Tag Archives: food

Things I Did This Fall

Hello there! Long time, no write.

Work got busy. I basically stopped cooking. My project started to wind down, and I’ve traveled three times since October. And as I’ve expressed before, I spend enough time on the computer at work that I wasn’t always excited to get back on and write at the end of the day.

The weather cooled down- a little bit. The leaves started to turn color. And I got out of Amarillo for a weekend and headed up to Denver to see my friend J.

Obligatory photo of the airplane wing.

Obligatory photo of the airplane wing. On approach into Denver.

It was a whirlwind, but it was still a much needed break from the same old routine I’d fallen into in Amarillo. First, we went to Steuben’s and had some delicious comfort food and great cocktails. It’s also hipster central, and you sit in pretty close proximity to other tables. It’s awesome people watching!

Moscow Mules. Vodka, ginger beer, and lime. So refreshing!

Moscow Mules. Vodka, ginger beer, and lime. So refreshing!

These are gravy fries. You better come really hungry if you're gonna start a meal with these!

These are gravy fries. You better come really hungry if you’re gonna start a meal with these!

The next day, we went up to Idaho Springs, a gorgeous little mountain town less than an hour out of Denver. The weather was perfect, and it actually felt like fall. Also, it has been more than a year since I was up in actual mountains (ahem, Chile), so the altitude and terrain were wonderful.

¡Montañaaaaas!

¡Montañaaaaas!

We also got pizza at the original Beau Jo’s. This pizza is not a joke! Do as the locals do and cover that leftover crust in honey. It’s delicious!

Pizza for 1-2 people. Any bigger and we would have been taking back leftovers.

Pizza for 1-2 people. Any bigger and we would have been taking back leftovers.

Idaho Springs 1

Beautiful surprise waterfall in Idaho Springs.

On the way down from the mountains. Take a look at my Cajón de Maipo photos and tell me they're not alike.

On the way down from the mountains. Take a look at my Cajón de Maipo photos and tell me they’re not alike.

 

Later that night, we headed towards downtown for a classic Mexican dinner of tamales, and then over to the Punch Bowl for a drink and some games. The Punch Bowl is like Dave and Buster’s…but nothing like it because it’s really classy and sleek. No photos, because I was enjoying the company and didn’t think of it!

That Sunday, we went to brunch at Snooze. This is breakfast paradise. It’s all they do! You can find all kinds of eggs Benedict, French toast, and some of the most bonkers pancakes I’ve ever had.

J.'s breakfast.

J.’s breakfast. Some kind of delicious sausage gravy and puff pastry and egg situation.

Two words: pancake. flight. You can get a flight of three different pancakes. I had spiced pear, pineapple upside down (!!!), and sweet potato. I mean, come on.

Two words: pancake. flight. You can get a flight of three different pancakes. I had spiced pear, pineapple upside down (!!!), and sweet potato. I mean, come on.

I spent the rest of the day exploring downtown Denver, near the capital and along the 16th Street Mall. Denver is so eclectic. You can find all kinds of shops along the Mall, not far from the seat of government. It reminded me a lot of Madison, WI, but on a slightly bigger scale.

The Colorado State Capitol Building. It has a golden dome. Just like my alma mater!

The Colorado State Capitol Building. It has a golden dome. Just like my alma mater!

Steps of the Capitol Building, proving that the city is indeed one mile above sea level.

Steps of the Capitol Building, proving that the city is indeed one mile above sea level.

Buffalo figures on the 16th St. Mall.

Buffalo figures on the 16th St. Mall.

View of the skyline...from not very high up.

View of the skyline…from not very high up.

If I’d really gone to Denver to see the sights and get to know the city, I would have given myself more time and certainly done a lot more planning. I basically bought a plane ticket and told my friend I was coming. So really, I was there for the company. It had been a long four months in Amarillo without anyone besides the people I worked with, TV, Internet, and books. Simply getting to see some different scenery- i.e., MOUNTAINS and CITY- and be with someone who knows me was enough.

Thank you for an excellent weekend, J.! I hope I can get back to Denver and see more of it soon.

That was the middle of October. Suddenly it was Halloween, my project was quickly winding down, and I was headed home for a quick weekend.

Isn't this one cute?

Isn’t this one cute? It also kind of looks like the emoji.

I got back on Halloween, just in time to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters and remember that fall can actually be cold- it had been in the 80’s in Amarillo that week.

It was also around this time that I got news that I’m going to Chicago for my next project. True story: I’m actually writing this from my hotel on the Magnificent Mile. That’s a whole other blog post, though.

So, the Hotel Kitchen thing didn’t really work out as planned. I also didn’t do nearly as much sightseeing or getting around in Amarillo as I thought I would.

Here’s the deal- when I felt like laying around and doing nothing, I didn’t want to go do something just for the sake of blogging or Instagramming it. The rise of social media have changed how we perceive and approach experiences. Can we photograph it? Can we write about it and say something sexy or attractive or thought-provoking? Is it hypocritical or paradoxical to be writing this right now?

All of that is to say, if you were maybe expecting a little more life out of this blog while I was on my Texan adventure, I’m sorry if you were somehow disappointed.

But now I’m in Chicago. And I’m going to have a real apartment with a REAL KITCHEN. People. This is HUGE. I hope you’re as excited as I am! You’re going to see a whole new level of cooking and activity and just stuff on the blog soon, as I get to a place I can settle into for a while.

More about Texas to come.

With love,

Gaby

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My Hotel Kitchen: Food Ruts (and Other Notes)

Hello friends!

Greetings from still summery Texas. I am done with this warm weather, guys. D-O-N-E. Winter will spite me for this later, but seriously, I just want to wear jeans and sweaters and eat soups and stews and not feel like the front desk’s fall decorations are a farce.

On the bright side, I did wear pants the other day, and it was very comfortable except when getting into my warm car. So maybe we’re turning the corner? But the leaves haven’t started changing colors yet! Do they even do that here? What if I get back to the Midwest and I’ve already missed the fall colors? And the best of the apples? And the Halloween decorations- which means Christmas decorations will be up? Ahhhh!

I’m getting a little ahead of myself. In conclusion, I hope it’s fall-like where you are and that you’re enjoying it!

So. Food!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, cooking for one- and not eating the same thing all.the.time.- has been more challenging than I anticipated. I’m probably done with sautéed shrimp for a while. Ditto for burrito bowls. And despite the persistently warm weather, I have started to have cravings for fall foods. Soups, stews, roasts, baked pasta dishes- the whole nine yards of carbs and red sauce and slow-cooked meats and vegetables. However, I am one person who cannot eat an entire pot roast or beef stew or lasagna in the course of a week. And I’m not about to cook for my coworkers. *insert discussion about personal and professional boundaries here*

I had one particularly strong craving for ghoulash. Ghoulash is a kind of a soup/stew hybrid. Go ahead and Google it. This is a family recipe that was introduced through my grandmother and subsequently adapted by my dad. I made some adjustments based on what ingredients I had. Want to see how I did it?

First, brown some ground beef. I used ground sirloin because it was cheaper. P.S. Beef is expensive right now, people. If it was expensive here- less than an hour from the self-proclaimed Beef Capital of the World (Hereford, TX)- I can’t imagine how much it costs when you actually have to transport it.

Second, chop up yellow, red, and green bell pepper, and white onions. Add to the beef and sauté just until soft.

Look at the colors!

Look at the colors!

If you’re not already working in a big pot, dump this stuff in a big pot. Add canned diced tomatoes (yes, canned- you want the liquid), some beef broth, a little sugar, and spices. In this recipe, we use salt, pepper, paprika (Hungarian if you can get it), cayenne, and a little chili powder. Simmer for a bit.

This is when it starts getting good.

This is when it starts getting good.

You'll know it's been simmering for long enough when it starts to smell realllyyyyy good.

You’ll know it’s been simmering for long enough when it starts to smell realllyyyyy yummy.

Now, if you have flour, add a little flour to a little water. Cover the container and shake it up. Then, add that to the ghoulash. I skipped this step because I don’t need to buy a pound of flour for one little recipe. If you have flour, you probably want to do this to thicken the mixture.

Let the mixture simmer and thicken a little more. If you want your ghoulash to be more like a stew and less like a soup, let some of the liquid cook off. Also, the longer it simmers (simmer, NOT boil), the softer the vegetables will get and the more the flavors will develop.

In the meantime, cook some elbow macaroni. I had some kind of “healthy” penne already cooked, so I used that. Elbow macaroni is better, though, because it has nooks and crannies that grab a lot of the ghoulash, especially if you’ve thickened it up with flour. It’s also better because that’s the pasta my family uses for this recipe.

Add the macaroni to the ghoulash. Stir to combine. If you’re using pre-cooked pasta, let it heat through (cold pasta + hot ghoulash = yuuuuck). Finally, serve with shredded parmesan or “shaky cheese” (this is the powdered parmesan you shake out of the plastic container). I prefer shaky cheese, but since I had shredded mozzarella, I used shredded mozzarella.

Ta-da!

This is fresh ghoulash. You can see all the juices- this was not a thick ghoulash.

This is fresh ghoulash. You can see all the juices- this was not a thick ghoulash.

The really awesome thing about this recipe is that it gets better over time. I was talking on the phone with my dad, and I mentioned that I was going to heat up some leftover ghoulash. He said it’d be really good because the peppers will get sweeter. As always, my dad was right! The flavors really meld together and the peppers do indeed get sweeter.

Ways this version is different from my family’s: the consistency was a lot more liquid than usual. I do not yet possess the knife skills to chop those peppers and onions as finely as my dad does, and the veggies were pretty crunchy. I don’t like any raw vegetables except carrots (I know, what a child), so the way the peppers got better over time was a big plus of eating the leftovers. There was also a huge difference with the penne versus the elbow macaroni. Additionally, the melty mozzarella was pretty delicious (see below), but it’s just not the same as shaky cheese.

Also, FYI: this recipes makes a lot. Be prepared to eat a lot of it or share it.

This is the ghoulash on Day 6. It is bonkers good.

This is the ghoulash on Day 6. It is bonkers good. Did I eat this sitting on the couch in front of the TV? Yes, yes I did.

900 words on ghoulash, guys. I also made quesadillas with that precooked chicken, corn tortillas, leftover black beans, corn, cheese, and more sautéed peppers and onions. One trick is to heat that precooked chicken in a skillet with seasonings. It makes a big difference!

I also made tacos with the same ingredients. Gotta use up those leftovers!

I also made tacos with the same ingredients. Gotta use up those leftovers!

Did you see the burn marks on that pan? Real talk: I need an oven and nonstick cookware this instant. Part of the reason I’m in a food rut is because my tools are limited. Also, I need more people to cook for! The recipes that catch my eye are the ones that feed four or more people and are prepared in a Dutch oven or a big casserole dish and go into the oven.

The plan right now is to leave Texas in just about a month. This hotel thing has been convenient and comfortable (daily maid service, my company pays for it, etc.), but I think I want to live in a real apartment next. I think.

So, if you have any recipe suggestions or anything you’d like to see me attempt in a hotel kitchen, you have approximately four weeks left! Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

With love (and ghoulash),

Gaby

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Meanwhile…(A Summer Photo Summary)

Oh hey!

Sorry for the radio silence. I was just graduating. And then my brothers both graduated (excellent timing, parents). And then after all of that, I had three weeks of summer.

I could tell you lots about all of the fun things I did. I could have written at some point in the past two months. But you know, sometimes it’s better to live in the moment, rather than think about how you’re going to share it with people on the Internet.

I can share a little bit of it though. In pictures!

I spent a lot of time in church at these graduations. #catholicschools

I spent a lot of time in church at these graduations. This was my own senior Mass. #catholicschools

Church #2 for one brother's graduation Mass.

Church #2 for one brother’s graduation Mass.

We took a quick trip out to Omaha. I don’t know what it is about Omaha- it can’t just be Berkshire Hathaway, right?- but it’s actually pretty cool.

The Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge connects Omaha, NE with Council Bluffs, IA, and crosses the Missouri River.

The Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge connects Omaha, NE with Council Bluffs, IA, and crosses the Missouri River.

See? Two places at once! Does this remind anyone else of A Walk to Remember?

See? Two places at once! Does this remind anyone else of A Walk to Remember?

The nicest views of Omaha might be from Iowa.

The nicest views of Omaha might be from Iowa.

Probably the best part of Omaha- given what we could see in two days- was the food.

That thing about Omaha steaks being really good is actually true. This is a bone-in filet mignon (yes, it exists!). Notice how there's nothing else on the plate. The meat is that good.

That thing about Omaha steaks being really good is actually true. This is a bone-in filet mignon (yes, it exists!). Notice how there’s nothing else on the plate. The meat is that good.

An ice cream neon light detail at Ted and Wally's Ice Cream.

An ice cream neon light detail at Ted and Wally’s Ice Cream.

Coconut and ube (purple yam) ice cream. The color was fantastic. As was the taste.

Coconut and ube (purple yam) ice cream. The color was fantastic. As was the taste.

They even have a cupcake shop. That makes it a legit city, right?

They even have a cupcake shop. That makes it a legit city, right?

And then we stopped off in Iowa for a little bit of barbecue at Jethro's. Jethro's was featured on Man v. Food. My eyes were 10x bigger than my stomach.

And then we stopped off in Iowa for a little bit of barbecue at Jethro’s. Jethro’s was featured on Man v. Food. My eyes were 10x bigger than my stomach.

The rest of my break was mostly spent hanging around my beautiful hometown of Milwaukee. After looking through the pictures, I realized I ate a lot- like, a LOT- of ice cream.

A mint marshmallow Oreo sundae from one of my favorite ice cream places in town, Lee's Dairy Treat. The color of the mint sauce was unnaturally green. But it was exactly what I wanted.

A mint marshmallow Oreo sundae from one of my favorite ice cream places in town, Lee’s Dairy Treat. The color of the mint sauce was unnaturally green. But it was exactly what I wanted.

Requisite Brewers game. (I write this as the Cardinals have now tied them for first and it's upsetting.)

Requisite Brewers game. (I write this as the Cardinals have now tied them for first and it’s upsetting.)

Kopp's Frozen Custard. A Milwaukee staple.

Kopp’s Frozen Custard. A Milwaukee staple.

Leon's Frozen Custard. Another Milwaukee staple. A big question for Milwaukeeans is: Kopp's or Leon's?

Leon’s Frozen Custard. Another Milwaukee staple. A big question for Milwaukeeans is: Kopp’s or Leon’s?

(I wasn’t kidding about the ice cream/frozen custard.)

The Milwaukee Art Museum. We call this the Calatrava, named after its architect, Santiago Calatrava.

The Milwaukee Art Museum. We call this the Calatrava, named after its architect, Santiago Calatrava.

A nice message on a wall in the Third Ward.

A nice message on the side of a building  in the Third Ward.

I hope to be back on a regular (weekly) posting schedule soon. Stay tuned for how this blog will be shifting over the next few months. Preview: I have a job! I’m cooking for myself. I’m living in places I’ve never lived in before. You can bet there’s lots to write about!

With love,

Gaby

 

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You Know You’re Ready to Go Back to Chile When…

You start to get nostalgic about fall and winter, conveniently forgetting the fact that you complained every single day about the cold and damp (and the fact that you just went through your worst Midwestern winter ever).

This is what I was wearing last year in July. I am crazy enough to miss this?

You drink tea (black and chamomile) just for the smell, because it reminds you of pre-program.

You almost tear up when your friend serves you avocado toast before your big interview, because it’s like the spirit of your host family descending upon you for support.

First avocado toast (pan con palta) in months. MONTHS.

First avocado toast (pan con palta) in months. MONTHS.

You inhale papas con chorizo in the dining hall, not because it’s Chilean (it’s not), but because it tastes vaguely like something you ate there. You also eat it with corn. Starch on starch on starch.

You listen to your Santiago radio station constantly, and you keep up on the big sales and events.

You follow the weather and grimace when you see that it’s rainy and below 60. That’s FREEZING.

It really hits you just how flat the Midwest is. La cordillera would be such a great change of scenery right now.

I mean look at that.

I mean, look at that.

You find excuses to wear your poncho. And your lapiz lazuli. And your mapuche earrings.

You follow the crap out of Santiago-based Instagrams.

You know when they have feriados.

You are pleased on the days when you look particularly chilena.

You panic when you start forgetting your Chilean vocabulary. You also laugh when you figure out that everyone else pronounces guapa with a hard g and not like wapa.

You find your old receipts from Espacio Salcobrand and Jumbo and get super nostalgic. Because you remember that shopping trip when you bought gummy bears and conditioner and apparently it was really important.

At one point I actually took a picture of the mess of receipts that I had. And I kept the picture.

At one point I actually took a picture of the mess of receipts that I had. And I kept the picture.

You spent a solid five minutes deciding whether or not you were going to keep those receipts (RECEIPTS) and put them in a scrapbook or something. (Rational Gaby won out and threw them in the trash, just so you know.)

Cumbia was the only thing that kept you awake working on your lighting design project at 2 in the morning. I talk about cumbia pretty frequently without giving you any examples, so here you go:

You go to Chicago, ride the Metra, and realize just how much you miss the metro, conveniently forgetting (again) what it’s like to ride for 20 minutes pressed up against the chest of a complete stranger.

From the one day that I got off at the wrong stop.

From the one day that I got off at the wrong stop.

For my fellow Chile alums, what do you miss about Chilito? What are the triggers for your nostalgia and Chile-sickness? Add a comment if you please! These are only a few of the things I could think of off the top of my head.

I’m not ready to start thinking about everything I’m going to miss about college yet- that’s a whole other post that I already have titled- so let’s just keep remembering one of the most amazing experiences college gave me: my semester and internship abroad.

Besos,

Gaby

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That One Time I Wrote (Most of) a Thesis

Hello world!

I hope you have all enjoyed your spring breaks, or are enjoying them right now. I’m lucky enough to have a long weekend here on campus, which I am spending by catching up/getting ahead, sleeping, going to all of the church (The Triduum. Catholics know what’s up.), and watching Game of Thrones.

View from a quiet prayer walk this evening.

View from a quiet prayer walk this evening.

The week after the half-marathon, I submitted a complete (ish) draft of my thesis! It’s complete-ish because it was just a draft and there’s a good deal of new stuff I’ll be incorporating in revisions. My subject is the role and impact of theater education in Chilean schools. I found a way to combine everything I study into one! Ha ha! It’s much better this way. Trust me. Theses are work, and the people who didn’t actually like their topics sounded miserable at the end of it. I, on the other hand, still really enjoy what I’m working on.

So. For those of you who may be venturing into thesis projects in the future, here is how I did it:

1) Again, write on something in which you are genuinely interested. A thesis should be hard, but the good kind of hard. The kind of project you’d describe as a challenge and not as a pain in the butt. A boring or unenjoyable thesis topic will make it that much harder to get it done. The topic that you love will still have its obstacles, but you’ll be much more motivated to get through them because you actually care about the work you’re doing.

See the tip below. Another thing I did was create a visual marker, which for me was a drawing of a "block of marble" which I "chipped away at" as I went along.

See the tip below. Another thing I did was create a visual marker, which for me was a drawing of a “block of marble” which I “chipped away at” as I went along.

2) Chip away at it. I frequently used a timer while I was writing. I would set it for half an hour, and for that half hour I could not check email, Facebook, Instagram, or do anything else except change the song that was playing. You’d be surprised how much you can get written or edited in that amount of time! You maybe only need a half hour to an hour every day to work if you start early and are prepared enough. Working in those short bursts of time, I’ve found, is much better mentally and creatively than attempting to turn out large quantities of writing over a period of hours and hours.

3) Start early. If you’re like me, sometimes you need a little deadline pressure to keep you focused and motivated. That doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea for me to start at the last minute. I was very lucky to have a supportive advisor who requested meetings almost every week, and who made me submit chapter drafts every other week. This kept me on track, and made the looming complete draft deadline much less scary.

4) Get a buddy. Do you have a friend or classmate who is working on a similar topic? Or even just a thesis? Make library dates and go with them. You may find that you’re more focused if someone is sitting right there next to you writing and writing, and you’ll be less likely to spend half an hour on BuzzFeed quizzes. You’ll be able to talk out your problems together, or at the very least joke about chapter titles, share yummy snacks, and take those quizzes together.

Coffee can help too, of course.

Coffee can help too, of course.

5) Sleep and exercise as much as you can. Maybe for you, that means you’ll invest in nap time, or you’ll take brief walks. One of our professors said she started her yoga practice while she was writing her dissertation. I trained for a half-marathon. Exercise is so crucial to relieving stress and to clearing your mind. It’s also great for the creative process. You let your mind wander and you never know what kinds of solutions you’ll come up with! Getting enough sleep should be obvious. You have to give your brain and body time to reset, and there is no substitute or equivalent for sleep. No, coffee does not really count. If only.

6) When you’re done with a draft, you’re done. Let it be done until it’s time for revisions. You will have better insights if you give yourself a decent amount of time before you dive right back into it. You know how you can stare at a picture for a very long time and after a certain point you don’t even know what you’re looking at anymore? Writing is the same way. Let it go. (And watch some YouTube videos or something.)

46 pages, plus appendix and bibliography. It's legit.

46 pages, plus appendix and bibliography. It’s legit.

Right now I’m between number 6 and what will be number 7, making revisions. When I figure out that whole process- which will have to happen in a much shorter period of time than I had to write the whole thing- you’ll hear from me.

The day that I submitted my thesis draft, my mom arrived for my dorm’s Mother-Daughter Weekend! It was lovely. There was wine and tapas.

That wine was Chilean and it was awesome.

That wine was Chilean (duh) and it was awesome.

I was obsessed with this salad. Yeah, it had fruit and cheese and stuff but come on. It was delicious.

I was obsessed with this salad. Yeah, it had fruit and cheese and stuff but come on. It was delicious.

Lobster bites in a fantastic garlic cream sauce and then grilled pita bread. Gah.

Lobster bites in a fantastic garlic cream sauce and then grilled pita bread. Gah.

And then there were nachos.

I love that I have a mom who craved nachos all day and felt zero guilt ordering the deluxe nacho platter at the sports bar.

I love that I have a mom who craved nachos all day and felt zero guilt ordering the deluxe nacho platter at the sports bar.

Oh, and there was brunch.

I got the peaches and cream oatmeal. It was good. It could have used more streusel topping. (I mean really, what couldn't use more streusel topping?)

I got the peaches and cream oatmeal. It was good. It could have used more streusel topping. (I mean really, what couldn’t use more streusel topping?)

My mom ordered what I should have gotten, which was the waffle sandwich with eggs and bacon and maple syrup on top. Woof.

My mom ordered what I should have gotten, which was the waffle sandwich with eggs and bacon and maple syrup on top. Woof.

And now here we are and it’s exactly one month until my graduation. I’m gonna let that be, but all I will say is that I had an interview for what would be a pretty great job in Chicago last weekend, and I really really want this to work out (seriously, kids. Ask my friends and family how badly I want this job.), so I would appreciate all of your good vibes, prayers, and love. Please and thank you!

My dear friend and fellow baking devotee E. took me around her neighborhood while I was in Chicago. I loved it. So much.

My dear friend and fellow baking devotee E. took me around her neighborhood while I was in Chicago. I loved it. So much.

Special thanks go to my friends C. and E., who without even blinking fixed their schedules to hang out with me in Chicago before and after the interview. Your support means the world to me! It also kept me from getting lost on public transportation in a city I don’t know. So yeah, I owe you.

Goodness gracious. So more than 1100 words later, I will leave you with this YouTube video (which should lead you to her two other equally fantastic talks), which has stuck in my brain recently.

This says, "Where are you coming from?" On the other corner it says, "Where are you going?" The questions, you know?

I will also leave you with this Instagram. This says, “Where are you coming from?” On the other corner it says, “Where are you going?” You know. The questions.

With love,

Gaby

 

 

 

 

 

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New year, new possibilities

Happy New Year! / ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

How do you feel about 2014? I’m excited. I like the number. My favorite numbers end in 4 and 8, so I already have a good feeling. Besides that, it’s just a big year! I graduate from college in May. MAY. Four months away. Uhh, when did that happen?! Just yesterday I was a homesick freshman, then a once-again actress sophomore, then abroad as a junior, and now…I don’t know what this year will bring me. And there’s something kind of terrifying but exhilarating about that.

The last sunset of the year. Hazy and subtle.

The last sunset of the year. Hazy and subtle.

I spent the end of the year with my family. My immediate family is the only one that lives in the Midwest- everyone else lives in in New York State (no, not the city). So between Christmas and the New Year is a very important time of year for us to get together and catch up. My dad’s family in particular has made New Year’s Eve THE family party of the year. And since I’d completely missed our summer reunions while I was working in Chile this year, I was especially excited to get back on the road.

A round of Mexican Train with my maternal grandparents. We play to win.

A round of Mexican Train with my maternal grandparents. We play to win.

It’s probably how I’ve been raised, but I’ve never been to into the kind of New Year’s where you get super dressed-up and spend all night drinking and dancing in a big party with lots of strangers. I prefer to drink and dance with those I love the most, and that’s my family.

My dad, uncle, and brother built a huge fire. They used up a whole cord of wood, and then some. It was freezing outside, but you couldn’t stand closer than a foot from the fire and have to shut your eyes from the heat.

Can you feel the heat? The picture doesn't do justice to its actual size.

Can you feel the heat? The picture doesn’t do justice to its actual size.

I made a chocolate cream slab pie, courtesy of How Sweet Eats. Jess is one of my favorite bloggers! And if you have questions or comments about her posts,  she’s pretty awesome about responding! If you’re looking for a dessert that will feed a crowd and impress them too, this is a good one to try.

Pre-made pie crust, rolled out to fit a 9 x 13 foil pan. It's a little bit broken, but it works.

Pre-made pie crust, rolled out to fit a 9 x 13 foil pan. It’s a little bit broken, but it works.

Chocolate pudding filling, from scratch. Don't let the boiling and the cheesy smell before the chocolate is added freak you out. It's okay. Just keep stirring it!

Chocolate pudding filling, from scratch. Don’t let the boiling and the cheesy smell before the chocolate is added freak you out. It’s okay. Just keep stirring it!

Ta-da! It was creamy and rich and not too sweet. If you want to get really fancy, use chocolate shavings, not sprinkles.

Ta-da! It was creamy and rich and not too sweet. If you want to get really fancy, use chocolate shavings, not sprinkles.

On New Year’s Day, it was brilliantly sunny, and I took a few trips down my aunt and uncle’s hill on the tobaggon. In an effort to avoid sledding into trees and pricklebushes, and away from a newly frozen lake, I wiped out every time.

The view from the top.

The view from the top.

We ate a lot of food in seven days. A lot. Of course I took pictures.

When in New York, get your fill of pizza and wings.

When in New York, get your fill of pizza and wings.

Ted's Fish Fry. A must-have when in the Capitol District.

Ted’s Fish Fry. A must-have when in the Capitol District.

On our second to last night, we made steak and boiled live lobsters. The salad makes us feel better about ourselves.

On our second to last night, we made steak and boiled live lobsters. The salad makes us feel better about ourselves.

Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Pizza. The leftovers stayed at my aunt and uncle's house. I wish I'd remembered them.

Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Pizza. The leftovers stayed at my aunt and uncle’s house. I wish I’d remembered them.

I took the time that I had in the car on the way home allowed me to think about my resolutions for the year. I’m still deciding whether or not I want to call them “resolutions.” Another aunt is calling them “possibilities-” it’s a possibility and YOU have to make it happen! Tracy at Shutterbean is calling them intentions, which is another nice way to think of whatever else you want to do differently this year. I came up with three categories: physical, academic/professional, and spiritual/mental. I then decided on five resolutions/possibilities/intentions for each category, bringing me to a grand total of fifteen. Does that sound like a lot? I’m pretty sure that last year I had about four pages worth of resolutions last year. And I’m also pretty sure that I accomplished almost none of them. I’ve read in various places that it’s much easier and more beneficial to pick smaller, simpler goals rather than try to overhaul every aspect of your life starting on January 1st.

A few examples? My university hosts a half-marathon each year- and I’m going to run it! I also want to try Meatless Mondays, which I may step up to Meatless Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent. I live by my planner to begin with, but I think I’m going to use it more wisely and try to schedule my work very specifically each day and each week. I have a thesis to write, and scheduling blocks of time for that, and blocks of time for all of my other work, will help me be more efficient and focused. My mental and spiritual goals include limiting Facebook time to just twice a day, visiting the Grotto on campus at least five times per week, and journaling every day, even if just for five minutes.

For physical goals, it’s about pushing my limits and working harder. For academic and professional goals, it’s about being more efficient and more successful, and avoiding those last-minute waves of work. For mental and spiritual goals, it’s about being more reflective and self-enforcing quiet time. Because you can make time for anything if you want to.

Do you have any resolutions? Any suggestions as to how you’ve found success with your resolutions in the past? Let me know in the comments! And if you’re new here, say hi!

If you’re in the US, and particularly in the Midwest, stay warm in this icebox. And please pray for those who are homeless or can’t stay cuddled up inside. If you’re in Chile or another region where it’s summer…just. Don’t even.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and may 2014 be your best year yet.

With love,

Gaby

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Fall Break Baking Extravaganza

Alternatively titled, Working the Kinks Out Before the Holidays.

I more or less lived in my kitchen during this fall break. When I wasn’t doing homework or keeping ahead on thesis research, I was baking. This will probably be the most time I have for baking until…I’m not sure when. If I’m lucky I’ll eke out two pies the day before Thanksgiving (the kitchen belongs entirely to my dad on Thanksgiving Day). And this year, I don’t get home for Christmas until December 22nd. Three days before Christmas. Last year, I arrived home from Chile on December 12th and started baking probably the next day, affording me 12 whole days to bake. Ideally, I don’t bake on Christmas Eve Day. That means that this year, I get two days to bake, including the day I come home from school. TWO DAYS. This will require advance planning, likely including baking at school once my exams are finished, as well as a limited menu and no new recipes. Just the classics. (My family is probably happy about this. Less time to bake = less cookies to eat,  less ingredients to buy, less mess in the kitchen.)

Anyways. Given all of that, I took advantage of plenty of uninterrupted kitchen time.

There were chocolate chocolate chocolate chip muffins, from the Joy the Baker cookbook. Yes, three times the chocolate.

Look at those crackled tops. COME ON.

Look at those crackled tops. COME ON.

Just a close-up.

Just a close-up.

White chocolate drizzle. Because why not? Oh, and calling them muffins means they're an acceptable breakfast.

White chocolate drizzle. Because why not? Oh, and calling them muffins means they’re an acceptable breakfast.

Joy does it again, throwing in buttermilk and extra chocolate and calling them muffins and not cupcakes. I made a second batch today and they turned out just as great the second time around.

Then I gave Joy’s recipe for cream cheese pound cake a shot.

All was going well. The batter was gorgeous. Silky and fluffy and creamy, just like it should be. It went into the pan. I thought, hm, the pan looks a little full. Well, maybe it won’t rise that much.

I was wrong.

Looks delicious, huh?

Looks delicious, huh?

One side of the cake- just one side, not both, thank goodness- overflowed and oozed through most of the bake time. So once the rest of the cake was done cooking, we took it out, let it cool, and then I cut out the ugly part and salvaged the rest of it. It really is a delicious cake. It’s tangy and dense and moist (such a horrible word but so right for desserts). It just has  a chunk missing.

The sad part is, I had meant to send that cake to friends away at other schools. So I had to figure out something else to do. Snickerdoodles worked out as planned.

Such pretty little things!

Such pretty little things!

Soft, crackly, and covered in cinnamon sugar. Easy fall goodness.

Soft, crackly, and covered in cinnamon sugar. Easy fall goodness.

Last dessert of the week: oatmeal raisin cookies, because we had leftover raisins from another recipe. I’ve made these before. I’m pretty sure I’ve made them from the same recipe before. And here is what happened.

Fail #2 of the week.

Fail #2 of the week.

To be fair, they’re edible. They are chewy and soft. But they were so spread out and some of them were rather dark. I think it was either that the butter was too warm when I incorporated it, or there just wasn’t enough flour. It was probably a mix of both.

So, two fun baking fails this week. Let’s hope that that means smooth sailing for holiday baking.

But I haven’t even gotten to the best part of my baking/cooking this week! Guys! I made empanadas! ¡Empanadas chilenas caseras!

Here is the pino (filling) before getting wrapped up.

Here is the pino (filling) before getting wrapped up.

I did the filling according to the cookbook my host parents gave me: chopped top round, browned and cooked with caramelized onions, green chile pepper, and a bunch of spices. Since I couldn’t find merkén, I made a substitute with chili powder (I used guajillo), paprika, cumin, and coriander, with salt and pepper to taste. It got pretty darn close! And of course, each empanada had a whole black olive, half a hardboiled egg, and raisins.

Going into the oven! My folding may need a little work.

Going into the oven! My folding may need a little work.

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

Empanada de pino con una ensalada de lechuga, tomate, y palta.

Empanada de pino con una ensalada de lechuga, tomate, y palta.

You can take the girl out of Chile, but you can’t take Chile out of the girl. I will absolutely be making these again, hopefully with merkén and with better folding.

So besides all of that, I took some walks.

Fall 1

Fall 2

Fall 3

Fall 4

Tomorrow is the last day of calm before the big push begins. The last eight weeks of this semester, and I think especially the next four weeks until Thanksgiving, are busy with a capital B. There will be papers and RA duty and other deadlines and continued job searching and a million other things that will come up. The first eight weeks of the semester were a gift, considering how manageable and evenly paced it all was. But it’s probably going to be a hurricane, not a tornado. Which means that I can see it coming and get ready before it hits!

So I’ve got a plan. I’m making an awesome playlist, because if there’s going to be a lot to do, I’m going to dance my way through it. I’m going to keep exercising because everything they say about exercise giving you more energy is absolutely true. I feel better and I work better mentally when my body works hard. I’m going to keep journaling and incorporate more prayer time, which is a far more constructive way to clear my mind than say, Facebook. I’m going to schedule the heck out of every day and push to get everything on every to-do list done, whenever possible. There is nothing like going to bed at the end of the day knowing that you are keeping pace and aren’t behind in the morning.

It takes focus. It takes discipline. It takes a recognition of my own mental and physical limits, and also a willingness to push and ask more of myself. More than that, it takes confidence, and the belief that I can do it all, and that I won’t break under pressure.

So let’s get to it then!

With love,

Gaby

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