Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I still don't think I believe it.

My friends Cari and JJ have been watching Simon Cowell's latest singing contest show, The X Factor.  Because I spend so much time at their house, I inevitably caught some clips of the performers.  I had all the typical reactions: he's amazing, they're annoying, she's another Mariah Carey wannabe, blah blah blah.  But then I saw this guy:


I can't even pay attention to his voice, because I'm too busy being shocked by the fact that he is sixty years old.  60.  WHAAAAAAT?  How is that possible?  Is there really such thing as a fountain of youth?  What is his secret???  He says that if he reaches 100,000 twitter followers that he'll post his birth certificate as proof.  But even then, I don't know that I could really believe it--I mean look at this guy:




I mean, 60.  Seriously??

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Morning After

The day after Thanksgiving is almost as wonderful as Thanksgiving itself, cause you get to guiltlessly lie around and eat delicious food without having to cook anything!  It's already 12:30 here and Matt's still sleeping--neither of us have a thing to do until this evening.  Which is blissful.

We had a ridiculous spread yesterday.  My Filipina roommate's family came over with all kinds of Filipino food in tow (none of which I ate since it was all meat stuff, but which looked incredible nonetheless), and I cooked my tail off (making traditional Thanksgiving fare).  I made macaroni & cheese, greens, stuffing, vegetarian gravy, squash casserole, and sweet potato casserole.  Seriously, look at this:



I couldn't even get it all in one picture--you can't see my cranberry sauce! :)

I miss my family in Georgia a lot at Thanksgiving, but we had a quick skype session yesterday so I got to see all their faces. :)  And it's just one short month till Christmas, when we'll all be together!

Today, I'm focusing on leftovers & avoiding anything Black Friday related.  Mobs of crazed shoppers give me anxiety.  In fact, I think I'm going to have a piece of apple pie & crawl right back into bed.  Happy holidays!

(link up with Meghan, et al!)

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Sister, the TV Star

This is my sister, Kate, and my brother-in-law, Andy:



And this is Kate and Andy with their giant dog, Leon:


Tonight, they're gonna be on House Hunters, and it's gonna be awesome.  Their episode airs at 10 pm Eastern time . . . not sure what time it's coming on in California, which is why I'm recording all episodes until I get to see this one:


HAHAHAHA!  Kate and Andy are already pretty disgruntled that they're being described as difficult "Atlanta hipsters," but I for one cannot WAIT to see this shit on national tv.

Set your DVRs, folks!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tell me about your Thanksgiving plans

What are you doing for Thanksgiving??

Source: etsy.com via Nico on Pinterest


I always have Thanksgiving at my house (probably because I become an obnoxious control freak around the second week of November as people start talking about what to cook for Thanksgiving).  Maybe it's cause I'm so far away from my family in Georgia, so I want to replicate everything I grew up with . . . but I get on my high horse when it comes to Thanksgiving dishes!

I'm responsible for:
stuffing
macaroni & cheese
squash casserole
cranberry sauce
greens

and possibly sweet potato casserole since I like it just like my Nana's. She makes it with sweet potatoes, butter, and crumbled pecans/brown sugar on top . . . which means I look down my nose at a sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows.  Ha.

My roommate Jen is making the green bean casserole, and we're figuring out the rest (Jen's brother is a great cook, and Matt's willing to make whatever is delegated to him).  


What are your Thanksgiving traditions?  Essential dishes?

Happy Friday. :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thankful for the Blogoverse

Meghan & co. are spending two weeks blogging about thankfulness (here are their specific topics).  Today's is Why-I'm-Thankful-for-the-Blogoverse, and I knew I had to post, because Lord knows it's given me much to be thankful for.

Since I started blogging nearly two years ago, I've been lucky enough to meet several lovely bloggers in person, some of whom are now among my closest friends:

in New York with Summer

with Marianne, Jessie, and Micaela in Napa

at lunch in Berkeley with Leeann

at Folie a Deux/Napa Cellars in Rutherford with Shelly

in Atlanta with Katie

**plus, I ran into Camilla at yoga once :)

Had someone told me that this would happen--that I'd come to cherish friendships with people I'd originally met "on the internet"--I would have surely scoffed.  Maybe it's the changing (increasingly internet-reliant) world, maybe it's a case for open-mindedness . . . but my life is fuller thanks to some of these girls, and I'm thankful.

I'm also grateful for blogging in general.  It's so immediate, like news: we're catching up with people, events, lives--and all in the moment (which is why I'm not into reading bloggers who schedule posts WAY in advance, since it takes away the newness/immediacy).  I've discovered blogs that have introduced me to new ideas & concepts, perspectives, recipes, workouts, companies, and stories.  Thanks to this blogger's advice, for instance, I got a plane ticket for almost $100 cheaper the other day.  See?  My life is constantly enriched by this community.

click here to link up

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rituals

They're so important to me.  Spontaneous as I can be, I'm also a creature of habit, and I'm really attached to rituals.  Here are a few of my favorites:

~stopping at Cumaica (formerly known as Martha & Bros) every morning for my coffee.  The ladies who work there are so nice.  They always shout, "Good morning, Clairita!" when I walk in the door, and they have my large coffee waiting for me by the time I get to the register.

p.s. do y'all know about Stampt?  It's a free "loyalty card" iPhone app.  I love it!  It detects all the businesses around you that use Stampt, and basically, it keeps all those buy-10-get-one-free cards on your iPhone.  I've already gotten a few free coffees since Cumaica uses it!  




~stretching.  I do it all the time.  Feels so good.  Butterfly (hip) stretches are my fave.

~Tuesday night Sons of Anarchy-watchin' with my roommate.

our living room tonight. excuse the strange black thing in the top left.

We look forward to it all week.  I almost cried 2x in tonight's extra-long episode.  Kurt Sutter is a genius.  I don't know anyone who has started watching this show and not gotten hooked--it's that brilliant.

Tell me about some of your rituals!

Also, sweet Christianna featured me in her Any Friend of Mine blog post Monday--check it out here!  And then check out Matt's cute post.  See why I like him?  . . . Kinda?  ha!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wintry Experiments in the Kitchen

I normally prefer to cook in my own kitchen (I know where everything is, which tools I'll need, how hot my oven runs, etc.), but I have an exception: I love cooking at Matt's, because his roommate Molly has WAY BETTER KITCHEN STUFF than me!  I suffer from a serious case of knife envy, and she's got every gadget & contraption you could dream up.  So yesterday, I set out to make butternut squash soup & kale salad.

As much as I love butternut squash, I had never attempted this kind of soup before!  I looked up several recipes and sorta blended them together with my own little touches, and at the risk of sounding all kinds of arrogant, it was so good!




Ingredients:
2 ribs celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
a few cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium potato, cubed small
1 tsp thyme
salt & pepper
1/3 stick butter
veggie bouillon (I used two Knorr cubes, plus some of Molly's homemade stock!)
1 large butternet squash (halved, seeded, & roasted)

Directions:
~preheat oven to 400.  Roast the halved & seeded butternut squash face down in a baking dish (I sprayed Pam on the dish below the squash so it wouldn't stick).  Remove when soft & brownish.
~heat butter in your soup pot (I used Molly's Le Creuset Dutch Oven), and saute chopped onion, celery, garlic, and potato.
~peel and cube roasted butternut squash; add to pot.
~after all the veggies cook for a while, add enough veggie stock to cover them.  I used Molly's homemade stock, and then added 2 Knorr cubes for extra flavor.
~cook until everything is well blended together, add salt, pepper, and ~1 teaspoon thyme.
~blend soup with a hand blender (I love these magical wands!), or if you don't have one, put soup into a blender and mix mix mix.

Seriously, it was DELISH.  And the perfect compliment was Rutherford Grill's kale salad that I attempted to emulate:


I can't tell you exactly what I did on this one, cause it was one big experiment.  But here's my best shot:

Ingredients--Salad:
raw green kale, finely chopped (kinda like longish strips)
raw cabbage, finely chopped
green onion, chopped
mint
parsley
diced (teeny!) jalapeno
S&P
chopped peanuts

Ingredients--Dressing:
peanut oil
rice vinegar
brown sugar
peanut butter
garlic (chopped)
S&P
chili flakes
chopped peanuts

With the dressing, I basically just kept adding & whisking until it tasted right.  It wasn't exactly like Rutherford Grill's, but it was pretty dang close!  I'm excited to make it again, although admittedly, it was EXTREMELY LABOR INTENSIVE with all that chopping!

My Saints won yesterday in a highly stressful overtime against the Falcons, so it was an especially good day. :)  What did y'all do this weekend?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

All I can think about is Free People

and for once I'm not talking about prisoners. ;)

It's precisely when my bank account is at its most dismal that I begin fantasizing about all the clothes and shoes I desire.  Which is what led me to the Free People site a few days ago, where I proceeded to gaze, gawk, and gasp over all the beautiful things.  Check it:


(why hello, New Years Eve dress of my dreams)



(I'd even wear coral for this top)



It's like a boho-Gypsy-semi-homeless-shimmery dreamworld.  Which is why, when I was at Marshalls yesterday, and I stumbled upon a single Free People dress on clearance (and in a medium), I had to buy it:

It's loose & drapey and oh so pretty with a cardigan & booties

And now I must direct you to the Free People homepage, where you'll need to wait patiently for about two seconds until the pug walks onscreen.  Proceed to watch the pug throughout the day, as my sister and I did upon discovery.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Get Yourself a Christmas Ornament!

I've been meaning to blog about this for the past week, but better late than never:

If you are anywhere near as into Christmas (and all things Christmasy) as I am, then enter my darling friend Micaela's ornament swap, PRONTO!  There are only two more days to enter, so hurry. :)  She will pair you with a partner, and you will exchange ornaments in time to hang them on your tree.  Last year, I got two gorgeous Anthropologie ornaments from Lauren and I can't wait to hang them again this year.


Sign up here!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Meeting the Parents. And Kale Salad.

This weekend, I took a lil drive up this direction:


cause my dad & his colleagues were in town for the annual culinary conference at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena.  They had a sweet house right off St. Helena Highway, aka my favorite stretch of the wine country (home of Cakebread, Sequoia Grove, Peju, Coppola, and three of the best restaurants in Napa).  


I was apparently too busy to take many pictures all weekend, but it was fun!  I had Matt, my roommate Jen, and her brother RJ in tow, which meant it was time for Matt to meet the parents.  Well, parent.  All four of us worked on Friday (Jen, RJ, and I in San Francisco, and Matt up in the north country), so we headed up individually after work.  Matt was a very brave soul and, knowing he'd arrive at the Napa house a couple hours before I did, drove straight from work, meaning that he met my dad without me (!!) and cooked with him for a couple hours before I arrived.  Pretty bold, right?  Good thing my dad's just about the least intimidating guy in the world.  When I arrived around 6 pm, Matt and Daddy had a delicious vegetarian pozole waiting for me--who knew Mexican meat soup could be made with veggies only?

On Saturday, Matt, Jen, RJ, and I went to my favorite Napa restaurant, Rutherford Grill, and it was totally worth the hour long wait (as usual):



They all loved it as much as I do (although I'm hesitant to believe that anyone's meal was as good as my house-made veggie burger).  Most importantly, Rutherford Grill offers one of the best dishes I've ever had at any restaurant: kale salad.  It's so good, in fact, that I ordered an extra one to go so I could bring it home to my dad & his colleagues so they could deconstruct/recreate it!


I'll post a recipe after some trial and error, but this is what we've figured out: (raw) kale, cabbage, green onion, mint, parsley, finely chopped jalapeno.  And for the vinaigrette: peanut oil, rice vinegar, sugar, crushed peanuts, black pepper.  I'm gonna do some experimentation and will report back!

Hope everyone's week is off to a good start.  It's cheery round these parts, cause we have Friday off for Veterans' Day!

*Matt blogged about our weekend here.  Check it out, please. :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mua and the Birthday Girl

My dear roommate Jen turned 28 this past week (lucky youngster!), so on Saturday night we hailed a cab and headed to Mua in Oakland to celebrate.  Mua was in full festive Halloween glory!  Sadly, I wasn't.  But it was fun to see everyone else's costumes!

*as I'm still exploring (& trying to understand) Instagram, I'm experimenting by using all different lenses in the pictures below.  Any tips?  I remain opposed to the lenses that just make pictures look blurry.

the birthday girl & me

Jen started out with the goal of dressing up like a "hipster," but her efforts resulted in some sort of hilarious hybrid of various subcultures, haha.  

Skeleto-Michael & RJ (bro of the bday girl)

an uncostumed Matt & Claire

The food was good!  I was torn between the grilled cheese & tomato soup and what I eventually decided on . . . butternut squash "mac & cheese."  No cheese!  Just butternut squash.  And delish!

coulda fooled me . . .

Matt, however, went a different route and ordered the bone marrow:

I'll just focus on the presentation of this dish
& ignore the face that it's bone marrow

I hadn't been to Mua in a couple years, but Saturday night was a reminder to go more often.  It's got such a fun ambience (avant garde art on the walls, hip DJ), really great cocktails (I went with a basil/lemon concoction . . . a few too many times), a loungey area upstairs, and a versatile menu.  

Happy birthday, Jenwoww!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Night Perfection

Thanks to an ongoing struggle between "the northern Mexicans and the whites" (straight from the mouth of a guard) at San Quentin, my class was once again canceled last night.  Although I was disappointed since I haven't been able to teach in three weeks because of this . . . predicament, I was happy to hop in my car after work, stop at Walgreens to buy an unnecessary amount of Halloween candy (we never get trick-or-treaters), and head home to my roomie for a scary movie fest.

Jen rented B.T.K (Bind Torture Kill), based on this real serial killer.  It's a creepy ass story (and the actor really does look like Dennis Rader), but the movie was LAME-O.  Not remotely scary to me or my roommate (and she's more easily-scared than I am).

Next, we started Case 39, which promised to be scary except that I fell asleep 30 minutes in.  This is what our evening looked like (plus a huge bowl of Halloween candy):

spider goblets & scary movies

Though I think the highlight of my day was receiving a picture from my stepmom of Ignatius in the Halloween costume I sent him:

Inmate Ignatius

HA!!!  How was your Halloween?

p.s. speaking of inmates, did you see my jack-o-lantern?