birth, but my love for cooking has evolved over time. Aged like a fine wine, I like to think my cooking only gets better and more refined with time.

I was one of those kids who was terrified to make a mistake, who only raised my hand when I knew the answer, which was often because I made darn sure I knew the answers, and not having the answers scared me. It still scares me to not have the answers, but I'm getting better about that. Enter cooking in the kitchen. I thought a recipe was something that had to be followed exactly or you would run the risk of blowing up the oven. Okay that may be a slight exaggeration, but coming from someone who felt at home in the high school chemistry lab, you can see where the idea of making a mistake and exploding something comes from. I was scared of the kitchen. Sort of like I was scared of the chemistry lab but in a good way, because I usually aced my chemistry exams. Enter my sort of unhealthy need to be the best at every single thing I do. If I couldn't be the best I didn't really want to do it. Hence why I didn't cook much growing up.

College was a time of fear and uncertainty. Again, I'm very good at being dramatic when necessary for effect. I began learning to cook in college, because I needed to eat. See how that works? Sometimes when we need to do something we do it. I had my mom and dad making delicious meals for me most of my life, and I let them. It was a purely selfish way to think about food. In college, I learned to cook some things or starve. Fear has a funny way of making you do things you didn't think you could do. So I started cooking for myself in college. I became more certain that I could saute a mean frozen pierogi from Trader Joe's in Ann Arbor, and I also made a mean stir fry from the frozen food aisle. Hey, we all have to start somewhere.

{ Sandwiches and Harry Potter for dinner? Don't mind if I do. }

After graduating college, I moved in with family in Colorado. That helped my cooking skills tremendously, because my aunt seemed to be one of those people who was born with the cooking skills of a world class chef. Funny how we talk ourselves out of doing things because we think others are born with certain skills. Fortunately, she reminded me that good cooking comes with age, experience, and lots of messed up meals along the way. It was okay to make mistakes in the kitchen. Sometimes failing is the only way to learn. What a novel idea that seemed. I thank my aunt for being such a confident cook but also reminding me that she messed up meals too.

I finally moved in to an apartment with another Michigan alum, and she was not much of a cook. Let's be honest, she quite often called a bowl of cereal dinner. Who hasn't done that though? She was blessed with the baking gene, and I didn't seem to have a single bit of baker in me. She was thrilled to get a KitchenAid stand mixer for Christmas, but I just couldn't share the same enthusiasm because baking scared me. I had flashbacks of high school chemistry lab, and I kept think about an exploding kitchen. However, cooking a nice meal didn't seem to scare me quite as badly as it scared my roommate. We all have different abilities in the kitchen depending on how badly we want to eat a certain food. I knew I didn't want to live off of ramen for the rest of my life, so I learned to boil, saute, and bake things.

Enter my future husband (now my only and current husband). I would cook dinner for the two of us, because honestly I was just a better cook at that time. He ruled the grill, and that terrified me. I ruled the refrigerator, sink, stove, and oven. We ate things like baked chicken, lasagna, stuffed shell pasta, and pancakes. There were definitely burned meals and dried out chicken, but I was learning and growing more confident in the kitchen. Win, win.

{ see... cooking can be fun! }

Marriage was not all about burned meals, because I had tried to get that out of my system before terrifying my man completely. I tried my best to burn meals when I was cooking only for myself. With a husband who's a pilot, it was easy cooking for myself when he was gone. It was the best, and least embarrassing, way for me to learn. My dad came to visit one Thanksgiving, and I made almost all of the food by myself. That's right. All alone. It was a nice confidence boost, but it still freaks me out that I actually did that. I haven't done it again since.

{ I made all of this with a little help from my husband and father }

I'm actually to the point in my cooking evolution where I amaze my husband, and that's kind of cool. He'll exclaim things like "these are just as good as the pancakes at Snooze!" I'll respond by telling him he's crazy and that no one can make pancakes that delicious. My husband also looks at me like I just parted the Red Sea when I cook something without a recipe. That's something I never would have done in my fearful days of a chemist's approach to cooking. Heck, now I'll even modify a recipe to our tastes. I've learned that a recipe is more like a guideline, but you need to cook often in order to find out what you'd like to change about a meal.

I'm still absolutely terrified to cook for guests. I stick to the few things I'm most confident in making, but I always sweat a little when I know someone besides me or my husband will be eating my food. My fear of being judged by others comes rushing in, and I'll wonder if my meals will turn out or if they'll think I'm a dummy in the kitchen, or worse, maybe I will blow something up while they're watching. That still scares the bejeezus out of me.

{ steamed mussels would have scared me years ago }

My husband and I are actually at a point now where we don't even enjoy going out to eat, because most of the food I make at home is better than what we can get at a restaurant. I'm not saying that to make myself sound like an incredible chef, but it goes to show you we just don't have great food offerings here in the Tampa Bay area. Now if we still lived in Denver that would be a different story, because I can still eat at Vesta Dipping Grill and have the socks blown off my feet. We are still searching for a Tampa Bay restaurant that knocks our socks off.

Every day I'm learning to grow more confident in the kitchen. Not to mention, I am not afraid to put pumpkin in my pancakes these days. See what a little time, a whole lot of burned meals, people who believe in you, and some successful dishes will do to a person. Some day maybe I'll even learn to be successful at baking from scratch. Who knows maybe I'll give grilling a try, or I'll just leave that to my husband. I'm not sure there's room for two grill masters in the family.