Monday, October 20, 2014

Why it's okay to be an introvert and other reasons why I'm awesome

Well, duh, because it is. And really, if this world was full of extroverts when would anyone ever get any peace and quite?

In my last post, I mentioned how I was going on a work trip and thus probably would not blog. Well, that's not true (the not blogging part. I am, most definitely, in Pennsylvania right now). But I need to use this blog to give myself (and other interoverts out there) a prep talk:

It's okay to be who you are.

I get a little annoyed at myself because I don't think, or at least I am not aware, that extroverts ever have to give this prep talk to themselves. From my limited perspective, when it comes to extroverts being extroverts, there seems to be no need to be apologetic. Introverts, on the other hand, constantly have to come up with reasons to justify closing the door and simply being alone.

Sorry. I just need to be by myself right now.

My life as a full force introvert has been full of self prep talks so far and I don't imagine that changing any time soon.

It's Monday, which means I am at the beginning of a week full of meetings with my Donor Relations and Communication colleagues from both Canada and the U.S. It's a pretty long week. It's fun, but long. Last time these (annual) meetings rolled around I did not do a very good job of keeping myself well balanced. The meetings themselves are lengthy but then there are lunch and supper times full of work conversations and then there are the after-meeting gatherings, which generally don't center around work specifically but have often been in very public (and thus loud) settings.

And the thing is, I feel bad about not being social. I may have no desire to be social one particular evening but will guilt myself into going. I have this deep rooted need, for better or for worse, for people to like me. How can you do that without being social? Thus, last year, I spent my evenings not paying attention to my introverted need to be alone and to go to bed way before any one else seems to start thinking about it, but rather out and about with my co-workers.

Then enters Grumpy Anna.

Grumpy Anna is not a very pleasant person to be around. (It's also very awkward to be around co-workers when she arrives since she does not have very much of a filter).

So this year, I decided that I need to be more intentional with my self-care otherwise I might just lose my mind at this year's meetings. This translates in to saying no (which I already did tonight) and to maybe even taking my lunch tray and straight up finding a place to hide so I can eat alone.

And that's okay. It's okay to say no to things. It's okay to make lunch break into an actual break.

It's okay to be an introvert because we are cool people.

I struggle a lot with self-esteem issues. One of the ways I've been working on this is learning how to embrace my personalty, which comes with a healthy does of introvertism. (That's not a word but you get my drift). This is who I am and I like this person, which also means that I like being an introvert.

In fact, I love being an introvert. I love that I can stay home alone for hours without feeling lonely. I love living alone because I can turn up any podcast or Taylor Swift song I want, whenever I want and just be me). I love being an introvert because I get a ton of sleep and it is delicious. I love being an introvert because I like having a handful of really great, meaningful relationships instead of a ton of acquaintances that may or may not be very life-giving.

This is me, folks, and I'm going to bed now. Hopefully, by tomorrow morning, I will be refreshed and ready to enter into the world of people again.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Here's to you, October

Oh October, where have you gone? Already it is the 19th? And I have barely blogged? Winter must be around the corner.

I thought about blogging several times in the past few weeks but never felt creative enough (or warm enough) to muster up any energy for it. It's not even close to being winter yet, so I should do my best to snap out of it.

The bad news (for my blog) is that I am going to be traveling for almost the rest of the month. (First a work trip to PA and then down to NC to visit family). Sorry October 2014. You will barely be mentioned in this blog (since it is highly unlikely that I will post anything during my travels).

All of this got me thinking, what did happen this month? It's all seemed pretty anticlimactic but maybe that is a pretty good way to sum up fall. We are slowly starting to sink down into the cold and dark of winter. Don't get me wrong, I really like fall. (I am one of those white girls who really like scarves, sweaters and Pumpkin Spice lattes (with soy milk please) Boy, does that sounds delicious right now). But when it gets cloudy and chilly, it seems the world is taking a nap, so why don't I? (Like last Sunday when I accidentally passed out on the couch for 3 hours in the afternoon. I didn't even put my lunch dishes away, which is very rare for my anal-cleaning self).

Yet, this blog exists to capture to mundane of life and to make it beautiful, at least in my eyes.

So, here's to you October and all the things that happened this month (even if they didn't really feel like anything at the time).

1. I had to go to Liberal Kansas again for work. (Sigh. It's such a long drive! We usually do it in a day-trip, which means 4 hours out and 4 hours home, with essentially nothing but a joint gas station/Dillons grocery shop in between). We went to go visit the MCC Thrift Shop's new building. There and back again.

2. Fall in Kansas has arrived. For the past couple of weeks I've been watching the tree outside my office window slowly gain bright red markings on its leaves. Kansas Autumn can be quite brilliant and golden or rusty and smoldering.
This time of the year is also when my favorite part of winter begins to be ushered in every day around 4-5pm. This golden hour is when everything becomes bright and crisp. Depending on the lighting that day, it can be downright dazzling.

3. Cool weather means cool weather cooking and, let me tell you, I was quite ready for it. Pumpkin pumpkin and pumpkin! Let's go. This past week I made my favorite black bean pumpkin chili as well as pumpkin gnocchi. I always mentioned this, but I love how pumpkin is the one vegetable that is truly celebrated in a sessional way. Cheers to that.
Cool weather also means soup. Yum. Let's do this thing… every week. Having soup leftovers also greatly improves my lunch break at work too. I love regular sandwiches but they certainly loose their charm when I'm cold.
4. October means it's time for the 5th annual Kansas Barn Sale that happens just right outside of Hesston. My friend, Jill, and I went this year and boy was it a nightmare. It was actually very disappointing because this cute craft and vintage sale suddenly exploded with more people then the organizers could've ever anticipated. Thus we were stuck in traffic forever and by the time we actually got to the sale did not have the time, nor the patience, to try and weave through the hoards of people in order to look at anything. I really hope they figure out something different for next year. It used to be one of my favorite things about Hesston. I was hoping to find some furniture items for my house since, last year, I got my awesome Poe table. I am sure I would've found stuff too if there had been about 500 less people there. All I walked away with this year was some natural deodorant and natural sugar scrub (which has been fun to try but not what I was excepting from this day).
I took this picture when we were stuck in traffic. I was too stressed out to get my camera out any other time
5. Okay, friends, I am seriously turning into a crazy cat lady. I just love them so dang much! And I don't even own them. Lately, I've been wanting to get a pet like mad - a cat or a dog. Both really. (But I can only have a cat at this rental). Every evening I show pictures of dogs I liked from The Dogist, whom I follow on Instagram, to Levent and usually exclaim things like "Oh My GOSH!" Yeah, I am a little nuts. So on Friday, during my lunch break, I went to the Newton Humane Society, (which is kind of a sad little place) so I could pet some cats. (Yep. I know. I am crazy. See above). The problem with this plan is that I found a cat that I really wanted. It went from just wanting a cat to wanting a particular cat. Sigh.
I didn't get him due to the fact that I have three long trips coming up. It really doesn't make sense to get a cat until the first of the year.  Another dramatic sign. I guess instagram will have to do for now.

6.Finally, last night Levent and I went out to Zaytun! Really, why would we go anywhere else? It's so so so good. Hands down, my favorite place to eat in Wichita.
Yep. Here's to you, October.

Blog, I'll see you in a couple of weeks. Maybe. Who knows really :-)

Weekend project

I should be winterizing the rest of my garden. But I am not.

I have the worst follow through when it comes to "putting my garden to bed for the winter." I subscribe to an e-newsletter out of Kansas City called the Savvygardener. From that, I recently learned that it's a good idea in the fall to spread some sort of mulch over your garden and work it into the soil a little bit. This mulch can be anything from wood chips to leaves to rotten straw. I have plenty of rotten straw just sitting on my garden. I've pulled everything already (the exception being my eggplant that was too touch to pull up by hand) and all I need to do is go over there and dig around a little bit with a shovel.

But again, I am definitely not doing that this weekend. By October, gardening has, for sure, lost its glory.

My only other gardening news is that the "free agent" tomato plant that came up after I put a layer of manure on my flower bed continues to survive, and even ripen. Every Sunday, I pull whatever few yellow tomatoes are ready and slice them up on our traditional meal of homemade pizza.
I also am growing, or attempting to grow some spinach in my cold frame box my dad built for me two summers ago. I cannot quite figure out why it won't grow very nicely. (It was the same last spring too). I am hoping to get some more manure next spring and bulk up the soil in this box. Hopefully that'll help. I feel doubtful I will grow anything in this box that I'll eat this fall. Shame.

That's not what I was planning on talking about. Nope.

I wanted to tell you about my plans for my little DYI (we'll see how well that goes) little patio area between my backdoor and my garage. Since I am a renter, there is not a ton of stuff I can do to beautify my space (although I did plant flowers this summer and just recently planted hostas). I inherited a lot of falling apart pieces of "patio furniture" from my sister back when they moved and am finally getting around to it.

My plan is to spruce up the furniture as best as I can for my abilities and for the condition it's in (thanks to help from my paint dealer boyfriend), get a fire pit, a giant lantern, and sit outside under the twinkle lights. It might take me my entire life to make this happen. Who knows.

But I do know one thing: my father is a master craftsman. When they were here last summer, I asked if he could build me a bench for my patio. It is beautiful. It took me awhile to tell myself it was okay to paint it because I loved it so much and didn't want to ruin it.
This weekend I finally did.
Now I cannot wait to repaint the door table and add a few more semi-falling a part chairs to the mix. (If only I wasn't going on a work trip this week…)
I can't wait for this space to be complete. My goal is to have it all ready by next summer. We'll see how that goes.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pretzel Rolls

I love sandwiches. But throw that sandwich onto a pretzel, I love it even more. I am so proud of these bronze babies.

Pretzel Buns

1 cup milk
1 1/4 ounce package of active dry yeast
1 T packed brown sugar
2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 t fine salt
2 T unsalted butter at room temperature
Cooking spray
1/2 cup baking soda
1/4 cup coarse salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 large egg,  lightly beaten

1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan until a thermometer registers 110 degrees. Pour into medium bowl; sprinkle with yeast and let soften, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the sugar and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. Combine the flour and fine salt in a bowl; Add the yeast mix and butter and mix until starts to come together. On a floured surface, need the dough until it is slightly smooth and soft but still sticky. Coat large bowl with cooking spray; add dough, cover with towel or plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about an hour.

3. Generously coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Stretch into a 16 inch long long, about 2 inches wide, cut into 8 pieces. Roll and stretch each piece into a 6-inch long rope, then wide into a coil, tucking the end underneath. Transfer rolls to baking sheet and cover with towel or plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature for 15, then refrigerate until slightly  puffed, about 2 hours.

4. Preheat oven to 400. Fill large pot or deep skilled with 3 inches of water. Add the baking soda and the coarse salt and bring to a boil. Add half of the rolls and cook until slightly puffed, about 1 minute, flipping halfway through. Re-coat the baking sheet with cooking spray. Repeat with the remaining rolls. Brush rolls with beaten egg then sprinkle with coarse salt.

5. Transfer to oven and bake 18-20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for 10 minutes on the pan, then remove the rolls to rack and let them cool completely.

Source: Food Network Magainze

Here we are again

Sunday. Here we are again.

I am not writing this from my tree fort, though I wish I was.

Yes. I have a tree fort, or at least there is a tree fort at the rental where I live. I completely forgot about it. The reason being, I ignored it earlier this summer since it is nestled in a fruit-producing mulberry tree. (Yeah, someone didn't think that through).

So last Sunday afternoon, I climbed up the ladder and settled in with my book. And just like that my new favorite spot was created.

I often long for my parent's front porch in Asheville. I love sitting on their on cool evenings and journaling. Other times, I really miss my sister and her "small couch" I used to claim every Sunday afternoon for naps, reading and somewhat watching football.

But now I have one this house. Kansas continues to sink her teeth into me.
It's been a pretty chill weekend, though chill in the sense that I spent most of it baking. When I was the baker at Mojo's, all of my baking energy was zapped up. It took me several years to bounce back but here I am, spending all my free time in my kitchen. The art of food is my passion. Am I obsessive? No. Someone at the church we went to in South Africa asked me if I was addicted to food. I have never really been able to shake that comment, mostly because of how belittled I felt by that statement. No, I am not obsessive or addicted. I just find so much joy in the creation, presentation and of course the taste and flavors. Why must I be questioned about this? Joy is joy.

Anyway, this is not what this post is about. I have so many good foodthings to share with you this week.
On Thursday, my coworkers and I had a staff lunch party. Everyone brought some type of salad to share, (which makes us sound like old women at church, but it was actually really good). I brought a pasta salad but not a traditional one. When I was working at Mojo's, my boss busted out a Greek orzo salad recipe for catered events. I'm not always a big pasta salad girl, but this orzo salad changed my mind. I didn't have the recipe from Mojo's, but found one similar to it on Joy the Baker's website. So next time you have to go to a potluck, that is what you are bringing.

This. This for supper. And for lunch leftovers. And for supper again. I love this mac and cheese recipe from Annie's eat. Next time, I am going to use the sharpest cheddar I can find.

I finally did it. I made pretzel buns! My co-worker, Diana, brought in her Food Network magazine to work for all of us to look at and I found this lovely recipe for these buns. They turned out beautifully! I was so proud of our cheeseburger supper last night. (Plus these great oven fries by Annie's Eats). To top it off we had some Mexican Coca-Cola. Yeah friends, I am okay that summer is still hanging out.
Speaking of summer still, look what I got from my garden! Yes. It won't stop. I should really stop talking about it because I know it's going to keep producing unless I pull everything out or the temperature drops below zero. I managed to pick a few more cherry tomatoes as well as a cantaloupe (which may or may not be very good), peppers, and green beans. I'm not actually taking care of my garden at all anymore. This is the ideal situation. I do nothing. It rains once a week. I still get produce. Living the good life.
 For the past several months, I have not been able to get out of bed in time to eat breakfast before work. In order to solve this problem, I just started baking a ton of different things I can take with me and eat at my desk. For the upcoming week, I decided to make Joy the Baker's pumpkin pecan scones with brown butter glaze. Levent gives me such a hard time because I don't often taste things right after I bake them. I save them for later. So I haven't actually tried these yet but they smell amazing and the glaze is killer. I have no doubt in my mind that they won't be delicious tomorrow morning.

Okay. Time for some coffee.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Summer Bucket List Recap

It's September 21st. If I haven't done the things on my 2014 Summer Bucket List now I probably am not going to do them.

That's fine. My mind is already moving forward anyway.

Weather, let me know when I can start making my own pumpkin spiced syrup for my coffee okay? (I have a recipe waiting in the wings, which will hopefully be good enough to share on this blog).

So bucket list, how did we do?

1. Grow the healthiest batch of tomatoes: Well, that's a tricky one. Generally speaking I actually had a fairly good crop of tomatoes if you think quantity and not quality. I am very pleased with what I canned and made into pizza sauce. However, my tomatoes were far from healthy this summer as they were plagued with fungus and who knows what else. But I did learn a lot about gardening this summer. So I still feel very accomplished about this goal.

2. Try a new eggplant recipe. Oh man. This is another tricky one. I did try a new eggplant recipe from my Smitten Kitchen recipe book called "Eggplant and Three Chesse Calzone" Yeah, it was okay. I'm probably not going to make it again unless my garden ever decides to rain eggplants down on me like a plague. But the reason I say this one was tricky is because my eggplants also did terrible this year as did my peppers. Even though it was hot, we kept having cool off moments, which I loved but my heat-loving plants did not and thus barely produced anything. The only thing that really did good in my garden this year was my onions and my cantaloupe. At least I had that.

3. Find a delicious new popsicle recipe: Yeah, I definitely didn't do this. I had one pinned forever but never made it a priority. Maybe next time.

4. Make homemade ice cream with Levent: Yep. Check. But only one batch, which feels a little sad. It's just so much easier to buy ice cream on sale. We did, however, make cookie and cream ice cream back in June. Yum.
5. Make Lemonade from scratch: When I wrote this, I was thinking just regular lemonade and then I discovered, thanks to Joy the Baker of course, that there are a ton of different ways you can make lemonade, such as beet lemonade, blueberry and mint lemonade and peach cardamom lemonade.
Making lemonade might just be on the summer bucket lists indefinitely.  
6. Experiment with mojito Recipes: Well, we did this but only one time. For my birthday we made pineapple mojitos. I also had a lemon mojito this summer, but I did not make it myself. Just like lemonade, I never realize there could be so many fruity varieties.
7. Go to the McPherson water park with Levent more than once: Yep. We did this exactly twice.

8. Hang up twinkle lights outside and actually sit underneath them one evening: Well, my dad and Levent did this.  When my family was here we did sit underneath the lights and had our 4th feast together. Jill came over one evening too, which maybe counts more than that first time because it was actually dark outside. They are still up and I hope that I can actually get my butt outside some evenings to enjoy them.
9. Go to Costa Rica and not freak out: Yep. I went. Did I freak out? Yeah a little, but more so before the trip then actually doing the trip. It was a lovely trip mostly because I got to hang out with Jilly and Lucas.
10. Figure out how to make my home a comfortable place to be: Check. Thanks to the help of my parents, sister and Levent, my little house is put together and a comfortable place to hang out. I love living here. I am sitting in my writing corner right now.

11. Watch a lot of world Cup games: YEP! I love me some world cup.

All and all, I did a pretty good job on my list. I would make a fall one but I know it would only involved using pumpkin in the kitchen.

Cheers to you summer 2014. Thank you for your sunshine and your spirit.


What's making me happy this week

Okay Pinterest. Hold your horses. Despite what Starbucks might tell you, fall is not here, well, at least not in Kansas.

I did mentioned in a previous post that we were stuck in the grey area between summer and fall because it was being both and neither at the same time. Well, this weekend, Kansas decided to go back to being summer. 90 degree weather. Pass. No wonder the only things growing in my spinach bed are weird vines and bermuda grass.

How many blog post can I write about longing for the next season? Not enough. That's the answer.

Ever since I started doing more gardening, my love of fall/winter has grown. Don't get me wrong. I still hate being cold but it seems that only in cold weather can I ever convince my weekend self to cozy up on the couch and lose myself in my book for hours. That's how I really want to spend my Sunday afternoons. (But since the weather is warm today I spent it making quiche/dumping some of the raw batter on to my carpeted kitchen floor. cool).

Oh well. It'll be here soon.

In the meantime, I will focus on the things that are making me happy this week.

1. The Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast: I listen to a lot of podcasts in the summer, thanks to road trips, piles of dishes by the sink and hours spent bent over in the garden pulling weeds. Eventually, my usual stockpile of subscriptions does not keep up with my demand for them. Thus I go hunting for more. This summer I started listening to Pop Culture Happy Hour. It took me several weeks before I decided I liked it, especially since I thought (and still do think) it's just a bunch of pretension people sitting around, finding new ways to sneak the word "sensibility" into sentences. However, it has grown on me and I now I find myself looking forward to the latest episode hitting my iTunes on Friday. I usually listen to it when I am cleaning or making something in the kitchen. This week was no different….

2. Double chocolate chip cookies: I go through food phases - like binge-worthy food phases. Often that manifests itself by only eating the same thing for breakfast for weeks and then never wanting to eat it again. However, my latest craze is to always have cookies in the freezer. Levent and I just finished off Joy the Baker's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Pecan cookies (minus the pecans simply because I didn't have them on hand). So it was time for a new one. These double chocolate chip cookies did not disappoint. I know. I fan girl hard over Joy the Baker's stuff. But seriously, her blog is always so consistent. You should probably be "fan-girling" her yourself.

3. The Internet: More specially funny lists people put out on the internet. (I could spend hours going down the rabbit hole on BuzzFeed). This specific list (though not BuzzFeed) is a spoof of comments found on recipe blogs. Hilarious. Also very true. As a rule of thumb, I try and not be this person. My rule now is that I will not make a recipe from a food blog unless I can find at least one comment from someone who actually tried the recipe (didn't change it) and loved it. Surprisingly, this narrows things down really quickly (and has helped me clean up my pinterest boards significantly). I also now try to be the person who gives quick feedback on recipes I've tried, whether I liked it or not.

4. TV shows that stream online: Levent and I spent most evenings relaxing on the couch while streaming something on the internet. (Hey we live in rural Kansas, what else is there to do)? We often end up watching comedies together, especially since I like watching "light" tv and not dark. Occasionally we will watch a drama together (like when we watched Breaking Bad) but mostly we stick to comedies. Thanks to Netflix, we can avoid the TV-schedule programing altogether. We just finished watching The IT Crowd. I had my doubts at first since I don't always get British humor, but I loved it and feel a little sad it's over.
Levent and I have also been watching this crazy/amazing (craz-amazing) show called Orphan Black from BBC America. OH MY WORD. Someone else watch it please so I can talk to you about it! I've been looking for a show (well, a drama) that I would like as much as I liked Breaking Bad and this is it.
5. Budgeting: What? Seriously? Yeah, I know. It sounds awful (and it's not necessarily making me happy) but it's been really good for me this week. My car needs some work and I need to order contacts and so BAM! It feels like I need to give all of my money away. Right now. FREAKING OUT MOMENT.

That's how I have been functioning. But my financial guy at Everence helped me set up a monthly budget worksheet, which I fill out here and there, but nothing consistent. This weekend, I finally sat down and filled it out so I knew exactly where I am. It's amazing how seeing real numbers and percentages actually makes me so much more rational about money. (and that yeah, maybe I should make coffee today instead of going to the Perk). It's not the best having to fork over a ton of money to doctors and mechanics but that's being an adult I guess. And my head is safely above water. I just need to remind myself to fill out my budget worksheet every month. (I'm also going to an Everence Lunch this week called "Investing in your future." I feel better when I am well informed. So hopefully this lunch seminar helps with that).

And that's what is making me happy (and rational) this week.