Friday, December 30, 2016

2016's Resolutions

I am a goal person. I love making goals and I love the satisfaction that comes with accomplishing them. I have done some pretty awesome stuff just by making it a goal (the best one ever was to run a marathon!!!!). However, that does not mean I am immune to the typical New Year's resolutions problems. I set some goals for 2016 that I didn't quite accomplish, and I'm here to report on them.

Resolution #1: Eat more vegetables than treats.
What I didn't do: Track it well enough to actually have a number on that for the whole year. I started off strong, and had periods throughout the year of tracking my food where I was more mindful and it worked, but then a lot of the year I just threw that out the window and probably ate more treats than vegetables, whoops.
What I did do: Eat so many vegetables! I signed up for a weekly CSA box this summer (June through October) and it was SO good at getting me to eat fresh, organic, local, bright, delicious produce. I am definitely going to sign up again this summer. I also got really into cookbooks, including a lot of vegetable-centered ones, so I'm looking forward to diving in.

Resolution #2: Track my spending habits and make a budget.
What I didn't do: That. At all. I signed up for Mint but could never actually get it to work so I didn't even get to the tracking part of this goal. And I didn't even take a stab at a budget. Again, whoops.
What I did: Make enough money that I always have a lot left over in my checking account every month. I pay off my credit card bill with plenty to spare and I don't have to worry about surprise costs. Next step: a savings account (LOL).

Resolution #3: Monthly book club with my dad.
What I didn't do: Do this for 12 months. There were about 4 months when we read the same book and 3 times that we got together to talk about it. My dad stopped listening to audiobooks as much as he used to so that kind of shut down the plan, and he didn't really love my suggestions either.
What I did: Read about 100 books! Including a bunch of them over the summer. I have really put reading on the back burner for the last few years but this year I kicked it into gear and read a lot of books, including a bunch of rereads that were wonderful and a bunch of new books that changed my life! I didn't really start reading fervently until mid-February so I know I can do better.

Resolution #4: Have a weekly step average of 10,000/day.
What I didn't do: Surpass a step average of 7,000! Again, a big whoops. I started and then gave up habits that I intended to help meet this goal a million times this year, but the truth is that I hardly get any steps during the day at school because my school is tiny and I never leave my classroom and then after school I do everything but walk around.
What I did do: Exercise a lot! I had a really great active summer, including a million kayaking days and hikes and a trail Ragnar (which was OMG SO HARD) and then in the fall I got into a really good groove of going to the gym three times a week. And I committed to personal training through the month of June. I'm gonna figure this exercise thing out.

I have a lot of goals for 2017 and I have been really excited about them! I'm not on team 2016-was-the-worst-year-ever (except for the election UGH) but I am on team hopeful-for-2017 because I've never been not hopeful for a new year before and honestly, I don't have anything to complain about in my life. Is 10 resolutions too many? We'll see.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December Cookbook Club

For December we did the Smitten Kitchen cookbook/blog and as always it was an absolutely delicious evening.

Jared made a potato frittata with SO MUCH DELICIOUS FETA in it.

Kelly made a salad with shaved Brussels sprouts and pomegranate seeds (we found an excellent method for getting the seeds out if you're interested) and pickled onion AND she made cranberry scones.

Hanna made brown butter and sea salt rice krispy treats and POPCORN COOKIES that were transformative. They're like chocolate chip cookies but instead of chocolate you mix in buttered popcorn. Yes.

Dinesh made baked potato crisps topped with bacon and cheese and chives and sour cream and that's the way I want to eat potatoes from now on.

Travis made sweet peas and shells with alfredo sauce and apple cider caramels that tasted like fall and we need them again.

I made a butternut squash and caramelized onion galette that was tasty but it was all in the crust. That crust was a game-changer. I think I'm realizing that I don't love butternut squash so I would try the same thing again with other veggies. I also made this gooey cinnamon squares that SOUND like they're rice krispy treats made with cinnamon toast crunch but actually they're like snickerdoodle bars kind of. I think I overbaked them which is a huge sin in my book and they're actually the only thing that didn't get entirely eaten.

Smitten Kitchen is the bomb and I love that we do this every month and I'm finally realizing that if I cooked delicious food more often then I could be as happy as cookbook club night on the reg. I'll try it out.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Troughsgiving/November Cookbook Club

For November Cookbook Club we did our third annual Troughsgiving. This time we held it at my parents' house in Hull rather than in our Cambridge apartment, on a Saturday, and a few of us stayed the night on Friday, which helped with space and cooking time. It was epic, and instead of going around the table and saying what we were grateful for about our lives, we said what foods on the table we were grateful for. I think everything got named.

Dinesh made the turkey/gravy! Again! [And he actually ended up cooking the turkey with my family on Thanksgiving Day as well.]

Kelly made roasted vegetables (that took 500 years to roast. What is it about Kelly's dishes that they always take way longer than anticipated?) and pumpkin bread.

Jared made "Stuffing with Apples and Gouda" that was more like a deconstructed grilled cheese in a delicious way. He also made cranberry salsa.

Hanna made banana cream pie and cherry Jello (that's for some reason part of the meal instead of dessert).

Travis made pumpkin bread, salad, and Chrissy Teigen's cauliflower mash.

Mary made so many mashed potatoes.

I made pumpkin/sweet potato/coconut pie and my mom's insanely delicious and buttery sweet potato casserole that basically has cookies on top.

Brent brought rolls. He bought them from the store instead of making them. It is important to note this.

Kristin showed up 2 hours late with broccoli/hazelnuts that was probably delicious but it was hard to know because we were so full. Though the broccoli in my leftovers was memorable and great.

I had found a bunch of Thanksgiving cookbooks but none of them were good enough to use, so we had/found our own recipes and it was the best. Long live Troughsgiving*!!!

*Troughsgiving is like Friendsgiving** but with a trough***
**Which is like Thanksgiving but with your friends
***The trough is a very special thing which might require an additional blog post. Let me know if you have questions.

Monday, December 19, 2016

16 Years Late to Gilmore Girls, or: Why I Stopped Reading Books in November

On October 28, my longtime friend Katharine, who I had just invited to spend Thanksgiving with my family, asked me if we were bingeing the Gilmore Girls revival on Black Friday. Because my parents had made some pretty strict rules about TV-watching while I was in middle school, I missed the boat on a lot of shows that most people have seen, and Gilmore Girls was one of them. I knew everyone was excited about the revival, and several of my friends told me they thought I would like the show, so I told Katharine that I had never seen it, but maybe I would watch it before Thanksgiving. She said, "it's 7 seasons though!" and I said "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED."

I had watched the first episode a year or so earlier and didn't love it, but I committed to at least giving it an honest chance. During the whole first season I still wasn't sold, but when my roommates Kelly and Jared told me the second season was the best, I continued on. At some point I stopped noticing whether or not I actually enjoyed watching the show and just fully dove into the task of finishing it by Thanksgiving.

Each season of the 7 has 22 episodes, and at 45 minutes each, that adds up to 6,930 minutes of television, or 115 hours. I had about one month to complete them, which means 4 hours of Gilmore Girls each day. That was a huge feat for me, since I normally am not a huge TV watcher. I teach all day, I have a regular workout schedule, I like to cook, and read, and I teach Sunday School for church, and I really like to hang out with my friends a lot, plus my boyfriend. After taking a sick day in that first week and watching ALL DAY without any real progress, I realized just how much 115 hours of TV is.

But I never give up on challenges. So I dug deep. I not only watched while I was doing cardio at the gym, but also while I was walking there and back. If I had to wait for appts or in long lines, I'd turn it on. During my prep periods at school, if I was doing a mindless task like entering grades, I'd have an episode on (and I'd always watch at lunch). I fell asleep to an episode a lot of nights, and if I woke up earlier than I had to, I'd watch in the morning. One night Dinesh and I sat next to each other with headphones in, him watching Before the Flood while I watched Gilmore. Eventually, I convinced him to watch it with me, and GG replaced everything we used to watch (How I Met Your Mother, Chopped, movies, etc.). Sundays after church were almost entirely devoted to episode after episode after episode with Kelly. I kicked myself when an entire day would go by without watching, since I knew it would cost a lot in makeup time.

I also completely gave up reading during this time, except for audiobooks while I was driving. On several occasions I wanted to pick up a book, but that November 25 deadline was looming, so I pressed on, promising myself I would read again when I was done.

Thanksgiving came, and I still had about half of the last season to watch. While prepping pies on Wednesday night, Gilmore was playing on the TV at my parents' house (thank goodness for their open floor plan). Thanksgiving Day was the same--cook, watch, repeat. Friday, November 25 dawned, and we finished up season 7 while celebrating my dad's birthday and avoiding social media references to the revival. At last on Friday night, after this arduous process,  I reached the last episode of season 7 and was so, so content with how it ended.

But unlike fans of Gilmore Girls around the world, I did not have to wait 9 years to find out what was happening to the girls. We started right in on the revival, watching Winter on Friday night and Spring, Summer, and Fall on Saturday.

What did I think of the show, you ask? (Revival spoilers below, but seriously, if you haven't watched it yet, you're not that big of a fan so it can't really matter anyway.)

  • I was strongly Team Logan through the first 7 seasons. Yes, he was an entitled playboy, but he cared about Rory so much (and it was obvious he still did in the revival too). I'm fine with her ending up with Jess eventually, but Logan will always be my fave.
  • Sookie is everything. I loved her and Lorelai's relationship and it was devastating that she was only in the revival for a brief moment. The show needs her.
  • Worst character in the whole show is Taylor. I HATE that man.
  • Rory kept disappointing me over and over again through everything, and I guess that's true to life. Everyone you ever love will disappoint you at some point. Just a fact.
  • Emily's revival story was SO SATISFYING. She was the worst so many times throughout the series and I loved seeing her chill out a little bit.
  • Hated the musical (duh) and hated Lorelai's Wild story. Running away is definitely something she would do, but copying someone else's experience does not seem realistic for her.
  • Kirk was soooooo heart-eyes-emoji in the revival. Thank goodness they didn't show his bare chest because I would not have been able to stomach that again.
  • I'm not sad at all about the ending. I actually think the last four words thing was a great way to end it. Maybe it's a little depressing to realize that escaping the cycle of our family is not always realistic, but I also think Rory has the opportunity to do things very differently than how Lorelai did and I'm hopeful for everyone.

My life felt a little empty after finishing it all, but I am relieved to be spending time on other things these days. Dinesh and I have been watching all the Disney movies, and I have been working my way through the Anne of Green Gables and Chronicles of Narnia series. Plus, I can go full days without TV of any kind and it's totally okay. Looking forward to a lot more of that.