Lemon Chicken Soup & A Premature Christmas Playlist

Do you have a kinder, more adaptable friend in the food world than soup? Who soothes you when you are ill? Who refuses to leave you when you are impoverished and stretches its resources to give a hearty sustenance and cheer? Who warms you in the winter and cools you in the summer? Yet who also is capable of doing honor to your richest table and impressing your most demanding guests? Soup does its loyal best, no matter what undignified conditions are imposed upon it. You don't catch steak hanging around when you're poor and sick, do you?" — Judith Martin

November is fierce this week! Thin, bright sunlight is sparkling without giving off warmth. The wind cuts. We can finally wear our warm clothes, yet even the thickest sweaters are insufficient. Gosh, I love it.

I like when November cleans house from the rest of the year. Every cobweb is blown away, every pile of old thoughts, like leaves, swept into corners and forgotten in preparation for the Grand Event of the holidays. This year I've given up all pretense of waiting for Christmas music till after Thanksgiving. Waiting has ceased to appeal to me. After all, the rest of the Christmas-celebrating world begins their fun in early November, and 2020 is not the year that I will refuse myself added cheer. In addition, this is the last Christmas I am going to spend as an unmarried woman. Andrew and I agreed to make the most of our final "normal" Christmases with our individual families and enjoy them in a top-level way. This means we get to max out enjoyment of long-held traditions before we form our own way of celebrating Christmas together. Let the Christmas-ing commence, I say! 

In Defense of Anchovies: A Wildly Unpopular Post

I hate fishy-fish. The fishiest fish I'll make a case for eating is a good thick sheet of lox on an everything bagel with cream cheese. But in general, if it's fishy-fish, you can count me out. I really want to be that person who eats kippers on toast, or likes nothing better than a plate of grilled sardines with lemon. Maybe I will be someday. In addition to a pronounced, fishy flavor, I cannot stand bones. I have never gotten on with the idea that fish bones are something to be crunched and savored; I do not want a throat full of pins for dinner. Conversely, if you try to remove every bone from most delicate fish you are left with nothing but a pile of flakes and bits which might do just fine for a taco, but isn't what I wanted to pay $35 for. I make an exception for branzino, because the thrill of eating an entire fish myself more than makes up for having to gently lift the meat from the long, needlelike rib bones.

New Era, Same Hunger

On October 1st when I announced that I was leaving social media for an indeterminate length of time, I really didn't know how I felt about it. I knew that I needed to leave (for the time being), and even on some level that I wanted to leave. But the night before signing out, I got such an intense case of FOMO that I had to text Andrew about it simply to cool the panic. I've always feared disconnection from the people and things I love...I wondered if that was what was ahead of me. I even wondered (and I do still wonder) if it's possible to exist as an active part of this world without social media. Our world is so centered around social media that the assumption on everyone's part is that information is unnecessary to communicate outside of social media. Shops and restaurants do not update their websites with current hours, friends and family mutually suppose that they've seen updates from each other's lives. We forget to communicate outside the realm of social media because there is typically absolutely no need. This is a strange new era, as potentially damaging as it is brilliant and connective. So is it possible to exist in this world without social media? I will not be the one to find out, of course. I still have email; I still have this blog; those are forms of social media. But the exit from Instagram and Facebook, from Twitter and other places online has been incredible. 

Shopping For A Wedding Dress (As A Curvy Girl): 5 Things To Keep In Mind

(a dress I loved, but not the dress I adored)

In the ongoing circus of planning a wedding, the task of finding one's perfect wedding dress can be arduous. Not only must we consider what style we want to wear, but where to shop, and whether the dresses we like are even within our budget. We then churn through the rigmarole of finding exact dresses we'd like to try on, locating bridal shops that carry them, setting up bridal appointments, and deciding who to bring with us for the try-on. If these practical logistics weren't enough, the whole act of finding, "THE DRESS THAT YOU'VE DREAMED OF YOUR WHOLE LIFE," and knowing that, "THIS DRESS WILL FOREVER STAND IN YOUR WEDDING PHOTOS AS YOUR MEMORIES OF THIS DAY," can bring up a crushing amount of insecurity about our bodies. This is true for anyone I'm sure, but I'm a plus size bride so I'm speaking to the plus size brides. 

Things I'm Loving (Besides Being Engaged)

Wow guys. Life moves fast. A month after my last post, Andrew proposed to me in a rather elaborate and wonderful way (most of you know about it. Those of you who don't, I'll spare you the details). Suffice it to say, I'm a terribly happy girl who is now planning a wedding. I will give a few photos as proof of all that happened that day. As proof that the proposal was a surprise, I give you the glaring evidence of me, not having bothered to change out of the clothes in which I had been nannying all day. Literally everyone else was dressed up, and there I was on the brink of this important moment, rocking quarantine eyebrows, frizzy hair, and jeans with frayed cuffs.

All About Andrew (For Those Who Asked)

I started this post several times this past year because a lot of you have been asking questions about how my boyfriend Andrew and I met. I felt like maybe it wasn't that interesting, or that it was kind of pretentious to think anybody on the internet would be that interested in my love life. My dating relationships are not (and have never been) what this blog is about. However, enough of you have asked (repeatedly) for me to spill the tea, and now that our relationship has reached the one year mark today, it seems about time I tell it to you. Besides, I've always loved a good story about finding romance in unexpected places, and I'm certain I'm not alone in that. This is not the most well-written post you'll ever see on this blog. It's just candid story-telling, but I hope it satisfies! Sometimes writing, like love, doesn't need to be flashy. Also a PSA: I'm telling the story long-form so I've divided it up into various pieces so that you can jump to the part you're interested in, or find your place again if you've read half and want to finish it later. And if you don't want to read this post at all because it's boring, or triggering, or annoying, just don't read it! I sincerely don't care. This is just for the people who wanted the tea. And today (being our 1 year dating anniversary) seemed like the day! Here it goes.

Stop The Shame-Talk: We Are Not "Before" Photos

photo creds go to my v. fancy self-timed iPhone

In the last few days, I've had a surprising number of conversations about bodies and body image. My own mental narrative about my body has sucked lately. I've been practicing yoga (virtually) with a couple of my friends for almost twenty days now, and most days I still feel just as weak as I was before. Seemingly, I am no stronger or more toned on Day 19 than I was on Day 1 - just as shaky, but more sore. Yesterday evening, halfway through my practice, I thought about giving up. I was so frustrated by my body.
"Why can't you just be good at this?" I stormed internally. "You are so bad at yoga and you have a bad body and you do everything wrong and you look awful and I hate you."
Let's set aside the fact that I should never speak to anyone that way, least of all my body, and the PMS hormones that were writing this script for me. I really, really wanted to quit. My muscles (still sore from a day on the water this weekend) cramped up. My hips were insanely tight. My upper arms shook as I "rested" in downward-facing dog while tears pricked my eyes. It was still so hard for me, even though it was a "fun" practice and I'd taken any modification I could get my hands on. I was completely over it, on the verge of quitting, mid-practice. Already behind in the challenge after taking a rest-period over the weekend, I would just fall farther behind if I quit now.  But that's what I am, I thought. A quitter. If I wasn't a loser with a loser body, then this would be easy for me and I would show up to the mat every day wanting to work out, and I'd have a good body and I wouldn't be here, like this. A bad girl with a bad body who's bad at everything.
Every time.
Harsh and drastic words; in the moment, I meant every one on them.

* * *

Roasted Strawberry And Buttermilk Ice Cream

Today is Sunday, and today I feel encouraged. It seems like we've turned a quiet, invisible corner in this strangest of times. A corner back toward common places and things and I'm here for it. We went for a walk on the beach (I feel endlessly lucky to live so close to big ocean energy) and joined many others walking at a socially-safe distance and soaking up the sun. We even saw dolphins, and surfers, and sailboats, and it made me realize that life will go back to normal, and we're making it. I'm really thankful. We're making it, and spring was still beautiful, and perhaps a summer of freedom awaits us.

I Blame My Fear of Ravioli On Claire Saffitz: A Pasta Tragedy

source: The Boston Globe

I blame it on Claire Saffitz.

As much as I adore her, I blame Bon Appetit's Claire Saffitz and her filmed-at-home quarantine videos for being the reason I stood covered in flour, running silky pasta dough through my brand new Kitchen-aid attachment, regretting everything. And when I say "silky" pasta dough I don't mean sexy, uniform sheets of golden dough. I mean pasta dough that is exactly the texture to slip out of my hands like a satin cami, and end likewise, in a crumpled heap on the floor.  I almost expected to turn it over and see a label: DRY CLEAN ONLY. There was nothing sexy about me and this pasta dough.

Corona Collabs (A Series With My Best Cooking Friend) Pantry Staples Edition


Good afternoon, world! Here's something I didn't expect about living that #quarantinelife: despite having all the time in the world, I am not more motivated to accomplish the things which need doing. I'm a little disappointed. I always thought I'd be cool, given endless amounts of time. I, for one, am definitely finding that I was believing a fallacy. A prime example of this is how long it took me to get around to posting Part Two of the Corona Collabs with the Inimitable Shannon. A lot has gone on in the time between that post and this! For one thing, the governor of Virginia declared imprisonment on all its inhabitants till June 10th. As an aide to essential workers, I've still been working on a beefy part-time basis. For another thing, Shannon planted a garden and a salty neighborhood raccoon "threw" her cilantro pot, buried her oregano, and then pooped all over the rest of it. Anyway, we've been busy in our small, isolated ways.

Corona Collabs (A Series With My Best Cooking Friend) Spicy Pasta Edition

We're having a global pandemic right now, are mostly relegated to our individual homes, and it just felt like an appropriate time to start blogging again. Just before the crazy began, my sister Sarah and I moved into a long-awaited apartment in Norfolk's Ghent area and I've got to say: if we're going to be socially distanced (a glum enough assignment to dampen anyone's ardor), I'd rather be stuck here than anywhere. There are enough remaining projects to keep us busy - it's amazing how organized one's home can be when you're actually in it long enough to realize how out at the elbows it was looking. I feel like we have an excuse (we just moved in), but I still can't stand living out of a suitcase and cardboard boxes. In that respect I've been quite productive. The one task remaining that still scares me is the hanging of my gallery wall. I've always been The Worst at hanging things because I don't have the patience to measure things properly and the wall always ends up looking as if a caffeinated woodpecker had got hold of it before anything is hung in the right place. It's not a good look, especially in a rental home. I'm excited to have the wall up - that isn't the problem - but I'm procrastibaking about it, and going for walks instead, and oversharing on social media, and doing basically anything except hang up my gallery.

When "Happy Valentine's Day" Is Not About My Boyfriend

 Last week I received an Instagram message in the middle of a busy morning from a username I didn't recognize. I clicked on it, expecting it to be one of those spam accounts and found instead a sincere message from a stranger:
"Girl, I don't even know you. I just stumbled across a blog post you wrote about being single two years ago and I am so so grateful...thank you for being vulnerable."
Following this, the reader linked to the blog post in question. To be honest, I have not given much thought to my blog in the last year. Curious as to which post she had read, I followed the link to an article from Valentine's Day 2018 that I'd called "When 'I'm Tired of Being Single' Means So Incredibly Much More."

It seemed like a commonplace enough Valentine's post for the career-single girl I was until June, 2019 when I met Andrew. (Some of you have asked for that story and although it feels like a strange thing to trumpet across the internet, if you truly want to hear how a sports-obsessed guy from Buffalo ended up winning my heart, I'll spill the tea). As I scanned that blog post, I smiled at 2018 Rachel who was so close to a turning point of finding joy in her singleness. That version of me had no idea how much light lay in the road ahead; nor how much grief.