Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Kitchen Adventures; Halloween Sugar Cookies

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this.

Before Saturday, I had never made sugar cookies by myself.

We'd made them growing up, but it was always my mom or one of my aunts making them. I just showed up for the decorations.

I've been seeing adorable Halloween themed cookies all over the web lately, so I decided for Halloween weekend, cookies were in order.

I decided that Alton Brown's recipe was the best way to go. Oh, how right I was.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I've had a blog for a long time. Since they days of livejournal, I've been posting random whatsits on the interwebs, but I just recently started exploring the blogging community and making friends.

I'm pretty excited about that. I've gotten in contact with some truly amazing and inspiring bloggers. So, I've decided to start button swapping (for freeeeee).

Christie over at bedsidesign made me this lovely button to match my blog. She's super sweet and I'm so thankful that she offered to do this for me!

Hopefully soon I'll be able to add some more button options so, if you want to swap, you'll have your choice.

If you think you might be interested, email me at calyssajean (at) gmail (dot) com or leave me a comment!

In the meantime,  I'm just going to grab some buttons from blogs that have been inspiring me lately. Check them out. Seriously. They're pretty great.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Kitchen Adventures; Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi

I've been looking for an excuse to cook with pumpkin. Since Halloween is basically happening all around us (all grown up celebrations were this Saturday and all the kiddos will be out on Wednesday), I may or may not have been lazily scouring the net when I found a recipe for Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi.

I don't know if I've mentioned this yet, but I lost my keys. They're somewhere in the house, but I have no clue where. That means I've been using spares for over a week. It also means that I don't have a key to the office right now. So on Friday, when I got to work before everyone else and couldn't get in, I decided to make a quick run to the nearest grocery store for some not-so-essentials. I came back to work with half gallon of milk, 4 miniature pumpkins, 5 bananas, a pack of Starbucks Via that was 50% off, and a tub of ricotta. 

I totally bought the ricotta specifically so I could make this recipe. I never just buy ricotta to buy ricotta. I always have something in mind.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Oh, hey there, Saturday; #7

We have entered the modern age! We now have fast enough internet that both Tim and I can be on the internet at the same time and it doesn't impact our browsing speed! It felt like it took forever to set it up, but it's finally working. I have 6 tabs open, Tim's playing Modern Warfare and it's awesome.

It's Halloween weekend! We don't get any trick-or-treaters at our house (we're hidden in the back of a condo complex), but I like to get a little festive anyway. We just bought a few pumpkins - which I'm thinking about painting - and put them out on the patio. We also stocked up on fun-size candy, like these teeny tiny bags of teeny tiny gummi bears. You should have seen me at the store when we found them. I may have squealed.

Last night when I got home from work, I swept up the patio. The Santa Anas have been coming through town, so all the tree scraps from the entire neighborhood were on our patio. I should have taken a picture of the pile. It was too big for our giant broom. I heart having a nice clean patio. It's so much more relaxing.

Yesterday was also a big day for Alyssa's wardrobe. My pants from Old Navy came. They are too small :( So, I'm planning a trip out to exchange them today. I did buy myself two new shirts, which I later realized are very similar in color scheme. At least they're not black. Baby steps.

Today is a big cooking/baking day for me! I've got sour dough rising (when do I not?), all the ingredients for pumpkin gnocchi, and a recipe for sugar cookies. All I need are a couple Halloween cookie cutters and maybe some more parchment for pastry bags.

Happy Saturday, all!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wake Up

On a typical morning, I let myself sleep as long as possible. To get to work at 9, I can get up as late as 8 with some fancy footwork and a little rushing around, and still make it. I grab some toast, pour some coffee in a travel mug, and take my breakfast on the road.

And that's fine. It works. 

But you know what's better? Getting up a half hour earlier. 

If I am out of bed around 7:30 instead, I can relax. The house is quiet (except for the dog, who cries by the door if she really has to go out). That extra half hour takes my mornings from rushed to down right leisurely.

You are thinking that is silly. I am dedicating an entire post to waking up a little earlier so I can have a leisurely morning.

Too bad for you if you think that.

The other morning I had a thought. I've thought it before, so I don't know if I can call it an epiphany. As I sat at the kitchen table with my coffee and toast (or eggs or pie or apple bread) - instead of in the car - I thought, "This is really nice. I should make this a thing."

And so I am.

I'm still not very far into The Happiness Project - page 25 now, I think - but she's just finished talking about energy, and how if you are feeling more energetic you are happier. I think those 5 to 10 minutes of peace at the kitchen table while I sip my coffee and talk to the pup help me greet the day with a more positive outlook. I'm more likely to pull over on my drive to work and take a minute to look at something beautiful.

I did that today. I stopped my car to get out and look at the ocean and the mountains.

There is so rarely a moment when my life is not buzzing -from the TV to the phone, air conditioning unit, clients, dogs, garbage trucks, whatever. None of those things are happening during those few minutes.

So, I finish my coffee and apple bread. The paper towel and travel mug do not end up in my car only to be removed at an undetermined time.

And I walk out the front door refreshed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pants! Wardrobe Revamp; Fall 2012

Last week I was listening to Joy the Baker & Tracey Shutterbean's podcast on Homefries and I had a revelation. One of their listeners wrote in to ask for style suggestions.

Ok, so, its fall now. (not my revelation) It's time to wear pants. I've been living in Bermuda shorts and sundresses for the last 4ish months. It's been awesome.

Now that its been getting cooler, I've ventured into my closet a few times to find a good pair of jeans and been dismayed to find all of my jeans are old and out of fashion... like, whoa.

It made me kind of sad. So, I decided to buy some new pants...

and I may or may not have gone a little crazy with it.

Not to very long ago I decided to invest in some fun pants, so I bought myself these red ones ...

This was pre JtB podcast revelation.

Post revelation, I am more invested a total wardrobe revamp.



Monday, October 22, 2012

Yogi Happy

I thought about this for a while.

I want to talk about happiness. I want to talk about my journey to happiness, but first I need to talk about every day and why seeking happiness is important.

A while back I went to the info session for my yoga teacher training, and I had a brief connection with the woman next to me over one thing in particular; we took solace in yoga. It was a place we could go to escape.

Why would I need to escape?  Because life is stressful, man, and sometimes you just need to breathe.

I have my share of issues. I constantly question my goals, my intelligence, my self-worth. Some days I just feel like I can't do anything right; I'm incapable or lazy. These are issues I need to work out, but I believe that by focusing my energies elsewhere - staying positive, if you will - I can "forget" these things.

Not. Easy.

I have found, though, I have a place where I don't think about any of it. I exist only in the moment, following my breath through the moving meditation to calmness of mind.

I'm serious. Sometimes just thinking about being in that mental state brings me peace.

I'm not thinking about my successes or failures, how much I wish my husband would pick up after himself more often, or how nice it would be if the house was not covered in dog hair. I am focused on the present. I am listening to the sound of my own breath and feeling it energize me as I move into the next posture.  I am present and dispassionate. In a pseudo-Des-Cartian sense, I simply am.

Last night I picked up The Happiness Project again. It was a gift from my sister over 2 years ago. I don't know if she bought it for me because she just thought it looked neat, or if I looked unhappy and I didn't realize, but thanks to Alyssa, I picked it back up again. I am back on page six (reading in bed means I usually end up falling asleep after only a few pages)

What I’ve taken from the first few pages is only that I seek more happiness and that my journey will need to be my own. So, my first step is an attempt to bring my consciousness to the present – to be in the moment as much as possible, and not to wander or worry or get lost in my emotions.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Oh, hey there, Saturday; #6

I observed my first yoga class this morning. Robin is such a good teacher. I learned so much just by watching her and her assistant move around the room and adjust and teach. It was beautiful. I took way more notes than I needed to, but I am excited to continue to observe. Soon I'll get to assist and teach!

I brought my scents home with me again. Now my house smells like peppermint, sweet orange, and cedar.

I'm seriously considering joining a Be Happy linkup. It seems really great. Just dedicating one day every week to focusing on happiness. Nothing wrong with that. :)

I'm convinced Panda likes the weekends more than we do. She is so happy we have so much time to spend with her. She just follows us around the house and brings us toys. A lot of weekends we'll take her to the park, but today we just went on a mini walk around the neighborhood. I was really taking in our little community. We're off a really big street, but you never think if it just walking around. It always feels private and secluded.

I love this weather. I love the smell and the clouds and the fact that its 2 o'clock in the afternoon and you can barely see the sun.

I am going to bust of the bread machine here in a minute. Whole wheat nut bread, I think.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Solo Travel Weekend; Florida, Friends, & Fancy

That's right, I'm wearing a minimum of seven glow sticks (that you can see). I also have 3 or 4 bracelets on the other wrist and, for a good part of the night, I was wearing a necklace.

I told you I went to Florida all by my lonesome the first week of October.

More pictures have been surfacing, and I just thought I would share some of my favorites.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

30 X 30

So, this is a thing people do - people in their mid to late 20's. They make lists. I like lists. I do. I make tons of lists. I write them anywhere and everywhere... and then I lose them.

The theory is that if I put this on the interwebs, I won't lose it.

This is my list of 30 things I'd like to do before I turn 30. I have until July 2014. Should be plenty of time, right?

1.    Clean out and reorganize the garage (5/26-5/27/2013)

2.    Redo the master bedroom & bath (Repainted 11/9-11/10/13), Bathroom scheduled to be done before yoga baby arrives in December. 

3.    Run a 1/2 marathon (registered 3/27/13, run on 9/8/13)

4.    Get paid to teach yoga (completed 2/21/13) 

5.    Meditate (at least once if I can't make it a regular thing) (Began 3/11/13)

6.    Buy a new car (completed 12/29/12)

7.    Try (at least) one new recipe every month (October 2012November 2012 , December 2012January 2013February 2013March 2013April 2013May 2013, June 2013, July 2013August 2013, September 2013, October 2013November 2013December 2013January 2014, February 2014, March 2014April 2014May 2014June 2014July 2014You can probably see I ended up missing a few months, but I like this goal in general. I've loved trying new things in the kitchen at least once a month. Even when I'm busy, I can usually get in at least one new recipe. :)

8.    Run a cumulative 30 miles (goal changed to 100 miles) (COMPLETED! 102 miles run as of 8/26/13, progress report 2/13/132nd progress report 7/23/13, Want to know how many miles I've run to date?) I updated my goal to 300 miles in April, when I was at about 250. I thought I'd be able to keep my energy up and run regularly throughout my pregnancy, but running is my least favorite form of exercise right now. So, I ended up short at 272. I'll do a big celebratory post whenever I manage to complete my 300. Then next year I'll be training for a marathon, so more running posts to come!

9.    See the Golden Gate Bridge in person (Trip mentally planned as of 3/10/14) (Done 7/26/14) 

10.  Go to the Strawberry Festival in Oxnard (Done 5/16/14)

11.  Tackle the "pants to be fixed" pile (Completed 1/12/13)

12.  Get into headstand away from the wall without a spotter (completed 1/6/13)

13.  Go on a Girl's Weekend (I visited my sister in Portland in June 2013, does that count?)

14.   Be a tourist in LA (1. Day at the Getty & Santa Monica) I had plans to do so much more!

15.   Tile the fireplace - I didn't get to do this. Another project that will probably have to wait until after the baby is born. 

16.   Do a juice cleanse (completed 11/28/12)

17.   Go on (at least) 2 romantic weekend getaways with hubs. (Catalina - April 26-28, 2013) (Las Vegas - August 9-11, 2013)

18.   One international vacation, preferably more adventurous than Mexico or Canada - Last International Vacay we had was to Bergamo with my family. It was amazing, but it was before I made this list, so it doesn't really count. 

19.   Reupholster the kitchen chairs (completed 1/5/14)

20.   Finish reading To Kill A MockingbirdDead Reckoning, and The Elephant's Journey  - I did read Dead Reckoning. I did not read The Elephant's Journey (I started it and three pages in I was still reading one sentence, so I put it back down), and I still have not finished To Kill A Mockingbird.

21.   Dye my hair darker for fall/winter (Late August totally counts, right? Then I did it again in December)

22.   Harvest zucchini from my garden (Completed 7/25/14) It's only one, and its pretty tiny, but there are a bunch more on the plant just screaming at me to wait until they're ripe.

23.   Do 5 pull-ups unassisted - I can do one pull-up, which is more than I could say when I made this list.

24.   Go skiing again - I haven't been in over a decade. - This didn't happen. I didn't even get a chance to go to the snow. 

25.   See the Giants play at Dodger Stadium might have to compromise and see them play at AT&T park (On my birthday, 7/27/14) In April I bought tickets to see them play at AT&T Park on my birthday in July.

26.   Complete P90X and P90X2 in succession. (As of March 12, there are 137 days until I turn 30. I could start now and get as far as I can by my birthday? Then finish the last 43 days as a 30 year old. I'm cool with that)... I did P90X. I got pregnant at pretty much the same time I started X, so I completed it, but with serious modifications and skipping some moves. I will be giving it another go after the baby's born. I decided not to do X2 right now, since it's almost entirely core work and a lot on the floor. 

27.   Get CPR certification (completed 7/27/13)

28.   Make tabouli and stuffed grape leaves by myself. (Completed 6/27/14)

29.   Go on a yoga retreat - Didn't happen. 

30.   Get a popover pan and make popovers(Part one accomplished on 4/6/13) (Part 2 accomplished 3/30/14)

As I complete these I'll cross them off, add the date, and post about my experiences. Some of them won't be complete until right before my 30th birthday (like the new recipes), but I really feel like these are completely achievable.

Hooray for goals! I'll let you know how it goes. :)

Do you have a 30 by 30 list? What has your experience been? How are you doing so far?

EDIT 3/30/14: For the summer of 2014, I put together a list of fun things I want to do before the end of summer. Since my 30th birthday is near the end of the summer, I thought I would tack this list on here too - since I'll be doing most of them before I turn 30. ;)

2014 Summer Fun Checklist

Monday, October 15, 2012

Kitchen Adventures; Pecan Apple Spice Bread

This is one of those wonderful and rare occasions when baking and yoga combine.

Saturday morning I got up early for aromatherapy yoga. I'd never done it before. Time to try something new.

It was a little bit magical - not overwhelmingly so, just a little bit.

Our instructor was inspired by the change of weather we've had this week, so she decided to work in some really beautiful fall fragrances into our yoga - cinnamon, anise, chamomile, and rosemary.

The moment she put the cinnamon down on my mat, I knew I needed to bake something when I got home. I knew it had to be with cinnamon. And I knew I had a ton of apples that weren't getting eaten.

After searching the web and some of my favorite go-to cookbooks for an awesome apple spice bread recipe, I came up empty handed.

I found a few on the web, but I they weren't exactly what I was looking for, so I improvised. I made my own.


Yep, I made up a recipe. I feel like the king of the world.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Oh, hey there, Saturday; 10/13/12

I was at work until 9pm on Thursday. I'm pretty sure it took me all day yesterday to recover.

Today I am feeling awesome... even though its almost 3pm and I'm still in my yoga clothes.

This morning I took aromatherapy yoga. So many delicious smells. I was even able to take them with me and now my car smells like cinnamon and licorice.

The smell of cinnamon and the plethora of apples in the fridge made me want to make apple spice bread. I couldn't find a recipe I liked, so I made one up. So pleased with myself.

I've been walking around the house in my Acorn slippers today BECAUSE ITS COLD! (ish) I'm so excited to wear my cozy clothes.

Last night I entered some of the yoga classes I plan to take in my calendar. It's so full of yoga! Makes me want to do a little dance.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Rosemary Sourdough. It Happened.

This post will be mostly about pictures because if you saw this, then you know I've been making sourdough bread pretty much every weekend.

If you saw this, then you know I was out of town last weekend and didn't have access to a kitchen.

But if you know me, you know that I have baked that bread anyway... and you probably know that after two months of plain sourdough bread, it was time to spice things up a bit - or "herb" things up, as it were.

Don't judge my language choices.

I love homemade bread. Yeah, depending on what kind you're making, it can take a long time, but it doesn't take much of YOUR time, so while the bread it working, YOU can be doing other things. It's so easy, it tastes SO much better, and you know there is no crazy artificial crap in there because, I don't know about you, but the only preservative in my pantry is salt.

I started this batch of sourdough on Monday night. It was plain ol' sourdough to start, but I had a plan for it.

Do you remember how this works?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kitchen Adventures; Easy Butternut Squash Soup

Monday night Tim and I played tennis and watched our leftover DVR'd Sunday night shows (and some Workaholics we had somehow missed *gasp*)

Tim ran the vacuum and resolved that we should run it every night. (it's a Roomba)

I spent the rest of my free time in the kitchen - making bread (coming soon) and soup. 

Everybody's making pumpkin bread and soup, but I'm not ready for pumpkin. It's just barely starting to feel like fall here. I need to ease into it with some butternut squash. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

On Going Back to the South

Have you been to The South? Do you live in The South?

View from my hotel room at 10am on Saturday 10/6
If you have or you do then you know that its different down there. Life - from the dense stormy air to the chicken fried steak. Deeper breaths to fill your lungs with warm, wet air. Girls in airports dressed in sorority t-shirts and Nike running shorts, and boys in khakis and polos have to be prepared to go golfing on a moments notice. Things that just don't happen other places.

I didn't get it when I first moved to Tuscaloosa in 2006, but I think now - after 2 years there and 4.5 years away - I think, I think now I get it. My country boy husband probably helped. He got it from the beginning.

The first day I visited Alabama, they were having "California weather". The kids I met told me so. A warm day with a soft breeze and the sun shining in a blue blue sky at the end of April.

The A/C wasn't blasting indoors - or if it was, you didn't notice - and you didn't walk around in a tank top with a light jacket in case there was a downpour.

I forgot how to dress in these 4.5 years.

My first day on my own in Tuscaloosa - my parents took an early flight back to LA - I rode my bike two miles to school on a hot sticky day at the end of August. That was when I learned that tight tank tops wouldn't do - and if you're going to ride your bike two miles in mid-August, bring a change of clothes.

Though Jacksonville, Florida is not the same as Tuscaloosa, the reminders of the days of yore got me all nostalgic - Jimmy Johns for lunch on Friday, new friends reminding me of old friends, the way a beautiful day can turn into a storm and then back into a beautiful day within hours, and an afternoon snack of fried green tomatoes.

View from the elevator lobby at 2pm on Saturday 10/6
Though the South can never be the same without the man I took home from there, I had a wonderful time this weekend celebrating with old friends, making new friends, sharing stories, and breathing in the dense humid air.

Thank you, Jacksonville, new friends and old, for reminding me how much the South has to offer.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Oh, hey there, Saturday; 10/6/12

For about an hour, I thought yesterday was Saturday. It was so confusing.

This weekend is bittersweet since my hubby's not here with me, but here we go...

Reasons I'm smiling today:

Thinking about seeing Tim and my baby bear tomorrow.

So excited to celebrate the wedding of these two beautiful people tonight.

Breakfast in bed. So needed.

Being back in the South - even if only for a few days. I love it here.

I managed to get a quick workout in my hotel room this morning. Woot!

That's all for now, folks.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Simple Strawberry Shortcake & Giveaway Winner!

Let's talk really quick about strawberry shortcake.

I grew up eating dense shortbread-style cake covered in fresh strawberries and whipped cream, but I think somewhere along the line someone decided that this was not the way to do it.

They needed light, spongy angel food cake and strawberries soaked in sugary syrup. The first time I saw strawberry shortcake like this I felt betrayed. Were my dense cake and simple fresh berries not good enough?

I think they are. So, I'm taking strawberry shortcake back.

Simple. Fresh. Delicious. You won't be disappointed. I promise.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Oh yeah, I cleaned out my car

The market by our office has the parking lot if death. It's so poorly organized. It turns everyone into a terrible driver. They even have to have a parking attendant to show people where to go some days because traffic is so awful.

My dad semi-recently bought himself a fancy car - fancy fancy pants. He prefers not to take said car anywhere near the parking lot of death. So on days he takes fancy car to work, we take my totally awesome 10-year-old car to get lunch... which means I need to move all the crap in the front seat if my car into the backseat or the trunk - from where they will never return.

This creates a bit of a cycle in my car. Things that go into the backseat or trunk of my car have a tough time leaving. Top it all off with bi-weekly Panda chauffeuring and you've got a dog hair coated mess of junk in my car.

I've been meaning to do something about it for weeks, but this weekend I finally got around to it.

Here's a peak at what the inside of my car looked like on Saturday...

The front seat is where "stuff gets left" - coffee cups that never get returned to the kitchen, bobby pins and hairbands get thrown onto the seats after yoga classes, things I need to drop off at the post office but keep forgetting about, and trash (because I really need to keep a bag in the car for discarded wrappers and such but still haven't gotten around to it)

In my dream world, you can see this better.