#crew and vulnerability

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to be sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

— C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

That is my code. It reminds me that in my marriage, friendships and family relationships that if I want to true, healthy relationship, I have to be honest and open about what’s going on with me. I have to go out on that limb and reveal myself: hopes, dreams and brokenness.

Yes, I will get hurt. I’m in relationship with imperfect people while being an imperfect person. It’s impossible to avoid heartbreak if we want to love and be loved. So I choose to love and be vulnerable with the people in my life, and I’m so thankful I found such a lovely crew who aren’t perfect but are safe and love me back.

20140605-113030.jpg

photo by the talented amy guererri

Walter Mitty and the Every Day

Recently we rented The Secret Life of Walter Movie on iTunes. It is a great movie. It was fun, original, sweet and inspiring. I’ve included the trailer below, but if you haven’t seen it, the movie follows a man named Walter Mitty who processes photographs for Life Magazine. Throughout the beginning we see that he is a very responsible person, diligently marking down every expense in a ledger, taking care of his mother and adult sister, but he consistently gets lost in fantastic daydreams of having adventures. During production of the very last print issue, Walter discovers he is missing the image for the cover. In a desperate attempt to win a girl and jumpstart his life, he takes off on a global trip to hunt down the photographer for the missing negative.

I love these kinds of feel-good adventure movies that remind us to take risks and explore. That is so easy to forget while we are paying mortgages and scheduling dentist appointments, and oh no, we have to clean the gutters this weekend. In fact, while watching the movie, I started getting jealous of Walter’s new life when I realized I have lived an adventurous life already: Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, Brazil, Paris, England, Scotland … however, all of that took place over the span of 28 years, not 2 hours with Of Monsters and Men playing over me.

I think it’s easy, like romantic comedies telling us love should always be explosive giddiness, to get swept up in the idea that life is always supposed to be these grand, whimsical adventures. Adventures are wonderful and important, but we can’t let them overshadow the every day. It’s the every day where we build relationships and our legacy. The every day is where we love people and walk with them. The every day is where our character is built. Adventures can be catalyst for change, sharpening our lenses and changing our course, but the every day is where that change lives or dies.

Let’s not neglect the every day.

make your own mayo

When I was doing the #whole30, I discovered that most store-bought mayonnaise contained soy ingredients or high fructose corn syrup, which booted all these jars of tasty goodness to the “you can’t have that” list. Mayonnaise in theory is on the allowed foods list for #whole30, but you have to read the ingredients because not just any mayonnaise will do. Since mayonnaise is one of my favorite condiments, the safest bet was to just make it myself. This did not come without some lessons.

First, I googled whole 30 friendly mayonnaise recipes, and foolishly tried this “foolproof” make-mayo-in-a-mason-jar recipe. I went wrong by trying to just stick all this in a blender…I think. I bet if I followed the directions exactly it would work. Whatever went wrong, it didn’t work, so I found a recipe the old-fashioned way, in a cookbook. I don’t usually pull out my Williams & Sonoma Bride & Groom cookbook. Most of the recipes are little too high-brow for our tastes, but it’s a great resource for basics like guacamole, salad dressing and mayonnaise.

This mayonnaise is delicious! It’s more mustardy than Hellman’s and other store-brought choices, but I like that about it. Don’t be deterred, however, if you aren’t a fan of mustard. The taste is there but it’s a hint, just enough to give the mayo a punch. John is not a fan of mustard, but he likes this mayo better than others. And after trying the Sriracha mayonnaise in this crab cake recipe, I’m excited to add other ingredients to this mayonnaise to create other dips and dressings. Do you have any suggestions of some I can try?

Basic Mayonnaise from Williams & Sonoma Bride & Groom Cookbook

Continue Reading

six years

tea_sixyears

I am so thankful for six years of marriage to this man.

living for the weekend

I am so excited about this weekend. Memorial Day is one of my favorite holidays. I love what it stands for, honoring fallen heroes. I love the Monday off work. I love that it kicks off summertime and sits at the time of year where I deem the weather to be most perfect. I chose to get married on this weekend because I love it so much.

20140523-092644.jpg

We don’t have grand plans as far as travels go. We’re staying at home, but I love our home so much lately that I’m happy to be here. On Saturday, we’re celebrating 6 years of marriage by spending the day together maybe doing some KC exploring, going to see the new X-Men movie (#nerddate) and out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Gram & Dun.

On Sunday we’ll probably have some friends over for BBQ since John works on Monday. His anniversary gift was a new charcoal grill for all his BBQ experiments. We live in KC, so we figure we should learn. Last weekend’s grand experiment was brisket. This weekend’s is pulled pork.

Since John will be working on Monday, I’ll probably do some house projects like finally paint the trim in the entryway. Maybe if I get up early enough I can get to painting the hallway too. We’ve been taking the house projects slow as not to get overwhelmed financially or mentally, so a lot of the house is still painted in an ugly renter-friendly neutral, and I am ready for it to all be my cool Urban Sunrise from Valspar. I promise at some point to post some before and afters of the inside (and maybe outside) of our home.

Summertime makes me fall in love with our house all over again. I love sitting on our patio with all of our friends with the grill going, so I’m more than happy to be homebodies this weekend. What about you? What are you up to?

20140523-092722.jpg

I’ll be sitting right here, next to this guy.

crab cakes: a seamless summer dinner

Whenever I’m in the need of a recipe, the first place I look is Real Simple‘s website. The number of magazines I read has drastically fallen, but I still subscribe to Real Simple solely for the recipes. I have yet to try one that wasn’t a home run. So when John requested crab cakes this week for dinner, I got online and did a quick search. I found this recipe, which I think is meant to be for tiny appetizer crab cakes than a meal, but we made it work for us with bigger crab cakes and hefty sides of roasted sweet potatoes and asparagus.

I was a little nervous, not because it looked hard (it’s actually really easy), but because there was no Old Bay seasoning in these and they are oven-baked instead of skillet-fried. But Real Simple has yet to fail me, so I followed the instructions.

The recipe says it makes 20 cakes, but I only got 9 larger cakes. My fears of the missing Old Bay were completely unfounded. They were delicious, particularly the Sriracha mayo as a dipping sauce. I am definitely going to have to experiment more with that concept. I don’t even like Sriracha, but just a little added to some Hellman’s really took this meal to the restaurant level. I liked how easy this recipe was to throw together, but next time I will add some non-stick spray to the pan. I forgot and that caused some problems in flipping and removing the cakes. All together, this was a fairly low maintenance meal to make that tasted like it took a lot of work. Also I think crab cakes are one of those dishes that just tastes like summertime (also on that list: bratwurst, tacos, pretty much all seafood).

The sides I paired with this meal were also easy because I could roast everything at the same temperature just for different times. I typically am really bad at timing the different elements of a meal to all be ready together, but this meal came together seamlessly with little stress. 20 minutes for sweet potatoes, 13 for crab cakes flipping after 5,  and 10 minutes for asparagus.

And of course, these were so delicious that I didn’t get a chance to take a picture, but if you really want to know what these look like, click on the links to Real Simple.

Sesame Crab Cakes with Chili Mayo from Real Simple

Continue Reading

oatmeal scotchies

Well it’s been like two or three months since I discovered and simultaneously couldn’t eat oatmeal scotches, and I finally made them on a whim. John was out of town and I was feeling sorry for myself while recovering from mono, and I saw the bag of Trader Joe’s Rolled Oats sitting on the counter and thought, I think there are just enough oats left for cookies. I did a quick scan of the recipe for gluten-free oatmeal cookies on the back of the bag and went to work. I followed the recipe with three minor changes. I used crunchy peanut butter because it’s all I had. I didn’t add the walnuts or sunflower seeds, and I added 6 oz of butterscotch chips on top of the 6 oz of chocolate chips.

tea_scotchies

They are DELICIOUS! Particularly when they come straight from the oven. I was trying to get back on the limited sugar bandwagon and totally ate four of these without even thinking twice. They were definitely worth the wait. Next time I might try them pizookie-style: straight from the oven a la mode. I needed 14 minutes in the oven for bake time, not the recommended 10-12 minutes. That could just be my stoneware or my oven, so of course, play it by ear.

Continue Reading

leading ladies standing up

Major spoilers ahead for Agents of SHIELD and The Mindy Project.

I watch a lot of television. Between Netflix and the current shows I’m into, it’s amounts to a lot of TV time. I love it though just like I love all story-telling media…movies, books and television. Tuesday night is a big night for me and my television because I’ve got Agents of SHIELD followed by New Girl and Mindy Project. I like to watch them live when I can on my antennae, and this week I was looking forward to two hours of TV and cookies because John was out of town, and it was really quiet around the house.

Typically, these three shows are just fun escapism or goofy antics to take your mind off your day. Agents of SHIELD has gotten a lot of flack, not just from critics, but also some of my friends, but I enjoy watching the mystery of Agent Coulson’s resurrection unfold as well as how Marvel is connecting it’s universe through both its movies and new TV show. The Mindy Project I call my guilty pleasure. I love Mindy Kaling’s sense of humor, but it’s not something I tune into to be challenged every week. It’s basically a sitcom romantic comedy gone wrong in real life, and it cracks me up every week. So imagine my surprise when the leading ladies of BOTH these shows completely took a stand for themselves and bad writing everywhere.

Continue Reading

Char and John eat (and drink) in Scotland

Scotland food was a lot like England’s food, but the breakfasts were amazing. Our complimentary breakfasts in our hotel in England were essentially croissants, toast and cold cereal. Our free breakfasts in Scotland were eggs, meat, toast, croissants, fruit, cold cereal and porridge. We did not go hungry.

At Ashtree House Hotel we had eggs and sausage (the best sausage) with toast and coffee (great coffee). At Lambeth Guest House, Margaret offered us several options to order the night before. The smoked salmon scramble was the way to go. I got the smoked salmon scramble, sausage, fried tomatoes, and while we waited for that I munched on toast with jam made from some local berry that tasted like blackberry with cocoa. We also had cold cereal, and John ordered porridge, which he loved (which cracked me up). This was the ridiculously filling breakfast we had before visiting Lagavulin.

In Paisley, we ate dinner at a barbecue restaurant…I am not kidding. They offered all sorts of barbecue inspired by the US, which also cracked me up, as well as burgers and other sandwiches. I was a fool an ordered the burnt ends dinner, a traditionally Kansas City dish, that included coleslaw and fries. If you don’t know, burnt ends typically is made after smoking brisket, chopping off the ends and then smoking them again until they’re really charred and caramelized. It’s delicious. In Scotland, burnt ends was basically chopped up pieces of beef in a South Carolina-style BBQ sauce. It wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t burnt ends. The coleslaw, however, was surprisingly amazing, and the fries were good. We learned on this trip that if you go to an “American” restaurant in Europe, the fries they serve are shoe-string style, whereas chips and frites are thick-cut fries. Both “American” restaurants we visited, I just wanted to get in the kitchen and say “Okay, here’s what we need to do here. What you’re doing is fine, but we can do better.” Don’t worry, I did not follow through on that.

tea_bbq

 

Continue Reading

Char and John visit Bowmore and Bruichladdich

When we arrived back in the town of Bowmore from Lagavulin, we decided to stop by the Bowmore Distillery for a quick look around their tasting room. The distillery is just down the street from where we were staying. When we first started planning our trip, we wanted to stay at one of the distillery’s cottages it offers for vacation rentals, but we were too late. They were all booked up. Next time!

John says Bowmore is a good introductory Scotch whisky, particularly for Islay whiskys, which tend to be smokier, a side effect of all that peat. A bottle isn’t too pricey, but it’s tasty and smoother than Lagavulin, Ardbeg or Port Charlotte. If you are around my husband and you show an interest in learning to drink Scotch whisky, he will sit you down in our living room with a glass of one of this distillery’s whiskys.

Bowmore Distillery’s tasting room and gift shop are beautiful. The tasting room is right on the water looking out over the loch. There is even a patio. Even though by this point in the day it was windy, John enjoyed a taste of Bowmore whisky out there.

tea_bowmorebalcony

While many of the distilleries’ websites say they will give you a sample of one or two of the standard whiskys they sell, we never came across such stinginess at any of the distilleries. Every bartender said “Try whatever you like.” As long as she had it behind the bar, it was fair game.

Our second day on Islay, we headed to Bruichladdich, a large distillery that produces several brands, John’s favorite being the Port Charlotte. The distillery sits just outside the town of Port Charlotte, exact opposite of the loch from Bowmore. To get there, we took a bus. Yes, the island has a bus system of (I think) three buses. Two of them look like airport shuttles, but the bus we needed, of course, doubled as the mail carrier. We hopped into a red van with the words “Royal Post” painted on the side. It was much cheaper than the taxi, and I think how we would prefer to get around despite how great Lamont was as a taxi driver and host. On our way back to Bowmore, we took the same bus, and sure enough, he made several extra stops to collect mail for the giant sack in the front seat.

tea_bruichladdic

Bruichladdich Distillery is old, but one of those that closed up shop and just re-opened in the past 10 years maybe. The distillery tour was unavailable due to expansion construction, so they showed us their warehouse and then let us sample their whisky in the gift shop. Until a few years ago, Bruichladdich offered barrels for sale to the public. Our tour guide showed us one of the remaining privately owned barrels with a note written on it, reading, “Just in case you develop a taste for malt, some of this is for you. Love always, Dad.”

tea_dadcask

In the bottling room, the guide pointed out this mural painted on the wall. She said it was painted by one of the employees to remember the day the distillery re-opened. Apparently, on that day, the water was bright teal and dolphins were playing in the loch, which has not happened again since, according to the story. The mural commemorates that day. If nothing else, it is very pretty and cheerful.

tea_mural

We also learned that Bruichladdich now makes gin called The Botanist. They were kind enough to make me a gin and tonic, and it was the best gin and tonic I’ve ever had. Seriously, The Botanist is available stateside. If you like gin, go buy it. It tastes so clean.

tea_gintonic

What was left of my gin and tonic.