Why I’m writing about food this month

- 31 days --rectangle

Here at Pink-Briefcase we hold on to the good things in life, and food is one of those good things. A delicious meal, a warm cup of tea, a freshly baked loaf of bread to surprise a friend, a fancy iced cake for a grandmother’s birthday, a casserole to fill in the gaps left from sickness or loss: these are the ingredients of my favorite life moments.

I wouldn’t have told you this in quite this way before reading Shauna Niequest’s beautiful book Bread and Wine, but the truth is I love to eat. I enjoy making something delicious and sharing it with others – 50% joy in making someone I love happy, 50% pride from surprising someone with my hidden talents (YES I DID make this and YES IT IS delicious, thankyouverymuch) – but sometimes I don’t have anyone to share with. Then I either make nothing or make something delicious for myself, eating ALL OF IT so it doesn’t go to waste. Makes total sense, right? (I’m feeling squiggly writing this already!)

As much as I love to eat, it’s important that I don’t lose focus and live to eat. And while that may sound crazy to some of you, it’s easy for me to fall into unhealthy food habits. I can bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies and eat six warm from the oven without even noticing. I might grab a few chips to eat during a television show and suddenly I’ve watched four episodes of Mad Men and eaten half a bag of puffy Cheetos. (It’s called binge watching for a reason.)

I have a weak stomach too, so on the days I feel good I indulge because I can. Now that I’m thinking about it, this probably isn’t helping my stomach situation any, but that’s really the problem: too often I don’t think about it at all. I know I need to think about what I eat to make wise food choices, but then life gets busy and I forget to buy groceries and end up eating Chipotle or cold cereal for dinner three nights in a row.

I like to be straightforward here so I’ll be the first to say this is not a food blog.  I’m not a chef and I don’t write too many of my own recipes, and I’m pretty terrible at food photography.  (Thank God for Instagram filters!)  Even so, we’re focusing on food this month for two reasons:

ONE. I love to talk about food and share recipes and teach my friends the tricks I’ve learned from reading cookbooks and food blogs for years and growing up in a Southern kitchen. I thought about starting a food blog for a while, and still would if it weren’t so dang hard to remember to photograph what I cook before stuffing it in my mouth. One of my most popular blog posts is a recipe I posted years ago, and I think writing about food is fun.

TWO. I want to spend October thinking about my food choices more. These last few months I’ve been away on work travel a lot, spending weeks at a time in a hotel room and eating too many meals in crappy restaurants. As I gear up for the holiday season I don’t want to lose weight (who can afford new winter clothes in a different size? Not me!) but I do want to be intentional about what I eat and enjoy my kitchen the way I haven’t been able to since April or May. It’s time to make this apartment a home, and I’m going to do that by spending some quality time with my gorgeous kitchen.

Every day for the 31 days in October I’ll share with you something from my kitchen. We’ll focus on using our kitchens smartly: plain-old, real-life kitchen tricks for eating well, hosting guests, planning a killer party, or otherwise fueling an awesome life.

If you aren’t into cooking, I hope you’ll still enjoy this adventure. Like all of the things I write here, the underlying story is the struggle to balance the impulse to be perfect at every single thing against the cold hard truth that life is pretty great just the way it is, mediocre meals, messy rooms, dirty mirrors, and mismatched socks.

Thanks for joining me.  Let’s try not to catch anything on fire.

 
A Few Technical Things:
  • Here is the page for the #write31days posts I’ll be doing.  Each day of this series I’ll add a link to that page so you can follow along or just skip to what you’re interested in.  I even made a button over there on the right sidebar. (Hope it works!)
  • Here is the website for #write31days. I’m sure there are a lot of cool things others are writing about too, so you may want to take a look and add a few interesting topics to your reader.
  • I’ll still be posting regular content, but will sometimes weave it into these posts for efficiency’s sake (for example, I’ll include good-looking recipe links along with my 5-things wrap ups each weekend).  For you email subscribers, I’ll try not to overwhelm your inbox, but you may see a few more posts than normal.  Hopefully that’s a good thing!

 

What I’m Into: September 2014

What I’m Reading

Outlander (I’ve finished the first and started the second but hit a bit of a blah-wall).

On Writing Well.

Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor (moving slowly through this one but it is g-o-o-d).

What I’m Watching

Outlander on Starz (it started my book obsession and really is a great watch).

Fall premieres:  Parenthood, The Mindy Project, Nashville, Scandal.  September is a great month for television!

I’ve mostly avoided Netflix this month (success) and we watched The Other Woman.  I liked it okay.

What I’m Doing in Chicago

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Visiting Oz Park and the Chicago Zoo.

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Attending baseball games (Go Cubs!) and enjoying summer weather.

What I’m Eating

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Sweet potato hash with a poached egg.

Shmear-ing spicy cranberry sauce on everything I can.

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Korean fried chicken and bibimbap at Crisp in Lakeview.

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The ultimate comfort soup at XOCO in Near North Side.

We also had late-night cocktails at The Violet Hour (and I tried very hard to stay awake but was not incredibly successful).

What I’m Loving

Wearing blouses.  I told you on Facebook that I’d missed out of blouses for the first 27 years of my life and that during this 28th year, I’m wearing them as much as I can.  But, matching them with pants and shoes is still a struggle.

Hand lettering and other beautiful things.  I’m basically obsessed with Andrea Levendusky.

Dreaming-up alternative careers:  professor, writer, researcher, gossip columnist, ethicist, senator, baker, coffee-shop owner . . .

What I’ve Been Writing

On Reconciliation: My Story

On Why I Love September

On Why I Don’t Have “Guilty” Pleasures

 

So, what about you?  Was your September awesome? If you’re looking for cool things to read, watch, or otherwise know about, be sure to head over to Leigh Kramer’s link-up so you can tour the favorite things of some of the best lady-bloggers on the web.

 

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 9.26.2014

Five Things New

This Week’s Links:

  1. Being brave does not mean being reckless:  This is What Brave Means
  2. Are you living for your resume virtues or your eulogy virtues?
  3. Race reconciliation for white people
  4. How to pour love out like a river
  5. Writing makes you a healthier, happier, more awesome person

I hope you had a great week!  Did you read anything awesome this week?  If so, be sure to share!  You can leave a comment here, link me up on twitter, or leave a post over on the blog’s Facebook page.

 

Precipice

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I love September. It is probably my favorite month, closely followed by December (Christmas!), November (Thanksgiving! Veterans Day!), and October (Columbus Day!).

As the temperatures dip lower I feel excited to be alive. When I breathe that first breath of cool air in the morning, the chill fills my soul and I want to dance. And call all of my friends. And go shopping. It’s out of control.

I also have an urge to start new things. This week I began a mini-photography class led by my friend Jennifer Upton (if you’re in Atlanta and need photos, look her up. She is incredible.). I’ve been working on a new research project, which may go nowhere but is keeping my brain active.  I’m considering a new once-weekly themed post here on the blog.  I’d like to find a trainer and join a yoga studio and choose a Chicago doctor and finally have my wisdom teeth extracted.  Oh, and I want to start taking guitar lessons too.

It’s easy for me to bite off more than I can chew in September, when the world has so much potential. I am not jumping too far. I’m still keeping things close.  But I’m ready, standing on the edge of something great. I don’t know what it is, exactly,  but I can feel it.

 

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 9.21.2014

Five Things New

This week was — well, weird.  Here are a few awesome links I found while wandering through the metaphorical desert that was the third week of September.

  1. A Friday night tradition that I really want to start — if only we had friends living near us in Chicago.
  2. This post all about boobs and bras and helping them meet in the middle.
  3. Leanne Penny.  I don’t even know how to summarize this, but it is about love and loss and faith and I really liked it.
  4. This beautiful story of friendship.
  5. My friend Abby branching out and doing amazing things.  A TED talk?  Coaching?  She is awesome.

And a few extras for good measure:

  • Please stop apologizing for eating brownies.
  • If you grew up in a world where women must submit, you might accidentally still be living that theology even if you don’t agree with it.  Watch out for these common slip-ups.
  • Every single post from my friend Esther’s series on men and feminism.  Start here.

Begin Real Reconciliation with a Conversation

I started a blog post at the beginning of this year that I never finished. It was tentatively titled “On Speaking Up in 2014” and it was inspired by my friend Osheta Moore. Osheta wrote a fantastic viral blog post that called for white Southern lady-bloggers like me to use our voices to validate the experiences of non-white women who did not have our same privilege. Osheta wrote (and I agree) that white women writers must realize that their ability to choose whether or not to speak about an issue is directly related to their privilege in that situation: by saying nothing, they lose nothing because they already have everything. In early January, I told myself that I would spend this year of “ATTACK” speaking up; I wanted to practice taking risks in small ways so I would be ready for the big moments when they arrived.

But speaking up is hard work, and a number of internet scandals and real life disasters have come and gone since the New Year and I haven’t even gotten around to publishing the draft blog post that says I want to practice participating! It’s pretty cozy over here on the sidelines, where I can roll my eyes at internet crazy from a safe distance.

I’ve ignored that inner voice a lot this year, but over the past week it came right out and surprised me. I saw something that I thought was wrong, and before I could count to ten and calculate potential liabilities and decide not to get involved in a messy situation it was too late. I was on the record saying THIS IS WRONG. THE PEOPLE WHO ARE HURTING ARE PEOPLE I LOVE. THEY MATTER. MAKE IT BETTER.

My words didn’t necessarily bring about a better result, but I received a surprising number of private messages from women who were afraid to speak until they heard my voice, who told me that they felt braver and stronger because I went first.  They began to share their opinions too. The opinions were all different — of course we did not all agree — but we had a dialogue that was mostly healthy and that I was proud to participate in. This week was sad and stressful and there have been a couple of personal emergencies and family health crises on my mind. Each of the notes I received and each instance of robust and impassioned dialogue I witnessed has been special to me. I enjoyed seeing women I respect disagree well. It was beautiful.

And so, I pulled this draft blog post out and I’m dusting it off a bit. I’ve learned this year to get right to the point in my writing so here it is:

We often think about oppressors as them. But sometimes the oppressors are us. Sometimes we are the ones whom we should be speaking against. When the people we love and respect are the ones committing wrongful actions (whether it is a relatively minor power imbalance or something big and terrible like systemic racism or institutional poverty) it is so much harder. Because then we have to not just speak out for the weak, but speak against those we love. That is WAY WORSE.

But even when we disagree with those we love, staying silent doesn’t reconcile or redeem.  We may think it is noble to stay silent to preserve relationships; we may even call this “peacemaking” and claim our special place among the Blesseds.  It is not.  It is not noble to protect the feelings of the majority at the expense of the minority.  It is not peacemaking to sit quietly and watch evil or fear or prejudice or injustice run the world. That is just plain old self-interestedness, the kind that reinforces majority status and others everyone else.  And really, there are enough people reinforcing majority status and othering everyone else.  It’s time to be real reconcilers, real peacemakers. We can do that by starting a conversation.

ADVICE NEEDED: What cell phone do you use?

I told you back in July that I purchased a new iPhone 5, broke the screen, paid to have the screen fixed, and then lost my phone to theft within the scope of about 7 days.

That still sucks. Since then, I’ve been using my handy iPhone 4 (no S) which works, but is slow and has memory issues and low battery life. There is nothing “wrong” with my iPhone 4.

Except — during those five days I had a working iPhone 5s, I really loved it. It was crisp and beautiful and took amazing photos! I purchased extra memory to boost my mobile blogging options and LTE was fast. So fast. As spoiled and ridiculous as this sounds, I was really excited about my upgrade, and I still want a new phone.

The problem is that I already used my upgrade/contract renewal. If I purchase a new phone, I have to pay cash. And a new iPhone is pricey. Without the contract renewal off-set, it could be $549.99 to $749.99. And my inner Scrooge is not on board with paying more for a phone than, like, an entire month’s worth of groceries.

Can a new phone really be worth this much? Is there a better way? I thought you might know some tricks or an alternative for paying full price, so I’m just throwing this out there and looking for your thoughts. Is your iPhone 5s worth it? Will the prices drop when the iPhone 6 comes out? What would you do?

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 09.13.2014

Five Things New

Hi!  This week — it was a killer.  I’m not sure how I made it to Thursday evening, but somehow I did.  I’ve been crashing and pulling things back together since Friday morning, and still have a bit of laundry and packing to do (a quick three day/two-night trip to DC starts tomorrow around 1 . . . ) but I’m feeling better.  I have fewer awesome things to share with you this week than normal, since I spent my little down time with my nose in this 850 page paperback (I only have 75 or so pages left but I’m a little bored with it now so I haven’t finished.  Funny how things turn out, eh?), but there are still some pretty great things out there I want to share:

1.  This is the nerdiest and best thing I’ve read in a while: it’s about statistics, theology, liberals and conservatives and spreadsheets.  Seriously.  It starts out a bit slow but keep working because it is beautiful at the end.

2. Check out this good advice about confidence and professionalism and faking it until you make it.

3.  The internet world has been talking about civility in discourse and I have been listening, but I’m not quite ready to articulate what I think yet.  I absolutely hate yelling.  I think it ends conversations.  But, when powerful people in a conversation start yelling at weaker people, I turn up my own volume quickly.  I really appreciated these comments about this issue.

4. If you love long-form journalistic storytelling, don’t miss this piece in the New York Times Magazine on the women of West Point.  I’m still working through all of it but it is beautiful.

5.  And, if you’re a planner/dreamer/person-who-lives-on-the-future like I am, you might enjoy this interview about finding happiness and living in the moments of your life.  It is certainly something to think about.

 

That’s it!  And, in case you’re needing a little pick-me-up today (I certainly am), this is for you.

Not Guilty Pleasures

I like to say that I don’t have any guilty pleasures.  From time to time I’ll even correct someone, asking why they should feel guilty about enjoying the things they love.  It goes something like this:

Friend:  You know, watching that show Dating Naked is one of my guilty pleasures.

Me:  You mean, one of your pleasures.  Why feel guilty about something you love?  Plus, that is a great show.  (I mean, it really is great, isn’t it?  You can reach out and touch the awkwardness.  And who knew so many 25-year-old virgins watched VH-1?)

But the thing is, with all of the above-quoted bravado, I really do feel a bit sheepish about admitting some of my favorite things.  I keep them to myself and really only talk about the “cool” things I do.  Which may be why this blog is sparse of late. . . Anyway, when I do reveal some of my less cool activities, I protest the “guilty” label but find myself blushing a bit or doing that awkward smiling thing where you really aren’t happy but your face is stuck in smile-mode and then suddenly you realize that your face is SO TIRED OF SMILING that it feels as if your eye-balls might pop out of their sockets.  So probably I still feel guilty about it.  However, I’m faking it until I actually achieve my desired level of enlightenment.  Like a pro.

This week, I’m right in the midst of one of my NOT GUILTY pleasures:  reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander.

I know, I know, it’s 850 pages of ridiculous time-traveling historical fiction that is mostly a romance novel.  And yes, it is true, there aren’t any dragons so it’s nowhere near as good as Game of Thrones.  [I did spy a 18th-century version of the Loch Ness monster in there, but it wasn't scary, so I accept this criticism.]  But sometimes, when you spend so many hours walking the path of giant spreadsheets and the technical application of specialized jargon written by congressional staffers and interpreted by regulation and applied and defined by administrative boards, it’s nice to have a little magic in the evening.  Even if it is completely ridiculous and even if the romance parts stopped being interesting a few hundred pages ago.

And so, I just wanted to tell you:  I’ve worked two eight-hour shifts and mopped the kitchen and cooked dinner for my husband several times but also, I’ve had the first Outlander book in my possession since about 6 p.m. on Sunday and I’m already 567 pages in.  It feels good to tell the truth.

 

So, do you believe in guilty pleasures?  And have you read the Outlander books?  Am I completely insane?

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 9.05.2014

Five Things New

1. Abi Bechtel for SheLoves Magazine in an essay entitled Her Face.

2. Justin Lee for Crumbs from the Communion Table with Did Daniel Pierce’s Coming Out Video Upset You?  Here are 5 Things You Can Do.

3. On Twitter Reputations, “Being Kind” and the Golden Spirit, by Esther Emery.

4. Abby Norman on her blog with Birthday Celebrations and Awkward Feelings: Let the Little Children Lead.

5. Engaged in Paris, the story of my friend Katherine’s engagement which was inspired by me!  (well, I mean, not entirely inspired by me.  The engagement itself wasn’t my idea, just the way that they told their story.  But I’m still taking credit.)

Honorable mentions to one thing I have in common with Jenny Lawson, and the most beautiful pregnancy reveal post from Ms. Sarah Bessey.

 

Thanks for stopping by!  I’m so excited for the blog to finally be back in action.  I’ve missed you guys!  Did you read any other awesome things this week?  If so, make sure to share in the comments or link me up on Facebook or Twitter.