Monday, November 1, 2010

Hello Yaris!

Ian and I bought a new car! I've had a tolerate-hate relationship with the 'ol burgandy Grand Prix for the past two years, and with well over 100,000 miles on it and a few thousand in repairs in the past 6 months, it felt like we were driving a ticking time bomb.

So we traded it on in for a shiny, white Toyota Yaris. It's a hatchback, or "five-door lift back." I never thought of myself as a hatchback kind of girl until I saw these adorable little cars zipping around town. They get great gas mileage, as safe as a compact can get, and... the Yaris is affordable for two grad students trying to scrape by

But seriously, isn't this just the cutest little car?!?

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Busy Girl

Things are busy right now. I made a hard decision this week to not continue my graduate assistant (GA) position into the next semester. Right now, it's just plain difficult to find the time to commit to the hours. In conjunction with the time now, I'm considering what I'm realistically going to need to do to graduate within the time line I want, and I'm also interested in trying to fit in some psychology counseling courses that would allow me to get certified as a family and marriage counselor, or a sex therapist after graduation if the doctorate program doesn't work out. This could be for any variety of reasons, but good to have a back up plan, right? Plus counseling skills can't hurt... can only make me better at my current position at GreenPath and whatever future endeavors take up!

I made the decision to not renew my contract when I realized what my time actually looked like. And it's insane:

Monday: Work on GA stuff in the morning, GreenPath from 11:00 AM - 7:00 PM, work out when I get home for 30-45 minutes, dinner with Ian, a few hours for homework.
Tuesday: GreenPath from 8:30 - around 4:00 PM, class at 5:30 - 8:10 PM, work out, dinner with Ian, homework.
Wednesday: GreenPath from 8:30 - around 4:00 PM, class at 5:00 - 7:40 PM, work out, dinner with Ian, homework. (Notice a pattern yet?)
Thursday: Homework/GA stuff in the morning, GA hours 12:00 - 5:00 PM, class from 5:30 - 7:10, work out, dinner with Ian. But I don't do homework on Thursday nights. Thank the good lord.
Friday: Work from 8:30 - around 4:00 PM. 2-3 hours of GA work, RELAXATION.

The weekends have a little more space in them usually. We do our errands and shopping on Saturday and usually sleep in a little. Sometimes I'll do a few hours of work, but usually I save Sunday as my crunch day. Overall what I realized is that without the GA position, I work on average about 30 hours weekly, have 9 hours a week in class as it is plus homework time. I'm usually going from 8:00 in the morning when I leave the house until after 8:00 when I get home, and then it's more homework and exercise and eating and sleeping. Plus, I'm not getting enough sleep, which means I'm crabby and weepy, which makes me a bad partner for my baby, this (somewhat) perfect man cooks and cleans and rubs my back and says encouraging things, even when I get weepy-mascara goop all over his shirts.

So I sent my adviser and the department head my decision tonight. It's been on the table, and really, the GA position has been the thing to fall behind, my classwork and my job are too important to me to not put full effort into, and I don't always have the energy and time for the final hours. So I'll finish out the last 7 weeks of the semester and then have a little more time to deal with things. At least, that's the hope!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Roasted Eggplant Soup

The motor for our blender and food processor pooped out this week. Ian and I were planning to make a roasted eggplant soup with our last farm share veggies. and then realized this evening we had nothing to make it creamy and delicious with!

Enter trip to Target for the IMMERSION BLENDER. Our good friend Em whipped out her immersion blender out at a jam-making party a few weeks back, and I must admit I was terribly jealous at how fast and mess-free it was. Boiling pears and sugar into pear sauce in mere moments with no messy back and forth between blender and pot? I believe I will!

So we picked up this little dude. Exciting, right? And red (yes mom, red) to match my standing blender. Because Ian spoils me rotten like that.

Our vegetables are currently roasting away for our soup, so I can't tell you how the soup turned out yet, but here is the recipe for Roasted Eggplant Soup at Also see Smitten Kitchen's beautiful pictures, my original inspiration.

I'm off to make some Gruyere croutons for the soup. Nomnom.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Butternut Squash Gratin Recipe

It's fall!

Ian and I made my favorite fall dish, Butternut Squash Gratin. This is my fifth fall making it, and I've gradually worked out a recipe that is pretty darned delish.

Butternut Squash Gratin
Smaller butternut squash have more flavor. It's more work to cut up a few of these, but the results are worth it!

3-4 small-medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup flour
1 Tbsp. butter
2-3 onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
several sprigs fresh sage, minced and divided
thyme (fresh or dried)
rosemary (fresh or dried)
4 slices high quality bread
olive oil
2-4 oz. grated Gruyere cheese (or a nice Parmesan)
1/2 - 3/4 cup milk, warmed (recommend whole milk)

Toss the cubed squash in the flour until well coated. Salt and pepper, and set aside.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter and add the onion and garlic, along with half of the sage and a pinch of thyme. Saute until the onions began to caramelize and brown. Add the broth and increase heat to medium-high. Stir occasionally until almost all of the broth is absorbed and very little liquid remains. Take the onion mixture off of the heat and spread in the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish.

Reheat skillet over medium heat with 1 Tbsp. olive oil. When the oil is hot, place just enough of the squash cubes to cover the pan in a single layer. Cook, tossing gently every minute or two until squash begins to sizzle and starts to nicely brown, about 7 minutes. Place cooked squash on top of onion mixture. Repeat until all of your squash is cooked, usually 2-3 batches depending on your pan size.

Time to make your breadcrumbs! Run the bread through a food processor to make crumbs. Return your non-stick skillet (wiped clean) to medium-low heat, and, if you want, heat a small amount of butter or olive oil. Add the bread and 1-2 teaspoons rosemary, and some salt and pepper. Toss the breadcrumbs and continue to cook about 5-7 minutes until they begin to brown. Set aside.

Sprinkle the cheese and the rest of the sage evenly over the squash mixture, then pour over the warm milk. Cover with tinfoil and cook at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Uncover the squash and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the dish. Continue cooking for 15-250 minutes more, until the squash is browned and sizzling.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nothing Terribly Exciting

I feel bad not having contributed to the blog in about three weeks. I'm very busy and having lots of thoughts. Unfortunately many of the ideas I'm learning about and mulling over... wouldn't be very interesting for anyone else, save a few people from my department, who I'm pretty sure don't read this. See, aren't I considerate in saving you from reading boring things?

I'm really struggling to develop a schedule and succeed in time management. Too often I suddenly realize it's one the morning (or later!), and I haven't finished my reading or the paper due the next day and have been wasting time on facebook or doing kenken or any other number of unproductive activities (but kenken is supposed to make you smarter - so there!). And on reduced sleep, I'm not as good a counselor, don't think as clearly in class, can't study as effectively, and am a crabbier wife.

This all said, I pushed myself so hard last weekend and this week, Ian and I spent some really nice time together last night after class. We got a burger, had some wine, and just hung out for a few hours. Guilt free. We're trying to at least spend 30-60 minutes a day together for some "us" time, whether that's cooking a nice dinner together, or reading before bed.

Well, I've got email a million students and make some phone calls.
Happy Thursday all!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

On a rainy, Saturday afternoon in Michigan

I've adopted a local Starbucks as my study location #5. On a rainy and cold afternoon, you just can't beat a cozy Starbucks - the large armchairs, fireplace, tea latte, and a pumpkin muffin. Yes, please. The whole day has felt like Sunday to me, not sure why. We did our normal thing - farmers market, lunch out, short afternoon nap. Maybe I associate Saturdays with sunshine and warmth?

I also took a pregnancy test today. There have been... indications, shall we say, of a possible pregnancy that initially had us concerned. I say initially, because we weren't planning on a third McCready-Flora right now. I just started grad school, we're in a tiny apartment that can barely fit both of us, and we have no idea where we're going to be in a year. Plus, are we ready for a baby? We wanted to have more time together as a couple before starting a family. But, as we talked about the possibility, it turned from an "Oh no!" into a discussion of... could we stay in our current apartment? Could the Ian's small study work as a nursery? What would timing look like? Could I keep up with my classes if I was pregnant?

I'm sure you realize I wouldn't be writing about this if the test result was positive (although I am really terrible at keeping exciting secrets to myself). When only one line came up on the pregnancy test, I felt both relief and, unexpectedly, sadness. Yes, a baby would've been terribly inconvenient and changed our lives in ways I'm sure I can't even imagine, but we would have been so happy and scared and excited about a double line result on that little white stick. And this from the girl who swore she would never get married (um, oops) and didn't want kids.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

First of all, our exciting new Ypsilanti finds that we just can't get enough of:

  • Dom's Bakery - The absolute best apple fritter I've ever had. As they're only about a half mile away, we now have a new rule that we can only walk to Dom's, as our doughnut runs were becoming much too frequent.
  • Pacific Beach Burritos - A shout out to Emily and Hung for suggesting this gem. Best burritos and tacos I've had in the states, I think. It's no Tacos Tumbras, the taco joint we found in Acapulco on our honeymoon in May, but the concept is the same: Tortilla. Meat (with cheese, maybe with eggs) or Veggies. Salsa. I wasn't terribly impressed with their grilled veggie burrito, their different meats are outstanding and drool worthy. 
Well, I've had my first two classes this week. I've yet to enjoy my Psych Statistics class (starting this Tuesday), but my text book came in the mail and thoroughly terrorized me. The first chapter looked familiar, but after that... Eeps McGregor.

My other two classes are Feminist Thought (feminist and women's studies theory) and, the program capstone, oddly enough, Colloquium: Research on Women's and Gender Issues. It was very strange to have my very first course in grad school be the capstone, but since I'm trying to kick this program out in the next 10 months, you do what you have to do.

Well, my goal is to write a paper in the next two hours, so here I go.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Running... well, sort of?

I had my second day of "running" today. And by running, I rather mean limping down the street. But Ian comes with me and times and says encouraging things.

On Day #1 (... yesterday) I ran, and walked, and ran, and walked, and then had an asthma attack. Exercise Induced Asthma anyone? This seriously only happens when I run or get into a kick boxing frenzy while doing a Julian Michaels workout. Plus my shoes were terrible (some old cross-trainers?), and my right foot really hurt.

Ian and I stopped at Bivouac and bought me some Vibrams. A note in Vibram Five Fingers: Ian LOVES them. He's been running in his for over a year now, and swears by them. They're excellent quality shoes, and while they may look ridiculous, are supposed to be much better for running.

It meant a more serious commitment to running, or at least extreme walking, but it was a commitment I was willing to make. So, after previewing their choices in my size, so, two options, I came home with these:

Yes, they're BRIGHT PINK and very... loud, shall we say? But I figured if I was going to wear silly-looking toe shoes, it was best to go all out. Plus they breathe better and were a little cheaper (and cuter!) than the other option, a pair of black, high-topish ones available.

I ran for the first time in them this evening. I ran a mile. It may not have been all at once, but I ran at least one mile all together, and walked a bit in-between each running period. Gosh, it's weird to actually take this sort of thing seriously. I've been successful at starting other workout programs, like kickboxing, or yoga, or, yes, aerobics, but every time I've tried to run, I'll make it about 5-10 blocks, feel like I'm going to die, and immediately give up.

This time, I'm taking is ssslllooowww. Which means starting by walking for two-three minutes, running for one-two minutes, keeping my heart rate up and my breathing under control. For some reason running exhausts me so much faster than seemingly every other type of cardio, but I really want to be able to do this with Ian, and... be able to do it at all. So, one week at a time, one day at a time, one small stretch of running at a time! My goal is to be able to run for 30 minutes straight, without needing to stop and walk. Realistically, it's going to take awhile to get there, but that's the goal. So, right now, it means walking more than running, and eventually I will be running more than walking. But I think I can do this.

 - - -

On another note, along with our asian fish (broiled in a black-bean garlic sauce - yum!) and stir-fried green beans for dinner tonight, I threw some chicken breasts on the stove-top to brown, then put them in the crock pot with some onions, cumin, authentic New Mexico chile powder (we literally have a cookie-jar full of this stuff and it's continually growing, god knows why), pepper, and chicken broth. Our nice, big crock pot is in storage right now as our apartment was too small to store it in, so we're stewing up out taco meat for tomorrow's dinner in the famous football crock pot, or... THE PRO POT. This was Ian's and my first purchase together, and, if any of you know us at all, you will understand it was an ironic purchase. It was at Meijer, on clearance; could you say no to that?!?

I thought not.

Anyways, I'm getting hungry just smelling it being all delicious in the other room.

 - - -

My new position is going splendidly so far. My coworkers are great and pretty fun to work with, but all hard workers, I enjoy having my own office with a window and a view, and that I don't have to talk so loudly all day, or really as much at all. I can already feel Stress Ball Rachel melting away into Relaxed Rachel (she is much nicer to be around, has more energy, and doesn't have a constant headache, or at least, that's the hope). I come home happy and carefree. I'm sure this will adjust some when classes start next week, but right now I feel like I could conquer the world. Or at least my block, if Ian came with me.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Honey Milk Custard & The Start of a New Week

This recipe should be tried by everyone (except for my mom and other people that don't like honey - shame on you all!). It's my first recipe out of Deborah Madison's Seasonal Fruit Desserts, the recipe that inspired me to purchase the darned cookbook in the first place.

*** Addendum: Mom, even you would like this custard, it's silky and soothe, only about 130 calories a serving if you use skim milk, and doesn't have a strong honey flavor. ***

Honey Milk Custard
Adapted from Deborah Madison's Seasonal Fruit Desserts

3 cups milk
1/2 - 2/3 cup honey (depends on how dark/rich your honey is)
pinch kosher salt
3 eggs + 1 yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla or 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out

Bring the milk, cream, honey, and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer for 30 minutes to reduce the milk and concentrate the flavor. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk to combine.

Preheat the over to 350°F.  Bring a kettle of water to boil for the hot water bath the custard will bake in. Place 6 ramekins in a large baking dish.

Whisk the eggs briskly while slowly adding the milk mixture. Stir in the vanilla. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a spouted measuring cup. Divide the mixture among the ramekins. Place the baking tray in the oven, and pour the just-boiling water into the dish around the ramekins, until it reaches 1″ up their side.

Bake until very nearly set, about 45 minutes. Remove the custards from the hot water bath and allow to cool. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

My custards are cooling as I type. While they don't have the lovely golden hue of the ones pictured in the cookbook itself, I did use my farmers market clover honey. It's not as richly flavored as some of the other honeys, but I added a little extra to compensate. I plan to eat mine tomorrow for breakfast with fresh raspberries.

 - - - -

I start the new counseling position in Ann Arbor tomorrow. I'm nervous. What if clients won't take my advice or help seriously because I'm so young? I know I sound young over the phone, but when you  have a 24 year-old sitting across from trying to empathize about being late on your mortgage payment or losing your job, it's just a whole different thing, isn't it? And what if the other staff don't like me?

Jitters. Things always turn out alright, I just work myself into an unnecessary frazzle because I like to worry about things. George.

On another note, I'm going to try to start a new running program tomorrow. Well, by new running program, I mean a running program other than being forced to run laps in high school, which remains a sensitive topic for all involved. I originally found a running plan in a Mayo Clinic exercise/health book at the library, and although I copied it into my planner, I've both misplaced the written copy and returned the original, so Ian and I have been scrambling around online trying to find the plan, or at least something similar.

The first week has three days of running, and by running, I mean running/jogging for one minute, then walking for two minutes, and alternating these until you reach 30 minutes. I think I can handle that! It also has two days with 30 minute walks (I think I may throw yoga or pilates from Ypsi Studio in here), and two rest days.

We'll see how it goes. I will certainly never be as fast as my handsome husband, but I really would like to be able to enjoy this activity with him. Ian has also offered to do this portion of my workout with me before he goes on what he calls, "his real run." And it's true. But you've got to start somewhere, right?

 - - -

Last but not least, we actually planned a menu this week for the first time since we moved! Huzzah! Here's whats on the list:

   Soy-glazed trout, served with stir-fried tatsoi
   Fennel-leek frittata with goat cheese and black olives, served with oven-roasted beets
   Coconut shrimp with pineapple salsa, served with sauteed green beans
   Carrot ginger soup
   Chicken tacos
   Parmesan barley risotto, served with mashed acorn squash

Nom nom nom!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Good Things

Things I'm enthusiastic about right now:
  • plumcots!
  • fruity iced teas
  • this lovely weather we've had all week on the Eastern side of Michigan
  • Ian's vegetable pate. You don't know love if your husband doesn't make this for you.
  • My new cookbook (see last post)

This week was strange. Starting things off to a not great start, I came down with a whopper of a headache on Sunday night, which prompted much complaining as Ian can attest, and the swallowing of my migraine meds, which of course did little if anything to stop the headache from progressing.

I went into work Monday all spiffed up as I had an interview for the Ann Arbor counseling position. The interview went well, not great, but pretty well. I was told that I would be considered and would hear back by Wednesday afternoon.

On Tuesday, I got up to go to work but was so nauseated and felt so terrible in the shower, I called in sick. How many days this year have I had to do that? Too many. I told my manager I would go the doctor. My primary was on vaca, lucky lady, but I was able to get in the same day to see the physicians assistant. My wonderful, wonderful husband (I just love calling him that) drove with me to the doctor, sat in the waiting room with every sick person in Ann Arbor for an hour and a half, and bought me Chipotle when the whole ordeal had ended. The physicians assistant didn't really seem to think anything was wrong with me - he kept slamming the examination room door around, shined bright lights in my eyes, and told me I didn't look like I was in pain. Thanks dude. He didn't even want to talk about changing my prescription, which doesn't seem to do a lot of anything, but did refer me to a neurologist and gave me a shot in the hindquarters to help with the pain. I don't think I've had a shot there since I was a baby.

I ended up sleeping the rest of the afternoon, much to Ian's relief, I'm sure. He's great, but there is only so much cuddling, encouragement, and head-rubbing one man can give, especially when his schedule is so tight.

On Wednesday morning I met with the head of the department to discuss my impending GA position. She was, I think, horrified to hear that I would be working 20-30 hours in addition to my schoolwork and the 10 hours they are requesting for the GA. I walked home wide-eyed and nervous, head pounding. Am I taking too much on? Will I have time to breathe? Ian had to calm me down (it's been a 'tending' week for him!). Yes, we will be busy, and yes, I will be doing a lot. But I think I can handle it. I hope I can handle it.

When I went into work for my shift, I found out that I was chosen for the job in Ann Arbor! This is really exciting - it means a much shorter commute each week, a less stressful position (working in a call center is only for the brave of heart and the stiff of ear), fewer headaches (the loud conversations, phone voices in my ear, and overhead lighting all make headaches more severe), and... a nice change of pace, I think. I've really missed working in a small office, and while I am sad to say goodbye to my beautiful and fun cube-mates, I really like the small office environment. I start on Monday afternoon, which makes tomorrow morning my last shift at corporate, at least for the foreseeable future.

On Thursday morning Ian and I trekked back into Ann Arbor to visit the neurologist. It was a fast, easy visit compared to trip to the PA. He decided to try to prevent the headaches as a strategy, as treating them isn't going terribly well, probably because I don't get any warning/auras beforehand, which is usually when you are supposed to take migraine meds to ward off the headache, so by the time I realize I have a migraine, it's usually too late to effectively treat it. Huh. Anyways, he gave me the following options: Vitamin B2, Magensium, anti-spasmodic/seizure, anti-depressants (no thank you, I remember how terrible those made me feel back in college!), or blood pressure medication. I'm starting with B2 - seems a little safer, not so troublesome or side-affect heavy? We'll see how it goes.

This current headache is still from Sunday. Yipes. Hopefully this is the last time I'll have a six day headache.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

All Settled In

Well, it's been a three weeks since our move now. Ian and I have been working hard to get settled in and have been slowing exploring Ypsilanti. We spent the first week in our new place vacillating from wild panic at our lack of storage (not even room in our bedroom for a dresser!), and loving the necessity of further downsizing. In the end, I reduced my clothes by half... again, and we found a child-size (literally) dresser in the baby/kids section of Ikea that fits into our narrow bedroom closet. Ian, with a flash of brilliance only somewhat brought on by my dismay of parting with my vast collection of little black dresses, built a second row of hanging space in the closet.

We also purchase a new rolling island and a nice new bookshelf for the living room/kitchen space. We sure have crammed a lot of furniture into this place, but it's very homey, we've been enjoying the necessary 'purging,' and it's been a whole lot of fun nesting and making this our new home. Our new kitchen table and stools arrived today. Ian built them while I cooked dinner.

Part of the project was dealing with all of our PAPER. Apparently, Ian and I love paper more than we love.. other things (?). Stacks of old college notes, psychology and philosophy articles, personality quizzes (sure, I admit this is a phase I went through in high-school and I've sort of hung on to a lot of things), etc. We also dug out THE GRAND RECIPE PROJECT, a binder I started to consolidate our 40+ cooking magazine recipes that were worth keeping. This was started at the beginning of our relationship, and after a brief and enthusiastic burst of activity, was dispersed in depressing piles of recipes, magazines, and piles of copied cooking tips about the Ann Arbor apartment. Now, faced with zero room for extra clutter (new family motto: if it doesn't have a home, it goes!), I was faced with the necessity of finishing my long-abandoned projects.

I am proud to report that as of tonight, I've tumbled through dozens of copies of Cooking Light, Vegetarian Times (rather forgettable, sorry veggie dudes), Bon Apetit, Gourmet, and America's Test Kitchen / Best Recipe magazines and brought together a finished project. It's huge, thick, and organized by a crazed sure-I-can-find-this-again optimist, but it's done and on our shelf with all of our other cookbooks.

Speaking of cookbooks, I saw the most beautiful cookbook in Crazy Wisdom a few nights ago. First, let me defend myself being in Crazy Wisdom, the scary New Age shop of incense hell. We met up with some friends at ABC for a birthday celebration of sorts, and needed to work off the Framboise before trekking home. Crazy Wisdom was the only store that sold books within a 6 block radius that was open, and our defenses were down.

Anyways, we walked in the door and I saw this:

Can we all take a moment to breathe? Seriously. SERIOUSLY.
I'm in love?

I've been told (ahem) that if I still really want this cookbook in... negative three days ago, someone (ahem, again) would buy it for me. Someone who really likes it when his lady surprises him with delicious (cough) fruit desserts.

 - - -

Well, I have one week of work left in my normal, full-time schedule. I'll then have one week working part time before my semester starts at Eastern University. As I've been telling my clients that I'm transitioning into a part time position (so if they call and I'm not there, they don't freak), I've been asked again and again, "What, are you like, having a baby?"

No. I am not pregnant. To you, my clients, who I have a strictly over-the-phone relationship with, and to my anxious cube-mates, whom have seen me put on about 10 pounds since the wedding three months ago. I'm not pregnant, I'm just really lazy and my breasts are overwhelming all on their own (oh, that I could tame the girls!).

Anyways, back to work: I saw a job posting for an Ann Arbor counselor position, working under my old manager - I think he liked me? I wrote him an email, has he thought about a part-time counselor as he already has one full-timer in the office. He wrote back, hadn't considered it but let's interview and chat. Sooo... suddenly I have an interview scheduled for Monday. Me and... ten other candidates. BUT... I have been the performing well in my current position, would be an asset to a manager as a part-time employee doesn't have a benefit package and so is cheaper to employ, I would still be working 20-30 hours weekly, and he's worked with me before and knows I'm consistent and a fast learner. I'm really crossing my fingers for this. It would be awesome to have a shorter commute, more regular hours (what, no late nights?), and be able to do face-to-face counseling instead of over the phone, which can be challenging.

Certainly my current position has benefits as well, in that there is more scheduling flexibility, my current plan only involves driving over 2 days a week (two ten-hour days), and I can wear jeans. I think I'll be happy either way, and my lovely, lovely husband is so terribly flexible and supportive, so we'll make it work, whatever happens.

 - - -

I had mentioned above gaining back almost all the weight I lost before the wedding. Bummer, huh?

So, starting this Monday, some changes:
  1. Really avoiding eating out. Ian and I have been less conscientious than we have been in the past about our eating habits, in that if I'm late coming home from work or we're tired, we're much more likely to drive somewhere and get food instead of making it. Expensive and unhealthy. Also, we have this great farm share right now and haven't been using all of our vegetables and fruits before they had south, a travesty! So, avoiding eating out, unless it's a special occasion. 
  2. Regular exercise. There is a great facility, Ypsi Studio, a few blocks from our apartment. They offer yoga, pilates, zumba, kickboxing, spinning, etc. Their schedules change a bit week to week, but I'm planning to start a few classes when I can. I'm especially excited about the prospect of kickboxing again, love it!
  3. Tracking calories. Super boring, right? But if I don't, I just eat too much, I'm terrible with portion sizes or telling myself no when I want something. Plus, since I'm so short, I'm really only supposed to have 1600-1700 calories daily to maintain current weight, which is hard to stay within if you're not careful.
So there's all of it, having basically to retrain all of the good habits I established in the months before the wedding, and then misplaced on the honeymoon, and never quite picked up again after coming home.

I have to say, I guess I've realized that I was slipping back into old habits after coming back and let it happen. I have a lot of resentment that I really have to work so hard against my body to be in a healthy weight range and to look how I want to. Perhaps a deeper issue that needs be dealt with in all of this? Accepting genetics and that I do have to work harder than some of my friends or co-workers to be in a healthy place.

Well it's almost one in the morning now, and we woke up before 7:00 am today, so time to read and drift off to sleep. (Currently working on The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson. Good so far!)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Review: Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen
Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first I felt a little fluffy choosing this as my audio book for my commute. Although I liked the movie (Julia's portion more than Julie's, it must be admitted), I didn't love the movie, but I'm a sucker for a nice story, a little relationship drama, and food (especially food).

I was pleasantly surprised by Powell's voice and like her much more than the Julie the movie portrayed. While she's quite the drama queen and did have bouts of negativity, I loved her dark sense of humor, and hey, I don't really mind the swears (sorry everyone) and loved her constant jabs at Republicans.

I think what I like BEST about this book is that it portrays Julie's transition from an individual that was coasting in life to a women who is strong and proactive. When we meet Julie, she is reactionary and lets life happen to her - she is a temp, is almost 30 and doesn't feel like she's accomplished anything significant and is unhappy with life. As the story progresses, the Julie and Julia project gradually helps her transition into a more positive force; instead of letting life happen to her, she is making decisions, appreciating her marriage/husband, and has met her goals and feeling great self-worth.

Overall, this is a great summer read - fast and lots of fun.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Review: Bright-Sided

Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America
by Barbara Ehrenreich

I usually love Ehrenreich and was thrilled when I spotted "Bright-sided" at the library last week. Maybe I had inappropriate expectations, but I disliked most of her book and I feel her introduction and title were misleading. I had several issues with this book.

For starters, her cynicism regarding others' reactions to breast cancer. While I'm with Ehrenreich and would be angry if this happened to me, not to mention driven crazy by overly-optimistic people, every person has a right to experience illness and trauma in their own way. You do what you need to do to get through the day, and as long as you deal with the fact of the illness, why not re-explore or reinvent your life and attitudes? Yes, it's erroneous to say that being positive will help recovery, but making the best of a bad situation can be emotionally healing. Also, a near-death or a loved one dying often makes an individual reevaluate what they care about in life. I don't think this is a bad thing.

Next, her seemingly unending focus on the positive thinking movement. I feel this could have been reduced to a chapter. Yes, the positive thinking movement is pretty stupid and illogical, and has nothing to do with physics. But tearing apart every single conference and positive thinking icon was tedious and unnecessary.

In this portion of the book, Ehrenreich also attacks using motivational speaking and coaching, and I have to disagree with her. Having grown up in a household where we were taught to set goals and make plans on how to reach them, to "dream big," (although not unrealistically), I find goal-setting a very valuable tool in my financial and mental life, and in my career path. Coaching can be a valuable tool in building a business and sharing ideas with others. This is different from motivational speaking that ignores situation/limitations, realistic goals, and focuses on being able to get anything you want just by wanting it.

All of this said, I really LOVED how Ehrenreich wrapped up "Bright-sided." Her final thoughts on how positive thinking played a significant role in America's mistakes in the Iraq war and the financial meltdown and housing crash in 2008. THIS is what I wish she would've spent more time thinking about and investigating. What can we do to prevent this from happening again? What were the steps that lead to these decisions? How does positive thinking ACTUALLY harm us as Americans (this is really what I thought her book would be about, after reading the title of the book, and all), and what would a healthy dose of realism do to our country and economy?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

As you may be aware (we certainly are): it's wedding season! We just got married, my best friend is rather recently engaged and starting to lay down plans, and dear friends are getting married tomorrow afternoon. Unlike a traditional wedding reception, they are having a barbecue/potluck to celebrate after the ceremony, a really neat (and cost-effective) way to celebrate. We are in charge of a"side dish." Dear me, what to bring, what to bring?

I found this delicious-looking bit of goodness on the Kitchn website, we're going to give it a whirl and see what happens, perhaps add some eggplant as suggested: Herbed Sweet Corn and Tomato Salad.

I also saw the Heatwave Carnitas, shared the recipe with Ian, and we made instant plans to make them this week. Crock pot? Why yes, I do believe so.

Also convenient, because guess who will be moving this week?!? That's right, yours truly.

Time to sleep, g'night.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA)

One of my favorite organizations, Equality Now, has an easy way to write your Senator and/or Congressperson online to help support the International Violence Against Women Act.
You can send a letter here: Petition for I-VAWA

As taken from Equality Now's website, the goal of this act is to:

• Create high-level offices at the State Department and USAID responsible for developing and implementing programs to end violence against women and girls.

• Direct the office at the State Department to create a comprehensive 5-year strategy to reduce violence against women and girls beginning with 5-20 countries.

• Fund comprehensive programs in these countries that address violence in a coordinated way, through legal and health sector reform, by changing social norms and attitudes that condone rape and abuse, and improving education and economic opportunities for women and girls.

• Specifically target a portion of the funding to overseas women’s organizations to develop their capacity to work independently of U.S. support.

• Urge the U.S. government to act in cases of extreme outbreaks of violence against women and girls, for example, to address the horrific levels of rape experienced by women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I would strongly suggest also signing up for Equality Now's email updates and alerts. They are a wealth of information on Women's Issues across the United States and world.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

To My Husband:

I understand that you are hanging out with one of your best friends and that it's a few days before his wedding, and are so preoccupied. That said, I'm really annoyed you left your mobile at home, and that you and your bike are nowhere to be seen. We had plans to meet up and celebrate my acceptance into grad school, and now I'm stuck at home eating a corned beef beef on whole wheat, bored on Facebook. Granted, the activity is of choice (sad days) and my sandwich is pretty damned good (who can say no to sauerkraut?), but I'm sad you are incommunicado and it's going to be late to do anything in about 30 minutes.  I am annoyed and a little angry, and a little guilty about feeling angry.


Your Wife


I found out today that I've been accepting into a Masters Program for this Fall - ladies and gentlemen, I will be pursuing my a degree in Women's and Gender Studies at Eastern Michigan University!

This also means I will be moving to part time at work, which during weeks like this one when we are swamped beyond belief and cannot even find time to take our much-deserved breaks, will be a relief. But one step at a time, no?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Let the Packing Begin!

Ian and I started packing last night, around... 11:00 PM?

First we walked to Ian's office; we're taking a month hiatus from video games until Ian feels he is in a better position with his work and dissertation, and to help me focus on more productive activities, reading and drawing, for example.

We walked to No Thai, picked up summer dinner and iced Thai tea (yum!), walked home, and ate our food while watching Paranormal Activity. Hhheeeehhhh.... Let's just say when we walked outside to the car to go pick up packing boxes after watching this, I needed a flashlight. And Ian's hand.

We started working through our books and I put in Cinderella (yeah Disney!) to destimulate before bed. In general we made the commitment to get rid of half our stuff, but we are making exceptions for our books and kitchenware. We definitely are getting rid of more books than I initially thought we would, I would say a quarter to a third, a good thing as our bookshelves were overflowing. We also eliminated about half our DVDs, several computer games, and even some puzzles (left-over from what anthropologists now refer to as "the puzzle months," Spring 2009, where a certain individual went into a grandma-esque puzzle craze).

 - - - -

Ian and I sadly have to return several things to Crate and Barrel from our registry. For example, on the advice of my mom, we split up our dishes into 8 separate place settings, but we only received three. These are the most beautiful dishes and I am so sad to say goodbye to them, but we can in no way afford the additional place settings at this time. Another one of those things we "want" but do not "need," and we're pushing off to when Ian has a secure job after graduating. While it feels very good to be practicing practicality (try saying that ten times quickly!)... I hate having to return them.

The benefit, I guess, is that we now have more funds available to put towards a new kitchen table, which we really do need, very badly (current kitchen table was purchased used several year ago, we have no kitchen chairs (on loan from a friend), and the table itself is covered in scratches and small icing dots that are impossible to remove, courtesy one of my tastier but ill-planned cookie projects). We found a table at Crate and Barrel which fits into our budget and is perfect for our new, smaller apartment. It's a 'high' dining table (bar height) with a wine rack, storage shelf, and closing cabinet inside. It has folding leaves and will be beautiful tucked inside our small kitchen. It's a piece of furniture that makes sense for the long term too, we can continue to use it as a breakfast table, in an office, or as our prep space / island in our future living situation.

Well, back to work for me. Tally'ho!

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Goals I have:
  • Find a local yoga studio and start practicing again, at least 2-3 times a week. 
  • Bike or walk places when I can (weather permitting) instead of using the car.
  • Lose 10-15 pounds, back to mid-college weight.
  • Plant a garden (cannot do this until Ian and I "settle" down in 1-2 years).
  • Compost.
  • Take a kickboxing course. 
  • Finish my masters degree in a year (2-3 semesters).
Goals Ian and I are working on together:
  • Buying as much of our produce and food as we can locally, utilizing our farmers' market and the co-op as best we can.
  • Building our savings back up to pre-wedding numbers.
  • Saving up for a European vacation.


Nothing feels better than tackling an "issue" together when we're both able to talk about our motivations, thoughts, and concerns. Also realizing that we both are a little right, and both a little wrong, and can both bend to help accommodate the issue.

I really love being married to Ian. Best choice I've made yet.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Menu for the Week (July 3 - July 9)

Gosh, I'm really hungry as I'm looking over our CSA share for tomorrow and starting to think about the menu for the week!

This week we will get:
  • Cabbage
  • Rainbow Chard
  • Scallion
  • Kale
  • Lettuce - Red or Green Romaine
  • Beets
  • Garlic Scapes
I must confess this is the second week we have neglected to use our garlic scapes; we keep telling ourselves we'll make a pesto.... but this has yet to happen. Ian? Rachel? Anyone in the McFluster household with any sort of kitchen-know-how and any time?

We also have no firm Fourth of July plans. We may grill out with friends, or go to Frog Holler (a bit of a drive) to go camping on the farm, participating in their potluck and party, and group yoga Monday morning. A little different from the Fourth of July camping trips I took as a child, if you could call the trailer with a microwave and AC camping.

RIGHT... the MENU!
  • Chard Bundles Stuffed with Lemon Rice and Sage Butter (one of our favorite recipes from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop), served with Pressed Chicken Breasts with Lemon and Herbs
  • Beet and Cabbage Borscht - Local Flavors also has a recipe for borscht that has a few extra ingredients - leeks, porcini, red or white wine vinegar, and horseradish mixed in the sour cream to serve. We'll probably flirt with both recipes, see what we come up with. We're excited, neither of us have ever made or eaten borscht before!
  • Green Salad with Roasted Salmon, almonds, plums, seared peppers, basil, and Gruyere cheese
  • Curried Kidney Bean Burritos (from Cooking Light: Complete Cookbook)
  • Butternut Squash and Parmesan Bread Pudding (also from Cooking Light: Complete Cookbook), served with Sauteed Kale

The other news is that we may be moving earlier than originally anticipated. The house our current apartment is in was foreclosed on last winter. Ian and I received a notice in the mail from the new owners earlier this week offering quite a tidy sum to move out by July 16th, and to not pay our July rent to our previous rental agency. We were planning on moving on August 1st and had already paid our rent for July, so the first part of our week was spent trying to figure out what was going on with an attorney and attempting to decide what to do. Things are still a bit up in the air, depending on what type of settlement we can get to move out on August 1st, and waiting to see if our future landlords will let us move in two weeks earlier than anticipated...

In anticipation of all of these changes, Ian and I have committed to getting rid of HALF of our stuff. Well, mostly it's MY stuff. I really like stuff. I'm reaching a purging phase though. I went through all of my clothing and really did eliminate about half of it, getting rid of anything that I'm actually never going to fit into again (yes, I have finally given up on the idea of getting back to my ridiculously small 110 pounds when I was 17), anything that I don't wear very often, anything that has any sort of hole or hanging threads, or that I don't look good in or are ill-fitting. For years I've been clothes on clearance or sale because gosh, I love clothes, but in reality these are the sorts of things that get worn infrequently and don't always look quite right. I also made the commitment in April to not purchase any new clothing unless absolutely necessary (all my underwear goes up in flames, for example, tragedy of tragedies!), and have so far not had a problem or any strong temptations to get anything new. It's about time I get over my clothing obsession, as my family and previous roommates can attest.

We have yet to sort through our books, kitchen implements, miscellaneous doodads, etc., but all in good time.

After I get off work tomorrow we are going to take a field trip to Crate and Barrel, return some of our wedding gifts that are incomplete (only two place settings for example, sad days), and look at possibilities for a new kitchen table. I've never actually been in a C&B before, just lusted over their place settings, table clothes, and rugs online. Remember Rachel, remember: Elimination mode, elimination mode.... you do not need more stuff!

Over and out, definitely time to sleep.

    Saturday, June 26, 2010

    Menu for the Week (June 26 - July 2)

    I planned the menu last night and Ian and I ran around town picking up our food and groceries at various places.

    • Moroccan Beef Stew, with couscous
    • Wilted Kale and Roasted-Potato Winter Salad
    • Taco Salad with black beans, queso fresco, scapes, green onion, and purslane (no recipe here, we just usually serve with tortilla chips, salsa, and a dollop of sour cream) 
    • Quick Veggie Stir-Fry (with broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini, and sweet basil), served with jasmine sticky rice
    • Simple Baked Salmon, served with Roasted Beets and a Wild Rice Pilaf with Carrots and Pecans
    • Scape Pesto with Fettuccine
    Lemon Coconut Chiffon Cake, served with strawberries.

    I've had a case of the blues today and was very happy to have some time to myself in the kitchen when Ian went on his long run today (9 miles, dear lord). I watched Love and Other Disasters, the chickest of the chick-flicks I could find: Vogue, London, Brittany Murphy with fake lashes and cute 60's-esque outfits playing match-maker amongst her 'artist' friends. While watching this bit of froth, I whipped together the Lemon Coconut Chiffon Cake (courtesy of my all-time favorite cookbook, The New Best Recipe by Cooks Illustrated), made a nectarine lemonade, and washed up some dishes. Ian came back and hopped in the shower as the cake was coming out of the oven and my movie was finishing. As the cake had to cool for about two hours (upside-down, how glamorous!), I took my time making the lemon glaze.

    We just had a piece each - delicious! The cake came out perfectly light and moist. I think next time I'll eliminate the glaze as it gets a bit sweet, but yumyumyum.

    Now it's 8:00 in the evening and time to start thinking about making dinner. Stir-fry tonight, I believe. Tallyho!

    Friday, June 25, 2010

    CSA Week #2

     A shout out to Frog Holler - Ian and I are excited to get our second CSA box tomorrow! This week we are getting the following:

    Curly Kale
    Garlic Scapes
    Sweet Basil
    Salad Mix

    I need to plan our menu for the week. Any ideas? Anyone? Any... blog readers?

    Thursday, June 24, 2010


    I just realized I'm a "Mrs."

    A List

    Books I read at the same time:
    1. A book to be read at bedtime or on the weekends
    2. A book at my desk at work, to be read during lunch and my afternoon break with tea
    3. My audio book in the car, to be listened to while driving to and from work (typically 1.5 hours daily)
    4. A book I'm reading out loud with Ian
    Respectively, I'm currently working on the following:
    1. The Final Solution: A Story of Detection by Michael Chabon
    2. The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter
    3. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
    4. The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski

    Friday, June 18, 2010

    Family Visit & Coconut Vegetable Curry

    My mom and 15 year-old brother drove from Minnesota to bring Ian and I our wedding gifts. They stayed for two days, and although the visit was short, we had some great food. We walked around quite a bit of Ann Arbor, stopping in small shops and thrift stores. My mom has visited a few times, but it was Matthias' first visit - he was a hunt for some old records and sound equipment (does anything change?).

    The first day we stopped at Zingermans and purchased some goodies to eat with our afternoon tea. We had some Bostock (a lovely brioche covered in almonds and a light syrup, absolutely to die for, or die of eating after consuming so many calories in one small danish), Magic Brownies, a Cream Scone (my favorite), and a cherry/current scone. I also purchased a partial loaf of a wonderful, European whole wheat sourdough. Yum!

    We ate at the Jolly Pumpkin for dinner.  The Jolly Pumpkin is my new favorite restaurant in Ann Arbor. The food is traditional brewery food (burgers, sandwiches, pizza, etc.), but with a refined touch. For example, french fries with truffle oil, pizza with a sourdough crust with a base of 130 years old, with goat cheese and eggplant, you get the point. Not being a beer connoisseur myself I really couldn't say much about the beer, but Ian tells me their dark ale is superb.

    Yesterday also included some good food, but we ate at home and did our own cooking. For lunch, I made some paninis that, I thought, turned out quite nice. We had picked up some deli meats and cheese at Trader Joe's, and I had the bread from Zingermans. I made a mayonnaise with diced bacon and a Tuscan herb blend, spread it on thick on the bread, and loaded them up with turkey, ham, Swiss cheese, thin apple slices, and spinach. Yum! Everyone should have a panini press. I served lunch with an Asian broccoli slaw and watermelon lemonade, which my handsome Ian took the time to put together (recipe below).

    Matthias brought a recipe for an Indian Butter Chicken. As the dish was pure meat, I decided to wing together a vegetable curry for a side. Although Ian did his darnedest, the Butter Chicken turned out okay but was nothing exceptional and not really worth sharing. The vegetable curry was really good - I've tried to remember everything I did and put in - enjoy!

    Coconut Vegetable Curry
    You could probably put any vegetables you wanted in here, just adjust the cooking time as needed. Serve this curry over basamati rice, or in a bowl with Naan.

    2 Tbsp butter, divided

    1 onion, sliced
    4-5 medium potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes (I used a variety of small potatoes, including reds and purples)
    1-2 cups butternut squash or sweet potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
    1 cauliflower head, chopped
    2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch cubes/slices

    1 14 oz can coconut milk
    1-2 cups vegetable broth

    2 Tbsp garlic paste (or 4-5 cloves garlic, crushed)
    1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger (or ginger paste)
    2-3 Tbsp garam masala (to taste)
    1 tsp coriander
    1-2 tsp cumin (to taste)
    1 tsp chili powder
    1 tsp turmeric
    salt and pepper

    Heat a large pot over medium heat (I would recommend using an enameled cast iron french oven, like a Le Creuset). Add 1 Tbsp butter until melted and starting to brown a little. Add the onion. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to brown and is softened.

    Add the rest of the butter. Add the potatoes and cook for 3-5 minutes, then add the squash, cauliflower, and carrots. Cook the vegetables, stirring them occasionally, for about 10 minutes, letting them brown a little bit. Add the coconut milk, 1 cup broth, and all of the spices. Stir everything until the vegetables are well coated and the spices are evenly incorporated. Depending on the amount of vegetables and size of pot, add more broth until the vegetables are almost covered. Stir and cover, allowing the heat to increase until it reaches a nice simmer.

    Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. Depending on the amount of time, you can cook this until the potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes or so, or cook longer (recommended) so the flavors are better combined and the potatoes start to fall apart and thicken the sauce, anywhere from 30-60 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

    Watermelon Strawberry Lemonade
    We found small, beautiful strawberries at our farmers market, I would recommend using this type of fruity instead of the traditional large strawberries found at the supermarket.

    3/4  - 1 cup sugar

    3 - 3 1/2 cups water, divided
    1 small seedless watermelon, cut into 2 inch chunks
    1 cup fresh lemon juice, preferably from Meyer lemons
    1 cup strawberries, hulled

    fresh mint (optional)

    Mix sugar with 1/2 cup water in a microwave-proof bowl. Microwave for 2-3 minutes until sugar is completely dissolved, to make a simple syrup. Refrigerate to cool down quickly, if possible.

    Blend watermelon and lemon juice in batches. Mix in a large pitcher with the simple syrup and strawberries. Top off with water and add mint leaves.

    Chill until cold, or serve immediately over ice.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    Ginger Catfish with Sticky White Rice

    Right. Ian and I cooked perhaps our best meal ever this evening. Ten kinds of yum, we should open our own restaurant. I made a simple veggie stir fry on the side as the catfish to give us some leftovers and.... our vegetables for the meal. While this was by no means our healthiest dinner, sometimes you've got to just splurge a little. 

    Ginger Catfish
    Adapted from

    We found mushroom soy sauce at our local asian grocery. You can use regular soy sauce, if you have it, but now I would strongly suggest investing in a bottle of mushroom soy sauce, it adds a whole new depth to the meal. 

       5 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
       2 cups peeled, julienned ginger (about 1/2 pound) or 1 cup chopped bottled ginger, drained and pressed
       1 1/2 pounds catfish fillets, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips
       3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
       2 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce
       2 tablespoons fish sauce
       1 teaspoon salt
       1 onion, thinly sliced
       1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
       4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

    Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is smoking. Add the ginger and cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring infrequently, until the ginger is crispy and starts to brown nicely. 
    While the ginger is cooking, mix together the sugar, mushroom soy sauce, fish sauce, and salt. Set aside.
    Add the onion and stir-fry, 3-4 minutes until it begins to soften. Add the catfish, mixing well in the oil, ginger, and onion. Cook, keeping heat at medium-high, for 3 minutes. Add the sauce mixture and the red pepper to the skillet, tossing the fish and vegetables to coat evenly in the sauce. Stir fry for 3-4 more minutes, until the red peppers are crisp-tender and the fish is cooked through. Remove from heat and to with scallions.

    Serve immediately over rice.

    The Perfect Rice
     Perfected after much trial and error! This rice is great for stir-fries as it is nice and sticky. Leftovers used within a day or so make great fried rice

       2 cups rice, jasmine preferred although any white long-grain will do
       3 cups water
       1/2 tsp kosher salt

    Mix the rice, water, and salt into a pot. Cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes, until the water level is just at or below the rice and the water is bubbling through the rice. 

    Reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 14-16 more minutes.

    Quick Veggie Stir Fry
    For the hottie in a hurry. You could really throw any veggies in here, this was a nice combination that I made this evening.

       1 Tbsp vegetable or peanut oil
       1-2 long, Asian eggplants, sliced down the center lengthwise and cut 1-inch slices on the diagonal.
       8 oz mushrooms, oyster or shiitake if you can, otherwise baby portabellas will work fine
       1 red pepper, julienned
       1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
       2 Tbsp. mushroom soy sauce
       2 Tbsp. aji-mirin (sweet rice cooking sauce)
       1/3 cup water
       dash of pepper

    Mix oyster sauce, mushroom soy sauce, aji-mirin, and water in a small bowl. Set aside.

    Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Once oil is smoking, add the eggplant. Cook the eggplant for  a minutes or so before tossing, letting it brown. Cook for 1-2 more minutes more, tossing occasionally. Add the red pepper, also giving it a little time to brown. Cook for 2 minutes, then add mushrooms. Stir-fry vegetables for about 5 minutes more. Once vegetables are pleasantly browned, add sauce, stirring so that vegetables are coated evenly. Cook for a few more minutes until sauce has thickened and dash with pepper. Serve immediately over rice.


    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Review: How the García Girls Lost Their Accents

    How the García Girls Lost Their Accents
    How the García Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents is a novel regarding four sisters that moved to the states as children from the Dominican Republic. The book is broken up into fifteen stories moving in reverse, from the time when Yolanda, the eldest sister visits her relatives in the Dominican Republic as an adult, to when they were all children living amongst their relatives under the Trujillo reign.

    The stories themselves our interesting and the writing is good, but I felt that the book lacked cohesiveness or a driving force. Many things are alluded to, such as a number of divorces of the Garcia sisters, an eating disorder, etc., but there are no explanations or connecting threads that explain any of these events. The sisters did not seem to differentiate much from each other, and the whole book rather bled together as a mass of enjoyable snapshots in time, but without reason or distinguishing moments. The only real theme throughout the book was the struggle between identify as a Dominican Republican and an American, but not even this was represented well throughout. I feel each of the stories would make an excellent short story on its own, but that they did not necessarily belong together in one work.

    Did I enjoy reading this book? Yes, I did, but I do not think I would recommend it to a friend.

    View all my reviews

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    Review: Chocolat

    Chocolat by Joanne Harris

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I read Chocolate in four hours while traveling. What a delightful, delicious book! And my god, the lovely imagery and beautiful discussions of sweets and cooking!

    Yes, some details are different from the movie but who cares? It still tackles the primary struggle between Vianne/chocolate/acceptance and priest/tradition/social mores, and the community interacting with both. Of course, Vianne is such a admirable character, strong and feminine, a woman connected with her past and present in a beautiful way.

    This was one of my chick-lit reads for my wedding week/honeymoon. Strongly suggested if you want something frivolous and light while attempting to keep your dignity intact.

    View all my reviews

    Review: The Lover

    The Lover
    The Lover by A.B. Yehoshua

    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    I just finished The Lover by A. B. Yehoshua. A really fabulous read, I'm rather upset I spent so much time playing the Sims 3 in the past week (shut up, the new expansion was released on the first) instead of finishing this sooner.

    As described, The Lover is indeed a dream-like novel. Narrative floats between the central six characters shortly following the resolution of Yom Kippur in Israel. The main premise of the book concerns a middle-aged mechanic looking for his wife's lover, whom disappeared during Yom Kippur, but the storyline certainly entails much more than the mechanic's midnight trolls around Israel as he searches. The story contains themes of power and submission, love and hate, desire and loss, dreams and reality. Between the intricate connection of the characters to each other is a more essential, basic question regarding the self and position and belonging.

    This was really a wonderful, wonderful read, surprisingly accessible. Yehohua is a fabulous storyteller and I cannot wait to read another of his books.

    View all my reviews

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    A Very Silly Thing

    I don't have a whole lot to say today. But this is courtesy of


    Laundromat Woes

    Ian and I signed our new lease today for a brand-new (but not spanking) apartment, our very first legal document we signed as a married couple with our new names. And, sitting in the laundromat at.... 11:34 PM, I anticipate being able to do laundry at any time I please, and at home. In the comfort of our own little apartment with hardwood floors and white walls. Hurrah!

    This Monday was to be the first day starting exercise back up again after weeks of laziness, craziness, and delicious vacation (and post-vaca) food. BUT, typical Rachel style, work was super busy and lame, I left an hour late, and didn't feel like it (shock). Ian, anticipating I would be 100% LAME SAUCE sorted out my sports bra, workout capris, and exercise mat, folding them nicely together on the chaise. Well, you just can't say no to that sort of organization/preparation! But jumping? Kicking? Grapevining like a 90's crazed lady with insanely bushy bangs? Not I, said the tired, cramping, side-spasm girl. Luckily, I can google like a pro, and found an exciting new website: The instructor/creator has many instructional videos up, including yoga for women during their... womanly times (*clears throat* I did this - super relaxing and a really nice stretch!) and even tummy upsets / digestion.

    Is 15 minutes of yoga equivalent to 45 minutes of kickboxing and aerobics? Not at all, I know this. But great website. And yoga is an excellent replacement if you are super lame like me. 

    (Rachel at the Mr. Stadium)

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    Review: The Diary of Adam and Eve

    The Diary of Adam and Eve
    The Diary of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    As a feminist, I really shouldn't have enjoyed this short little book at all, I feel like I just re-read the Mars vs. Venus pop-psychology nonesense all over again.

    That said, Twain is hilarious. He approached the whole subject with just the right light touch.

    Read this. And like it. Just take it with a grain of salt.

    View all my reviews

    Saturday, May 1, 2010

    Review: The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors: A Novel

    The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors: A Novel
    The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors: A Novel by Michele Young-Stone

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    This was a perfect read over a stormy, rainy weekend. Although many of the themes are 'darker,' dealing with alcoholism, depression, loneliness, philandering, etc., it was an extremely enjoyable read and not at all difficult to work through. Young-Stone is a fun author, this was a great first novel, and I look forward to further work from her.

    I really enjoyed this book and would strongly suggest it as a good vacation or lazy-weekend read. Be aware though, reading The Handbook for Lightening Strike Survivors will make you MUCH more paranoid about being hit by lightening!

    View all my reviews

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Review: Jessica Z.

    Jessica Z.
    Jessica Z. by Shawn Klomparens

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    This book was strongly recommended to me by a friend or two, and lots of positive Goodreads review.

    While I wouldn't say that this is the best book I've read all year, it was an engaging read with interesting, believable characters. What moved it from three stars to four was how the book explored Josh's character after he died. Instead of the pure manipulation and mania you witness during his relationship with Jessica, his actual motives and decency are exposed. Clearly he and Jessica made a terrible couple, but he was a good human being, which Jessica only discovers after his death.

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    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    Review: Teeth of the Dog

    Teeth of the Dog
    Teeth of the Dog by Jill Ciment

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Jill Ciment's writing is impeccable. Teeth of the Dog had a feel reminiscent of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, which Ciment references once or twice in the narrative. Although the themes of this book were difficult and unpleasant to muddle through (a dying spouse, infidelity, lonliness) and the setting an unbearably hot third world country (frankly, a tourist's nightmare), the story is quite gripping and well worth a reader's time.

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    Friday, February 26, 2010

    Review: From a Crooked Rib

    From a Crooked Rib
    From a Crooked Rib by Nuruddin Farah

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I struggled with how to rate this book. As a feminist, of course I admired Farah's portrayal of the sexist culture that oppresses women in Somalia and how a struggle against the current cultural beliefs and structures are difficult, if not impossible to break out of, for the individual.

    For Ebla, the main character, every time she attempts to find freedom and independence, she further ties herself to people whom mistreat and take advantage over her. As the narrative continues, it is difficult to understand Ebla's true intentions as she struggles against these forces, and the intentions of those she finds herself depending on and using her.

    I found Farah's narrative difficult to follow at times, and found the partial portrayal into Ebla's thoughts and actions frustratingly seperated from the actual core of the book's unfolding plot. I believe Farah meant to keep the reader disconnected from Ebla and the other characters to help convey Ebla's confusion as she encountered various situations and characters throughout the narrative, not knowing who she could trust or not trust, and how the intentions of each character may not be what they seem.

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    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    Review: The White Tiger

    The White Tiger
    The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

    My rating: 2 of 5 stars

    I'd anticipated reading The White Tiger for months and months and was really disappointed by it. None of the book was terribly interesting, and while the writing was okay, it wasn't great. I know it's supposed to be an analogy for how India is corrupt, and what it takes to move across castes and economic spheres, but the book felt flat, along with many of Adiga's one-dimensional characters.

    I would suggest A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry as an alternative to The White Tiger. Mistry is a far superior writer, the story is more complex and interesting, and it encompasses many of the same themes, ie. corruption and poverty in India.

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    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Review: Queenpin

    Queenpin by Megan Abbott

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    My very first Megan Abbott read (recommended to me by, my new favorite nerd website, that appears to be down right now). This was wonderful fun, all the way through. A perfect antidote to my February flu.

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    Saturday, February 6, 2010

    Review: I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence

    I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence
    I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    This is a gem of a book, full of useful ideas and tips... and not so useful ideas and tips (please do not add any rabbit excrement to your salads, or play any of Amy's prized "childrens games" - you will be sued).

    Amy is, as always, delightful. Strange, uncomfortably earnest in her bizarre concepts, but delightful. I would highly recommend listening to the audiobook read by Amy.

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    Friday, January 29, 2010

    Review: Blink

    Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    This was a very fun, interesting read. I loved all of the studies, stories, and examples. The first chapter laid out Gladwell's thesis and from there example after example was given for the reader to digest.

    However, there was never a moment of connecting the dots or really analyzing the overall picture. The "conclusion" was yet another interesting story that did anything but tie the book together. It would have behooved Mr. Gladwell to separate his sections with a little introduction and analysis, and concluded his arguments and thoughts at the end of the book... just like they teach you in English 101.

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    Monday, January 11, 2010

    Review: Gods Behaving Badly

    Gods Behaving Badly
    Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I would give this book five stars - the first 3/4 of the read were witty, and really, just plain delightful - but the ending was very "come-to-Jesus" / The Santa Clause (movie version with Tim Allen) / Tinkerbell. A bit cheesy, and alarmingly almost heart-warming. I would say read the book, enjoy the light fluffiness of it all (for this book is quite fluffy, a nice, easy read), and try to look past the plot falling apart at the end.

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