Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Actually Life Changing Products from last year

I came across a few new things last year that actually changed my life, and even though I'm not being paid for it, I wanted to tell you about them so they can change your life, too!

4 things that actually changed my life last year

I've used cross-body purses for years, and for years they've been made of fake leather and they fall apart after months.  For my birthday last year, Caleb gave me a large cross-body purse made of real leather, and I'm still so excited to have it!

We read about Saddleback leather on Reddit's Buy it for Life forum.  Turns out the company has a very loyal following, and now I'm part of the fandom, too.  Their 100-year warranty is wonderful, reading through the funny blurbs in their FAQ section makes me laugh, and watching their video on how to knock off a saddleback bag just seals the deal of me being a lifelong groupie.

My coworkers told me about this super handy app when we were eating out together.  Instead of splitting the tab at the restaurant and giving the waiter three different credit cards to charge, we're able to put all the tab on one card and then pay each other back through the Squarecash app!

It sends money from debit card accounts to debit card accounts for free, and you can use a credit card, too, but you'll incur a 3% fee for using a credit card.  Debit's worked just fine for me, and it's been a real sanity saver for those group meals!

Garlic rocker
I'd seen this version of a garlic press online, and when I saw one at TJ Maxx, I decided to try it.  It's possibly the best impulse buy I've ever made.  The garlic rocker is faster than a garlic press, it's easier to get the garlic out of the tool, and it's easier to clean!  I feel like buying them for everyone in my life, because they've made mincing garlic so much easier in our home! 

This top coat is magic.  I've never seen a top coat dry so fast, and with how often I paint my nails, it's become a permanent fixture in my polish collection.  You can buy it at any drug store or beauty supply store, or online!

TMI BONUS LIFE-CHANGING PRODUCT MENTIONED BELOW!
Stop here if you don't want to read about feminine hygiene!  :)

Menstrual cup
After reading some raving reviews about menstrual cups from girls online, I did my own research and decided to buy myself a Lunette cup.  It took a while to get used to and to figure out how to use it properly, but I'm so glad I stuck with it.  I've already saved lots of money by not having to buy tampons and pads for a year, and I've saved time by not having to run to the store to buy those things and by not having to change the bathroom trash as often.  If you're interested in hearing more or if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments or in an email.  I'd love to share more, and I think everyone with a period should give a menstrual cup a try, but I'm just not sure how much people want to know.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Recommended with Shrimp and Grits

Last night was my second time making Epicurious' recipe for shrimp and grits, and man, is this stuff delicious.  There are a lot of variations used for shrimp and grits.  My mom used goat cheese, which added a tasty tartness to the dish.  Epicurious includes some peppers and canned tomatoes, which reminds me of Charleston's heavy use of tomatoes in their seafood dishes.  It also lets me feel just a little bit healthier eating this super comforting comfort foot.

The only recipe I use for shrimp and grits along with favorite links from the week!

When I make this recipe, I omit the bell pepper, Tabasco, and the garnishes, and I'll either include just a few chopped jalapeƱos or exclude them all together and let Caleb add in pickled jalapeƱos at the table.  Other areas for wiggle room are the kind of cheese you use or probably even the vegetables included in the shrimp side of the dish, but I would definitely recommend keeping the tomatoes involved, maybe just adjust how much or how little you include.  When I tasted the shrimp part of the dish last night, it tasted way too tomato-y to be a comfort food, but once paired with the smooth, creamy, and cheesy grits, everything mellowed out and the flavors complemented each other very well.

I'd also recommend getting the freshest shrimp you can.  I used some pre-cooked shrimp last night because I hate peeling and deveining, but the texture of the shrimp had clearly suffered from all the heating, freezing, and reheating it had gone through.

I hope you get the chance to try this recipe out, because the finished product is wonderful.  I'd recommend doing a proper mise en place and chop, grate, and prepare everything needed before getting started on the cooking, because the cooking ends up going pretty quickly.  You could have this meal all ready in roughly 20 minutes, and most of it will require your full attention during the process so grits don't get stuck to the pan and so butter doesn't burn.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Recommended with Borscht

I had the privilege of visiting Russia in the spring of 2005 for a missions trip.  I spent time at two orphanages and helped share the gospel and new hats and shoes with the kids.  While I was there, I tried hot tea for the first time.  Oh the memories!  They served it with sweetened condensed milk, so of course I loved it.  I also got to try borscht, a soup made with beets.  I really liked it, and when I was wanting to expand my cooking options this winter, I decided to try making a batch.

I blended together this recipe from Natasha's Kitchen and this recipe from All Recipes.  I'll often go off book when testing our a recipe, and thankfully, that worked out just find with this dish.  I ended up using three beets, some potatoes, cabbage (of course), carrots, oinion, and celery for my vegetables.  I didn't have any caraway seed, so I used fennel instead, which was fine.  I also did not use any ketchup, toamatos,  tomato paste, beans, or honey, and I used apple cider vinegar for my acid.

This recipe is great for wintertime!

I loved my borscht!  The broth's flavor turned out just how I wanted it to!  The flavor of the beets came through really nicely, and I also liked how hearty the soup felt with all those vegetables in every bite.  I topped it with sour cream, but without it, the soup is very, very low fat.

I took some of my borscht to work, and I have a Russian friend there I asked to taste it.  He said that he'd recommend shredding the cabbage thinner, but other than that, he said it was good!  He also said that there' no such thing as traditional borscht, because every home makes it differently.  Let that be an encouragement if you're thinking about trying this recipe!  Feel free to adjust ingredients like I did or even bring in new ideas!  My mom made a version once that had very few vegetables and included mushrooms.  Let me know if you try it!

And now, recommended with borscht...

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I love all of these tips from Design*Sponge for a happy home, but #4 (treat yourself like a guest) might be my favorites.

This dog is a prefect representation of how I am in my relationship with Caleb.  Haha!


I had to recently take apart our bed and move our mattress to the floor.  Our box springs had become very squeaky, and I wasn't getting any sleep.  Now that we sleep with our mattress on the floor, I've been tempted to go all out Japanese design in our bedroom!


Any Jessica Jones or Doctor Who fans out there?  This made me laugh.

Now that I'm older, out in the world, and no longer in college, I spend a lot of time with people who are different than me.  We make different decisions, and I know that I sometimes stand out because of how I live my life.  That's why I want everyone to read this post from Yes and Yes.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What Do You Wish You Could Make in the Kitchen?

Caleb and I cook a homemade fresh-from-scratch dinner almost every night.  We really enjoy cooking, but more importantly, we really enjoy eating good food.  Our mutual cooking journey has brought some really excellent meals to the table like sushi, chili burgers with homemade guacamole, chicken marsala, Indian chicken tikka masala, Japanese miso ramen, Korean bulgogi, and a Caribbean feast (see below!).  It's been a blast, and we've eaten so, so well.

 
I'm very lucky Caleb and I both like exploring food and building up our culinary repertoire so much.  We've cooked around the world a bit, and I've actually considered creating a serious challenge of cooking a dish from every country.  (How fun would that be?)  We're always looking to branch out more and find some delicious new thing to prepare.

To round our menu rotation more, Caleb's been working on his BBQ game, and has had some really great success baking BBQ in the oven, but he hopes to one day have a Big Green Egg grill so that he can get really serious.  That's his ultimate cooking goal these days.

I wish that I could whip up a mean, solid cheesecake.  I haven't tried it yet, but I've been collecting recipes, and I did get my parents' spring form pans so I'll have what I need when I'm ready to start testing.  I also wish I could make pho.  I tried last winter but ended up using too little water in my broth so the flavor was extremely salty and spiced.  The soup tasted so disgusting, we couldn't eat it!

I'd love to hear what your cooking goals are!  What do you wish you could make?  What are you working on now in the kitchen?  Please share in the comments!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Recommended with Art Angels by Grimes

My friend Brit recently recommended I check out the album Art Angels by Grimes because he heard I liked K-pop.  He gave me the caveat that "she makes some weird stuff, though.  Some really weird stuff."  The music wasn't as weird as I expected to be, but a lot of it is unusual.  I think that's one of the reasons I ended up enjoying the album so much, though.

Art Angels introduces you to a lot of different sounds. "Scream" is feminine, ferocious and dangerous.  "Flesh Without Blood" reminds me of Russian techno, actually.  "In the Belly of the Beat" is the one I'd recommend to everyone, because I think has a beauty that's easiest to appreciate.  Those three are my favorite songs from the album, but I've been listening to the whole album on repeat for half a week now.  You can listen to everything here on Spotify.  I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Recommended music: Art Angels by Grimes
And while you're listening, check these out!

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I'm definitely a dog person, but wow is this cat lovely.

Okay, not just on principle I need to give you a dog picture, too.  :)

I love wrapping up in cozy warm outer layers.  This sweater looks so comfy and chic!

Since I have a new terrarium (and since it needs new plants (RIP other plants)), I've started a terrarium board on Pinterest for pictures of and inspiration for the lush and fern-filled variety.  I'm a total beginner, and if you know of any other resources I should be checking out, please send them my way!


One day I'm going to take on this challenge.

I have a feeling this phone could change lives.  I'm 100% serious.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

More thoughts on living with less

I started moving toward having fewer possessions last year, and I'm glad I've started the journey already, because getting to my vague goals is going to take a long time.  I started working mainly on my wardrobe, and I've been to donate clothing and books and an old comforter twice now with more trips already planned.  There's also been a lot of behind the scenes thinking and finding more and more reasons to pursue minimalism in more areas of my life.  I've mentioned before what I think to be the best reason to declutter your closet, but that doesn't really go into why I want to still have less moving forward even though I've already gotten rid of a lot of things.

Last summer, I saw my parents have their final yard sale before moving to Norway.  I sat in a hard mix of emotions for most of the day.  My dad sold off his collectible hockey cards.  My mom brought out treasured old church cookbooks for a man asking if he could buy them.  Chairs and lamps and things that never meant much to me growing up were hard to see go just because I had grown up with them.  I knew it would be sad, so I wasn't surprised, but I wasn't even the one moving or leaving home!  These weren't even my things, and I cared so much about losing them!

Growing up in a Christian home, I learned about storing up my treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).  There are many other philosophies and religions that also teach detachment from the material world.  I never really acted on these teachings that much, in fact, growing up, I was afraid to go to heaven because I knew I couldn't take my stuffed dog and blanket with me!  Now that I've grown up a bit, though, and I've seen how attachment distracts us from what matters, I think my perspective is changing.  It sounds callous, but after seeing the sadness that comes from losing things I cared about, I'm much more receptive to simply caring less and about fewer things.

Why we should live with less
Photo by Tina D, edited by me (Creative Commons)

I don't want to end up in a position where I care so much about the things I've collected that it hurts to let go of them.  Nothing lasts in this world.  Things get stolen, broken, burned, and eventually get left behind when we die and get distributed to new owners.  Holding things with an open hand seems like a much, much wiser way to go about life than holding things tight.  That's what I want to be like, holding things with an open hand.

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What about you?  How do you feel about the things you own?  What new goals do you have for the new year?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Recommended with bulgogi

Since living in Korea for 16 months a while back, I've been a huge fan of Korean food.  Surprisingly, it's been a slow process of bringing good Korean recipes into our home cooking repertoire.  Honestly, I'm usually worried to try making a new dish because I'm afraid that I won't make it right and I'll just be disappointed.  Thankfully Caleb doesn't have that same perspective.  Last month, he whipped up some bulgogi using this recipe by Maangchi, and I'm so glad he did!  It became an instant favorite and we've had it once a week ever since.

Easy and Korean bulgogi recipe

Caleb's said that this recipe is very easy, and I can vouch for how delicious it is.  I highly recommend trying it out!  We like to eat it over rice with an egg fried over easy, some kimchi, and some mung bean sprouts sauteed with a little bit of kimchi juice.  The meat makes for great leftovers, too!  Let me know if you try it!

Recommended with this super awesome delicious Korean bulgogi...

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This quote from Levi Lusko.  I got to volunteer at the Passion Conference this last weekend.  I didn't get to hear much of the speakers, but I did hear this.  Levi's little girl died a few years ago, and he's been sharing about the depth of that experience.  What he has to say is absolutely amazing, and I highly recommend checking him out or reading his book.

Two things you should do to communicate better by John Saddington (quick read!)

Oh my gosh, this puppy!

Christmas has past, and getting presents for others probably isn't on the radar anymore.  Now is the time to read this post!

Atlanta people, if you've been wanting Japanese food but don't want to go to Burford Highway, just come to West Midtown!  Ginya Izakaya rocked my taste buds last weekend.  Here's the review I wrote!

A 500-year-old love letter that might make you cry

One of my beefs with modern feminism is how often they make men out to be an enemy to be treated poorly.   If feminists truly cared about equality like they say they do, you'd think they'd speak out against things like the unfairness toward men in divorce.  This article focuses on the processes in England, but a lot of the same prejudices and favoritism is in practice in America, too.  (Anyone see Ant-Man?  Or this story from HONY?)

A beautiful picture of Yosemite Valley by Phil Hawkins