Monday, July 14, 2014

Cross-Examination

What inspires you? What keeps you going? I have been thinking recently about why I love cooking, trying to decipher what it is that drives me. Food fuels people. Literally. People need to nourish themselves to survive, and so I romanticize it by making that food good. Might as well enjoy what you are eating if you have to eat, right? 

I have never been a huge sports fan. I enjoy the tradition of sports. I get into a neighborhood kickball game, I think it's fun to have a party for the Super Bowl, and it's entertaining to attend a baseball game with your family in the summer time and indulge in a hot dog or bag of cracker jacks. Do athlete's play sports because they want to encourage these traditions? Or do they enjoy the smiles of the fanatics who religiously watch "their" games? I can't say because I am not one of them. 
Each time you play a game, you improve. It's never the same game, but always similar. The same rules apply. 

Practice makes perfect, but I hear no one is perfect. When you go to yoga it is called a practice. This practice shouldn't be perfect. In fact, they encourage you to get a little sloppy; fall on the floor, push your limits. If you don't try, then you will never know what you can accomplish. If what you are practicing doesn't push your limits, then you need to change your practice.

Someone said to me the other day, that they are happier when put in an uncomfortable environment. Could this be true? Why would anyone be happier when uncomfortable? Uncomfortable shoes definitely don't make for a happy feet. I know from experience that an uncomfortable living situation does not provide happiness. So maybe uncomfortable has another meaning in this instance. Uncomfortable might mean stimulating. Uncomfortable keeps you on your toes (no foot pun intended). 

If you are in an unfamiliar place, all of your senses are stimulated. If you are practicing a new skill, all of your being is engaged. If in a new game, you need to be ready for anything to happen. And so, your brain is in motion; you are challenged. Challenge is what fuels me. Challenge keeps me going. Challenge in my education, in my relationship, in my career. 

A person's job is something they are good at. An athlete is good at the game, a cook makes good food, an accountant is great with numbers. If you are making money doing something you aren't good at, it would behoove you to change your career. It would be torturous of me to be an accountant because numbers make me miserable. You may be thinking, well you would be challenged as an accountant, isn't that what you want? Not exactly. I want to challenge the skills that I have, or that I have the potential to have. My math skills are lacking potential. 

In a world where new inventions are created daily to make life easier, why would anyone want to challenge themselves? What is the saying.."work smarter, not harder"? But don't employers value hard workers? This is all contradictory. 

The challenge is your decision. You can walk over the bridge, or brave the rocky gully. And I would say there is a time for both. Somedays I just want to walk over the bridge. But if I never tried hiking down the steep terrain only to scale the other side of the crevasse, I would not know if I could do it, or what I might find when I did. There is never a better time to challenge your self.  It's your job, no one else is going to do it for you. 

Selfishness is not something that people tend to value. But you aren't often rewarded for selflessness.  Sometimes you have to be selfish, because honestly no one is going to be selfish for you. You need to take care of you. It will take you farther than you think. 

Failure occurs. A lot of factors can cause you to fail. But one thing is clear. You will fail if you fail to try. 





Friday, June 6, 2014

Dinner at my Chef's Table

So luckily I didn't have to work on my birthday but unluckily my boyfriend Christopher did. Unfortunately the life of a chef is not just the 9-5 workday either so I couldn't meet him for dinner because he worked from 10am-11pm. Bummer. So I had kind of a self relaxation day. It was not much of a celebration in the common sense but a celebration of having to do nothing. I think as we grow older, birthdays become less and less important. People make such hype when you are a little whipper snapper but as you age it's just another year. Kind of a bitter sweet aging process. So my birthday was very low key, I received all of the important calls and remembered the young years of my special day. Chris made it home with a wonderful chocolate cake lit with candles and all. And I fell asleep bidding adieu to my 22nd birthday and welcoming my 23rd year.

The following day I had to work a long day with numerous tasks and no lunch break. It's very easy to overlook lunch when you have a list full of prep work that you have to make your way through in order to get home. While you are cooking hard and moving fast, time passes and you realize you haven't eaten anything in hours. Occupational hazard. So I arrived home after not consuming food all day and was met at the door by Christopher. He put a bandana over my eyes and led me to the bathroom. When I removed the blindfold, I saw a dress from my closet with shoes and a towel. I got in the shower and started to get ready, my mind racing as to what could be going on.

After I dolled myself up, I knocked on the bathroom door and was met by my handsome boyfriend in a chef's coat and apron. He led me into our kitchen where he had set up a white table clothed table equipped with cloth napkin and candles. The table was adjacent to our butcher's block where he had a number of prepped items lined up. After pushing in my chair he proceeded to ask if I wanted still or sparkling water setting the tone for the night. What followed was a wonderful 15 course tasting menu which was created with me in mind. It's very hard to put into words how wonderful the evening was. It was not only the nicest thing anyone has ever done with me but it was the best meal I have ever had ever. Chris had gone to the Goodwill and picked out a special unique plate for each course and he must have spent a fortune on all of the wonderful food that he needed in order to prepare the meal. He served me professionally; filling my water glass, offering wine pairings with my meal, changing my silverware between each course. It was phenomenal, unexpected, and the best birthday gift I have ever received. It's all about the experiences we go through not the material things we have or receive. I am such a lucky girl. I hope you enjoy the pictures!

"snacks" 
bruschetta quanciale 
sausage and mushroom stuffed calamari

proscuitto wrapped asparagus 
"amuse"
eggplant stuffed with soft boiled egg
"salad"
raw vegetable salad with arugula and chicory farro
"crudo" 
compachi dressed with lemon, olive oil, chive, and chive blossom
"pasta"
veal bolognese
"poultry"
le petite poussin with spring peas, roasted rosemary baby potatoes, chicken jus
"veal"
vitello tonatto: veal with tuna sauce and artichokes
"formaggio"
sottocenere tartufo and quadrille di bufala, quince paste, fresh black mission figs 
"berries and cream"
olive oil cake with macerated strawberries, mascarpone cream, dark chocolate balsamic reduction
"custard"
buttermilk creme brûlée with kumquat, blueberries cooked and raw
"mignardise"
espresso soaked biscotti and chocolate brownies
"last bite" 
pistachio cream topped with fresh apricot served on a handmade wooden spoon which was a gift from the kitchen for dining


 














Thursday, May 15, 2014

22 Things I've Learned before 22

My 22nd birthday is approaching and I am starting to feel that this last year been quite a learning experience. Last year at this time I was in my last week of college, and senioritis had hit pretty hard. Chris, my boyfriend, and I were rearing and ready to be out in the real world. And I have to say that the past year has really sobered us. Growing up isn't easy, and so here are 22 things worth sharing which I have learned before my 22nd Birthday.

1) Don't settle for a job. Of course you need to pay your bills, but don't belittle yourself by taking a job that is far below your talent level. If you don't practice to your skill level then you will not only feel under appreciated and under utilized but you will begin to lose those skills you worked so hard to gain.

2) Don't underestimate yourself. In particularly with money. Don't let someone tell you that you are worth X dollars an hour if it's way too low. It's not about having a hot head, but knowing what you are worth and not allowing others to discount your expertise.

3) Family is very important. Always make time for your family because when you need help, they are the people who are going to be there.

4) You need a hobby. Once you get out of school and there are no longer any requirements to further your mental capacity you need to have a hobby in order to do it on your own. I suggest books, although there is no deadline, it's good to engage your mind with a good book. Also you can learn a lot from books.

5) You will drift apart from  friends. When you go your separate ways life gets in the way. Sometimes the things that you had in common with those friends could be the class you were taking or the place you were living. Those things change, and people change too. The ones who matter will be there and stay there.

6) Nights out are over rated. Seriously. When you work super hard and so much, more often it's exciting to curl up in your pajamas on the couch rather than use your energy to dress up and go out. Not to mention it's expensive.

7) Sometimes you do deserve it. When you are on a budget, conserving money is very important. But every once in a while you need to tell yourself that you deserve it, whatever it is.

8) Where you live is very important, so make sure you are happy with it. If you are renting an apartment, you are paying money to live there and it is your home. Make sure you are comfortable with your living situation because the worst thing is not feeling safe or happy in a place you are paying for.

9) 8 hours of sleep is very important. Gone are the days of late nights and early class. Now are the days of early work and working late. In order to use your body to its full potential you really need to let it rest for at least 8 hours. For some of you this may sound crazy, but once you start getting a solid night's sleep, you will never go back. Make sleep a priority and you will thank yourself later.

10) Water is essential for your body to function. There are so many other drinks in this world but none are as good for you as water is. Water will flush anything out of your system, whether you are under the weather or have an infection, the more water you drink the faster you will feel better.  Water is good for your skin. It makes it clear and sometimes it even makes it glow if you are lucky. Water helps increase your energy level and also is a natural headache reliever. They say if you notice that you are thirsty you are already dehydrated. Water is very important, 64 ounces is the minimum amount of water you should consume every day. Try to keep track of how much water you drink daily, try and meet the requirement, you will be happy with the results.

11) Become aware of your budget. Keep track of your spendings and your income. Set some limits and then follow them. If you keep to your budget then you should have some extra to splurge-which is important. You need to have fun and spoil yourself sometimes (see #7). You also need to have a nest egg for emergencies. Don't cut the money too close, you never know what could go wrong.

12) Take care of your car. Your car is under appreciated. It takes you everywhere that you need to go and you only give it attention when it fails you. Check your fluids regularly. You will always be paying for things that have to do with your car. Everyone encounters car trouble, if they didn't then car repair shops wouldn't be in business.

13) Get fresh air when you can. When you can't you will complain so when you can, get all the fresh air that you can. Enjoy nature. When it's -20 degrees out you will be so unhappy that you are stuck inside, so put on a raincoat in the spring and the sunscreen in the summer and get in touch with your outdoorsy side. It's good for your health.

14) Bargain food shopping is a must.  There are so many places out there, it's a crime not to shop around. Sure you may want to get your meat at the best grocer in order to ensure freshness but Aldi's or Price Rite are a big benefit for pasta, canned items, bread, and cheese. If you have a farmer's market you should take advantage of it. Not only are the pricers great but you are supporting local farmers and the food is fresh.

15) Only buy clothes that are on sale. I can't even fathom people who buy clothes at full price. The best finds, the clothes you will wear most often, and those that you will be proud of are the best deals. That two dollar pair of pants that you wear twice a week, the dress you found at the Salvation Army that still had the tag on it, the sweater you splurged 12 bucks on at Marshall's and have had for four years. With so many options for resale stores or discount clothing, it can't hurt to look.

16) Breathe.  Life gets overwhelming often. Your brain can overload. The easiest way to remedy this is to focus on your breath. It really brings you back to Earth. Breathing is an involuntary action meaning that you do it without having to think about it. Your body knows what you need: to breathe. Sometimes making this involuntary action voluntary can really calm your whole self.

17) Plan things to look forward to on your calendar. Life gets busy and can also get rough. Plan mini-vacations or day trips in order to give yourself something to look forward to. These will not only make the tough times go faster but will give yourself a reward for being busy and getting through a hard week.

18) Keep up with your laundry. This may seem silly, but it will catch up with you. If you have access to a washer and dryer, do a load every other day so that on your day off you don't have to spend it doing all of the laundry in order to wear clean under ware the next day.

19) Connect with people who are at a similar stage in life as you are. If you have someone to talk to who knows what you are going through and who have similar misfortunes or triumphs as you do then you will be happy to share yours and hear theirs.

20) Come up with a positive out of a negative situation. This is a hard one. Sometimes I like to break this down into days and not label the day as negative but come up with something positive that happened every day. Some of these positives can be small accomplishments or things that made you happy. For instance one day I was so happy because I found the perfect dish soap that left my glasses sparkling. It may be a little triumph, but I allowed that positivity to bring my day to an end on a high note.

21) Be creative in the kitchen. Alright I know this may not be fair because I am a chef, but I know that it makes a huge difference. Try new recipes, experiment with your own recipes, enjoy new ingredients it really makes your life more interesting if you aren't going to have the same rotating schedule every week. That doesn't mean that you can't have pasta every week- but there are a million different ways to make a pasta dish- Macaroni and cheese, red sauce and meatballs, white wine and cheese sauce. One of my favorite ways to spice up pasta is to buy a different shaped noodle. I know it may sound bizarre but it can really change your dining experience. Whoever eats at your house will be happy if you spice it up, you can always fall back on the classics.

22) Be thankful for what you have. Too many times we complain about what we don't have, we need to be thankful for what we do. Sometimes it feels like the worst is happening to us, but it's very humming to realize that that is not true in the least. Your car broke down- there are people who don't have cars and walk 6 miles to work. You hate where you live- at least you have a roof over your head. You are sick with a 24 hour bug- at least you don't have cancer. There are so many things to be grateful for. Don't spend your life being ungrateful, before you know it, it will be over. Life's short, make it sweet.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Out Ramping Around








Today was beautiful. I thought a lot about what photo I should post because I really was just happy for the sunshine. I spent the day outside in a t-shirt. Way to go spring! I went to a nearby park in order to harvest ramps. Ramps are a wild onion that grow in sandy, shady areas on hillsides. Christopher and I went searching for ramps this past Sunday with little luck. We found one patch that had some baby ramps, but nothing to speak of. We probably harvested one portion on Sunday and split the portion between us for dinner. The only way I had, had ramps before was pickled. Not a big fan. Maybe a bad batch, maybe just because I am not a big fan on pickling. But after I consumed my half portion of sautéed ramps in butter, I was eager to venture out for more. So today I strapped on my boots, brought a digging spoon, and hiked into the forrest. I looked up to the top of the mountain and knew that's where I had to be, so I tiptoed on a balancing tree across a small river (or big stream), and made my way up the steep side of the mountain that unfortunately didn't have a path. After huffing and puffing my way to the top I sat on a stump and retrieved my water bottle. I surveyed the area and saw a small patch of green in the distance. I hauled my tired self up and slowly made my way toward the patch, hoping for the best. Hard work does pay off; I was rewarded. The small green patch I had seen from a distance turned out to be a big green patch of ramps! I started digging and filled one whole grocery bag with medium sized ramps. Satisfied, I figured I would just stroll through the woods enjoying the fresh air. I started down the other side of the mountain and realized that the big patch I had just foraged from was not big at all. The whole side of the mountain was covered in delicious ramps and I filled three whole bags. It made me so happy to be able to enjoy the fresh air while harvesting some nourishment. It reminded me of my childhood days when I spent many hours outside in the woods feeling one with nature. I was the only person out there. I took in the smells and the sounds. A scurry from a chipmunk, the buzz of a bee, the rustle of the trees. It was wonderful. 








Very often I get discouraged because of the way things often go wrong for me. Sometimes it seems that nothing will go right. It's almost as if I am expecting the car to break down after I find out I forgot my phone at home. It's not far off. After climbing up a steep slope today, I was rewarded with a valley of happiness. It really gives me hope. Maybe the slope I am climbing right now is just really steep, I can't wait to find out what's on the other side. 



Happy Day

I started this challenge called "100 Happy Days". The requirements are to photograph something that made you happy each day and send it to the people at 100happydays.com or tag them in your post via hashtag. It is supposed to help you recognize and be thankful for the things that make us happy on a daily basis. Acknowledging the causes of our happiness should in turn make us happier. I thought that I would use the daily challenge as inspiration for my blog, in order to expand on the photo postings. 

My first happy photo:



My boyfriend Christopher may have a cookbook obsession. I have just recently limited him to one cookbook per month. We don't spend a lot of money, but the majority of the money we do spend is on food, followed closely by cookbooks. I get on Christopher's case about the cookbooks very often. One day he will seek all of the cookbooks to buy me a diamond ring. Yeah Right. But I have to say that I am also a book lover. I have always been a reader and I have had shelves upon shelves filled with books since I was a child. More recently though, with the influence of culinary school and two years with my boyfriend, I am totally into cookbooks. We have a six shelf bookcase in our apartment which is solely for cookbooks. If you have any other books not related to cooking then you need to find room for them elsewhere. As I mentioned I give Chris a lot of grief for having so many cookbooks, but I am actually really proud of our combined collection. I say our collection because when I met Chris he had maybe 25 cookbooks and I probably had 20, and now we have over 200 cookbooks give or take a few. Our bookshelf is completely full, so every time a new book makes it way home we either have to take a less important book and move it to the small shelf that is not located in the living room or display it in a different manner. 

Chris is persistent on buying or making a new bookshelf, but I know that if I allow him to do that, then he will have a growing need to fill it right away. We recently moved, and let me tell you books are heavy! At least half of our boxes were filled with books and it took two people to carry each box. People think that having children forces them to settle down, well I think having too many books can really weigh you down. It's difficult and expensive to move with books! If we picked up and moved to Italy, we would have to store our cookbooks- how could we pick just one box to bring with us? How could we ensure that the books that are in storage will be safe/not deteriorate? What about the slip covers!? They might get damaged!  If you knew Chris, you would understand that I am completely making fun of him right now, but in all honesty I am thankful that I have a partner who shares a similar passion to me. We both enjoy food and reading, so there you go. I may find a new cookbook with a receipt hidden under his bed, but at least it's not a pack of cigarettes. We really do have quite the collection and it makes me really happy to be able to peruse through hundreds of cookbooks. I have only tried a few recipes out of the collection but what we really do is use them for inspiration. And we have to keep feeding that. My name is Tricia and I am addicted to cookbooks.  
I would say this is probably one of our best finds- Used Book Section of Barnes & Noble, signed, totaling $1.94


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fly me to Neverland

Growing up is hard
No one warns you about this 
Some days I want to grow up real fast
Be an adult
Independent
But what comes with that?
Stress
Anxiety
Today I want to fly off to Neverland
I want to be back at the pool, asking my mom for a dollar to get ice cream
Not a care in the world
Not worried about how to pay for your next meal
Or the bills you need to pay
Not praying your car doesn't break down
Or that you'll win the lottery
No work to keep you busy
Or gas tank to fill
Only worry in the world is homework and hygiene
Baseball in the backyard 
Grass in between your toes
No schedules to work around 
Or lists to make
I aspired to be the President of the United States
Now I aspire to be on time to work 
The tears sprouted from a booboo
Now they brim from stress
Attached at the hip with your best friend, then
Lucky if you see a friend every now and again
Then your favorite meal cost five bucks
Now pizza doesn't cut it 
No one let's you know it's going to be hard
There is no textbook to get you through this course
Trial and error is the way it goes 
When are we finished growing up?
Is anyone ever really grown up?
I'm going to write the textbook when I get there






Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Namaste

So everyone's life is stressful. I don't think anyone can judge anyone else's stress level because we are all different and we handle our daily stressors individually. Someone may look at me and say, wow she has it pretty good- loves her job, great boyfriend, seems like she's got her shit together. But what they may not know is that sometimes I really, really don't. And even when it seems that I do, my mind doubles back and finds something to be stressed about. No matter what your mind runs on about, how many things you need to accomplish today, or what you have on your plate tomorrow; you need to find your release. I have been searching for mine for a while and it was not until recently that I found it: yoga. 

If you haven't tried yoga you need to. I want to compare it to learning a new language or practicing a musical instrument. You have to devote your mind to the art of yoga because it is a new language. And while your mind is completely engaged in every way, you have no time or room to think about any outside stressor. It's the best thing that has happened to me in two years! 

My friend recommended this "new to yoga" class set. It was a set of three introductory classes for people who have never tried yoga before. And after tonight, the last night of my class set, I was definitely hooked. Yoga encourages you to connect your physicality with your mind. It relaxes your mind as well as stretching your body. The yoga studio is heated which I actually really enjoy, it keeps my body warm and comfortable. And the type of yoga that they practice at this yoga studio is vinyasa yoga which means that every pose flows together which is pretty neat. The repetition and familiarity with the same 'vinyasa' combined with the introduction of new poses and challenging stretches really just relaxes every part of me. The best way I can describe it is that my whole body breathes during yoga and isn't that what we all need? That deep sigh? 

I had never tried it before because I was worried about the instructor judging my inability and the other people in the class laughing at my lack of coordination. But in reality, it's such an individual sport. You can bring a friend if you are hesitant, but I really enjoyed not knowing anyone walking into the class because I was really able to focus on myself which is what I needed, instead of goofing off or bonding with another. Once you do one class, you will realize that it's not about everyone looking at each other and pointing, it's about you looking at yourself letting yourself go. Not everyone does the poses the same, and once you find what works best for you, it's okay if it doesn't look the same as the person next to you because their body is different than yours. 

I am really glad to have found yoga. I think that I needed not only a hobby, but an outlet to make myself relax and do a little self reflection. And hey it's exercise! All I am asking you do to is try it, men and women alike. If it's not for you then there is no harm other than a couple of bucks, but if you  find your center, you can thank me later. Namaste. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Better Brands Bogus

Yesterday Christopher and I jumped into spring; we sorted all of our clothes. We each decided to rid ourselves of 20% of our wardrobe. It took all day; basically a never ending fashion show of sorts. We were able to accomplish our goal. We found that Chris has accumulated enough button down shirts to send a whole baseball team to their first interviews, and I fortunately have a spring dress problem. (Fortunately because it's almost spring and I will just be able to wear a dress every day for two weeks without doing laundry.)

So after narrowing down our favorites, I separated the better brands from the donation clothes in order to sell some and take the others to the Goodwill. Unfortunately there aren't a lot of stores who will buy those random t-shirts with logos on them that aren't a brand name. We actually came up with two big bags of better brand name clothing in good condition. So this morning I hauled two oversized  reusable bags filled with men's & women's clothes and some accessories and took them out to Plato's Closet.

The last experience that I had there I wasn't too happy with. They rejected a lot of my clothes. But it was the first time that I had sold to them so this time I had the low-down. They took a lot of time to look over my clothes and I took this as a good sign. Meanwhile I scanned the numerous color coded aisles to see if anything was to my liking. I would say the store is pretty tweeny. It made me feel pretty old, it seems like such a long time ago that I had to have a Hollister labeled hoodie. But there are still some good finds that aren't branded with a name and are unique- they are just hidden amongst all of the other names.


When the girl called me up to the counter my bags looked the same as when I brought them in. I was really astonished because I did make sure to pick out all of the damaged clothes, and I only brought what I figured they would want. Turns out they could buy thirteen of my items and offered me $40 for them. I want to know the system. I know that they can sell them for half of the value of their original value and that I only receive 50% of the price they can sell it at. But I don't like the system. They show you the bucket of clothes that they decided to buy and ask you not to mix them up, so you can't really see if you are really getting a good price for the items you are selling. But they win either way, because you want those clothes gone. Your next stop is the Salvation Army to donate the remainder so you will take whatever they give you. It's unfortunate. They let me know that some of the clothes were out dated and they only buy clothes that are in fashion. Who decides what's in fashion? How do they train these trend seeking clothes pickers? It's a little insulting. I know they are the buyer and all but who is to say that someone won't come in to their store and find something they told me was out of fashion really cool? I remember when I first wore Culottes (the shorts that look like a skirt) in high school and no one knew what the heck they were. Now the racks are full of them. Doesn't someone have to bring in the style? Where do people bring those styles back from if they won't buy "unstylish clothes?"
Culottes

Goodwill that's where. I sold my things because money is tight and because every penny counts but does it feel good? No. It feels good to know that when I give my clothes to Goodwill, or Salvation Army, or VOA that someone is going to appreciate the clothes that I find are of value. Someone is going to be surfing through the clothes looking for a good find and they are going to be stoked that they found such a great shirt for such a thrifty price. Or even better, someone is going to be kept warm by my out of style jacket next winter that only cost them a few bucks. My best finds have come from the thrift stores, from the no name brands, from the underdogs. I appreciate appreciation versus rude money.  To hell with better brands!