Monday, December 21, 2015

Weekend Wanderings - Ikea Ferry

Had a really wonderful, relaxing and productive weekend. Composted, ran a few errands, and saw my cousins on Saturday. Sunday was a Christmas pageant at church and a lovely holiday party at Nora's. I was too busy experiencing this weekend to take many photos, but these are two favorites from the ferry ride between Ikea and my cousin's place in Manhattan. It was a little too cold to ride top-deck, but in December, that's really how it ought to be.



Hope you have a joyful few days before Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Weekend Wanderings - Brunch at Fulton Farm


Photo from: http://instagram.com/discerningdilettante


I had a really lovely brunch this weekend. It was beautiful out, and I got to catch up with some awesome people who I don't see often enough. It was the crown on a weekend of seeing lovely people and eating lovely meals. A moment I'd like to remember.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Holidays Around New York

Just wanted to post a few holiday photos from the past week. Now I wish I'd taken one of the tree this evening at the NYPL main branch. It's gorgeous!


Monday, December 7, 2015

Weekend Wanderings - Latkes and Advent

I had such a lovely, bracing walk this morning. It feels like the holiday season is really upon us now, and it was nice to have a break and enjoy some cold air before starting the week.


This weekend went by much too quickly, even though for me, it was a lovely 3-day weekend! I took a personal day on Friday to relax, collect myself, and get a head start on some work for the weekend. I got a fair amount done, enjoyed a maple steamer at a coffee shop near our house, and when I walked home around sunset, the reflection on a brick wall and the gilded edges of Greenwood Cemetery's fence was almost too beautiful to bear. The world was almost sparkling.


Saturday was more work during the day, and then latkes with good friends. Then pizza with the same good friends. Quite nice.


Sunday, of course, was more work. I'd left part of R.'s St. Nicholas Day gift at work, but still managed to leave two pairs of new socks and a citrus treat in his slippers, which I think he enjoyed. That evening, I went with a few friends to evening prayer at All Saints' Episcopal Church, and then to their Advent party after. It was lovely. For dinner, R. made a delicious chicken korma. More work that evening, but I still went to bed feeling calm. A good weekend.

For your listening pleasure: the WQXR Holiday Channel.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Monthly Spending in November 2015

Net Worth Change from Previous Month: +0%
Total Spent: $846.05

November wasn't a great month for spending. I ended up spending $172 on a medical bill that I was hoping would be covered by my insurance, who kept telling me the doctor was sort of in network. I also probably overspent a bit on gifts for friends ($167), but that's always worth it. I also went a little crazy at the Oxo sample sale ($56), but I'm glad to have a few new kitchen accessories, and some of that was gifts, too. And, you know. Way too much on food, of course. Part of that was for groceries, because we ran out of money in our joint account, and that's fine. But of course some of it was on meals out, and I'd really like to trim back a bit on that. I also bought tickets to see Fun Home ($122) with Danielle, which I'm really excited about, and she'll be paying me back for her ticket soon, so I'm not too worried there.

I'm still going back and paying down the categories that I'd refreshed once or twice, which still show up as red in my "all time" view on Mint.com's budgets. In November, I chipped away at what's left: food (now $1,063, down from $1880), and "home," which is actually what "cash from the ATM" used to be filed under, and which was also mostly spent on food ($4,927). In December, I hope to eliminate both of them with some freelance money that is coming in. I know it will feel great to start over at $0. 

I didn't bring in any freelance income in November, though I did try to sell one coat on eBay. In December I'll start getting checks from my two bigger freelance projects, so that will be a really nice boon to our savings. 

I've already taken out my $300 in spending money for December, and in the first two days, I spent nearly half of it on Christmas gifts, so, not great, but fine. We'll see how well I can keep to the budget after this. And from last month, but we still haven't done it, so it stays: We're also certainly going to buy our tickets to India, but we've already agreed to use credit card points for that, so that will be a fun new adventure. Otherwise, I'm really looking forward to the holidays, while still trying to stay on track with our budget!

How's your budget going? Did you meet any exciting goals this month?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

White Chicken Chili - Cooking with Kristin

I really love chili. I have my favorite red chili, I See the Stars Chili, and my favorite vegetarian chili, Slow Cooker Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili, and this is probably my favorite chili overall, White Chicken Chili.  


I've probably mentioned my favorite cooking blog, The Culinary Couple, on here a million times, so really, you should probably just go start reading about Emily's adorable family and the amazing food she cooks instead of letting me be a fangirl about it all the time. But this is another one of Emily's recipes that really blows it out of the park.

We probably make this at least once a month, and it has enough that we can each have at least two lunches from it afterward. It's everything a chili should be: thick and hearty, a little spicy, and completely delicious! With winter on its way, this is the perfect food to enjoy on a cold night, maybe with a tasty winter ale.

White Chicken Chili (Adapted from The Culinary Couple)
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 lb smoked sausage, diced (this is like Hillshire Farms brand, in case you're like me and never buy meat)
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cans (15 oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans (15 oz) great northern beans, drained and rinsed (or substitute more cannellini beans if necessary)
  • 1 can (4.5 oz) diced green chiles
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or less if yours is very strong, like mine)
  • 1 box chicken broth (or 3.5 cups of water - it'll still taste just as good!)
  • 4 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • Monterrey Jack cheese, sour cream, and/or tortilla chips for garnish
Directions

Add olive oil to a medium pot and cook the chicken over medium heat until it is cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from the pot and set aside.

Add onions and garlic to the pot and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the smoked sausage and cook for 3-5 more minutes.

As the onions, garlic, and sausage are cooking, chop the chicken into bite-size pieces. Add the chicken pieces back to the pot, along with the diced green chiles, cumin, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Stir everything together and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Raise the heat to high and add chicken broth/water and beans. Bring the pot to a boil.

While you wait for the chili to boil, mix together the cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Add this mixture to the chili, turn the heat down to medium, and simmer everything until it reaches desired thickness, about 20 minutes. It will look really liquid-y until you add the cornstarch and let it simmer, but it thickens up beautifully.

Garnish with cheese and sour cream and serve with tortilla chips for dipping.



Monday, November 30, 2015

Weekend Wanderings - Thanksgiving 2015

I had a beautiful long weekend for Thanksgiving. We took the train upstate on Wednesday afternoon, just as the sun was beginning to set over the river.



I didn't take any photos on Thanksgiving, because I was too busy enjoying the delicious food and the wonderful company of our family and friends, but I did get some nice snaps during our Black Friday hike. Cece and I have gone on quite a few November hikes over the years, and it was great to add Bull Mountain to our list this year! Roger and Owen joined us, and we all had a blast.






We stopped for a tasty lunch at Whistling Willie's in Cold Spring and drove around the town for a bit. It's even cuter than I remembered it being!


That evening, we headed to the Peekskill Brewery for what has become a bit of an annual tradition—reuniting with some old and dear friends from high school.



On Saturday, my mother wasn't feeling well, so we spent most of the day relaxing at home. I made my first ever spritz cookies, and they turned out really well!


Roger and I headed back home on Sunday, and I spent most of the afternoon doing some freelance work. That evening, we went to the Park Slope Co-op and started our membership! I'm really excited to have access to such great foods. Roger's going to be doing my shifts for a few months while things settle down here, and then I'll take over my shift in the spring. From everything I've heard, it's going to be a great experience, and Roger even brought home dried mangoes yesterday, so I feel like we're really official now!

I hope that if you celebrate, you had a beautiful Thanksgiving too!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving 2015!

Hearty Thanksgiving greetings, friends! I hope this year has given you much to be grateful for, and that your stomachs and hearts are full today.

This image is a very favorite of mine, even though Ralph Waldo Emerson definitely did not write it, so I made a slight edit to it and hopefully will not get sued for that. It's still a lovely printable, which can be found here.


This year is the first of many where we didn't host our annual Friendsgiving potluck. Though I'm sad not to have had the time to do it, I'm so grateful for the things keeping us busy: interesting work projects, a healthier lifestyle, and seeing friends and family individually instead of in a big group.

I'm often overwhelmed by how lucky I am, and I try to remember to be gracious, to embody gratitude every day. But, I'm human and having a special day to remind myself, and to surround myself with family and friends, is always a good thing. And to anyone reading, please know that I'm grateful that you choose to spend time with me here, and for your community.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Molly's Deviled Eggs - Cooking with Kristin

Sorry to repeat content here, but these deviled eggs are amazing, and it turns out that some people eat appetizers on Thanksgiving. (We do not, but I'm not judging. We bring our appetizer game to Christmas Eve big time.) If you are such a person, and you don't have a deviled egg recipe of your own, look no further. This is actually the BEST deviled egg recipe out there. They're from the American Girls Cookbook, and it's well worth purchasing a copy if you're in the mood to cook any other American Girl Doll recipes.
 

Plus, I finally managed to take a snap the last time I made these. Yum! They're super easy and deserve to be on your Thanksgiving table tomorrow, so give them a try and let me know what you think.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy 36th Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

My incredible parents are celebrating their 36th anniversary today. They are just as cute now as they were back on their Colorado honeymoon in 1979.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad! Thank you for modeling love in everything you do.



Friday, November 20, 2015

Weekday Wanderings - Robin Coste Lewis's Reading at NYU

My incredibly talented and incredibly dear friend Robin Coste Lewis won the National Book Award two nights ago for her unbelievably brilliant first book of poetry, The Sable Venus. She was working on it while we were in graduate school together, so I had the deep privilege of reading it early, and it's stayed with me ever since.

Kristin Maffei and Robin Coste Lewis
At the reading last night.
So many of our classmates were there!


Last night, she gave a reading at our alma mater with Yusef Komunyakaa, who advised on both of our theses. It was a glittering reading, and I can't think of a better place to celebrate with her. She kept saying, "It's so crazy. It's so fucking crazy." and one of our classmates (Mike? Travis?) said, "It's not crazy at all. It's so deserved."

If you haven't read it already, go pick up The Sable Venus as soon as you possibly can. I love this book almost as much as I love Robin herself, and that's a lot of love. It's staggeringly good, and I'm so glad the National Book Foundation felt the same way!

Kristin Maffei and Robin Coste Lewis
This was at our graduation, but it's pretty much the exact face I made when I heard she won.

Congratulations, Robin!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Crafting with Kristin - Heirloom Baby Quilt

Well, it's been a year since I made my last quilt, so it was fortuitous that one of my closest friends happened to get pregnant this year, and give me the great opportunity to make a baby quilt! I'm really fond on this one, which I think is really bright and gender-neutral and fun.


The center of each of the squares is actually made from an old dress that belonged to my friend. She wore it to death when we were in college, and then I got it as a hand-me-down a few years later, and then I really wore it to death. Even though it had holes in it, I loved the pattern on it so much that I just couldn't bring myself to toss it. And now I'm glad I didn't, since I think it really helps make the quilt into an heirloom for the baby.


The colors in it also really inspired me. Since they've decided not to find out the baby's sex, and since orange is such a kick-ass color anyway, I pulled the orange out from it and decided to make something really fun and bright. The white lines going through it may be ill advised (I guess babies can be kind of messy), but I think they really help bring it all together, and it's an acrylic fabric, so I hope that it will wash out easily.


Plus, because it's a ribbed acrylic fabric, it stands out from the stiffer cotton of the orange quilting fabric and the very soft, worn fabric of the center squares. I think it will be good for the baby to feel lots of different textures. Although, let me be real. I was working on a deadline for this (when am I not?) and didn't pre-wash the fabric, so there's a chance this will not wash well. Oh well. Here's hoping it all turns out okay.


To fill the quilt, I used two different types of batting - the leftover thin, natural batting I used on Emily and Taylor's quilt, and a thicker, acrylic batting I bought at the store. The combination led to a VERY thick quilt, where I was finally able to get those puffy lines I like so much. Hopefully that will be fun for the baby to play with, too. 


One downside to using so much batting is that I broke my sewing machine's needle, and had to learn to replace one at 1am the night before I was set to give this to my friend. But! It turns out it's quite fast and thank god my grandmother was wise enough to have extra machine needles in her sewing basket, so I was back to work in no time.


It's also thick enough that it sort of stands straight on its own. I think between the stiffness and the square shape, it's really going to end up being more of a play mat than a bed quilt. For some reason while I was making it, it just seemed like more of a mat for tummy time than something that you could wrap a newborn up in, and I'm just fine with that.


The back is a large piece of checked fabric from Fulton Fabrics, and again, it's very soft and warm. I really liked shopping with them, and I'll definitely be back. One word of advice if you're going to make a backing that isn't pre-cut larger than the front: measure more than once. That way, you won't end up ripping seams into the night like yours truly. Yikes.

Overall, I'm really pleased with the way this turned out. I'm hoping to get a rotary cutter for Christmas, which I think will take a lot of the strain of measuring and cutting out of my life in the future. It was really fun to try a new pattern, and to work in the dress to the quilt, rather than just using pre-cut squares. Hopefully I'll be able to make another new one soon!

And, in case you're wondering, here's the whole gift, which was themed "Keeping Baby Warm":


Pretty perfect for a New York December baby. The onesies are from Old Navy (is there anything on earth cuter than a baby in cable knits?) and the book is a personal favorite of mine from childhood.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Peanut Butter Brownies - Cooking with Kristin

Do you want the recipe for the BEST brownies in the entire world? Then Alyssa has you covered over at Kind of a Mess with her incredible Dulce de Leche Brownies. They are really something special and also include a link to an easy and safe way to make dulce de leche (as opposed to boiling it, which Courtney told me her grandmother always does and which always made me too nervous to try it, even though I really wanted Courtney's grandma's dulce de leche). Anyway, those are the best brownies in the world and come in just ahead of the recipe on the Baker's Chocolate box.

 
These Peanut Butter Brownies are not the best brownies in the world but they are still damn good and if you're a Lazy Cook like me, they're a great alternative when you have a potluck to be at in two hours and still haven't figured out what you're making. A former coworker made them and gave me her secrets and now I am sharing them with you. Go ahead, try them!

Peanut Butter Brownies
  • 1 box of your favorite brownie mix (I really like Ghirardelli's double chocolate) 
  • 1 egg, the highest quality you can get (go to the farmer's market! or at least buy organic)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (or, if you're really ready to go nuts, melted butter)
  • 1/4 cup milk, the highest quality you can get (again, farmer's market or maybe even half and half)
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (or whatever your package says).

Prepare the brownie mix as you normally would, substituting the milk for the required water (and the butter for the required oil if you're really winning). Pour into your baking pan.

Melt the butter in the microwave for 30 seconds, or until it becomes liquid. Pour over the prepared brownie batter, going back and forth in lines. When all the peanut butter is spread out, use a butter knife to marble the peanut butter by dragging it across the peanut butter in the opposite direction from your lines.

Bake according to the package instructions, probably about 20-30 minutes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tamale Casserole - Cooking with Kristin

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. It's super easy to make and it tastes delicious. It also freezes really well, so it makes a great meal for new parents or someone like me who just doesn't have a ton of time to cook. I usually make two, and freeze one for later.

Since I'm not a big meat eater, I've been thinking of trying this with a refried bean or maybe just black bean topping one day. I haven't done it yet, but I'll report back and let you know how it is if I do. I hope you make this soon and enjoy it as much as I do!

(Not my photo. Obviously. Do I look like I eat salad?)


Chicken Tamale Casserole (Adapted from The Culinary Couple)
  • 1 box of Jiffy corn muffin mix (or 1.5 c. of your favorite mix) 
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 1 15oz. can of creamed corn
  • 2 4oz. cans of chopped green chilies, drained
  • 2 ½ c. Pepper Jack cheese, grated
  • ¼ T. chili powder
  • ½ T. cumin 
  • 1 10oz. can of green enchilada sauce (or red - you do you!)
  • Meat from 1 rotisserie chicken, (or 2 chicken breasts, grilled and seasoned)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Fold eggs, milk, and creamed corn into corn muffin mix. Add green chilies, ½ c. of the grated cheese, chili powder, and cumin combine. Pour into a greased one 9×13 or two 8×8 inch baking dishes. (If you go the 8×8 route, you can bake one / freeze one for later.) Bake for 30 minutes, or until the middle of the mix is firm. It will still be super moist, so don’t rely on the toothpick trick. You’re just looking for it to not be jiggly anymore.

While the tamale base bakes, you can either grill your chicken breasts (I like to grill them with Tony Chachere’s) and shred them, or shred the meat off your rotisserie chicken.

When the tamale base has baked, pierce it all over with a fork. Pour the majority of the enchilada sauce over the tamale base, then top with shredded chicken and remaining 2 c. of cheese. Drizzle the remaining sauce over the whole thing.

From there, you can either bake it all immediately for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, or you can wrap and freeze it. To bake from frozen: remove all plastic wrap and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, or until heated through.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Weekend Wanderings - Laura's Bridal Shower and Sarah's Birthday Brunch

Oh my goodness, it was a jam-packed weekend! On Friday at lunch, I went to the Oxo sample sale and bought WAY too many kitchen goods. (While I was heading to the register, it was announced that everything was 50%, so I went back and got even more goodies than I'd already had.) And then that evening, I headed down to Philadelphia to celebrate Laura and her upcoming wedding at her bridal shower.

Molly and Jamie met me at the bus, and we headed over to Molly's apartment to drop off our things before we went to the Italian Market for some really tasty burritos. (I can't remember the name of the place, but they were super fresh!) After that, we headed back to Molly's and went to sleep pretty quickly after.

In the morning, we started putting together a few things for the shower. We made corsages for Laura, her mom, and her future mother-in-law, which turned out to be a lot of fun, even if our hands were covered in glue afterward.


One of Laura's friends offered to have the shower at her beautiful apartment, and Molly had a few pineapple themed decorations for her. Laura's mother-in-law also had flowers delivered to the apartment, and the arrangements were really gorgeous.


The shower was a potluck, so Molly collected the recipes for Laura and will make a book of them. Everything was really tasty!

William Smith girls plus me!

It was also just a really great chance to catch up with everyone from HWS that I haven't seen in a while. We had such a blast!

Molly did an amazing job planning the shower. And, her mom even came down to attend!


Laura and Jeff, the happy couple!


Congratulations, Laura! Can't wait to celebrate with you in February!

That evening, I hopped right back on a bus again to head to New York, because on Sunday morning, we celebrated Sarah's 30th birthday with a surprise brunch in Brooklyn at Flatbush Farm. It was lots of fun to get together with everyone, including a whole lot of people who had also come from Philadelphia that morning:

Shira and Martin, who live there (jealous!)

Matty, the party planner, and Alana, who ran a Spartan race the day before, also in Philly!

These people weren't in Philly but they're still awesome.

I think Sarah was genuinely surprised to see everyone, which is always a lot of fun. It's so nice to celebrate milestones like this with old friends. It feels like it was only a couple months ago that we were celebrating her 19th birthday in Hill House, a few months after school had started and we'd met for the first time.

Sarah and her amazing mother.

I hope every year keeps getting better and better for us all. Love you, Sarah!